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November

I should write briefly about Hurricane Sandy. The house I live in lost power for three days, but that's about all that happened here. There's a university walking distance from me, and they generate their own power, so I had hot food and hot showers and a place to charge my phone. The hot food and happy people were by far the most appreciated things about that.

Shocking how the hurricane made winners and losers out of people. For some people, power-loss was mildly annoying (classes and exams cancelled for a week, cold beans and Tuna for three days, oh the agony!), with these inconveniences perhaps even compensated-for by the concomitant slowing-down of life. For others it was life altering or life threatening. I read on a listserve about someone on a home ventilator on the 8th or 12th floor of a lower Manhattan building. People were organizing to supply them with rechargeable 12 volt batteries.

I was taken aback by the fragility of our infrastructure. Four days and still no power for some folks, huge gasoline lines, no transit. Not bad, really, for a supposed 100 year event. But it gives me pause.

Therapy 4/23

I spent the weekend not studying for an exam. I dragged myself to the exam and got maybe a 65-70. I had an A in the class so far.

Shame.

Went to therapy, and he didn't really let me off the hook, and boy am I furious at him for calling me out. But it motivates me in a way. When people withhold affection as a direct result of my bad behavior, it motivates me to get my shit together.

He doesn't think I'm good enough, so fuck him, I'll show him that I am. Quite different, and also the same, as if he'd told me I *was* good enough; then I'd rebel against that narrative and fail.

Maybe I'm asleep most of the time, asleep to my goals, asleep to the way that I value and love myself. When people withhold affection from me, I either try to find ways to be solicitous and gt it back, or I feel despondent, *OR* I get mad and reach into my own reservoir of self-worth. I think when it is perceived rejection on my part, I use the former two reactions, but when someone tells me to my face that they don't have time for me and calls me on my bullshit, then I get mad and react positively.

It's a dysfunctional way of getting in touch with myself to have to have someone tell me that they think I'm not good enough, but it does work. I wakes me up, the way a slap in the face might.

I feel so full of productive energy right now. Energy to be creative and compassionate. And that's the irony here... without the fuel of anger, I sometimes forget compassion for myself and others, I go to sleep, and resent having to wake.

The more favorable reading is that I really do cope well with certain kinds of anger, and am able to turn it into compassionate action. I'm not angry anymore having written this, but I am still energized and focused, more so than I've been in months. Hurt and anger are only the triggers, the rest is innate.

pro-feminist?

For some time now, I've ceased identifying as any sort of feminist. Laziness has much to do with this, as I benefit from male privilege rather often. Even when I don't, it is my habit to behave in ways that reinforce male privilege. That said, I'm not exactly a huge promoter of all things masculine and mainstream, and I really think very little of enforced normative gender-roles.

Which brings me to the other reason I've ceased to pretend to feminism. I'm not a woman. Within feminist circles, talk is rightly centered on the social place of non-dominant genders, their oppression by the mainstream (patriarchy, if you like that term), and how to fight back. At first, this felt liberating to me, as it opened up all sorts of new ways to do gender, and I realized that being born with a penis didn't confine me to a lifetime of enacting somebody else's version of straight-masculinity.

That sense of liberation contained the seeds of its own demise. I was being attracted to feminism and queer culture not because I was taking a strong stand to uphold them, but because I felt alienated from straight-masculinity. I wasn't really trying to fight on behalf of women and queer folk, but rather just trying to find social acceptance, and an excuse to stop playing a game of competitive masculinity. I was making friends with people, and buying into values that -- in the way I chose to do it -- made me despise being masculine.

*CAVEAT* This is very much my experience of how I went about this. I don't think that cis straight men *can't* find feminism to be a fulfilling project, and I don't think that any of the feminists and queer folk I know reject me or cis-masculinity per se. What happened was that I tried to escape the worst parts of the streotypical hetero cis masculine by turning to the queer in a way that invalidated my own body and sense of masculine enculturation.

It didn't work. While writing this, I'm realizing that much of this has to do with my social life getting in the way of my political beliefs. Intellectually, I come close to being a cis-male feminist, but socially, I feel a sense of alienation from exclusively hanging around queer folks (most of whom are female identified) and from only feeling comfortable in queer society. I'm a little bit afraid of cis-men, (mostly due to my own sense of inferiority, but also due to how obnoxious mainstream masculinity can be). Since coming to feminism, I haven't bonded with any other cis-male hetero feminists. So the false dichotomy for me was to declare straight cis-men as the enemy, even though I embody much of that category myself!

Perhaps this leaves me as a budding pro-feminist man.

The xyonline site cited above says this in their FAQ:
Does being pro-feminist mean that you are anti-male?

No. We are anti-sexist, we are anti-patriarchal, but we are not anti-male. Pro-feminist men are hopeful about both men's and women's futures. We believe that men, like women, are perfectly capable of being loving, nurturing and non-oppressive human beings. We reject the idea that men are somehow intrinsically bad, oppressive or sexist. We believe that men can change and we support every man's efforts at positive change. We recognise the need to build close relations and supportive alliances among men, as part of the process of change.


Somehing I continue to hold onto from queer-feminism is a critique of essentialist gender and heteronormativity. It's something of a subtle position that I haven't yet fully understood. The pro-feminist men movement seems a bit *too* invested in being men, or a bit too implicitly heteronormative. Maybe I have yet to learn that straight men can be compassionate, and accepting of difference. As soon as I smell a straight man, I have memories of getting my emotional ass kicked in grade school for being a faggot or a pussy (even though I was nowhere near as much of either of those things as I might have liked!) For a straight guy to truly earn my emotional trust, he kindof has to let me suck his dick, or at least be ok with that in principle. :-p
I wrote this about 2 years ago, in a state of bitterness against both homophobia and the mainstream liberal attitude of trying to say "queers are just like us, they want to get married, have upper middle-class jobs, and 2.1 kids". I probably had recently come out to my dad as bisexual, and we weren't really talking at the time (we are now, albeit guardedly). I'm not sure WTF I meant to say in the post, and although it's meant to be parody, there's way too much bitterness and passive aggression in it. I'm tempted to delete the entry, but, I suppose I'll let it stand.

If queers had the power to discriminate that straights do...Collapse )

i don't like being a texture without a hue

A lot of my social history has been about being on the outside of groups and wanting to fit in. This includes the most primary group of all: I'm an only child who was culturally, emotionally, and eventually physically alienated from my parents. So while I never expect to be allowed to fit in, and don't really even feel comfortable fitting in, it's something that I keep searching for.

Lately I've been searching for that via gender/orientation/presentation labels. If only I had a label or two for myself, the thinking goes, then I'd have a community, and an established sub-niche within queerness, and through that, a valid claim on belonging to queer culture in the first place.

The difficulty is that I'm not an outlier from straightness in any one dimension. The sum total of all my small variances away from the presumed norm (male, masculine, hetero, vanilla, sexual, monogamous) compound to completely alienate me from straightness, but in each of those categories I'm way closer to the normative role than the queer one.

It's exasperating, because as soon as I start looking for the locus of my queerness, I end up de-queering myself. The real axis where I'm queer is a dimension that doesn't get talked about much, and one that doesn't have a well-known label: I'm weakly gendered. In practical terms it means that I while my thoughts and behaviors can often fit within normativity, it's really not that important to me to maintain that normativity, and I therefore bleed outside the lines of it. I'm straight, but I don't need to be straight, and I get little or no value from being straight.

This makes me look like a queer wannabe. For a while I avoided this be saying I'm a straight person who likes the company of queer folks. Here are the reasons why that doesn't work:
(1) Straight normativity completely rejects me
(2) I despise straight normativity, even if I happen to resemble straightness much of the time
(3) I experience emotional, verbal & psychological alienation and violence for not conforming to normativity, from parents, work environments, and random people on the street.

Those reasons are clear-cut. The fourth is more complex:
(4) The queer culture that I participate in, which is the politically radical, female/trans-centric kind, is the most welcoming social space I've known. I want to belong to it as more than just a straight, cis, male ally. "want to belong" as in "wannabe".

I've been sufficiently kicked in the ass by heteronormative masculinity that it's easier for me to throw on a dress in the summer, look absurd, and endure the heckling and verbal violence of strangers, than it is for me to conform to masculinity. I'm a displaced-person, a refugee into femininity. I'd gladly go live in the land of my straight male bretheren if only they'd allow me my feminity.

As a refugee to queerness, I don't have a flag of my own. While I delight in how pretty the rainbow is, I'm not myself red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, or violet. I'm a hueless texture, a ghost, a foriegner, a hetero cis-man in a land of non cis-men.

I really like it here for the most part. I'm starting to find connections into radical queer-male spaces, and I might go visit them (maybe someday even settle down), so long as they don't expect me to be overly masculine or too rigidly masculine-loving. I left straightlandia because there they wanted me to divorce myself from femminity entirely, and I'm not doing that ever again.

Strong words, with loud echoes of my upbringing in them. My emotionally flat father divorced and emotionally bullied my mother, and I lost my relationship with her because of it. So yeah, I'm a man, but I'm forever seeking to run from pure masculinity and to find balance with femininity. That's not really a queer thing, it's an upringing thing, but it makes heteromasculinity (and sometimes homomasculinity) intolerable to me.

Maybe I have a hue after all, it's just not one from the highly saturated rainbow flag. I'm a slate-blue man in a sheer pink dress.

queer authenticity

i haven't livejournaled in a looong time, so i'm just going to free-associate thoughts.

I was at the drag march yesterday. I wasn't even remotely in drag proper, and it brings up the question of how exactly does a habitual cross-dresser do drag? Drag exagerates/lampoons/critiques/plays-with signifiers of binary gender by loudly calling attention to transgression. Binary gender doesn't really appeal to me, so i guess i'd have to be a kindof genderpunk drag-queen: quasi-femme glammed-up with but with combat boots and perhaps a half-shorn/half-long wig or something.

Oh wait, that's how i want to dress in real life.

I'm becoming aware of how much I vibe off other people's gender schemas. They treat me like a guy, and i let myself resonate with their expectations, and act more masculine, and that reinforces their own vibe of me as masculine.

The solutions  are to spend a lot more time making myself look & sound more androgynous (which is really hard!!), and/or completely ignore other people's genderings of me as male, and behave in a gender un-schematic way (which is also really hard).

I really need to stop hating on masculinity though. Cuz by hating masculinity i'm being hateful against myself.

It's equally cruel to tell myself that all i am and all i can ever be is masculine, and that i'm so sexist/male/masculine-enculturated/gender-schematic that all my attempts at feminine performance amount only to inauthentic ways to escape having male-privilege.

I tell myself that a lot. Fuck that. I don't need people's other people's approval or a linguistic label to validate how I want to express myself. Performance builds into identity, and identity is what informs performance.

Underlying that statement is a lot of ongoing angst about queer authenticity. Topic for another night's post.

Femme vs feminine:

I don't know how others use these words, but to me "femme" denotes the voluntary and critical use of stereotypically feminine signifiers. It's a term that comes from the lesbian community, and there's a danger that when men use it in a more generic sense, it will overtake and erase the specific significance it has in the lesbian community. There are words like "nelly" or "queen" that derive from the gay male community itself, and that are maybe more suited to describing feminine men.

I personally really like the word as a self-descriptor though. But that's cuz my introduction to queer culture came by way of lesbians, and well, I still haven't really found my place in queer male culture.

Femme (for me) is about feeling pretty by both playing into dominant cultural messages, and keeping one's head and heart way above them. It's about sometimes feeling ugly/undressed if I wake up too late to put on makeup or tuck myself so I can fit into a dress, and also being to be equanimous with that feeling without identifying with it. It's about doing things that I don't expect anyone else to do (shaving legs, wearing makeup), and somehow hoping that my doing it doesn't reinforce norms about what is and isn't feminine.

It's about utterly and absolutely refusing to ever wear heels, no matter how absurd I may look wearing a halter-top dress and guy
's shoes.

It's a dangerous flirtation. Too often I'm looking to image as a substitute for substance. Putting on eye shadow is kindof fun: one gets to choose colors and blend them, and yeah. But do I really have to spend time curling my lashes? Ya know? Do I really have to wear makeup every day just to feel pretty?

Things I do like: wearing subtle makeup when I'm forced to wear masculine-typical clothing for work or my school uniforms. I also feel that wearing makeup with feminine-typical clothing helps soften the gender-fuck blow of the sight of my body in a dress. I still look absurd to mainstream eyes, but there's more internal consistency in what I'm trying to achieve.

Things I don't like: feeling that my body is insufficiently feminine. Taking more time on clothes and makeup than on meditation and excercise.

Tears of Compassion

I mostly lost the ability to cry in the 90's (side-effect of Prozac, or just coincidence I don't know), but in the last couple of months I've shed a lot of tears while sitting in meditation. I get really opened up, and eventually I start feeling deep loving compassion for myself. That makes tears. Or I have a momentary glimpse of how much *everyone* is suffering due to the conditions of their mindbodies, and that makes tears. Or I see how strong and loving they are in the face of their suffering, and *that* makes tears.

They aren't exactly tears of sadness, and sometimes they are tears of love. When I do metta meditation ("may I be happy, strong, full of effort & compassion. May I find ways to share my happiness with others...") tears of beauty can fall.

Meditation is a strange practice. I sit on a cushion for an hour, and my mind parades its carnival-like garishness for 55 minutes. For 5 minutes the spectacle might slow down a bit and I become engrossed in watching the breath or bodily sensations. Perhaps for 5 or 10 seconds, if I'm lucky, all mental verbalization stops and it's just profoundly quiet. In short, I'm not particularly good at one-pointed concentration.

And yet the practice works. The ugly cognitive distortions of depression and anxiety lose a little force. Instead of the harsh language I sometimes use to address myself ("cunt, faggot": words I don't use on others even in extreme anger), I start addressing myself with love ("darling, I'm here for you"). I don't really do this consciously, and it's certainly not some kind of self-improvement trick. After trying to sit equanimously with my body sensation for long enough, love arises. My internal voice gentles.

For the most part, that love is still primarily self-directed. I have inklings of compassion towards others, but it's not easy for me yet to follow through on them. But I do recognize that my happiness is contingent on learning the dilligence to be strong and centered for others.

I cried during my August meditation retreat to think that I'd spend the next year and a half learning to skillfully touch people who are in pain. Learning to let the very flesh of my hands press down through skin and muscle and connective tissue, and help bring back circulation, un-set adhesions, stimulate hormones, and all the other physiological and emotional benefits of skilled touch. I started getting kindof attached to that idea of myself-as-healer till I saw the folly of it.

It's strange getting attached to the idea of being a massage therapist while practicing a meditative discipline that trains one to be cool towards bodily sensation. Much of the pain and fatigue I experienced while sitting up to 11 hours a day in meditation was due mental restlessness, and once I recognized this, the pain and fatigue transmuted into mild annoyances at worst.

Massage only treats at most an inch deep into the physical body (plus physiological after-effects), while the root/radical solution for alleviating physical and emotional pain seems to me neurological or psychological. Massage is a band-aid, and sometimes the wounds we try to cover require the mental equivalent of arterial cauterization. If not heart transplant.

Still, there is need for band-aids too, and there is need for feel-good touch. A lot of people don't get touched at all, let alone skillfully. It's fanciful egotism on my part to want to have deep healing impacts on people. It will suffice to merely touch them.

I've deferred massage school for a semester. I need to do more deep healing of myself first. I need to shed more tears on the meditation cushion, and learn to cultivate ardent habits of mindfulness and compassion. I will be spending the semester working at two meditation centers: one of SN Goenka's Vipassana centers and Stone Circles, a center for social justice activism and spiritual training.

I can feel so beautiful and empowered and full of potential when I sit in meditation with regularity. It's a wonder that I let my practice die these past two weeks, but I'm back. With a lot of help from a lot of people (authors I haven't met, one author I did meet, a meditation teacher who called me today, friends who themselves sit or have provided space for me to sit, the list is long...) I'm back on the cushion.
I just had two guys declare to me that they like to wrestle because they enjoy "boy contact" or "male bonding". One of them booked a wrestling session with me (which incidentally earned me the first $100 bill I've ever owned), and the other is a potential client who's been corresponding by email.

Other similarities between the two men are that they are both bi- (or gay), married to women, and seem to want to keep anything about wrestling secret from the wives. They also both profess to *not* want sensual wrestling. But either they want *some* sensuality, or they assure themselves of a homophobia-free partner by responding to adds in the M4M erotic services section.

What's going on I wonder? A friend who professionally does domination and domination-wrestling sessions said that it's pretty typical for a client to not really know what they want or how to ask for it. Is that because they are so deep in their various closets (gay/bi closet, kink closet, marriage closet, gender closet) that they don't even know what they are trying to pay for, but taking a leap of faith that it must somehow bring relief?

I'm don't anymore feel self-improsoned in these closets to anywhere near the same extent, so these men's experiences seem like something an alien species might experience. Hwo could you *not* tell the wife that you're bi-? That you like wrestling/martial arts/hula hooping/rock climbing, or any other activity that she's not into? That you want to negotiate around possibilities for various forms of play (in all senses of the word) outside of the marriage dyad?

Why do straight and straight-cultured bi-men self-impose restrictions on touch? I do it myself. I like casual touch with non-homophobic straight guys: a hand slid lightly down the shoulder, a hug instead of a handshake or fist-bump. In many places outside the US these things are normal parts of straight male culture . And yet I'm very hesitant to even so much as ask consent to touch straight seeming male aquaintances unless I *know* they're not homophobic.

To what extent do straightish women experience self-censorship on touch, I wonder?

In a letter printed in the april 28 2009 New York Times Science section, a reader writes:
"I agree with Tara Parker-Pope.. on the importance of friendship in overall health and longevity... not only the verbal intimacy that many girls and women openly express... [but] also the comfort of touch, as in looping... [arm into arm walking down the street and] hugging spontaneously... that nurtures the body and soul".
No duh, but why the gender specificity, I wondered? The reader goes on to write, "Perhaps if society's mores begin to change... men, too, will be able to enjoy healthier and longer lives".

Which makes me wonder if the two male wrestling clients I've talked to might actually find it safer (though still cruelly loaded with various layers of ambivalence) to seek erotic labor than real touch between men?

I wish I could tell them to blow apart any parts of sexism, homophobia, and the gender binary that don't fit them. To tell them to go to men's cuddle parties, gay bars, out-dancing, hold a friend's hand, kiss someone because you had a great conversation with him. Wish I could tell them -- if it helps them reconstruct their versions of "masculinity" -- to wear skirts and dresses, and to maybe sometimes do their wrestling or weight-lifting or motorcycle riding feeling the way they feel a woman might. And to --for fuck's sake!-- gender-play with their wives.

But I suspect the closet doors are too thick. It's only with the support of freinds who -- in mainstream societal terms -- are radicals, that I feel at all enabled to do any such things.

Perhaps the simplest thing would be to ask each of the two men's consent to put them in touch with each other.

Goddess grant me the love and courage to connect with men, inclusive of myself, without prejudice.

Hurt in the name of love (present)

So given the psychosexual bullshit that I previously posted about, why the fuck am I still expected to give a shit about what my parents have to say about my sexuality? I came out to my dad about being bi about a year ago, and he's completely scared by that. What bothers me is how much emotional turbulence his lack of acceptance causes me. I've felt emotionally estranged from him for the past year because of this (we were pretty close until then), and I felt compelled to reach out a bit this thanksgiving (He'd made noises recently about how worried he was about "the other thing", which when I asked "what other thing?", he didn't name).

I told him as much as I thought he needed to know, without backing myself into defensivity about my sexuality. I told him that I'm not promiscuous. That being bisexual doesn't mean that I can't be fully satisfied in a relationship with one person. That I don't *need* to have romantic relationships with both sexes simultaneously.

It's been a couple of days since I sent him that, and there's been no response. That's unusual for him, but perhaps he's out of town or something. The problem is that *I'm* fucking worried about what his response will be. I still want to be accepted by him, and his *not* accepting my sexual orientation somehow hurts me.

Anyway, it took me until age 37 or so till I found people that don't believe that there's any one proper way to do sexuality. I seem to move between straight and bisexual identities (it's perhaps typical for many bisexuals to *not* settle on a single fixed identity), and between being sexual and asexual. Occasionally I dress androgynously. Occasionally I do fetish.

My friends think that all that is perfectly fine. For reasons I don't understand, my parents just seem to want to have me be hetero-married with kids, and perfectly normal. Perfectly normal is not at all what they were towards me sexually and emotionally, and now I have to bear the emotional brunt of having them project normativity onto me.

I don't want kids. There's many reasons, but primarilly it's that I don't want to inflict this kind of pain to people that I cause to be emotionally and materially dependant on me.

I'm writing about this using bland phrases like "emotional pain". That level of language doesn't do this stuff justice.

A more objective way of looking at it might convey some of what's needed: I'm 38, went to some really good schools, including 1.5 years of grad school, and yet make $8/hr, am still partially dependant on my parents, have never had a long term romantic relationship, have had only four relationships in my life in any case, and find myself frequently unable to complete tasks i've undertaken. Basically I'm broken and dysfunctional.

A less objective way? You know the place you go when you are being really intensely anally penetrated and there aren't words around any more, just raw experience? Go there and then turn on a tap of scalding betrayal and emotional control. Sit in front of an LCD a few days, weeks, or decades later and try to make words about it. Without a lot of effort and skill, it'll probably end up a lot like this post.