Un-Gendering Sexuality

Disclaimer: This was written very late at night, while very tired. Very sincere apologies if it’s a bit sub-par, or a bit weird.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little bit lonely.

Sorry, everyone. I know FTB isn’t livejournal, and there’s no “current music – Bright Eyes” or  “current mood- WHEN WILL SPRING AT LAST COME TO THE WINTER OF MY SOUL AND LET ITS SUNLIGHT DRY MY BITTER TEARS” buttons at the bottom of the WordPress Visual Editor (though maybe I could ask Jason to have them installed? I’m sure he’s considered doing it for his own blog). But still, it’s true. I have squishy emotion things. And lately they’ve been rather squishily unsatisfied with my dinners-for-one at the computer, watching the crumbs of my Oreo Cakesters flutter down to the keyboard’s crevices in the romantic light of the antiquated monitor.

And last night, while being lonely, I ended up ruefully thinking about all the various lovely, awesome, brilliant, wonderful lesbian or bi trans women I know in internet-land who have professed crushes on me over the last couple months. It can get a bit frustrating hearing internet people say they think you’re cute when you were just a moment ago reminiscing on the fact that you haven’t been on a date in over three months.

So I began joking that if that’s how it’s going to be, I might as well just throw in the towel on this whole pitifully doomed “heterosexuality” thing and begin accepting applications for a lovely, awesome, brilliant, wonderful trans lesbian girlfriend. Send cover letter with attached resume and cookies (I have a fondness for macadamia snickerdoodles) to sincerelynataliereed at gmail dot com. Please include three references. [Read more…]

The Gendering Of Children, And Raising Trans Kids

There are a couple interesting things going on on twitter lately. There’s the hashtag #ididnotreport, where women (and men, and members of other genders) describe circumstances of rape or sexual assault that they did not report to police or authorities, and why. It’s a very, very chilling look at the intense social pressures that enable rape and sexual assault, and burden its victims with guilt and shame, and pressure them into silence.

Then there’s @NiceGuyBrianG, an apologist for rape and general non-consensual sexual acts, who has mocked and derided the #ididnotreport trend.

But beneath this, there’s been seething a subtler little trend that speaks volumes about where we still are as a culture in regards to homophobia and attitudes towards sexual variance, and the degree of violent (and frankly incomprehensible) hatred that is still openly stated towards homosexuality.

Recently, another hashtag, #ToMyUnbornChild has been trending, where people speak messages to their future children. And an alarmingly large number of these messages are along the lines of “If you’re gay, I’ll beat the shit out of you / kill you / disown you / etc.”

Yes. People are taking the opportunity to make their feelings towards their future children not as a chance to talk about offering them a better world, or treating them with love, or trying to suggest some scrap of wisdom they’ve managed to eke out of our confusing and strange world, but instead as a chance to iterate that they are so frightened, disgusted or hateful of homosexuality that they’ll threaten a child who does not yet exist, their child, with rejection, violence or death if they should end up happening to be gay.

And sadly, it should go without saying that this is not only a hypothetical put forward by some hateful twitter-users who have no idea what love for a child actually means. It is a staggeringly, heart-breakingly common story for queer people to have to choose between their families and their integrity, being able to be open about who they are. Those awful feelings of love for a child being conditional on their conformity to arbitrary cultural standards of sexuality and gender do not always go away when they finally look that child in the eyes or hold them in their arms. Far too often, they still hold that child and while thinking “I love you so much…” are still holding, somewhere in the back of their minds, “…as long as you’re straight, cis and meet my expectations.”

What this horrible little twitter trend has got me thinking about, though, is the number of e-mails (and sometimes comments) I’ve gotten with parents or would-be parents asking me for advice on how to go about dealing with the possibility (either concrete and suggested by present circumstances, or simply an abstract, as it always is) that their children may be gay or transgender. How do you assign a gender? Should you? How do you make sure your child receives the message that it’s okay to explore their gender (or later, sexual orientation)? How do you do this while not having them be bullied or alienated by other kids? How do you protect them from the gender-normative messages of society as a whole? And if they do begin presenting as transgender, how do we deal with that? What is the best strategy to take, and what will give them the best shot at happiness? How do we deal with all the people around us who will see any act of support for gender non-normativity in a child as “abuse”? Etc.

These parents, unlike the would-be practitioners of homophobic infanticide of #ToMyUnbornChild, are already getting it right. They’ve already accomplished the most important thing: putting the child’s happiness first, and thinking through and asking about how to ensure that happiness, and not letting these possibilities (or realities) compromise their love and support for their children. [Read more…]

Secret Identities, Mutant Powers, Bright Costumes and Other Aspects of Queer Lives

I have another little bit of a confession to make, everyone. I’m not the only Natalie Reed.

In addition to the model, the contestant on So You Think You Can Dance 5, the maker of handmade jewelery, the character in the Harlequin romance “His Partner’s Wife”, the MD in San Antonio, the alleged “lesbian pedophile” in London who (according to the ever so trustworthy and queer-friendly Daily Mail) allegedly disguised herself as a 17 year-old boy at a high school in order to “groom” two teenage girls as sex partners, and the young LA mom who somehow lays priority claim to the name on twitter and Facebook, we have this wonderful badass:

That’s the second Lady Blackhawk, Natalie Reed. An American-born aeronautical engineering genius who defected to Soviet Russia due to her faith in the Marxist ideals with which she was raised, her expertise advancing the Soviet air-force’s technological edge by years, she ultimately joined the Blackhawks international freedom-fighter force when she realized that Communism had become corrupt under the rule of Stalin and his successors.

I know, she’s awesome. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts On International Women’s Day

I love and respect International Women’s Day. I do. I think it is deeply important, and deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated, as well as used as an opportunity to engage in certain kinds of thinking and dialogue we normally don’t bother with. Sadly, it does seem that the people who ignore feminism and issues of women’s rights tend to ignore IWD, and those who pay attention to the value of IWD are those who were already paying attention to feminism and women’s rights. But I still think it’s of huge importance to have a day where we specifically do everything we can to bring those issues forward, and remind people they’re there. Even just the reminder alone, even if it doesn’t lead to further discussion, is worth having this day. [Read more…]

When Trans-Inclusivity Goes Wrong

Well now… this kind of gets weird. Remember all the awesome surrounding Girl Scouts lately? With them accepting MtF scouts? And standing behind their decision, despite the Conservative backlash? And not flinching at Bob Morris’ claims that the Girl Scouts of Indiana are promoting an evil liberal agenda?

It seems those same Girl Scouts, the Indiana ones, have gone a bit past the tipping point in turns of the awesome. Awesomeness has gone awry. They have hired a trans man as a counselor. [Read more…]

“Shut Up, That’s Why” – A Follow-Up

So having a bit more fun with taking things Greta Christina said really, really well and beautifully in regards to atheism, and applying those concepts to things I’ve observed in terms of how other minority groups are treated, like in my Catches Twenty-Two post…

I’ve been thinking for awhile that it would be interesting to talk a bit about how the “Shut Up, That’s Why” non-arguments she once elegantly described being used against atheists also show up in tactics used against other unpopular ideas and movements, like feminism, queer rights, or social justice.

“Shut Up, That’s Why” was right away one of my absolute favourite things Greta had ever written. Given how much I adore her work, and how she has been possibly the single most influential atheist blogger for me, personally, that’s pretty high praise. But in all honesty, the kinds of tactics she was describing I had come across far more frequently in the context of feminism than atheism, and resonated with me on that level more strongly than on the level of being an atheist. Maybe it’s just because I do a generally lousy job of being truly outspoken as an atheist, but still… I always thought it would be interesting to explore that a bit, and talk about how “Shut Up, That’s Why” shows up in other contexts. So this is me doing so. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Fourth And Final Part): Why Coming Out Matters

A closet. A metaphor. Articulating a concept of identity.

If coming out of the closet can sometimes be nothing more than an act of constructing a new false identity so as to further bury the truth of what you’re experiencing, if the closet metaphor only really adequately describes certain particular kinds of queer narratives but is dangerously and indiscriminately applied to all of them, if even when being “properly” used the closet still poses a constructed and particular identity that leaves one just as limited as before, if it dangerously posits a type of human experience defined by behaviour, action, relationships, love and pleasure into a category of person, if it totally fails to describe the actual complexity of articulating our endlessly changing states and degrees of trust and honesty we provide those in our lives, if we can’t possibly reduce this complex, shifting dance of how we present ourselves to a simple “closeted” versus “out” dichotomy, if the responses we receive to the act of “coming out” can terrify us to the extent that it takes us years to once again recover the confidence to confront the truth of ourselves and permanently compromise our ability to trust the love of others… why do we have this metaphor? Why do we continue to use it?

Because it’s still too bloody useful to abandon. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Part Two Of Four): Spooking, Disclosure And The Revolving Closet Doors

One of the many problematic aspects of treating gay and lesbian (mostly just gay) experiences and narratives as the archetype against which all queer experience is measured is how it causes particular models and tropes of queer lives to be applied indiscriminately across the many varying identities that comprise our community All kinds of important nuances, subtleties and distinctions can get lost in this process, and entire identities erased. Concepts, issues and experiences which are complex or problematic in very particular ways for certain kinds of queer lives end up being expected to fit into the same patterns, and have all the same implications and meanings and values, as how they operate in relation to gay lives.

There are lots of issues that end up being treated as exceptionally meaningful and central to queer experience, often being sort of central rallying points for the LGBTQ rights movement despite their lack of universality, and how they really don’t have nearly the same implications for everyone. Marriage equality, for instance, is treated as sort of the priority objective in the push forward for legal equality even while the narratives used to support it can be dismissive of other queer identities, such as those who are polyamorous or asexual. Non-discrimination bills will be structured around sexual orientation while choosing to leave gender identity and gender expression out of the wording. The “born this way” narrative is pushed in increasingly dogmatic terms at the expense of bisexual, pansexual and gender-fluid experiences. Narratives of gay self-acceptance often hinge themselves on the idea of bisexuality not even existing. The “just like normal people” narrative pushes aside butch, effeminate, drag and transgender identities entirely.

And the concept of coming out, its significance and what it means, is applied indiscriminately across the queer spectrum, failing to consider the vastly different implications it carries for people who are not gay or lesbian… such as how it means something almost wholly different for transsexual experience. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Part One Of Four): When Coming Out Is Shutting Yourself In

This piece was originally posted at Queereka. I am re-posting it here because it had originally been intended as part of a series, which I will now complete this week. Please visit Queereka for all kinds of awesome LGBTQ stuff, from a secular, skeptical angle!

For me, being a skeptic, and the personal importance skepticism has for me, almost entirely boils down to one thing: knowing that I’m an irrational, crazy idiot capable of incredible cognitive distortions and amazing feats of self-deception. Skepticism is a safety precaution and coping mechanism. My intellectual emergency brakes.

The initial crazy that led me into discovering and understanding the enormous importance of doubt and hesitation was managing to convince myself during my first year of college that the world was secretly being run by a cabal of occult-oriented secret societies. I was approximately 2.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms away from buying into the shape-shifting reptile people. Snapping out of that snapped me into skepticism.

But the conspiracy theories, in terms of personal significance, is dwarfed in irrationality, cognitive distortion and self-deception by how I convinced myself for twelve years following the initial revelation of my transsexuality that that wasn’t what was really going on, that I must have made a mistake (over and over and over), that I couldn’t possibly be the T-word and…

…ultimately convincing myself that I was really just gay. So I came out as such.

[Read more…]