Thursday, March 18, 2010

LGBT? Where's the I for Intersex? What about the Asexuals? Will Two Spirit people EVER be in the consciousness of dominant cultural queer folks? Why the B at all??? I'm left with LATSTIG

[this image graphically representing Two Spiritedness is from here]

I am retiring the socially used congregation of unpronouncable letters for the queer community: LGBT. There has been a Q for "questioning" tacked on at times. And sometimes there's an A at the end, for Allies. Screw that. If you're an ally, you don't need a letter of your own: you need to be an ally without giving a shit whether or not you have a letter. And if you're questioning, join the list when you've got some answers.

LGBTQA

And a heartfelt farewell to the sexist GLBT.

GLBT

I am increasingly perplexed at the complications involved in writing about something that has been on my mind and in my body, for years: the whole matter of LGBT community: what it is, whether it is, and why it is what it is.

What follows are a series of observations, critical thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and conclusions. None are, in any sense, "done". This is an ongoing conversation within myself and among myself and my queer friends. And to all those who aren't queer: this is not your conversation; read if you wish, and please don't comment. To anyone who is queer, whether genderqueer or queer in terms of not being heterosexual, feel free to post comments as long as they abide by the comment guidelines, which you can find linked to in the top right area of this blog.

I'll start by saying that I understand that all of us who are not appropriately gendered and sexed, and who aren't heterosexual, are stigmatised as many things, none of them good. And that appropriately gendered men who are heterosexual in certain ways, are statused in ways gender, sex, and sexuality queer folks aren't likely to be any time soon. In this way, whether we are addressing the same political issues or not, we are made into a political group, just as "people of color" are formed by the presence of white supremacist violence and racism. And people of color, let's be clear, are the majority of who comprises queer community. Not that white run queer and anti-queer magazines will indicate that.

My white and mixed-class history is not with gay activism. In my little worlds, "gay activism" was white, male dominated, and middle class, through and through. It had little to no relevance for the issues that I cared about and fought for: fighting male supremacy, racism, and, later, classism. There were queer people fighting those things, but not near me. And so my associating with "Gay Politics" remains a classist, sexist, racist movement designed and organised around some very privileged gay men, who want "in" to the world of even more privileges that white, class-privileged, het men enjoy.

From the start, I was far more interested in what lesbians were doing politically, as they tended to be feminist, for one thing, and tended to be more concerned about issues beyond their own direct experience, for another. The feminists who were lesbian were those I most identified with, although I knew and valued the work of plenty of heterosexual feminists as well.

"Progressive" men, back in the day, were interested in questioning gender roles, as it was termed, but not entitlements and privileges, let alone power. Gay men already had a head start on questioning all this, as we didn't fit a heteropatriarchal model very well, given that the model is founded on interpersonally oppressing a woman who you are romantically and sexually involved with, as well as oppressing and dehumanising women socially and publicly. We gay men do that part, in many ways, and one of them is through what is called Drag Shows, in which gay and het men, and now het and lesbian women, do their best to portray the most stereotypical presentations of gendered being, while also being classist and racist as hell.

I have never really understood why the B is in the group. Because regardless of who you can imagine yourself sleeping with, regardless of who you fuck, regardless of who you desire to be sexually or romantically involved with, who you pine away for, have a crush on, or fool around with when drunk, if you're not identified socially as lesbian or gay, you're not dealing with what lesbian and gay people deal with--which is the awareness that we are, without question, outside the mainstream due to who we love in ways forbidden by heteropatriarchal mandates and customs. Bisexuality comes in and out of vogue in a way that being lesbian or gay does not.

I know so many lesbians and gay men who have been hurt and used by people seeking to find out just how bi they are, at our expense. This has happened to me several times. And, yes, part of being lesbian and gay in my society means we are raised to think being het is the most desirable thing ever, and so we are often attracted to people who are out as het, or, bi. Our bad? I'm not so sure.

In the conversations I've had with whites on queerness, not one has been about our obliteration of Indigenist understandings and experiences of what we call "queerness". The idea that "queer" folks might not be queer, but might, instead, be revered and valued as important members of society was not part of my worldview until I read about Two Spirit stories and how some Indigenist societies, traditionally, did not understand there to be only two genders or only one way to express sexuality.

And in conversations about sexuality, the notion that some of us are asexual doesn't seem to occur to most people, and I think that's because part of compulsory heterosexuality is compulsory sexuality. For more on that, see *here*.

I've just seen (again) how major media deals, currently, with trans issues. CNN has been doing a lot on the subject--relatively speaking. They normally don't deal with queer issues. But this weekend they've shown a special called "Her Name Was Steven" and an interview on AC360 with Chaz Bono. Both of these people have class privilege. Most trans people do not.

To deal only with class-privileged folks means you're more likely to be dealing with medical issues, surgery, hormone therapies, psychiatric perspectives, and being fired from prestigious jobs with big salaries. So as far as media goes, I don't feel I've ever seen any adequate representation of trans people and trans issues. The same goes for lesbian and gay issues, of course, as most of us who gain media attention are also white and middle class.

The issues tangled up with being trans cross many issues, but only a few are focused on when the subjects are white and class privileged. For example, how racism and transphobia intersect, how poverty and transgendered reality interweave, is never talked about on television, in my experience. We see cases brought before the Supreme Court where a teacher or city manager were fired due to transitioning. But what about the sanitation worker, the factory worker, and the server at a restaurant? Is their firing going to get a hearing at the Supreme Court? I doubt it. And part of the reason for that is that working class people can't afford the surgery, and so live with being trans in a way that people with big bucks don't have to. People with enough spare cash can life with the realistic potential of life being different, in terms of what one's anatomy looks and feels like.

So what we get on CNN and elsewhere is whether someone is going to have their dick cut off and.or inverted into a vagina, and what the effects of taking certain hormones over time are. I just found out that penises can shrink when taking "female" hormones over a period of time. Does this mean that the inverted constructed vagina is smaller the longer one waits to have surgery, assuming someone can, and wants to? We get what's going to happen to the former or current spouse, who was married to someone who wasn't the same gender as them, but who may decide to appear to be that gender to the general public. We deal with how this will impact the children. These people who make the news tend to be liberal and secular, so we don't get to see how being trans plays out in religious community, in cultures where church, temple, and synagogue are central to daily or weekly life.

So am I supposed to base my view about "trans people in queer community" based on what CNN has to say on the subject? I better not. Because dominant media also wants to tell me a story about what becoming a woman means, which means telling me what being a woman is. And it's not pretty. And the jokes abound about how "ugly" men who try and look like women are, as if women all look feminine and should want to. If a woman isn't at all pretty, dominant society doesn't consider her attractive. That's fucked up beyond belief, and is terribly ageist and ableist as well.

Being a woman is so many things that none of the lesbian feminist women I know, of many ethnicities and classes, ages and abilities, consider all that important. The lesbian women I know have to contend with being rejected for rejecting dominant society's standards of femininity, which, it is enforced, are for women to maintain, through purchasing products that create something called "the way women are supposed to look". The lesbian women I know have to fight this battle daily: of being misperceived to be a man, for being seen to be a lesbian, for being misperceived to be heterosexual and "interested" in men. I know lesbian women whose gender identity is fairly ambiguous and who, during the day, are harassed for that reason, but, somehow, at night, are targeted by men who realise they are women and can be harassed and threatened as such. There are heterosexual women who also don't pass as women, as it is defined by racist heteropatriarchy, but unlike with lesbian women, there is not generally any support from ones friends for rejecting the standards imposed by het male supremacist society.

The political project of the lesbian women I have known throughout my life is to do at least two of the following things: challenge patriarchy, challenge white supremacy, and challenge capitalism. In the reporting done on gay men and transgendered people, these matters are not the issue. It is presented as possible, if not probable, that one can be a white gay man and a class privileged trans person and somehow find ones way into the dominant culture, with struggle and many stories of discrimination and homophobia and transphobia.

Finding a way into society is not the project of the lesbian women I know. They do have to survive, but are not trying to reproduce racist capitalist patriarchy in their lives, if possible.

This was never "the term of choice" when I was young. It was and remains a term of derision. Then again, so too does the term "gay". What's a gayboy to do? I could call myself Queer as there are parts of Gender Studies Departments that promote "Queer Studies" which gives a kind of legitimacy to "queerness" that lesbianism and gayness have never enjoyed academically. This whole matter of calling oneself queer is, in my experience, also very tied to class, or at least to access to post-grade school education.

That matter aside, what queerness has become, in my view, is deeply problematic for anyone who wishes to challenge racist heteropatriarchy. I know there are some radical and militant anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-racist queer groups: usually and most often comprised of people who are not white or class privileged. But queerness, perhaps because one can get a Liberal Arts degree studying it, is dangerously liberal in its political agendas. This is true of gay male politics too, generally. And there's something spreading through my community, called liberalism, that means it's now "cool" for lesbian women to promote wearing high heels as somehow liberatory. And it's really "cool" for women to be into pornography, and to value turning oneself into pornography, for people to watch, because it is liberating one's sexuality. I don't see it that way.

Queerness has also functioned, in my experience, to make it more difficult to identify fully as lesbian or gay, and that means that, in this regard and others queer culture dovetails nicely with dominant society, which also would rather not hear about those of us who are LESBIAN and GAY.

Queerness supports fluidity in sexuality, and many lesbian and gay men's sexuality is no more fluid and changing from year to year than many heterosexuals' sexuality. But now there's a perception that if one's sexuality isn't fluid, it's not honest. Polyamory has also taken hold, and while I think this has many radical applications to interrupting heteropatriarchy, what it has meant is that many times, someone's lesbian partner is sleeping with a dood. Or lesbians are encouraged to think of themselves as "bois". And to use male pronouns, not female ones. Because the stigma of being transphobia, when leveled accurately or not against a radical feminist nontrans woman is effectively silencing, I have yet to see meaningful conversation about the issues of misogyny and antilesbianism raised by Sheila Jeffreys in her book Unpacking Queer Politics.

We have to remember that everything female is degraded in dominant society, so the pressure is unrelenting to do away with femaleness as much as possible, or to embrace a form of it that is utterly self-dispossessed and radically impotent. During my lifetime, gayness has also taken a beating from heteropatriarchal imperatives that "femininity" is bad, and so personal ads have tended to note that "fats and femmes" are not desired. As if someone is only their weight or lack of butchness. I don't tend to see gay personal ads that indicated "butch and masculine men are not desired". Why is that?

At least in lesbian community, there still seems to be room to be a range of ways, vis a vis femmeness and butchness. The question is to what degree can one be neither and not be categorised as one or the other. I know lesbian women who insist every women is one or the other, and I find this view terribly misogynistic and heteropatriarchal.

I have never understood my identity or gender presentation as "femme" or "butch". I reject both options as perilously racist, misogynistic, and ageist. My personal-political role models were women and men who didn't identify as either one. I know that in some cultures, butchness and femmeness are significant in ways that they aren't in my own ethnic group. So, for example, when I hear whites put down Black women for participating in butch and femme roles in predominantly African American community contexts, I want to tell them, "Really, this is none of your business". Zami, by Audre Lorde, and other works by Black lesbian writers, have instructed me on how dealing with gender imperatives if not white is different and more tricky than dealing with it in white cultures. This is partly because race is gendered, and therefore stigmatised. So being a Black gay man or a Latino gay man, is a different matter than being a white gay man. Race and class can simultaneously reduce and expand opportunities to reject dominant expectations and pressures to conform to white het male supremacist standards. Place trans identity into this mix and you've got choices and struggles that dominant society, including the queer nontrans folks among it, are not likely to appreciate fully or appropriately.

A few months ago I saw a video by an intersex person who warned other intersex people to steer clear of trans community, because trans community promoted as liberating having surgery, whether or not one could afford it. And intersexed existence if far more likely to regard "gender surgeons" as fascistic enemies who butcher our young. To be intersex is very complicated, as there are so many ways to be interesexed. And none of them are allowed to exist without invasive questions and condescending assumptions about what being human is. As Toby once said on the Sally Jessy Raphael Show once stated, one need not have a gender to be human.

To be intersexed and not be medically labeled, well... good fucking luck. Lesbians and gay man, can, to some degree, be assumed to be "born that way" and for "that way" to not require surgical interventions. Not so with many intersexed people. From birth forward, surgery designed to make only two genders socially real is present and waiting, with sharpened knife in hand.

I have always felt a particular kinship with intersex people, as well as lesbian and gay people, because we, collectively, tend to view the medical establishment as suspect, not saviors. I find that the trans community views many dominant institutions with less skepticism. And this may simply be due to having a different condition that warrants different considerations for how to resolve matters during one's lifetime, if possible.

Asexuality, like intersexuality, cannot be easily comprehended by dominant society as anything other than "unfortunate" or "in need of some form of intervention: surgical, if intersex, psychological if asexual. Fuck all that. Trans folks get both imperatives, regardless of what any given trans person wants for themself: surgical, hormonal, and psychological "preparation" is called for by the medical establishment for anyone who wishes to transition, as if transitioning necessarily means having surgery or taking hormone injections. Again, class is an issue here, as is culture. One Indigenist North American person I discussed some of these issues with remarked how odd dominant society is to think that something has to be "done" to people who are queer and trans. Why can't people just "be" who we are, including transgendered? This acquaintance told me, in their society, there are eleven genders... none of which require surgery. Hmmm.

I'm not suggesting this means trans folks who want surgery, and who can afford it, ought not get it. As a white trans person said when I brought up this other conversation, "Well, I don't live in that society, do I?" Good point. We live in a transphobic, homophobic, anti-Indigenist, racist, heterosexist, masculinist, and misogynistic one.

And it is easy to forget, when obsessing about matters of trans-surgery, that there's a gender that isn't trans that is told to get surgery in order to fulfill the promise of what their gender offers society. That gender is "women".

Dominant society tells all women, any women, however you understand the term "women" to do things to their bodies that men are not compelled and impelled to do. The list is long from tending to hair, removing hair, coloring hair, curling and straightening hair, and cutting hair regularly, or not often at all depending on ethnicity and other factors such as age. When I was young, white women could let their hair grow and grow. Some whiteboys could too, but not without being ridiculed by some. Some people of color could grow out their hair, but to do so and not have it chemically treated was seen as a political act. White women growing out there hair was not seen as political. It was what was fashionable to do.

Lesbians, more than any other queer group in dominant society, have great range in how gender is presented. Not safely, mind you. But gay men, to me, seem far more rigid about adhering to masculine norms not serving the radical agenda that used to be part of our community. With Two Spirit, trans, assexual, and intersex folks: the pressure to conform is intense, and the likelihood of finding "community" far more difficult. It's difficult enough for lesbians and gay men, but looking back on my life, there were always non-het people in it. There were always gay males around somewhere. We might not have been out to one another, but I knew I wasn't the only one. I think if I were trans or intersex, this sense of "not being the only one" would be more distant and abstract. As an asexual, let's just say you're likely to meet one other person in your lifetime who identifies as such and has thought significantly about this matter as it relates to capitalist, hypersexxxual society.

Segments of each group, whether lesbian, asexual, Two Spirit, transgender, asexual, or gay are physically and culturally invisible as such. Most of us are ridiculed and scorned, invisibilised and stigmatised by socially dominant men, based on what we look like alone or based on what dominants assume about us. Asexuals, Two Spirited people, and butch lesbians of any color or class are totally, absolutely invisibilised by dominant media. And if a butch woman accidentally appears on television, she is regarded with contempt, and is called ugly. The physical transformation of the not-butch woman singer, Susan Boyle, was a good example of gender policing. I knew she wouldn't be allowed to keep those bushy eyebrows. She's "a woman" after all. Women are supposed to HAVE bushy eyebrows. Except, well, some women do. No one makes Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes tweeze his eyebrows all to hell. This is sexism and this is misogyny. And this is the extreme contempt reserved for women who do not look femme. That many, many women don't look femme, including many femme women, seems to be of no consequence to the preservers of the status quo. Even femme women on television can barely be over fifty, and if they are, they'd better be wearing makeup, dresses or skirts, and be doing something noticeably expensive with their hair.

What I conclude from all of this is that forging alliances, while never easy between the have and the have nots, the "innies" and the "outies", will be made far easier if challenging white supremacy, capitalism, dominant institutions, and patriarchal mandates are central to the struggle to find ways to be human while fending off inhumanity targeting those of us who are not and will never be heterosexual or gender-appropriate. For those of us who salute and wave the LATSTIG flag.

Um, can someone design a LATSTIG flag?

34 comments:

DanceDreaming said...

Interesting.

I came to an understanding of 'queer' quite differently. Less academic, more street culture and lesbian communities. And from that perspective, 'queer' has always had an element of gender blurring to me. Genderqueer being a strong element of queer culture. Genderqueer being similar to transgender, but less about transitioning and more about transcending.

Many homeless steet kids, most of the LGBT ones I've known, use 'queer' as a self-description, at least some times. It might have an academic root, but the term seems to have gained some power. And it's power is in exactly what you are talking about, breaking out of the patriarchy gender identity trap. I've even known some young straight people who refer to themselves as queer, due to proudly transgressing against gender conformity.

As to the fluidity aspect, I suppose it's there. I'm not sure I understand why that's a problem. Sure, many lesbians and gay men are concrete in their sexuality. But the fluidity is not just in terms of individual, but also in terms of culture. Fluid genders, across a spectrum. Wide varieties of attractions, not delineated into the homo/hetero binary.

On that note, I've always thought the B was added for a fairly good reason. There's always been some tension between the L/G community and it's bisexual or pansexual elements. Usually for exactly the reasons you state. Most L/G folk have had a bad experience or 4 with a questioning 'bi' person, and that bad experience colors all bi folk, period.

The difficulty with your statement:

regardless of who you can imagine yourself sleeping with, regardless of who you fuck, regardless of who you desire to be sexually or romantically involved with, who you pine away for, have a crush on, or fool around with when drunk, if you're not identified socially as lesbian or gay, you're not dealing with what lesbian and gay people deal with--which is the awareness that we are, without question, outside the mainstream due to who we love in ways forbidden by heteropatriarchal mandates and customs.

is that bisexuals -do- feel exactly that. Most homophobes don't care if you -always- sleep with someone of the same sex, once is generally enough to taint you. Bisexuals feel outside the mainstream due to who we love too. And more, we are often made to feel outside the outsiders group too. Because who we love is often forbidden by L/G cultural mandates too.

And bisexuality coming in and out of vogue does -not- help. The fact that my sexuality is now a popular fetish for misogynistic straight men isn't really doing me favors.

The B is on there -because- there is bad blood. Because many L/G folk have issues with bi folk. Because of little digs and insults about not being a 'real' lesbian, or people warning one another that bisexuals will leave you for a guy, that bisexual will cheat. I don't know if these little slurs kick around amongst gay men, or what form they take, but there's a fair amount of it in the lesbian community.

The B is there to remind that when coalition building, divisive and dismissive commentary tends to get in the way.

By the way, what's the 'ST' for? I seemed to have missed them?

Julian Real said...

Hi DanceDreaming,

Thanks for that perspective and for sharing your experiences with queer community.

The TS is for Two Spirit, and the T that follows that is for Trangendered.

I want to emphasise that it is not only and often primarily "how we feel" that determines our political location. Many het white men feel like outsiders, alienated, isolated, lonely, and like they don't fit in.

That doesn't make those individual white men an oppressed group.

Same for people who feel like they are queer and people who feel like they are rejected.

The issue is how society works, and doesn't work, structurally. How hierarchies place us against our will and wishes.

There are oppressed people who don't feel oppressed. That doesn't mean they aren't oppressed, structurally, although it may mean they aren't experiencing it as much as others in their group, interpersonally.

This focus on how individuals feel is part of "individualism" and "liberalism" and "psychologising social hierarchies" which this blog is deeply critical of.

The problem with "gender" for me, as a radical profeminist, isn't that it is or is not fluid. It's that it is, for sure, a political hierarchy, socially enforced. That some within white society claim to be blurring the lines and transgressing means not a whole hell of a lot to me unless they are also fighting to end rape and racism.

If race and gender hierarchies aren't being toppled, dismantled, radically transformed, "transgression" amounts to privileged "freedom of expression" that does nothing to make women from rape, to express themselves in a world where they don't have to fear rape and other sexist atrocities.

The power hierarchy that is "gender" in dominant society is often ignored within queer white society, in my experience. Liberalism and individualism reigns, and if I feel like a woman, well, I can claim to be a woman.

I'm not speaking now, here, about transgendered people's lives.

I'm speaking about mine, and how when I was part of liberal, individualistic, psychologising queer white community, I could call myself anything I wanted to, no matter how I was structurally positioned, and no matter what I'm entitled and privileged to do.

One thing whites and men are privileged and entitled to do, is to pretend our feelings matter more than structural oppression which we don't get the brunt of.

So for us, gender- and sex-identities can be fluid, can shift, can change, can depend on who we're with, etc. and can find enough support for that to consider it socially valid.

Julian Real said...

Hi DanceDreaming,

Thanks for that perspective and for sharing your experiences with queer community.

The TS is for Two Spirit, and the T that follows that is for Trangendered.

I want to emphasise that it is not only (and even primarily) "how we feel" that determines our political location. It is social structures, systems, and institutions. Many het white men feel like outsiders, alienated, isolated, lonely, and like they don't fit in. That doesn't make those individual white men an oppressed group. No matter how oppressed and rejected they feel.

Social hierarchies beyond our control but within us in our expressed values and practices, stigmatise or status us. Regardless of how we feel about ourselves.

There are also oppressed people who don't feel oppressed. That doesn't mean they aren't oppressed, structurally, although it may mean they aren't experiencing it as much as others in their group, interpersonally.

This focus on how individuals feel is part of "individualism" and "liberalism" and "psychologising social hierarchies" which this blog is deeply critical of and rejects as a method of assessing states of oppression.

The problem with "gender" for me, as a radical profeminist, isn't that it is or is not fluid. It's that it is, for sure, a political hierarchy, socially enforced. That some within white male supremacist society claim to be blurring the lines and transgressing means not a whole hell of a lot to me unless they are also fighting to end rape and racism.

If race and gender hierarchies aren't being toppled, dismantled, radically transformed on institutional and structural levels, by exposing the white het male supremacy embedded in systems of thought and terroristic control, "transgression" amounts to privileged "freedom of expression" that does nothing to make women free from rape, to express themselves in a world where they don't have to fear rape and other sexist atrocities.

The powerful oppressive hierarchy that is "gender" in dominant society is often ignored within queer white society, in my experience. Gender is misperceived as essentially a matter of diversity: the more diverse the better, for liberal queer folks. The more shored up as comprised of men ruling women, the better for white conservatives.

In liberal queer white circles, individualistic feelings trump social responsibility. If I feel like a woman, well, I can claim to be a woman, in liberal queer society. But, well, at night, when I am approaching a woman on a sidewalk, from behind, she's not registering my gender fluidity.

I'm not speaking now, here, about transgendered people's lives. I'm speaking as a non-trans person who has wanted to claim I'm not a man, in the past.

When I was part of liberal, individualistic, psychologisistic queer white community, I could call myself anything I wanted to, no matter how I was structurally positioned, and no matter what I'm entitled and privileged to do. And I wasn't called out on how me doing that WAS a form of male privilege.

One thing whites and men are privileged and entitled to do, is to pretend our feelings matter more than structural oppression which we don't suffer the brunt of.

So for us, gender- and sex-identities can be fluid, can shift, can change, can depend on who we're with, etc. and can find enough support for that to consider it socially valid.

Julian Real said...

Hi DanceDreaming,

Thanks for that perspective and for sharing your experiences with queer community.

The TS is for Two Spirit, and the T that follows that is for Trangendered.

I want to emphasise that it is not only (or even primarily) "how we feel" that determines our political location. Many het white men feel like outsiders, alienated, isolated, lonely, and like they don't fit in. That doesn't make those individual white men an oppressed group. Same for people who feel like they are queer and people who feel like they are rejected. If het people get to call themselves queer because they feel queer, that's an expression of their het privilege, in my view.

The issue is how society works, and doesn't work, structurally. How hierarchies place us under or over other people, institutionally, not only interpersonally.

There are oppressed people who don't feel oppressed. That doesn't mean they aren't oppressed, structurally, although it may mean they aren't experiencing it as much as others in their group, interpersonally.

This focus on how individuals feel is part of "individualism" and "liberalism" and "psychologism" which this blog is deeply critical of.

The problem with "gender" for me, as a radical profeminist, isn't that it is or is not fluid. It's that it is, for sure, a political hierarchy, socially enforced and defined as much over and against the bodies of girls and girl-raised women.

That some het and queer folks within white het male supremacist society claim to be blurring the lines and transgressing means not a whole hell of a lot to me unless they are also fighting to end rape and racism.

If race and gender hierarchies aren't being radically challenged and transformed, "transgression" amounts to privileged "freedom of expression" that does nothing to make girl-raised women from rape by boys and boy-raised men.

The power hierarchy that is "gender" in dominant society is often ignored within queer white society, in my experience. Liberalism and individualism reigns, and if I feel like a woman, well, I can claim to be a woman in those circles. I know because I have. And then I met radical feminist queer people who called my sorry ass out on the white and male privilege of me getting to think I'm not a man. I'm not speaking now, here, about transgendered people's lives. I'm not a transgendered person, at least as that term currently is used socially.

I'm speaking about my life, and how when I was part of liberal, individualistic, psychologising queer white community, I could call myself anything I wanted to, no matter how I was structurally positioned, and no matter what I'm entitled and privileged to do. One thing whites and men are privileged and entitled to do, is to pretend our feelings matter more than structural oppression which we don't have to endure the way people of color and women do.

So for us white- and class- and gender-privileged folks, gender- and sex-identities can be fluid, can shift, can change, can depend on who we're with, etc. and we can, depending on where we life, find enough interpersonal support to consider that socially valid and culturally real.

Julian Real said...

What is wrong with society isn't that we aren't fluid enough, individually. What's wrong with society, from my point of view, informed by women all over the world, is that girls and women all over the world are oppressed by whites and men all over the world.

What's wrong, harmful, and morally bankrupt is the institutions and their values as expressed in dominant society.

If bisexuals see lesbians and gay men as the obstacle to their liberation, that is fucked up. Blaming the oppressed for "exclusion" is a sign of privilege or gross horizontal hostility, as far as I'm concerned.

I think the whole homo-, bi-, hetero-sexual continuum (a very white male supremacist concept) misses the point about why some privileged people are oppressed in the West: privileged people are demographically oppressed because we're not white enough or not manly enough, not because we have crushes on males or females or both.

Bisexual men don't feel accepted by me. And I'm in no position, structurally, to oppress any bi man. He can oppress me, and he has. He is structurally positioned, by "virtue" of his proximity to male heterosexuality, to oppress me in a way I can't do it "back to him".

I'm not putting bi people in the group I've identified her as LATSTIG. This is my decision in my little relatively invisible part of the universe, where liberal het and bi men and women get to tell me to consider sexuality and gender more a matter of fluidity and diversity than force and domination.

I'm not oppressed because my sexuality is or isn't fluid. I'm oppressed because I'm seen to be participating in the degraded social status of (presumably heterosexual) girl-raised women by not treating women as sexxx-things.

Neil Patrick Harris can be out as gay in life and remain popular as long as his het character on his current TV series is a sexist jerk.

When "LGBT" or (ugh) "GLBT" community, in the West, takes on white het male supremacy as a core issue to challenge, confront, resist in all its manifestations, with full accountability to women of color radical activists across the globe. When class-privileged white queer folks are fighting for our survival in solidarity with people of color globally, with Indigenous people globally, with girl-raised women globally, I'll consider embracing that community again.

DanceDreaming said...

Hmm,

Well, first, I agree that the current direction of the LGBT movement as a whole is pretty skewed, and the priorities need some work. The focus on making it more acceptable to be out and lesbian/gay, so long as you are otherwise 'acceptable', and not confronting the misogynistic racist core elements of homophobia is a mistake. The focus on 'presentable' white middle class homosexuality is awful.

It seems to be to be quite true that misogyny plays a huge part in homophobia. It has been argued back and forth as to whether it arises directly from, or only in part, but I lean in the direction of being mostly or wholly an aspect of misogyny.

That said, I've been under the impression that the 'queer' ideology was specifically around hitting patriarchy where it lives. Within the compulsory gender roles. By blurring what it means to be male, expressions of masculinity outside the violent misogynistic norm become possible. By blurring what it means to be female, expressions outside of the hyper-sexualized, accessible, vulnerable femininity become possible.

It does remain possible that this idealogy can be subverted to simply invisibilize structural oppression. I think this is something that is happening and needs a sharp eye. But I don't think queerness is the problem. I think liberalism and it's tendency toward aiming for abstract equality is the problem. And sadly, much of the LGBT movement seems to go for the liberal ideology. But in all my experiences, the folk who self-identify as 'queer', as opposed to 'lesbian' or 'gay', are more likely to be of the radical as opposed to liberal mindset. This might be a personal perspective thing, due to seeing 'queer' often times from a queerpunk perspective.

DanceDreaming said...

On to bisexuality. First off, by being people who love, are attracted to, and have romantic and sexual relationships with people of the same sex, bisexuals are structurally oppressed by hetesexist culture. It doesn't matter to heterosexists if the bi person isn't all the way homosexual, the fact is they aren't heterosexual, and that's enough. It's true that while in a het relationship, the fact of the oppression becomes invisible, but it is still there. A great discussion of this phenomena can be found here:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/11/25/invisible-identities-part-1-invisible-to-whom/

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/12/09/invisible-identities-part-2-the-default-human/

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/01/25/invisible-identities-part-3-the-privileges-and-pains-of-passing/


That stated, it is quite possible, and even common, for a structurally oppressed group to oppress a subgroup. One common version is in the policing of the boundaries. Those 'in-between' the oppressed group and the oppressors, by virtue of appearing(to the oppressed group) as having many of the privileges of the oppressing group, are then marginalized -within the oppressed group-. Again, see the discussion I link above, on the privileges and problems of 'passing'.

Bisexuals are oppressed by het society for not being het. And they face distinctly structural oppression in the out group for being 'too het'. I don't know how this manifested amongst gay men, but amongst lesbians it is pretty stark, especially in the older set. Much of it rises out of misunderstandings about what bisexual means, and pain from the actions of 'curious' folk who give bisexuals a bad name.

Bisexuals are just as likely to break the gender norms as L/G people. Most of the bi guys I've known have been anything but 'manly' enough. Most of the (actually)bi-girls I've known have stood well outside of femme. There are many straight girls who pretend to be bi to turn on guys, and are usually well within heterosexist norms, but that is an appropriation, and fetishization of identity. The idea that it should be held against me that someone else appropriated and fetishized my identity is weird, but it is very common.

But basically, bi folk are likely to be oppressed by heterosexist culture in the exact same fashions as LG people, for the exact same reason. There may be times they can 'pass' as het, and thereby get the privileges of such. But that's just another closet. I actually have known many older bi folk who have talked about the 'double-closet', hiding their homosexuality in het group, and their heterosexuality in homosexual groups. This used to be very common, before the LGBT community at large started to make note of the problem and aim toward inclusiveness.

When I hear LG folk, as a group, frequently telling me to 'make up my mind', telling me I don't know what it's like to be a lesbian despite having had long term committed relationships with women, when I hear jokes about 'never trusting bi girls'; that is horizontal hostility. And yes, it is structural oppression.

As a gay man, you are very distinctly in a position to oppress bisexuals. It happens all the time and takes a very similar form as the oppression of homosexuals by het society. Disinclusion, stereotyping, dismissiveness, in-jokes, group ostracizing. It doesn't take the form of violence generally, but it is still there. Bi folk, pushed out of the in group for being too out, and out of the out group for being to in, have worked pretty hard to get visibility and acceptance in the LGBT community. Usually against attitudes very much like those you've expressed here.

Julian Real said...

I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree: or, rather, I'm going to disagree with your assessment of what constitutes "oppression" as disinclusion, stereotyping, dismissiveness, in-jokes, and group ostracizing.

That's group rejection and bigotry, not oppression, here, in the view of this blog. Some darker-skinned Black folks may not accept lighter-skinned Black folks. That doesn't give dark-skinned people the systemic, structural capacity to oppress light-skinned people.

So I simply don't agree: I don't oppress bi men. I can be insensitive, bigoted, stoopid, ignorant, etc., but that doesn't add up to me being an oppressor, in the view of this blog.

The way you use the term is pure liberalism, to me, as is the way you describe the power of shifting gender roles being "radical".

I don't understand the political project to interrupt roles, and talk of "roles" alone, is within the framework of liberalistic views on matters of power. It's the power that is institutionally behind the roles that's the issue, not "acting out a role".

Queer and non-queer folks who disrupt, transgress, and fuck with gender roles aren't doing radical activist work, in the view of this blog. That doesn't make it unhelpful to large causes, necessarily, but it has no capacity to radically transform because it is an individualistic approach, not a class based or collectivist approach. It pretends that individuals behaving differently means that institutional power dissipates, or the foundations of white, het, male supremacy crack. There's no evidence of that, in my view.

Julian Real said...

White het male supremacy is, in my view, as strong as ever, and has been globalised, and pornographer-pimps, advertisers, and media kingpins have done an excellent job, with institutional (legal and academic) backing, of protecting the power of whites and heterosexual men to oppress in a variety of ways.

What some queers and non-queers do to behave and appear differently isn't a threat to the powers that be with their power embedded structurally and institutionally, acted out systematically.

Shifting institutionally embedded power takes collectivist, sustained activism, not individual acts of rebellion (not that the latter isn't useful to individuals who seek to live differently).

To make the dominant force, the protected power, that heterosexist racist patriarchy has impotent will not be done with an analysis of roles and rejection purporting to be the same thing as power and privilege.

Interrupting roles is something WHM supremacist societies can obviously survive and even be entertained by. In my childhood, white guys grew out their hair and put flowers in the butts of guns. This was counter-hegemonic, and patriarchy responded by marketing hippydom, by appropriating those changes, and by making sure that white hippy doods were still misogynistic and racist as hell.

White queer society, in my experience, is racist and misogynistic and anti-lesbian has hell. Classist to, if the community is middle or upper middle class.

Those middle and upper middle class people have the freedom to play with roles or struggle mightily against them, to perforate certain parameters set up socially and culturally by dominants. And all of that can be absorbed by WHM supremacist society, and has been. WHM supremacist society has won when queer liberal society proclaims wearing high heels, make-up, breast-implants, and shaved body parts as "liberatory". Same with bdsm, same with "loving porn", same with drag. Same with gender bending and gender blending. Same with anything that doesn't actually radically shift the power embedded in institutions, making those institutions disappear.

We aren't there: we haven't succeeded. What has happened in thirty years, in my experience of queer culture, is that it has, increasingly, taken what dominants do as oppression and rename it "transgression". Big. Fucking. Deal.

Julian Real said...

Appropriation happens, and you know you the knife is on the jugular of WHM supremacist institutions when they can't market and sell what we're doing to resist. Notice how butch lesbian and het women will not be sold as "good" in Western racist, heteropatriarchy.

Straights love drag shows, for example, because those shows parody dominant presentations of gender, not radically subversive ones. No one pays money to come see fat women in sweatshirts and jeans with facial hair dance together, except, other butch women and the other women who are attracted to and love them.

There cannot exist butch, hairy women "as strippers" for men. To be one, you MUST conform to racist heteropatriarchal standards of beauty, right?

Pornographers will appropriate any "deviation" from norms, folding it back into the profiteering racket that oppresses all women, people of color, trans and intersex folks, and lesbians and gay men.

I hear how you feel about these perspectives I toss out here. I understand bi people can sometimes feel like they have no home: of being marginalised in both het and lesbian/gay worlds. This is the failure of bi people to create their own cultures and instead lean on and look to lesbian women and gay men to take care of them, socially, culturally, and emotionally. Why don't bi people go to het society for that support and demand that IT accommodate? That would be a radical act of confrontation.

Lesbians don't oppress bi women. Not in the views this blog is founded on and stands by.

To oppress means one has access to and the support of dominant institutions at the ready. Lesbians don't have any institutional support. Lesbianism is increasingly marginalised, with the population of women who are lesbian-identified growing older. That you speak of how "oppressive" older lesbian women are to younger bi people shows ageism and well as liberalism, to me.

What structural power, tied directly to racist heteropatriarchal institutions, do older lesbians have? What brotherly bonds do het white men make with lesbian women? Here's one: we'll promote you if you act they way we want you to act that allows us to appropriate your sexuality for our erections and orgasms. That's not an structurally empowering, class-liberating bond. And I think you'd agree with that.

Julian Real said...

Re: white-dominant punk queer groups

What coalition work do they do with poor queers of color? What coalition work do they do to challenge dominant misogyny?

DanceDreaming said...

What work do they do? There are bi people in most activist groups. The idea of creating a separate bi movement is ridiculous. Why let patriarchy divide and conquer? The level on which bisexuals are oppressed by dominant culture are the same as LG folk.

The idea that the oppressed cannot also oppress in turn is also ridiculous, and you know it. Gay men can oppress women and people of color. Straight white women can oppress queer folk and people of color. People of color can oppress women and queer folk. They can, and often do, also oppress bi-racial people.

And lesbians and gay men can oppress bisexuals. Yes, the root of the problem is WHM patriarchy. But the seeds of that are in each of us, and getting it out requires dealing with our own bigotry. Turning us against one another is all part of the system, and it stinks. Bigotry from one oppressed group expressed at another also stinks.

Individual acts of rebellion can't change anything? Where do you think revolution starts? How do you think change happens? Individuals. It's the only level on which people actually do have power, in their own actions.

Radical feminism has a huge part in creating and building the movement to show that gender roles are performative, oppressive and can be fought. The butch lesbians you are talking about are part of that. So are the genderqueer.

It sucks that a lot of the punk movement is white dominated. Although, the groups I have known do have a fairly strong asian and some latina presence. One of the difficulties with punk is that it is primarily made up of kids who grew up middle-class, and are trying to leave that behind. Sadly, this leads to a fairly homogeneous group.

However, there are many female leaders in the punk scene, and a lot of the decision making process in most punk collectives is straight out of the feminist movement. Dialog, consensus, non-violent communication, all are present, at least some of the time. Communal cooperative living and working, as the only means available to fight corporate capitalism. I was there at the Seattle protests against the WTO, in a group of punks. I've done tree-sits to protect old growth. I helped rebuild homes in the 9th ward in New Orleans, when the mainstream groups were only working to rebuild white neighborhoods. So yeah, that and more are what they're doing.

No, such groups aren't perfect. There's still racism and sexism, and though it's subtle that only makes it harder to spot, not less destructive. In groups that aren't queer focused, there's still heterosexism, but it's usually called out.

Queer punks have made some missteps. Their almost singlehandedly responsible for unearthing the sexist garbage that is burlesque. A fairly high number of 'by-choice' sex-workers are lesbian and bisexual. SWOP and the motion to pass prop K in SF have a lot of queer and trans leaders.

And yes, mainstream LG culture is pretty messed up. And the movement to give white middle-class homosexuals 'equal-rights' is a huge misstep.

But queering the genders -is- a part of feminism. My great-grandmother queered the genders when she went into business for herself as a tailor(not a seamstress, she always proudly declared), against strong social backlash, nearly 100 years ago. Sometimes, it has to start on an individual level.

DanceDreaming said...

As to what is and is not structural oppression, this is a matter of the politics of the outgroup. Oppressed group tend to collect and build communities. Within those groups, the hierarchical structure of society is often mirror on the micro scale. The outgroup ends up with it's own internal structure of power, and in turn oppresses subgroups within it.

Border policing is a fairly common form. The Michigan Womyn's music festival may or may not be a good example, depending on your perspective. The most obvious and painful form of this(far more of an issue then in the case of bisexuals) is the plight of biracial, especially when one of the races involved is white. I got to see some of that first hand when I dated a part-black transman.

I'm not trying here to appropriate that distress, as it's much sharper and deeper a cut then bisexuals being systematically disincluded from lesbian spaces. Or a gay white man suggesting bisexuals go build their own movement. But the methods and message are very similar. You are half-part of the dominant group, you don't belong. And guess what? The dominant doesn't care about the half part. Bisexuals are either sexual fetishes or 'faggots'.

And that is why the B is there. Because some LG folk, particularly lesbian activists, fought to put it there. I'm sorry you can't understand that. Maybe you should examine your privilege.

DanceDreaming said...

On my privilege comment:

Sorry I was rude. It just seems odd that a white gay male should be defining what is or isn't included in the queer community. Or telling a woman-loving woman(who also is attracted to men) who's often mistaken for a boy what the experience of being a butch lesbian is like.

DanceDreaming said...

On the value of questioning gender roles, vis a vis entitlements and privileges: I find that the 2 tend to go hand in hand.

For instance, all of the following are basically gender roles:

--Women are sex objects. A woman's role is to adorn and display herself for male sexual gratification. Women blurring this role refuse to compulsively sexualize their appearance.

Conversely, men are never to appear too sexual. To do so is feminine and therefor degrading. Men blurring this role, and refusing to be ashamed weaken this paradigm(recently causing a widespread backlash). As an added bonus they give straight women something pretty to look at.

I've gotten a certain impression that plenty of straight guys would -like- to be sexualized in the eyes of women, at least a little bit. So it is kind of a trade, stop objectifying me, and I'll sexualize you a bit. You first though, because it's hard to see you as sexy while you're being creepy(btw, hypothetical you, not specific you).

--A woman's role is in the home, and men are the breadwinners. Well, this one breaking has some obvious effects on power, I think.

--A man is only allowed to show anger when upset, not vulnerability. A woman never anger, only sadness/vulnerability. I think this role set up is a big part of male on female violence, and really, really needs to go.

--A man is assertive and independent. A woman compliant and dependent. Deeply entwined with male power/dominance and female submission.

Now granted, a lot of supposed gender blurring doesn't actually tackle any of these. Drag shows being a prime example. And the fact that some gender blurring has been so specifically the realm of gay men has actually made straight men -less- likely to follow suit(due to heterosexism or fear of it).

But some do, or at least try. Nifty examples:

http://genderfork.com/

Intersectionality is so important, and very hard to keep in the forefront, and very missing from queer politics today. On that level I agree wholeheartedly. One of the key issues around liberalism is the way it makes us fight with one another over the scraps from the master's table.

Julian Real said...

Hi DanceDreaming,

There's some miscommunication going on here that I'll try and clear up and apologies for any confusion on my end.

Re: oppression. I never said a person can't be structurally oppressive, such as a white bi person oppressing a Latina Lesbian or, for that matter, a white gay man oppressing ANY woman.

You will note in my examples, I am careful to say I don't structurally oppress any bi MEN.

I said that for a reason. And in the context of that part of the discussion, it is assumed (but maybe shouldn't be) that "all other points of intersectionality are not places where oppression can happen interpersonally or structurally".

Okay?

So please, let's not go on and on about that.

I don't structurally oppress white class-privileged bi and het men who are not disabled and not oppressed by me for age or ethnicity. Okay?

That's my view. You writing back "Yes you do" isn't going to get us anywhere at all.

I will remind you: this is an activist blog, not a discussion blog, primarily.

If you want to tell me what queer folks you know are doing for political work, cool.

I'm not going to endlessly debate stuff here. There are plenty of blogs which make that their sole purpose, and I'm glad they are out there. This isn't one of 'em.

On the value of questioning gender roles, vis a vis entitlements and privileges: I find that the 2 tend to go hand in hand.

I don't find discussion of "roles" all that meaningful, which is why this blog, in 650 plus posts, has never discussed "roles" generally. I don't plan to start now. I find that whole concept misleading and evasive of what the actual issue is: power, institutionalised power, which can also be acted out interpersonally.

For instance, all of the following are basically gender roles:

--Women are sex objects. A woman's role is to adorn and display herself for male sexual gratification. Women blurring this role refuse to compulsively sexualize their appearance.


I don't see that as a role at all. I see that as a heteropatriarchal mandate, an enforced code of conduct and practice. Not a role. Akin to poor people having to do the bulk of labor around the world. That's not "a role" to me.

Conversely, men are never to appear too sexual.

That's not so for gay men. For a bi woman, you sure forget about us fast! ;)

To do so is feminine and therefor degrading. Men blurring this role, and refusing to be ashamed weaken this paradigm(recently causing a widespread backlash).

So you mean "only het men" when you say men? That's oppressive to me as a gay man. That invisibilises me rather completely and is heterosexist. I'm calling you out on that, sister.

As an added bonus they give straight women something pretty to look at.

Who? Us gay men? We objectify and otherwise gaze at pretty and handsome MEN, don't forget.

I've gotten a certain impression that plenty of straight guys would -like- to be sexualized in the eyes of women, at least a little bit. So it is kind of a trade, stop objectifying me, and I'll sexualize you a bit. You first though, because it's hard to see you as sexy while you're being creepy(btw, hypothetical you, not specific you).

That's too abstract for me, DanceDreaming. Sorry.

And, no, I don't tend to be "creepy" around women, as I'm gay! I don't objectify women in a creepy or non-creepy way, sexually! Nor do many gay men, although some objectify women as "beauty objects" but not exactly sexually. I don't do that, though.

Julian Real said...

--A woman's role is in the home,

Rich and upper middle class het women, you mean?

The rest are working inside and outside the home, often. Especially working class and poor women. And that whole "woman in the home thing" has always been terribly racist and classist, and, um, heterosexist. Because it assumes "the woman" is with "the man", which of course isn't the case for women who live alone, for widowed het women who haven't repartnered with a man, for lesbian-partnered women.

and men are the breadwinners. Well, this one breaking has some obvious effects on power, I think.

That's all about control and possession, not about "role" so much. I do know some more egalitarian het couples who divvy up the chores and tasks of the household. They might say "we mutually agree on what roles we'll take in getting stuff done" but that's not what a radical view takes as meaningful discussion about how to end oppression. It's the embedded power in relationships and institutions that must be radically shifted and redistributed, and fundamentally redefined from a "power-over" value system and practice, to a "power-with" one.

--A man is only allowed to show anger when upset, not vulnerability.

HET men can show whatever they want, they can rage one day and plead and cry for mercy the next. And do. Yes, het men tend to tease other men and also women, who show vulnerability in certain forms. That's not role-play; that's social control, gender tyranny at work.

A woman never anger, only sadness/vulnerability. I think this role set up is a big part of male on female violence, and really, really needs to go.

Women are supposed to not demonstrate anger UPWARDS, but are allowed to be angry at other women, for example. This isn't role; it's how power is acted out socially.

--A man is assertive and independent. A woman compliant and dependent. Deeply entwined with male power/dominance and female submission.

These are all far too relative things to say so conclusively. Poor men are necessarily dependent on the State, in ways a capitalist State exploits. Gay men are dependent on one another, when in relationship, often enough. Men of color cannot be freely independent of white het male supremacy and its mandates and proscriptions. Again, that's not about role.

Julian Real said...

Now granted, a lot of supposed gender blurring doesn't actually tackle any of these. Drag shows being a prime example. And the fact that some gender blurring has been so specifically the realm of gay men has actually made straight men -less- likely to follow suit(due to heterosexism or fear of it).

I find het men are generally ignorant about what we gay men do, as they don't tend to hang out with us, for the most part. Het men homosocially bond, overall and generally, with other het men. The only times we gayboys see them, is when they are drunk wanting their dicks sucked by us, so they can pretend not to have known who was doing the sucking the next day. Grrr. LOTS of het men, often married to women, exploit trans and gay men inside oppressive systems of prostitution.

But some do, or at least try. Nifty examples:

http://genderfork.com/


I can't deal here with exceptional examples. This isn't a blog that points out what a handful of people are doing. This blog is about what the masses do that is oppressive, or that is the consequence of being oppressed.

I've seen one or two drag performers who I thought were creative and not about playing out any stereotypes, re: gender, race, and class. And I'm not giving them any props here. They're anecdotal to the issues of this blog and its focus.

Intersectionality is so important, and very hard to keep in the forefront,

Like when you tell me, a gay men, what "men" do that doesn't apply to gay men???

and very missing from queer politics today. On that level I agree wholeheartedly. One of the key issues around liberalism is the way it makes us fight with one another over the scraps from the master's table.

Right, which is why I tend not to engage much with liberals here. For me, it's a waste of time.

Let's get on with the business of highlighting the radical activism of women the world over, whose voices are silenced by dominant media, and by men.

That's what this blog aims to do. And it will promote some profeminist men's radical activist work as well, such as Robert Jensen's and Derrick Jensen's.

There's very little here by white queer folks because I simply don't know of any who are doing radical activist work. And switching up roles, isn't that work, in my view.

Julian Real said...

As far as I can tell, genderfork reinforces this obsession with appearance over action. No?

I welcome you to link to groups internationally who are doing substantive work to end white het male supremacy. But letting me know of a small handful of people who are, in an insular way, doing something "not mainstream" isn't what this blog is designed to promote.

Julian Real said...

Affording clothes and having time to dress oneself in many different ways tends to be a class-specific activity. Folks who work in many places have a uniform.

Poor folks often don't have tons of outfits to choose from, nor the time and energy or other resources to make that "their political project".

You see what I mean?

I don't find genderfork to be a radical queer site at all. But I appreciate the person who is questioning herself about having breast implants. And I hope she gets sound advice, to not have to think surgery is going to solve that particular problem, and to question who has sold her the idea that a man's chest is flat and a woman's chest has "big boobs". As if.

Julian Real said...

Hi DanceDreaming,

Some of your comments came in and are being posted out of order to when I actually get notice of them. Apologies for the ensuing confusion or lag time in my responses.

As to what is and is not structural oppression, this is a matter of the politics of the outgroup.

Well, if the outgroup's political or misogynistic, or racist, or classist, or are hopelessly liberal, I'm calling that out here, on my blog.

Oppressed group tend to collect and build communities. Within those groups, the hierarchical structure of society is often mirror on the micro scale. The outgroup ends up with it's own internal structure of power, and in turn oppresses subgroups within it.

This is a misuse, or a confusing use of the term "oppresses", to me, for me, here on this blog. That is not what this blog means by "oppresses". It is NOT a synonym for marginalisation or exclusion or bigotry ALONE. Not here.

Border policing is a fairly common form. The Michigan Womyn's music festival may or may not be a good example, depending on your perspective.

I will remind you that the lesbian women, any and all of them, collectively, at the MWMF, do not have police power relative to the U.S. military and police forces that are REAL and POWERFUL and anti-feminist and anti-woman.

This blog deals with military power: please read the latest post on Yanar Mohammed's report from Iraq. THAT'S what this blog is trying to support: the voices of women fighting actual military power, not "in-group/out-group 'policing'". I don't deal with that here, much, anyway. And I seek to deal with it as little as possible, because it's function is to distract us all from what Yanar IS dealing with, with her life on the fucking line, every goddamned day. Your liberalism is pissing me off.

The most obvious and painful form of this(far more of an issue then in the case of bisexuals) is the plight of biracial, especially when one of the races involved is white. I got to see some of that first hand when I dated a part-black transman.

I object, HERE, to the use of the term "part-Black". Does HE refer to himself as "part-Black"? If so, he can speak here in those terms. I don't support ANY white person doing so. It's fucked up and racist as hell. NO BLACK PERSON IN THE U.S. RACIST SYSTEM IS "PART-BLACK".

I'm not trying here to appropriate that distress, as it's much sharper and deeper a cut then bisexuals being systematically disincluded from lesbian spaces.

I'm not taking time here to talk about "oppressive lesbians" unless we're talking about how white people are racist, or how class-privileged people are classist, or how non-disabled people are ableist, and even then, I'm not focusing on lesbian women as the example of that.

Julian Real said...

This blog is unapologetically radical feminist and womanist of color friendly and supportive space.

This blog is unapologetically white radical lesbian feminist friendly and supportive space. I know of one in which the man who runs it is fully accountable to radical women of color who have lived from day one without class privilege. Are you fully accountable to radical women of color without class privilege? Daily?

I fully support the womyn of all colors at Michigan having SPACE FOR THEMSELVES. PERIOD. You don't have to like my view or approve of it. But I'm not changing it any time soon. I've had decades to think this one over and feel it through. And that's where I come out on that issue; I support ANY AND ALL GIRL-RAISED WOMYN-ONLY SPACES. The more the better, as far as I am concerned. As many as womyn want and desire. That's how many such spaces I support there being.

Or a gay white man suggesting bisexuals go build their own movement.

I am very comfortable suggesting it. I'm in no position, and have no powers, to mandate it, to require it, to legislate it, to enforce it. So all we're dealing with here is one marginalised queerboy's perspective. That ain't much.

Lesbians have organised community spaces. Gay men have too. Why can't bi people? Is there something about being bi that precludes doing so? Are you really telling me that lesbians MUST accommodate bi women and men? Fuck that.

But the methods and message are very similar. You are half-part of the dominant group, you don't belong.

If you are structurally oppressive to me, I get to decide if I want you centrally in the group of oppressed people who are my people, don't I?

And guess what? The dominant doesn't care about the half part.

I don't accept this "half" language at all. The issue is "people who have heterosexual (and other) privileges" and "people who don't". There's no half about it. I don't understand sexual oppression in terms of having half of something.

Julian Real said...

Bisexuals are either sexual fetishes or 'faggots'.

Or d*kes, or any number of other negative terms. Or they pass and live heterosexually active and privileged lives.

I never said bi people aren't oppressed, although some are not oppressed on the basic of sexual orientation, if they are living fully heterosexual lives.

I said they're not oppressed by lesbians and gay men. Please hear that. And please respect that here, at the blog of this gay person.

And that is why the B is there.

Right. It is there and there's not a goddamned thing I can or will do about it. I'm speaking HERE, about how I identify queerness HERE.

The B is there, yes. It isn't here in the group I define above in the post. I include people who don't have heterosexual privilege and who are oppressed, structurally, due to gender variance that het male oppressors find worthy of beating up and killing people for displaying and being.

I have heard of no lesbian or gay groups beating up bi women or bi men. Have you?

Now, if some of those people are bi, then they are part of this group. And if some are not bi, they are too. But "bi people" as a category, doesn't tell me much about what level of heterosexual and heterosexist privilege and power they collectively have and exercise against the interests and empowerment and liberation movements and causes of lesbians and gay men.

Because some LG folk, particularly lesbian activists, fought to put it there.

Good for them. There are plenty of lesbian, trans, and gay activists I won't deal with. Patrick Califia is one of them. Camille Paglia is another. And virtually ALL white gay men--there's another group, with a few notable exceptions like Christopher Kendall and John Stoltenberg. I don't really care to engage with white gay men, to be honest, because their political alliances are so in opposition to the groups to whom I ally myself and to whom I hold myself accountable.

I'm sorry you can't understand that. Maybe you should examine your privilege.

Check. I do it daily. And my friends, who have far less privilege than I do, keep it in check as well. Daily.

On my privilege comment:

Sorry I was rude. It just seems odd that a white gay male should be defining what is or isn't included in the queer community. Or telling a woman-loving woman(who also is attracted to men) who's often mistaken for a boy what the experience of being a butch lesbian is like.


And until this moment I couldn't possibly know what you are, right? I didn't know until this moment that you identify as a woman-loving woman, or that you are socially perceived to be a butch woman.

Knowing both let's me know more about how and in what ways you are oppressed structurally. And neither, in my view, is because you are bi. Because the fact of you also being attracted to men doesn't put you under the fire of racist capitalist heteropatriarchs. And racist capitalist heteropatriarchs rule. Lesbians who go to Michigan and gay men who are fighting in alliance and allegiance with radical lesbian feminists (and other radical feminists), primarily those of color, are not ruling anything, and control no social institutions, nor economic ones, nor religious ones, nor legal ones, nor educational ones.

DanceDreaming said...

I wasn't trying to tell you what 'men' do. I was describing how 'man' is defined in classic western misogynist patriarchy.

And whether straight men know what gay men are doing or not, they've still managed to code a lot of femme behavior as gay and use it to police other men.

I think a whole lot of the -point- of activism is to try to, by one way or another, to convince or force WHM to act differently, yes? Although I think most direct action activism is far more about damage control at this point, little is focused on changing anything. Change comes from winning hearts and minds, and comes from groundswell.

Let's get on with the business of highlighting the radical activism of women the world over, whose voices are silenced by dominant media, and by men.

Ok. Is that what this post was? Because I didn't see that. To me it looked more like -you- making a personal statement about who should and shouldn't be included in the queer movement. And perpetuating long-standing bigotry from a position of relative power -within the movement/community-(as a person who's legitimacy is not questioned) against people with less power. Oh, and not acknowledging that power. But generally glorifying divisive and bigoted behavior, power or no.

Oh and a general takedown of how the middle-class white butch male minority of the queer movement is 'leading' the queer community. Which I agree is valuable, seeing as so many other people in the queer community are buying their CRAP.

Julian Real said...

I wasn't trying to tell you what 'men' do. I was describing how 'man' is defined in classic western misogynist patriarchy.

That's not how it came across to me.

And whether straight men know what gay men are doing or not, they've still managed to code a lot of femme behavior as gay and use it to police other men.

Again, I don't think "policing" happens without the force of the police and military behind it. So only those with the law, and law enforcement, and the military covering their backs have the power to "police" others, in my view.

So, yes, het men can and do police the behavior of other men, also of women, especially of women, actually.

But, for example, contrary to much liberal argumentation, Black women do not "police" white women, and radical feminists, unless they are police officers, do not "police" anyone.

I think a whole lot of the -point- of activism is to try to, by one way or another, to convince or force WHM to act differently, yes?

Not to me, no. Not at all. There must be many efforts to curb much of WHM supremacist behaviors and challenge values and assumptions, laws and customs. But that's all reform work, and the more radical it is, the better.

The Dworkin-MacKinnon anti-pornographer law is one example of a radical reform effort I support.

In general, no, I don't think the project is to try and get white het guys to behave more humanely. It is to get them out of power and to replace their systems with more humane ones.

I have little to no evidence that people with power will give it up because of a meaningful conversation. Radical activism that shows up the violence that inheres in WHM supremacy is useful. Militant opposition to the forces that kill the oppressed is necessary. Organised, sustained movement against the powers that are entrenched and entitled--that's my work. I don't give a fuck about convincing WHM of anything at all. To me, that's usually spitting in the wind.

Although I think most direct action activism is far more about damage control at this point, little is focused on changing anything.

The entire anti-violence against women movements have been co-opted by social services agencies and psychological perspectives, "family systems" therapies, and other non-radical views on what rape and battery are and what their patriarchal function is.

Change comes from winning hearts and minds, and comes from groundswell.

I disagree. Rather completely. The oppressed are the majority, always. The oppressors are the minority. The goal of most radical movements and efforts I'm aware of is to mobilise the masses of oppressed, not to try and convince the oppressors to give up power and privileges they don't even know how to give up, and can't, as long as there are institutions, systems, and structures keeping their power and privileges in place.

Julian Real said...

Let's get on with the business of highlighting the radical activism of women the world over, whose voices are silenced by dominant media, and by men.

I'm beginning to regret having posted it, as it is taking energy away from me focusing on what radical feminist activists around the world are doing. My bad.

Ok. Is that what this post was? Because I didn't see that. To me it looked more like -you- making a personal statement about who should and shouldn't be included in the queer movement.

Yes. Here on my blog, yes. Not in any organisation, not at any rally, nor at any place where I have any influence on any governing body.

And perpetuating long-standing bigotry from a position of relative power -within the movement/community-(as a person who's legitimacy is not questioned) against people with less power.

Huh? I challenged the WHM supremacist politics of white gay men and the liberals who fall in line with them.

I challenge and question the issues that apparently bind LGBT people together. I'm not sure we are bound by the same issues, agendas, or political perspectives.

I notice you've not mentioned anything at all about the invisibility of Two Spirit folks in "our" community. What do you propose we do about that?

I oppose the racist, misogynist, classist politics that appeal to the powers that be to "accept" queer people as "just like everyone else".

I oppose liberal agendas of social change.

Julian Real said...

Oh, and not acknowledging that power.

I regularly acknowledge here that I have the power of a white man in the U.S. with class and education privileges. I am also a disabled gay Jewish person with almost no social influence at all. As stated, I'm part of no organisations, no movements, no campaigns, no groups, and no actions. So how much power is that? It's enough to have some credibility when I speak, but I have virtually no cred among WHM. Almost none. Which is why few followers of this blog are WHM. No WHM I know reads this blog, except to make fun of it, put me down, call me "p*ssy-whipped, and threaten my life. So that's not a whole lot of power, relative, say, to any Senator or law enforcement official or judge.

But generally glorifying divisive and bigoted behavior, power or no.

Glorifying? I don't understand what you mean. At all.

Oh and a general takedown of how the middle-class white butch male minority of the queer movement is 'leading' the queer community. Which I agree is valuable, seeing as so many other people in the queer community are buying their CRAP.

I'm not speaking about "butchness". I'm speaking about WHM supremacist masculinism, in practice by WHM and those who seek to be like them or support them, or apologise for them, or appeal to them and say "please change".

I say "fuck 'em". Not in the sexual sense. If they want to figure out how to be human by stopping oppressive behaviors, fine. But they can come to that themselves. Or they can read and not pester the oppressed with inane questions.

My blog is not an appeal to the most powerful people. It is a blog to support the least powerful people. That's a huge difference.

You and I are not even close to being the least powerful. So why are we taking up so much space here debating this stuff?

Please read what Ruchira Gupta is doing, and Yanar Mohammed, and bring your practices and values in allignment with their struggles, especially relating to the matter of legalising prostitution. Please listen to them, not me.

Please see what they have to say. I have several posts here in their words. Please read those words, and please care about them, being responsive and responsible to them.

I support the actions of the people without a lot of power, Third World activists, women of color activists, radical feminists around the world, without much structural power or access to media. That's what this blog endeavors to do.

I am closing discussion now, on all matters of bisexuality.

I invite you to read what Ruchira and Yanar and Black and Indigenous women activists have to say and respond to the posts about them, where their words are expressed.

S50Suma said...

I often wondered what practical purpose LGBT served actually. It doesn't represent really anything.
Coalitions should bring benefits to everyone, but I just don't see lesbians being taken all that seriously. "Queer' is just another word to erase women. Gay men certainly don't represent lesbian issues, and have no comprehension of our sexuality, our hertory, our traditions. Gay white men are just men who want more power, and have really not much desire to do the work of eliminating male centerness as a world wide phenomenon.
So why bother? Lesbians I associate with are working on all fronts. As women who are not into the "hetero-appearing-gender norm" arena, we are simly somewhere else entirely.

Julian Real said...

Thank you, S50Suma!

I appreciate and welcome your comment.

I think one point I wanted to make, and will make more clearly in the future here, is that to me, in my experience, the GTB folks have demonstrated a glaring lack of awareness of and concern for strictly lesbian issues, and a fair amount of hostility to and organising against radical lesbian feminist causes, while lesbians are expected to centralise the concerns and issues of all G, T, and B folks. Girl-raised women generally, and lesbians in particular within queer circles and circumstances, are expected and too often coerced into "accepting and accommodating" everyone else's needs and agendas.

I'm not on board with that as pro-womyn, pro-lesbian "coalition politics" and think much of what the rest of "our community" does is overtly and covertly anti-lesbian, not just marginalising of lesbians.

Basically, I completely agree with you and thank you for stating it.

justme said...

Thanks for this post and for the blog, which I only just discovered.

As for me, I am a young (graduating college), white, upper-middle-class, Jewish, "intersex" (PAIS) female who is currently trying to deal with her identity with respect to sex (action, not gender). In particular, I was/am one of the "victims" of those surgical "fascistic enemies." While I don't necessarily agree with such a dichotomous characterization of what happened to me (or to others like me), I will say that I have been profoundly affected by the decision that was made about my body just minutes after I was born. Of course, thinking about what I’d be like if I hadn’t had it is scary too, since I only know myself the way I am now.

Mostly, the physical part of the whole sex thing has always been quite problematic. Growing up, I was always pretty girly (not tomboyish at all). Clearly the surgery had an effect on the level of arousal I feel and whatnot, but I grew up having crushes on boys and thinking, perhaps like most other good heteronormatively raised female children that I would get married in a white dress and have children and be just like everyone else.

That is, until my parents told me a partial explanation of my diagnosis when I was 10. So then I knew that I wouldn't menstruate or be able to bear children, and something about not having certain organs. I was told via my parents (who had clearly been given this information by the medical professionals) that I would have a "perfectly normal" sex life.

I eventually knew something else was up, but was too private to ask. I, devastatingly, found out on my own that I had AIS from seeing an old newsletter from the support group (which my mom had told me about before just by saying that it was for "girls like me") and googling it. I was 16, a full year before my mother finally was going to tell me.

Basically, since doing some discovery “work,” I've finally admitted to myself that I'm attracted to women.

It's really hard, because so much of my life has been about pretending that I'm a "normal" girl, and I always wanted to be normal despite the condition/not have it define my life. And it seems like for most queer people, its the "sex" part that is powerful enough to overcome all of the societal pressure (whereas I've never been very sexual - at all).

Also, in terms of "coming out," I feel like it's supposed to be about being you really are, but who I am is so complicated and fucked up, particularly for someone who I may have only met recently. And for other people, when they know, its all about the sex part. But I suppose that's getting ahead of things.

At this point, I would love to try being with a woman, but all the fears I have had about "down there" with respect to being with a guy (which I've never really done) are just amplified, as well as just the continuous thought that no lesbian woman would want "damaged goods" like me, let alone someone so inexperienced.

I've told some close girlfriends about the condition, but this step is obviously the hardest. I also wish I had more "queer" friends. I have a lot of gay guy friends, but theyre either somewhat self-hating or just not really activist about it. I have a pretty good friend who's a lesbian (and has a girlfriend), but again, not really a big deal in her life overall. The one girl I've met that is in a similar situation as I am (close in age, same condition, similar experiences) is really open about it after getting involved with her schools queer community and then being with a girl. Also, fyi, she identifies as queer as an umbrella term that avoids labeling anyone as anything. I like that way of looking at it.

justme said...

Sorry for ranting all about me, its just hard to talk about this with anyone. As for the "I", I think it would be nice it terms of the awareness aspect, even though I don't really like actually identifying as intersex (the word itself). I presume most people have no idea about intersex, or if they do, its way more sensationalized or dealing with gender than what I have, but it's hard to be open about something so hidden.

Julian Real said...

Welcome, welcome, and more welcomes, justme!

No worries and no apologies please, about speaking about yourself and the struggles you face.

I am so grateful you feel safe here to speak. And I hear in your words the deep and complex layers of parental and larger social mystification and confusion, and how much you've been struggling to even know what others know "about you", let alone how you want to be in the world.

I support you doing speaking here, as much as you'd like, as much as you need.

You are also, in addition to posting more comments here, more than welcome to email me at the address in the top right corner, and I'll offer whatever support I can, a listening ear, whatever, in more private email. Please regard me as a solid ally and potential friend.

I have to think that your voice here will be found by other people who share aspects of your own story and struggles, and will feel less alone because you took the risk to speak out somewhere.

In some ways I'd like, only with your permission and genuine wishes, to make your comments thus far into a separate post, as well as leaving them right here. (But read through this whole reply to you, because I, personally, have reservations about this as well.)

I see so little understanding for people with AIS and other conditions that allow the current medical world to term you "intersex". I'm so glad you raise the issue of the term not being one you like. To me, it's a very "destabilising" term. It's a term that locates someone's being as not being where they "should be", if that makes any sense at all!! It's sort of like calling someone "disabled". It assumes there are "able" people who are just fine, who don't struggle with body, mind, and general being in the world. Who is it that we're all being measured against to determine the degrees to which we fit or don't?

I've recently discovered from some writings by Sarah Deer, how really problematic the term Two Spirit is, if used by non-Indigenous individuals an umbrella term for Indigenous people in North America (or beyond) who are not "traditionally" gendered and sexed in ways recognised by WHM society. By whose traditions, first of all. Why is there even an assumption that dominant society has it even close to right?!

Julian Real said...

This whole matter is so perplexing, of what to call ourselves--to even find names that aren't labels, as my feminist mentor used to say. (Naming being something we do to empower ourselves; labeling being something done to us by oppressors.)

There's this whole matter of finding words that make sense of who we are, rather than force us into some medical diagnosis created for surgeons and pharmacies to more "appropriately" be able to invade our bodies.

I struggled for years about whether or not to identify as gay--partly due to the sheer force and depressing weight of heterosexist and homophobic society. But also because I'm so at odds with so much of what I see as "gayness" in places where I've lived--meaning, primarily, the degrees to which it is heteronormative and patriarchal, either in ways that dominant society accepts and welcomes, or in ways it despises.

I totally understand anyone wanting to fit it, to not be the queer among the queers.

I'll stop for now, but please let me know, either by commenting again here, or by email, if you would TRULY welcome me to post your comments as a separate post, in part to make the parts of your story you've shared easier for other folks who struggle similarly to find you and know they are not alone. (I wouldn't want to do so if putting your voice in a separate post would feel in any way exploitive or exposing in ways that leave you feeling less safe, less comfortable, etc.)

In other words, I don't believe you ought to have to "be out here" for anyone but yourself. If it is preferable, for whatever reasons, to have your voice be as it is here, some comments among many others others on a post that already exists about queer politics and terminology, and not more "center-stage" than that, I support that fully remaining the case.

In what you say, I feel and see this whole matter of our lives being both incomprehensible (and therefore grossly misunderstood and stereotyped and feared) to and by mainstream/dominant culture and its people, and ALSO over-exposed (and therefore exploitive, robbing individuals of forms of privacy needed to sort out ones own feelings without also shielding oneself from very harsh and glaring (and dehumanising and often degrading) spotlights: for me this is such a dilemma: what level of social contact and public presence to have?!

Find yourself a comfy seat or couch here, justme. And let me know what else I can do to make your visits here more comfortable, okay? :)

justme said...

Thanks for the response, and the concern.

Trust me, of all places to be uncomfortable, this is not it. Post away.

When I said that it's hard being open, I meant in the regular world, where explaining all of this is necessarily connected to myself as a non-anonymous person existing in the world - a person that people have known for a long time without any inkling about this (or just inklings about being asexual/gay/superprivate). In other words, rather than dealing with my sexual identity, I've kind of just pretended it doesn't exist (which isn't that untrue).

All of the friends I've told about this (4 pretty straight girls, and 1 straight guy friend) have been really open and accepting. But these are people I know love me for me regardless of anything else.

I definitely agree with a lot of what you say on this site, but I know a lot of people in the world that would view it as hyperbole, or at the very least "not that big of a deal" - as in, straight people who are not homophobic or gay people (read: men) who don't see themselves that far outside the mainstream gender binary, and thus are less willing to be open about those who are.

Mostly, its the fact that the most important thing for most people when they hear about these sorts of things (intersex) is gender - and associate it with trans/genderqueer (which i feel VERY little connection to, besides empathy i suppose). I know that some intersex people do deal with those issues, but again, that is just not a concern for me.

So, again, this is not where I feel uncomfortable. I've always been very open about these sorts of things - in a general sense, but its hard to debate (I'm mostly thinking of one gay guy friend) people who make ridiculous comments about lesbians and "trannies," without opening up about how I fit in to all of that.

In any case, I'm sure many people would be more understanding if this issue wasn't, like you said, both incomprehensible and over-exposed (only in the most sensationalist way possible, of course). Thanks for doing you part to change that.