Archive for September, 2008

26
Sep
08

Lindsay Lohan A Lesbian! (Maybe the alliteration is just irresistable?)

Unless you’re as completely out of touch with pop culture as I am (thanks to Girlfriend, Esq. for the heads up), most of you have probably seen the excessive media coverage of Lindsay Lohan finally admitting she’s in a same-sex relationship. And of course, I’m completely frustrated with how many of the pieces have decided that “dating a girl after years and years of dating boys” means “lesbian.” A couple are so thrilled with Clay Aiken and Lohan “coming out” at the same time that they seem to have gotten confused, and are writing headlines declaring both gay without any word from Lohan about how she identifies. This charmer goes so far as to suggest that all of Lohan’s drug use and running around with boys was a desperate search for what would make her truly happy – girls, of course (“She was gaining a reputation as a man-eater, when in reality she was only hopping between blokes because she failed to find the true love she craved.” And if that’s not enough to nauseate you, try “Since they met we’ve seen a more demure, feminine and better behaved Lindsay.” ‘Cause, um, conforming to stereotypical femininity is a definite sign of happiness). Here we have the suggestion that she’s jumped the fence to help heal her broken heart, with the patronizing suggestion that she drink and cry herself to sleep instead. At Fan Fare we’re given two options – “lesbian” or “experimenting with her sexuality” (’cause no one has a stable sexuality that’s anything other than straight or gay, remember?) And The Daily Star quotes her as declaring “Yes, I am a lesbian.” I have to say that I seriously doubt that. Had she said anything nearly that unequivocal, it would be quoted in every single article, not just in one tabloid – completely fabricating a quote is even more awesome than simply misinterpreting what was actually said.

The one thing no one seems to be doing is giving serious thought to the possibility that a relationship with a woman doesn’t mean a girl is definitely gay, and also doesn’t mean she’s sowing her wild oats and experimenting. Maybe, instead, she’s one of those people who can be attracted to and fall in love with people regardless of gender. What do we call those people, again? Um. I’ve almost got it, it’s right on the tip of my tongue…

I have to say, though, that I’m pleasantly surprised how many of the articles I turned up *didn’t* claim Lohan is gay, or make any statements about her identity at all (or at least only referred to it as a “lesbian relationship” and not to her as a lesbian). I was closing tabs thinking “That doesn’t help me…hey, actually, that not being useful is awesome!” Few of them used the word bisexual, either, but I’m perfectly happy to have it left ambiguous until and unless Lohan chooses to clarify. I’m not exactly clamoring to have her as a bisexual role model, but I also resent the way the media declares people straight or gay the moment they have a new partner, completely writing off anything that happened in their life before that moment (Anne Heche, anyone?). I have no way of knowing whether Lohan is bisexual or a lesbian — and neither do any of these bloggers and “reporters.”

Now I’m going to see if I can wash my brain out with “Nobody Passes” and a good night’s sleep. Googling Lindsay Lohan, indeed…some days I can’t believe this is my life.

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24
Sep
08

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Happy Celebrate Bisexuality Day, everyone! (Even though it’s over now because I can never finish anything until after midnight.) I wasn’t able to track down any events in my area, but I hope you did in yours.

I have a lot of issues, politically, with the idea of MFF threesomes. Especially in the case of M/F couples cruising for another woman to share their bed, and that I’ve written about here before – but in other situations, too. The whole thing strikes me as a display of female sexuality for male gratification, it just plays into the “every man’s fantasy is two be with two chicks” cliche while ignoring female pleasure and desire, and gives me the creeps.
So I was surprised, in retrospect, to realize I didn’t feel preyed upon or squicked out when Girlfriend, Esquire and I were propositioned for one last weekend. I was too busy feeling flattered and intrigued and turned on, figuring out whether everyone involved was interested and the timing could be worked out, to turn a political eye to the situation.

This was probably a good reminder for me that not all situations exist specifically the same way I generalize them to analyze them. In this particular case, Girlfriend, Esq. and I met a very attractive, charming, and flirtatious boy at a party. Despite classic California good looks, he was hardly your average straight guy – he was wearing more glitter than I was (and that’s saying something), and I’ve seen him in some pretty queer situations. And my Kinsey 6 girlfriend was the first one to express attraction. Kissing ensued in short order, and to quote her, “So here I was, me and my girlfriend both making out with a guy – sorry, whose hetero porn did I stumble into?” And yet, as she went on to note, that’s not how it felt at all. Instead it was sweet and hot and exciting. When he suggested that we try to find some time before the weekend ended to pounce each other, I was pleased, not offended. And while it never quite came together, I’d have liked it to.

And of course there were mitigating factors there that were very specific to me and my needs. Girlfriend, Esq. and I were both attracted to him before he made a move on either of us (and actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that we made a move on him). He’s awfully queer, which is pretty much a requirement for me these days, and takes away from the ooky acting-out-a-straight-boy’s-fantasy feeling. His interest felt specific to us as individuals, rather than as a girl-girl couple. And even so it’s easier for me to understand people who are attracted to Girlfriend, Esq. and I as a unit than people who ooh and ah at the very idea of two feminine lesbians, since even I can ackowledge that the two of us have very appealing chemistry that others notice a mile away. And we were in the kind of lovely queer-positive, sex-positive space where no one was going to assume anything about us based on what they saw, and I felt particularly open to anything that might happen and be pleasurable.  All of these things are very specific to me and my preferences, but I’m trying to not see this as a perfectly acceptable exception to a generally creepy trend. I’m trying instead to let it remind me that nearly all sexual situations can feel good and not icky depending on the specifics and the people involved. It was probably about time for that reminder, and good for me to be in and enjoy a situation that I usually dismiss as an unexamined catering to male pleasure. Because of course the truth is that it doesn’t have to be for male gratification – it can be for everyone’s gratification, and probably usually is.

I’m still creeped out by couples looking for any girl to share their bed, and straight boys who fantasize about two girls together in a way that makes who those girls are and what they want irrelevant. But I remember now that these aren’t the only ways that particular type of group sex happens. Sometimes three people are just all attracted to each other and want to act on it. That can be a lovely thing. It’s really not something I should go around judging and applying my politics to, especially when it’s unclear from outside the situation that anything I would actually find off-putting is happening.

Every day is a learning experience, huh?

In unrelated news, the first secret in this week’s PostSecret was “I’m bipolar and straight. But when my meds are off, I become bisexual.” I’m fascinated by that construction. I imagine that if this were my secret, it would be phrased “I’m bipolar and bisexual, but my meds make me straight.” And I’d be pissed about it, too.

Also, for the New Yorkers among us, on Thursday, October 23rd at 7 there’s a program on bisexual film at the LGBT center. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it here afterward. It doesn’t appear to be on the Center’s calendar yet, but I’ll try to remember to post a link when it is.

20
Sep
08

Food and Self-Fashioning

I’m back! I’m now nicely settled in my new home and my life has been completely taken over by grad school (in a good way!), but I am determined to find some time to blog.
I kind of feel like writing about something that isn’t really all that connected to bisexuality. I suppose the only tenuous connection you can draw is that it has a lot to do with the body and the question of identity, which are issues that are also very tied to queerness, but that’s kind of the best I can do. Oh well! I promise there’s more queer stuff in the works after I blather for a while about vegetarianism.
Continue reading ‘Food and Self-Fashioning’

08
Sep
08

No replacements allowed! (on gender bans in polyamory)

I asked my dear friend (and frequent commenter here) TGStoneButch if he’d mind turning his brilliant comment on “What’s so great about cock, anyway?” into our first guest post, since I loved what he had to say and wanted to see discussion about it happening here on the front page where it belonged, instead of hidden away in the comments. I think this is important stuff, and that his analysis of it is probably dead-on, and it’s not something I have enough personal experience with in this sort of queer context to feel comfortable writing about myself. Here’s what he sent me:

(This is a patchwork of several comments I made in this blog recently, which I have lovingly stitched together into a fairly cohesive whole, for your reading pleasure.)

I’m poly, have been for quite some time. When I have spoken to My last few partners (as well as other folks) about poly agreements, one of the common things that has come up is a ban on dating someone else of a similar gender. In My case, it has often gotten really specific to type of femme, and not larger categories like “women” or “men”, but I have heard about (and been the other gendered secondary/date in question of) partners being totally ok with a masculinely gendered partner dating/having a boy, if ze is primary partnered with a girl, or vice versa, and it not feeling nearly as scary as potentially being “replaced” by someone of “the same” gender. Which is how many describe it. A very bisexual phenomenon within hierarchical polyamory. (For monosexual polyamorous folks, a gender ban of similarly gendered folks would result in nobody to play with. We get the lucky extra set of rules. For non-hierarchical polyamorous folks, the whole primary/secondary thing is unlikely to apply.)

There is something in it that’s about perception of threat, and who is competition. An ex of Mine who subscribed to the “play with whoever you want as long as that person is not a femme like me,” said to Me once that if I decided to leave her for a (insert specific gender that ain’t hers), then there was nothing she could offer Me to measure up to that, but that it wasn’t cool for Me to play with a femme with a similar gender. Another femme I know objected specifically to her partner playing with a femme with a very similar gender and style, saying something about “it’s like ze wants to replace me!”.

I want particularly to examine the gender ban/allowance dynamic where it occurs most frequently in my own life; in the context of queer women/trans relationships. In my experience of this dynamic, there is often an established cross gender pairing, butch/femme or transmasculine/femme. Within that pairing, the masculinely gendered partner is limited in hir potential secondaries and casual partners, sometimes not allowed to date femmes at all, sometimes not allowed to date a certain kind of femme (this is where the fear of being replaceable idea may come in to play).

So, let’s take the more common one I’ve found, where the masculinely gendered partner is only allowed to date/partner with other masculinely gendered people. (No other femmes allowed, only one femme rules this roost.) Somehow, femmes are out of the realm of possibility (potentially because femmes are a threat? a replacement? competition?)…but other butches/bois/transmasculine folks are not. Why is it that butch/butch or masculine/masculine pairing (which I’m going to call boy/boy from now on for ease of writing only) is not a threat to butch/femme or transmasculine/femme pairing (which I’m going to call cross-gender pairings for ease of writing only)?

In my mind, this is directly linked to heterosexism and sexism. There is a way that this dismisses boy/boy dynamics as being about nothing but work (in the case of a boy servant) or sex/physical (in the case of sex/SM), or just not as “real” or satisfying. There is no romantic threat here–because boys don’t experience intimacy or love with each other? There is no Ds threat–because a boy submissive is so different from a femme one, or boy servants do such different work? There is no threat of this lover becoming primary–because boys can’t be primary with other boys, the “natural” order is cross gender pairing? There is no sexual threat–because boy/boy fucking couldn’t possibly replace cross gender sex?

I have to say that in my heart, as someone who has seen this from all the boy angles possible (the boy who is only allowed to date other boys, the boy who is dating the masculine partner, the boy dating the femme who is allowed to date who she wants regardless of gender but limits the genders of the people her masculine partner dates), I do experience this as dismissive to boy/boy dynamics. One of the reasons I now loudly identify as a fag (which I know is often misread as gay man), is because I want to communicate to potential femme partners of mine and the masculine folks I date that I do see boy/boy relationships as potentially primary, just as important, absolutely a potential threat in the exact same ways (though I also am very ethical as a poly person and don’t actually want to threaten primary relationships, my own or other people’s), all that and a bag of chips. I do not see them as lesser, less important, less meaningful, less vital to my life.

I have talked to other secondary boys (who date masculine partners, either in a het context or a queer women/trans context where there are gender bans like I described above), and I must say that I am not alone in feeling like boy/boy is often being treated as lesser, in a way that encompasses a lot of how secondary partners are mistreated and neglected, but is also particularly unique to that gendered rule. The bulk of them have been transguys and butches; I wonder if cisgender boys experience a similar dynamic. I know that one of the transguys I talked to felt like he was being treated as lesser precisely because he was trans.

I definitely feel like there is some heterosexism involved in that dynamic, where cross gender pairings are held up as the ideal, and boy/boy is dismissed as not even a potential threat. (To be clear, I would love for no poly arrangement to include fear of replacement, and perception of secondary folks and dates as potential threats, but I find that an unrealistic hope. And I think it is vital to not leave our emotional and highly personal perceptions of what is threat and what is not out of our analysis. I know, for example, that when a femme partner said to me in poly negotiations that she perceived someone as a threat because she was thinner than her, that we had some societal stuff going on, for sure.)

It’s not a blatantly sexist dynamic in the same way as a het guy who “lets” his gf get with other girls because girl/girl couldn’t possibly threaten his dick, but it still feels like sexism at work. A dynamic where any femme partner is a potential threat/replacement is one where femmes are in competition with each other, where femmes are seen as wanting to “steal” other femme’s partners, where femmes are seen as interchangeable, and that smacks of sexism to me. Just the idea that your gender is the essence (not one aspect but the core) of your value, your attractiveness, your identity as a partner (I’m not talking gender play here, but real world dynamics) feels inherently sexist to me.

Perhaps it may already be obvious already that gender specific bans often put transfolks in challenging situations. I will give two specific examples from My own trans life. I once met up with and was negotiating with a married cisgendered guy who was only allowed by his wife to submit to men. He assured me that he saw me as a man. When I asked whether his wife would also, he said, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” and was surprised when I said that answer didn’t satisfy me and my poly ethics. (Needless to say, I did not play with him, for many reasons, actually.)

Another experience I had is particular to genderfluid folks. I spent many years identifying as a gender switch. (I frequently morphed between various high femme and masculine genders.) I was a secondary boy in a situation where I was literally “not allowed” to show up as or morph to femme genders, because the ftm I was playing with only had permission from his wife to play with boys. A gender ban could not allow for my gender at all.

That’s my 50c on the subject (definitely more than 2c for sure), and I would love to hear other people’s opinions and ideas.

05
Sep
08

Stuff I’m Reading: Split Screen

I just finished Brent Hartinger’s Split Screen (Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies), this year’s Lambda Literary Award winner in the Bisexual category. It was cute, but I have to say I was disappointed. I have trouble believing there wasn’t a better bisexual book published all year. Especially since I’ve read three of the other nomineesLook Both Ways, Landing, and Baby Love — and liked all of them better.

Split Screen is two books in one, following two different characters through the same story – Russel, the 16 year old gay protagonist of two of Hartinger’s previous books; and his bisexual best friend, Min. They work as extras in a zombie flick, and each have romantic trouble along the way – Russel in choosing between his long-distance boyfriend and the ex who wants to get back together with him, and Min deciding whether she can date a girl who won’t risk losing her cheerleader friends by coming out of the closet.

I read Min’s book first (my own little feminist statement), but it felt like an afterthought: “Look how funny it is that so much can happen when Russell’s attention is elsewhere!” Hartinger seems to understand what should make up a teenage girl’s inner life, and many of the sentiments expressed were dead-on, but it didn’t seem to flow. It felt like an illustration of why writing teachers harp on “Show, don’t tell.” On the other hand, his politics are pretty good (even if he did title the book about a boy with the title of the movie it’s about, and the book about a girl “Bride of” same – why, horror genre? Why?), and I appreciated the presentation of bisexuality. 9 pages in, we find Min thinking to herself,

Most people really don’t understand bisexuality. I hate it when people talk like bisexual people are indecisive, unable to make up their minds. It’s not a question of being changeable, like a sea anemone, able to switch genders.I don’t shift or waver or change, and I’m not on my way to anything other than being bi; I’ve always been bisexual, and I always will be. Why is that so hard for people to understand?
It’s also not the case that I’m attracted to all guys and all girls — “anything that moves,” as some people like to say. Like anyone, I’m only attracted to some people — some of them guys and some of them girls.

Thanks, Brent! That’s pretty awesome. As is the way Russel also accepts Min’s bisexuality as permanent and meaningful, when he’s narrating. But I was disappointed that Min is presented as being sanctimonious and uncompromising because she doesn’t want hide who she is to be with her closeted girlfriend. Not wanting to sneak around and misrepresent your politics and desires seems pretty reasonable to me, so the way the book pushed her to take chances and be more open-minded felt a little off.

Russel’s book read much better. Unsurprisingly, Hartinger seems to have a much better idea of what it’s like to be a gay high school boy than a bisexual high school girl, and either I’d gotten used to the woodenness of the writing by then or the writing on that side was just better. It seemed pretty clear that readers were expected to read this half first, but you didn’t have to — it made sense the way I read it — and I’m going to chalk that up to the series being about Russel, rather than everyone always putting girls second. And Russel’s dilemma (stay with a boy who lives 800 miles away, or dump him for the guy who 8 months ago joined in with his friends to call you a fag rather than come out, but has now come out to win you back?) seemed much less clear-cut to me, so I didn’t find myself thinking he was handling it horribly wrong. And his parents’ reaction to finding out he’s gay was a believable side plot. All in all it wasn’t a bad way to spend two days’ worth of train rides, but I thought Lambda could have done better.

Did anyone else read this? Am I totally off base here – is it fever brain from this nasty cold making everything seem wooden?