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Posts Tagged ‘dammit jim’

When We Talk About Love

I watch the TV show Bones because I am crazy for two different people.

I mean it’s also great television, or I wouldn’t still be keeping up with it, you know? I love Tempe and Seeley; I think it’s a smart, blunt, funny, gruesome show. It gets a little too human once in a while (I just like the dead bodies and Bones’s complete inability to figure out how to be a real person), but mostly I enjoy it to the hilt. I like Angela’s ludicrous magic art-science solutions and Hodgins’ crazy eyes and the faces Cam makes and the Gormagon killer.

But mostly, I watch it out of love.

I started watching Bones with my girlfriend at the time and our mutual friend Em. Now, I liked Fe (short for Favorite Ex) pretty completely, but it’s Em I want to talk about here. I respect her in a shy, cautious, adoring manner, and loved that she seem reasonably fond of me. She’s very smart and very outspoken and very independent.  Although she has a romance-novel streak, her entertainments are typically very intellectual.

And as I said earlier, Bones is a smart show.

So we three, and sometimes others, would sit and watch it. This was a highlight of my week, sitting with Fe and Em and being shushed every time I tried to say something. I seek community, no matter how tiny, and I felt accepted into a group those days–because Fe and Em are so tightly connected, so linked to each other. Those evenings ended when Em moved into the Archaeology Dork house, and I didn’t keep up with Bones as I should have. Wasn’t the same.

Two years later I met Jim.

He watches Bones too, and I idly started watching the newer episodes with him because I remembered the Gormagon plotline from when I watched with Fe and Em, and remembered liking it–but mostly because I really, really like Jim. And when I have a partner, or want to be friends with someone, I tend to try to access the things they do, look at the things they like, see if I can love the things they love. It’s a way of falling for someone, and showing them that.

 

And whether it’s reading Rumi or watching Bones, I usually end up in love with something other the person I’m after.

 

 

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Sometimes work makes me really sad.

Let me explain: I work part time at what is essentially a medical journal. Part of my job is to go  through all these pictures which we use in the text and take down what part of a person they show and whether we need to get a disclosure from them because it is clear who they are. Like tattoos or genital area (okay, maybe genitals do not show who you are, but I mark those as a higher priority because would you want your bits published without signing off on it?) or face. And like maybe 90% of the time this is fine — sometimes horrifying, because I am a massive hypochondriac, but mostly fine — but sometimes I run into something that makes me sit back and rub my eyes and heave a very long, very sad sigh.

Last week I was doing Pediatrics.

Now this is sort of an upsetting topic to be working with in general; sick kids are never fun and they are nearly always unhappy in the pictures. Some of the images are postmortem and that’s really, really depressing. As they say, though, you can get used to anything — and I move so fast through the list that it’s hard to take  it all in. But I do have to look at each image long enough to note down what it is, and that means I have to look at what it is.

I’d already run into several images of children with intersex conditions, one of which ticked me off because the caption referred to the child as “hermaphrodite”, which I looked up later to check if it was still okay to use in certain medical situations (it’s not). However, that’s a fairly recent change, and the copyright is clearly a handful of years old, so whatever.

Then I ran into a pair of images that was clearly the same child (genetically female but phenotypically male) before and after “corrective” surgery and suddenly I was just plain unhappy. This kid’s future had been determined almost before their eyes were open by doctors who could not possibly know what gender they were going to be as an adult. I just can’t help thinking — what if that child who is socialized as a little girl grows up and realizes that ze is actually a guy? Or what if ze had been allowed to be a child who simply had non-normative genitals, and were taught that they were just fine the way they were? Intersex kids grow up mentally healthy when they are left well enough alone (hello, Hida Valoria), and there is just absolutely no reason to cut up a child’s genitalia without their permission. For those thinking “But we circumcise boys!” I say three things: 1, should we even be doing that anymore, really? 2, there are lifelong continuing serious physical and psychological effects, and 3, doctors are massively altering body parts that are completely healthy and undamaged, sometimes without parental consent. For those of you who believe that does not happen, you are wrong.

I ache for this unnamed child. I was talking to Jim about this last night, and he agreed with me when I said that I sort of hope for a kid who is intersex, simply because Jim and I, by virtue of being a queer woman and a transmasculine guy in a committed relationship, think a lot about sexuality and gender and sex, and how much being told you should be a certain way hurts. I want to tell my child from day one that non-typical genitalia doesn’t mean anything, that if they want to be a boy they can be, and if they want to be a girl they can be, and if they want to be both or neither then that’s fine too, and it’s their body and their choice.

I don’t know much about intersex. I do my reading, but it’s not even something I have personal experience with (like I do with queer and, to a lesser extent, trans issues). I feel so uninformed and so ignorant and so stuck as to where to even start learning, but even I know it is terribly, terribly wrong to do that to a child.

I am so sad that these things still happen.

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First, let me direct you over to The Analytical Couch Potato, where you will find the blog it took me three hours and a lot of ranting at Jim to write. If any of you are interested in the full text of it (about 500 words longer, The Editor and I did some cutting), let me know and I’ll message you.

One of the things I cut was this line: “[Tranny] is not like dyke, or fag, or queer — words which have been reclaimed by the current LGBQ population as descriptors and positives.” I didn’t want to take it out, and neither did The Editor (who is fascinated by the general subject of changing connotations) but it wasn’t essential and anyway, I have my own blog to talk about things like that.

And trust me, it’s going to need the space.

One of the tags I use for these entries almost every time I write is “dyke”. On one level, it sort of misses the point of having tags if I use the same one over and over, but on another it’s the single most accurate word to describe a lot of what I talk about and where it comes from. That’s because I have to admit that my primary self-identification, at least in my head, is as a dyke. These days I’m much more likely to explain myself to people as a queer woman, and when I first came out I usually put it as “I’m a lesbian”. The latter seemed simpler; the former is more accurate, as it encompasses the fact that I date and sleep with gender-variant individuals, and doesn’t imply that I am only attracted to them because they are biologically female (something on which much, much more at a later date).

But dyke is more than just a descriptor — it’s a word I chose because it was a way to take what I felt about being young and gay and under a lot of pressure and turn it all around. Part of it comes from that deep place inside every queer teenager – hell, maybe inside every teenager – that knows what it feels like to be taunted with words that you know are hurtful, but whose meanings you don’t know, you just know that there’s a nasty punch behind them. It’s worse than knowing what the words are; I could shake off taunts about my glasses or height or tendency to read ALL THE BOOKS, because whatever, man, nothing I have not heard.

I got called a dyke starting in middle school, and I didn’t really figure out what they meant for years, but it bothered me nonetheless. Calling myself a dyke once I got to highschool was a way of disallowing them to hurt me, of saying, Yes, this is me, this is my word, this is who I am and you cannot take that away or change it. This was before I was aware of the historical connotations of dyke, and the expansive butch and dyke subculture of the 50s (read Stone Butch Blues sometime, it might just change your world), and that by calling myself one I was in fact joining in a movement of reclamation that would, within my lifetime, change the word queer from a painful slur to an encompassing term that brings everyone from gay men to asexuals to intersex people together and allows us to become a kind of family.

(Remember, though, that families sometimes families fight; that’s a whole different post.)

I call myself a dyke now because it gives me joy. Because to me it connotes strength and fierceness and an ability to get through a whole lot of shit by just lifting up your chin and walking with confidence and with purpose. It’s about picking up a haybale with one hand and moving sets and being strong for people who need me to be strong. It is the hand on the back of your neck or the small of your back that says, I will protect you. As a public speaker, I love the challenging pop of the K, the way it is a short, sharp, look-you-in-the-eye-and-dare-you-to-retort word. I love the way it can be affectionate, from a person who has earned the right to call you that.

I’m tired now, but that’s something I’ll talk about tomorrow eventually; earning the right, and why you have to do that, and why it’s important. I’ll talk about agency and those words that, in the queer community, are unacceptable. And I’ll talk about why I think reclamation of slurs is so important, and why I think it happens.

(Also, if you missed it, there’s a new post right below this one that goes with the topic.)

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…that I’ve been talking a lot more about LGBTQetc topics than many of you might be used to. I was — all things considered — pretty quiet about them during college, and aside from the constant refrain of “Hello, my name is Bones and I’m a lesbian”, I didn’t start talking about more than the most basic of queer subjects until fairly late in the game. I mean, everyone knew I was for equality (duh), not getting beaten up for being different (duh), and civil unions for all couples, which would have the the same rights as afforded by what is currently known marriage, and then a religious ceremony if you want it (admittedly not so duh).

Part of the reason I’m talking more about this stuff now is that I have more time to actually work through it properly in my head before I say it. Part of it is Jim, as dating him opens up a new section of worries and issues in the queer community to talk about. Part of it is that I’m living with a straight kid now (and more on my living situation later) and find myself having to explain things more frequently, in simple language.

And part of the reason I’m talking more now is because I’m a lot angrier.

I’m angry about a lot of things.

But I am not always angry! I am simply always thinking about things these days. Sometimes I’m confused? Or speechless or flail-y or just hurt. Or I am terribly amused, because something  is just so… I don’t know. Suddenly hilarious in a way it totally never was before? Like, I was listening the other week at work to soundtracks, and I was a chunk of the way through RENT when I started to laugh out loud at my desk. Now as a rule, I can take Rent or leave it (this pun was not on purpose), but there’s some great stuff going on with Tom Collins and Angel that I see as surprisingly analogous to what’s going on with me and Jim. I’m going to use two songs – Santa Fe and You’ll See  – to prove a bit of a point here. Here’s a quote from You’ll See, and then another from Santa Fe.

[COLLINS]
I like boys

[ANGEL]
Boys like me

[Angel]

New York City!

[Collins]

Uh-huh.

[Angel]

Center of the universe.

[Collins]

Sing it, girl.

Angel is, or appears to be (for those who have not actually seen the bloody movie which is NO ONE), a crossdresser or a transvestite. Or possibly transgender — there’s really no way to tell short of asking her, which is of course impossible. Angel is referred to by both gender pronouns through the movie; Mimi refers to Angel as being female and “looking good” when she comes back from her near-death experience where they saw each other. So I don’t know, but now I wonder; Collins is exclusively a gay man, but Angel is almost always referred to as female or feminine. Six months ago I wouldn’t have even though about that relationship, you know? Now I hear how Collins addresses Angel! As his Queen, and I wonder – does he mean that as a queen-y gay man, or as a woman? Does he struggle with his sexuality because of that? Or does love make everything easier?

So that makes my day when I hear things like that. But unfortunately I am more often angry. Here is a list: I am angry when someone does not recognize the difference between gender and sex and swaps back and forth between them in a piece of supposedly scientific writing; I am angry when someone uses hermaphrodite instead of intersex in a piece of supposedly scientific writing; I am furious that people still think it is okay to ‘fix’ intersex kids, and will do so without any compunction; I am angry because my boyfriend is not protected at work by ENDA, but I am (at least in Massachusetts, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are protected against discrimination in their place of business, but those in the trans spectrum aren’t); I am angry at Glee and how they handled Rocky Horror; I am angry at my mother and family for making assumptions about my sexuality and about Jim’s gender, and how those two fit together; I am furious at those people in the queer community who are cruel to trans people, and who try to decide my identity for me when I date one; I am spitting mad about those individuals who use ignorance as an excuse (more than once; I’m ignorant too, sometimes).

I share a lot of these furies with Jim — the main difference is that where Jim is shy and introverted, I am really, really not.  That means that when I am angry, you hear it and you hear it often. My (straight) roommate gets the brunt of this sometimes; however, this is already a long entry.

But that’s why you’re going to hear me a lot more often these days, talking about gender and sexuality with an undercurrent of poorly-concealed rage. This Thursday I’ll become a contributing writer at the Analytical Couch Potato, talking about Glee and transphobia, where I will be flailing angrily — with Jim’s help — about reader’s response and linguistics and ignorance and fear.

Check it out.

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I work at a camp two days a week (or rather, I’ve just finished working there). Once in a while one of the kids will ask me if I have a boyfriend. I never know what to say. Mostly it’s little girls, between, oh, 8 and 11, and one of the best ways to put them off is to ask if they aren’t a little young for boys? They inevitably ensure me that THEY do not date boys because boys are ucky, but they have these friends, right, and they date boys, and it’s all very dramatic. It’s an excellent diversionary tactic.

Two weeks ago was my last day, which was good because working at camp is pretty exhausting. So this little girl (who has been to the workshop I’m teaching twice already, and seems to be rather fond of me) has already commented on my pretty rainbow belt (shut up) and listened to me tell her how bad I am at being a girl because I was never any good at braiding gimp (SHUT UP). After a while she asks me where I got the belt, and I laugh, and say half under my breath that my girlfriend gave it to me (sorry, Jim). She either missed this or misinterpreted it — but she gave me another shot to out myself within ten minutes, although I didn’t think of it like that at the time.

“Do YOU have a boyfriend?” she asks. And I sort of blink at her, and then I think of Jim. About seven times out of ten I’ll call Jim my boyfriend, or my gentleman, and it feels a little odd to call hir her; if I’m not talking to my parents I usually use the masculine pronoun. Although I will tell people I don’t know well that I have a girlfriend, in my head I have a boyfriend. I’ve always been wildly attracted to androgyny and masculinity in females, so this isn’t as startling as it might seem to people who only know me as “the lesbian.” (I’m queer, guys. There’s a difference.)

The moment with the little girl has passed by now, and that’s fine. Because inasmuch as I glory in having this handsome funny gentleman of mine, I also really hate appearing straight to other people. Like. Really hate it. I’ve had for the last four years an enormous amount of lesbian street cred, and I’m something approaching a Gold Star lesbian (has never slept with a man and has no intention of ever doing so), and I’m a combination of appalled, amused, and puzzled by people who want to sleep with people of the opposite gender. I don’t want to be seen as straight because my queer identity is super important to me, and because I don’t like the idea of BEING straight. (I am aware that I am being – to a degree – intolerant, but fuck y’all, this is MY being.)

But I love Jim.

And Jim looks like a guy. Ze passes excellently and is really handsome and that is a big part of why I love him. I respect and like hir gender identity. We talk about it a lot and I’m right there for hir, whether it is a skirt-and-bra day or a binder-and-boy-pants day. In fact I rather prefer the latter! I just. I am very secure in that I’m queer, and fuck what people think, but it does scare me a little, that I could spend a whole day out with my boy and people would think I was straight. It feels like when I first came out, but in reverse.

Let me also make very clear that this is completely my problem, and not Jim’s. I hate people who make their issues someone else’s fault and responsibility. It’s my job to work it out in my head, the same way I first worked out how I felt about dating someone who wasn’t exactly a girl, when I’m a lesbian. It’s already starting to feel like it’s not a problem. I love who I love, and I know what I am.

And that’s got to be enough.

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This morning I got dressed without really thinking about it, like most days. I’m not at my best at 7:30 am and usually pick up whatever is topmost on the floor or in the laundry basket. This morning it was my khaki-green shorts (men’s department, Walmart, aren’t I classy?), my green Goliard shirt (not fitted at all), the usual bandanna (red), flip-flops, and Jared Steed’s belt (which he stole from his brother, who stole it from his girlfriend, who stole it from an ex). I stumbled out the door, to my car, and blearily watched two chubby golden retrievers wander about the yard. It wasn’t until after I came home, drank some coffee and ate my breakfast that I finally got a look at myself in the mirror. I looked – not really boy, not really girl? I sort of blinked at myself and then, somewhat startling myself, I said out loud, “I like it best when I look like this.”

I’m not a feminine girl. Not really. Jim, talking in terms of how our relationship is set up, calls me his femme, but that’s different from being a femme. (Likewise, he’s my butch, but that’s different from being butch.) I like skirts and low-cut shirts, I like the way my legs look in heels, but ninety percent of the time I wear jeans and tee-shirts. If I’m going to idly grab something to wear, that’s what I’ll grab… because it makes up a lot of my wardrobe. When I do wear skirts, I’m pretty bad at it. I walk big, I sit with my knees apart, I stand on one leg and run and climb trees. I wear sneakers with them. I also don’t think about what my body looks like. Twice in that last week, someone has commented on how I look, and I’ve been absolutely floored, because I had no idea! I don’t know when my chest is unusually uh… present, as it was the other night dancing, because I pay no attention to it. I just don’t think about it. My body isn’t something I consider, I don’t check it in mirrors, I don’t follow that stereotypically feminine model of primping and worrying about my appearance. I don’t really consider myself as much of a girl, although I mostly love being one.

(Except for my period. For a week every month, I despise being female. I wish I could be something else, I hate my body, I’m uncomfortable and out of control and angry and upset. That’s the only time I feel dysphoric and like my body is wrong. For a really long time, I had a lot of trouble believing that any XX person could welcome or enjoy or even be neutral about having their period. It continues to horrify me every month.)

I’m not terribly masculine either, though. My hair is too long, I like skirts too much. I enjoy flirting my hips and although I am dying to borrow and wear Jim’s old binder (I long for a degree of androgyny some days), I love my curves. I can never quite bring myself to shave my head, and although I love my boy’s clothes, most of what I own is pretty fitted. Although I walk big and firmly, I swing my hips quite happily. I’ve recently discovered the joy of well-fitted bras and how good they look. I don’t own a lot of plaid (and yes, there is my stereotypical lesbian comment for you).

On the lesbian spectrum, I lie between butch and femme. There isn’t a word for this, really, but I think there should be.

On the gender spectrum… I’m female but not necessarily feminine. I consider myself a girl – although solidly a tomboy, because I don’t subscribe to a lot of the things that are considered girl/lady traits. I don’t want to, so I play with my gender. I think about how I present it.

But… for me, this is still a casual thing. It’s just that – a playground. At the end of the day I’m a cisgendered queer female. (Cisgendered simply means your physical sex matches your gender; therefore, not only am I XX, but I’m a woman.) And I present as such most of the time, which is what gives me the freedom to sometimes mess with it. There aren’t going to be consequences because it’s not a permanent way of living, it’s just something that gives me a lot of pleasure to occasionally delve into. I am not trans, I’m not genderqueer. I am comfortable in my body most of the time. I like it, I like the way it looks, the way it feels to be inside it.

And I feel like gender isn’t something I should be talking about, that it’s weird for me to talk about playing with my gender when there are people who struggle with it every day. Jim deals with it all the time, trying to figure out how to present, and whether it’s okay to change his name, balancing personal need and family opinions, who is actually trans. It’s weird to say I don’t really want to be just be a girl, I want to have elements of male and female. Do I have the right to want that?

I think I do, though. I think everyone should be able to play with what they are, and how they present themselves to the world at large, whether they’re cis or trans or something entirely else. I’m just a person who wants to be in a way that makes them comfortable. I want to sometimes bind my chest and pass as a boy — not because I want to be a boy, but because I want to acknowledge what is masculine about myself.

Weirdly, it’s dating Jim – who is a transgender/genderqueer-tending-male individual who looks very masculine and passes on a regular basis – that has let me start thinking about my own gender and playing around with it. He offered to lend me a binder, is going to help me dress boy, talks to me about how he thinks about gender, and lets me work out how I do. I really value it.

I am so much more aware of how I do gender these days.

Later: heteronormativity, horse shows, and humming.

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Chalkey and I are apartment hunting. We’re hoping/planning to move to Boston in the fall, and this means spending a lot of time on Craiglist, HotPad, and the phone – not to mention the street, both through Google Maps and physically. Location-wise, I live about 45 minutes outside the city right now, so I can actually go and look at places.

It also means I can actually PICTURE where we might be living. Now, I love Chalkey, but he does tend to email me suggestions located in, say, Springfield. Or Worcester. And there ARE jobs all over Massachusetts, but I want to be within spitting distance of Boston – preferably on the subway system, but I’d do commuter rail as well (I think Chalkey wants to be within spitting distance of SOME GIRL ;DDD). All the jobs I’m applying for are in and around Boston, and I have a lot of friends there. There are some Wooster grads – both Chalkey and I just graduated – and a big student community, and music, and art… Boston’s just a good place. I think we can both be happy there.

…and I must admit that the opportunity to be close to Jim, who’s going to be living in Norwood, is a major draw for me.

The most frustrating part of this whole search is what the ads don’t include. I require certain knowledge! Here’s what I would, ideally, like to know:

  • Where is it? What street? Is it close to public transportation?
  • How many rooms is it?
  • How much does it cost per month?
  • Is it furnished?
  • Is heat included? How about water? Or electricity?
  • Are pets allowed? What kind of pets?
  • Is there a finder’s fee?
  • Who owns the building? Does the owner/landlord live there too?
  • What’s the move-in date? Is it flexible?
  • What is the neighborhood like? The other tenants?

HOWEVER.

The only thing I really, REALLY get angry about not knowing right up front, every time, is this: are utilities included in the rent?

I have no idea why this is left out so often, and not specified either way! It drives me up the wall. Like, flailing. I am forever asking Chalkey, on the phone and through email, “Why does it never say anything about utilities? Isn’t this supposed to be important?”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE.

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