Monday, February 17, 2014

Gendercops beware: you've been infiltrated

Many  people who read my post here, at helen boyd's post here and here, and John Aravosis' post here (HUGE thanks to these two by the way) seemed to read something like this: OMG a dude wants to break into our women's space! And he's a not just a dude. He's a straight dude who has ton's of places where he can hang with his girl.

Art courtesy of Samir Luther
Be grateful he's transitioned and move the fuck on. He's not a lesbian anymore. Get out of our women's only space and stop being so damned selfish and ruining it for all of us who need that space. 

Um, I'm paraphrasing and in some cases exaggerating, but that was the sentiment. 

So what about that response bugs me?

Beyond the obvious (calling me selfish, etc.) was the more subtle. When I wrote that blog post, I was trying to express how I, the lesbian PARTNER of a trans guy, was feeling about being cut off from my community. It hurt. It hurt way worse than I could ever have imagined.

But most folks addressed the issue as if my transman was the one banging on the door. Don't get me wrong: he was upset that a community he's been a part of and supported for decades simply gave him the boot. (Not to mention that while it was NOT a PFLAG even, it was raising money for that organization). But I was trying to explain how being a partner of someone who has transitioned is very tricky. In some ways, his sudden visibility means that part of me is suddenly invisible (my gay part) He's well-aware of this tradeoff. And I'm not upset with him. It's hard for me but I absolutely want him to be authentic. He's a much better person for it. It's no one's fault. It's the way it is. 

But it's absurd to say he's no longer part of a community because he's suddenly visible.

Which leads me to the second point: he did not suddenly become a man. He simply chose to honor who he's always been and bravely transition medically so that his insides and his outsides match.  A. has ALWAYS been a man. Since birth. He's just always been stuck in the wrong body. (I'm not speaking for all transgendered people. God knows, I'm not expert. I just know our experience.) Which means, you know what? That, he, a MAN has been attending lesbian events for YEARS. He just didn't have a male appearance back them. So he already infiltrated. 

But it was cool, right? Because he looked like a woman. And you know what? I know for certain he wasn't and isn't the only one. I didn't go to the dance, but I'd put all my money on the fact that there were a few female-appearing folks there who really were men.

What I'm saying is that these spaces that proclaim to be for women only have been one big illusion.

Splitting hairs, am I?

Think about it. 

Now that I understand gender a lot better than I did even a year ago. I get it. Just because you look like you're a woman, doesn't mean you are. Just because you look like a man doesn't mean you are either. In fact, many people do not fall on this binary scale of gender. Genderqueer, asexual... etc. Even Facebook gets that. So this idea that you can throw a single-sex event is kind of antiquated. 

But let's say you're cool with people simply identifying as male or female and choosing it for themselves. Fine. How the hell are you going to enforce it?

Are you going to tell that super butch looking person who is packing but appears to have breasts somewhere under that binding and plaid button-down and speaks in a lowish voice that she (or is it he?) is not welcome? What about that woman who has visible beard stubble, an Adam's apple and sounds little like Johnny Cash? Are you going to tell her she's not welcome?And hell, what do you do with that person who walks into the door and looks, well like both genders... or neither one? 

To those who tell us that A. and I are now a straight couple and we have plenty of places to go where we're welcomed, I'm tempted to give the big fat middle finger. But I'm trying to have a rational conversation here (even if it's just one way). So I'll say this. We are NOT a straight couple. That's the whole point! I'm basically a lesbian and my partner is a transman who had found a home in the lesbian world for many years. Do you really think that we'd be at home in a straight world where the price of admission would be to stay in the closet about who we really were, lest we offend someone, or godforbid, make someone feel uncomfortable? Or worse? Think this through, people: let's go with it. A and I go to a dance. It's straight. We dance. We have a great time. We meet lots of wonderful straight couples. We make friends. Then in conversation I slip and call A. "she" because it happens. They figure it out. And maybe they're not such nice people. Maybe they're offended that we basically deceived them. Maybe they just don't like queers. Maybe they decide to beat the shit out of A. to prove a point. Maybe.Yeah, we'd feel so welcome at that place. Thanks lesbians. 

When you tell us to stay out of your community, you're actually telling us: go back into the closet and please for goddsake, stop making us feel so uncomfortable. Because that was the reason given to us for staying away: seeing a person who looked like a woman dancing with a person who looked like a man would make women feel uncomfortable. Because obviously that's a really good reason for exclusion. We all know that we should never offend.

Yeah, I'm pissed. Because I thought of all the people I know, lesbians, who have been oppressed, mistaken for straight and dealt with narrow-minded shit their whole likes —at least they'd understand what it's like to be excluded, to be shunned, to be told they're something that they're not, to be excluded. Many do, but many don't. 

One person who I considered to be an expert on the topic (well more than one) told me that hey, this wasn't a lesbian-only dance. This was a woman-only space and that straight women were welcome. And even *they* couldn't bring their partners. To that I say bullshit. Two things: if a straight woman is attending an all-woman's dance on Valentine's day, she either isn't really straight or doesn't have a date. A straight woman who is dating a straight man really does have many places she can attend while being completely authentically herself. So she's choosing to hang out in a mostly-lesbian environment. Good for her. I'm happy for her. But that doesn't mean that a LESBIAN who is dating a MAN who used to identify as LESBIAN has those same options. 

Get real. 

And to those people who say, hey, cool your partner is passing and is a man and go celebrate at a straight bar of your choosing, I also say, what about me? There I said it. What about me? I'm not straight.

So yeah, I'm not going to drop this.

I'm fine if you disagree with me. But I ask you to do so intelligently. I.E. calling me selfish and other names is not intelligent. Give me a good argument. 

For those who tell me there are plenty of openly gay places that will welcome you, I say THANK YOU. This isn't about us, personally, having a place to go. I'm blessed to have amazing friends and family (queer, straight, etc.) who love us and have accepted these changes gracefully. I have attended gay spaces where we've been completely welcomed. 

So this really isn't about me personally wanting to find a space. But it is about wanting people to think a little more deeply about this issue. What's female? What's male? What's inclusive.

Bottom line, hang out with whomever you want. That's the beauty of a free society. But when you open your doors to the public, when you raise money for an inclusive organization, it's just not cool any more.

1 comment:

  1. I am a lesbian and I identify as a woman. One of the BIGGEST problems that I have with the lesbian community is the exclusion of transfolk. It enrages me, it confounds me, and it makes me terribly sad. If queer people don't "get it" how do they expect straight people to "get it". Do they really think that you guys are a straight couple now? You just aren't. You two are still outside of that heteronormative box. Two beautiful people loving each other that society sets apart as different. Cheers to you two. I am happy that love prevailed for you over hatred, misunderstanding, and confusion. -Jessica