Monday, 22 July 2019

The non-binary umbrella.

July 14th last was – as well as the 230th Bastille Day (or 231st, if the first one counts) – the eighth Non-Binary People’s Day. The date was chosen due to its equidistance (128 days either way) from International Women's Day (March 8th) and International Men's Day (November 19th).

To celebrate NBPD, Sue Kerr, at the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog, posted (as many other people doubtless did) a picture of Srinidhi Seshadri's NonBinary Umbrella.

Right click, Save Image As...

Okay, you might consider the “gender non-conforming” bubble to be pushing at the boundaries of non-binary somewhat. Pretty much everyone is gender non-conforming to some degree, and that gender non-conformity doesn't mean they're all non-binary. They're not.

But that's the thing about metaphorical umbrellas. You're not compelled to stand under them, yet they shelter whomsoever chooses to do so, without fear or favour. So if a gender non-conforming person wants to stand under this particular umbrella, the open-ended inclusivity of its description indicates that they can.

As for me, looking at once to the genderqueer bubble – the definition there isn't one I'd use. I prefer it looser, as in my post from 2015: someone whose gender is "queer" in some way, without specifying how. Then I read the non-binary headline and its “neither entirely male nor entirely female”.

Hitherto, I've ummed and ahed about claiming a non-binary identity, seeing it as a not-at-all-binary type thing. So the words “not entirely” are like a gift. So yes, still a bit binary, still male, partially, sort of, but no, not entirely.

That suits me just fine :)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019


I was rather pleased with that title, which opens up all sorts of blog-relevant double meanings. Except that the literal sense in which I actually meant it is not what it actually means:

Crossposting is the act of posting the same message to multiple information channels,” says Wikipedia. “This is distinct from multiposting, which is the posting of separate identical messages, individually, to each channel.

Right, so I'm not doing either of those because this isn't the same message, either posted at the same time or separately. Am I boosting? Apparently not, because you pay for that. Hmmm.

Well, anyway...

I recently posted something on my chess blog and thought I'd now flag (?) it here as well. It's a piece entitled ‘The Transvestite Attack’.

That might have all sorts of blog-relevant double meanings too. But it doesn't really. It's about chess. Mostly. Partly.

Have a look and you'll perhaps then see what I mean :)

Friday, 31 May 2019

Feeling invisible.

Last Friday we went to famous relative's surprise 80th birthday party in Bolton. “Rainbow Glamour! Wear something appropriately colourful,” his PA Louise said. So I dressed like this:

A rainbow feather boa is about as rainbow glamorous as I can manage (apart from a lollipop skirt anyway). A lot of the guests didn't bother. I guess being world-famous actors and suchlike feels glamorous enough already without needing to dress it up as well. Family tried a bit harder:

Front (by relationship to X): first cousin, nephew's wife, X, niece's husband, niece, grand-nephew's wife. Behind: first cousin once removed, grand-nephew, grand-nephew's wife, grand-nephew. Photo: nephew. (I'm not sure where brother-in-law had gotten to.)

Several people said they liked my jumper. One guy liked it so much that he took to stroking it (me) whenever he walked past our table. Okay. But that's not what's got me thinking.

I'm looking at the top picture again and wondering: pink shoes, pink jeans, fluffy red jumper (I don't wear the boa too often, just at Pride really) – what do other people see when they look at me?

It's not something you ever ask, is it? “How do you see me?” And if you did ask, people aren't primed to answer questions like that. Mostly I just get compliments about what I'm wearing, which are always nice. But what do they actually see?

Do I look: Weird? Queer? Ridiculous? Gay? Trans? Femme? And if so, how femme? On a scale from 1 to 10.

Well, as long as people aren't abusive, I don't particularly mind what they think they see. But it'd be nice to know all the same. I'm currently feeling a bit invisible :/

Friday, 1 March 2019

Eighth Anniversary.

So my eighth blogging anniversary has gone past, on February 7th last.
As you'll of course have noticed, I didn't write much at all last year: just five posts, and two of those were about my not posting anything. On the other hand, April 21st did see the appearance of my long-form article ‘Straight Male Femme’, which was of course worth at least five posts by itself, and which you'll of course have read.

On a similar subject, many thanks to Dr Finn Mackay for sending me a PDF of her own article ‘No woman’s land? Revisiting border zone denizens’, published in the Journal of Lesbian Studies (2019). The posited border zone in this case is between butch and trans – with specific reference to how that plays out in the UK, which is nice to see. (Queer Feminine Affinities was supposed to do that too, but didn't.)

Based on her survey research (2017) into lesbian and queer masculinities, Finn writes that (from 247 respondents) 30 identified as butch, 28 as queer, 18 as gender non-conforming, 17 as non-binary, 16 as androgynous, 10 as masculine of centre, 8 as masculine, 5 as transgender, 4 as transmasculine, and 1 as stud – selected discretely from a drop-down menu. Obviously those labels are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and people were given space to amplify on them if and as desired. How people understand themselves and their gender(s) is a very personal matter.

Sitting in the reflected border zone – between femme and trans – many of the further responses (given under pseudonyms) resonate with me:

— Politically I feel like a woman because I have been socialized as one. Personally I feel neither female or male but me, and I feel butch. (Sneja)
— I am no longer sure what is me, but the uncertainty feels ok. It feels like a space to breathe. (Jazza)
— I guess it’s nice to be liminal. Liminal is a good word. I will describe myself as liminal. I think it’s hard for others to make assumptions about you when you’re liminal (particularly straight people), as you’re not fitting into expected norms; that can leave some space to manoeuvre. (Tam)

My own identification as "male" is now mostly political too: pushing at the artificial boundaries of the binary category so I can fit into it, even though I'm no longer really sure I belong there. Repeating Jazza's and Tam's words: “no longer sure”; “uncertainty”; “a space to breathe”; “space to manoeuvre”: Yes, to all those. I've written much the same before: see ‘Border Territories’ and ‘Reading S. Bear Bergman’.

As Finn notes: Some paths go from here to there, but there is also the possibility of “an unlimited number of in-between places where one might stop for a while or return to, places where people might even live” (quoting Naomi Scheman).

And as she concludes: The challenge is to avoid a situation where identifi-cations must be made against and in contrast to others. (...) The point is to take back the ground, not out from under each other, our fellow travellers, but from the structures of power that make the journey so hard for everyone in the first place.

Amen to that.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Pronouns again.

“Just Do It,” Lynn said. Just write. Okay, so. And as it happens I do have something to write about...

The problem of pronouns has surfaced again. I got referred to as “he” and was surprised by how much it grated. The feeling of wrongness was visceral. But while “he” may be wrong, there isn't anything that feels exactly right either. Despite the fact that I said, only the other day, that I prefer gender neutral pronouns – a neutral singular “they" and its associated cases (them, their, themself, etc) – which at least acknowledges my genderqueerness.

Sigh. It seems I'm going back and forth between things I wrote three and seven years ago, without ever getting them resolved.

US history professor, Jen Manion, has recently written about pronouns too. This bit certainly struck a chord:

My pronoun was “she.” But saying it felt that I was consenting to a denial of my gender nonconformity and masculinity. My gender, something I then described as butch, was not legible as transgressive in this new gendered order. Saying “she” implied that I was cisgender and not trans, which I resented. Saying “she” implied that I was unaware, out of touch, or in denial of my gender.

But Professor Manion is concerned with a specific context, that of pronoun go-rounds, and what her usage of “she” implies there, how it renders her invisible. Elsewhere, her “gender — a lifetime of non-conformity, masculinity, butchness, and transness — is neither validated nor undone by a one syllable word.” Whereas I feel that “he” erases me in all contexts.

On the go-round, US law professor, Dean Spade, argues for its continued usefulness here, writing that “it is not meant to and cannot take care of all the many complex problems of judgment, identity, and anxiety that exist around our complex lives and our political movements. It is merely an attempt to create a practice of not assuming we know what someone goes by just by looking at them.” Fair enough.

As for me, what I'd really like is a non-gendered pronoun. One that doesn't say anything about my gender at all. One like Marge Piercy's “per”, or the Finnish “hän” (pronounced “hen”).

According to Wikipedia: “The Finnish language does not distinguish gender in nouns or even in personal pronouns: hän is ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’ depending on the referent.” In other words, it won't stop people automatically gendering on sight and categorizing you on that basis. But at least the language doesn't inflict it on you.

So then: hän, hänen, hänet. As someone with some Scots heritage, I have to say I quite like the idea of being called “hen” :)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Fifty Five.

Another year, another birthday. Apparently, it's five years since my last birthday post, ‘Fifty’, so that makes me fifty five.

Today. Five five. Crackerjack.

And it's getting on for five months since I last posted here. What can I say? Not much, seeing as I feel I have less and less to say – in any context. I've only gone down to my local trans group once this year and I left during the "socializing" break.

I have been out to a couple of other things: CN Lester was in Nottingham again, at Five Leaves Bookshop, talking about Trans Like Me and other stuff. And it was TDOR a few days later – and apart from the usual candlelight vigil, we had a nice, positive event Celebrating Resilience and Resistance at the Contemporary. I made notes in my notebook so that I could post about it later, but... didn't.

“Get busy livin'”, I wrote five years ago. Nothing much seems to have happened since then. And my rut continues.

Something better change. I said something better change. Change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change, change.

The admirably disciplined Lynn Jones makes herself post something every Friday. Perhaps I should try that. Or if not every Friday – that does sound incredibly tiring – then at least once a month, as I used to.

Someone come and light a fire under me.


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Fourth Pride.

Nottingham 28th July. Last Saturday. My fourth Pride in a row. Which was apparently the biggest yet.

And there was a large trans contingent throughout. It seemed important to attend in view of the tiny but irritating anti-trans protest (ffs) at London Pride this year. In Nottingham the countless trans flags streaming in the breeze, supported by cis allies carrying “L with the T” and “Lesbians Against TERFs” banners, were a big fuck off to that.

But it all went off peacefully. And due to ongoing roadworks on Pelham Street, we got to parade along part of Parliament Street and hold up the traffic. Yay! It feels almost like a real march if we're inconveniencing people.

Here are some of us:

(photo by Joseph Raynor, liberated from the Nottingham Post website.)

I was going to sign off there with “See you next year”, except that I've been out to quite a few things recently:

— a talk on ‘Trans*’ by Jack Halberstam at Five Leaves Bookshop;
— Carrie Paechter's inaugural lecture ‘Gender Matters’ at Nottingham Trent;
— a panel discussion on ‘Gender Identity’ with Maria Munir, CN Lester, Katharine Jenkins and Onni Gust at Nottingham Contemporary.

Perhaps I should write something about those sometime.

Briefly for now... I'm finding that cis feminist perspectives are of most interest to me at the moment. In the above events, those from Katharine Jenkins and Carrie Paechter. And elsewhere, from Sara Ahmed, Deborah Cameron, Sally Hines and Ash Sarkar. And Finn Mackay, who generously sent me a shiny booklet edition of ‘Raising Children: The Feminist Way’ (reciprocal donation to cat charity still outstanding). On which note, it's time I read Sandra Bem again. And I still have books by Sara Ahmed, Marilyn Frye, Surya Monro and Ellen Willis to read. And...

See you next year.