Archive for the ‘Sex & Sexuality’ Category

It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

People’s minds tend to run a lot on patterns and associations. When someone says a word, we can generally summon up a bunch of connotations from our experiences and the messages we’ve imbibed from our culture. If I try this with a random word generator and get ‘chat,’ I think, ‘room, little, office, experience of the words ‘wanting a chat’ preceeding a lecture that I will squirm through and not dare speak up in.’ (I think this means that I never caught on to using the word ‘chat’ when talking about ringing someone up to talk…)

This gets really important when the words we use impact on people. Words and the way we use them are really influential when it comes to the way we think, especially as we are growing up and learning how to weave those words into expression. We learn them through communication and connotations, which means that the things we associate with a word will forever have an impact on how we perceive what that word is attached to. I had a slight negative reaction with ‘chat’ because it appears I’ve mostly come across it as a prelude to earnest conversation directed at me that I felt very uncomfortable being a part of. That’s what I associate it with; squirming in my seat and feeling silenced.

So what happens when people-words get bad connotations? Those connotations generalise to the people concerned, and negative, prejudiced attitudes creep under the carpet of people’s minds. Also impacted by negative presentations and cultural messages, these negative attitudes are generally at the root of discrimination. Where inequality is legislated, it comes from the underlying prejudices of the people who created the legislation, the people who passed it, the people who elected them and so on. Where inequality is tolerated, that comes from discriminatory behaviour striking a chord with those same underlying prejudices. Language, presentations, culture – they’re important. There is other stuff to fight for, big stuff, solid stuff – but these underlying currents are where they come from. When the big stuff gets fixed, it’s unlikely to stay fixed until the culture changes, as the underlying attitudes find new ways to mess the marginalised up or push the big stuff back to its original position.

It’s very uncomfortable to see people-words get bad connotations, and yet it happens all the time. ‘You throw like a girl,’ makes ‘girl’ the object of contempt, something to be avoided, something lesser. And negative attitudes towards women and girls and those perceived as such are reinforced. I… may be overstepping myself here, since I’m white, but ‘acting black’ troubles me since I’ve generally seen it used against people who act in a way seen as negative – thus enforcing racism. ‘That’s gay,’ one of my own little hobby-horses, associates gayness with something pathetic, contemptible, useless, bad – thus enforcing heterosexism. Slurs work this way. Longer messages, such as the many that enforce rape culture, work this way.

And the worst thing is, it looks like nothing. It’s hard to correct, because you’re seen as being pedantic and petty-minded. And to be honest, merely, ‘don’t say that word’ is unlikely to work. We need to examine the reasons why we’re saying what we’re saying, and the message that sends out, and consciously work on changing it. It’s definitely important to salvage the stuff floating out of reach, issues that have a concrete impact on our quality of life, but one can’t ignore the little eddies and swirls that show the current beneath the surface, the current that could eventually tear the solid stuff out of our reach.

Newsbag.

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Bodies, Capitalism, Education, Finance, Health, Science, Sexuality
Tags: ,

Okay, I’m going to attempt to be back now even though I’m still having trouble using a computer comfortably.

Really, Government, really? Possible proposals to cut the benefits of terminally ill folks? This is obscene. We always knew that this government was incredibly ableist, but here’s another rock-solid indication. It honestly scares me that the people in charge of the country are so very contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t fit the conventional notion of ‘ability’, and that they are actually enacting this stuff (as with other benefit changes that have gone through).

If the data bears it out, which I think is likely, this is exactly as expected. EMA has proved important for many people, and scrapping it is always going to have an effect.

Aaand from a sciencey point of view, the information that deep-sea squid mate with no regards to sex is fairly interesting.

I’m sorry this is a shite post. I’m still trying to think of a way to make a post out of my recent health issue and how that has been complicated by my lack of gender, which is definitely interesting. I realise, however, that I’m probably saying nothing that other people haven’t said before so… Still need to think some more about that one.

Trigger warning; cissexist/binarist erasure, sexist rhetoric, discussion of reproductive coercion

Oh now this is encouraging. Not. The Government caving in to plans to reduce abortion rates by adding another layer of counselling. A lot hinges on the word ‘offer’ – is it being used to mean a service that is there if wanted, a compulsory ‘service’ or one that may as well be due to the level of throat-shoving people receive? However, I’m going to post independently of that – my personal opinion is the latter option, but I don’t know. And anyway, it doesn’t sound like the extra counselling would be from anyone good. I’m not the biggest expert on abortion issues (I’m staunchly pro-choice but don’t follow the discussion as much as I should because there’s often an unfortunate degree of erasure of uterus-having non-women), so I will probably miss a facet or two. EDIT – such as the demonisation of abortion providers implicit in the idea of trying to stop them doing the counselling.

So basically, boil this down to the bones and we get the claim that abortion-seekers (of any gender/s/non-gender/s, although no doubt the introducers of this are thinking purely in terms of ‘women’, sigh) need extra counselling, need to have the process slowed down, because they can’t be trusted to know what they want for their own body. Great. That really shows dedication to people’s welfare, doesn’t it? Ha ha. As if most of these abortion restrictions are even about welfare. They’re about control. They’re about asserting the power of the kyriarchally-privileged over the marginalised, about restricting the marginalised’s agency, about controlling them.

There’s this delightful quote from Dorries on the issue; “The abortion process is so fast – seven to 14 days. Women who do have doubts or niggles are on the other side before they have a chance to think it through. The majority may feel it’s fine but there are a growing number thinking it wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it gets faster and faster more women are falling off the edge. This is a women’s rights issue.”

Translation; Women don’t know what they want and are too emotional and weak to deal with things happening at this pace, they need everything slowed down for their tiny little ladybrains. Abortion is wrong and I’ve pulled some vague stats out of nowhere, and now I’m going to use emotive language and completely ignore the fact that there is a kyriarchal component to who is most likely to be pressured into aborting. And besides this, I’m incredibly cis privileged and will continue to erase the selves of anyone who might need an abortion who isn’t a woman.

We’ve seen so much of this stuff from the USA, and these ‘additional counselling’ things so often end up being barely disguised attempts to discourage abortion. There are people who get pressured into abortion, but that sort of thing is not the way to help. As for the people who choose it – their choices are valid. It’s their body, their choice.

Trigger warning. Transhatred, misohomy, dyadism, slurs, transmisogyny, discussion of abuse, victim blaming, ableism, biological determinism, ageism, discussion of violence.

In my travels through the Internet, I sometimes find things that are really, really fucking terrible. Such is a file being distributed by reactionary Catholic groups at the UN. I strongly advise nobody to click on the link, although I’ll put it here (http://www.couragerc.net/Transsexual_Issues/Sex_Reassignment.pdf). The trigger warning lists most of what they manage, but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed out some awfulness. Put it this way, they quote and support Janice Raymond… Yeah. This post is mainly referring to binary trans people – I am actually glad to be erased, and that’s something I never thought I’d say. However, I am grouping myself in with the trans label for the purposes of this post, even though I prefer non-cis.

I am not going to let this go past my radar unargued. It is really terrible. Frankly, we could play transhatred bingo with this. Only I think we’d have to have more squares than normal.

They accuse us of living in a fantasy world – and yet, they believe that sex is a binary. Their world is rather more fantasy than ours is – and their fantasy has been supported by blood and by murder, by hatred and by mutilation (such as they condemn). They also believe that the genotype can be told from the phenotype, which is again a fiction, a fiction you’d think they wouldn’t believe since I’m pretty sure you need to have some kind of biology qualification to be a psychiatrist.

They also have no idea of cause and effect, or the mechanisms of oppression. Their privilege is showing, and it is incredibly disgusting. Trans people experience high levels of abuse, bullying etc because of society’s non-acceptance of being trans. Not because experiencing those things makes one trans. Transhatred (and misohomy) is a real problem – and it’s a problem which their arguments have illustrated perfectly.

Besides this, they appear to believe that the so-called ‘trans panic defence,’ the defence often given by partners of trans people who have responded to the fact of their transness with violence, is evidence against our validity rather than evidence for the unacceptable level of transhatred and misohomy on the part of those reacting like that. Transhatred and misohomy that they are helping to support. The real ones supporting others in their fantasies are them; they, who support the oppressive delusions of the bigoted privileged rather than the people who are at risk and vulnerable. The non-acceptance of trans people means nothing about the validity of our gender/s/non-gender/s, but everything about the existence of hatred. Victim blaming is never okay.

As is par for the course for these people, they also believe that they can determine cisness from looks. Thus, they hold trans people up to an impossible standard of performing their gender that many cis people do not reach, and justify that solely on the basis of birth assignation. Everything will be interpreted by them as evidence of the trans person’s assigned gender being their true one, every. little. thing. Everything that cis people are never scrutinised about. Everything. And then they blame us for failing to live up to their unethical level of scrutiny. We are not actors, to be caught out in a mistake. We are people. We cannot fail to be ourselves, even when we are forced to lie by the pressures of a cruel world, of which they are a part. We seek the surgeries we seek – if we seek them – because we know what we need, because we are ourselves, we are more ourselves than our bodies are, and we are hurt by our body’s fundamental wrongness.

We cannot be spoken for by the cis gatekeepers of the medical process. While they continue to make us jump through hoops for the surgeries we need, they can never know our experience. And their voices can never replace ours, especially when they speak to discredit us.

And we are not mentally disordered. We are not unfit to make decisions. We know who we are, and we have made a commitment to telling the truth about that – and can any of those who hate us say the same? No, since they insist on upholding the lie that we are inferior – and supporting the lie that people who do not fit their narrow standard of ability are inferior.

Our youth are not incapable of knowing who we are. I would like to know at what age those who hate us knew that they were cis – and then I would like them to imagine that the world turned against them for it. We are the only people who can know who we are, what we are, and no other person, especially people who have never experienced what we do, can speak for us in that. The only person who knows us well enough to know our gender/s/non-gender/s is ourselves and those we have explicitly told.

Dissonance cannot be trivialised in this way, by calling it an ‘autogynephilic desire’ or the like. This is not a paraphilia. You will never know dissonance until you feel it, and when you feel it you will know why those of us who do seek the surgeries we do. Dissonance is pain. Dissonance is pain, and all society and hateful ‘medicine’ like this can offer is hatred and more pain. We are not making this up.

Neither are we motivated by a desire to deceive. We are motivated by the precise opposite.

We desire to tell the truth.

That’s more than one can say for those who hate us, who spread their lies to discredit us. Who accuse us of victimising ourselves, rather than looking within to see the true source of that which oppresses, hurts and kills us.

Who is causing harm? I think they should remember that ‘first, do no harm’ applies to us as well – and it harms us to hate us and to deny us the accomodations we need. It actively benefits us to align our bodies with our selves. The true breach in ethics lies with those who would knowingly deprive a large group of people medical attention they drastically need on the grounds of irrational hatred. As does the true inappropriacy.

They call our selves disordered. No human being can be ‘disordered’ in this way. Different, yes – needing accomodations that our cissexist, ableist society does not readily provide, yes – but disordered? No.

Our selves are valid, legitimate, good and true. And only we can know them.

Mr MacMaster, you should be utterly fucking ashamed of yourself. You think you can speak for the marginalised? Over the marginalised, making their lives more fucking dangerous while you carry on with your absurdly privileged life? And you think that’s okay?

It’s really, really not.

You wrote a story, constructed a fiction. You did not have to live that reality. You had the privilege to disengage. And you thought that doing that was acceptable. You thought that wearing an internet mask for a few posts on a blog could even approach the real experience. You thought wrong. Other people don’t have the luxury of being able to take the mask off – because for them, it’s their true face.

You appropriated people’s experiences, overruled the voices of those who actually had those experiences. You’ve made their lives more dangerous. You could have caused people to put themselves in truly dangerous situations, while you were sitting safely mired in your privilege. You’ve inserted your straight, cis, white, Western, male self into a discourse where you have no business being because you simply know nothing about the issue. I know nothing about the issues you attempted to write about, but I sure as hell know that it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance and imperialism, it would be totally and utterly wrong, to appropriate an identity, such as the one you took on. Rather, the role of those of us who have no place, in the discourse is to listen. To accept the conclusions of others’ discussions about their selves and try to aid them in their goals. Not to elbow our way in under false pretences and speak over others’ voices. Not to mention, you’re now the blogger who cried wolf. And that could
have serious consequences. You took people’s compassion, their trust, and you betrayed it.

We all know that online interaction is hard because there’s no way of knowing the exact truth. But that’s why, especially in internet
spheres that rest on people’s accounts of their experiences, it’s vital that people do not appropriate identities. Doing so is unethical, appropriative and deceitful. It’s made everyone’s online identities easier to attack, too. I can give no proof but my word that I am a young, queer, agender person from/in the UK. But how easy would it be for someone to claim that my writing was invalid because they thought I was someone like MacMaster? Very easy. And how could I disprove it? I couldn’t. The fact that I really am who I say I am is unprovable – but I swear that I am, and I don’t break oath.

Everything about this (and the Bill Graber/Lez Get Real thing) stinks of privilege, massive, unchecked privilege. Thoughtlessness,
entitlement, imperialism, appropriation. It stinks. I don’t even have a sense of smell and I can tell that. It leaves an utterly bad taste in the mouth, and they should both be ashamed of themselves.

I get really angry with hetero/cis/binary/sexual folks complaining about Pride. I’ve never been to one – and will be missing my local one this year because of an out-of-town trip – but that’s besides the point.

A common complaint is that we’re ‘shoving it in their faces’. If I may put it crudely – bullshit. My heart bleeds. Not.

For one, it’s pure hypocrisy.

Apparently they believe that the hetero, cis, binary, sexual norm is not shoved into everyone’s faces daily. I suppose that the fact that every compulsory primary school reading book features only normative characters is just coincidence, is it? What about the abundance of normative PDA? That’s just an exception I suppose. Oh – and the media emphasis on normative relationships? I guess that’s just representation. And surely the stigmatisation of non-normative identities has nothing to do with it? /endsarcasm.

Most of us had normativity shoved down our throats from an early age. We sung songs about normative relationships, watched programes, read books, saw films about normative relationships. We saw only the normative represented positively. Often we never even saw the non-normative at all.

That is having an identity shoved into your face. Not a group of people coming together one day of the year to celebrate who they are and try to cast a bright flare through the dark clouds that hover over their path.

For two, they’re complaining about something that has grown up as a reaction to oppression – oppression perpetuated by them. Really not their business objecting. Objections from within the community are fine, but from without?

Oh hey there kyriarchy, I saw you a mile off.

People within the gender and sexuality norm do not get to interfere. Simple as. How hard can it be? If your privilege has made you think that people being themselves are shoving stuff in your face, you need to examine your privilege rather than their motives. It stinks the whine of the privileged person who just can’t accept that the oppressed people have needs too. We need to be recognised as the equals of anyone else. We need to resist our erasure at the hands of the privileged. And one way we’re doing that is through Pride. Is through throwing up a light to our youth so that they can find themselves. Is through taking the aspects of us that the kyriarchy hates and celebrating them defiantly. Is through sticking a finger up at the dominant norms and saying ‘We exist too!’

So if the privileged people think we’re shoving it in their faces, they need to examine why they think that and why we need to do what we do in the first place.

Something of the same applies for any situation in which the marginalised – on any axis – are accused of shoving their selves into the privileged’s faces. In a lot of those situations, though, there’s the additional point – if the privileged are allowed to do it, the marginalised should be. If you don’t object to hetero-perceived PDA – don’t claim that gay-perceived PDA is bad. Because that’s just perpetuating oppression.