Saturday, February 03, 2007

"The only kind of work that brings enjoyment... the kind that is for girl and boy meant!" or so say our friends the Gershwin brothers. But what if the boys and girls are gay?

I've been thinking today about gender and sex- not the anatomy kind, but the hot steamy kind. I was thinking about a friend's experience; she mentioned being consistently assumed to be a lesbian, and how she is queer and interested in women, but also just as interested in guys. Makes me think that sometimes there's no room for shades of queerness- even a little bit of queerness makes you Gay. Or maybe it's just that if you're Gay, you can't date boys (or girls, if you're a Gay Guy).

I have a lot of similar experience in that I'm a queer guy who tends to date queer women. But this is confusing, and tricky, for me and others. I remember when I was first telling my dad that I'd decided to be a guy and he asked me "So, uh, are you straight now?"

Well, no. I've never had a boyfriend, or really done much more than make out with a guy. Because, as I explained it to him, I was never at all interested in being a guy's girlfriend. But I am definitely more open to the prospect of being a guy's boyfriend. On the other hand, while I'm much more open to the prospect now, it's not like testosterone has suddenly made me 100% gay. I'm more attracted to guys (more willing to admit that I'm attracted to guys?) now, but I'm still mostly interested in women.

But on the other hand, I still think of myself as 100% gay. Or, well, queer, at least. It makes me wonder what it means to be gay, or queer- is it about sex? And if so, is it about the sex of your partner, or the sexual acts you engage in with that partner? Or is being queer about more than just getting it on or getting off?

My inclination is to say yes, of course it is, but then how much of what I think of as my queerness could also be considered just my style of masculinity? I have a very queer masculinity, but what makes it queer?

When Rochelle and I are together, I think people often wonder why the fag and the dyke are making out with each other. Our dynamic is wonderfully complex, and sometimes we're boyfriend/girlfriend, sometimes we're both boys, sometimes we've got a really lesbionic vibe going that can't be denied. But one thing we're not is straight- even when we're boyfriend/girlfriend it's almost always gay boyfriend/dyke girlfriend. Which is great, and hot, but makes it slightly weird but all too easy to hide inside lines that don't really fit.

Now I'm running out of time, and I want to come back to this later, but basically, I'm just wondering what kind of truth is coming out of my mouth when I say that I'm a gay guy.


trent! said...

i try to talk to folks about this all the time but it alwayz seems to freak them out loads.

a few comments:

on the sex-as-act front, i'll be the first to admit guys never quite know what to do with me. even (i should say especially) guys who know i'm trans. one of two things usually happens: (1) the guy just flicks off the 'trans button' and goes about his business in regular hetero style, OR (2) he gets very confused and very tentative and won't, like, touch my elbow until i explicitly tell him to do so.

as for sexual preference, i've more or less eroded my own standards about the sexuality of the guys i'm with. call it a major reality check: i'm looking at bi guys and straight guys, or whatever you want to call guys who are at least minimally accustomed to sleeping with chicks. is this a case of who's-humouring-whom? perhaps. though to be honest i think it would be a hard sell to date a 100% gay bio-guy in this body. i just don't see that happening anytime soon, if at all.

a girl at the rock recently apologized to me that although she seemed to have no problem viewing me as male, she could only envision me "being the girl" (i assume she meant both sexually and socially) in a relationship. though i felt kinda run over by this, i've begun to suspect this sort of attitude is actually the norm, and folks just rarely say it to your face.

to be blunt and somewhat pessimistic, i've pretty much resigned myself to straight sex for the time being. it's not ideal, but it's not awful, and it bothers me less if i feel like i've chosen it, or 'agreed to it', if you will. is the sex life architecture going to change when i hack off my chest and start hormones? one should hope, but hell if i know.

Anonymous said...

sorry, but i don't quite get it. you're a guy, and you mostly date girls. what's not straight about that?
and furthermore, why isn't it irksome to have a dyke girlfriend when you're a guy? i mean, clearly she likes guys if she's with you, right? and if you're a guy who dates lesbians, wouldn't that feel like it was undermining your male identity?

Anonymous said...

unlike the last annonymous, I respect your identity and your choices. I think you've got a lot of interesting thoughts and questions here.

however, I do have to ask. is there something wrong with being straight? I understand that you may not be straight, and that's okay. but I have sensed some heterophobia around some queer-community transmen before, and I've got to ask. if you were straight, would it make you less intelligent? less interesting? less tolerant?

and what does straight mean to you?

personally, I know plenty of fascinating, thoughtful straight people-- so at times, I don't understand why exactly queer-identified folks so shun straightness (in others moreso than themselves).

finally.. I am one of those hopeless romantics that thinks, if you've got no problem with the dynamic or your partner's identity, and she or he feels the same, then why does it matter? who cares whether the relationship itself is gay, straight, or whatever? you're two people who dig each other, and that makes you a lot luckier than a lot of people out there. why complicate it by seeking definition?

bec said...

I am one of those hopeless romantics that thinks, if you've got no problem with the dynamic or your partner's identity, and she or he feels the same, then why does it matter? who cares whether the relationship itself is gay, straight, or whatever?

I've found it really really difficult to have a relationship without identity. As a woman who is attracted to both men and women, but who is not at all interested in being a guy's girlfriend, I've found it really difficult to have a regular (> 3 weeks, non-long-distance) relationship with men because the relationships always fall into that girlfriend-boyfriend pattern, even when I am explicit about that dynamic being a dealbreaker. It's not about being romantic, or even the chemistry between me and a guy; it's just that when someone else percieves only part of my identity, it's like being whittled down to fit that round hole [square peg, round hole]. The same mismatch often happens around lesbians; I'm not a lesbian, neither am I straight. (I'm a dyke-identified bisexual, or a queer woman, or something).

Identity is how we place ourselves in society; how can we have social relationships without identity? The I'm-ok-you're-ok thing is great in theory, but gender (in whatever form) is so important; interacting without gender would be like everyone wearing hazmat suits, all the time. A workable model for some things (having a "business lunch," talking on the phone, handling chemicals) but really not how anyone actually works. So when our identity is not what society dictates/expects, hashing it out is kind of necessary. So I think what makes us queer is that reworking of our identity. Even if our identity superficially fits with a societal norm, there's a path and a process behind it that we are constantly aware of (ball of string in the labyrinth). The gender or sexuality that the world expects of us is a starting point and not a final answer.

bec said...

oops; ourselves/we/us/our should be more like myself/I/me/mine...

Anonymous said...

this is to bec, from the same "hopeless romantic" annonymous.

first, you skipped over part of my quote in your response. I said, "so long as you have no problem with the dynamic or your partner's identity". in your case, it sounds as if a relationship dynamic that is too "straight" would turn you off, so it would matter.

to me, there is much more to a person than their gender or sexuality. sure, that's important. I am attracted to women only, and I can't picture being with anyone else-- so obviously that makes a difference to me. But it is more important to me that we have shared values and interests (for instance) than that we enter into the relationship fitting all those different identity/dynamic characteristics you were talking about. if the spark is there and we work as a couple, the rest can be worked out later.

I have seen some relationships (particularly in the lives of other FTM guys) that do fall apart because of this stuff. but some stay together.

if we all followed what you just said for yourself, then I would no longer be with my girlfriend. yet we're still going strong. so I think that, in some cases, you can get past the complicated tangle.

you talk about fearing that part of yourself will be hidden or whittled away if you appear to be in a straight relationship. for me, this would be important, but not a dael-breaker. there are plenty of things people don't know about me at first glance, and I tend to be a secretive person about past experiences and such. guess I just don't put much stock in other people's assumptions.

Eli said...

Such interesting comments! Hurrah!

Trent, thanks for your comments. I have to say that for myself, the architecture of my sex life has changed pretty intensely post-hormones + surgery. Some of it due to purely physical changes (different body landscape = new and exciting possibilities) and some due to mental restructuring...I'm happier and more grounded in my own self, etc. so I just feel sexy/sexual in a different (and to me, much preferable!) way.

Anon. no 1 (I suspect you may be the same anon from last time? perhaps? not? if so, welcome back)- the crucial reason why I do NOT feel like my male identity is undermined is because I don't date lesbians. I date queer women, or dyke-identitified queer women...folks who are coming from the lesbian/dyke spectrum, but who don't identify as women-loving women or anything along those lines. Mostly, it seems, they're like me- queers who are interested in dating other queers, with less regard for gender.

Now, I'm probably more appealing to them because I've got more of a lesbionic vibe about me than most guys...part of my personality, and also part of my socialization as a dyke for a few years before I realized that it wasn't quite working.

I wouldn't want to date someone who identified as a lesbian or said something like "I only date women and you" or "I only date women and trans guys" because that probably WOULD make me feel undermined.

As for what's not straight about it, well, I'll get to that in my next comment.

Eli said...

Okay, so anon #2-
Thanks for your provocative questions! I appreciate being called on my shit, and, well, you're right, I think I do have some anti-hetero stuff going on here that I need to examine more closely. I'm not sure that it's entirely unfounded, but it might be less than fair. It might also be, though, that I'm not being particularly clear with my terminology.

I might need to get into it in a whole new post, but briefly- well, the first thing that's wrong with being in a straight relationship is that it just doesn't do it for me. It doesn't turn me on.

That's not a blanket statement- as I mentioned, I enjoy a boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic in my relationship sometimes, and I do sometimes eroticize heterosexual interactions/dynamics. But as a whole, it just doesn't give me a thrill to be in a hetero dynamic.

Here's where it gets tricky, though. Part of that is just what floats my own little boat, but a big part of that is the knowledge of what heterosexuality too often is all about. There's too much oppression tied up in traditional heterosexuality for me to enjoy its power dynamics (except in the kinky, consensual private power dynamics kind of way).

So I guess what I'm saying is that there's nothing wrong with being straight in the conventional sense of the term- I'm all for everyone getting freaky with anyone they want- but yeah, I do think there's something wrong with Heterosexuality with a capital H.

I think that when a person is part of a group that doesn't have to constantly examine and defend itself (aka, isn't oppressed), that person usually doesn't have a lot of consciousness or insight around that identity. Consequently, it's really easy to be complicit with a lot of fucked up marginalization and oppression; it's never impacted the person, so they're never had to deal with it, so they don't think about it or do anything about it.

So yeah, there's lots of cool straight folks who DO have that consciousness, and I'm thrilled about it. But then, I probably wouldn't always call them straight. Just like I'm sort of not so into the Gay with a capital G folks...they've sometimes got similarly narrowminded views. That's why I'm all about the queerness.

I don't want to be seen as straight because I don't want anyone to think that I'm not mindful of the systems I'm a part of, and I don't want to be anything but a subversive member of those systems. AKA a queer.

I think where I need to tread more carefully is being consistent in my own terminology and ideology around those notions.

I was using "straight" as shorthand for "hegemonic heteronormativity"...perhaps I can be forgiven for seeking brevity? But no, because I need to make sure that I'm not jumping all over any straight folks who aren't heteronormative, but DO identify as man + woman = straight.

Bec- delighted to see your comments, particularly since they mesh so well with my thoughts! Thanks for saying it so well. I hear you on the necessity of operating within the strictures of gender as it functions in this society. As you said, it's kinda nice/hopeful (though also possibly boring?) to think that such things don't need to matter, but also unrealistic and maybe kind of privileged. The various social regulations around gender, etc, operate with a pretty heavy hand in this world. It's not always possible to create an idyllic bubble of protection outside of those forces.

bec said...

I am enjoying these responses as much as the original post... esp. your touching on heterophobia; it's something I noticed in myself a while ago but was never quite able to articulate.

I meant to convey something about gender not being optional; As part of a gendered society, we do operate in gendered ways. Whether or not they're traditional gendered ways, whether or not we "want" gender, and whether or not we are working to change ideas of gender.

About it not being possible to "create an idyllic bubble of protection outside of those forces": the idyllic bubbles aren't gender-free zones (gender is hot), but are spaces where gender is redefined/more free; my idyllic Earth still has air on it (air is awesome) but it's cleaner, fresher air.

Anonymous said...

"Because, as I explained it to him, I was never at all interested in being a guy's girlfriend. But I am definitely more open to the prospect of being a guy's boyfriend."

Because as a man, you can be his peer and equal. As a woman, you were his inferior and unequal.

That's the whole point of transitioning--not to continue to be an inferior woman, right? You have decided to move up in the world.

Anonymous said...

to above annonymous- have you even read this blog? sure sounds like you haven't.

transition has NOTHING to do with a desire for social position. it is essentially bringing the body in accordance with one's identity and mental self-image. (Eli can correct me if this sounds inaccurate). please do some research and check your assumptions before you project your pseudo-feminist bullshit upon the experience of a queer transman!