2013-12-05 03:30
With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

All that is queer does not glitter,
Not all those not fabulous are lost;
The old are not beauty's litter,
The unfashionable are not worthless dross.

From homogeneity a fire shall be woken,
Diversity from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be work for inclusiveness,
The marginalised shall be welcomed within.


2013-07-07 18:17
Nowadays i don't actively identify as 'queer'. If someone calls me 'queer', i'm usually fine with it; but otherwise, i tend to avoid using it to describe myself.

My first encounters with the word 'queer' in a positive sense were of people seeking to reclaim it as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual identities1,2. This seemed to me to be a potentially useful approach to alliance-building - emphasising commonalities rather than differences, all the better to challenge het-supremacy - and so i happily started applying it to myself, alongside 'bisexual'.

Of late, however, i've come to the conclusion that 'queer' is becoming so broad as to be effectively useless.

Firstly, i recently learned that in New Zealand, 'queer' doesn't just refer to non-heterosexuality, but non-cisgender genders as well. In this usage, one could be heterosexual but transgender, and thus 'queer'. This differs from the usages i've encountered here in Australia, where 'queer' on its own - i.e. outside of constructs like 'genderqueer' - is taken to be a statement about sexual orientation/preference, not gender. That is: in an Australian context, if i labelled myself 'queer', i would expect people to understand that to mean i'm non-heterosexual in some way, without any implication about my gender. If i were to do so in a Kiwi context, however, it could mean i'm "heterosexual but non-cis" or "non-heterosexual but cis". To me, there's enough of an issue with people believing that 'trans' is a sexual identity3 as it is without a term that actively tries to elide the distinctions between sexual orientation/preference and gender.

Secondly, as i note in this tweet, "[a] difficulty with umbrella terms is that they often evolve to become synonymous with the group under the umbrella with the most #privilege." In my experience, a number of people use 'queer' as a synonym for 'homosexual'. So i've witnessed situations in which women gripe about a guy coming on to them "even though I've said I'm queer" - a usage of 'queer' which conflicts with the (in my experience, common) usage of 'queer' to mean 'non-heterosexual', i.e. to mean not only lesbians and gay men, but those who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual etc. as well.

Thirdly, though, and most critically, people seem to increasingly be using 'queer' to mean something along the lines of "differing from at least one societal norm". In this usage, one can, for example, be 'queer' by virtue of being disabled, even though one might be heterosexual and cisgender.

"But by that logic," i've said, "everyone is queer."
"Yes!" has been the happy reply, "Exactly!"

i assume what's being attempted here is a demonstration that, because we're all queer in some sense, society simply needs to stop being unpleasant to certain people on the basis that they differ from the (statistical or asserted) norm; instead, society should simply start happily proclaiming "Viva la difference!"

Uh huh.

i feel systematic privilege, discrimination and oppression can't be ended merely by presenting a sufficiently succinct and clever argument. To believe otherwise is to assume that it occurs primarily due to innocent ignorance, and that there is little to no material benefit for anyone involved. To me, this is manifestly not the case.

Moreover, by collapsing into a single term the wide variety of forms that privilege, discrimination and oppression can take, it becomes more difficult to witness the fact that one can be benefiting from one system of power differentials whilst at the same time being hindered and/or harmed by another. For example, having disabilities - CFS, major depression, fibromyalgia, OCD - doesn't give me some right to downplay my thin privilege on the basis that "Hey, i suffer from discrimination too!" And this is without taking into consideration the "umbrella term effect" i described above.

Still, this is the direction a number of people are taking the word 'queer' - to in practice make it synonymous with 'human'. In which case, calling myself 'queer' doesn't convey much information to anyone other than those who thought i was some form of AI.

i interact with people from multiple continents and nations on a daily basis. The variation in intended meanings of the word 'queer' now feels to me to be too great for me to want to actively use it to describe myself. No label is perfect, of course; but i feel there are many more precise labels to apply to myself than 'queer'.

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1. ETA, 2013.07.29: Cf. this piece on the word 'queer', by Yasmin Nair; i have been heavily influenced by the early-90s usages of the word 'queer' she describes therein.

2. i recently read an exchange where someone attempted to 'educate' someone else that the word 'queer' was offensive, apparently unaware that there are many thousands - if not millions! - of people who publicly proudly use the word to describe themselves.

3. So that, for example, i have on several occasions encountered forms where i have to specify whether i'm 'heterosexual', 'homosexual', 'bisexual' or 'transsexual'. :-/

Further to the coverage of the supposed "same-sex couple" in Malawi, one blog commenter wrote "So it’s not an issue of gay rights if one of them ’self-identifies’ as a woman?", to which i've responded:
It’s an issue of the state enforcing heteronormativity on people’s lives – which is not only a gay rights issue, but more generally an issue for anyone in Malawi who doesn’t fit heteronormative notions of gender and sexuality, such as this couple. And when the Western media – including sections of the Western lesbian and gay media – erase the existence of transgendered / intersex people by squeezing a story into simplistic dichotomous notions of gender and sexuality, they are supporting the same categorical structures as the Malawian state, and simply differing on the issue of whether people placed within one part of those structures should be persecuted.
The so-called 'leaders' of Australia's queer communities spend a lot of time publicly fretting about same-sex couples not being granted the same privileges as differing couples, but seem to care a lot less about those for whom such concerns would be relatively good worries to have: "Bullying 'pushing homosexual students to suicide'". i've ranted about this topic previously; i so wish that the queer communities' priorities weren't so driven by middle-class, middle-aged, cisgendered white men . . . .

And further to my complaints about assimilationism in the linked-to post, assimilationist blaming of supposedly 'fake' trans people for society's diversityphobic treatment of 'real' trans people, as i've just read on the Trans-Academics Google Group, makes flexibeast sad. :-((
In a fascinating post to the [livejournal.com profile] postqueer LJ community (amongst others), entitled "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die", [livejournal.com profile] nyabn laments the lack of interest exhibited by many non-monosexual people in organising around bi-relevant issues and/or supporting bi advocacy groups. It very much put me in mind of an email i wrote to the Bi-Victoria e-list last year in response to someone suggesting that maybe most bi people don't really believe in the existence of a "bi community" and/or that a bi community based on activism and discussion is irrelevant to their needs:
On the basis of my experiences, i suspect you may be right - at least in the Australian context. (i've very much got the impression that there are thriving bi activist communities in the UK and US, as evidenced by the bi-related cons in those countries.)

As some background, i'd like to once again requote some data from the "Australian Study of Health and Relationships", which found that, of the more than 14,000 people who responded to the survey,
97.4% of men identified as heterosexual, 1.6% as gay and 0.9% as bisexual. For women 97.7% identified as heterosexual, 0.8% as gay and 1.4% bisexual. Nevertheless, 8.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported either feelings of attraction to the same sex or some sexual experience with the same sex. Half the men and two thirds of the women who had same sex sexual experience regarded themselves as heterosexual rather than homosexual. This illustrates that same sex attraction and experience are more common in Australia [than] is indicated by the relatively few people reporting a homosexual or bisexual identity.
Given that the combined numbers of bisexual-identified people are roughly the same as the combined numbers of lesbian- and gay-identified people, i personally would expect that the amount of activism in the bi community would be within an order of magnitude or two of the amount of activism in the lesbian and gay communities (which is rather considerable). And yet the amount of public bi activism in Australia appears to me to be minimal. Why?

Is it because, as i mentioned in my last post, and as many lesbians and gay men have said for ages, bi people generally aren't affected by queerphobia? Do most bi people feel that biphobia doesn't really exist, or that it does exist but doesn't affect them? Are most bi people in differing-gender relationships and not affected by the issues surrounding same-gender relationships? Are there not issues that affect bi people specifically to greater extent than other parts of the population, homosexual or straight? (At least some research suggests that there are, e.g. [1]). Are non-monosexual people less and less identifying as 'bisexual', an identity under attack from at least two sides: on the one hand, from the notion that one can't be bisexual, but only in transition between forms of monosexuality; and on the other, from the notion that identities are often too restrictive and the cause of much angst as people try to pidgeonhole themselves and others? (i know a number of people who identify as 'bisexual', yet in practice are not only attracted to people who identify as 'male' or 'female' but to people who have another gender identity altogether.) Is there an "I'm all right Jack"-type attitude prevalent amongst bi people? Do bi people on average have more commitments than lesbian and gay people, or are bi people on average more affected by adverse life events than lesbian and gay people, such that bi people are less able to involve themselves in activism?

Please note that i'm not saying that any of the above things /are/ true - i'm genuinely wondering any of those things are in fact the case, and a determining factor in the relatively low amount of bi activism in Australia when compared to the amount of lesbian and gay activism. Any research that people could point me to which may assist in answering these questions would be most welcome. :-)

. . .

[1] From an article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in May 2002:
METHOD: A community survey of 4824 adults was carried out in Canberra, Australia. Measures covered anxiety, depression, suicidality, alcohol misuse, positive and negative affect and a range of risk factors for poorer mental health. RESULTS: The bisexual group was highest on measures of anxiety, depression and negative affect, with the homosexual group falling between the other two groups. Both the bisexual and homosexual groups were high on suicidality. Bisexuals also had more current adverse life events, greater childhood adversity, less positive support from family, more negative support from friends and a higher frequency of financial problems. Homosexual reported greater childhood adversity and less positive support from family. CONCLUSIONS: The bisexual group had the worst mental health, although homosexual participants also tended to report more distress.
Perhaps [livejournal.com profile] nyabn's post indicates that this issue is not as localised to Australia as i thought?
Being bi-gendered can make life tricky.

There have been a few occasions recently where i've read about "women-only" events. And every time, being gendered as i am, i have to ask: "Would i be welcome?" i identify as a woman; but there are many people who not only feel that i'm not a woman, but that i'm raping the identity 'woman' (which, iirc, is Germaine Greer's position). So when an event is described as "woman-only", i'm forced to speculate on the politics of the event organisers and whether they'd be hostile towards me attending. And not only the event organisers, but event attendees as well: the organisers might be fine with it, but that's not going to help much if other attendees are hostile towards me.

Now the above is the case for any trans woman. But since i also identify as a man, things become more complicated. One of the "women-only" events that recently came to my attention noted that trans women were welcome - a wonderful policy. Yet i still had to wonder whether or not that meant i could attend, because i'm not only a trans woman, but a trans man as well. As i wrote in an email recently:
Personally, i feel /far/ more at home amongst a group of women (whether cis or trans) than amongst men; but i'm also conscious of the fact that at least some women will feel i'm male enough to make them feel uncomfortable and to warrant my exclusion.
Cisgendered people get many privileges that trans people don't, many of which are described in the non-trans privilege checklist (itself based on the 'white privilege checklist' first described in Peggy McIntosh's influential essay "White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack"). The issue i've discussed here is point 4 in that list.


2007-08-02 11:42
It's been a while since i last posted here, because i've been rather busy of late.

Yesterday i released the latest issue of the Bi-Victoria newsletter (August / September 2007). It's now available for download from the Bi-Victoria Web site.

A couple of days ago i submitted a reworked version of the Bi-Victoria brochure to the Bi-Victoria Yahoo! group for member approval. It looks like only one sentence needs to be changed for everyone to be happy with it, which is good.

And of course, all the usual homemaker-type stuff has kept me busy and tired. :-)

Finally, a quote (found here) that really resonated with me: "[T]hat which commonly passes for religion is for people afraid of Hell, while Spirituality is for those who've been there".
It didn't surprise me to learn that Australians are less likely than ever to be married; one of the bizarre characteristics of the debate around same-sex marriage has been the spectacle of opponents of the notion suggesting that it would denigrate the institution of marriage1 whilst many queers are showing far more enthusiasm and respect for it than heterosexual society appears to.

Nor did it surprise me to learn that Bunnings Warehouse, who use imagery which is to me rather reminiscent of the logo used by the fascists in the movie The Wall, has apparently declared that gays and lesbians aren't one of their targeted customer groups.

i was, however, amused by an article in The Onion which wonders "Where do homosexuals get all their energy?"

1. Both Groucho Marx and Mae West have been credited with saying something along the lines of: "They say that marriage is an institution. But who wants to live in an institution?"
Earlier today i released the June / July issue of the Bi-Victoria newsletter. This issue includes an article by US-based sex educator Amy André about a recently-released major report (PDF) on bi health in the US, which she co-authored.

i'm hoping that in the very near future i'll be able to make the newsletters available on the Bi-Vic Web site; but the hosting arrangements for the site are currently in flux, so i have to wait until that's resolved before proceeding any further.

Still, another issue of the newsletter out, yay!
[livejournal.com profile] not_in_denial has just posted about the toxic attitudes that permeate the Melbourne queer scene. Combined with today's news that heterosexuals can legally be excluded from queer venues here in Melbourne, which raises questions of whether those of us queers who aren't "visibly" lesbian or gay would be allowed to attend such venues, i am reminded me of the old Groucho Marx quote along the lines of I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member. :-/
A couple of pieces of positive news:
  • Same-sex couples register created in Vic:
    The Victorian Government says a register for same-sex couples will remove discrimination under the law. . . .

    Mr Hulls says the State Register will make the system consistent.

    He says it is not a step towards gay marriage but will give all couples equal rights under the law.
  • Earlier today i sent a dissatisfied email on behalf of Bi-Victoria to the editors of BNews about this article, which was previously headlined "Gay firefighter burned again" - even though the subject of the article actually identifies as bi. One of the editors responded promptly, saying that the headline would be changed, and asking for info on current issues facing the bi community. :-D Kudos to BNews!
Gay rights debate threatens worldwide Anglican conference:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has threatened to cancel an important once-a-decade conference of Anglican bishops because he fears it will breakdown during debate over gay rights. . . .

He accused many international Anglican bishops of misreading the bible on questions of homosexuality. . . .

Archbishop Williams said that the conference could become a dysfunctional debate over gay rights, gay marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian priests.
Personally, i think the bible is fairly clear in its condemnation of same-sex-oriented sexuality1 (refer to the Skeptic's Annotated Bible for the details); but that's okay, because unless we're also willing to go along with the Bible's failure to condemn such things as slavery and genocide, it's clear that it's not the be-all and end-all of guidance on issues of morality.

Questions of doctrine aside, however, i'm disturbed by the fact that this issue is sufficiently contentious to have reached the point where it might cause an international Anglican conference to be cancelled - a conference at which Anglicans would (should!) presumably also be discussing trivial issues such as, oh, i don't know, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, the massive numbers of people living in absolute poverty and dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases, the appalling human rights abuses happening every second of every day everywhere around the world, the ethnically- and religiously-driven violence happening in places like Iraq, and the small matter of global warming.

If the 'leaders' of the international Anglican community can't get together to discuss these issues because they can't agree on doctrine regarding same-sex sexuality, then i would suggest that they are far more morally bankrupt than two or more people of the same sex or gender giving each other love and pleasure could ever be.

1. i use the phrase "same-sex oriented sexuality" instead of 'homosexuality' because i'm pretty sure that the condemnation is not limited to those who sexual preferences involve same-sex attraction only, but to anyone who engages in same-sex love and lust.
i just came across this article about a straight guy attacked by several dykes:
A man who was beaten and stabbed after a street fight with seven avowed lesbians testified Wednesday that he thought he was going to die after they jumped him last year.
"Avowed lesbians", eh? i'm sure that the use of "avowed" wasn't an attempt to give a subtext of "Yeah, we hate men, and we're proud of it!" :-P But how did this situation come about?
[The victim] said that as the women walked by, he spoke to one of them because he found her attractive. Buckle said a heavyset woman in the group said something rude.
Oh yes, that's right, i forgot: we all know it's impossible for heterosexual men to quietly find someone attractive; indeed, they have an obligation to approach that person and say something to them. And then, too, women should obviously just accept the compliment, regardless of the fact that it's come from a complete stranger whose opinion they may well not give two hoots about. So there was no need for one of the women to be rude! :-P
"She just started dogging me out, being loud and disrespectful," he said. "I think I called her an elephant and told her I wasn't talking to her."
Yeah, because hitting on strangers in the street is in no way disrespectful itself, and making sizeist remarks should in no way inflame the situation.
Buckle said she spoke disparagingly of his looks and clothing, saying he was wearing cheap sneakers.
"Unfair! Just because i called you an elephant, doesn't give you the right to criticise my looks!"
Meanwhile, another woman spat on him and he spat back.

The women surrounded and attacked Buckle, he said.
And finally we get to the point of incommensurate response on the part of the dykes in question - the first point at which it seems to me that they went too far. On the other hand, the article is dominated by Buckle's version of events, and i think it's reasonable to want to know the dykes' version in a bit more detail than the article provides.

More fundamentally, i wonder whether this news outlet goes into this much detail for every reported hate crime against queers . . . . ?
i've mentioned before in my journal how frustrating it is to be read as a cisgendered male. My facial hair - some of it wanted, most of it unwanted - is obviously a major contributor to that, and probably counters the noticeable pair of fleshy mounds on my chest; but perhaps people tell themselves that i merely have well-developed pecs. (Yeah, having CFS/ME/whateverness will do that to you. :-P )

In any event, my situation has made me think a bit about the notion of 'genderfuck', and more specifically, what can be counted as such. Walking down the street, being read as male by people who consider gender to be sex to be physical appearance - or at least far more so than behaviours and attitudes and ways of thinking - the amount of genderfuck i am engaging in could be rated as little-to-none. It takes time to 'observe' me as a woman - it requires ongoing contact, at least some of it in meatspace. Which is why my closest friends, cisgendered women all, are comfortable regarding me as a woman. But i'm read as a male - contrary to my wishes, but in line with heteronormative society's perception of me. Thus, no genderfuck.

So what to do? Start dressing differently? Shave off my small goatee? But hang on: that doesn't fele like genderfuck to me, involving as it does presenting oneself in ways that utilise gender stereotypes. (Recent research has shown that people's notion of 'attractiveness' tends to be based on whether the observed person has the 'appropriate' physical features for their sex.) And anyway, this is who i am: i'm not trans because i'm trying to make a political point through genderfuck, i'm trans because that's who i am, because i'm being me. And i feel that trying to change myself in order to ensure that i'm read as a genderfucker would be misplaced if it basically reinforces heteronormative associations between gender and types of presentation.

i guess this all comes back to the style-versus-substance issue. i'm not physically attractive as a male, nor as a tranny, nor as a female: one certainly doesn't get points for being seen with me (probably the opposite, in fact). But in the end, i'd rather be regarded as unattractive and lacking in style, but helpful, caring and passionate about my ideals nonetheless, than gorgeous and stylish and a great fuck, but full of myself and more interested in what the world can do for me than what i can do for the world. That's a choice i made a long time ago.
Now that almost a week has past since the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, it's probably okay for me to admit to something: i have absolutely no interest in participating in, or observing, said Mardi Gras.

i realise this is a rather heretical position for a queer to take, so i'll elaborate.

It's true that, as an introvert, big, noisy events such as the SGLMG are not particularly attractive to me in any case. But whereas i can nevertheless imagine myself participating in a variety of other big, noisy events - spending New Year's Eve in the CBD, watching an ODI at the MCG, attending a Tori Amos concert, and so on, the SGLMG is a different matter:
  • i may be wrong in this, but the SGLMG very much gives the impression that it's about appearance, rather than essence, or style rather than substance - and i very much prioritise substance over style. (Oh, but i forgot; we all know that being queer means being fabulously well-dressed! :-P ) The question may then fairly be asked whether i think SGMLG participants are shallow people who prioritise style over substance. To which i would say: No; although at least some participants may be like that, i personally know people who participate who are not like that. But nevertheless, that does not change the overall impression i get of SGMLG in this regard.

  • The SGLMG also gives me the impression that it's a freak show for heteronormative society: "Look at the weirdo queers!" they say from the sidelines, before they retreat back to their het worlds and provide their support to political parties with queerphobic policies (e.g. against same-sex marriage). i say this because, whereas other Carnivale-like events - e.g. the New Orleans Mardi Gras - involve society as a whole "letting its hair down", the SGLMG involves queers celebrating whilst heteronormative society watches. And whereas the Victorian Pride March also involves heteronormative society watching a queer parade, i feel it's far less about spectacle and more about political statement (even though SGLMG also has implicit and explicit political elements, and the VPM also has elements of spectacle).

  • Finally, and further to the spectacle thing, the SGLMG comes across as one of the many queer events based around challenging heteronormativity through performance art, my feelings about which i've commented on before. And to be honest, i feel that i already provide a challenge heteronormativity most days of the year - my transgender identity usually challenges people's ideas about gender and the gender dichotomy of Western society.

So the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is not for me. Please direct any flames to /dev/null :-)
Argh. This morning i've had the displeasure of coming across a couple of items that are rather disrespectful towards bi people (amongst others)1. i don't identify as 'bisexual', myself - since i don't believe that there are only two genders, and since i'm attracted to more than two of those genders, i identify as 'polysexual' - but i identify far more with the bisexual community than with any other non-heterosexual community. And Bi-Victoria is an inclusive group: it doesn't matter whether you identify as bisexual, polysexual, pansexual, lesbian, gay, etc. etc. - as long as you're bi-friendly, you're welcome. Which is a wonderful approach.

But diversity is not always appreciated. And it's not only religious fundamentalists that have a problem with diversity; there are lesbians and gays who feel threatened by anything other than sexual homogeneity (bad pun intended), as suggested by an article which appeared in a recent issue of MCV.

Now i suspect that this article is actually satire (as suggested by "we've lost our fundamental right to be overbearingly judgmental. Where's the fun in that?"). But even if it is, i know from personal experience that there are lesbians and gays who think like this. Whose personal theory of human behaviour isn't sophisticated enough to comprehend the possibility that a woman may only want ongoing relationships with other women - and may identify as 'lesbian' on that particular basis - but be happy to fuck a guy now and then. Who want the world neatly packaged up into a tiny number of categories, so that they can make a plethora of assumptions and don't have to think. Who demand that they their identity be recognised by the straight world whilst at the same time telling non-monosexuals that we're 'really' homosexual or heterosexual, that we're all 'cheaters' who can't commit to a relationship2, that any difficulties we may face from society at large stem solely from our 'homosexual' behaviours3. Not to mention attitudes such as this.

Many non-monosexuals have challenged such attitudes, and worked to convince the lesbian and gay communities that we are allies, that although the different non-heterosexual communities face different problems, we also face a number of common problems as well. But the above sort of negative attitudes are still widespread; heck, we still haven't seen a move beyond using the phrase "gay and lesbian" to describe all non-heterosexals, nor a move beyond using the lesbian-and-gay-focused term 'homophobia' to describe negative attitudes towards non-heterosexuals - i prefer the term 'queerphobia', myself. (Arguments are made against the word 'queer' - except that it's okay to use it in association purely with young gay men (e.g. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", and a recent cover of MCV which featured a headline including the word 'queer' above a picture of four young men. :-P )

i have to wonder: to what extent are we non-monosexuals wasting our energy trying to change the attitudes of the lesbian and gay communities, and the gay community in particular? After all, as far as i'm aware, the gay community has yet to effectively deal with the classism, racism, ageism, ableism etc. in its midst - if so many gays struggle to even treat other gays with respect, it's unlikely that they'll be able to show respect to non-heterosexuals outside the gay community. And although, sure, there are many lesbians and gays who do show such respect - there are many on my f-list! - they don't seem to be the dominant force within their respective communities. Will this ever change? And if it does, will the change come from without, within, a combination of the two, or neither?

1. Although on a more positive note, Nepal now legally accepts people identifying as bi-gendered, which is more than i can say about my own country. :-/

2. Sadly, though, it is true that there are many married men who are cheating on their wives with other men, for a variety of reasonable and not-so-reasonable reasons.

3. In August 2000 the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board noted that:
It is the Board’s experience that discrimination and vilification against people on the ground of their bisexuality is a reality and that this treatment has serious consequences for bisexual people in their public life. In many cases the unfair treatment of bisexual people flows directly from their bisexuality and not from presumed homosexuality. Accordingly the ground of homosexuality is ineffective in addressing discrimination and vilification experienced by bisexual people.
On a related note, New South Wales' anti-discrimination legislation forbids discrimination on the grounds of actual or assumed homosexuality, and actual or assumed transgenderism - but not actual or assumed bisexuality. :-P

  • Rodney Croome still seems unwilling to consider the possibility that just because queers want certain rights, doesn't mean that we necessarily want to exercise those rights for ourselves; instead, we're apparently ignorant of the benefits of relationship registration. To consider the former possibility would, of course, imply the further possibility that state recognition of same-sex relationships may not be quite as important to queers as some queer community leaders have suggested.

  • Yet another example of women being just as willing and effective as patriarchy at controlling and/or restricting women's personal development: "Office queen bees hold back women’s careers". It's so sad that we live in a society where so many people have no ethical qualms about bettering their own lot at the expense of others.

  • "You will breed": scientists are trying to force gay sheep in a more heterosexual direction.

  • Reading about dieting is bad for your health. But hey: nothing is worse than obesity, eh? So some collateral damage in the form of women doing violence to their own bodies via anorexia and/or bulimia is obviously worth it. :-P
Today i've been having some interesting discussions with [livejournal.com profile] curlygrrrl, which have provoked some thoughts i wanted to set down here.

Many people in non-heteronormative communities don't like labels. And with good reason: labels are often used to pigeon-hole, to justify unfair expectations, to avoid having to discover and explore individual personalities, to discriminate, to harass, to assault. So there has been a strong reaction against labels: to say "i reject labels", "Don't label me", "i have transcended labels" and so on.

i have to wonder, though, whether the ability to do this relies on one being in a position of privilege and/or power. An obvious example is the fact that, though we in the non-heteronormative communities often have heated exchanges about the subtleties of various labels and identities, the mainstream media generically refers to us as 'gay' - even when it's clear that, for example, they are referring to 'non-heterosexual people' (i.e. gays and lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals etc.), and even when they're discussing trans people (as though trans is a sexual identity rather than a gender identity). This suggests to me that gay men have a level of influence over heteronormative society (or at the very least, the collective consciousness of heteronormative society) that the rest of us 'non-heteronormatives' (for want of a better term!) don't1. And when we look at what issues have been pushed to the top of the gay community's agenda, we certainly see things that reflect a certain amount of power and/or privilege: the rights to same-sex marriage, and to certain superannuation benefits, are probably not so important to those queers who are homeless, or who suffer from domestic violence at the hands of their families and/or partners.

The fact is, even if we don't want to be labeled, labels are often applied to us anyway: it is only when people respect us in general that they respect our requests regarding labels. And general respect is something that is strongly influenced by issues of gender, race, class, ethnicity, ability and so on. So although i can understand the rationale behind arguing against all labeling, i think people also need to consider the possibility that there might be (many?) people who don't have the option of simply "not choosing" the labeling bind.

1. Perhaps because assimilationism is more prevalent in the gay community than amongst other non-heteronormative communities? i often feel concerned that there has been a general turn away from demanding acceptance from heteronormative society and towards creating ghettos - not necessarily physical - in which we marvel at how different and diverse and all-round wonderful we are, but barely make a dent in general society's attitude towards us. Which might be fine for those who are willing and able to participate in these ghettos; but what about those who are not?
Someone recently re-posted, in the [livejournal.com profile] postqueer community, an article entitled "Imagining Queer Studies Out of the Doldrums". The article author writes that:
[M]y classes have always remained well enrolled (today I still turn away students, even with an enrollment cap of 40), but gradually the political energy has died away almost completely. The students in California (before I left in 2004) and now in West Virginia have become remarkably blasé concerning (what they consider) the few lingering vestiges of homophobia and increasingly eager to claim that life is actually pretty good now, with our many queer television shows, product lines, and other lifestyle components. While vicious gay-marriage debates rage in the media, Brokeback Mountain stirs up heated local controversy, and Fred Phelps's "God Hates Fags" picketers show up at local gay-pride events, even self-identifying queer students seem stunningly dismissive of politics generally, relying often on eye rolling as both critique and response.
The question is, though, what constitutes 'politics'? Another post to the [livejournal.com profile] postqueer community, about the Post Porn Politics Symposium Berlin 14. + 15.10.2006 at Volksbuehne Berlin, perhaps offers a hint:
Today, queer theorists like Beatriz Preciado or Marie-Helene Boucier re-evalue the term post-porn to theorise sex in the age of transgender subjectivity and disidentification, drag and cyberspace. When understanding pornography as a central dispositif of late capitalism for the normalisation and disciplination of pleasures and bodies, political ambivalences and counter-strategies are needed to be discussed and mapped out without totalising cultural pessimism.

This symposium, which features theorists, performers, filmmakers, artists and musicians, understands itself as a political intervention into both the heteronormative landscape of commercial porn production and the discourses of the mainstream public which make it impossible to think and practice criticism and pleasure at the same time.

In two conference-days, a performance night and a final party, queer-feminist approaches to porn are discussed, reflected, valued and affirmed in a wide range of contributions between utopia and scepticism.
In this context, it would seem that to be politically 'active', one has to be an artist of some sort. The summary doesn't mention things like building alliances between diverse sexual and/or gender communities. i don't know what things are like nowadays, but when i was doing Women's Studies at uni in the early 90s, there was much talk of diversity and plurality and subjectivity and well-deserved critiques of universalising and/or totalising theories (e.g. Marxism), but much less talk of commonalities between particular people and groups. In other words, in response to decades of politics dominated by attempts at overarching theories, the pendulum has now swung towards on overarching emphasis on differences rather than commonalities. So it doesn't surprise me to discern two main trends in queer politics: firstly, queer assimilationism, with its blame-the-victim mentality and its inability or unwllingness to grasp the concept of solidarity; and secondly, "performance as protest", exemplified by the Berlin symposium mentioned above.

With regards to queer assimilationism - quite frankly, it disgusts me, and makes me angry. It's one thing for someone to choose (under societal duress or otherwise) to try to deal with society's queerphobia by becoming as 'acceptable' to heteronormative society as possible; i understand that, even though the notion that queers are not 'acceptable' is not one i'm happy with. It's another thing to suggest that people who aren't 'assimilating' are a primary reason that queers aren't accepted. It's basically saying "i'm comfortable with trying to conform to societal expectations, so you should be too - for the good of me!" It's telling queers who they should be, which i thought was what heteronormative society was doing to queers in the first place. :-/

With regards to "performance as protest" - i think it's cool, and in fact love such 'cultural politics' (that is, building an alternative, non-heteronormative culture). In my opinion, i think it's an essential, and significant, part of any movement seeking to change society. At the same time, though, i'm not sure that this sort of stuff alone can counter the increasingly well-organised forces of reaction; and personally, as someone whose artistic expression - except in the form of computer code - is extremely limited, i find it rather isolating, as i don't see how i can contribute. Okay, it's true that i might be able to contribute in the area of theory - although i have a strong distaste for the postmodern obscurantism in some queer theory1 - but for me, theory has to be continually informed and tested by practice.

Ah well. Perhaps i'm better off sticking to IT and magick anyway . . . .

1. If it's possible to write a highly readable and comprehensible book on current ideas in cosmological physics and the high-level mathematics behind such ideas, as Brian Greene did with The Elegant Universe, then i reckon writings on queer theory should be just as readable and comprehensible themselves.
Tomorrow Australia will take part in the 2006 Census. And thanks to the Australian Coalition for Equality, we queers have some guidance as to how we can complete the census form. Thankfully, it appears that - for once! - i don't have to specify that i'm 'male' or 'female': i can simply not mark either option and instead write 'transgender'. :-D So that's good!

On another matter i face a bit more difficulty. Supporting the PaganDash campaign, i intended to list my 'religion' (i prefer the term 'spirituality' myself, but there it is . . . .) as "Pagan - witch". The Australian Bureau of Statistics, however, classifies 'witches' as most close to 'Wiccans' - and i'm most assuredly not Wiccan. i'd much rather that i be put into any one or more of the "Paganism", "Pantheism" and/or "Satanist" categories. i'm hoping that using the "Pagan -" technique will result in me classifying as pagan, but i think i'm going to have to check with the census collector to make sure . . . .


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