Monday, 27 September 2021

Eight months later.

Well, I've finally finished my book and it will be out in November. This is what it will look like:



As you'll notice, it's a chess book. It has nothing to do with gender. And yet...

About the author: ‘They have been investigating and writing about opening theory for over 30 years.

Yes, that's “they have” not “he has”. Right.

Similarly, unless referring to someone specifically gendered, I use neutral pronouns throughout. No “he or she” nonsense. Just “they” and “their”, and even “themself”. Because why the fuck wouldn't I do that?!

Furthermore, the book ‘is based to a large extent on my own investigations and practice’, so I reference a lot of my own games, including those played online – where I mostly use the handle “tsmenace” (and have been doing since I started playing online in 2004). As I explain in the Introduction: ‘Other instances of “tsmenace” online are not me, though the source is likely to be the same, and I still have the t-shirt.’ Readers here, if not there, may already recognize that source...

From Wikipedia: ‘The Transexual Menace (...) was a transgender rights activist organization founded in New York City in 1993. It was the first direct action group of its kind, and grew to be a national organisation with 24 chapters.’ My t-shirt adds the words: “Great British Chapter”. I got it from PFC back in the day.

Damn, that seems a lifetime ago. Do we even use the term “transsexual” any more? It's a long time since I wore the t-shirt too – I keep it in a drawer as a souvenir – but when I did, the reactions were... entertaining. I never, as you might think, got any actual abuse. Instead, I saw people's eyes drift expressionlessly down to my chest and then back up again. I stared expressionlessly back. But that was back then. In the current trans-hostile climate I probably would get abuse. It'll be interesting to see whether there's any response to any of this once the book comes out.

Those last two words are apposite because the book is a sort-of coming out too, in that it puts my gender issues into the public domain. Albeit a tiny part thereof and only incidentally. After all, it is a chess book.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Lockdown #2

Or is it #3 now? I'm finding it hard to tell. I'm also finding this one much harder than the last.

Again, my life has hardly changed really. I still sit at home at the computer all day. But I'm now doing less and less while sitting there.

I'm still writing a book. Or rather, should be writing a book. I'm doing that less and less too. Early morning walks are out because it's dark, cold, very often wet, and the bunnies are probably all asleep underground anyway. I'm still practising the recorder on and off.

I've bought a few things courtesy of Facebook advertising. None of the stuff in my post. All from the store mentioned in the comments, including (since the link there has gone dead) one of these:



Fabulous. Who knows when I'll get the chance to wear it.

But the main event this time has been taking photos of the River Trent, from Gunthorpe Bridge to Torksey Lock and Littleborough, in various types of light and states of flood. I can't really see what I'm doing; the viewing screen is too small. I just point the camera in the right sort of direction and click. But that's the beauty of digital cameras. You can take as many pictures as you like. Some of them are bound to turn out okay.

Check my Twitter account for an ongoing selection if you want, and if you can bear to scroll through the rest of the junk to find them. They go back to 22nd August 2020. For those who can't be bothered, these are perhaps my four favourites:


Torksey Lock (7th November 2020)


Hazelford Ferry (12th November 2020)


Dunham Lakes (2nd January 2021)


Carlton-on-Trent (18th January 2021)

The third is my current desktop wallpaper :)

But seriously, fuck the Tories.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Facebook.

I don't like Facebook. I don't like how it operates. I don't like its governance, its political manipulation, its privacy policies. I don't like Mark Zuckerberg. I especially don't like its new interface. But I'm on there anyway because it's the only social media that keeps me in contact with people I never see or hear from otherwise, and to leave would mean not being in contact with them at all. Thus do FB suck you in and trap you.

They've also just given me an account warning for hate speech. Commenting on the differences between English and American punctuation, specifically on whether to place a comma inside or outside quote marks, I concluded – as a copy editor who thinks US grammatical rules on this point are silly – by saying: “Stupid Americans.” (Note that, US grammarians. The full stop is inside the quote marks here because I'm quoting what I actually wrote. If there'd been no full stop in the original, it should of course go outside the quote marks.) It seems FB regard calling Americans stupid as hate speech. Stupid Americans.

But there is something. Facebook lives from onsite advertising and likes to personalize that to each user according to... whatever criteria they use. Presumably they auto-trawl your posts, your comments, your likes, what advertising you actually click on, your groups, your pages, your friends, put tracking cookies on your computer, and so forth. I think there's a setting where you can turn this off. I must have done that at some stage because I used to get all sorts of irrelevant sponsored junk. When I ever took any notice of it, it was merely in order to click “Hide”.

Recently, there's been a change there. Possibly FB activated personalization again without telling me, because they seem to have refined what they send my way. Now I do get targeted advertising – and of just one type: women's clothing and accessories. That's it. Nothing else whatsoever.

For instance:


Those harem pants do look very comfortable. I could certainly go for the round neck velvety top. I love those patterned tights. Nice shawl too.

Have I bought anything? No, I haven't. Am I going to alter my advertising settings again? No, I'm not.

Okay, FB, score one to you.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Labels.

Labels are useful things, human things even, given our propensity to classify everything, including ourselves. It's good to be able to say “this is me”, and to have a place to stand, both alone and with others, all sorted out in your own mind – until you change it again.

Labels are annoying things too, oppressive things. In that they often carry baggage, a set of possible assumptions and interpretations which may not, very likely do not, apply. Yes, this is me. Yes, I am this. No, that does not mean that. The title on the cover reveals little about the whole book, not even, necessarily, what shelf to put it on.

So I can sort of understand people who say: “I'm not a label, I'm just me.” Intellectually, that is. Emotionally, I'm inclined to impose a label on them anyway: “Prat”.

Why am I thinking about labels again? Because of today's date. Over the years, I've adopted/adapted/discarded numerous labels but can't usually pinpoint when from. For example:

Transvestite — Going right back to teenage years in the 1970s. Almost quaintly old-fashioned now, but I have a nostalgic fondness for it.
Genderqueer — Some time in the 1990s. My favourite. I've never stopped using this one.
Trans — 1990s again. More of a political affiliation really, with the trans community, albeit while hanging about on the borders.
Femme — Probably 2006; exactly when I'm not sure. I do know where: by the window in the bar of the Chameleon Club, Nottingham.
Non-binary — I've gone back and forth on this since the 2010s. Maybe.
Sissy — 15th October 2019. For no obvious reason or purpose I made a note of the date.

And yet today is a year on from then. Which makes me a one-year-old sissy. I thought I should buy myself a card ;)

Monday, 28 September 2020

Femboy.

Regularly, intermittently, once a month perhaps, I do an online search for numerous (currently 42) terms and topics related to femme and butch. It's time consuming, and Google protests:



Clicking that box once in a while is not too irksome. I grumble when Google goes further and makes you click more boxes, containing: a car, a traffic light, a fire hydrant. And the pictures are never very clear. Grumble.

One term I've generally omitted is “femboy” because it always linked to a lot of porn. But it seems I've thereby missed something, since a search last Sunday for “femme men” brought up this:

Femme men have held space online for years now (Reddit’s /r/feminineboys forum has nearly 70k members since starting in 2012). However, they’ve become more visible than ever on TikTok. #FemboyFriday has become a popular weekly theme with over 158.3m views on the platform”.

That extracts from an article in the Evening Standard no less, which shows I'm really behind the curve here.

One of the biggest unifiers among femme boys is that they proudly incorporate feminine clothing into their wardrobes with strong ties to the LGBT community. Beyond that, they’re a diverse group, made up of people with different gender identities, sexualities and more.

Ooo, I'd like to be part of that — if I was forty years younger. It's a bit late in the day for me to be a femboy now. Another salutary lesson on not letting your youth go to waste.

But I note the headline: “Why #FemboyFriday is more than just a trend”. Initially a queer thing, the #femboyfriday hashtag has since been taken on by young straight cis guys, for whom clothes are just something to wear, referencing Kurt Cobain and Harry Styles.

Seth Williams says: “I don’t think that there is anything wrong with cishet men experimenting with their self expression. However, people need to be cognizant of the fact that our identities aren’t a ‘trend’ and that this is who we are. Amongst my circle, I’ve noticed that more discernibly or openly queer men receive much more hate. Our community has been fighting gender norms for years, so we should get the same appreciation as our cishet counterparts.”

He's being generous there, I think, given that this seems like yet another instance of queer culture being colonized by come-lately straight people, who neither understand nor care about its roots and history. Queer Black culture being colonized by straight white people.

In quiet protest Seth also uses the hashtag #FemboyEveryday. On video, Marc Sebastian stares you in the eye and says: “I'm just here to let you know that femboy style isn't really a trend. You just think it is because straight white boys are doing it now.

Quite. Well, not quite quite. Some straight white boys have been doing it for years too.

As Judd Anderson says: “People have been presenting themselves more femme for a long time but were constantly hated on and bullied. (...) The more people see it and see positivity coming from everyone it’ll make more people who’ve wanted to express themself in a more femme manner finally do it and not have to be worried about getting hate for the clothes they wear or how they want to present themself.

Okay, I'm itching to query Judd's use of “femme” there. Does he mean femme or just “feminine”? They're not the same thing. Mumble - straight - mumble - ignorance - mumble - queer culture - mumble - mumble. Except who am I to question what Judd knows or doesn't know? Certainly a lot more than I did at that age. Or even twenty years past that age. He's even using a “themself” pronoun formulation. Respect.

Respect to everyone on the #femboy hashtag. If still more to those who are actually femme. And more still to Kevin Ninh for sheer flawlessness.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Lockdown.

So how's it been for you?

Me, my life has hardly changed at all. Before lockdown I sat at home at the computer all day. During lockdown I've sat at home at the computer all day. After lockdown, I'll be sitting... where I'm sitting right now.

And I've been feeling as femme as ever. Shopping-wise that has manifested in a few eBay purchases, including another furry coat (ex Dorothy Perkins) and a pair of rainbow trainers (designed by Miley Cyrus no less). Sweet.

I've also been writing a book. And going for early morning walks to see the bunnies. And practising the recorder.

But the main event of lockdown has been watching my pageviews go up.
The current total is down right somewhere. Here's an up here posterity screenshot:



As you'll notice, they're approaching the 200,000 mark. What I'd really like is to see them clock round from 199,999. Watch as all the 9s turn into 0s, as we used to do with the old mechanical mileometers in cars. Small childhood pleasures. Digital technology is no fun.

Grumble.

Oh, and fuck the Tories.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Being ourselves.

It's TDOV today – apparently – the International Trans Day of Visibility. That's nice; although being visible when we're all in coronavirus lockdown does pose a challenge or two. I could perhaps stand at the front door and shout at the sporadic passers-by. Or perhaps not.

Instead, I'll flag a post from last month by C.J., the hero of Lori Duron's blog Raising My Rainbow (and who I mentioned back in 2016).

C.J. is now thirteen, very visible, and absolutely knows what's what:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked all the stuff in the “pink aisles.” I’ve always known I’m different. I’ve always known that I’m not a “typical boy.” And, I’ve never really cared that I’m different. There is no part of me – not even a single part – that wants to be a “typical boy.” The thought of having to play baseball or wear boys’ clothes makes me cringe with sadness. It makes me feel like I’d be forced to do something I don’t want to do. Kids shouldn’t be forced to be something or someone who they aren’t. Kids should be able to be themselves.

Yes, indeed. A hundred times indeed.

My own blog has, to a large degree, been about me working things through. Now I look back at older posts and they make me smile, wryly or wistfully as appropriate, seeing myself struggling with myself, with problematic issues of identity, theory and language. And yet, take away the need for justification and there's nothing very difficult about any of this.

People should be able to be themselves.

Quite so. And when – if – you've made it as far as that, C.J. has further straightforward wisdom for you:

If I can see a way to make life better and easier for gender creative people, I always try to do it. Being kind, sticking up for others and not being a jerk. That’s what life is all about.

And yes, I could certainly work on all those too.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Sissy.

“male femme” — my blog title says.
“genderqueer femme” — my profile says.
“non-binary femme” — Jam Rostron says.
“sissy femme” — Jacob Tobia says.

Actually: sissy comma femme. That is: “sissy, femme, queer, and proud”, the title of a chapter in Jacob's book: ‘Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story’. I've reduced it to “sissy femme” because... well, just because I wanted to add it to that list. I like lists.

But the key word this time isn't “femme”, it's sissy, which is a label I've been trying on for size lately. I've even got the t-shirt:



As with all reclaimed words, there's a proper fuck off quality to it.
Sissy as in fuck off – channelling “femme as in fuck you” (if you know that expression?)

It also has multiple connotations, something Jacob alludes to in their book:

I used to think that my gender was a voyage that needed a destination, but as I've gotten older, I've come to embrace that my gender is more like an onion. It doesn't have a center, a core, a discernable middle. It's layer upon layer upon layer, veiled beneath a thin skin. Sometimes the act of peeling apart the layers (...) can make your eyes sting. (...) But each layer is meaningful, and with enough time and proper preparation, each layer is delicious.

In other words, our genders are often plural, revealed slowly and delicately, rather than being fixed and singular.

And I like another of Jacob's metaphors:

When a person hides in The Closet, we act as if it is their responsibility to come out. But when a snail hides in its shell, we don't delegate responsibility the same way. A snail only hides in its shell because the world outside feels hostile. If a snail recoils at the sight of you, it's not because the snail is cowardly or lying or deviant or withholding, it's because you've scared it.

That instead of a closet we're obliged to escape, we have ornate shells for our required protection, usually ones we've grown from childhood. Yes, a snail may well be happier shuffling along with its head out. That doesn't mean it wants to discard the shell entirely and be a slug. So I'll keep my shell too, thanks.

Btw, it's my ninth blog anniversary today. Hello. I'm Jonathan. I'm a sissy :)