Not Even a Closet

What an amazing article on gay rights, particularly in New York, but in general, as well.

That’s why the celebrations in New York last June, while merited, must be seen as provisional. That’s also why Democratic leaders who profess fierce advocacy of gay civil rights must be held to account. Back in a day that was only yesterday, too many of them also fell silent—and when it counted most. While same-sex weddings are indeed a happy ending, they are haunted by the ghosts of many gay men, too many of them forgotten, who died tragically and unnecessarily while too many good people did nothing. Like Andrew Cuomo, those good people could yet make a big difference and, in the bargain, exorcise the multitude of past sins they keep hoping the rest of us will forget.

One of the hardest things to get across to students is that when I was growing up, no one knew anyone who was gay. Of course we all did, but we didn’t know we did, and no one talked about it. No one knew Freddie Mercury was gay. No one knew Elton John was gay. It is almost impossible – now that trans kids are coming out at 5 years old, & articles about them are showing up in major media sources – how entirely verboten homosexuality was, even in the 80s, when it was all over our culture.

It wasn’t even a closet. No one was denying the closet: honestly, it was more like the whole house just didn’t exist.

de Sade on Homosexuality

“We wonder that savagery could ever reach the point where you condemn to death an unhappy person all of whose crime amounts to not sharing your tastes.” – the Marquis de Sade, from The Philosophy of the Bedroom

Two Tune Tuesday: Rae Spoon

The Montreal-based transgender indie/electro experimentalist just released their sixth album, I Can’t Keep All Of Our Secrets — an emotional electro pop exploration of grief and loss inspired by the death of a friend. Musically, it’s the former Calgary country crooner’s most electronic offering to date, a dance-floor friendly collage of heavily programmed production, analog synths and distorted electric guitars.

In addition to promoting what is arguably their best album yet, Spoon will also be publishing their first book, First Spring Grassfire — a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical account of growing up trans in Alberta — in the fall, and the National Film Board has a documentary about the fascinating artist in the works.

Spoon has also been a vocal advocate for gender-neutral pronouns as of late. Early in 2012, they posted an open letter to Toronto-based gay publication, Xtra, in response to the backlash the magazine received after refusing to use “they,” the preferred pronoun of transgender visual artist Elisha Lim. It was a subject that hit home for Spoon, who struggled to come out as ‘he’ in the early 2000s; editors claimed it was confusing for readers to hear Spoon’s high voice and then see a male pronoun. “I was 22. I needed the press so I didn’t protest the way my identity was being treated,” Spoon wrote in the letter. (Like Lim, the musician now prefers to go by the gender-neutral “they.”)

It’s a great little interview, & a lovely track. Do get check out Amazon’s Rae Spoon offerings and buy some music! Support trans artists!

This is Your Brain on Love.

Is it possible for one person to love more than another? In an attempt to find out, filmmaker Brent Hoff teamed with Stanford University neuroscientists to test lovers’ abilities, using an fMRI to monitor brain activity and measure whose adoration was the strongest.

It might be a funny way to try to find out, but still, it’s pretty damned cool.

The Love Competition from Brent Hoff on Vimeo.

But the couple married 50 years – wow. If they could sell what their secret was, we’d all be buying. My parents were like that, and I’m sadly witness to the only downside of a love like that in seeing my mother’s grief. Still, I’m sure she would say it was worth every second.

For me, at least, there’s this accompanying feeling that my eyes can see more, my senses are more alive, and I feel content in a way I don’t most of the time. It is amazing how the right arm around you, on the right day, at the right moment, can set the bar for what love feels like. It’s like that first flush, all over again, except it sustains itself in such a different way over time.

Asexuality/Aromantic Links

Don’t know what asexuality is? Don’t understand why someone might identify as aromantic? Would like, as a sex-positive feminist, to quit dismissing asexuality as a “problem” or illness or personal shortfall?

Then do some reading.

Here’s a little piece on people who identify as aromantic, and one particular variant of that identity:

* Also related to numbers: some people identify as aromantic, i.e. experiencing no romantic attraction. And some, like me, go “hold on a second, what’s this ‘romantic attraction’ thing and where are you drawing the line between it and platonic relationships? I don’t understand! How do you tell the difference between romantic love and friendship love and …”

Of late, we’ve been calling this wtfromantic (although I still like calling it “romantic orientation of divide by cucumber” and other people may have their preferred terms) for Makes No Sense, Does Not Compute, Wrong Question. What we’ve been talking about a lot is things like relationships that don’t fit the romance/friendship binary; emotional commitment; partnership and intimacy outside of romance; etc. This has some interesting intersections with polyamory.

I have to say that I entirely grok this; it has long been a dilemma for me that there is a certain intensity and intimacy in some of my friendships which I, or others, have misinterpreted as having been more than they were — especially when it comes to rules of sexual orientation, such as the When Harry Met Sally one (which states that het men can’t ever be friends with het women). I have spent more time explaining that my closest friendships are often with straight men, or with men who are straight but who radiate some kind of queer sensibility (e.g., the kind of guys others may think are closeted or bi).

That said, a lot of relationships that survive transition seem to make their way into this category, where the relationship becomes (infamously) “like sisters” or comprising an intimacy that once was but is no longer sexual (e.g. Jennifer Boylan & her wife).

On the one hand, I find these attempts to define every possible variation on types of friendship frustrating, but other times it is quite liberating – at the very least, to know others have been up against a similar feeling of not naturally falling into the ways other practice and/or conceptualize their lives and personal attachments.

Not Your Whipping Girl

My erotic story in Taormino’s Take Me There, which is an anthology of trans & genderqueer erotica, got slagged in a review in Original Plumbing recently, and after reading it, & reading how much the reviewer didn’t seem to get it, I feel the need to explain a few things.

First, reviewer Stephen Ira mentions, upfront, that there is an expectation that Taormino, as a cis woman, won’t get it right — which tells me at least a little something about the reviewer. Ira does redeem Taormino for pulling off an erotica anthology that is “for cis readers . . . not just a lesson in sexual allyship, but a heaping spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down”. Still, it’s worth noting his surprise that she has.

Continue reading “Not Your Whipping Girl”

MD = 8

Maryland just voted through a bill to make same sex marriage legal, with this added detail:

Maryland will become the eighth state to allow gay marriage when Gov. Martin O’Malley, who sponsored the bill, signs the legislation.

Wow. This is pretty much all of the northeast now, just when I moved to the midwest. I would so love to be living in a state where marriage was sane and offered equally to ALL citizens.

RIP Barney Gosset

He published Ginsberg, Beckett, DH Lawrence, and Henry Miller – whose Tropic of Cancer which attracted 60 legal cases and attempted bans in 21 states. Naked Lunch. The Story of O. Waiting for Godot. He made Beckett’s film Film – starring Buster Keaton – possible. His offices at Grove were bombed after he published Che Guevara.

Mr. Rosset liked to tell the story of how he had responded to a Chicago prosecutor who suggested that he had published “Tropic of Cancer” only for the money. He whipped out a paper he had written on Miller while at Swarthmore (the grade was a B-) to demonstrate his long interest in that author. He won the case.

“I remember leaving the courtroom and somehow getting lost going home,” he told The Times in 2008. “It was snowing. But I was so happy that I thought, ‘If I fall down and die right here, it will be fine.’ ”

Au revoir, Mr. Gosset. Thanks for blowing the lid off the thing for the rest of us and giving the US some kind of chance at being culturally literate.

MD News

There’s been an interesting decision in Maryland, which leaves companies to decide on “appropriate” decisions for restrooms and dressing rooms for employees, and which leaves gender-based appearance requirements in tact, BUT which prohibits discrimination based on gender in a way that includes trans people:

Another amendment has at least one female activist upset, according to the report: A second amendment allows employers to establish appearance, grooming and dress standards for employees as long as they are directly related to the job and are consistent with state and federal law and the individual’s gender identity. Cathy Brennan, a Towson lawyer and lesbian activist, said the bill, as written, is anti-feminist because it re-enforces traditional gender stereotypes on women. “That’s really the feminist opposition to this bill,” said Brennan.

So, as far as the washroom and dressing room issue goes, it looks like it’s left to businesses to sort out things . . . sigh . . .

Hedged bets, as far as I can tell, but progress isn’t always exciting.

Bonsoir, Mademoiselle

France has officially dropped Mademoiselle from the lexicon, as there is no equivalent for young men. Abbreviated Mlle., the term was often used to imply a woman’s unmarried state; symbolically, her virginal or simply youthful state.

But there is no equivalent for men, as “monsieur” is used for married & unmarried (& we assume, virginal and sexually experienced) men.

Long overdue, in my opinion, but it’s great to see this change codified.