philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Caitlyn Jenner’s Freak Show

Into episode four of “I Am Cait”, Caitlyn’s transgender identity is becoming more developed, but she is still hyper aware of what she calls the “freak factor” in her new life. In a conversation with Kate Borenstein, one of the most influential transwomen in America and author of Gender Outlaw, Cait asks “How do you get over the freak factor?” to which Borenstien answers “Owning the freak factor with heart”. Cait and Borenstein mindfully discuss how there will always be some segment of the population who views transpeople as “freaks” and as such feels that they are lesser humans than cis gendered people. For Caitlyn, this is intensified since her journey as a transwoman is being actively exploited by the paparazzi. To cis gendered people who feel transfolks are “freaks”, there is little understanding of how sex and gender are different and sometimes unrelated, and there is active fear about the transidentity and what it means for the person’s worldview. To understand that the gender binary is false is to unlearn something that was presented as true for much of one’s life. Cait asks Borenstein “How do you get over the freak factor” to which she replies “Owning the freak show with heart”. Essentially, Borenstein tells Cait, there is nothing a transperson can do about the people who feel they are a freak, their minds are closed and their perspective is too harsh to listen. However, one can relish in their freakishness and make it part of their identity, to understand it, to own it. This is a monumental task for transpeople, and requires the support of allies.

Borenstein clarifies what she thinks an ally is versus what is generally thought of as an ally. To most people, they assume that they are trans allied if they are accepting of the trans identity. For Borenstein, this does not meet the burden of an ally by simply being supportive. Active support is helpful, but action yields more results. An ally must be a person who responds to the needs of transpeople, as she says ally means “you ask me what I need, I tell you, and you tell me how much you can actually supply”. She then goes on to give the example that she may need an ally to act as a body guard in a crowd that she needs to get through. Why would Borenstein need an ally in a crowd of people? This is because transbodies are viewed as public property due to the freak factor. The twentieth century was awash with “freak shows” which treated people with abnormalities as exploitable commodities that the public had a right to access. All the humanity for these exploited people in the freak shows was lost, they were simply an exhibit to ponder. A transperson may not feel comfortable in a crowd because of how their bodies have been treated by cis people, as if they are an exotic specimen to be inspected by touching or being asked inappropriate questions. Cis people who feel transpeople are “freaks” are also curious about transbodies and trans lives. They will often become preoccupied with the transperson’s genitalia and their private sexual lives and sexual orientation. To be made into a freak is to have one’s personal space invaded and colonized. Allies must work in congruence with transpeople as to how best assess their most active needs and lessen the amount that the freak show factor has on them.

As Caitlyn’s family found out in episode one, Caitlyn is the same person as she was when she was Bruce, she just has a new identity to work into. Transpeople are still humans, their change of gender is akin to changing one’s clothes in terms of affecting the essence of a person. Clothing relects a peson’s thoughts about their identity, and chosing the proper gender is the way for transpeople to express to their satisfaction their identities. Obviously, the person will change with a transition, but the core of them remains intact. The freak factor takes this away and asserts that a person is the summation of their ability to be “normal” and any deviancy from normalization is paramount to betraying what is natural and what is right. Borenstein reminds Cait that the beginning of a transition is like a second adolescence, a time when people are very vulnerable to bullying and the outside opinion of the world. Acting as a true ally requires cis people to fight the notion that a person is a freak simply for transitioning genders and actively challenge real cis gendered people when they make transphobic comments.

While this episode positively and successfully gave cis people information about how to be an ally, as is a goal of Cait with this show, it also revealed the extent of the privilege Cait has as a rich trans person living in Los Angeles. There are several support groups and resources mentioned in the show for transpeople in Los Angeles, which makes sense as it is a large city in California and the center of the entertainment industry. However, these resources and support groups often do not exist for transpeople living in areas like the South or the Midwest whose populations may not be as comfortable with the idea of transpeople. Cait has professionals come to the house who specialize in trans issues to help support her through her transition, another thing many transpeople do not have access to due to location and the culture of where they live. This is an issue the show has yet to address or acknowledge in a significant way. There was a nod in the first episode by Cait to her privileged nature, however, the show overall has failed to note how privileged Cait is actively over other transpeople. It is sometimes a frustrating feature of the show because few things about Cait’s life are humble, and it would be constructive to see Cait humble herself and acknowledge with active mindfulness that the support she receives is a privilege that few are able to get.


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Queerism and Love

Earlier in this blog I introduced a social concept I had come up with during my time studying philosophy and LGBTQ issues: queerism. As it stands, my deceleration on queerism stands as: “I believe that queerism, as opposed to feminism, is needed as a national discourse because the recognition of genders and sexes other than the male/female binary will literally, quantifiably result in less violence in our society and lead to a more authentic, liberated identity expression that is actually more in align with what is natural, contrary to how we have been conditioned to recognize as true.” I wondered back in March, though, if I couldn’t include some kind of extra theory about love into the queerist definition.

Love is perhaps the most speculated, investigated, questioned, feared, and hoped for part of human existence. The feeling of love, real love that is about knowing and accepting another person for who and what they are, is a feeling all of us are either after or in revolt against. True love, truly dedicated love can change the course of lives. Love is also not simply an easy thing despite it feeling so natural, sometimes we must be willing to make great sacrifices for love if indeed that is what we are committed to doing.

After cleaning my room recently I found a New York Times article about a pair of star-crossed lovers in Afghanistan, Zakia and Mohammad who were forced to chose between each other and the tradition of their notoriously conservative society. After choosing each other, “the young couple had faced criminal charges and death threats after eloping and fleeing their village in the high mountains of central Afghanistan last year. Now they have had their legal issues resolved and their marriage legally recognized”. Most Afghanis have arranged marriages out of respect for tradition and keeping tribal bonds strong. In order to succeed with going against the grain of their conservative society, Zakia and Mohammad had to prioritize what was most important in their lives, and they both chose each other. However, triumph did not come without tribulation. After fleeing their families and then returning to their village, Mohammad was confronted with a gun and a knife and chased through the potato fields by Zakia’s brother. They’ve faced social repercussions that have made getting work difficult, and now with a baby, receive relief from “an anonymous benefactor in the United States who had read about their plight and sent them $1,000 via Western Union to help care for their baby.”

nytimes

Zakia and Mohammad qualified under international law for refugee status in order to escape the hardship of their situation in Afghanistan, however, they chose not to go that route. People are eligible for refugee status if they face “a serious threat to their lives based on discrimination because of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and choice of spouse”. Zakia personally experienced an extension of rape culture by her own male relatives due to choosing Mohammad, she “never goes out at all, for fear that she might encounter someone from her own large family. her fathers and brothers publicly vowed to kill her and Mohammad Ali when they eloped”. Believing the female body to be an extension of the familial bond and/or public property and therefore a necessary thing to control is a form of rape culture. That Zakia’s male relatives could chose to end her life for her pursuit of romance, love, and sexual satisfaction is a form of the control rape culture employs and encourages. Queerism by definition must fight against rape culture because rape culture presents a direct threat to trans bodies. Many people hear about transwomen being murdered because “he found out she was a he” (to say it in a disgusting heteronormative manner) at some point during courtship or sexual encounter and then, in a rage, killed another human being out of issues revolving around convoluted notions of masculinity and dominance. For many years, murderers walked free because of the “gay panic defense” or the heteronormative solipsistic defense strategy to employ as many homophobic notions concerning the idea of proper male sexual attitudes against the murder victim. Sadly, one state in the nation, California, has banned the defense in 2014. It is shocking how badly transpeople are treated by the criminal justice system, but it is only a reflection of how badly they are treated in greater society.

While not a queer relationship, Zakia and Mohammad’s tale fits within the paradigm of the need for queerism because of the issues surrounding the rules of love in their society. Two people who the world tries to keep a part for reasons of socialized rules and regulations that are only as real as people make them need queerism because by definition queerism recognizes the legitimacy of love that is not viewed as an acceptable norm or even questioned on the legitimacy of the norm. For example, how could a straight man love a transwoman while knowing that that person used to be a man? To many in the heteronormative solipsistic world, it would be a demonstration that the straight man is not as masculine as he could be, and that the transwoman will never “really” be a woman. But for people who understand queerism, they recognize that the straight man is as masculine as he ever is, and that the woman he is involved with is a woman, and that there is no problem here anyway because it really isn’t anyone’s business except the two people involved in the relationship. Queerism grants autonomy and legitimacy to all consensual adult relationships without the societal pressures of aligning with norms of that culture.

Zakia and Mohammad represent a time old conundrum of love and injustice, which is that the most perfect person for you can bring you such pleasure while only to have societal norms and cultural customs screech with indignation at the boldness of your actions. It is an unfair and harsh world. One of the only points of peace for a person is intimacy and love. Part of realizing the ugliness of the world is understanding that there are people, cultural customs, and societal norms that will stand in the way of the one universal thing that will give people comfort. Queerism stands to fight against that in whatever form it takes.


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LoveSlut: A Short Story

I am a loveslut. I am also a regular slut in the sense that I have a lot of sex and enjoy having a lot of sex. But I also collect, in mass quantities, the affection and adoration of others. I cultivate and protect these affections, throw away the rot, trim the excess, and generally try to make the hole thing as loveslutty as possible.

The cyber revolution has made being a loveslut so much easier. Arranging dates based on profiles becomes a pastime, an excuse to judge others, a reason to snoop about how egotistical a person is. There is a science and art behind the writing of a good profile. The science has to do with the percentages of creating a persona, asserting what one wants, and providing adequate evidence of your worth as a date. The art has to do with one’s writing ability and charismatic worth. There is also a slight narcotic effect of meeting a person in real life, to evaluate them up close and personal. Real life doesn’t make a person pretend to be the profile, real life reveals how out of touch the person was when they wrote the profile. Lovesluts are the ones with the perfect profiles, the ones that are like advertisements done by professional public relations people for big corporations. The entirety of loveslut essence is a craft.

Cups of coffee, pints of beer, glasses of wine, carrot cake, cigarettes, bong rips, grocery shopping, all sorts of things happen on dates. Things that are both normal and made purposefully reserved for special occasions. I realized after starting my volumes of datebooks, collections of the non-intimate details of my dates, that most dates happen in one’s own head. Like clothing being removed, layers of the other person are peeled. An important note on lovesluts: they do not like dates with no talking. One night stands are fine, but there must be some talking. Being with another person has to be an experience that can be divided into classes of time; before I found that out, after I understood why he does that. That increases the amount of affection the other person has. You will never find anything sexual in my datebooks. The point isn’t the sex, the point is the experience to get to the sex. Sex is more or less all the same, it is what happened in the lead up to it and how the two people felt afterword that makes it have significance. The dance, the run, the strange happenings that occur between two people. Or sometimes three, even four. For sure, the times when I got to have sex with multiple people were the most intricate of stories in the datebooks. Not for the reasons of the outrageous nature of the sexual encounter, but for the reasons of how our paths crossed and why. If we were people who had known one another for years, if two of us were friends before, if we were all strangers, who initially disliked who and why, if they still dislike them. Then there are the paradoxes of sexuality, like how a person can hate someone else yet have amazing sex with them, or how two people can be in love and swear off sexual interactions out of fear it will ruin the relationship. Lovesluts cannot get enough of this.

Being a loveslut involved a lot of planning and organization. I had two planners for all my dating, one was big and detailed and the other was a small pocket organizer, with certain dates blacked out so I could know in an instant if I was available or not in case I found a candidate for affection in places like the grocery store or the mall. I’ve of course picked up people on the street. Inevitably, people of lovesluts desires run into one another while in the company of the loveslut. These can be rather neutral, mundane encounters if all parties are mature and abreast of the situation, or they can be awkward, brief moments of suspense, or they can be moments of comedy or drama entertaining enough for a stage. If any loveslut claimed to not like this element, they are lying. This is part of being a loveslut, watching the fuss people make over you, it is perhaps the essence of our neurosis.

Being a loveslut also meant a lot of heartbreak. Like, buckets of heartbreaks, oceans of deep rusty red blood, bathtubs filled with tears. This is because the world is a cruel place, and some people mistake a suggestion for a cuddle as a clairvoyant glimpse into a wedding engagement. I believe the term is something like “commitment-phobic” or some other bullshit. Those who cannot simply live for the moment, who must make all sorts of weighted calculations based on figures that do not even exist in reality, those people can kill the desire in a loveslut. One rational, hesitant person and the whole attempt at collecting those intangible figures of affection can cause a simple flirtation to become an embarrassing debacle. Enough reality and all love dies.

If there was ever a reason to become a loveslut it is this: when we are all dying, going to the next place, we will all remember each other. Lovesluts will have collected so much affection, amulets of love we wear around our bodies of lust, our lull between life and death will be one of a series of lovers coming to visit to say good-bye one last time. Sex and death are the two most bonding and binding experiences two or more people can go through. An excess of death will cause an end. An excess of sex will cause a lackluster orientation, boredom toward the world, or a hyper-focus and uncontrollable amount of energy repelling in every direction. But these two things, these two drives of primordial human drive, go beyond any of our cognitive or cerebral understanding; there can only be so much analysis before the subject disappears into vapor. Lovesluts, we live in this vapor, the smoke and the mirrors, and real and the inferred.

In lust, there is only orgasmic desire toward understanding.


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I’m a Queerist, and That’s Not a “Thing” (Yet!)

I *love* the1janitor on Youtube.com. He’s a social commentator known for witty remarks and wise insights. I think he is hilarious as a human and a cute dude. Often entertaining, he provides solid observations into things people might get too excited about to otherwise be articulate about. On this video, he talks about how the gender binary “isn’t a thing”.

“____ is not a thing” is a figure of speech coined by millenials, people of my generation, to illustrate the point that a commonly thought of phenemeon does not exist, and is sometimes asked as a question like “I got to Binghamton University the bearcats are our mascot. Are bearcats a thing?” (Yes they are!) Contrary to popular belief, the gender binary, or the thought that there are only two sexes, those being male and female, is not really a thing.

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT is often a reaction to this assertion. Maybe not as much in 2014, now that Facebook gives the option to define one’s gender beyond “male” or “female”, and that the non-heterosexual social movement of the early millennia has had such success.

Several years ago, I composed an academic paper about the atrocities intersexed and transgendered people have historically faced as a result of the medical institution’s endorsement that the gender binary “is a thing”. Did you know that often, when an intersexed baby is born, that baby does not actually have life threatening condition simply for being intersexed? It is actually better for that baby to grow up and choose what identity they will live under, and receive proper medical care for intersexed persons, not for persons born of normative male/female characteristics. Yet it is the norm that doctors make intersexuality out to be dangerous to the health of the baby to vulnerable parents, convincing them their child has a life threatening condition and that they must choose a sex, either male or female, for that baby right now and then authorize immediate surgery to make the baby “normal”. This can have devastating consequences for intersexed individuals both medically and in their identities as people.

My paper was called “Medical Ethics and the Transgender/Intersexed Communities: A Plea for Understanding and Reconciliation” and focused on how heteronormative gender codes have caused medical ethics to compromise the integrity of legitimate identities of transgendered/intersexed peoples and suggest harmful courses of medical actions. My plea for “reconciliation” in this paper focused on how the vast troves of power the medical community possesses could change the perception that the gender binary is “a thing” and cause recognition that gender and sex identities that run contrary to the male/female binary are legitimate identities. Some people aren’t intersexed nor trans. They decide to be “genderqueer”, or a combination of male/female features and characteristics. They are both male AND female while being neither male nor female. If you have a hard time comprehending juxtapositions or paradoxes, their existence will probably infuriate you. Please try to not let their existence make your head explode, and maybe try to work on your critical thinking skills.

In order to do this paper properly, I had to read a lot of feminist literature. Feminism, by definition, endorses the gender binary. You can try to argue with me about this if you would like, but you will lose (please try, though! I love a good, spirited debate). Historically, feminism has been very hostile in many cases to intersexuals and transgenders. Some of this literature was so hateful that I actually cried while reading it despite the fact that I am neither intersexed nor transgendered. I suppose maybe the tears came from the feeling and knowledge that my former feminist identity was being hatefully ripped to shreds by these really fucking mean women. I could not, in good conscious, continue to be a feminist knowing that this was a large part of the history of the movement. In modern feminism, I have not found this issue to be resolved or even of particular concern to many feminists. People having freedom to choose their identities and express themselves with liberty is a big concern of mine, it is part of my identity, and I had to let the label of “feminist” go.

So I invented something called “Queerism” or being a “Queerist”. In high school I defined as “bisexual” because I knew I liked boys and girls. Then, in college for about a year I labelled as a lesbian, but after awhile started having sexual relationships and then again romantic relationships with men. I could have gone back to the bisexual label, but one of the men I became involved with men was a pre-op transman, or a person born into a female body but who defined as a male and assumed the appearance of a male but had not undergone any surgery to physically alter his body. He did not fit the gender binary. I started to get to know things about the world and have experiences of all the worldly things that are complex and wonderful that make us individuals, and during the course of these worldy experiences that I discovered that sometimes I am attracted to people who do not fit the gender binary. This coincided with the semester I wrote the medical ethics paper on transgendered and intersexed people, so with all this knowledge I took on the queer label, instead of reassuming the bisexual label.

I have since come to know many non-normatively gendered people I have in my life. But many people wouldn’t see my former lover, or my family member, or several other of my friends as beautiful. They would see those people as disturbing, immoral, wrong, something to be destroyed. HBO currently has on demand one of the most heart-wretching documentaries I have ever seen (I’m a huge documentary junkie, I would definitely qualify myself as an authority on documentaries and this one was very well made, as most HBO docs are). It is titled “Valentine Road” about the murder of a teenage genderqueer boy. Non-normative gendered persons are staggeringly more vulnerable to being murder victims, a social fact that is found far less disturbing than it should be. I believe that queerism, as opposed to feminism, is needed as a national discourse because the recognition of genders and sexes other than the male/female binary will literally, quantifiably result in less violence in our society and lead to a more authentic, liberated identity expression that is actually more in align with what is natural, contrary to how we have been conditioned to recognize as true. For some people, a queerist movement is a matter of life or death.

If you think that the gender binary is “not a thing” and that genderqueer, intersexed, and transpeople should be able to live in the world with their full identities not only recognized but viewed as legitimate, then join me, friends, in making Queerism “a thing”.