Saturday, December 12, 2009

Now We Are All Trans.

There's a blog, called The Bilerico Project, that I usually enjoy more than the other popular GLBT blogs. It has a more serious tone than, say, Towleroad, which, even when he's reporting on serious topics, is pretty superficial.

Towleroad and JoeMyGod are way too gay for me, but the contributors on Bilerico are all over the map, men and women and trans people of various identities and ideologies (but leaning heavily toward scholars and activists). Nancy Polikoff, my anti-marriage hero, is a regular contributor. I don't agree with every writer, but, because I find myself so often at odds with the "gay agenda," I like that Bilerico gives space to dissidents.

Recently, though, there was a profoundly stupid post, by a brand new contributor, which more or less berated people who identify themselves as trans, dismissed the very idea of transgender. (I would link to the post, but it's been removed.) Just why the post ended up there is -- despite reading three days of apologizing, explaining, defending, condemning, and then firing the guy -- somewhat of a mystery to me. It was just so ignorant and insulting, and on a blog that seems to take some pride in the fact that it includes trans voices and, for that reason, I would guess, has a substantial trans readership.

But it sparked a conversation, and that's good. Apparently, most of the Gs, Ls, and Bs still have a lot to learn about the Ts.

I especially appreciated this post -- a sort of "Trans 101" -- for its directness and simplicity, for giving us an armature to hang the conversation on, a place to start. My comment and the response I got from the person who wrote the post are below:

This is great. I love the work you've done to begin creating a taxonomy.

But I wonder where old-fashioned homos fit in this. You have the category "gender variants" ("not heterosexual: this is you"), which would seem to include all homos, but you shy away from explicitly including them under that label. Am I misreading?

I would like to push your argument further and say that we are all trans. Even the homosexuals whose presentation conforms to their biological gender in every way except their erotic orientation.

It's queer orthodoxy to say that gender identity and erotic orientation are two discrete phenomena. I'm always trying to make the argument that that is not true. As I see it, homosexual orientation, in and of itself, is in some meaningful way the same thing as transexuality. They both transgress expectations of gender appropriate behavior. I.e., if you are male and attracted to other males, you are behaving in a way that is only appropriate to women.

I've struggled a lot in the last several years with what to call myself, because "gay" has come to signal a lifestyle I don't want to be a part of. "Queer" is simultaneously too raw and too academic. Even though the way I look is pretty straightforward gender-appropriate male, can I be trans? Is there anything problematic about me calling myself trans?

Hi golikewater :)

Thank you. The taxonomy is useful only beause it has such a broad structure -- something as varied and colorful as the trans community is not easily given ever narrowing structures.

Where do old fashioned homos fit into this? As you noted, descriptively, they would, by being homosexual (or bisexual) fall into the category of Gender Variants at the least, simply because by loving someone of the same sex, they are not conforming to the standard expectations of gender role for someone of their gender expression and identity.

Wich, I have discovered, tends to really upset a lot of gay folks, because its assumed that such is bad.

It is not a bad thing, however, unless you think variance from the normative expectations is bad.

On a personal level (but not so much professioally yet), I actually do think that all of us are Trans.

I believe that you've seen through a lot of the underlying separation -- gender, being a social strucutre that is separate from gender identity, does indeed incorporate one's sexual orientation. Part of being a gay man is being a man (gender) that likes other men (gender).

In my personal and professional estimation, the only risk in calling yourself trans is that by doing so, you may experience a loss of privilege and therefore experience social stigma that is part of the reason I wrote this piece.

Thank you.

So I think I might start calling myself trans. It is more accurate than gay. I have had a life-long internal dialogue about my gender. I didn't know how to be a boy, couldn't walk like them, couldn't tip my chin to say hello. At home I would put on my mother's makeup and wrap towels around myself and tuck my penis between my legs. Even so, I never had the kinds of feelings many transexuals describe of knowing they were girls (or boys, for FTMs). It was acting, just as much as putting on jeans and carrying my books at my side was acting. I wouldn't have used these words at the time, but when I remember how I felt about myself when I was a kid, and even into early adulthood, I felt genderless. I never exactly felt like a girl, but I certainly didn't feel like a boy. My boyness was a tenuous and fragile puppet show.

The real difference as I've gotten older is that I've realized, maybe, that it's always a puppet show, even for the straight boys, and I have come to feel more comfortable being male, to enjoy pulling the strings. There are things about me that are stereotypically male and there are also things that are as girly as it gets.

Nature, nurture, blah, blah, who knows -- why do we feel the need to scienceify everything in order to believe it's true? -- I very much like being both male and female, being something in between.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Loretta's Keeping Me Up All Night.

I know I'm not depressed because don't they always say that when you're depressed you sleep all the time? I can't seem to make myself go to bed at night (even though I have nothing to do but look at all the Loretta Lynn clips on youtube -- there are a lot!) and still I wake up at the crack of dawn every morning lately.

There's not one single thing in this clip that I'm not absolutely in love with right now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There To Love Him.

Yesterday, I watched Be Here to Love Me, a documentary about Townes Van Zandt.

Until I saw this film, I had completely forgotten about my first encounter with him and his music. A friend's band opened for him in New York in 1991, or maybe early 1992. I remember my friend telling everyone that if we didn't come to any other show of hers, we had to come to this one because it was a chance to see Townes Van Zandt close up in a small room. I'd never heard of him.

The show was at the Speakeasy, one of the old folk clubs in the West Village, and it was very small, as I remember. We crammed into a tiny room, my friend's band, Pie Alamo, played a short set, and then Townes Van Zandt came out, sat on a stool with his guitar and played a few songs but mostly talked. Long rambling stories; I don't remember what any of them were about. In my memory, it went on for hours. Too long, really. He died a few years after that, and I wish I remembered it more clearly. I wish I could say that such-and-such song blew me away and I remember every word. I don't. I remember the absolute silence in the room more than anything in particular about the songs. I do remember that he was funny and charming but at times incoherent, and that maybe the silence wasn't only reverence for a great artist but fear that he might never find the thread of that story. Or that he might fall off the stool. I'm gonna guess he was pretty drunk, and everyone in the room was completely in love with him.

I'm ashamed to admit that one possible reason I don't remember the evening in much detail is that I was preoccupied with a man. I was there with a date. A guy I had met at a sex club -- the very early incarnation of Michael Wakefield's "He's Gotta Have It" parties, when he was doing them in his East Village loft. This guy was dark and gorgeous and we had had some of the best sex I've ever had in my life, twice, which I guess I thought might translate into a more lasting relationship. (Go ahead and laugh; it was a long time ago.) We went out twice, not counting the 2 encounters at the club. The Townes Van Zandt show was our last date. He left before the show was over. I scoffed.

Not long after that night, I met J, and not long after that, we auditioned for our first gig as Y'all. It was a cabaret event which a small theater company was producing at Flamingo East, a restaurant on Second Ave. J approached them, and they asked us to come sing a couple songs for the directors of the company. We'd been making up songs at home for fun and playing them for friends, but this was the first time we'd presented them to strangers and we were nervous. We walked into the big empty ballroom upstairs (it was mid afternoon) and there were 3 or 4 people sitting at a single table in the corner. We sat opposite them and sang our little set. I played ukulele. I didn't notice until halfway into the first song that one of the people at the table was the sex club guy. He was friendly, I was friendly, but we didn't acknowledge our previous acquaintance. We got the gig, the rest is history.

Oh, and Michael Wakefield, who I didn't know personally at the time, ended up taking the first publicity photos of Y'all. He was a wonderful photographer in addition to successful sex club mogul. Later Michael became a sort of mentor to J and me. One of our early money-making ventures to finance Y'all was to produce our own bi-weekly sex party. I think we had 3 of them. We made pots of money at the first one, but attendance dropped off quickly, and we moved on to other harebrained schemes.

Be Here to Love Me is a beautiful, very sad film about a great American artist. I recommend it. The clip below is not from the film, I just ran across it and it struck me as being very much like I remember him.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Moment Sucks.

First I got stood up. I had a date tonight that I was really looking forward to, with a guy I was very smitten with. He texted at the last minute and canceled.

Then -- I guess it came in yesterday's mail, but I just saw it -- I got a notice that the interest on my credit card is going up to 27.24% because my October payment was late. I have an alarm set on my computer to remind me to make this payment every month, but I was in New York for my show, and I missed it. This is the $15,000 in credit card debt that I racked up finishing my film, Life in a Box, in 2005. Optimism is my enemy. That and, I supposed, spending so much time on art that I don't get paid for.

The first part of the day was quite nice. I had lunch with J and a dear friend from Nashville who was here on business and whom I hadn't seen in a long, long time. And I had a nice visit with a new Austin friend. He helped me figure out a problem with my video editing software, and we talked about men and sex and we bitched about how fucking hard it is to make a living and be happy.

I love my friends.

Update: The payment wasn't late. The default rate kicked in because the minimum payment was $302 and I paid $300 last month. For years I've paid $300/month on that card because $300 was about twice the minimum payment and I wanted the balance to go down, even if slowly. But last month the minimum payment doubled, I didn't notice it, and I paid $2 less than the minimum. Two dollars. I'm not going to blame anyone for my financial woes. Obviously I've brought them on myself with the choices I've made. But two dollars?!