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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What Transgenderism Is

Today I was surfing Reddit.com when I found an excellent thread called “ELI5 [explain like I’m 5]: How are transgendered individuals different from other dissociative disorders?”. Oh boy, I thought, there is so much ignorance in that one small statement. I am a person who has a hard time remembering that ignorance  does not always equate meanness or small mindedness, it just means a person doesn’t understand certain concepts or lacks all the facts or hasn’t done the research to properly articulate a point on a certain subject. I am ignorant to certain topics, such as car mechanics, but that does not mean I am not intelligent. So, I had to take a minute to remember that just because this person severely lacked an understanding of mental illness and gender identity does not mean that they are being intentionally malicious. They started the question like this:

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So this person is familiar with certain mental health terms but has a poor understanding of what they mean or how they are applicable in the real world. This was important for me to note, because “the more I think about it. The more it makes zero logical sense” was an indicator to me that this person doesn’t really think about things outside their own perspective, and is hopefully operating on a smartphone because their grammar is horrific. From point one, it is important to remember that a solipsistic perspective is one that has incredible difficulty imagining the other side.

It is important to note that transgenderism is not a mental illness. Body dysmorphic disorder has nothing to do with transgenderism, dissociative identity disorder does not either. Body dysmorphic disorder is when a person obsesses over perceived flaws with their body. This is different from being transgender because having the social and physical identity of the wrong gender is not a perceived flaw, it is an identity expression that exists on a larger scale than is widely accepted by heternormative society. For transgendered individuals, something isn’t incorrectly perceived, there really is something wrong with the discrepancy between the identity they had accumulated versus the identity they feel comfortable with. People with body dysmorphic disorder often have the perception that they have fat where there is none, for example, something which has little to nothing to do with identity. Dissociative identity disorder is when a person has more than one personality states, which means they can become confused, withdrawn, or apathetic to their surroundings when they are in an altered state, that being the other personality. It is not like what Hollywood has typically portrayed the illness as, a person with a bunch of wild personalities going crazy. It is more likely that a person experiencing an episode of disassociation would become markedly different in attitude, rather than a sudden bout of ranting and raving. Certainly, a transgendered individual can have both these illnesses but neither is the cause of being transgendered.

A redditor (user or Reddit.com) more or less explained this point:

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Unfortunately, this did not fully clarify the point for the inquisitor:

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It is important to look at the number of “points” this received because it is indicative of how cis-gendered people view this issue. On reddit.com a member can up-vote something if it adds to the discussion, or down-vote something if it does not add value to the discussion. Sometimes dumber things can get up-voted depending on the relevancy to the reddit.com culture. This post got up-voted 52 times, meaning at least fifty-two people shared similar sentiments. This is a medium up-vote, its not hundreds and certainly not thousands like some posts get, but its enough to indicate that this is a shared feeling among cis-gendered people enough to not get down-voted like it would in queer circles or academic circles.

It is also important to read the last paragraph thoroughly. The poster says “it really bothers me that people are taking their own lives when they are such great people”, so this person is admitting that they feel no malice against transgendered folk, and that they just really do not understand what transgendered people are going through. Since there is no way to listen to tone on internet posts, so the last sentence can either seem condescending or genuinely confused depending on the reader’s internal reading voice.

Panda-pup has a fantastic explanation for sparkreason:

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It is a calm, comprehensive rebuttal. Transgendered individuals do not enter into altered states nor do they imagine things about their body to be true that are not. They soberly have understood something about the discrepancy between biological sex and socialized gender, and that they are not personally part of the heternormative gender binary that has been traditionally presented as normal. In fact, there are many genders and gender expressions like there are sexualities and sexual expression. For example, a person can be hetero-romantic and bisexual, or homo-romantic and pansexual. A person can have a penis and be a woman, this is a difficult thing for some people to understand because we have been taught to believe that biological sex and gender are the exact same thing. To live as a woman or to live as a man is definitely a lifestyle choice, they are not the same type of life. Obviously being human we have things in common, but there are clear differences in the identity of a woman versus the identity of a man, including masculine women and feminine men. To be genderqueer, or a clear combination of masculine and feminine qualities, or androgynous, or a clear ambiguity of masculine and feminine qualities, is also a clear lifestyle and identity choice. To be cis-gendered is for your biological sex to match your prescribed gender, which is what the majority of people are. However, there is logical and reasonable explanations to having a transgender or gender fluid identity.


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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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The Sky Burst From Violet Clouds

Nymphos naked nesting near

hear their harp voices

formed through dreams and depths desired

they feed on fruit and light.

Moon guides their many travels through time, a bared pendulum

swinging back and forth, breathe in every moments past, sting my thought.

Fear the weak of heart and find the kings on thrones of thorns

who rule without laws of men

Tweak their feathers, watch them fly

whisper to me in the night and give me my twilight.


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Favorite Rapper Series #2: Ol’ Dirty Bastard [Part 1]

Ol Dirty Bastard was probably the first rapper I should have done, but instead I did Lil’ Kim. I was debating if I should do someone recent (ASAP ROCKY will be next) but Ol’ Dirty is my first foray into love for hip-hop, his style something I didn’t understand but craved. I first saw him on BET (Black Entertainment Channel) at aged twelve, in 2000, with this video:

Like the reaction I talk about in the post about Lil’ Kim, I distinctly remember that I did not know how to interpret it but instantly loved it. At age twelve for a young white girl in the white suburbs in a school district noted for elitism, I had little to no experience with Blaxploitation movies or the frank adult themes that the video explored. It would be several more years until I could understand the narrative he was presenting. But I loved it.

I knew Ol’ Dirty was making a commentary on what it was to be Black. I knew that he was making fun of something (Blaxploitation films, in this case). I knew that it had to do with sexuality (ODB fathered thirteen children, for one, for two Blaxploitation’s association with titillating themes such as prostitution and nudity) and acts of criminality (in this video, drugs, violence, and generally wild lifestyles which was widely mirrored by “Dirt McGirt”‘s long-term associations with criminality). All of themes, raw sexuality coupled with acts association with outcasted peoples such as violence, drugs, wildness were common in ODB’s work. He was a thoroughly self aware artist while refusing to give up the lifestyle that made him famous.
If you listened to “Baby Got Your Money” you can hear him rap about knowing the feds were watching him.

Indeed, in my own hometown, it is the legend that he used to come up to Bing and sell crack in the ‘hood even after the Wu Tang has made in mainstream music.

Ol Dirty was from Brooklyn, New York, and was a part of the Wu Tang Clan who mostly originated from Staten Island. He died in 2004 from a drug overdose. Primarily active in the 1990s but still recording up until he died, Dirty’s is considered an original gangster (OG) of rap music. His music is realistic within the experience of growing up Black and in New York City with dire economic experience. The auditory experience of Ol Dirty is one that recreates the places that made the composite of his life. In “Harlem World” he brings you into what is presumably Harlem during the 1980’s, a time of AIDS and violence,

Ol Dirty often has beats that are haunting and eerie. This is a creation of sound that carries into modern rap, in Drill music for example. The recreation of the chaos of the urban atmosphere is palpable and fills your head. It should be noted that Ol Dirty Bastard is the first of his kind within the sphere of his rapping style (extremely eccentric, bizarre, and outside what was typically heard of the era), and has an extremely distinctive sound. He got his name from the kung-fu movie “Ol’ Dirty and the Bastard” but Method Man has also been quoted as saying his name is significant to the fact that “there is no father to his style”. Indeed, he is considered something of a mythical Wu Tang member.

Often misunderstood for the constant recurrences of bouts of mental illness that manifested in bizarre behavior, frequent crack cocaine and other drug use, and occasional stints in jail, Ol Dirty is also the most misunderstood member of the Wu. A recent New Yorker Magazine article that chronicled the most significant figures in New York hip-hop ever (of which Jay-Z was featured on…how oddly capitalistic of you, Hov), dissed him with smugness. He is amongst the most irresponsible a citizen as a citizen can get, yet he is a respectable figure for the way he lived his life and his refusal to give up authenticity within the context of an artist being a manifestation of his art.

It wasn’t like he didn’t know his life was a mess. He mocks himself in “Drug Free”

He starts the song with “Don’t get High” and them immediately “Cocained-the fuck up/paranoid as a motha…yo I’m paranoid as a fucka!” followed by “nigga I’m tired of gettin’ high like that/stop fuckin’ with me”. Like what he was doing in the video for “Baby Got Your Money”, he reflected reality back at itself and then mocked it for the absurdity of it’s existence. Perhaps this is why he is so misunderstood; he is so advanced as an artist that there are truly so few artists that pursue his way of creating. The song ends with the lyric “Kids! Don’t! Do! Drugs!/drug free! drug free! drug free!” which ends with the infamous goodness of Dirty’s singing. He is entertaining in his insanity while also reflecting the duality of his reality; utter sadness and ecstatic energy.

As I get older I am more able to relate to Dirty and understand what he is mocking about life. I knew what he was doing when I was twelve, but (thankfully), had not had enough of life’s absurdity to understand what he was portraying. He has my heart ever since.


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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”.