Sunday, 29 September 2019

Compliments and whatnot.

Surprising as it may seem, I do occasionally get people criticizing my clothing choices. They tend to use helpful and insightful terms like “wanker” or make the equivalent hand gesture out of a car window. Those people are always cis men. But far more often I receive compliments – mostly from cis women – and randomly. In the street, in shops, in the pub, on the bus, ...

My pink trainers (seen here) prompt a fair few comments. Once, a rather inebriated woman came up to me at the bus stop to tell me, for some considerable time, how great they were, how great I was for wearing them, and how much she missed her gay male friend in her home town of Kettering. My painted boots, decorated with humming birds, are much admired too – if, again, not by cis men, who prefer pointedly not to say anything about my footwear. I just watch their eyes go down to my feet and then come back up. Perhaps heels would excite them more.

My variously furred and furry coats I've mentioned before – and with photos, some with me in, some not: long denim, long afghan, short purple, shaggy dog. That's only half my collection, by the way. All thanks to eBay and charity shops.

But it's my jumpers that seem to garner the most approval. These include:
a multi-coloured (orange/brown/black) mohair polo neck; a green mohair crew neck with a sequined butterfly (my eldest niece likes this especially); and three I bought from icecoolfashion. I have the red one pictured there, plus the same in blue (visible here) and black. They are really quite nice. A friendly checkout assistant in the local Co-op said she'd tracked down a similar one for herself after seeing me in one of mine.

And now I've ordered this:



It probably won't look as good on me as on the mannequin, but it's still gorgeous. I'm looking forward to parading it in public and anticipate further compliments and whatnot to follow.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Two flags.

As a sequel to the non-binary umbrella, featured in my previous post, here now is the genderqueer flag:



As with the chronological equidistance of non-binary day, the genderqueer flag too has a pleasing mathematical derivation, based on hexadecimal inverses, as explained at genderqueerid.com:

The design [by Marilyn Roxie] is aesthetically similar to the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, and pansexual flags; that is, horizontal bars of color with special meaning. The meaning of the colors in the genderqueer and non-binary flag design are as follows:

Lavender (#b57edc): The mixture of blue and pink (traditional colors associated with men and women, present on the transgender pride flag) as lavender is meant to represent androgynes and androgyny. Also represents the “queer” in genderqueer, as lavender is a color that has long been associated with “queerness” , including gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities.

White (#ffffff): Meant to represent agender identity, congruent with the gender neutral white on the transgender pride flag.

Dark chartreuse green (#4A8123): The inverse of lavender; meant to represent those whose identities which are defined outside of and without reference to the binary. The color is the true inverse of lavender.


As it happens I have a new t-shirt with the wording “THEY THEM THEIRS” in those specific colours. I wore it, along with my humming bird boots, at Nottingham Pride last month. At which there was another flag:



That flag took three days to make and is – or at least was – the largest transgender flag in existence. Isn't it awesome! :)

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

Cross-posting.

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” :)