Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Straight Male (and Related Meanderings)

Perhaps there's something missing from this framework.
(Hint: it's the 'G' in 'SGO').

I realized when I wrote about the Genderbread Person back in January that, in addition to not really being exposed to the phenomenon of 'transgenderism' when I was growing up, it's probably true that I never seriously questioned my gender because I had a penis, and I liked girls, so I basically fell into the general category of "straight male". It wasn't until I had grown up and was given the option to try on a skirt (both literally and figuratively speaking) that I realized how much I liked it, and began to question what I had taken for granted up to that point in my life. I know that gender identity and sexual orientation have no correlation to each other (and the fact that my experience runs counter to stereotype serves as evidence of that fact), but if my orientation had not been so...conventional, it's entirely possible that I would have begun questioning my gender earlier in my life.

Tolerance of Diversity (a.k.a. "Liberal Propaganda")

These days you hear a lot of conservatives complaining about how they don't want their kids "exposed" (e.g., in school) to the possibility of, for example, being gay or transgender (they call it "liberal propaganda"). I get it. You don't like or agree with these lifestyles/identities. But I don't understand how you can justify taking that choice (in the sense of how you live and see yourself, not who you are) away from someone else. You might think I'm a "fruit" or whatever. But I like the way I am. And in hindsight, I regret not knowing what it's like to grow up as a girl. To learn things like how to fix one's hair, wear makeup, and pick out clothes - from an early age. If there are other kids out there like me right now, I want them to have the option I didn't have. This isn't about forcing your red-blooded son to wear a skirt; it's about giving the boy who likes gymnastics the freedom to cultivate his individuality, not conform to somebody else's standards. How is that any different than, for example, giving an oppressed woman in a fundamentalist culture the freedom to dress as she desires? Do you really care about human rights, or do you just want everyone to be like you? Because if it's the latter, then you're no better than the despotic rulers our military exerts so much effort to supplant (for, perhaps, no better reasons).

Conformist Restraint vs. Radical Individuality

Another thing that a lot of people get all in a huff about is the idea of "inventing" new genders and sexualities - almost as if we're doing it as a joke, just to annoy them. I know that simplicity is appealing, but the fact is, human nature is diverse. Not everybody fits into easily-defined categories. We can either develop words to describe what we encounter, or we can destroy people's individual personalities by forcing them to fit specific roles, like some kind of "communist" dystopia where everybody wears the same thing. I apologize if my existence, or the existence of others, forces you to consider new possibilities outside of the framework you've already constructed in your mind. But, you know what? If you're not willing to acknowledge my individuality - if you're too lazy to open your mind to something you haven't already encountered - then all I have to say to you is fuck off and leave me alone. I should write a sci-fi dystopian story about a society where men are forced to wear suits and ties and go to work at mindless jobs sitting in office cubicles in order to support identical suburban households, while women have no choice but to grow up and attract a man so she can start popping out babies. Oh wait, it's already been done - they called it the '50s...

The Gender Nebula

And then you have those who like to try to undermine the reality of the transgender experience by emphasizing the immaterial nature of our gender norms. If you have a penis, and you like to wear skirts - they'll say - then why are you not just a man who likes to wear skirts, instead of a woman in the wrong body? Isn't it gender normative to claim otherwise? After all, historically, men have worn skirts in certain cultures. Well, firstly, it generally goes far beyond just wearing skirts (individual results will vary). But listen. If we lived in a world where men were allowed to exhibit all the outward appearances and personality traits we typically associate with women, I'd be perfectly content with others conceptualizing me as a man - albeit a particularly feminine one. I don't really care what people call me (which is one of the reasons I'm not overly concerned with pronouns, except insofar as their usage would create confusion and put me in an awkward situation). And, I mean, I care what people think, but I know I can't control that, and I'm not going to let it change who I am.

The fact is, we do not live in a culture where men are permitted, without hassle, to wear skirts and heels and carry purses and watch romantic movies and collect Disney Princess memorabilia. And yeah, I want to work towards creating that reality by fucking with people's expectations of gender (on occasion; most of the time I just want to be left alone - just not at the cost of my individuality). But until we live in that gender-less utopia (if such a thing would even be desirable - I'd prefer gender to be optional, rather than outlawed), it doesn't feel authentic for me to associate myself with the cultural definition of maleness (which I have no loyalty towards - I happily surrender my "manhood" right here and now), because that isn't me. If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it's downright crazy to call it anything other than a duck. And if I don't exactly talk like a duck, that's not to be construed as evidence that I'm "really" a man (any more than wearing a skirt is evidence that I'm "really" a woman), so much as evidence that throwing people into the exclusionary and limited categories of "male" or "female" is an inadequate way of describing human diversity.

Gynesexuality and 'Types'

Q: What do Men's and Women's Interest magazines have in common?
A: They both feature lots of images of half-dressed women.

I was surprised and amused when I discovered this fact of life. I'm not going to go into the reasons why this might be (something about the patriarchy and male gaze, objectification and homophobia - disproportionately "sexualizing" women's bodies and coming down harder on bisexuality when it's exhibited by males - I don't know). Suffice to say, I was delighted. You see, the image I've produced above is not entirely honest, as skin mags like Playboy are not usually my type (although I was pleasantly surprised by their most recent issue). I find fashion magazines to be a whole lot more stimulating; the models are prettier to my eyes - more feminine, it seems to me - than the overly tan, excessively busty women that are typically marketed to men.

But the fact that I prefer to browse in the "Women's Interests" section of the magazine rack doesn't change the fact that I am still sexually attracted to those women. (Incidentally, I feel a lot more comfortable flipping through a copy of Vogue or Glamour than I do staring down a Penthouse in full public view). And I can tell you that before I'd developed my sophisticated tastes, as a child, it was things like digging through stacks of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues in the back of the closet that gave me my first exciting glimpses of female eroticism. So however my tastes may differ from the stereotypical straight male (e.g., I'd rather attend a fashion show than visit a strip club), I've shared those formative boyhood experiences, and they did not clue me in to the fact that I might have a different gender identity than all the other penis-wielding humans who were attracted to vagina-bearers that I encountered. If, say, I had started getting funny feelings while watching professional wrestling, for example, then I might have suspected that something unusual was going on at an earlier age.

I mean, I'd always interpreted my interest in drawing clothes on stenciled silhouettes, and watching girly shows (albeit secretly) like Sailor Moon as a natural extension of my attraction to females. (On the flip side of that coin, I think there's nothing gayer than lifting weights in a muscle shirt with "the bros"). Didn't all guys do this? I thought so. They just didn't talk about it, because it was taboo. And heaven forbid your classmates might poke fun at you for liking something girly (kids are downright cruel). Isn't it enough that you watched Sailor Moon for the "anime babes that made you think the wrong thing"? Maybe I was naive at the time, but I really thought that was all there was to it, for me. I wanted to surround myself with girliness because I was straight. (For what it's worth, I never had a "cooties" phase - except insofar as I think all people carry germs - I remember thinking when the girls on the playground threatened all the boys with kisses that it didn't sound like such a horrible punishment).

Locker Room Privilege

At the risk of being accused of "sexual orientation appropriation", I feel kind of like a lesbian - I don't just want girls' bodies; I want to live like them, and I want to be surrounded by them. But I still want their bodies, too. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty - like I'm an impostor, reading women's magazines for the "wrong" reasons (not that the fashion and beauty advice, etc. don't interest me also, to a certain extent). Not being a "true" lesbian, I'm envious of the unfair advantage that homosexuals have in intimate environments like slumber parties and the locker room. Not that there is any excuse for taking advantage of 'the locker room privilege' to do anything untoward or make anyone uncomfortable. But you can't help sneaking a few peeks. And if most people assume by default that you're not interested in that way, they'll be less guarded. Again, this is no excuse to take advantage, but if you're genuinely harmless, then it is indeed an advantage.

My personal opinion is that, in this world, too many people make too much of a deal out of being looked at. Especially girls - who are taught to guard their "purity" - who often aren't so much concerned with being looked at as being looked at "in that way", as if something horrible is going to happen if somebody has an impure thought, or if you indulge that thought (or indirectly allow it to be indulged) in even the slightest of ways. Sadly, slut-shaming contributes to this social environment. We need a sex-positive revolution which reconditions people to feel that they are allowed to enjoy the sensual pleasures in life, free from guilt and shame. Where a woman doesn't have to be afraid that if she lets some random guy get a peek at her, it could be construed as "leading him on", which might then be used against her in the case that he decides to commit sexual assault. You see, I'm against rape culture - but I'm not against the possibility of viewing women in a sexual light. That's the whole point of SlutWalk, which so many people misinterpret.

In any case, whatever you might say about the propriety of sneaking a peek in the locker room, it's inevitable. You can't, say, put lesbians in the men's room, because the straight men would then get an eyeful. And even if you made separate locker rooms for each sexuality, there would still be the bisexuals! It's an advantage that exists, whether you like it or not. And I can't help but envy it. You might say that restrooms possess the same advantage - and I've used the women's restroom. But - and I know this varies from person to person - I find nothing sexy about the restroom. Changing clothes? Taking a shower? Absolutely! Sitting on the toilet? Ew, no thank you. And most of the 'action' in a restroom takes place behind a stall door, anyway - not out in the open (at least if we're talking about the women's room, and not the men's urinals - I don't understand how anyone can use those). Locker rooms are more communal, and open. Which is precisely why I can't use them - because when the clothes come off, my secret, unfortunately, comes out. To put it another way, when I disrobe, the true nature of my anatomy is laid bare. ;-)

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