Monthly Archives: March 2012

We’ve got Blogroll!

Wanted to make sure everyone sees that We Exist has a Blogroll now!

I’m going to keep adding links pertinent to pansexual, bisexual, and fluid identities. Feel free to send me e-mail at silenceendshere@gmail.com suggesting more!

I would particularly like to have some that are written in a language other than english. While this blog is in english, it’s (obviously) not everyone’s first language, and I’d like to provide some options.

Thanks for any help!

– Cha-Cha

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Guest post by Lauren: On the Corner of T Street and Avenue B

Lauren works as a case manager at a social service agency. She notes:

“Transgender is a big word towering over the various groups of transsexuals, cross-dressers, bois, drag kings and queens, genderqueer and many other tribes. From my own experience, I cannot speak for this vast multitude. I will speak of my experience as a post-transsexual woman.”

For those readers who are not familiar, ♂ is typically the symbol used for “male” sex, and ♀ used for “female” sex. Lauren adds: “I think we need more words for gender than just Male, Female, and Intersex.”

And now… Lauren’s amazing story:

On the Corner of T Street and Avenue B

It’s interesting being a member of two of the least understood letters in the alphabet soup community. I know of a couple who identify as pansexual and trans. One is ♂ to ♀and the other is ♀ to ♂. They have been asked “Why transition when you two can have sex anyway?”.

I have been asked “Why transition, you have sex with both men and women anyway?”. I am bisexual, and ♂ to ♀.

I did not have “gender reassignment surgery”. My gender cannot be changed. I had “sex reassignment surgery”. Biological sex can be changed. Let’s be clear about this: I have had sexual intercourse with both women and men as a male-bodied person. I have had sex with both women and men as a female-bodied person. But I always felt myself to be female, no matter what equipment I had. So why transition?

Because my gender was always female, even before my sex was female. I looked like a scary dangerous guy, but there was a very frightened little girl at the controls. I can only live in the world as a female person, and I had a great deal of physical dysphoria. Thus a physical change was necessary.

Because I stand on the corner of these two streets, I have been called many things. I am NOT “a very gay man who became a woman to have sex with men”. I am NOT “a suppressed lesbian”. I am NOT “confused”. I am NOT “a bi-curious woman”. I am NOT “a straight woman” as some in the trans community would like me to be (I’m currently dating a man who is also bi). I was born with a definite orientation, and that orientation IS bisexual.

I AM a bisexual woman.

It seems that there are still some on T street who would prefer that post-trans women marry men to show the world how “normal” we are. Are my boyfriend and I a straight couple? No, we are not. (Call me “normal” and you have insulted me.)

There are also some on Avenue B who don’t get the distinction between sex and gender. Female-bodied people can be men sometimes and male-bodied people can be women sometimes. Some of us take steps to correct the incongruity, spending a lot of money and emotional capital to do so. There are those who can live with a social transition, without undergoing physical transformation, and I accept that. But some unfortunate women cannot afford to correct their anatomy and some unfortunate men cannot afford to correct their anatomy, while their brains still contain the body-map of their gender, not their current sex. This leads to a physical dysphoria, which needs a physical solution.

I could blather on about the density of neurons in the BSTc section of the brain, but this is not a neurology lesson.

Standing on this corner, I seem to have a chance to educate people about two of those scary letters. Standing on this corner, I see the world from a very unique perspective. Standing on this corner, I also have a chance to be marginalized by both communities. Standing on this corner, some people see me as a dangerous monster. Standing on this corner, if certain people knew what I am, they would kill me.

Standing on this corner, I have a chance to show the world that these two letters cover some wonderful and loving people.

On terms, soup, and gettin yerself an education, and why it all matters


Authors note: if you don’t really care about my blah blah and just want some links on terms / some basics, they are at the bottom. Word. – Cha-Cha

Hey y’all, gender. And sex. And sexuality.

What are they? What’s the difference? Where do any of us fit?

What’s a cis person? What’s a trans person? What am I? How do I be respectful of people and not be a total ass? What are the words I should use and why? OMG am I gonna look like a total fool at this LGBTQI event Cha-Cha convinced me to go to?

And where do “bisexual/pansexual/not-straight-not-gay/+” identities fit into the scheme of things?

Guess what? Not all of us got a queer/gender theory course in college, and, not all of us went to college, or even got to graduate from high school. Not all of us had awesome knowledgable friends around to teach us. Some of us struggled to survive in a sea of ignorance, some in a sea of hate. Some of us copped attitudes to get through the days, others of us went silent. Some of us starred out windows or at the ground or into the sky and thought “anywhere but here”.

So many of us were very much alone. So many of us still are.


Sometimes, in my own life, I’ve experienced feeling left out when other queers around me were using all this terminology I didn’t understand, and, while I wanted to be sensitive, I also wound up feeling… dumb. And then, there are some queer spaces where folks who don’t understand certain terms, or say the wrong thing not out of malice but of ignorance, get treated like complete shit. In those spaces, it can be easy to feel… outclassed, not educated enough… dumb. And then there were queer spaces where people would jump on you for using the wrong term re: gender – and then make one of those cute little “ironically racist” jokes, or adorable jokes about “the great unwashed” dirty poor, or something like that. So. Cute. Right.**



Yeah. And when you combine that with not feeling like a “real” queer, due to the whole bi/pan thing… it can be pretty intimidating.





But here’s the thing: the often maligned “alphabet soup” of terms and descriptions for different identities exists for a reason, and the reason is not “semantics” or “being clever”. The reason is that such terms reflect actual human beings who actually exist, who are all (frequently unrecognized) parts of the human community, and many of whom are part of the bi/pan/+ community. And such terms also reflect the long, hard fights that some people have spent our whole lives fighting, in order to be who we are. And many of us occupy multiple labels at once, and there are reasons for that too. And many people are sick of being boxed in, ignored, or treated like “magical imaginary creatures” who don’t reeealllly exist or matter.

Goddamn right that sh*t gets old

We should honor all of our stories, in their multiplicity and complexity, not just on principle but because that way, we get more awesome people to hang out with and be community with and care for and be cared for by. And part of that means educating ourselves, especially in situations where such education was not provided for us by any institution (ie, most of us). Self-educating is part of fighting for our own liberation – when you didn’t get the opportunity to be taught, don’t just take that, teach yourself! Don’t wait for charity. As MIA said – “Get yourself an eduCAtion!”

                                               Oh my GOD she’s so amazing. Do what she says.

Maybe some other folks remember when everything that was about queerness was “gay”? And then everything was “gay and lesbian” and then it was “lesbian and gay?” And now things are “LGBT” even tho the “B” and the “T” frequently seem to be silent letters, except when “T” stands for “Token”?

We shouldn’t erase identities that are not yet usually included in the gay-stream media, organizations, etc. We should learn about them. The people they reflect are real people, many of whom are us.

www.voillusions.blogspot.com

This is especially true when it comes to cis queers. Cis privilege is something cis people usually aren’t aware that they have… that’s kinda how privilege works, you aren’t aware when you have it, and hurt other people through your ignorance (or malice – hopefully not, but the malicious use of cis privilege as a weapon is definitely out there, including in queer / bi/pan/+ spaces). So I’m gonna say this real clear now: if you aren’t trans, recognize that you’re not “normal” – you’re cis. Recognize that you get a lot of unearned privilege, ie not having to deal with the bullshit society throws at people for being trans, just by being cis. I’m gonna cop to it: as a cis woman, I have been guilty of using the term “queer issues” as though that encompasses “trans issues” – it does not, and some trans people don’t feel comfortable in queer spaces, and people like me need to learn that. If we are going to build a true bi/pan/+ community around here, we’ve got to address this. Plenty of bi/pan people are also trans. All of us deserve one another’s solidarity.

I bitch all day long about not being included as a “real” queer girl. I definitely want to make sure that, as much as possible, ALL people of bi/pan/no-labels/all-labels/not-straight-not-gay/+ orientation can be heard here.

And so! I have attempted a link round up, which folks should DEFINITELY add to in the comments. Not complete AT ALL, nor does it claim to be, but the idea is to provide a start.

For those readers who may be unclear about what “sex” versus “gender” versus “sexual orientation” means, this is a chart that can provide a basic 101:http://www.ftmtransition.com/transition/faq/spectrum.gif (thanks and apologies to http://www.ftmtransition.com)

While that chart is useful in some ways, I’d like to remind folks that the “male/female” gender binary is a social construction, and doesn’t really work as a starting place for everyone. To that end, please see:http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzkt4eUSk71qgleipo1_500.jpg(thanks and apologies to http://tracyvanity.tumblr.com)

A really wonderful, easy to understand glossary by Natalie at http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed can be found here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/glossary-and-guide-to-terminology (thanks Stentor!)

Here are some more basic terms from the Gender Equity Resource Center:http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms

Also lots of people question the “sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears” idea found in many “Trans 101” or “Gender 101” texts. To wit, Asher’s post on www.tranarchism.com. Here it is: http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/

Here is a Glossary of Gender and Transgender Terms from Fenway Community Health in Boston:http://www.fenwayhealth.org/site/DocServer/Handout_7-C_Glossary_of_Gender_and_Transgender_Terms__fi.pdf

Happy reading. And, have fun adding to this list in the comments, as I will probably be doing!

** This paragraph is NOT a defense of people who were not educated or didn’t know something, and were corrected / given the opportunity to learn, and then chose not to and kept doing the same hurtful shit. That’s not “making a mistake” or “innocent” – it’s trolling, being mean, and being hurtful.

Dean Spade + some thoughts on why the “bi” label won’t work for everyone

Once again, the amazing Ian directed me to this article, written by Dean Spade, “a radical trans lawyer” who is amazing in many ways, see www.deanspade.net .

Quote from More Gender more of the time by Dean Spade: 

My first and foremost problem with the term is the ‘bi’ part. Bi means two–like if you’re bi you fuck both of two options. Being fundamentally opposed to the regulatory notion of dichotomous gender, and living, as I do, in a non-cohesive, dichotomy-defying body and mind, this makes the term totally inadequate to me. I don’t see myself as falling into either of the imaginary 2 categories “man/woman,” and I don’t approach the people I want to fuck with those categories in mind. I am committed to an idea of gender that is about an ever-changing layering of gendered characteristics and perceptions, not at all about two poles, a continuum, or any boxes. Please don’t understand me to be promoting ‘non-labeling.’ What I love is specific, detailed, stimulating, inventive uses of language to constantly re-inscribe and re-identify body and sex experiences, rather than simplistic terms that shut down conversations about how hot we all really are. If I’m chasing a scrawny, new-wave, eyeliner wearing faggotbutchswitch lesbian, and a jocky-but-sensitive preppy trannyfag, and a tough-but-gentle punk activist translady top, how can that be made to fit me into one of 4 categories? Why would we want to do that, rather than talking in detail about how each one of those desirous moments changes how I see my gender and sexuality and opens up new possibilities?

PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING, + CHECK OUT DEAN’S SITE

Article: www.makezine.enoughenough.org/bibi.html

Dean’s site: www.deanspade.net

Guest Post: I Don’t Know Who I Am

The author is a man who likes people, and is posting anonymously. 

When I first heard about the project that Cha-Cha was working on – a kind of community building exercise that would allow people to voice who they are, what they’ve been through, in a safe and supportive manner, I knew I wanted to participate, even before Cha-Cha said anything to me about it. I don’t feel safe in the place where I am because of years of oppression and violent actions towards both myself and people I loved or just connected with – so I simply don’t feel safe giving my name – even though no one that I don’t feel safe with reads Cha-Cha’s blog. It’s not a rational fear, and I know that. It’s decades of bullying, repetitive actions – you must hide and be ashamed of who you are – just repeating themselves. When I wrote this down in class last night, the first part, about the bullying, came easily. The second part, about the things I had done, the people I had been with, was so much harder – because I’ve never acknowledged them before in writing. I’ve told my partner, and then Cha-Cha, and now, this. While liberating, It’s also terrifying.

I grew up in a small, upper-class town in Massachusetts. The community was extremely segregated; I didn’t know anyone of color except for an African American co-worker of my fathers at the college my father worked at. When I was in fourth grade, the first family of a different skin tone moved to town, an Indian family. My sister had a cabbage-patch doll in kindergarten, which she proclaimed was Chinese.

The segregation didn’t end at skin tone. My family taught their children to be accepting of all people, regardless of their differences from us, and I suppose this led us to be quite confused, and ostracized from our less accepting peers. I recall one incident in middle school being called a faggot by one such close minded individual, and thinking that this was unacceptable, telling my teacher, who referred the two of us to  the principal. The principal sat the two of us down, asked us what happened, and to my surprised, the individual was quite forthright about the incident. When I confirmed that this was indeed what had happened, the kid said, yes, that was true, he had called me a pile of burning sticks. Our principle congratulated him on vocabulary skills and sent him on his way.

My older sister had introduced me to punk music and shaved my head, and I had a leather bike jacket given to me by my godmother. I wore it to school my first day of seventh grade. It solicited the nickname nazi-boy from the seventh grade teacher. That nickname, along with “faggot”, became my default names around town. I’m quite surprised I didn’t at some point start writing one of those on the tops of my papers. I remember at one point, growing fed up with being called “faggot”, telling my parents that I wanted to sew a pink triangle on the back of the jacket – if they wanted a faggot, I figured I’d give them the part. However, as much as my parents had taught us to accept everyone for themselves, they also insisted that we not “rock the boat”. As such, my idea was summarily dismissed.

Fast forward to my time living in Worcester – never, at any time in my life, have I been part of a community which I felt was so supportive and accepting of people who are different – for whatever reason. I recall with some pride, for instance, the collective outrage that the community felt when the Coalition for Marriage group decided to hold their anti-LGBTQ rights fundraiser at Coral Seafoods. This solidarity and acceptance would have never happened in my hometown.

As if to prove this – after about a year, I was hanging out after a drunken evening with one of my hometown friends, when I came out to him. We had been friends for 10, 12 years, and he loved to throw around the term faggot as much as anyone. I didn’t hold it against him, He had once told me in a drunken stupor that he had been raped in juvenile detention by an older kid, and he had never dealt with it – never told anyone other than me. Still, it grated on me. Finally, that night he called me a faggot after I hugged him, and I explained to him that I was bi (such a simple explanation, I thought), and when I asked if he understood, he responded that he understood, that meant that if he took out his cock, I’d suck it. Coming from one of my best friends of over a decade, this crushed me. From a stranger on the street it would have meant nothing, but to have my feelings trivialized like this by someone I considered family was mind blowing.

I didn’t talk to him again for two weeks. My other best friend was his brother. I was to be his brothers best man in his wedding. When I told him what had happened, his attitude was dismissive, saying, “Well, that’s how he is, he’s not gonna change”. Then one night two weeks later, we all went out for drinks to discuss the wedding, and at the end of the night, the brother again started spewing out the faggot word… I can’t remember why, and I slapped him across the back of the head, and said something like, “After all I’ve done, you can’t give me the respect of not calling me that”?… which he responded to with several punches to my face.

Over the next couple weeks, I began to have problems I didn’t know how to address with the other brother and being the best man, and his response was to send me several emails calling me a faggot and telling me to buy some tampons, that I wasn’t a man because I hadn’t come and addressed these issues face to face.

After 12 years, I’m no longer friends with either brother, or anyone else from my hometown – not because I don’t like where I’m from, but because I got to a point where I felt that I needed to identify all forms of oppression in my life – and then eradicate them. I can safely say that doing this has made me feel more complete, more sure of myself, more happy with myself. I miss those people, for sure, but I don’t feel bad for not tolerating their oppressive behaviors, for not saying “it’s ok, there’s no one around who’s gay, who’s black, who’s jewish, who’s _____”  How can I condemn the actions and language of those around me, yet tolerate it in those around me? It made me feel dirty.

These were the major events, the ones that really hurt and scarred me.When I look back, I don’t know if it was being ostracized from the group of people that I grew up with that hurt most, or feeling invalidated by my family when I wanted to strike back…Ultimately I believe it was because I was experimenting at the same time with my sexuality, exploring boundaries, figuring out where I was comfortable and where I wasn’t, and all of this hatred and shame made me feel like I needed to be ashamed of what I was doing as well.

I don’t know what I am. I don’t identify as bi-sexual. I don’t know if I identify as “straight”. Until I started reading this blog, I had never heard “cis”, “pansexual”, and many other identifying terms. What I can say is that I’m a guy, and I’ve been with guys and women, and I’ve looked at porn with guy on guy, guys with guys, women and guys, transgender people, and at the end of the day, I think I find attractive attributes to people from every gender – whatever the “norm” of the day is.

 

 

Seth Fischer on Unicorns, and Being One

Occasionally here at We Exist, we will link to the works of authors we think our readers would be interested in. Thanks to my friend Ian for sending along this great link:

Quote from Notes from a Unicorn by Seth Fischer

But now that we’ve had some success, now that we have a voice and a foothold, gay rights advocates who are fighting for LGBT rights—for my rights—have to choose between two different talking points:

1)    Gays and lesbians are intrinsically attracted to same-sex partners.

2)    Gays and lesbians do not have a choice about being attracted to same-sex partners. It is intrinsic to who they are. While no one has a choice about their sexual orientation, sometimes, not always, bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender. So those people who are born with a more fluid sexuality can choose who they sleep with, and sometimes they may be choosing between a man and a woman, but that doesn’t mean they have chosen to be attracted to both men and women.

Which talking point would you rather use?

GO READ THE WHOLE THING:

http://therumpus.net/2012/02/notes-from-a-unicorn

Guest Post: I’m Up Here (I Don’t Care What’s Down There)

The author is a pansexual female-ish human who first wrote and performed this monologue in 2008 for “The Queer Voices Project”, largely as a response to “vagina monologue” style reductionism of women’s sexuality. Until she gets ahold of more tequila, she prefers to remain anonymous.

I took sex ed for an entire year in my church. My Unitarian Universalist class was supposed to be thinking about our sex and gender orientation when most of our friends were thinking about confirmation. We watched slideshows of all different kinds of people having sex as, say, our equivalent to those creepy reenactions of Jesus’s death. I’ll always remember the one of the two ladies on a rock. I’ll always remember learning that the average woman is a size 13, not 6 or 8. But there’s no one class from which I recall more than the one on masturbation.

I had always thought of masturbation as something you wouldn’t do unless you were gross and pathetic–sex crazed but unable to get any.  But my teachers said it was normal–that most people did it. That it wasn’t just about genitals, but about the entire body. Even our head is a sexual organ. The woman teacher, I forget her name now, started stroking her arm, saying lots of people had routines, and different things that they did with different parts of their body. It could even start with something as simple as that. Arm stroking.

If I had thought masturbation was strange before, now I was convinced. I’m sorry, but the arm-stroking thing just didn’t do anything for me. Still doesn’t.

Another thing they said, and I’ve always been a bit unclear on this, is that there is actually a muscle that controls orgasm. The same woman, standing in front of our class, said that if she concentrated hard enough, she would be able to have an orgasm right then and there, just by contracting that magical orgasm muscle. No physical stimulation required. I think that perhaps I interpreted or remember this wrong, but the idea of an orgasm muscle has always haunted me. I think mine would be pretty atrophied.

I’ve just never been able to orgasm. And I certainly don’t see myself embodied in my vagina. More. . . in my mind, in my heart. If I had to choose a body part, I would say my arms, because my vital urge in relationships is that I want to protect people. To make them feel safe, and at home in my arms.  I don’t feel very at home in my vagina, personally. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

The first time I decided to go spelunking in my little alien habitat was maybe a month or so after our masturbation class. I’d been thinking about it a lot since then, and I was curious to see what it felt like. Besides which, I had the house to myself, loads of condoms to play with, also from my church, time to kill before I filmed a French video with some friends later, and, well, some garden vegetables. Kidding. It’s embarrassing, but I did use a banana, a little bit, though. It got pretty bruised up, which I guess is only to be expected, because I tried all kinds of things, from stroking my arm (ineffective) to seeing if I could sodomize myself (ineffective and unpleasant, to boot).

When I went and filmed that French class video afterward, about Hansel and Gretel, with me as the evil stepmother, I went a little bit crazy. There’s still footage of me chasing my best friend, Kellie, down the street, clad in blue evening gown and one high-heeling shoe, waving the other, and laughing maniacally as I screamed to her to come back and love me. She was supposed to be my husband, Hansel and Gretel’s father, and I flirted ostentatiously, and laughed maniacally, for a good hour or so after we’d started. I may not have felt much, earlier, but I had touched a nerve. Even though these were my best friends I was with, I had done something which I could not tell them about. And it hadn’t even worked, really. While it was new, and novel, and scary, it had not been all that fun. I guess that sort of convinced me that masturbation wasn’t all that great. That really, I needed to wait for the real thing to come around to see what this was really all about. Sex. Coitus.

But that didn’t mean that I stopped masturbating. Oh no. It’s just that, instead of pleasure, it became centered around making sure I would be ready for sex. I stuck ever larger and larger things inside myself, so that it wouldn’t hurt, when the time came. So that I could, then, focus only on the pleasure. It would be perfect.

It seems funny in retrospect that even then, when I was already questioning my sexual orientation, that I was unconsciously acknowledging to myself that my first time would be with a boy. Well, it was, and maybe it was because of all that preparation that I barely felt anything, except for a forceful rocking motion, rocking my head up against the rock wall of the stone tower I had picked out for my perfect first time. Maybe neither of us felt anything. Neither of us said anything, and neither of us came. We were both too gun-shy to talk about it. Because we didn’t want the other to think they were inadequate, or to talk about our own inadequacies. It was supposed to be our perfect first time, after all. We never talked about a lot of things. We never talked about why he never came inside of me. We never talked about why, on those rare occasions he ventured cunnilingus, I would tolerate it for a couple of minutes, then gently lift his head up, too uncomfortable to let him carry on.

Sure, my vagina is sensitive, but in an awkward kind of way; sensitive like a funny bone, happiest left alone sometimes. I would leave my vagina out of my monologues all together, if I weren’t so sick and tired of hearing, “a woman’s being is in her vagina.” No. I am up here. And no-one’s gonna turn me on just by waving their tongue around. You’ve got to use it to speak to me, too. And while communication can happen, tongue buried in labia, caressing the clit, to me, that’s a tougher connection to make than standing, face to face, trying to see heart to heart. And women can do that, and men can do that. And I don’t care what’s down there, so long as you have a big heart.