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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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taboo talking points

Fuck That (Reparations)

Saw a link to this essay claiming that it was going to jumpstart a movement as grand as the gay rights movement. It claims that “America will never be whole” as long as it holds this debt to the poor black man, compounded with over 435 years of interest.

Well fuck that! The entire fucking globe has shat on my kind for centuries, nay millenia! The Ancient Jews of Before Christ were bartering my kind for livestock, punishing our rapists with our hand in marriage, throwing us to the wolves to save their hairy stank asses from getting rammed instead. And Jesus didn’t exactly fix things. Modern Christians flog us endlessly for Original Sin, accuse us of murder for trying to control our own bodies, guilt us out of life and liberty with sad images of our neglected children. We are the cause of our enemies’ moral failings and we must give up our faces and our identities in order to protect them from punishment.

The fucking President of the United States is a fucking Black Motherfucking Sausage Swinger.

But who is calling for our reparations?

The genderqueer have two types. Some go out of their way to make life difficult for people who are fond of traditional English grammar. They want to make sure you know that they are against the normative gender duality. Talking with them is like talking to Atheists at Christmas — you can’t win until you agree with them. Others just don’t fit into the factory standard boxes and they would really like it if you would just try to understand them and take them as-is. Personally, I find that the latter make for much better company.

Woman — the Ultimate in Unvalued

Years ago as a teenager in the Christian Church, not so long after puberty struck, I asked my community, “How do I know that God loves women as much as he loves men?” The answers I received were profoundly depressing:

  • God gave a woman the honor of giving birth to his son.
  • Women are the more beautiful sex.
  • Women are naturally more pure than men.

The first response said to me that the value in a woman is entirely contained within her uterus. The second told me that women are not useful for anything. The third told me that if I sinned, more specifically if I were sexually active, then I was more to blame than a man because my nature made me naturally less susceptible to temptation. What terrible messages to send to a confused and lonely teenager!

Today, almost twenty years later, the messages I receive about womanhood are no less depressing. Consider this video documentary on “People with questionable genders.”

Where are the women here? They are absent. They are hidden. They exist like ghosts, only as references to give context to another problem that some men face: gender dysmorphia. According to this documentary, only men are faced with the difficulty of living in a society that rejects them and only men are given the choice to live false lives or to actualize themselves.

It is not politically correct to criticize transsexuals. However, it seems to me rather naive to say that a transwoman and born woman are the same. The former was born into a life of privilege and chose to reject it. The latter was never given the choice. It is rather similar to comparing a monk and a beggar. The former chooses his poverty in exchange for actualization of himself. The latter, on the other hand,  has no flag of moral victory to wave in the face of his enemies.

Once, years ago, I was discussing with a male acquaintance of mine. He bemoaned the freedom that women had to dress as men without repercussion, but that men were considered gay or somehow deficient in their masculinity if they did so. Clearly, I said to him, this difference arises from the fact that a woman is considered an inferior being. It is natural for her to want to emulate masculinity whereas a man who rejects his gender has no justification and therefore deserves the ridicule. Our philosophical discussion ended there. Most men are uncomfortable when their privilege is pointed out to them.

 

 

On the Differences Between Monogamy and Polyamory (part 1)

Polyamory is in many ways the opposite of monogamy. If monogamy is the practice of forming and maintaining romantic relationships with only one person at a time, the polyamory is the practice of being open to multiple romantic relationships at once. While most people are familiar with the concept of monogamy and polygamy, polyamory has many subtle differences that overlap with both of these concepts. Like monogamists, polyamorists are capable of deep emotional bonds with their partners and often aspire to the same ideals of honesty and love. However, unlike both monogamists and polygamists, polyamorists may or may not aspire to lifelong commitment, and in addition to having multiple partners of their own, their partners are also free to have multiple partners as well. This is a key difference between polyamory and polygamy; polygamy is inherently imbalanced. Perhaps, however, the most important difference between polyamory and monogamy is that in a monogamous relationship, both partners are committed to achieving all of their fulfillment within the boundaries of their relationship with each other whereas in a polyamorous relationship two partners can choose how much fulfillment they want to receive from each other and how much they want to receive elsewhere. The implications of this subtle difference are profound.

I am at the age where many of my friends are marrying or at least beginning to contemplate marriage. While as a divorcee I am deeply suspicious of marriage, my friends often say to me, “but we already live together and neither one of us intends to ever break up, what’s the difference?” The difference is huge, I assure them. What is it exactly? Once married, you lose your outside option. To my married readers, have you ever wondered where all the affection and romance went from your relationship? Does it not seem as if as soon as you got married, your husband stopped offering you foot massages with scented oils, your wife stopped going to the gym? Once you marry, your partner can no longer walk out on you as easily. This means that you lose the motivation to care for yourself and to care for your partner in the same way you did before you married. Many of us swear to ourselves that we will be different, that we will not change when we marry, but we also swear to ourselves that this year we will finally lose those last five pounds, too. Marriage gives us comfort and certainty that we will not be abandoned (as easily), but it also relaxes our standards of care. It is true that many couples can survive happily decades into the marital contract, but it is folly to believe that every one of them will be able to maintain the relationship they had before tying the knot.

In a similar vein to the bounds that marriage provide, monogamy provides a closed context within which we can feel safe, but also lax and trapped. A single individual is required to provide emotional and sexual satisfaction in addition to providing companionship and partnership. This package deal is very attractive for the same reasons that it is restrictive. Take just one aspect of a relationship: emotional support. Over our lives we wax and wane in our need for support and our ability to provide it. If we are in synchronization with our partner, then we can trade the support we need with ease, but if both of us are in crisis, or if one partner is simply exhausted and no longer able to provide the support needed by the other, then there is no outlet for the build up of pressure. No amount of love, care or commitment can cure exhaustion; only rest can do this. So what we get is that in a closed relationship the exhausted party and the needy party erupt into conflict.

Compare this situation to an open relationship. When one party is in need of emotional support, there is no designated provider of that support. If she has two partners, she can ask one or the other, and when it is clear that one source is exhausted, she can turn to the other to fulfill her needs. Certainly there is no guarantee that this will satisfy her need, but it does provide relief for an overextended partner both because there are other alternatives and also because morally he is not obligated to solve her emotional crisis. The knowledge that exhaustion on his part is not an indication of failure to uphold his responsibilities in the relationship by itself can provide a soothing balm to the tension a crisis engenders. It can give him patience. It can also serve as a check to the partner in crisis. Because she has no commitment on the part of her primary partner to solve her emotional problems, she must be careful not to overload him and to maintain a healthy sense of awareness of her own responsibilities towards her own emotional health.

While a monogamous relationship provides an implicit guarantee of emotional support, the supply of that support is restricted by the ability of one’s partner to provide it. On the other hand, a polyamorous relationship does not provide such a concrete guarantee of support, but its inherent openness means that when provided, that support can be given more honestly and received more fully. Which relationship structure is preferable depends on one’s own tolerance for uncertainty and one’s ability and commitment to personal health. A monogamous relationship is a guarantee of a sort. It allows one to “play cards” such as the “if you love me” card, or the “this is your responsibility” card. These can be incredibly reassuring as can the notion of ownership that monogamy provides. The polyamorous structure means accepting in advance that those cards hold no value. Any partner can walk out, or form a new relationship at any time which means at every moment all partners must take care to ensure that they all still desire to maintain the relationship with each other. Many people are unwilling to tolerate this kind of uncertainty in their most intimate relationships. For all things, there is a cost.

Bones

My current Drama binge: Bones, the murder mystery drama tv show about a socially and psychologically crippled genius forensic anthropologist, and a damaged but devoted self-proclaimed God-fearing Catholic alpha-male type FBI agent. I absolutely love the bit where the two of them try to communicate. My favorite quote from the show? Bones: I don’t know what that means.

Bones looks at the world through a “rational” lens where she attempts to analyze, categorize and predict everything she sees according to her anthropological background. Boothe, on the other hand, goes by feel. He believes stuff, he knows stuff, and he trusts his faith and his intuition to guide him. They make a great pair for solving murder mysteries, but they also are a great tool for exploring the gray areas between everything we believe and everything we know. This is why I am in love with the show.

Last night was Season 3, episode 3 where they find a body in the woods murdered in a ritualistic way that suggests he was involved in pony play. Pony play is a role-playing game of a sort where one person assumes the role of groom or rider and the other person assumes the role of the pony. Sometimes it can be sexual, sometimes it can be a therapeutic release from the Goffmanian roles we are forced to assume every day in order to operate in society.

After solving the mystery, the two partners sit down at their regular cafe together for lunch. Boothe is obviously bothered by having been forced to witness the “freaks” at play. He obviously thinks of them as freaks because he tells bones that their sex is inferior to what he thinks of as normal sex, sometimes referred to as plain vanilla sex. Bones challenges him, as is the norm, by saying he has no evidence and that pony play is a very old and sometimes respected form of human interaction going back as far as the ancient Greeks. Boothe then gives Bones a diatribe on how their sex isn’t real sex because sex is “making love” and that brings two people together in a way that nothing else in the world can. Bones caves. Just like that.

On the one hand, I could not possibly expect network television to stage a battle between vanilla catholicism and freaky perverts and side with the perverts, but on the other hand the show doesn’t usually pick a winner between the two and it didn’t have to this time either. For the first time, I was disgusted at the message this show was sending to people about who they are and what it means to be “normal.” Science, for one thing, is well aware of the very human and very non-perverse reasons why people would want to play together in a fantasy world where they make up the rules and can shed their every-day masks and be something that they feel represents who they truly are. I realize that tv is not science, but tv creates reality for the people who watch it because, in principle, it’s about real people, just like them.

Gender Neutral?

I’m a youth who identifies as asexual. That isn’t my question. I was born female, and I’ve been binding for a while and identify as gender-neutral. But I’m afraid to tell others that I’m gender-neutral for fear of being told I’m wrong because I wear dresses. Does wearing skirts and dresses mean I’m not gender-neutral? I just think I look better in dresses than flannel.

Gender-Neutral Asexual Youth

Wear whatever you like, identify however you like, and refuse to engage with idiots who think they have a right to critique, dictate, or overrule your gender identity.

This week’s column on Savage Love has a letter from an “Asexual Youth” worrying about how to identify for other for fear of being criticized. Savages advice, given in his usual caustic style, tells her to screw everyone else’s opinion and do what she likes. In principle, I agree with him.

But the conversation made me think of the entire notion of gender identity, and the human need to identify themselves with other humans, with ideas, with groups. It is true that humans need to feel a sense of belonging. We are not made to be solitary and knowing our position relative to others provides us with a sense of certainty and comfort. But how important is it, really, that other humans understand and appreciate our identity and our chosen position in the groups we find meaningful? I am not sure.

I think this point is the main subject of the conversation between gender queers and the relevant status quo. Just like an adolescent rebelling against his parents, before a group can be recognized for its own unique characteristics, it must prove that it is independent of the reigning categorization. Ideally, gender neutral, male, female, dom, sub, top, bottom — all these categories of identity — can exist simply as what they truly are, but first it is important that they establish themselves as distinct from what they are not. I think that is why the conversation of gender identity with respect to gender neutrals or gender queers bothers me so much.

Gender is important because people need to know how to react to each other. It is important for me to know what my gender is so that I can predict how others will behave towards me. I am a woman. As such, I anticipate certain overtures from the men I work with in the office, and I anticipate a certain degree of background murmuring from the women I work with. It is unavoidable, but in knowing that I am a woman, it is also manageable. If I were a man, I would have to behave differently as the world men operate in abides a different set of rules than the world that women operate in. But what of the gender neutral world? I claim it does not exist. Inasmuch as the society we operate in has a binary gender, the world we will face only has social cues to respond to one or the other.

It must be frustrating for one who truly believes their self to be without gender. How should they present themselves at a company party? Should they “man up” or flirt with the men? Should they gossip or rain chivalry on the women? But there is another side to this story, and that is of the company. People who have no concept of gender neutrality do not know how to interpret the behavior of a member of this category. Should we interpret their unwillingness to flirt as an unwillingness to be social? The failure to participate in men’s bonding rituals as disdain? Forcing an understanding of gender neutrality on others puts them in a situation of discomfort. And I find myself often wondering, why? Is it really necessary to do this?

Some cultures have a notion of a third gender. Ours does not. It is every individual’s duty to learn who they are, but also to recognize that you do not exist in a vacuum. You are a part of something greater than yourself. You are a member of a society that cares for you and expects you to abide its rules in return. It’s how we live together in a semblance of harmony. If you wear a dress, you are a woman. That’s what dresses are: women’s clothes. Even the transexuals understand this. It is prideful and self-centered to expect someone you do not know to understand your gender neutrality when you communicate to them in the social language of femininity, or masculinity, or whatever. Respect for your fellow humans means you have to make choices and then hold yourself accountable for the outcomes of those choices, whether or not you like them.

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