the philosophactivist

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Genderqueer Love

So maybe you're attracted to people outside of the gender binary. Maybe you're wondering how you go about loving a person who categorizes themself as genderqueer, gender non-conforming, transgender, transmasculine or transfeminine, agender, androgynous, bigendered, or perhaps no category at all. I wish it was as easy as just loving the person for who they are ...I really do. But I truly believe that the way that we have been conditioned in this society really informs our relationships and our interactions within romantic relationships, especially. When a lesbian wants to date a transman, many times there are expectations for the behavior of that transman. I have heard many times from transmen that they don't want to be seen as a butch lesbian or a stud by their lesbian or queer women partners. They are men. But many haven't been socialized as men all their lives, yet their habits are what does one do with that? It's difficult to navigate. All I ask for from my partner is that they acknowledge how I see myself and check their expectations for me. I haven't been socialized as a man, so much of our interactions will not be the same as you and your past boyfriend. I identified as a lesbian for 10 years so, in some ways I have been socialized as a lesbian. I understand that scene, even though I fit like a round peg in a square hole there now. I've spent some time thinking, fretting, and overanalyzing about this...

In some past relationships I didn't even bring the genderqueer thing up. I was processing it myself and whatever I mentioned was just shrugged off so as with most of my life I just kept a lot of things to myself. Or maybe I was just expecting my exes to "accept me for who I am"...that old queer motto. Because I was the "same" as I ever was. know...that's really not true. As I've come to accept my identity and discovered more about myself through all those hidden facets of Me-ness that I had buried under some feigned sense of normalcy (and once queer- queeritude), I've come to realize that I have changed quite a bit. I'm not really sure that my exes could have handled who I am today...then. I couldn't.

All in all, I guess I'm tired of people using that "but you're the same person" line. I feel like it allows people not to acknowledge who you are becoming. It allows people to stay comfortable with who you were and never fully process the transition you have undergone. A while back, I would have welcomed this for friends and family in true protective fashion. I would have shielded them from my queerness and would have worried about just being accepted. I would have taken whatever bone anyone would have thrown me. And I guess you might say that at times I still do when it comes to pronouns. I realize that I'm living in this no-man's land and it's really hard to wrap your head around something you haven't seen. So I allow for the "ma'ams" and the "young ladies" in certain contexts. It still makes me feel torn and creates this state of dissatisfaction...unrest...because that's not who I am. I know I "look" like a Miss if you look hard enough and I know that sometimes people are just trying to be nice or dont' want to make a mistake. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with that...strangers versus people who have known you for a significant amount of time versus people who met you at this particular point in your gender expression.

So I'm coming to terms with how to deal with that...and this genderqueer love. Do we genderqueers date those in the LGB who fetishize us? Are we relegated only to each other? Do we get into relationships full of teaching moments, false hopes, and expectations? Is there queer relationship counseling including therapy on gender expression? Sigh. Just like the majority of queers- I want to be seen for who I am now, not who partners wish I was...or remember me as...or wrongly think I am because so and so who is masculine of center or FTM is that way.

Hi, I'm Toi...have we met?

I think that what it comes down to is actually talking about these things up front, which is hard to do. Gender can be fluid just like sexuality. Maybe it's important to have check-ins periodically (what? did I just say that. Is this a performance evaluation?). Not to "keep track" but to stay in touch with who both are becoming. My ideal partner shares this struggle with me and is cognizant of the way I decide to move through certain spaces. Damn, that's a hard gig and it doesn't pay much. But I am willing to do it for them, too. I realize it's really difficult to be that person on the other end. How does the relationship not become about the transition or the trials and tribulations of one person's experience over another. How can both involved learn to respect and appreciate each other and free themselves of all these expectations and falsitudes? We're up against a lot, aren't we? From internalized homophobia, the way we may be treated by  society, evolving identity, and then after all this we're expected to be decent partners. Why aren't there more than a handful of books on this? And don't say that the books from straight or lesbian or gay relationships applies...the dynamics are really, really different, in my opinion. More on this later...still processing solutions...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

On Being Bilingual

Ok. So I started to write this blog the other day on Cis supremacy in the LGBT movement and community during my short stay in Austin and never really got around to finishing or posting it because...well, I have a lot to say on it and it's not ready to be hatched... But...I will write a little bit about my frustrations with being an academic and an organizer. This is what I mean by being "bilingual" today. I speak the languages of both academia and the community. (Still working on fluency).A lot of times there are no "roots" to help translate. I'm fairly sure that there isn't anything equivalent to Latin that can provide some sort of shortcut to speaking or understanding both....besides our basic humanity.

It's difficult to be so very committed to the idea of what an education is...what education means when my eyes are open to other types of knowledge that are not given much legitimacy in the halls of higher ed. Sometimes I get caught up in believing that that degree that costs tens or hundreds of thousands is really all they market it to be. No matter how inapplicable many of those credits are. I fight internally against these elitist notions that have clouded my thoughts and peppered my vocabulary with a tinge of inaccessibility that just "comes with the territory." How else could academics relate to academics? Give lofty lectures and write and present on stuffy old papers? With each new phrase or label I can feel myself stepping further from my community and I ask myself...does it really have to be this way?

Me- the person who used to make trainings and curriculum for doctors about the importance of "plain language" I'm battling with myself not to write from such a distance. And also not to make assumptions about anyone that they will not understand the terminology I've been co-opted into using in this vanilla...oops...ivory tower. I don't know about speaking this whole other language. This academic-speak. I happens and I need it to move through the rooms of the tower and be taken seriously. Or something.  Without their idea of a good command of the English language I might be seen as *gasp* low brow. Without some kind of assimilation and acculturation...I could never fit in. I could never be heard past the first few sentences. Hm. Or maybe this is just an illusion. If so, many of my peers of color have confided in me that they feel the same...must be a mirage we're seeing.

On accessibility- yes, I believe it's important for everyone to be educated but...what is educated? Who determines what it means to be educated and what a good school is? Or even...what is considered a school.
I have a hard time reconciling within myself my wanting to support better access to more affordable colleges when the educational system at times continues this cycle that creates its own superstars to serve the  system...use its research...create vocabulary for its own use. And further perpetuates this type of knowledge as a means to education for education's sake. I'm just sayin'.

The academy is exclusive and began on that premise. Communities have fought to make it more inclusive so that we can have better opportunities...but I wonder now if those of us who support free schools, democratic schools, skillshares, and other ways of sharing local knowledge should be focusing our efforts more on creating another type of system instead of trying to fix a system that is fundamentally flawed in many, many ways- from it being exclusive and inaccessible to its limited application. From its skewed views on history and culture to its overemphasis on theory. Can it be overhauled or will we replace a dilapidated structure with a more viable one not built on what a group of old western white men (and later women) thought of as enlightenment and a "good" education. I mean, c'mon...we've seen the various ways that a monoculture has limited advancement of different fields and subjects from the sciences to art and philosophy.

So college...I love the environment. I love the spontaneous conversations that erupt on campuses. I love the access to thousands of books, classes and workshops. But I can see how this world might look to someone who doesn't value what these institutions have trained us to value. Just the other day I was talking with someone about the many ways that information/knowledge can be conveyed and how the written word in itself makes things inaccessible to people who have limited english proficiency or who are illiterate (we were speaking about Zines). These people are thought of as uneducated. They've lived  life where they've had to come up with creative ways to live in this world where the written word and English are the gold standard of communication. Imagine their world. Is their a bridge to both worlds? Am I standing on it? Am I quickly crossing to some side? Biding my time on the fringes of one or the other...looking co-optation square in the eye? Will I surrender to both/and ?Either/or?

For now I aim to be well-versed in both. To use all that I've learned in academia as a tool to create change in our community by working for civil rights for all and working toward a society that is inclusive of all its members and understanding of its history and the social movements comprising it.