Monday, 17 April 2017

More on Clothes.

Talking of looking at other people's clothes, I'm currently re-watching the complete run of Sherlock Holmes on DVDs. The Granada version, that is, starring Jeremy Brett, who is the best ever Holmes, no question about it. Followed perhaps by Basil Rathbone. (Nuts to Benedict Cumberbatch.)

Anyway, as a sort of period drama, or a period detective series at least, it's all in appropriate period costume. The men are all in their period suits and waistcoats; while the women are all in their period dresses with huge skirts. I know which I prefer. Okay, the bodices might sometimes be a bit tight, and the period corsetry is probably uncomfortable. But just for the look of them, I have to ask myself: why would anyone of whatever gender want to wear these suits rather than these dresses?

Pictured there from the top with Holmes and two different Watsons are: Mary Morstan, Violet Hunter, and Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope. Well, yes, Holmes is quite dapper too. But never mind that...

More generally, seeing as I have no urgent desire to dress up in Victorian or Edwardian costume, I'd also ask (rhetorically): why would anyone actually choose to wear clothes off the men's racks, when they could wear clothes off the women's racks? When the latter are so much more colourful, so much more varied and more interesting in every way. (Yes, I can think of several reasons too, including trans-related ones, but never mind that either...)

The constant gendering of stuff is silly. As Grandma Walton once said: work is work. And as she almost certainly wouldn't have said: clothes are clothes. Which brings me to something I wrote back in 2011:

“Pretty clothes de-gendered are now just pretty clothes. Pretty clothes re-gendered are now just men's clothes (literally: clothes worn by men). Using this logic (which, I have to say, is not originally mine) we are not cross-dressers, whatever anyone else might think. We are just men wearing clothes that society has arbitrarily designated as female.”

I was pleased by those assertions, despite not being totally convinced then of their correctness. Six years on, they strike me as utterly banal. Clothes are clothes, and I'm coming round to the viewpoint that people (especially men) who limit themselves to their "designated" clothes are just plain weird.

And, incidentally, I have a new coat:

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Creepy Behaviour.

A couple of years ago, I posted about a survey conducted by Laurie Penny into men's attitudes to Sex, Gender and Feminism. One of the questions – and my answer to it – was as follows:

How has sex affected the way you feel about yourself as a man? Have you ever worried about being 'creepy'? — It hasn't. But the “creepy” question is quite pertinent. As a transvestite, I'm very interested in clothing and in how clothes fit bodies, so I look at how people are dressed quite a lot. This seems to make some people uneasy, presumably because they think the "male gaze" is inevitably sexual. So men think I'm cruising them, and women think I'm mentally undressing them or generally being creepy. As I answered in one of your earlier surveys, what I need is a big sign that says: “I'm looking at your clothes not your body. No, really!”

Right. But since it has never worried me enough, and since I'm such a considerate person, I've very generously given myself a free pass to keep on looking. Or I did, until a regrettable incident last weekend. This was at a family gathering, a meal in a Manchester pub/restaurant with my nephews and nieces (and their significant others), to celebrate my mother's, their gran's, 81st birthday...

My youngest niece has recently dyed her hair turquoise. It always delights me as a “gender unconventional” person (to use Julia Serano's formulation) to see anything even slightly out of the ordinary in another person's appearance, and turquoise hair certainly meets that criterion. So, when we were all saying goodbyes, I took the opportunity to try and compliment my niece on her hair, and touched it casually at the same time. Yes, there's an immediate facepalm for a start, and it gets worse. Receiving no response I waved my hand in front of her face to attract her attention, until she quietly said “Stop it!”.

Okay. Being socially rather inept, slow to pick up on other people's feelings, and otherwise just plain stupid, it was only later I realized that my niece hadn't responded because I had totally creeped her out. Shit. (Sorry, Libby.) Since then, and since “creepy uncle” is not the sort of reputation I want, I've been re-evaluating my general behaviour and have come up with two resolutions (so far):

1. Do not touch people's hair without asking first. Or even at all. Jeez. This shouldn't require a resolution at all. In any case, as I said in the same survey: “I'm not big on physical contact or even physical closeness. I have a rather wide sense of personal space and don't usually like that being invaded.” In other words, I don't like being casually touched by anyone either. No. Stop it!

2. Do not stare at people no matter what your reason might be. You haven't got a big explanatory sign, have you, so they're not going to know your supposedly "valid" reason, are they. You dickhead. (A reason that might well creep them out even more.) And if you look someone up and down, they're probably going to think you're checking them out. And if your eyes go down from a woman's face, she's probably going to think you're staring at her tits. Facepalm again. This is pretty obvious stuff, isn't it. How I've managed to go through life without being beaten up on a regular basis, I'm not sure.

Well, anyway, the first of those resolutions is easily accomplished; as I say, no touching is my default position. The second one I'm finding a bit more difficult. From the survey again: “I rarely find normatively gendered people (i.e. most people) attractive”. Which is true. But I do like to look at what they're wearing. Sigh.

But there's now a more pressing question: Is that worth being thought creepy by my family over? No, it isn't. It definitely isn't.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Trans Space Notts.

In this, my sixth anniversary post – tarantara! tarantara! – I was going to write about being “Not Trans Enough” which I've been feeling quite a lot lately.

As in: What exactly does “trans” mean? What am I in fact trans-ing, given that I'm not moving from one gender to another and don't believe that cultural notions of binary gender (which I do trans) are anything other than arbitrary, oppressive and false.

But such a post would have been rather depressing. So I went down to the Trans Space Notts meeting and said I was feeling “Not Trans Enough” there instead. And that turned out much better.

TSN is my regular trans group, which meets once a month in Nottingham city centre. It's also – as I very much like – a structured, facilitated meeting, which means there are group leaders (facilitators) who sort of plan what we're going to talk about, and who are there if anyone needs help with anything on a personal level.

We generally start off with the chairs in a big circle, and go round the group (sixteen of us this time) for “introductions”: names, pronouns, and a short something we might want to say about whatever. We subsequently break into smaller groups to discuss whatever in a more intimate, less formal setting, before coming back together again towards the end.

For instance, re introductions: “I'm Jonathan, they pronouns; I identify as genderqueer and femme, and recently I've been feeling Not Trans Enough, so the (suggested) topic What is Trans? is quite relevant to me right now.”

My concern was answered straight away by an affirmation that the group didn't consider anyone to be Not Trans Enough, and that our trans experiences all vary and are all valid. Which I knew already “on paper” as it were. But feelings is still feelings, so it was reassuring to have someone say that out loud, and in a group context, where most people (not including me) seem to be (or have been) involved with the Gender Identity Clinic to some extent.

This evening we split into three groups to discuss, variously, and vaguely: Fear of Surgery; Coming Out; and What is Trans? (that is, to each of us personally, rather than a debate about definitions). I joined the “What is Trans” group, where I mostly listened while other people spoke – I hardly ever say much, and even then not very articulately; I much prefer written language to spoken – about gender fluidity, non-binary identities, fluctuating ideas of gender, and so forth, all of which I could relate to and made me feel like less of a border-dwelling outsider.

I didn't actually resolve the issue of being Not Trans Enough, in the sense that I'm not sure how trans I am at all a lot of the time, and my profile still reads “on the nebulous border between cis and trans”. But, and more importantly, I resolved my feelings to the extent that it no longer seemed really to matter.

I also bought a knitted bobble hat in trans flag colours, and someone said they liked my jumper. So I was glad I went. Even if the shoes I was wearing were inappropriate for the weather and my socks got wet.


After blogging for six years, I was coming to the conclusion I didn't have much else to say here. Indeed, I'm mostly blogging about chess these days. But if – as I learned from my TSN subgroup – queer disability theorists describe their lives as a journey without any particular destination, that must mean there's never nothing left to say.

So here's to another six years :)