askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
So I was given 5 questions by [livejournal.com profile] meepettemu. I am supposed to say that if you comment and ask, I'll give you 5. And I will.

1: do you have specific plans for after your PhD, and if so, what are they?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. The simple answer is, I don't. The more involved answer is I want to stay in academia but to do that I need to pull my finger out and publish something and be prepared for a few years of continued precarious employment and be open to moving anywhere in the country to chase down any positions. The thought of starting all over again somewhere else in the country seems exhausting. But so does applying for jobs just in Brighton. I think there is a cruelty to the treadmill of academia where, at your lowest ebb, you need to muster the most energy to secure yourself employment and career. Whatever happens, it will surely be narrated here.

2: Is there a significance behind your raven tattoo? If so, what?
It's a carrion crow, not a raven. And yes, there is a significance. It's more of a narrative, really;

I love crows, I think they are wonderful, engaging animals and I enjoy every interaction I have with them. They are also, to me, quite strongly tied to Brighton, I have only ever lived closely with crows here in Brighton as they dominate the university's campus and I often sit and watch them at lunch, on breaks, and during my office hours (one memorable day, I saw a crow disembowel a dead rabbit, it was hilariously gruesome). They are also, of course, members of the corvid family. An exceptionally clever genus (corvus) they include the new caledonian crow which makes and uses tools, and the raven which can solve puzzles quicker than a 5 year old human. Good old, common, familiar carrion crows have also been shown to mourn their dead.

There is considerable mythology surrounding the crow, some of it I believe is clearly linked to observable behaviour (such as their feasting on carrion, mourning their dead, and intelligence and rational approach to problems) and the rest is the usual imaginative leaps of man. In particular, I like the mythology which says they are messengers for the dead/from the dead/of the dead, and that they are said to be able to see forward in time.

When my friend died, I felt something huge had shifted in the world. It came at a time I was trying to decide the direction of my life. The night I learnt she'd died I vowed to move back to Brighton, take control of my life and direct it in the way which my gut told me to go, and not be guided by financial fears or ideas of what I 'should' be doing. I did all of those things before the year was out.

I knew I needed a tattoo to mark this shift in my life, as a tribute and reminder of Lux, and an emblem of my new outlook and determination. I had also been considering a cover up of a tattoo I had got when I was 19 and trying to remind myself of my own strength and ability to stay alive. So, bearing in mind all of the above, I chose a crow - conveniently being an ideal colour for a cover up tattoo.

My crow is facing forwards - as we must always do - but looking backwards - remembering what has gone, seeing the lessons and people that came before. And he knows death, but he does not fear it, he simply knows it is a part of life and an essential part at that.

3: When you were a teenager, what were your career aspirations?
I never had a strong sense of where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be. The only career I ever really wanted was to be either a vet or a zoologist. Those dreams were quickly quashed by a) going to a shit comprehensive that ignored talent and neglected to aid underachievement and b) spending ages 15-19 being fucking miserable and very nearly getting no A Levels. I was not good enough at Maths or Science by the time I was in Sixth Form - largely because I was depressed, stoned, and in a dreadful school - for that to be a realistic dream so I let it go.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

4: How old were you when you first realised you might not be straight?
The thing with being bi/queer/pan/whatever is not being straight doesn't come into focus as early as it seems to for your out-and-out gay folk. You can rattle along quite happily fancying men and assuming your feelings for women are comparable to the idol worship of your straight female friends. The clues were always in the men I fancied - they were never handsome or rugged or butch. They were all beautiful, delicate, thoughtful, queer, and vaguely off beat. I was never going to be the 'right' kind of heterosexual.

I think I was about 13 or 14 by the time I actually started having sexual feelings for women - which is around the time I started having sexual feelings for men, now I come to reflect on it. And I was 15 or 16 when I started coming out. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, David Bowie was part of how I came to be sure. And so was Nicky Wire. 

I think I was about 19 or 20 before I heard the term pansexual and finally found a word to describe my specific desires, and adoration of the Bowies and Wires of this world. Queer entered my lexicon when I did my Masters at 22 and added another dimension to my self expression. 

5: Where in the UK would you choose to live if it could be anywhere?
Brighton. Where I am right now. Where I can't afford to stay and am unlikely to be in a year's time. And that is already breaking my heart.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Yesterday, [personal profile] forthwritten and I attended the Alternative Parenting show, sponsored by the Guardian and Stonewall.  Stonewall; that oh-so-disappointing, oh-so-well funded LGB, no T, charity.

I didn't have a clear idea in my head what to expect - I knew there would be information on surrogacy, IVF, and adoption as that is made explicit on the website.  Additionally I suppose I expected resources and information on social issues relating to being a queer or 'alternative' parent, community groups, and perhaps personal stories from people doing it already and having a great time.  That is not what we found.

My overwhelming impression was that "Alternative Parenting" is all about money; we overheard one adoption agency representative talking to a mixed-race couple, he - apparently under the impression this was a 'selling point' - told them "once we have you registered you'll be a valuable resource we can sell on to other agencies, particularly because you have a mixed heritage".  I understand that [personal profile] forthwritten , my 'mixed heritage' partner for the day, shared a knowing look with the non-white partner in aforementioned couple.  They were, quite explicitly, treating would-be-parents as a commodity to be bought and sold, where the children looking for adoption fit into this transaction is unclear; it's all about acquiring the resource, and selling them on.

Later, I hovered longer than necessary as I collected a leaflet on International Surrogacy.  I listened in as the representative told a woman that anything she wanted from a surrogate could be accommodated, and that using an Indian surrogate would save her money.  My hackles rose the moment I saw that the key information contained on the leaflet were prices.  The going rate for a baby - no strings attached - is a mere £26,900.  Naturally the price rises somewhat if you want a white baby - £33,597.  Grown to order.  To fully understand my horror at this I suggest looking up a documentary I watched a couple of years ago entitled "Google Baby", about the growing 'outsourcing' of surrogacy to India.

After a much needed, spirit raising cup of tea away from the Parenting Show venue - and something of a rant on my part as [personal profile] forthwritten listened, tweeted, and nodded sympathetically - we returned for a workshop on the options for childbirth.  As it turned out, nobody else had turned up apart from the lady running the workshop who represented one of two organisations I had identified as 'the right sort of thing'.  She ran a company who offer low cost parenting classes to expectant parents - be they adopting, having a surrogate, co parenting, or pregnant - and welcomes both queer and straight parents wanting to know what to do with a tiny new born.  

After a moment of hesitation, a nod and a wink, [personal profile] forthwritten and I decided to come clean on our true purpose on attending the show.  The woman immediately warmed to us and we started talking cynical corporations and the business of baby making.  She told us she attends a lot of parenting shows and cannot believe how much money was floating around and poured into the show - apparently normally they are sponsored by the local rag, this obviously had the weight of the Guardian, the London Women's Clinic, Stonewall and a number of legal firms.  The pink pound has gone baby crazy and the companies are closing in for a cut.

And then, after playing "spot the consciously mixed race happy family photo" with all the magazines, leaflets and stickers we'd been issued up until then, it was time for the seminars.

First up was the Bridge Clinic who, in the literature, said they would inform us of treatment options for "every budget" and how 'lifestyle' could affect our options.  Predictably, they did neither of these things.  They launched almost immediately into the hard sell of fertility treatment - IUI and IVF.  I am well aware of the importance of IVF and its potential effectiveness for infertile couples but no mention was made of infertility - it was simply the 'correct' way to get pregnant - beg, borrow or buy some sperm (preferably from the London Sperm Bank who have a catalogue) and hand it over to them, along with some eggs, and they'll pop a baby back in your oven.  

The key thing I took away was that if you choose to share your eggs, you can have free IVF.  I know that for most/many women undergoing IVF this is not an option because their fertility issues mean their eggs are not suitable to be shared with another woman.  But, if you sell IVF to lesbians who are undergoing IVF to get pregnant, not because they can't conceive any other way - then you've got a load of free eggs to pass onto paying couples.  Fertile lesbians having IVF for free turns into a lot of money down the line for the clinic.  It's just good business sense!

There was some breathtakingly manipulative language in all of this - they made a big noise about IUI being "the closest thing to natural conception" meaning, presumably, that IVF, home insemination and any number of other options are "unnatural" ways to conceive.  Next, a fertility counsellor assured us that being stressed was no barrier to successful 'treatment' because "women get pregnant in war-zones and famine and there is no way you're under that much stress".   I'll give you a minute to let that one sink in.

She went on to peddle a book and course entitled "fertility thinking" which helps you think yourself into a fertile state - although given it's possible to get pregnant when starving and being shelled I'm not sure why state of mind matters.  Perhaps I missed her point.

The Bridge clinic closed with a line graph showing the declining fertility of an 'average (cis) woman'.  The vertical line showed level of fertility, the horizontal line showed age/time.  The line was at it's highest point on the vertical axis against the age labelled '0 years' and declined steadily to around 18 which was marked 'optimum fertility' and continued to head down to meet the horizontal line as age increased.  In short, it showed the months immediately following birth to be the most fertile time in an individual's life.  And there was me, thinking starting menstruation at around 10 was a signal of the beginning of fertility.

And, so, we reached the highlight of the day, a seminar by Stonewall on the work they are doing to make sure 'alternative families' can send their kids to school without fear of the child being bullied for their family.   Wes Streeting treated us with details of how Stonewall are helping schools "celebrate different families" and the "transformation he's witnessed".  The content of his speech is another blog post in itself - wilfully ignorant of many issues - such as faith schools refusing to teach sex education, much less lessons on different family forms - and actively arrogant on others - such as describing Stonewall as being at the forefront of the equal marriage campaign, a campaign they actively opposed for many years.

His political [bullshit] credentials shone through as he repeatedly spoke about "winning hearts and minds" in schools to protect and celebrate "children like mine" in all of society.  Children like his and, it would seem, only those like his.

The Q and A, I decided, was my moment.  I stuck my hand up and asked, "we're still working out what our family will look like but it will certainly involve an extended family of trans friends and possibly a trans co-parent.  I've worked in schools and I know that transphobic bullying is an issue - how are you going to extend your campaign to help my children when they get to school?".

"Stonewall," Wes hissed, "is a lesbian, gay and bisexual charity.  We have neither the experience or expertise to advise on trans issues.   Although it could be argued there is some cross over in the issues, we will not deal with that as we would be stepping on the toes of many other charities who do that work.  We are often asked, when we go into schools, how they should tackle transphobic bullying, so we advise them to contact a trans charity."

I was, perhaps naively, gobsmacked.  Kids bully other kids for being 'gay' for the same reason they bully for being trans* - they see gender transgression.  Moreover, as [personal profile] forthwritten pointed out, Stonewall take up a lot of funding, funding that could go to charities who include a T and even a Q in their LGB.  Trans charities have neither the funds nor the reach to team up with 60 Local Authorities (a stat Wes proudly trotted out) and their schools and make the impact that Stonewall can and do.

Also, Stonewall charge £100 per school to 'advise' them on homophobic bullying and including alternative families in their teaching - and they can't even make a partnership with a trans charity to do what they can't, or more accurately, won't when, as Wes himself admits, schools are explicitly asking for that information!

Wes thanked us all for being there and " being a part of our campaign" - [personal profile] forthwritten and I shared a look over that, you can be sure.  Wes' seminar partner Charlie Condou (who is apparently in a soap? And a Guardian columnist?) was glad that "you - I assume I'm right in saying you are all gay or bisexual? Yeah - you are all here"

A couple of minutes catching my breath after such a whirlwind of nonsense and misinformation, and we were off, in search of a nice gay bar - one which had hung knitted bunting that said "queer" on it, as it happened - to drink heavily, decompress and perhaps regain some faith in the notion of alternative parenting as being about parenting, making a family, and living a good life - not paying a corporation to make or steal a baby for me in order to purchase the title of 'parent' but not make a 'family'.

Fury.

Apr. 26th, 2011 12:51 am
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 There was a post, on a friends facebook, it included a link pertaining to an upcoming election in a country which isn't this one which advised feminists and people who respect women alike that one of the candidates had potentially damaging views regarding reproductive rights.  There was a reply from someone I don't know suggesting that the real problem was that abortion was available at all.  I tried not to reply, I really did.  I went away from the page TWICE.

I got drawn into an argument where the commenter actually engaged with what I was saying and responded to my points - unexpected in itself - but in each of his successive points revealed more and more abhorrent opinions.  The friend on whose wall this was taking place contributed once and then, after a particularly odious comment which I managed to reply to with the one line I could type out through the red mist of rage and shaking hands ("Rape is not about "permissive attitude to sex" it is about power and it is about violence"), she deleted it.  A fair choice because I would have gone all night against that ignorant hate.

Anyway, I'm a little shell shocked to come across someone like that on home turf, as it were, and now have a stiff rum and coke and a desire to articulate something resembling a mantra - in the hope it somehow cleanses my brain of the hateful bilge I have read tonight.

  • You will not make me ashamed of my body, my sexuality, my sex and my desires
  • You will not succeed if you try and convince me that sexuality and it's expression has any kind of inherent moral value
  • Your ignorance about the reality of sexual violence and the continued abuse and oppression of women (and men) both in the home and out of it will not prevail against the voices of those who suffer and the actions to end it of those people who are well informed and open minded to the reality of oppression.
  • I know that the multiplicity of family forms, relationships and love which are expressed in thousands of homes across the country and millions across the world will grow in visibility and strength and year on year we will show, merely by continuing to exist, that our worth is just the same as the monolithic representation of family you blindly recognise as 'viable'
  • I will articulate, encourage others to articulate their sexuality without shame or fear. 
  • These are our bodies, our choices are ours to make and ours alone.  You will not succeed in inscribing your narrow notions of morality upon my skin and my flesh or that of my brothers and sisters.
  • You, and your victim blaming, misogynistic, sex-shaming opinions will not triumph against the voracity and volume with which we speak and share the truth.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
In response to some persistent themes being expressed on various platforms of late, or, the 'feminist' return of body fascism;
I shave my legs because I want to.  I like the way skin feels against skin. I like the way clothes feel against skin. I do not like the way hair feels against skin or clothes.  I shave my arm pits because as clean as you are, you'll never find an anti perspirant that works as well when it is applied to hair covered skin.  All the hair removal and trimming I do is because I like it.  Society has not compelled me to do it.  My bare legs are not representative of my subjugation to pervasive beauty narratives.  My clean shaven armpits are indicative only of what I find to be aesthetically pleasing and what gives me confidence regarding my personal hygene.  Do not assume differently without asking me, or any of the other women you are battering with your rhetoric.  Thank you.

On queer liberation;
It is no doubt the proliferation of mediocre to poor dramas on tv of late centring on both fictional and real life gay men and their lives and loves, but increasingly I recognise and understand why lesbians wished to campaign for gay lib separately than gay men.  I also feel the strong tug of obscurity as the voices of queer women throughout history go largely unrecorded and so the obsessive bio-pic making so recently in vogue has no material from which to draw.  I sense also that - in the programming directors minds - the 'edginess' of making a film about men having sex and putting it on at 9pm on BBC2 would be lost were it instead about two women.  Female sexuality is, after all, neither urgent nor insistent nor selfish.  Women do not fuck but make love.  Or so social norms would have us believe, and to counter those ideas is to shoot too often over the head of the viewers,  How to explain that urgent sexuality and sexual satisfaction is not an exception to femininity or characteristic only of lesbianism?  On the occasions strong representations of female centred sexuality occur it is, more often than not, presented cheaply and sordidly - the atrocious scripts and production values on both the Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet serve as excellent examples.

I cannot think of a single film which concerns a lesbian relationship as it's primary focus which is either beautiful or moving.  I can think of plenty which are trite and poorly executed and a hundred more which have only sold because queer women are so desperate for filmic representation they will buy and watch any old crap - I count myself among that desperate majority.

I have lost interest in stories about gay men struggling in historically-hostile times; they speak to me no more than a mediocre romantic storyline in a heterosexual drama does.  I always felt that LGBT history was a shared discovery, that hearing from one group can tell us about another/our own, but I see now that was naive.  I want to know about the lives of the women who have brought the world to the point it is at now for me - as a queer woman.  My social ancestors are silent - or at the very least silenced - in the current trend for period dramas about minority groups.  

On the ignorance of youth
I was in STA Travel today with a friend from work; we are probably going on holiday for a fortnight in July/August.  The travel agent was suggesting modifications/changes to the route I had in mind, after she mentioned Prague and I rejected it as I have already been there and she went back to furiously tapping away on her computer I turned to my friend, pointed to a photo from the old square in Prague and showed him the hotel I had stayed at for 2 nights.  I commented, in telling the story of how we ended up there and not in the hostel we had booked, that 'and they were also lovely there; they didn't bat an eyelid at the fact we were gay and sharing a double room".  He replied, shocked "is that something that happens then - is that a problem?".  "Yes," I said "indeed, in Paris we were initially refused the key to the double room we had booked (at a major hotel chain no less) until another member of staff intervened".  I watched the information processing on his face; I'm not sure he really believes the world is like that, even now.  Maybe another day I'll tell him about my friends who got beaten up by some thugs in a gay bar, for being gay, whilst the bar staff looked passively on.

On what my life is like of late;
I wake up every morning before my alarm goes off.  I trudge to the bathroom to shower.  I cry as I wash, dress and eat before leaving the house.  I pass through my days like a zombie and I am ready to go back to bed and to sleep at 3pm. I force myself to stay up until 10pm.  I cannot sleep.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Gagh. Typical hangover-blues/Pride comedown today.

I've got so cocking much to do before I move out in 18 days and it all feels completely overwhelming. Most annoying I think is that my flatmate owns A LOT of stuff, in her packing up to move out (on the 23rd whilst I move on the 26th) she is filling the living room with packed boxes. Filling our living room with packed boxes without packing up anything that is already in the living room. This means there is a) no living space and b) nowhere for me to pack into. My room is of moderate size but my furniture takes up almost all of the room. I simply cannot imagine where I will put my boxes as I pack, much less how I am going to start doing the deep clean of the flat necessary to get our deposit back.

I also want to throw some sort of house-cooling party (if when you move in you have a house-warming then moving out must mean having a...) but right now I am so exhausted with social interaction I can't even begin to imagine doing that or even if I want to. Largely because Bex is going on holiday for a little over a week and returning a couple of days before I move so she won't be able to come to any shindig. And a party without your BFF is no party at all. Anyway, enough of that...

I was looking for Pride Parade photos on usual Brighton websites today and instead came across a review of ArtFor Pride with some photos which is here.

Here are a couple of my photos from the parade yesterday, the first is my immediate friends and acquaintances who I shared a champagne breakfast with before going down to the seafront where the parade began and the second is a group photo of everyone who was walking for THT yesterday.





 
I commented on someone else's journal the other day that I would comment on how I felt about the Pride is a protest movement/argument after I had been in the parade.

This year the 'Pride is a Protest' movement actually took part in the parade.  The perplexing thing for me was that their argument was that Pride has become too commercial and it should be more about protesting pertinent issues than celebrating the liberation we enjoy in Britain/Brighton; the logical way to demonstrate this point, as far as I'm concerned, is to actually pick whatever issue you think is most pressing and protest about it.  What they instead did was take part in the parade, protesting that everyone else in the parade should be protesting, and for some reason they carried coffins.  In effect they were shouting "we should have the right to protest about things that are important" in a setting where they had been permitted - nay encouraged - to say whatever they wanted.

ETA: This is their facebook event (I was immediately put off by the spelling mistakes but let's overlook that) and it half explains the significance of the coffins before gibbering about something else - I really feel their motivations are jumbled here.  Also - "Now there is also an exclusion of the Black Minority Ethnic community representation at Pride, the exclusion of Transgender, of intersex, of old people, of disabled people!" - doesn't really make any sense or offer any supporting evidence.  THT certainly had a range of ages, ethnicities and given that not all disabilities are physical/visible, most likely featured a couple of disabled people. I remain unclear on what they were saying and/or hoping to achieve.

I know one of the people who took part in this 'protest' and she did a similar thing in Manchester.  I talked to her about why she had decided to do this and expressed my feeling that every day is a fight for LGBT rights and full liberation and that Pride is instead about visibility, celebration and yes, raising issues in the parade you feel are appropriate.  She admitted that she'd never seen it that way/thought about it.  How can you protest against something you haven't fully considered/explored?

There were problems with the Parade as far as I am concerned.  There were, for example, 3 Ford's with a 'Ford Pride Brighton 2010' graphic on them ahead of us.  That's it.  No 'Ford workers LGBT Association', just 3 Fords, which were Proud.  I wonder if they sponsored the event in some way (apparently Pride costs £250,000 to put on each year although the revenue it generates is obviously far in excess of that) although even if that is true I don't see why they needed to be in the parade rather than just have the company name appear on the publicity.  There were various corporate type showings - like the Argus (local newspaper) having a jeep and 4 or so employees in rainbow outfits ahead of us - what exactly were they expressing? How is that furthering LGBT visibility or promoting awareness of an issue pertaining to LGBT lives?

On the whole though, it was a hugely positive experience for me and I really saw the parade in a new light by passing every single one of the spectators and experiencing that atmosphere and seeing the range of people who had turned out to watch and unite in a warm, accepting and celebratory mood.  Yes there are faults, and yes there are aspects which were disappointing because they seem to detract from the whole ethos behind the event but the positives far outweighed the negatives and I had a wonderful time.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
God I love Brighton.  Today was Pride.  And it was epic.

I was lucky enough to be in the Parade (more on that tomorrow, and pictures!) which was just amazing.  The atmosphere was incredible, the whole of the (2hour long) parade route was lined with people and in some places they were 15 or more deep.  The whole way round people were cheering and applauding and we took it on ourselves - the 50 or so of us walking for the Terrance Higgins Trust - to pick out people watching from windows and rooftops and wave to them to include them in the atmosphere and make them smile.  We did it with a countdown and a quick instruction (top left, 3 doors down.  3, 2, 1...GO!) and all of us would turn, throw our hands above our head to wave and 'whoop' as loud as is possible.  Moreover, as soon as we made any sort of noise it was echoed back to us by the crowds lining the streets in equal or greater volume.  

We were applauded, cheered, people reached out hands for us to high five, kids literally jumped up and down with joy.  And we were just as enthusiastic to greet those who had turned out - which is, it is accurate to say, almost all of the residents of Brighton and Hove.

This year there weren't even any right wing Christians - or if there were their numbers have dwindled so much they were undistinguishable from the crowd who cheered us.  They were always onto a losing bet trying that shit in Brighton.  This city starts it's inhabitants young on prejudice free living - we had a baby in a pushchair with our group and there were kids of all ages - right down to what must have been a newborn baby - lining the streets.

Tonight - after nipping home for a sleep and several cups of tea and dinner - I headed out again to met up with the usual gang - around 15 or more of us - to go to PopKraft Pride Special.  PopKraft is always a delight, with one of the more diverse crowds that gay nights pull in Brighton and cabaret, craft corners (I made a neon badge with sticky letters, other people made sock puppets and balloon animals) Music-wise it's cheese and indie and pop music but all contained in a tiny but beautiful club which was built around the same time as the rest of Brighton (in the 18th C.)  You can't beat the Hanbury Club, particularly as it's about a 5 minute stroll from my house.

There's something very homely about the stroll back to my place.  I never feel threatened or unsafe on these streets and if you leave, as we did, when the club kicks out at 2:30am, you get to walk in the company of other PopKraft go-ers.  Tonight a delightful Northern/Southern couple walked behind me, a bit squiffy but full of the spirit of Pride and a comfortable domesticity...

Are you hungry?
Yeah, a bit.
Do you fancy a bit of bolognese?
Maybe
I know it's late, but I could make a bolognese.  It's better to go to bed with a full stomach of a good meal than an empty one.
Yeah, maybe.
Yeah, I'll make us a nice bolognese....maybe with cheese.



I've been grinning like a fool all day long, and I'm going to go to bed in the same way.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (conor)
So someone linked to this article on facebook, and I hate it.

The couple says they've grown closer over time, but like any marriage, two people can have differences -- including sexual orientation. Christine Winn is straight, and she has been supportive of her husband, who is openly bisexual.

"I don't think about it [his bisexuality] as a part I have to accept," she said. "It's just a part of him like any other husband who loses their socks on the floor or doesn't take the trash out"
 

My sexuality is something to be celebrated, embraced. It is not something to be grudgingly tolerated as a bad habit.

Winn realized then there was an unexpected upshot of bisexuality."I always had this heterosexual relationship to fall back on," he said. "I could choose to ignore the rest and put it on the back shelf."

That is exactly the argument made by the homophobic heteros - "you're just indulging a peversion you could resist" and the biphobic gays - "you could avoid prejudice any time you want, just go straight" Are we supposed to by sympathetic to Winn? Because he is shooting himself, and the rest of us, in the foot. There is no choice when it comes to sexuality because there is no choice when it comes to who I fall in love with. If I fall in love with a woman, and then endure prejudice and attacks because of that it is, according to that quote, my fault, I could avoid it all if I simply but my desire for women on the 'back shelf'.

It's either you're in the closet or out of the closet, and it's not that simple," David Malebranche, a physician and professor of medicine at Emory University

Well actually, in the common use of 'closet' - as opposed to whatever definition David Malebranche is holding it to - it is that simple. You have either decided to publicly announce to the world your sexual orientation or you have decided to work to disguise the fact of your sexual and romantic attractions from friends, family and anyone else who matters. In the case of Ali and I, I was out of the closet as a pansexual/bisexual woman, and Ali wasn't. So yes, for bisexual persons it *is* that simple.  We had different relationships with what out sexuality meant in the world around us as a result.  Our experiences were different.  In and out of the closet *means* something.

The idea that bisexuals are somehow half in and half out of the closet is another biphobic notion, we must dismiss the idea of that bisexuals are a half-sexuality and we accept that bisexuals exist; in effect, it *is* that simple.
 
It's [female bisexuality] something that's tolerated because sometimes men see it as entertaining and exciting for them," said Denise Penn, director of the American Institute of Bisexuality

Tolerated? Try appropriated.  Try attacked, try turned into something which leads female bisexuals to be attacked as faking it to get men.  Try always having to defend your relationship as real rather than 'the best thing you can do until a man comes along'.  Try being told the only reason you're with a woman is because you can't get a man - because who would choose to be gay?  Try having a man come up to you and your girlfriend, dancing in a club, asking if they can take a picture or trying it on with one of you.

Tolerated? No. Stolen, turned into something else? Yes. Having a sexuality, or in some cases the physical body of a man, thrust upon you? Yes.

Who is worse off? I don't like playing this game.  But at the end of the day, patriarchy exists, and a woman will always be lower in the hierarchy than a man, bisexual or otherwise. 

Do not tell me to be glad I'm bi because I can play straight when the going gets rough, do not tell me to be grateful for a partner who tolerates my sexuality rather than celebrates it with me.  Do not tell me it's not possible for me to be out of the closet - that for bisexuals the closet is too simple a metaphor; coming out was hard and I did it, being out as a bisexual, exists.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 It’s odd, sometimes, the ways you end up thinking about queer identity and queer spaces.

Tonight [livejournal.com profile] bipboppingdays  introduced me to ‘The Aquarium’, a cabaret theatre bar.  It is populated entirely by ageing gay men who enjoy a good show tune.  Last night it also opened its doors to me, a young pansexual girl who enjoys show tunes.

My first and overriding impression was that it shared a lot in common with Kampus, the one, and only, gay bar in Lancaster.  It effectively operated a closed door policy – heavy curtains at the windows, no advertising and an attitude which meant you could only hope to be served if you were known to the bar staff as a gay, or accompanied by a regular – who must, be definition, be gay. 

One of the things Ali and I most liked about Brighton when we moved down here was that Brighton seemed to dispense with the ‘we know you as a gay therefore you may enter’ but pretty soon we learnt the elitist door policies which made Lancaster and Manchester rather tiresome in the end still existed in Brighton.  The PV and the Marlborough did not readily open their doors of their bar to the likes of us – both Ali and I were easily read as not dykes.  What we were  was irrelevant, if you’re not a dyke you’re not welcome.

Being bi, or pansexual puts you in an undefined non-space, and god forbid you are a bi or pansexual person in what is read as a heterosexual relationship because you can kiss goodbye to your identity – you are not welcome in queer spaces.

The trouble of course is that queer culture has spent centuries being repressed and appropriated by the hetero-insiders so the automatic response to anything that is other to the gay/dyke/lesbian/bear/et al status quo is hostility, rejection, distance.  And, history considered, that’s fair, but when you are a 25 year old queer woman going into a bar which just happens to feature show tune karaoke sung by 50+ gay men the instant feeling you have is defence (I whispered to bipboppingdays that I wished I was wearing a “I’m gay too!” t-shirt) and the immediate reaction you get from the regulars in said bar is suspicion.  [livejournal.com profile] bipboppingdays  tells me she has become relatively well known in there by frequenting it with her boyfriend, I quipped that the same positive reaction would not be due to me had I frequented it with a female partner.  A male accompaniment allows for many gestures of inclusion in such a bar.

In Manchester there was a lesbian bar which only admitted women .  The unwritten but well acknowledged modifier being that women who the door staff deemed to be straight would also be turned away.  Ali and I would always have a moment of worry at the point of admittance because despite being in a relationship we were frequently read as heterosexual, indeed on more than one occasion we split up and accompanied dyke-identified single friends in order to ensure smooth admittance to the bar.  In Lancaster, Kampus, and it’s dark cornered clientele would actively attack those who appeared not to be gay – once I had two of my good friends visiting me from home and Ali and I sat at the other end of the pub talking with friends whilst they played pool, after about 10 minutes they hit problems as locals tried to get them off the table, and then out of the pub by making up “in this establishment x is the rule” rules, in the end the barman stepped in and told the locals to leave them alone but by that time they felt uncomfortable and unwelcome and surrendered the pool table mid-game to come and join us, and our group of queer friends sitting and drinking.  We left about 10 minutes later.  There was also a big dyke circle in Lancaster, despite Ali and I being in a publicly monogamous, long term relationship we were absolutely not invited to join certain alliances and social groups.  Indeed one of the key players in the small Lancaster dyke scene explicitly asked me whether I was a lesbian and then interacted with me a significantly less after I answered in the negative.

I think the main issue for me is that such exclusivity only really works to further marginalise an outsider group.   I never get read as gay – except by other bi/pansexual women and so I never get a blanket invitation to gay culture.  Indeed, since I have been single I tend to avoid gay clubs and bars, when I go with my male friends I get labelled a faghag and when I go with my female gay friends I get suspicious looks.   Brighton, happily, offers a range of alternative ‘attitude free’ bars and clubs where sexuality is ignored and in-betweeness is actively celebrated (please see Dynamite Boogaloo and PopKraft) but what I really want is for people to stop imposing a certain reading of my sexuality on me and to be welcomed as an ally or a friend in any of the many exclusive or closed clubs and bars.  I have several good friends who are straight who I absolutely want with me in the queer scene – they are allies and friends, and why should they be excluded from a bar because the clientele have been excluded from ‘their’ bars?

I’ve always flirted with the idea I’m non-scene, but in all honesty that is inaccurate.  I love gay culture, I adore the nuances of it and I like the sense of belonging and history one can gain from it in an often hostile world.  What I really mean by non-scene is that I don’t wish to exclude our heterosexual friends and I see no advantage of dismissing anyone who crosses categories – like a bisexual girl who likes show tunes – simply because they cannot be safely assigned a box.  Why fight prejudice with prejudice? Why turn homophobia on its head to combat it? Why scowl at girls who might be straight? Why dismiss boys who aren’t camp, or flamboyant? Why demand all girls who love girls wear a uniform of cropped hair and jeans? Why dismiss a person who identifies as queer the moment they enter a heteronormative relationship?

What are we gaining with those attitudes?  Or, more compellingly, what are we losing?  I think the answer to that is too much.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
So aside from the fact what is essentially female circumcision is effectively still happening in Western medicine, now we learn some genius doctor is proving how awesome he is by stimulating the subjects he has hacked into until they can report they are experiencing sensation.

He's taking a vibrator to the clitorises of young girls, after unnecessarily operating on them so they are 'normal', and asking them to tell him how it feels.

Yes, really.

I'm just disgusted and horrified; join me won't you, read Bad Vibrations



Amusingly, I came to this link via a twitter account, namely, FEMINISTHULK, who is well worth a follow, tweet gems include;
"TRICK TO SMASHING GENDER BINARY: MAKE SURE IT NOT SIMPLY BREAK INTO TWO NORMATIVE PIECES. HULK CREATE GENDERQUEER DEBRIS!"
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Ellen K. Feder, 'Imperatives of Normality: From "Intersex" to "Disorders of Sex Development"' in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 15 (2009) 225-247

Summary:
This article examines the reasons behind the conflation of intersex identity with homosexual identity and the inherent inaccuracies of the same.  It considers the possibilities allowed for by the endocrinological societies decision to abandon the use of the term hermaphrodite and intersex in favour of 'disorders of sexual development' or DSDs.

Feder argues that whilst both intersex and homosexual identities were 'an invention' of the medical establishment; essentially sharing an origin, their current position has been mistakenly conflated.  Their difference is, to Feder, clear: intersex has an underlying medical condition which can and does require medical intervention in order for the individual to flourish whilst homosexuality as an identity is an entirely cultural construction.

Intersex has, of recent years, become something of a cause célèbre of the Queer liberation movement.  The acts of medical normalisation practiced on intersex bodies epitomises the psychological and social normalisation of queer persons.

However, the nuance which Feder expounds her theory upon is that intersex should not be considered an identity.  Rather it is a word which signifies a range of physical, hormonal abnormalities which frequently require medical intervention.  The change of terminology to reclassify intersex bodies as having a disorder rather than inserting the individual into an identity based on physical markers is, Feder argues, an important step forward; by disentangling genital presentation from identity it is hoped that doctors will increasingly view the individual only in terms of conditions which need medical intervention in order for the patient to live a long and healthy life.  Doctors will no longer see a person who is intrinsically part of a group who need to be normalised in order to be reinserted to society

Feder identifies an essential anachronism of the current treatment of intersex/DSDs: "originally surgical correction of genitals to conform to sex assignment was thought to be essential to the development of a healthy gender identity", while this rationale was challenged and discarded, there has been  no change in treatment.  Doctors continue to 'correct' genital 'ambiguity' which can be understood as an act of 'punishing' abnormality as expounded by Foucault; conformity to social norms is so well imprinted in the brains of citizens that the only acceptable action to take in the face of difference is to enforce conformity; to exercise the same methods of normalisation on another as have been exercised on you.

By redefining intersex as a disorder the terminology no longer encourages the medical profession to view the indivdual as a non-conformist whose actions and body needs to be normalised - a patient suffering a condition like no other which justifies procedures and treatments which would be considered beyond the ethical scope of a doctor's position for any other condition - but a person whose genitalia and hormonal balance is incidental unless it is causing physical discomfort or threat to their wellbeing.  In short, encouraging them only to treat those aspects of physical health which are disordered, rather than any and every aspect of the body/identity which needs normalising,

Response:

The co-opting of intersex by queer activism as being the utopian body of a queer, gender delimited future is an interesting one, and the argument that Feder makes against this ellision of aims is certainly compelling but the arguments made through the example of the medical treatment of intersex persons are important ones.  The medical treatment of the intersex person is the physical expression of the exercise of normalising power of heteronormativity over sexuality, gender and the acts one chooses to engage in with one's own body.  Queer activism gains a nice, neat, clear demonstration of its arguments against the power structures of society although it certainly appears that in so doing they are erasing the individual experience of what it is to be the person subjected to necessary and unnecessary medical procedures in the name of 'curing intersexuality'.  The places where this merging of experience is accurate is how it reveals the way in which power works and can alter an individual's interaction with the world so completely:
"We must cease once and for all todescribe the effects of power in negative terms; it 'excludes', it 'represses', it 'censors', it abstracts', it 'masks', it 'conceals'.  In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth." (Foucault from Discipline and Punish)
Looked at in these terms, working via the powerful institution that is the medical profession intersex activists are producing intersex anew as neither identity nor pathology, but a collection of physical quirks and anomalies, some of which require targeted, impartial medical intervention.  Contrastingly, the homosexual activism has nto sought to change the essential production of homosexual as an 'other' but removed the association with it as a pathology in favour of making it an idenity.  Homosexual remains caught in the dichotomous relationship of gay/straight, outside/inside, other/normal.  One wonders how the world would look now if the core principle driving the liberation campaign of queer persons was to discard the notion of 'different' sexualities rather than request acceptance of the difference.
 
Feder seems to conclude that the notion of intersex as an identtiy should and will evaporate with the change of terminology in the medical establishment but then goes on to describe how the invented identity of 'homosexual' (a term, if you don't know, that came into usage 11 years before 'heterosexual' and was created exclusively to pathologise a sexual practice) has become a positive rallying point which has created powerful organisations which have a positive influence on the lives of those who fall under the umbrella identity 'queer'.  I wonder, and have no answers at all to the question, whether there is anything lost by those who have conditions associated with intersexuality by not having a shared identity anymore.  The Intersex Society of North America has shut its doors and reopened a few houses down as the Accord Alliance, maintaining the notion of a shared experience through 'Alliance' but abandoning a convenient umbrella term which people can gather beneath. Queer groups provide shelter and support from the prejudices invitied to queer folks by that 'invented identity', Persons with DSDs will doubtless suffer similar prejudice at their non-conforming bodily sex appearance and in some cases the disparity between gender identity and gender presentation.

In many ways the effect of these changes to terminology on the individual, social (not medical, I fully agree with the positive potential of the change there) level is likely to be slow to take effect, medical conditions associated with DSDs will affect gender presentation of affected individuals and whilst gender and sexuality are policed by the structures of normalising power of society variations in any individual will always be subject to negative attentions which can hinder the development of an integrated and confident identity so it seems the intersex/DSD fight is far from won although certainly the shift in the arrogant assurance of doctors forcing cosmetic surgeries on DSD cases is a great leap forward.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
A very dear friend just blogged about his response to heteronormativity and the heteronormative male ideal. It was a jolly good post, which you should read. Being just that kind of person I took one comment and blew it out of proportion, because it interested me. Instead of hijacking his blog, I decided to post it here. Apologies if this is a little jumbled, I wrote it in a remarkably short space of time and only had the ideas I express as my fingers were hitting keys, I intend to revisit some of what I've said at a later date.

"Taken on stereotypes alone, I want to veer away from heteronormative male as much as I can; it physically disgusts me."

To say one wishes to avoid a certain, stereotypical way of being implies that there is a clear and well defined 'other'. And if that is lacking, there is at least a clear way of knowing what it is one is distancing oneself from. Whilst heteronormative gender performance and relationship forms are common, and in being common feel easy to deconstruct, there are nuances which can be erased by the broad stroke of a queer agenda.

Common is often synonymous with unthinking. Understandably so when you look at the most vocal proponents of the status quo; the [hated] Daily Mail and it's readers is an example which rushed to the forefront of my mind. One also cannot neglect to mention the culture of the 'lad' and the associated press of lads' mags, the page three girl and football related sponsorship and advertising. In short, we glance at a culture which evolves without moving forward and grows via the insidious ooze of repetition and we feel we know it, absolutely. The moment we see the dragon for what it is, we believe we have seen the route to slaying it; produce a counter-culture founded on the same principles of social interaction and familial structures but subvert each of these on the individual and group level. In short, we try to queer it.

The logic behind this seems sound at first glance: why are heteronormative relationships and gender roles so common? Because the model of heteronormative relationships and gender are baked right into our culture and society, they are numerous, they are supported by every fibre of society. One of the most common, if not the most common narratives in our culture is boy meets girl. Boy meets girl. Not boy meets boy, not girl meets girl, not boy meets girl and they then meet another girl. Not any other permutation.

The effect of this narrative on the individual level is shocking when you pause and look at your own life. At the moments of uncertainty, the moments when you feel like a social retard and cling onto whatever model of social interaction you can find, you will most likely find that model is a heteronormative one. Years and years of repetition mean that heteronormativity is not just common, it just *is*. We do it because....because we do it. Heteronormativity is self legitimating; if we follow those rules things will work out. Recently, when I found myself single and entering intimate relationships with men for the first time in 6 years I reverted to what I knew; there exists, in my head and I'm sure yours, a complex list of dos and donts for interactions with the opposite sex. We may reject them, we may belittle and ridicule them, but we can all identify and perhaps describe some cardinal rules for romantic interaction. They are there, baked right in.

So, the little voice of dissent suggests, reject them! Turn them on their head. Ignore that prudish voice which tells you girls should be girly, shouldn't be assertive, shouldn't....do. But where does that leave us? Rejecting heteronormativity surely only achieves one thing: we aren't being heteronormative. But the relationship to heteronormative remains a dichotomous one: we either do, or we don't. Furthermore, by prescribing that gender roles should be delineated, as the front line of queering culture often does, we run into language which starts boxing people up again - yes there are now more than two boxes, but are the boxes still there? It's hard to fight against a system unless you propose an alternative, it's easy to get people on side when you show them an alternative which is clearly expressed; "don't expect everyone to fit into a girl/boy binary! Let people choose their own gender identity, like bigender, or intersex, or trans, or cis, or fluid!" People can understand that, we're presenting our argument in an contained and quantifiable manner. It seems to be a step in the right direction to say "don't say two genders, say many! And here are some examples" but are we in fact aiming for the middle ground before we've tried to achieve the ideal?

To me, the place we should be going, the place where heteronormativity does not exert influence is comparable to anarchy. To present queer family models as an antidote to heteronormative family models is still to present a model. Whilst making our campaign intelligible to those we are attempting to liberate is important, we need a clearer sense of purpose. Why aim to remove heteronormative models of being only to replace them with more delineated, but still fairly concrete ones?

We need to view heteronormativity as continuous with non-heteronormative behaviours and identities. The binary of queer/heteosexual was established by a heteronormative society, why are we still playing on their terms? Let me elucidate my point of view with an example: my brother is in a heteronormative relationship, but his performance of gender is sometimes very queer. Is he playing at being non-heteronormative or is he non-heteronormative? This seems like a logical question, and one which encourages us to question what it means to be a heteronormative male. But what I propose is we don't question whether someone's behaviour is inherently heteronormative or queer, rather we ask 'why ask?' Am I a heteronormative woman? In some respects; yes, in others; no. A better question is "am I compelled to act in a certain way depending on my surroundings?" And the answer to that is 'sometimes'. In this way we can identify the places where a prescriptive, restrictive force suppresses a natural expression - and there we can target society.

In short, what if we were to fight it, not flying the opposing standards of 'heteronormative' and 'queer' but by proposing absolute freedom of expression and creating narratives about the instinctive and impulsive expression of ways of relating to each other. With a broad stroke we sweep away the dichotomy and create through imaginative desire the new system in which there is only a spectrum. Instead of the deification of the twin pillars of 'heteronormative' and 'queer' we level the ground. We don't distance ourselves from heteronormative as though it were an infectious, terminal condition but we embrace it and engage with it, forcing it to look in the mirror and see that whilst we can choose to live that way, we can choose to live slightly differently to it, or dramatically differently to it. As long as heteronormative ways of being do not continue to hold unchallenged power then there is surely no harm in associating with it, we can resist it's normalising force without needing to demolish every single brick of its edifice.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Nicky)
Do you think society puts too much pressure on people to be in relationships and/or have children? Do you think this ostracizes people who would be perfectly content to remain single and/or child-free? Is this pressure worse around the holidays?
View Answers

Society functions on the basis that social pressure and the conformity it ellicits in ordinary citizens will perpetuate society through reproductive endeavour.

The pressure of conformity is greatest for members of society to form heteronormative relationships, but increasingly, as queer relationships become recognised by the institutions of mainstream powerm queer persons begin to experience the normalising pressures of a reproductively obsessed society. The figure of the Child - the ideological focus of heteronormative society, an idea made real through the romanticising of childhood and restructuring society around protecting the perceived innocence of children - both opens the possibility of inclusion for queer couples who are willing to adopt or conceive children, whilst simultaneously restricting them to the future crafted by hetero-patriarchy at the establishment of modern society.

Society will accept the reproductive contribution of homosexual couples but only on the condition they sacrifice their ideological input on the future/their shaping of the Child's world view. In effect, the moment non-heteronormative persons decide to insert themselves into the reproductive economy that all heterosexual persons automatically live within, they experience the normalising pressures of hetero-patriarchy to a greater degree than queer persons who remain outside of the reproductive imperative.

The greatest challenge to society and for queer persons is to both reproduce and reject the fast track to acceptability that is offered to them in exchange for their conformity to pre-exisiting notions of futurity. Society can and will be intrinsically altered by queer persons who make themselves relevant to hetero-patriarchy by becoming parents but reject the insider power offered to them; instead choosing to forge their own notion of futurity by investing the [outsider] Child with decidedly queer aspirations and ambitions. This queer child offers an alternative future and one which can directly, and on an equal footing, engage with the heteronormative Child.

Challenging hetero-patriarchy on it's own terms; through relationships, the model of the family, and, importantly, the drive to reproductive creativity is the clearest way in which the previously future-defeating, non-reproductive figure of the queer can gain greater power within society.

From this quietly confrontational position, where the home and family are used to effect political and social change, we can begin to examine how non-reproductive relationships can establish an influential relationship with futurity. In my opinion, the current symbiotic relationship between reproduction and the future means that the very foundations of how we talk about and create an ideological notion of the future must be reimagined in order for those persons who choose not to reproduce to be allowed to contribute and shape the future. In short, the future must be disentangled from the figure of the Child - be that the queer Child or the heteronormative Child - and brought into the present by tying it much more firmly to concrete development of, or changes to, the dynamics of society rather than only attempting to create a future space in which children's ambitions are unlimited by tangible obstacles. Reimagining the Child through queer reproduction is the first step on the road to destabilising heteronormative futurity and opening the field for widespread discussion and reforms of what the key motivation for society should be.
askygoneonfire: if you lived here, you'd be home by now (November the 15th)
When they are sad in their suburbs, robots water the lawn
And everything they touch gets dusted spotless
So they start to believe that they haven't touched anything at all
While the cars in the driveway only multiply
They are lost in their houses
I have heard them sing in the shower and making speeches to their sister on the telephone
Saying, "You come home
Darling, you come here
Don't stay so far away from me"

Tonight is the last night I will spend in my parents house in my old single bed.  I am looking forward to returning to Brighton and escaping my parents' well meaning but overbearing ways ["call us when you arrive, and when you leave" "are you going to be ok driving in the dark?" "why are you smoking?!" "do you know how to work the washing machine?"]

As usual, I am more than a little sad to discover that I simply don't have any sort meaningful relationship with my Mum.  My brother, in a discussion about this very thing, said "the thing you have to remember, is that you and Mum have been at war for years, that's not going to be resolved any time soon".  The biggest block between us remains her inability not to pull a face every time I mention women and my romantic relation to the same.  She won't stand in my way but good god will she disapprove.

Comparatively speaking, I'm lucky, for some people telling their parents they are queer is simply not an option under any circumstances.  My Dad couldn't be more laid back and my brothers never even considered it - it just was.  My Mum, on the other hand, cycles between throwing direct guilt trips on me ("Was I a bad Mother to you? Was I too distant?") and the passive guilt trips (telling me about friends and family who are straight and having kids/getting married and looking incredibly sad when I mention I have met another girl).  She actually said to me yesterday "wait till you have one" as we looked at a tiny baby being taken out of a restaurant by its heterosexual parents.  She simply doesn't believe that there is a 50/50 chance my lifelong relationship will be with a woman, or that children is not necessarily a part of that future.  It's simplifies her position to say she thinks it's a phase, but it's not far off that.

My brothers regard all of this with resigned bemusement.  They tell me to focus on the fact she is my Mother and loves me for that alone, and that at 60, I simply shouldn't expect her to adjust to my 'lifestyle'.  The reason I so desperately want her approval is because she is only 60.  She has a phenomenally healthy lifestyle, along with my Dad, and I fully expect them both to live well into their 90's - my Grandmother is still going strong at 94.

This is where my life is, and how it will continue, and I just want for her to be able to share in my happiness, rather than constantly wishing it was something other than what it is.  Somewhere wrapped up in what she wants my life to turn out like is the motivation for her to encourage me to move from Brighton and back to the East Midlands.  Back to suburbia and mediocrity.  I want excitement, and diversity and opportunities life in the East Midlands simply can't offer me. 

And I simply can't find a way to explain that, and it's importance to me, to my Mother.

askygoneonfire: silver rat sculpture (November the 7th)
I spend a surprisingly large amount of my life refuting the labels people place on me. Those labels emerge from conclusions they make based on what they see, sometimes they are tantalisingly close to the truth, sometimes I laugh at how utterly I have been misrepresented.

I have made an academic career out of challenging the labels that have been placed on me.  In doing so I found myself becoming more obsessed with them - more bound by them.

I was a queer person on a queer course, with queer folks.  We talked about queer and queers' place in society exclusively from a queer point of view, whilst living in Britain's number one queer city.  I did an interview for a psychological study at Sussex Uni, they were researching sexuality and social habits.  I had a lovely long chat with the researcher who ended up confessing to me she was horrified at the sexist 'traditional' views of most students she interviewed (questions included "how much do man drink compared to girls" "what do you think of girls who drink as much as men?" etc etc) I concluded "...but I do live in a little queer universe".  And that is true, there is an aspect of living outside the world of labels that hurt which allows me to develop an identity based only on the words I want to use.

But there are a lot of questions which spring from my queer universe.  Living in a 'queer universe' is a label in itself, it exists in contrast to a hetro universe.  Developing an identity which is assured and reinforced by that which it contradicts is a strange identity to posses indeed.

I am, depending on who I talk to, bisexual or pansexual.  I'm a feminist sometimes and a queer activist at other times.  I am extremely femme on occasion and at other times desirous to be entirely without gender.  I'm kinky and vanilla. Straight edge and a junkie.

I pursue academic defences of my choices and compulsions and find many.  I delight in deconstructing society whilst it quietly oppresses us [see the Daily Mail] I reject labels but indulge in them when amongst sympathetic/queer persons.  I propose radical reformations of the basics structures of society [see my M.A. dissertation] but live a life which, whilst verging on the edges of acceptability, is hardly radical.

It often feels as though all my radical politics, all my political affiliation, all my belief actually boil down to is shouting impotently at the world "it's not gay, it's queer! it's not stupid, it's new! it's not bloody women, it's challenging feminists! it's not a mouse, it's a rat!"

The problem, inevitability, is not that I'm wrong, it's that the difference between a rat and a mouse is incidental to most people.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
So Caster Semenya is making headlines and the internet seems to be abuzz with chatter about whether 'she is a he'.

What a horrific way of phrasing it.  In itself it immediately reveals the bias which most of the news stories seem to have baked right in.  A quick google reveals prolific use of the word 'real' and a near universal tag line beneath Semenya's name of "Man or Woman?".  The sensationalism simply oozes from the screen.

Let's talk about the real issue here: international athletics officials demands an athlete take a 'gender test' (inaccurate in itself, her gender is evidently female, what we're talking about is a test to verify whether her chromosomes are xx, xy or xxy) because she is very good at her sport and, more importantly, does not 'look' female by a heteronormative standard of femininity (A key argument in many of the articles springing up this evening).

One blog rails about the South African Athletics Federation 'failing' in its duty to verify whether Semenya was 'really' a woman.  The SAAF, however, states confidently that they were "'completely sure' that the 18-year-old Semenya is a female."[1]  'Ross' states that as the SAAF did not do a genetic test/examine Semenya's chromosomes it is "laughable" to say they were completely sure of her sex.  This argument can only ever be partially successful on the grounds that 'Ross' is not also accusing the Athletics Federation of every other country with athletes in this competition of being lax in their duty to verify the 'real gender' of their athletes. 

Athletics does not require routine chromosonal screening of all competitors.  Given the high incidence of intersex it is not impossible to imagine that there are currently, and have been in the past, many intersex athletes.  That only some are 'discovered' (and by 'discovered' I mean dragged through the papers with offensive and life changing judgements passed down on them) is not down to a fair and universal ruling of international athletics bodies but oppressively heteronormative, reactionary and deeply flawed value judgements of the 'appropriateness' of the physical appearance of individuals in relation to their gender.

This is not a blog about whether Caster Semenya is 'really' a woman or a man.  It is a blog how this particular story has revealed the broader failure of athletics in failing to include comprehensive and inclusive rules on the verification of biological sex for all competitors and the deeply flawed system (underpining this as a necessary investigation) which effectively denies intersex individuals from competing in sex segregated competitions.


[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/8210471.stm

askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
"Are you scared of being called queer?"
"Are you?"
"Queer?"
"Gay."
"I'm happy."

"'You can not transmit the HIV virus by frottage'...what's frottage?"
"Yogurt. It's french init"








Beautiful Thing is just that, a beautiful film about two kids. Beautifully shot. Stunningly scripted. Plotted with an honesty that makes it hard to remember you are only watching a film.

Watch it. Watch it watch it watch it.

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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
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