Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I haven't been that interested in the "shit ---- say" meme, but...

This one made me giggle. :) if what you're reading here grips you, holds you, fascinates you, provokes you, emboldens you, pushes you, galvanizes you, discomfits you, tickles you, enrages you so much that you find yourself returning again and again...then link me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Okey dokie...marriage traditions are for EVERYBODY :)

if what you're reading here grips you, holds you, fascinates you, provokes you, emboldens you, pushes you, galvanizes you, discomfits you, tickles you, enrages you so much that you find yourself returning again and again...then link me.

Exerting pressure over Carleton U as unethical corporate body...

if what you're reading here grips you, holds you, fascinates you, provokes you, emboldens you, pushes you, galvanizes you, discomfits you, tickles you, enrages you so much that you find yourself returning again and again...then link me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I've been spending time on fetlife...

Difficult and challenging place filled with many, many oppressive people whose sexualities and desires are so reinforcing of dominant values and dynamics that I've found it difficult to breathe around them. There are racists, misogynists, classists, homophobes, ableist people, islamophobes, fat phobes, ageists, so, so many different kinds of FAIL on a site designed by people who don't have any kind of politics to speak of.

fetlife, despite the images on the splash page they use to promote the site, really is a microcosm of the larger world in that there are all types there.

Due to being so stubborn and inquisitive I've also managed to feret out some really fascinating and politicized misfit/freaks on that site who are gems I'm honoured to have met. These are people with minds filled with ideas that intersect, who are radically political who also incorporate difficult pieces around desire and deviance. I've been writing and posting a lot there and getting lots of feedback which has been so valuable to me as a writer and exile.

Most recently I wrote something having to do with gender that is in process but that I'm really proud of even as it's still in formation. I thought I'd share it...

My contextualized, multifaceted notes on gender...in process because I'm in process

"Monoculture is, by definition, the creation of a privileged class; it rejects the value inherent in diversity in order to favor a particular set of traits. Like all other institutions, monocultures are inherently exclusionary."
- maymay
My name is darkdaughta or T.J. unless I offer you something else.
I am a placental, diurnal, carbon based, upright walking, bipedal, descendent of primates.
I am humaaan. That's star trek ferengi speak for humanoid earthling.
I am female bodied.
I was gendered at birth.
I'm confused about who I actually am/want to be because I was gendered at birth.
I hate having that sinking feeling that my mind has been molded in particular ways without my consent or intent.
I resent the feeling that whole worlds of knowledge have been created to speak to this specific facet of me by people who don't know anything about me and mine, who still, nonetheless, believe that their words designed to fit their experiences will somehow fit me to a T.
I have a lot of rage about having so many different kinds of relationships to gender as related to different kinds of oppressions and about how this layered complexity is not reflected in dominant/popular white queer discourses as created and maintained by people who have not cultivated a complex relationship to gender that would allow them to move beyond critiquing people's analytical and textual missteps right on into them being able to layer their experiences of dominance when writing their own notes on gender.
I'd like to have more spaces where the emphasis is not on how well I can parrot white queers' words and ideas about gender and instead more focused on how much I can complicate my own understandings of my identities in ways that challenge not simply gender but oppression and domination across the board.
With this in mind, I thought I'd write something about my in-process, ever morphing, fluid relationship to the concept of gender to whatever is in here with me that is about gender.
Here's what I've got today...
I suspect that a lot of the reason why gender, although it has been a lifelong companion, is not an issue that makes me move into defense mode, is because I've been reading a lot of science fiction since I was an elementary school student. My father was a sci-fi geek, among other things, so writings about beings who weren't even human at all, let alone gendered, were always strewn all over my childhood home.
I am a queer woman who has a thoroughly fucked and convoluted relationship to gender informed by multiple, layered relationships to various communities who code, understand and value gender differently, who as a result code, understand and value my gendered experience filtered through different living performances differently depending on whether they even see me or not.
As the middle passage African descended child of stolen Africans who were brought to the amerikkkas to toil without rest in white colonizer's fields, who were killed in the millions as ships holding them crossed the atlantic, bones littering the path between Africa and the amerikkkas, millions of deaths, a continent depopulated genocidally, still under attack to this day, bones of ancesors strewn across time from then till now, I am forced to give a damn about having the ability to make babies.
I'm rabidly, radically pro-choice. My body, my uterus, my egg, my vulva, my belly, my back, my stretch marks, my nutrients, my nerve endings, my choice, MINE).
At the exact same moment, I make it a point to give a damn about serving as orifice for future time descendants who can draw breath in peace and happiness.
I am forced to give a damn about numbers untold gone from this world and what will happen if my peoples ever reach the brink of extinction.
Everybody knows that veiled genocidal axiom about how racism will finally be "cured", stricken from the face of the globe when everyone is a nice shade of light mocha brown?
Well that means at least some people are waiting for people like me to stop making babies who look like me so that they can finally feel safe/r in this world, more comfortable in this world.
I choose to give a fuck about birthing Black diasporic African babies even though I don't identify as some man's breeding cow. I guess in the eyes of those who don't have to worry about being killed en masse simply because of the colour of their skin that may make me a "breeder".
I don't feel comfortable in some cisgendered women's spaces, particularly those that are explicitly based on dominant world patriarchal, essentialist notions of what it means to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a biological family member, based on oppressive ideas about what it means to be "good", to be "nice", to be acceptable, palatable or courteous.
I don't often feel comfortable in white dominated queer spaces of any kind as I experience them as extremely, unrepentantly, shamelessly, incorrigibly white supremacist and completely predicated on ideas that offer inclusion and attention to those who can find some way to manifest as aesthetically and linguistically acceptable to white queer cultural norms.
When I think about radical gender theory with discourses so completely dominated by white queer people, I get annoyed.
Deeply triggered, I time and geographically travel back to places and realities of the African ancestors before they were stolen.
They had their own fucking ways of understanding what it meant to be humaaan. They were developing their own discourses related to genital configuration and cultures based on these beliefs dating back to prehistory.
Then they met diseased people in boats who were most likely lost, out of food and drinkable water, whose understandings of everything about themselves and the world was so profoundly fucked.
So fucking fucked, that all they could do was project their fears, insecurities, bankrupt beliefs, diseased cultures vis a vis the body, sex, sexuality, gender onto the African peoples they encountered.
I spit on the memory of those colonizer/explorers.
I spit on the ways they warped the beliefs and cultures of everyone they came into contact with as they roamed across this world like so many blood thirsty homocidal brutal Reevers.
When I think about what I've read of the descendants of these colonizing, raping, abusing, invading, thieving, brutalizing "explorer"/slavers and their struggles to understand what was bequeathed to them by their ancestors, gender, I think about an obsession with categorizing and compartmentalizing things stretching from their ancestors right through to present day.
Catalogue and define, thereby ultimately owning and restricting everything to within bearable parameters.
Every experience, every place, every people, even if all these actually defy compartmentalization.
When I remember their ancestors and hold that memory close, I feel white hot fury when I see the ways present time colonizing descendants gather together and threaten to disrepect, cuss, invalidate, laugh at, chastise, scold, punish, ban, traumatize people who do not understand, label, think about, theorize about, live gender radicality in the ways they do.
I can't help but remember that their obnoxious ancestors also did that exact same thing...in regards to Black African people.
Just to be clear...
I don't mind that some of their descendants have decided to mount a critique of gender in ways that work for them. I don't mind that they have found names to call themselves and their tribes that fit with their realities.
More power to them.
I do, however, take massive issue with the fact that at least some of these colonizer descendants have decided that what works for them will now be the gold standard for all who they encounter or who encounter them.
I get really pissy when I see that because many of them don't pay close attention to their own white histories...because many of them don't incorporate an analysis of their own racist white selves into their understanding of queerness, queer culture and gender, they fail to see the racist underpinnings of a gender challenging movement that says "anyone who is like us or who wants to be like us just use these rules and anyone who does not use these rules is can just fuck off" will inherently be a racist movement.
I am really fucking incensed with the arrogance of a white dominated gender challenging movement led by people who are mostly not fit to lead a truly diverse movement because they have not been doing their homework and seem completely fixated on their own comfort, cultures, realities and ideas defined as now the new norm for any of us queer peoples who are struggling with gender should struggle to attain if we want to be seen as valid or even seen at all.
Old, tired, racist bullshit.
I've got more...
I was born into this world in a body identified for me as female.
I was born into the hand of Black African descended doctors whose ancestors, like mine, encountered the colonizing Reever folk hundreds of years earlier, and as a result, by the time they met me emerging from my mama, did not know how to truly welcome a new spirit to this place and instead did as they were taught to do and slapped a categorizing label of contents on my forehead.
I cannot hate them for that as they were as much victims of the colonizer/Reever folks' gender obsession as I was/am.
So yah...I was assigned female at birth.
Please don't expect me to use the going kewl acronym for this as I really hate kewl in group acronyms and think they're meant to do that in-clique exclusion thing. If you're a white queer and you're talking to/writing to me and want me to understand what you're saying, just fucking say it. Don't give me the acronym the white queers who dominate the discourse are using.
I haven't really had issue with being defined as female. I've searched around inside from time to time over the past say 20+ years since I started to encounter lesbians who seemed curiously to no longer be defining as lesbians but as bois and daddies and men, which I did not at first understand at all, having been born into the second wave and come into feminist consciousness during the seventies "I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman" period of feminism.
I didn't understand the differently gendered people I was encountering. I didn't even understand the word gender as related to anything but the patriarchal biological and socially inscribed differences between wimmin and men, that's how grounded in the 2nd wave, where sex was only in the past few decades replaced with gender I was.
I started reading and did start to grok what the bois and men I knew and shared community and family with were saying, started to notice that the people around me who I'd known and loved were changing, transforming. And as I read and thought, I ended up asking myself questions about gender and me, about who's here and what this socially positioned, dominated, dominant, claimed and labeled and contextualized flesh might or might not mean.
What I've found is that there never was, nor has there ever been a profound sense that my body was different than how I understood it, felt it, saw it.
I have, however, had massive difficulty with being forced to function in ways coded as "womanly" by the society.
Fucking hate roles assigned to those forcibly defined as "female" in this world. I have no patience for any of it and am less interested in challenging word/labels like "woman" or "female", less interested in transforming this flesh, than I am in completely challenging the syndrome of fucked behaviours that are repeatedly offered to me as someone who is offered these labelings.
Those have been me.
I never really thought about having other options, didn't realize for the first 25 or so years of my life that I had options. In considering my options these days, which I do from time to time, I realize I'm not attached to those assignations. I don't have a heart/spirit in the gut core connect to them.
Nonetheless, I don't ever hesitate when checking off boxes. It's taught behaviour - that acquiescence, that acceptance.
I think that as a Black woman in this society where behaving as woman comes with perks and privileges, I realize that it's pretty damned easy for me to have those labels offered or taken away, validated or denied.
Performing those identities isn't second nature to me. I've been teaching myself how to do them, how to perform them for safety's sake. When I don't do a good job passing, pretending, perpetrating I am punished, when I don't make it seamless I stay up at night wondering how the world will make my children pay.
Sometimes, ofttimes, I will slip up and then I see that "tsk-tsk-tsk" look in people's eyes, as if they'd like to correct me on the spot.
I don't like it when cigendered men, refer to women as "ladies" or "girls". It feels like they're explaining how well behaved we should be. These words feel like boxes with descriptions meant to be adhered to on the outside and inside.
I think that there is a place for these kinds of namings in bdsm play. But I don't take these things seriously outside of ritual play spaces.
If I see that you take this kind of labeling seriously in your day to day I won't energetically swat you or cuss or you challenge you. But I will take you less seriously as a sentient human being without you even realizing it.
Because I don't have certain kinds of privilege and power in this world, I never assume that anyone from worlds outside academia or activist circles where queers roam would be so under the sway of my power, presence and privilege that they would be automatically interested in entertaining a conversation about anything having to do with my radical political. I never assume that anyone will have my back or that I will be safe having a conversation about anything radically political with anyone in meat space or online just because I felt pissed off, offended or horrified.
Mostly I can only talk or write about what works for me with family/partners/friends, what I'd like, how I understand myself and how I understand other people and the world.
I think that the white dominated queer nation has created a class of extremely arrogant radical academic politicos who do feel that they can easily recognize, define and insistently step to anyone understood by them as being oppressive. They get away with some pretty horrendously out of order behaviours not because they are powerful and intelligent but because they have white privilege, function in groups and are the newest incarnation of those who have held the means of production of queer thought, culture and community for many decades now.
Many days leave me with a sense of just wanting to distance myself from that community online and in meat space. They function in ways that I find deeply offensive.
But I can't leave queer environments, queer communities, queer cultures, the formation of queer theories and queer languages to them to entirely construct and define.
Their dangerously one-sided self serving critiques mean that people who may not have as much language or confidence as I do, who truly need to be able to access queer spaces may be left out in the cold, may choose to stay out in the oppressive dominant world environment (as I have) rather than deal with the shite white queers who only see themselves and their own agendas have built and called their communities.
I have presented as so boi that I've passed among my own Black people, asked by Black men, who should have been able to see me, if I was a man or a woman.
I've been so flamingly gay man that I've been fiercely cruised by Black gay men who just couldn't tell fer sure and didn't seem to care. And still some asked if I was a man or a woman.
Those are happy memories from times long gone that I may choose to revisit again one day.
I've never gotten much play from white queers who, in my reckoning, with very few exceptions encountered by yours truly, always seemed to behave in ways that said they expected any queer of colour who wanted to attract their attention to do all the work, to prove themselves and their queerness, to make a case for why this white queer or that should even bother to pay them any mind, whatsoever.
I periodically become so annoyed with the gender-based limitations placed on the ways I can express and be and breathe in this world that I have warned at least one of my partners that he might eventually end up in relationship with a gay man. More than the body (which I don't think I'd necessarily need to function in ways coded as "masculine"), I crave the license to live free offered to those who present as masculine in this world. I want that freedom more so than I want to be a man.
I am verbal, analytically, contrarian, defiant, not easily led or forced to change on other people's time tables.
I'd like to encounter queers of colour interacting with other queers of colour, discussing queerness and gender around kitchen tables filled with queers of colour.
The only issue is that when I do come home and attempt to function in those kinds of spaces, other kinds of oppressions come into play. I am older and therefore mama bird to all. There's class, shade, even career driven and academic elitist shite, too. Sex negativity and body shame if we're talking the children of christian west indians who have not unpacked our luggage brought straight from home.
No place really seems to fit with what I'm seeking. So, often I end up exploring what it means to be queer via the writings of other queers in the form of books or via my own stumbling, explorations turned into text.
I spell "wimmin" like "wimmin" not because of some misguided essentialist feminism but because I am from the caribbean and have an example set by other Black wimmin writers and poets of speech that can be written in ways that indicate that the user understands english with a dialectical difference.
I have often experienced insults against used against wimmin collectively being used against me for being who I am.
I have been understood as rude, scandalous, a dirty disease carrying jamette or skettle (again, if you make a habit of only paying attention to your own white european culture and languages feel free to look "jamette"and "skettle" up), an entrapping opportunist trading off her pregnant belly, as an indiot who just did not understand the rules of the game, as a pollyanna, as a liar, as someone tripping, as dangerous, as to be avoided, as evil, as an interloper, as unwelcomed, as not knowing my place, as loud, as gutter trash.
These are some of the labels that have been attached to this body/spirit/psyche as I've moved through the world and through this life.
I was raised by my mother in my grandmothers house for many years as a small child after my parents divorced. I'm what some would label "illegitimate" or a "bastard".
My mother's side of the family is unofficially matriarchal. The men are there but do not dominate. The wimmin make crucial decisions and plan for the future bringing the men along with them, moving around them but not actually leaving the crucial decisions to them.
I'm not the only out queer in my family and all the queers are not from my generation or later. I may be the only family member wondering about the intersectional politics of gender, though.
I was not raised, nurtured or guided by my mother's understandings of who she had been taught to be and who, as a result she thought I should be, after the age of eight. That's when I moved from my homeland, the stolen lands I was taught to call home, over to the mainlands, the stolen lands I was taught to see as never home, a place of not belonging.
My mother was abused by my father and eventually left him. I am the child who most looks like him. He is the one my mother and patriarchy nonetheless taught me to identify strongly with.
"Never turn a child against its father, no matter how cruel or abusive he is to you, personally."
How many cisgendered wimmn, parents of children, have we heard conflate telling a child the truth about their male parent with supporting them to see them as is for "turning them against" that parent.
So, I was fucked in the head for many, many years. I idealized my father and took my mother for granted. I identified with my father, clearly the source of all kinds of unearned, abusive power in the house. Who would want to identify with the losing party, with the subordinate party? With the "woman"?
When my father left the island to go live in kkkanada, at eight I, as my mother tells the story to herself and to me, insisted on immigrating to the north to live with him.
When I did, unbeknownst to me, that spelled the end of my ongoing, consistent, maintained connection and relationships to my mother's side of the family.
After I lived with my father for many years, experiencing him as he was, emotionally distant, contradictory, disinterested in my thoughts or feelings, absentee, authoritarian, dominating, I ceased identifying with him and started idealizing my now, non-existent mother and continued to do so until my twenties.
My twenties being when I became more consciously feminist. In fact, feminism was what helped me to more identify with my mother but also to eventually see her less as a needy child's iconic saviour ready to ride in any moment now and save me...more as fallible, real, having made choices, some good, some not so good. Later as I became more life experienced, feminism combined with counseling also helped me stop lying to myself about my mother eventually being a part of my life. This is when I had to start dealing with the fact that I had been abandoned and would never have a mother again.
Nonetheless, I'm thinking that mother's absence is actually part of what happened with me and my thoroughly wonky relationship to gender.
I think her submissiveness, her silence, her willingness to just give me up, give up the child whose face was as they say "the spitting image" of the father, cut me loose not just from her and her family/my family, but more importantly from the expectation that I perform femininity or identify with femaleness and female roles at all, offered me a particular kind of pained leeway to explore and become.
Although I have bits and pieces of what it means to be feminine, what it means to be "woman" which I can trace back to my mother, the connect, the indoctrinating link was broken fairly early on. I'm thankful about that...in a teary sort of way.
Even though it took me a while to realize the emotional pieces around her abandonment of me as a child, it's taken me right up to writing this to realize that what I also lost was a gut level commitment to compulsory gender female identification via a relationship with the parental model who would have demonstrated how all the bits fit together.
So, where I might have had a whole bunch of ideas about femininity and gender downloaded lovingly, imperceptibly, constantly by a biological mother who was cisgendered female, into me from birth to present day, getting maintenance fixes, corrections and oppressive narrowing redirects along the way as I needed, I wasn't primarily shaped by these.
I did have a white stepmother for four years. I loved her, was amazed and fascinated by her and her angular, hawk like, pointy, hard features, nothing generous in her body or features, so white featured, so white, white, white skinned, frecked, red head.
She was definitely every inch the "lady", overly proper, courteous, contained, feminine, female identified, "woman". But I couldn't absorb her coding. To me she was lovable but alien, different, something apart from me, something I did strive to mimic at different points in my childhood but never fully understood. Futility.
She left my father, left me to figure out a whole bunch of things just as puberty started to loom. She tried to connect with me. I can see that. I can acknowledge that. But my connection with her was flawed, not primary, not seamless.
I was raised and guided primarily by my father after the age of eight. He raised me as a boy would have been raised "back home", I think, because all he knew about raising children with ease, without thinking too hard about how best to do it came straight out of his experience as a cisgendered boy on that island so far away.
All this to say...
I ran "wild". By this I mean girls back home are kept close to home, in house and school. This is how the evolution of a girl morphing to woman's identity, I'd say, is supervised and molded.
I did as I pleased. I roamed far and wide on my bike. I roamed alone or with packs of children from my building and the neighbouring buildings. We read porn mags left out on garbage day, made forts, climbed trees and played "doctor" in groups. I made my own decisions a lot of the time. I just had to be home by the time the lights came on. I just needed to be sure to go to school and do my homework and do well educationally.
My father wanted a first son. "Should have been a boy." He got a first daughter. So he raised a son with no gendered impositions about behaviour or clothes...until I hit puberty. Before puberty none of my activities were gender coded.
I'm just now remembering that at twelve, around the time I got my period, he actually cut my hair short.
He really wanted a boy, I'm realizing. He had massive difficulties with what it could mean to not be able to avoid the biological reality of having a bleeding girl child under his roof, a breast growing child, a hip growing child under his roof.
Did he, with the hair cut, try to extend that period during which he could easily relate to and understand me as boy child? (nodding) Yeah, I think so.
It traumatized me - the haircut.
Before the haircut I never needed to defend anything about my gender one way or another. I had been taught that my gender was neutral, invisible. I felt more invisible vis a vis gender with hair than I did after my hair was cut off. After the haircut I was "boy". After the haircut I ended up having to defend something I'd never even had to think about.
It's not that gender didn't exist or that femininity didn't exist for me at that age. It's just that I didn't benefit from it. I wasn't included in any of the other mostly white children's understandings of what it meant to be female, what it meant to be feminine, anyways.
Or maybe, it was more that my being located as low level female, less feminine, less of interest was meant to highlight, to put the spotlight on those who were understood unanimously by all as feminine, as the epitome of what it meant to be female - the white girl children.
I was fat. I was dark skinned. I was poor. I was tall for my age. I was much too smart. I was an immigrant. I was an outsider in so many different ways. My white frienemies were gendered female but not as I was. Their membership was shored up, ratified by them also being understood by all as extremely feminine.
Even white or light girls who did not fully relate to their femininity, those seen in that time period as "tom boys", and there were a couple I remember, were still offered and could still claim privileges attached to femininity and people connecting whiteness/lightness to something in them inherently beautiful, good, female that they could not give away...something I did not have and was not offered.
Was just...a lump of ugly duckling, unattractive me. I wasn't someone to be chased after when it came time to play kissing tag.
Once I my father cut my hair...
Once I had the short afro, seeming more boy than girl out in the open, rather than having the space offered by no one really noticing me, I felt exposed and made fun of.
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
They couldn't tell from my features, from my height, from my big feet, from just looking me over. For many, feminine features are still equated with proximity to small, thin, white features, white features being small, pointy, red cheeked, pink lipped, limp haired.
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
Most people could not discern who was t/here. They had no way to read me according to dominant world standards. I became a curious specimen to poke and ponder aloud.
Tired of being buffeted with The Question, I went into eye liner'd, lip glossed, femmey clothing reaction, hardcore.
In the mean time, at home my patriarchal, old world west indian father was desperately trying to figure out, much too late, how exactly to raise a Black girl child. For him this looked like teaching me to cook, sweep, mop, stay in the house and always be sure to cover up.
None of it "took", none of it "worked". It was too late, really. No source could fully replace the devastating effect another forcibly gendered female, charged with teaching the ins and outs of internalizing gender assignment to a child constructed as female, could have on the first twenty years of her child's life.
Present tense...
That was some background. Feel free to ask any questions you'd like as this will most likely help me figure out what I need to about what gender means to me as a Black person coded in different ways by different people who is still trying to see past the vulnerability covering strategic reaction/s to finally have a gander at who's t/here.
"Jail break"...
There are a myriad of ways that I just don't fit and don't at all enjoy the company of those who have been forcibly gendered by their mothers. There are a myriad of ways listening to them reason their ways through making choices, navigating their ways through conversation, deal with disagreements or arguments, in ways taught to them by mothers gendered as female, forced to take on the roles assigned to those forcibly gendered female, that I find deeply disconcerting.
I can spend time around these wimmin, I can even love them, but there's always a part of me that sits to one side observing them, recognizing their ways, calculating how best to communicate with them, figuring out how best to go unnoticed by them, so I can pass.
I write a helluva lot every day as a way to keep my brain active and also to help me process the different kinds of oppressions and privileges I experience simultaneously.
Writing my truths is risky. I do willingly continue to take that risk in the hopes that I will one day be able to know many different kinds of people who don't go into shut down and run away mode when I start discussing all of what goes into being me.
Two...just twos...
I think a cultural fascination with twos is just as ridiculous as a fascination with the number three or thirteen.
Since I'm a biological parent of Black children, a lot of what I have learned about gender binarism ends up being translated into real world form. I don't take what I've learned as a queer and use it undiluted as a map or guide to raising them.
White queer parents, white privileged queer parents who have the the benefit of a white queer community support structure they and their families can call home, might decide that this Black woman is not going far enough, not actually doing trans positive gender challenging parenting.
But since I try not to measure my successes or my radical political consciousness against the teachings or existences of white people no matter how alternative their life choices are, I often remind myself that when compared to the people I come from, when stacked up next to the collective of people (who encountered the colonizer/Reever folk and suffered because of it) I'm actually doing a pretty intrepid, exploratory, transformational, transgressive good job at rearing the Black children I birthed in ways that make space for them to speak and think about and resist gender with full support from me and from their two other parents.
I teach my children that gender is a societal obsession but that it is truly insignificant to their formation as good, smart, responsible, reliable, beautiful, critical human beings. I reinforce that message on the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. I don't want them to be tied to understanding themselves as gendered. But as Black children, I still need them to understand the language and beliefs of this world because to not give them that basis would not serve them well in a world that already hates them.
I define as queer having settled on that one after having already tried on bisexual, gay, lesbian and dyke for size in my twenties and morphing into someone who was open to having relationships with people of all different genders and sexualities in my thirties. Queer seems to fit that sexuality and the accompanying radical political best.
I am not a butch. But I have ofttimes been told to my face by non-Black queers (white and light of colour) that they don't see me as femme because I'm so butch.
I have sighed and explained that what they understand as my butch energy is racialized by their inability to even conceive of a person who energetically and physically manifests as Black also being femme.
Again, with the taking away possibilities for gender expression, I have to wonder when people will actually leave me sufficient space to just figure shit out rather than smearing me with their racist assumptions about who I can be.
Everyone seems so obsessed with telling the dark child I must be this or that. No one seems so interested in hearing who I say I actually am, or in taking time to walk alongside me as I struggle to figure it out.
Is there anyone available to just walk alongside me regardless of what pronouns I choose to use? I'd appreciate that.
I am not masculinized in non-Black wimmin's spaces, in white dominated queer spaces...
Then I am seen as an intimidating femme no (most often) butch, boi or dyke would have to ballz to approach.
I am not seen as intimidating femme...
Then I am seen as low level femme who can have the dregs of attention left over after white queers have had their fill.
I am not seen as crumb feeding low level queer...
Then I am not seen at all.
I don't exist as a queer in relation to the white queer nation at all.
In truth, I've spent so little time in white dominated wimmin's or queer spaces, I'd have to say that I don't know how to function among them, don't understand the unspoken shared rules and regs, what constitutes normal group or individual behaviour. Moving through those kinds of spaces so infused by white domination has always been rife with anxiety and discomfort for me.
All this to say, for most of my lesbian, dyke, queer woman dating other queer wimmin career, I've mostly kept to Black people and to other Black friendly people of colour spaces as hanging around the margins of white dominated queer community was and remains such a disgusting fucking ego slam.
Avoiding that feeling of subjugation...
That I was somehow of less quality, less attractive, less interesting, less in the know, is actually how I started dating Black cisgendered men. In my very early thirties had sufficient passing gendered privilege "female" among Black people, lighter than some, educated, soft of voice, body within acceptable parameters able to be defined as "sexy", tall, that I was able to move from a place of very little privilege, very little option, very few dating opportunities among the sex radical, politically radical, butch/femme white dominated queer community to walking among mostly hetero or closeted Black people...for a time.
This didn't quite work in the long run, because I was not "woman", was not well-behaved in the ways someone labeled female at birth would have had to be in order to survive in circles stratified according to strict patriarchal dynamics and gender binaries, among other things.
Patriarchal shite or no, I got better quality attention from most of the Black men I dated, no racist shite that left me feeling like second fiddle to a more well known, well placed white (queer) woman constructed as more attractive, as pale limp haired goddess.
I hate that shite. I hated that shite when I was in community. The ways that white femmes or even white gender fucking queers could just walk through a space and have their pick of whoever they thought was most interesting, who they assumed would like them or be interested i them without question, doubt or hesitation. White privilege. All eyes were on them. When it came to benefiting from whiteness, they were always in the right spaces and places.
I've not been treated by most of the Black cisgendered men I dated as third or fourth string date possibility (with one exception and even he seemed to be doing in favour of another Black woman).
At the height of what was happening in my vicinity in queer circles in this city 10+ years ago around butch femme really coming into it's own as well as sexual radicality more taking center stage, without a critique of race, it became clear that queers who were white and/or light would always get most attention, that they would be the ones to look out for and to court. Everyone else...well, who else was there, really?
So, I've found that among queers, where the going theories say I should feel most safe to not over gender performatively feminize myself, I've instead often gone into aesthetically femmey over reaction to gender stuff predicated on racial constructs that told me in no uncertain terms I could never be femme or feminine because that space is reserved for white femmes and queers who want to play along gender lines, if they choose to.
That space of fluidity, flexibility and possibility...
It's not for me.
My racialized gender is carved in stone...by them, by their gaze...
So that their genders may better function as a shining example of what it means to be fluid, mutable, toying, playing, trans...forming...
I am offered cement shoes and pushed to the very...bottom...
Stuck standing stiff and still.
Making choices...
For me, wherever or whoever I interact with besides at home, always feels like somewhere I have to intentionally decide what gendered version of me I will present/offer.
I don't like presenting as femmey for cisgendered heterosexual men. So many of them often being comfortable with familiar essentialist gendered dynamics that can only lead to them on top of me, them inside of me, them possessing me, them dominating me, makes me feel uncomfortable...disempowered.
Don't get me wrong, someone inside of me isn't a place of discomfort in and of itself. But...it's just that so many cisgendered men seem so certain that I want that from them or that I should be chosen or culled on the basis of my ability to give that to them.
So much of what they understand of gender ends up being predicated on an assumption that I will play my part and allow myself to be chosen (by them) or not.
As a result, although I've found that I will not alter how I present aesthetically when around them, I will, depending on how intensely their gender and gender role stuff is smeared onto me, become more bratty, forthright and button pushing in my communications, going on the offensive, challenging their ideas about who I can be for them/to them in ways they find hard to ignore.
I am not a lesbian. But I was a Black lesbian separatist for many years. I parted ways from lesbian separatism over its adherents being too uncomfortable to actually deal with all of who lesbians are, with our multiplicities, with our sexualities, with kink, with evolving gender, with lesbians becoming all sorts of different breeds and beings.
Lesbian separatism was a safe place for a time...for me. My consciousness, my creativity, my ability to hold firm in even the most inhospitable environments...I mostly learned how to connect to these pieces in me as a lesbian separatist. Aaaaannndddd....THEN it started to feel constricting. So, I decided to become another kind of monster.
I do not believe in the concept of real men or real wimmin.
Careful, now...
If you're a white gender challenging queer and behave towards me in ways that assume that since I come out of the African Diaspora and the Diaspora at this moment in time being so filled with gender binary obsessed pop culture, definitely hardcore obsessed with performative, essentialist gender binaries...
If you make the mistaken assumption that I am also obsessed with essentialist performative gender binaries and that I will fight tooth and nail to uphold them...
I will call you out about your racist assumptions.
You don't even have to overtly make the link for that shit to be transparent and clearly seen by me.
If you pounce on a Black person or on a person of colour who is not known to you in ways that immediately see you putting your words in their mouths, you're getting your information about who they are from somewhere and it's not all about them coming across as cissexist and therefore oppressive.
Hiding behind that even when there might be something else at work on your end as a white privileged queer just lessens the credibility of a movement that has far reaching, important and powerful implications.
Envy, yessssss...
I really would have liked to have been born with a cock because...cocks do things vulvas can't.
I complain about this with my partners on the regular. I like to fuck one of my male defined at birth partners with a dildo. But I hate using it in my hand. I prefer to have the cock attached to me via a harness because that feels more like the real thing. Does that sound fucked? Probably. I'm okay with that not sounding tidy.
I am often read first as Black on the street unless I'm encountering other Black people. I'm read as cis by Black people because they see me. Black cisgendered men and wimmin definitely see me.
If I'm with my children people will see me as cis.
When I'm walking with either or both of my partners I'm seen as/treated as old, fat, unattractive, overly large of body before I'm seen as cisgendered.
When people see me with my partners (if they see me), and they read me as cisgendered, it's most often with revulsion and with the desire to find a way to ignore me (what are they doing with her). This is not a place of offered privilege but instead an aberrant anomalous space they try to erase from their view and brains by even more focusing on them and less on me.
Cisgendered in this body is about being seen as less attractive and less central and less normal than cisgendered people who have more privilege on continuums of power and dominance, say for instance white cisgendered wimmin.
I don't derive much cis privilege from being cisgendered in and of myself at this point in time.
I do, however, receive some leniency for being "mother" of children but not in places where white WASP wimmin who are parents rule. In those spaces I'm invisible as a cisgendered woman and as a mother, if not subtly psychologically attacked and forced to protect the psyches of my children by leaving altogether.
If I'm wearing something particularly sparkly that attracts attention or if my face is painted, then I'm seen most places as cisgendered...except among gay men who will sometimes, if I get my look just...right...read me as a drag queen before they read me as a cisgendered woman. But that's just perfect. ;)
If I'm tarted up, that still may not necessarily translate into cis privilege for me as a fat, Black, middle aged woman. Combined with being painted and wearing revealing clothing this will often code right across the board with everyone with the exception of queers in party environments as "low class", "whore", "hole" which is not a place of privilege. That's a place of objectification with accompanying loss of status.
If I don't wear make-up and don't colour my hair, then I'm coded as old, unnattractive, Mom - invisible, completely invisible...unless someone is attempting to offer me their seat or trying to confide in me about their deepest, most painful secrets in need of the healing, assexual touch of a nurturing parental type.
All this to say, performing gender as expected by the society or defying those norms and functioning as a sexual kewl gender traitor does not work the same way for this Black woman living outside radicalized queer communities, experiencing multiple oppressions on top of white domination, in the outside world or anywhere for that matter, as it would say, for a white cisgendered woman or a white gender challenging queer living mostly inside queer or queer positive communities.
Still...the privilege...
Nonetheless, I do walk in between and criss cross all sorts of lines when the mood strikes me. The fact that this is a choice rather than a visceral compulsion is what I'd say would be the mark of my privilege. I can choose to toy with gender even as I still have precious little choice about how people can gender code me. That still happens regardless of what I do.
Black wimmin and gender.
Black wimmin...gender....
As a planetary collective we've occupied deviant fluid space ever since the above mentioned colonizer/Reevers kidnapped us and brought us over here.
Fucked both ways...
We were holes to be used and also ungendered workers to put out into the fields even when pregnant, beating, bellies resting in dug-ut holes while pregnant, rape while pregnant, reminded of how being gendered worked for us while pregnant.
Really in a lot of ways, slavery was about being defined as ungendered animals more so than females benefiting from the privilege white people, white cisgendered wimmin, white cisgendered men, even closeted white queers most likely collectively accessed at that time.
The vestiges of that experience remain for me.
I understand myself to be ungendered by racism, treated as beast not human. I've seen/experienced white people, white cisgendered men real time and online talking to me, address me in ways they would never, ever think to address another white person, a white cisgendered woman.
Okcupid was rife with this kind of behaviour more so than fet. It's probably the rules that keep most of the shit at bay in this place. Such rage, such lack of courtesy. Such denigrating condescending disdain, such power from so many different white people, especially, specifically those who understand themselves to be alternative or radically politicized and (obviously) more in the know.
I think that cis privilege exists but that my privilege should probably not be compared to a white queer gender challenging person's lack of privilege or against a white cis woman's privilege as race already tips the scales in particular ways and not in my favour.
I think that when white queers talk about cisgendered privilege, it is probably best for them to mostly deal/challenge laterally, with other white people, especially if they know they are not so well able to explore, understand, claim the full significance of their own white privilege and racist actions in the day to day.
Whenever I see or experience being called on cis privilege by a white person, by a white queer who I know does not, has not been able to, willing to fully examine their own white privilege, this feels oppressive to me. I'm left wondering, how they are even sure they're seeing what they think they're seeing? How do they know that their understandings are not being filtered through an uncritiqued relationship to systems of white domination?
If many of them do not even spend time with or know any people of colour, I mean having real friendships with them, links to them, how do they feel so comfortable transferring their experiences with their own white kin, white communities, white people onto the skins and backs and wordings and intentions of people they don't even really know or understand?
I think the white queer nation, so white dominated, so full of itself, so self centered and self maintaining, so filled with euro-culture should stick to calling other white people on their cis shite until it is more willing to call itself on it's stultifying replication of systems of white domination and culture in community.
If they do indeed welcome interactions with queers of colour, even those who would not kowtow to their power, what they could spend their time doing, rather than teaching their white queer gender challenging languages is interfacing with whoever comes, learning alternate ways of seeing and being, taking in information rather than indicting it because it did not flow from them and from sources they recognize.
I think that lots of pieces come into play that mediate how cis privilege does or does not function for me. But I do have it and have been offered it in different ways however relative, however mediated by other equally present forms of systemic oppression.
None of this of course means that I don't have to keep picking away at what gender means for me.
If you're a white gender challenging queer and I fuck up your pronouns while talking to you or of you, please don't be such a legend in your own head that you can't just say and see me/read me receiving the communication and offering an apology.
I won't gratuitously torture you about being cluelessly white dominating and disinterested in critiquing (without much prodding) how that identity couples with your gender identification, if you won't torment me when I make busted moves and choices that I willingly claim and move to take responsibility for. Thanks.
This flesh...
I do not plan to take hormones or have surgery. I don't see the need as this body serves me just fine, except for the cock piece, as is.
I have wide hips. The whole cool, queered, masculinity, butch boi daddy experience so coupled with thinness, narrow hippedness, I find oppressively fat phobic and gross. I cringe when I see thin queer people put forward as the essence of what it means to look and dress "queerly".
I do not shave my legs. I'd like to say fer sure that this is because I don't believe in leg shaving. But I can't really tell because I have such precious little leg hair, I've never had to deal with the kinds of oppressive peer pressurings some wimmin have had to navigate. I think that not shaving can be a stance...for some. But what happens if you don't shave and your hair is imperceptible? Does that mean that because your resistance can't be detected that you're not actually resisting?
I get my eyebrows waxed. That I would say is fully about performing femininity and attempting to be recognized as female.
I have very thick hair around my face that ends with noticeable sideburns. The barbers will shave those when I go see them. When I was a dyke who loved that I could pass as a young man/androgyne, I would get the barbers to clip around my sideburns, to shape them and accentuate them. I have massive facial hair envy, especially for men who have nice thick sideburns.
I have flesh hanging off my chest. Two bits. I have breast fed my children. I don't have issue with the flesh being referred to as breasts. But also don't mind chest, flaps, mammaries, teats, flesh sacks. Knock yourself out.
I have a vulva, folds, cunt, twat, pooni, poonani, pooner, pussy, hole. If you're white don't get all up in trying to use cutesy ebonic vernacular for my parts. That just sounds wrong. Just say vulva or cunt or twat or something more slangy but considered linguistically universal.
I bleed from my cunt, from my crotch, from my hole. When I was a young dyke I used to track that cycle like nobody's business. I read The Curse. I definitely felt that part of what it meant for me to be feminist was to be able to feel much, much more comfortable in this body and to have a better understanding of what it meant to have this body, this woman's body than I'd been encouraged to have.
As I age, still wanting at least one more child, I have been obsessively tracking my bleedings and feeling relieved when they still come every month, but not so relieved when I still don't get pregnant.
I've always wanted babies but I didn't equate being able to bleed and have babies with being essentialist cisgendered because as a dyke I knew how being capable of breeding was held over the heads of so, so many wimmin who felt compelled to find sperminators, to marry them and breed or be doomed to always being infantilized, condescended to, erased and forced into always being the ones who would take care of ailing parents because everyone in their families told themselves these dykes had no lives.
Not at all interested in being able to trace all the humans who come out of my parts back to one sperminator. Any child who comes out of me is of me. Any partner who is capable of participating in child rearing who wants to participate in child rearing can do so. Any fool who hinges their participationg in the life of my family off having a genetic connection to any of my children shouldn't let the door hit them on the way out.
I have ballz. Big, brass ones. They're in my head. They're in my attitude on good days. I refer to them fairly often and don't think that saying I have ovaries is a good substitute.
I have a cock. It's in my head. I also have a few silicone cocks. If you'd like to suck either of them feel free to check in with me.
I have a nice sized ass, azz, butt, bum, buttocks. I notice that for many, having a large butt is equated with femininity. For many having a large butt is equated (thank you weave-on queen Beyonce) with a certain kind of Black femininity. Having a big Black butt is not seen by many as evidence of androgyny, queerness or any kind of masculinity. These, without being connected or spoken to, can often be seen as about having flat/narrow/hard butts, butts I'd consider white butts.
How does everything cool about queerness end up being pissed on by whiteness, accorded signifiers and icons associated with whiteness?
Whenever I start talking about my Black ass I can't help but think about Saartjie Baartman, a Black woman from South Africa who was for all intents and purposes caged and put on display like a zoo animal by white european people who were fascinated by the size of her labia and her buttocks. Again, I should point out that signs of female bodiedness did not garner her any privilege.
Less seen as woman and more as animal with curiously pendulous, protruding female parts, signs of femaleness in the flesh, combined with her Blackness, her Africanness, gained her a place in a cage, poked and prodded at until her captors could find no one else interested in paying to see her parts.
Then she became a sex worker in order to support herself, dying of an STI given to her by some european man.
After her death, still simultaneously gendered and ungendered, she was dissected like a lab rat. I think her skeleton was removed and (I know) those parts that exposed her as female, as a Black female to the world, put on display in a jar. It was only fairly recently that the prestigious european institution holding her genitals and buttocks hostage were persuaded to finally let her go...tears...home to be buried among her ancestors.
Was Saartjie Baartman cisgendered?
I think the white people who put her on display and those who paid to see her and fuck her relied on an understanding of her as gendered female and gender neutral simultaneously.
Black and female so as to better exploit her, her genitals and her buttocks and In order to better oppress her.
Female, low level female, accessible female, female without any resistance means.
They needed to see and relate to her female parts as deviant, unnatural. They needed her femaleness to exist but as set apart from their white european wimmin of "good stock".
They also needed to relate to her as distinctly without gender, not worthy of care, (positive, loving) attention alloted for/white european cisgendered wimmin. They needed to be able to ungender her so as to be immune to what her being gendered female would call for them to understand and do about her plight.
None of their white cisgendered female kin would ever have been asked to step into that cage. Even in those days where europeans were still so obsessed with upholding gender roles, none of the people involved felt that what they did to Saartjie Baartman was inhumane treatment not befitting a person of her gender, befitting a humaaan being.
All this to say...
Yes, let's talk about gender.
But I'd like to be able to identify as one of those who has been experiencing the razor's edge of a more complex relationship with gender for a few hundred years, now. Even if some aren't able to understand what it means to have been birthed on the narrow cutting edge of a surgical tool cutting, slicing and dicing identities to fit all manner of people and their uderstandings of what constitutes gender, that doesn't mean I'm not hacked to bits daily and put back together at the whim of whoever should walk on by.
If you come perceptually simple and flat, from a fairly limited set of historical, social, ethnic experiences and have white privilege and define as queer...
If you do not understand the histories of all the peoples you're talking to and about, it might be best to move with a bit more care when you decide to start defining them/me according to your limited, ethnically specific experiences of gender oppression.
The fucking...
I like giving and receiving penetration of all different kinds.
The lustful, loving, knowing...gazing...
I prefer to love and lust after and fuck people who can see and love Blackness in their partners.
I prefer people who will actually go out of their way to respectfully interact with Black people, build communities that centrally involve Black people, offer career opportunities to radical Black people, who are not scared of saying hullo to, having conversation with, cracking jokes with, commenting on the writings, notes, comments and posts of Black people as lovers lovers and partners.
If they're queer on top of that, if they're perverse and political, which they'd have to be for them to have met the first set of criteria, then BONUS!!!!
Nope...definitely not...
I'm pretty much off limits to white queers who have no Black friends or friends of colour, who don't know how to interact in human way with people of colour, who are not comfortable around people of colour, who make a habit of of automatically assuming that any person of colour they encounter who does not define in ways that seem familiar to white queers or intimately involved in white queer culture, will be queer phobic or transphobic, who treat Black people and other people of colour like alien science fair projects, or whose only consistent contact with people of colour is via discussing with much performative passion and rage, how we (people of colour) are all soooo oppressed by this new law or that piece of blogland writing...because they know so much about us from reading huffington posts articles...written by white people who know soooo much about us from studying us in the field like antelopes on the savannah while taking notes? whatEVAR.
These kinds of attitudes seem to be fairly ubiquitous online and show, not a critical analysis, but an inability to uncouple white domination and assumptions about who is evolved, from the creation of queer spaces and the devlopment of queer theory. Somehow whiteness, evolution and queer theory always seem to end up in bed together.
Some really fun times have been had with white queer folks who just didn't have any experience interacting with Black people/people of colour. And how it showed. I remember walking in the white gay male dominated part of this city when I was in my twenties, wearing African inspired clothing. I remember the ways store clerks would automatically go on guard, bristle, their hackles rising at the site of androgynous me dressed and barbered to mimic a Black African man, you would have thought that I was walking with murderous homophobia on the brain, explosives set to detonate at the push of a button, under my clothes.
Policing who?
I recognize that shit when I see it and I know how to call a person on it. So all the white queers who function as police guarding the gates of supposed queer friendly spaces on fet with knee jerk reactions set to deal in the exact same ways with cisgendered heterosexuals who wouldn't crack open a book about radical queer theory if you held a gun to their heads and started playing russian roulette as with queers who do not kowtow to white dominated queer community standards of conduct, theory production or praxis, knock it off. You're coming across as soooo exclusionary and oppressive to this particular Black queer.
Not so much...
I'm not big into cisgendered heterosexual men who do not have any radical analysis related to the dominance of cisgendered men and constructs of masculinity.
I am drawn by misfits and freaks and aberrants of any gender or sexuality. But I tend to meet people who are white privileged misfits, freaks, aberrants who don't see anything particularly fascinating in my Blacknes, who don't see Blackness as potentially also a place of much freakish, aberrant delight, who are just scoping around to see themselves, their multicoloured hairstylings their flaming hula hoops, their miscoloured, mismatched clothing, mirrored back to them by another oh-so kewl agent of white domination.
Nonetheless, I do keep looking and hoping to find ones who aren't completely xenophobic and exlusionary. I have been known to make space for people who made/make me giggle with the freakishness or sheer shamelessness of their presentation.
I really like gay men, bisexual men, queer men of whatever ethnicity or kink. I'm realizing that I really like men of any gender, positioned all over the place along continuums of masculinity, who like being penetrated and sucking cock. Men of any gender who would like to be penetrated by me make me really happy. :)
This is where I am right now when/where it comes to gender.
I'm not where I was last week, last month, last year, ten years ago, twenty years ago, as a teenager, as a child, as a baby.
I won't be in this place tomorrow or next week or next month or next year or on my death bed...if I do my work as well as I plan to.
My understanding and analysis will no doubt morph again and again in some places as I learn more and not in others as I realize that some things about me and/or the world and/or white dominated queer communities just will not be changing any time soon.
My comprehension and identification will shift at a pace that allows for other parts of my identity that are equally important to transform as well. I've got ableism and my own disability, ageism and aging, classism and my shifting classed experiences and a host of other pieces on the burner in this exact same moment.
I'd really respect and welcome any queers of any gender of or ethnicity who could come also in-process, willing to share their process rather than coming to point fingers...at someone besides back at themselves...to share company and develop critiques alongside me.
In the meantime, this is what I've got. These are my contextualized, multifaceted notes on gender.
© 2012 T.J. Bryan aka Tenacious

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