Several things distinguish humans from other beings – three that come to mind immediately are the making of art, morality, and fixity. Or maybe it’s the combination of these three: octopuses make art but they don’t register time, even when wearing eight swatches. These things are sometimes at cross-purpose - for instance when I want to get my homo on and fag out at Urban Outfitters but can’t because someone told me (the internets) that UO is E-vil. One of these is not like the others but seems to be a hearty human urge, indeed, can feel like the only thing between one’s staying intact and one’s pixellating into a human solvent -and that’s fixity.
Identity seems to be a profound human need – I have some: artist, feminist, transperson, alcoholic. Change or mutability vexes most humans; for me this has looked like putting up with some serious shit in relationships (although I reckon a partner or two might choke on that one, having dished out more than my share of partner-poopoo). I guess we could pin human intransigence to psychotherapeutic clichés like “fear of abandonment,” or “fear of success.” Whatevs. It intrigues me that identity is so crucial. I remember meeting a transguy in my early days who told me he was a “femme fag pillow-queen tranny bottom” which seemed like an awful lot to remember. But look, I did. As a mutable fire sign Sagittarius (look, there’s another identity!) I feel more comfortable outside of groups – AA’s the only club I ever joined and believe you me it was under duress.
When I read people saying things like “I’m a man! I am a man and that’s that!” I’m always a little surprised by their vehemence. Buck Angel comes to mind – now I don’t know him and he seems like a perfectly nice guy - he’s always affirming to journalists especially that he’s a man. To which I say, “hats off to you, Sir! You are indeed a man! And a very manly man as well!” He’s a man. Maybe you’re a man. Maybe you’re a woman. I’m sure it’s just me and my mutable fire sign but these sorts of declarations always feel a little frantic – understandable in a world that often looks at us down a very judgey cis-nose. But let me be clear – I don’t feel that way, so “normal” for me is not “feeling like a man.” I totally get that your baseline allows for this feeling that I cannot experience. It may be a flaw in my design, I concede that. And I would like to share also that I need to be “seen” as a man. I need my outside to appear masculine. Why this is I could no more tell you than why I like toffee in coffee ice-cream so much more than cookie dough. I need you to read me as male, but I do not really in my testosterone-enhanced heart of hearts believe that I can be a man. And here’s maybe another critical difference between me and someone else: I do not want to capitulate to what I’m convinced is a social grouping that has done ever so much more harm than it has good.
Yes, this posture is easy for me who doesn’t think they are a man anyway. I’m not doing yoga here. I don’t know how I came to be born to this body that confuses the mind, or this mind that has some other ideas about the body. But, and sometimes it grieves me to say this, I wasn’t born a man. The state of trans – “for me, today,” as my friend Sheila loved to intone – is an acceptance of the mutable, the dynamic. It is, for me, not the rugged embrace of Paul Bunyan but more of a dance with the blue ox Babe.
ANYTRANSMASCULINITY, what I’m really trying to say here is that identity policing is pissing me off. Of course, in this I run the risk of alienating all the police, thus creating more us’n’thems, but here goes…
If you’re an activist, you’re probably a bit of a control-freak. I will suggest to you that you probably have alcoholism or mental illness in your family. I say this because it’s true for me, and many, many, MANY of the activists I know. When you combine this sort of chemical askance with the human instinct to identify oneself against another you get the kind of person (myself) who is unutterably convinced of both their best intentions and their superiority.
Neither of these things is entirely true.
What’s really jacked me up is the pecking, the regulating I see coming from my trans/queer community. The nit-pick and the scrutiny, the “you’re not doing it right” and the “you don’t speak for me” is craven responsibility-denying. My understanding of queer and trans is that they are the essence of inclusivity - especially queer. I know many transpeople are very committed to a gendered status quo; that’s fine by me, but I’d appreciate if you’d stop blaming your lack of freedoms on those of us who speak out. Really, I don’t know why I even fight for equality for you people.
Okay, so here’s what I’m suggesting. Let’s stop micro-managing one another’s message. Let’s let “our community” be where they are. I promise not to check your ID for “queer” if you promise not to weigh what’s twixt my fleshy thighs. If I’m going to critique your message, I promise I’ll offer my own version, framed with love and compassion, and only a soupçon of snarkery. Let’s leave queer enough alone. And know this: my shop is open for any of you, all the time. I don’t care how you identify, if you’re straight and white and male even. And have dreads and like Eminem. I don’t even care. I love you Brother, I love you Sister and I loveloveloooove you Sisterbrother. Welcome, everyone. You are all loved here.