radical, gamebreaking politics for a group that’s struggling with the basic right to fucking exist

(20 comments)

Being aro/ace is queer.  End of story!  To say that anyone who’s not cishet normative doesn’t belong at the queer “table” (as if being queer were some kind of banquet, Hannibal?) doesn’t really understand what it is to be queer at all.  So let’s pick up the harp and let’s dance.

“radical”: late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis "of or having roots," from Latin radix (genitive radicis) "root" (see radish ). Meaning "going to the origin, essential" is from 1650s.

Here’s what being queer, in any sense, often entails:

  • corrective rape
  • pedagogical erasure
  • unacceptance of one’s non-normative relationships
  • othering in mainstream media
  • medical stigmatization, discrimination, even “conversion”
  • unsafe to “come out” to partners, families, community and colleagues and so forth, and yet “coming out” is essential to being authentic

In other words, nothing nice.

These are all things that ace people have experienced.  These are all things that gays and lesbians have experienced.  These are all things that bisexuals have experienced.  These are all things that trans people have experienced.  These are all things that intersexed people have experienced.  Why?  Because we’re all queer.  Because we all deviate from the expectations of straight people.

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I’m a big fan of etymology.  It’s a way of getting to the root of a word, of seeing where it came from.  Because of course words change over the eons.  “Nice” for example derives from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" + stem of scire "to know" (see science).  And then it changed to “timid,” then “fastidious,” then “precise” and “careful” and “delicate” before becoming “agreeable” and “kind” and “thoughtful.”  Over time, it’s been turned inside-out, polarity reversed and all that.  What a queer word!

“Queer” is the perfect word to describe the history of “nice.”  “Queer” derives from the c.1500, "strange, peculiar, eccentric" from Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer "oblique, off-center," related to German quer "oblique, perverse, odd," from Old High German twerh "oblique," from PIE root *terkw- "to turn, twist, wind."  Huh, looks like we got something in common with twerking, too. 

Oblique, off-center, turned… in other words, not straight.  This is the geometry of being queer, or perhaps the square root of it to be particularly nerdish, and with particular thanks to Harper's Etymological dictionary.

So what does building solidarity look like?  Damn, it looks like looking in the mirror, I think!  Conversely, what does excluding aro/ace from queerdom look like?  It looks like, I dunno, like saying that because someone under the queer umbrella has an easier time of passing for straight we might as well just pretend that they’re straight?  It’s like demanding someone stay in the closet. 

That’s what we all have in common.  The damn closet, from late 14c. French closet "small enclosure, private room," diminutive of clos "enclosure," from Latin clausum "closed space, enclosure, confinement," from neuter past participle of claudere "to shut". In Matt. vi:6 it renders Latin cubiculum "bedchamber, bedroom," Greek tamieion "chamber, inner chamber, secret room;" thus originally in English "a private room for study or prayer."

It’s a restriction of sexuality.  Including asexuality. 

With religious connotations.

It’s the apocryphon of queerness. 

So this is what it says to include aro/ace into queer space.  It says, “you matter.”  Your experience matters.  You are different, and we are different, and these differences matter, and yet this is what we all share in common.  Not being straight, and yet mattering.  Why?  Because diversity makes for a healthier ecosystem.  And even if it didn’t… we all matter because we all have inherent value, which is hard to believe after lifelong immersion in a culture that either denigrates us if it even knows of our existence. 

And if there’s anything that’s going to bring about the end of “the market” where everything is commodified including people, it’s going to be the practice of recognizing the principle of inherent value.  Because the underlying assumption of the marketplace is that value isn’t inherent (an assumption shared by so many religions, especially those which say that all people are sinners, but also by science, as "value" is a numinous quality and so essentially unobservable) and so therefore some people are “worth more” than others.  Indeed, under the assumptions of the marketplace, the world we live in doesn’t have inherent value, which is how we now face ecological disaster, and nazis walking down the street, and a living refutation of orange being the new black.

So of course everyone that's A belongs with us.

We now return to your regular programming.

ETA: So, some context.  This post was inspired by an exchange between Phil and Wack'd over on Tumblr, and the title of the post actually comes from Wack'd -- that's the proper attribution, and I'm sorry I wasn't explicit about that earlier.  Furthermore, in that exchange (which has since been resolved) the aforementioned title I appropriated was employed with very different intent than the context I've used here, and that change of context was a very deliberate attempt on my part to "queer" it, given the usage of "queer" that I've described. 

If anyone has a problem with any of this, please, take it out on me, not them!

Comments

EL 2 months ago

This entire argument seems to rely on the logic that what aro/ace people have in common with lgbt people is what lgbt people have in common with each other - a matter of sexuality. This is certainly true of the "lgb" parts - their "difference from the norm" is their sexual orientation.

But this is not true for transgender people. The thing that forcibly separates them from society has nothing to do with sexual orientation, or any definition of sexuality. To put "lgbt" in opposition to "straight" is to casually ignore that there are plenty of straight trans people. And their relationship to the closet is completely different to that of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people; closeted "lgb" people wish, by and large, that they could live their lives openly, and be able to love without having to do so secretly. Trans people, on the other hand, mostly just wish that their bodies worked and existed the way they were supposed to. Trans women, by and large, wish they could just get on with the business of being women, and trans men wish they could just get on with the business of being men. The political philosophy of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can be summarized, VERY broadly speaking, as "let us live peacefully, because how we live is as valid as how you live." The basic political philosophy of trans people is "let us live peacefully, because we are who we are."

So while yes, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender people experience an overlap in oppression, and oppression is a major component of experience, they experience queerness very differently from each other. So if we are to argue that aro/ace people belong in lgbt spaces, and we base this argument on shared experience, then that shared experience cannot be "well, none of these people are straight." Unless "straight" is some sort of code-word for "cultural norm," in which case queerness as a concept gets broadened to the point where it runs the risk of decentralizing the people it's supposed to default to focussing on.

For instance, your list of "what queerness entails" at the top of the article can apply to immigrants or white-passing members of racial and ethnic minorities with almost as much ease as it applies to trans people. But you wouldn't call such people queer. As it is, this particular article wallows in casual transphobia, which casts into doubt (or at least ought to) the reliability of the author's perspective on queerness. Not the author's status within queerness, mind you - I have no idea whether the author is queer, as I know very little about her - but her ability to speak on what is right or wrong for the queer community as a whole.

And I'm not arguing against aro/ace inclusion in the queer community, by the way. I certainly don't have a right to an opinion either way - I'm just an ally. But I believe that if we're going to argue FOR it's inclusion, we ought to do so with a better argument than "well we're none of us straight, therefore." Because the straight queers might have something to say about that.

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Jane 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Hi EL!

Okay, so, first things first. I’m coming from the perspective of a kinky poly pansexual cis woman – so obviously there are some experiences I am privy to and some that I’m not, but then I think this is pretty much true for any individual under the queer umbrella. That doesn’t mean we can’t all be inclusive and support each other as we challenge normative sexuality – which gets to the second place I’m coming from, namely that by “straight” I mean cisgendered heterosexuality.

I do think it’s important that assumptions of cisgenderedness be included in our conception of what it means to be “straight.” Because while gender and sexuality are distinct, heterosexuality is predicated on assumptions of gender. Namely, the gender binary of “men” and “women.” Trans people, even those who are heterosexual, definitely queer the line of the gender binary. They challenge our fundamental conception of what it means to be a man or a woman, demonstrating that gender actually comes from within, and may be more mutable than we ever thought.

Like, if a trans man pre-transition (who hasn’t come out) is having sex with a cis man, how is that sexuality to be framed? From the perspective of the cis man (as well as to the casual outside observer—should such an observer be called a voyeur?) it will look like ordinary heterosexuality. From the perspective of the trans man, though, it will be homosexual. And once he comes out and transitions, he will necessarily queer the existing relationship. The cis man will question his own sexuality, and so will everyone else around him. Who else but someone who’s trans can make an apparently simple sexuality appear so complicated, such that different people see different sexualities depending on where they’re standing? A line has been crossed, and now everyone involved stands oblique to the straight and narrow.

And it’s not like trans people are necessarily on the gender binary. What about those who are agendered, who are bi-gendered, or genderfluid? We don’t even have explicit categories to describe the resulting sexuality for people in such relationships. Very queer.

So I’m thinking of it like this. Being gay or lesbian challenges the assumption of heterosexuality – it queers that straight edge, stands oblique to it. It crosses the line. Being bisexual challenges the assumption of monosexuality. Being trans (and intersexed, for that matter) challenges the underlying assumptions of gender that comprise our notions of heterosexuality. Aro/ace people challenge the underlying assumption of the importance of sexuality. We’re all crossing straight lines here. If being inclusive ends up queering us all even more than we already are, to that I say Hallelujah!

Now, as to the closet. To live openly as gay or lesbian or bi, one has to come out. We have to tell people (which includes showing people through public displays of affection, which includes marriage) that we are different, not just so that we’re no longer subject to normative assumptions about our sexuality, but so we can also practice it. This is shared by aro/ace people, not so much the “practice” of sexuality (because being ace means not practicing a sexuality at all) as to just being visible. Well, trans people have to come out, too—how else do they transition? And yes, for those who identify on the binary and end up getting gendered correctly, those who are also heterosexual may very well pass for cisgendered heterosexuals (which as I’ve constructed it means they may ultimately be straight when all is said and done) but that journey still involved passing through the valley of queerness. During that journey they’re just as vulnerable and oppressed as any other openly queer person, if not more so. During that journey they are queer, even if they end up leaving queerness behind. For those select few, queerness is mutable… one might even say that the understanding of “being queer” that comes from those who are strictly homosexual has been queered.

Which is not unlike the experience of bi and pan people who end up in heterosexual relationships and hence pass for straight. Every time I’ve been in a relationship with a man, my Mom breathes a sigh of relief that I’m “straight” again, and when I’m with women she worries about me being lesbian. I am neither… but that is only socially true as long as I say I’m not, and when I’m with a man I have to actively affirm my queerness at all. Being pan adds a whole nuther dimension to all this, of course, because pansexuality explicitly affirms experiences of gender beyond the traditional binary.

And yes, the entailment (the consequence) of being queer is much like the entailment of being an immigrant or other minority, which of course are entailments shared by all kinds of disenfranchised people. These entailments don’t define us; rather, they are the politics we have to rail against. Which is why I’m broadening things further, to get to the root of the fundamental underlying assumption of material disenfranchisement—it stems from the lack of belief in the immanent and inherent value of all human beings. Well, to believe in inherent value necessarily means to be inclusive. Which means to break down the lines dividing people, even while respecting the differences we all have.

That might seem like a contradiction. To me, it’s a union of opposites, a basic principle of alchemy.

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EL 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Ok, wow, there's a lot to parse out here, including keeping track of my own tone. Alright, let's start of symmetrically - cards on the table on my end as well.

I am a straight, cis man. So, lots and lots and LOTS of privilege. Anybody who wants to zone out of reading right here, feel free.

On the other hand. Not to pull a "I have a ___ best friend." but... for various reasons, I have spent my entire post-adolescent life intimately familiar with trans people and what their lives ("journeys") are like. I've spent more than a decade having to re-examine stuff and familiarize myself with the points of view of trans people. I'm not claiming that that makes me an authority, but it does mean I have a responsibility here to respond to what you are saying.

Let me back up for just a second. I love this website. I'm a big fan of TARDIS Eruditorum, and I have you, personally, to thank for that - it was your article, "The Circle in the Square," that made me fall in love with the alchemical view f of the world, of fiction, and of Doctor Who.

That being said, literally everything in here that mentions trans people and the way they live is transphobic. It falls under the "cis queer" flavor of transphobia, which is particularly insidious, because many people are going to read this and say, "but she can't be transphobic, she's queer!" And the first thing I'm gonna do here is decouple those concepts real quick. Just like non-black POC can be racist by being anti-black, it is COMPLETELY possible to say or believe or do things that are oppressive to one group while yourself belonging to an adjacent group. And that is what's happening here.

You mention that binary trans people challenge our conception of what it means to be a man or a woman. First of all, no they don't. Trans people exist, and to say that they challenge your view of anything is to imply that they are somehow deliberately transgressive. Which, granted, SOME trans people are, but only in so far as some people are in general.

But ok, fine, I assume that the idea you are intending to communicate here is that the existence of trans people, and their relationship to gender, is what fundamentally challenges our conception of gender. Well, ok, yeah. It challenges the ideas of genital essentialism, sure. But once you get past that, you're basically good. Trans men are men. Trans women are women. Pretty easy. And I'm not going to comment on what you say about gender being mutable beyond the following: for many trans people, the very immutability of their gender is a critical facet of their identity and a matter of life and death. I will not speak for all trans people, but I will speak for MANY trans people - the struggle to actually figure out what is going on with their gender, and to understand how their gender operates, and that IS who they really are, is among the biggest struggles of their life. And many of those trans people have to suffer through years of "well, maybe I'm a little bit of both genders, or maybe I'm neither, or maybe I'm just something different and weird" before being comfortable and brave enough to breathe a sigh of relief and say, "yeah, no, I'm this specific gender." Which is mostly to say that trans people do not exist to be anybody's illustration of how the journey of queerness operates, and they're certainly not, AS A CLASS, an example of gender mutability or fluidity. Which, to be fair, is me responding to more than what you individually are saying. But a lot of what you're saying is very typical of a certain set of (transphobic) beliefs within modern queer theory, and comes from a deeply exploitative view of trans people as a class.

And then we get to your "pre-transition trans man and his boyfriend" argument, which honestly makes my skin crawl.

If a trans man is having sex with a cis man, then here are your options on the perspective of the cis man:

a) If the cis man knows that his partner is a trans man, and respects his partner's gender, then he's having gay sex.

b) If the cis man know that his partner is a trans man, but is internally misgendering his partner, then he is having gay sex WHILE ALSO being a massively transphobic douchebag.

c) If the cis man DOES NOT know that he is having sex with a trans man, and mistakes his partner for a cis man, then he is having gay sex.

d) If the cis man DOES NOT know that he is having sex with a trans man, and misgenders his partner via honest ignorance, then he is having deeply unfortunate sex, and the trans man within this example has a lot of stuff he's going to have to deal with. Mostly trauma.

Furthermore, the pre-transition trans man may have, as in examples a and b, already come out. Transitioning and coming out are completely distinct steps for a trans person, and can happen in either order - in fact, many post transition trans people have to deal with the bewildering choice of whether or not to come out "again." And this means that the cis man he is having sex with has either a) already had to think pretty hard about his own sexual orientation, and/or b) made the active choice to be a douche-canoe.

And then there's this part, which I'm quoting in full because its sheer insidiousness demands it:

"Who else but someone who’s trans can make an apparently simple sexuality appear so complicated, such that different people see different sexualities depending on where they’re standing? A line has been crossed, and now everyone involved stands oblique to the straight and narrow."

This part of your argument implicitly assigns an agency-driven deliberate nature to the act of transgression, and therefore "queering", that trans people (apparently) do merely by existing. This is the most transphobic thing I've read in years, but that's probably because I usually stay away from certain corners of the internet. You're using the language and tone of queer discourse to turn trans people into some sort of beings of, I don't know, meta-sexual divinity or something, who need only walk down the street and smile at a passerby, before proclaiming, for the world to hear, "Queerness has been visited upon you, mortals. You all are mine, irrevocably changed."

dsfjdfgjfghf THEY'RE JUST PEOPLE, DAMNIT! They are not your transgressive sex deviants who who perform within the medium of gender, they're PEOPLE who live LIVES and, sometimes, fall in LOVE, and, on occasion, have SEX, and huge, giant swathes of them - perhaps even the majority! - would rather be able to do all of that without all the fuss of how QUEER everything about them is!

And, just to be complete:

"Being trans (and intersexed, for that matter) challenges the underlying assumptions of gender that comprise our notions of heterosexuality. [...] We’re all crossing straight lines here."

No. Trans people aren't crossing straight lines. They "challenge the underlying assumptions of gender that comprise out notions of heterosexuality" by saying "oh, by the way, turns out, most of y'all are wrong about how gender works. Here's the update; you may now return to your regularly scheduled sexual orientations."

At this point, it becomes easier to just quote you than to come up with a separate set of remarks to transition from each erroneous point to the next.

"Well, trans people have to come out, too—how else do they transition?"

Well. Ok. Minimalistically speaking, they transition by going to a doctor (or, in some cases, not going to a doctor) and making use of medications and/or medical procedures. This is not, in itself, an act of coming out, any more so than seeking any kind of medical treatment involves coming out. A cancer patient can be treated for cancer without letting anybody besides their doctor know.

Of course, you're probably really asking, "how does a trans person transition without people finding out?" Well, for a lot of trans people, it's really just a question of careful information management. Some begin transitioning near the end of high school, without coming out, and start presenting as their gender in college. Cut and paste any combination of two temporally-separated social settings, as convenient.

Some trans people, on the other hand, transition with a lot of people knowing, and do come out.

Some people come out to their friends and family, then transition, then end up coming out to other people post-transition(hence the earlier reference to coming out twice).

Some people come out partway through transition, or even pretty late into transition.

And some manage never to come out at all, and, unlike closeted lgb people, have no reason whatsoever to say that they're not living their lives to the fullest.

Oh, and they're still queer, regardless of which of the above scenarios their lives most closely match. There't not some sort of "valley of queerness." I'm not going to go into nearly as detailed of a response to this paragraph, except to say that such a romanticized view of queerness risks reducing queerness into a hip aesthetic.

I'm not going to argue very much about the specific points you're making about aro/ace people, either. Like I've said, I don't really have an opinion either way. In fact, that's a lie - I trend HEAVILY towards ideas of maximum inclusivity in my own personal life, so for me, the idea of "inviting aro/ace people to the table of queerness" sounds agreeable, but it does so in a way that highlights the reason I don't have a say: I'm not queer, and what "sounds agreeable" to me has an ACTUAL EFFECT on people who, unlike me, are queer. Ultimately, I'm perfectly happy with the queer community as a whole deciding what it wants to do without my input. If these conversations result in aro/ace people being included in queerness to the point where nobody ever questions their inclusion again, I'll be happy for them. But if the cost of achieving such a result has to be the proliferation of MASSIVE AMOUNTS of transphobic rhetoric (even if it's in the form of "we LOVE trans people, because of all of these damaging, inaccurate, fetishising reasons," then that must be fought.

P.S. I showed your post to a trans woman, and she asked me to add: Your comments about trans people queering everyone around them... smacks of the whole trans women as traps narrative. Which, y'know, gets trans women killed.
And dispelling that has been a major part of trans-feminism.

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Jane 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Thank you for your erudite deconstruction of my writing, EL. I really do appreciate your taking the time to point out all these flaws, all mine. I'm sure I'm missing the boat here, but I'm not quite seeing it yet? And anyone who wants to jump in and help with getting me on track, please do, because for the record, this isn't the first time I've screwed up here before, as anyone who remembers my spectacularly wrong statements regarding autism and empathy a few years ago can attest.

So, just to put [i]that[/i] on the table, a trou normand if you will.

For my own experience with trans people: I dated a trans woman fifteen years ago or so, and hung out with a couple of her friends (a trans woman and a trans man who were dating each other) during that time. Other than meeting a few crossdressers (and another trans woman who I mistakenly thought was a crossdresser until she disclosed she was trans) at a couple of play parties in the last year or so, that's pretty much it.

Okay, can I start with the example of the trans man who's pre-transition and before he's come out having sex with a cis man... what am I missing here besides my mistakenly conflating coming out as a part of transition (which is something I got from the three people I knew way back when, who all described "coming out" as the first step in their transitions)?

Yes, the trans man is a man and really always was, but before he transitions and before he even tells anyone he's trans, he's being misgendered. And that has consequences for how everyone else around him perceives his sexuality, not to mention the sexuality of his partner. At first, everyone but the trans man (assuming he recognizes his true gender, which might not necessarily be the case) thinks that he and his partner are straight, right? Not just heterosexual, but "straight" in the cishet sense.

That's only going to change if and when the trans man comes out, as far as I can tell. I mean, we wouldn't know he was trans (or male, for that matter) without that disclosure, right? Because until then, the trans man is passing as a cisgendered heterosexual woman. (And yes, he could transition without explicitly telling his partner, but at some point--hopefully, yes?--he's going to elicit male gendering rather than female gendering, which seems to me a de facto coming out, even if it's performative instead of declarative.)

Isn't it true, then, that coming out is the moment their situation becomes "queer," because it's at that moment that cisgendered heteronormativity has been challenged? Doesn't coming out demonstrate agency?

To frame it in terms of my own experiences: the moment I found another woman attractive, I knew I was queer. But it wasn't until I said so that my social identity also became queer. And it's only then that I finally felt authentic. Like I was fully myself. Despite all the negative social ramifications that came with it.

I dunno, I think a crucial aspect to "being queer" is having other people know that my sexuality isn't heteronormative. That I'm different. If I'm not out, I'm not actually transgressing anything other than in my own head, right?

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EL 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to listen. And, as the anon below me points out, there doesn't appear to be a universally accepted set of ideas even among trans people. I'm going to attempt to offer the best information that I have from the point of view that I am representing.

I'm going to go backwards with my response here, relative to your own response, mostly because the basic premise you're operating under only becomes explicit at the very end of your post here:

"I dunno, I think a crucial aspect to "being queer" is having other people know that my sexuality isn't heteronormative. That I'm different. If I'm not out, I'm not actually transgressing anything other than in my own head, right?"

A couple of points here.

It appears that you are conflating queerness with explicit transgression. It also appears that that is a fundamental aspect of your view of what queerness [i]is[/i]. And that may very well be what queerness is for you!

After all, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality - these are about how people interact with the world, because non-masturbatory sexuality requires a partner, requires a relationship with the world. You're right - part of your queerness is the fact that you're different, in that you relate to the world differently than straight women (or lesbians, or bisexual-women-who-are-attracted-to-binary-people-exclusively) do. Specifically, you are attracted to women and nonbinary people! You want women and nonbinary people to be attracted to you, and you want them to approach you! You want people to treat you like a person who's attracted to women and nonbinary people, and for that to be a positive experience! And there's a whole host of other desires and aspects of your identity that I'm not going to even try and list, because you know them infinitely better than I do!

For you, to be who you are openly requires that you defy society's expectations, in that society expects you to be attracted only to men, and being open about who you are requires that society be made aware of the difference between you and straight women.

And some trans people embrace that same approach, and for them, that's the way to live life to the fullest and be the most themselves. They need others to know that they are trans. I'm not personally too familiar with these people, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

But some trans people I AM familiar with take a very different approach. They're trans, and therefore, they're queer, yes. But the thing that makes them queer has nothing to do with their desired/prefered method of interacting with the world. After all, how does a trans woman want the world to see her? As a woman. For many a trans woman, [i]that's[/i] when she feels most fully herself. In fact, the world seeing her as a [i]trans[/i] woman can diminish that experience of feeling fully herself, because unfortunately, much of society would refuse to see her as a woman.

For trans people such as these, to be who they are openly requires nothing of society. It requires only the opportunity to transition safely. Of course, access to transition varies tremendously, but this is a systemic issue, not an issue wherein honesty to oneself requires transgression.

In other words: for many trans people, queerness has nothing to do with transgression. For them, authenticity has absolutely nothing to do with a social identity of queerness. And for many nonheterosexual trans people, authenticity has to do with a nonheterosexual social identity that does touch upon their being trans.

As for our hypothetical pre-transition trans man and his male partner. You ask if coming out demonstrates agency. But coming out, in this context, is not saying "Alright, y'all, this whole shindig is queer now." It's saying "Hey, Dave? Look, there's something I need to talk to you about." And it's Dave finding out that he's been in a relationship with a man, even though Dave had thought he had been in a relationship with a woman. Dave's sexual orientation hasn't changed. And - oh, let's call the trans man Bob, because why the hell should only the cis guy have a name? - Bob's sexual orientation hasn't changed, either. And yeah, society might go "oh wow, guess Dave's been having the gay sex." But the importance of society's view is limited if we don't frame queerness entirely around challenging society's point of view.

(Incidentally, Bob the pre-transition trans guy can absolutely transition without coming out. All he has to do is leave Dave and stop interacting with him. Then transition. Dave's experience becomes wholly irrelevant. And no, I wouldn't characterize Bob's experience of eliciting the correct gendering as a de facto coming out. Coming out, as it is framed socially, is about telling the world "by the way, here's something you ought to know about me." A gay man can engage in a de facto, non-declarative coming out by going out in public with his boyfriend; in that case, choosing to never go out in public with his boyfriend is what keeps him both closeted and inauthentic to himself. Bob, on the other hand, can go out in public post-transition and do absolutely anything that's authentic to him, without anybody ever having a reason to think "oh, that man's trans!" Bob still has information about himself that he chooses not to share with the world, information that makes him queer, but his keeping this information to himself has no effect whatsoever on his feeling as though he's living his life authentically.)

I think there are a lot of personal definitional differences at play here. I'm sorry if this particular response has been rambly or repetitious, but it's now 3am. I'd be happy to continue this conversation tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope I have clarified at least one or two things.

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EL 1 month, 4 weeks ago

correction:

"In other words: for many trans people, queerness has nothing to do with transgression. For them, authenticity has absolutely nothing to do with a social identity of queerness. And for many nonheterosexual trans people, authenticity has to do with a nonheterosexual social identity that DOESN'T touch upon their being trans."

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Jane 1 month, 3 weeks ago

But some trans people I AM familiar with take a very different approach. They're trans, and therefore, they're queer, yes. But the thing that makes them queer has nothing to do with their desired/preferred method of interacting with the world. After all, how does a trans woman want the world to see her? As a woman. For many a trans woman, that's when she feels most fully herself. In fact, the world seeing her as a trans woman can diminish that experience of feeling fully herself, because unfortunately, much of society would refuse to see her as a woman.

For trans people such as these, to be who they are openly requires nothing of society. It requires only the opportunity to transition safely.


Okay, let me make sure I understand, because I keep getting all confused as I’m trying to reply. I swear, I’ve rewritten this already like four times now! But I think I'm getting it.

A hypothetical friend of yours (let’s call her Julie) was in the deeply unfortunate situation of being constantly misidentified as male throughout her life, until she did something about it – she transitioned, to live openly as the female that she really is on the inside. She didn't tell anyone that she transitioned and never tells anyone, she just did it, and now she lives a life where everyone genders her appropriately.

Well, there's one person she told -- you! Otherwise, we wouldn't even know about her situation! And there's still her transgression of cis/het normativity, given that she changed her presentation from her initial birth assignment -- and to be clear, I'm not saying this transgression is rooted in the intent to transgress per se, but as a description of crossing the line of cis/het normativity. Even though in Julie's case her destination is one of of cis/het normativity, she's still a witness to her own crossing of that boundary.

So what am I missing?

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Jane 1 month, 3 weeks ago

In other words, when you say that she's trans, and therefore she's queer, how are you defining queerness?

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EL 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Sorry for the delay, hadn't realized you had responded. - I spent two days going "huh, how come Jane hasn't responded?"

Ok, so let's talk about a hypothetical friend here, mostly because I've had real friends whom I'm referring to, none of whom are named Julie. And in the case of Julie the hypothetical friend, one idea that you're missing is - what if I had another friend, named, I dunno, Beth, who was a trans woman. And she hadn't told me. Or anyone. Still queer, still trans.

(In reality, even people who manage to transition without too many people knowing have to have a support network, (which I'm assuming you understand, I'm only stating the obvious for personal convenience), and I'm choosing to make the distinction: if a trans person is seen as transgressing some sort of boundary by society at large, then then any members of such a support network ought to be considered separate from the society at large.

And I think the nature of the transgression matters here. Because if we're talking about transgression within a social context, then the goal of a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person, in transgressing, is "to live the way that makes sense to me, even if it's different from how society expects me to." The goal of a trans person, in this sort of transgression, is "to live the way everyone else in society gets to live." Of course, here, I am discounting transgression for the sake of transgression, in response to your clarification. However, I recognize that there's room here for a prolonged back and forth on whether or not that constitutes a transgression

As for how I'm defining queerness... I'm not sure I have a solid definition. I think a lot of queer people (regardless of whom we're including in queerness) don't have a solid definition, either. You seem to have a definition that you're working with. I've also seen definitions based on the usage of queer as a slur and a reclaimed slur, which I'm sure you're aware of. The definitional approach - and the fact that there IS debate over it - is one that carries implications of a limitless widening. I've also heard arguments (some compelling, some not) for limitations on queerness as a political movement based on what's healthy for the people already inside of said movement.

So to give a less fuzzy answer, I'll clarify my meaning in regards to "trans and therefore queer." If we assume that queerness includes everything within the label LGBT (and I'm assuming that, as a default position, that's a fairly innocuous one), then trans ---> queer doesn't take a lot of effort. It may not be particularly elegant or theoretically satisfying, but it exists for concrete, historical reasons, which I think supersede the need for theoretical elegance.

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Anon 1 month, 4 weeks ago

As a trans person (selectively out (hence the anonymity) and currently attempting to navigate my way through medical gatekeeping) of the non-binary and proudly queer variety, I had no problems with Jane's post and completely see where she is coming from.

Trans people and trans experiences are far from monolithic in who we are and what we want from life. In particular, there often is tension between those of us who wish to present as queer and those who wish to present as "normal" (not a term I consider genuinely applicable to anybody) cisgender men and women. In a similar way to the tensions within the wider QUILTBAG community, parts of which can be depressingly horrible to other parts and even throw them under the bus for advantage.

"many of those trans people have to suffer through years of "well, maybe I'm a little bit of both genders, or maybe I'm neither, or maybe I'm just something different and weird" before being comfortable and brave enough to breathe a sigh of relief and say, "yeah, no, I'm this specific gender." "

I fully agree and understand and appreciate that many trans people do struggle with that journey before finding the binary gender that is right for them and true to who they are, but find the implication that those of us who don't choose a binary gender aren't "comfortable and brave" actively hurtful.

" "Well, trans people have to come out, too—how else do they transition?"

And some manage never to come out at all, and, unlike closeted lgb people, have no reason whatsoever to say that they're not living their lives to the fullest."

I'm in the camp saying that all trans people _do_ have to come out - as with everyone else in the queer community, the very first person we need to come out to is ourselves!

"Well, ok, yeah. It challenges the ideas of genital essentialism, sure. But once you get past that, you're basically good. Trans men are men. Trans women are women. Pretty easy."

Easy in principle. Easy for those of us who are talking here. For the vast majority of society? If only it WAS that easy to get them to accept that! The very idea that trans and intersex people exist does challenge the widely accepted idea that people are born with a binary gender that is easily discernable from a cursory glance at their external anatomy. An idea that is stubborn and that is frequently tied into a whole bunch of religious bigotry or pseudo-scientific nonsense. An idea that for many people IS a core part of their perception of what it means to be a man or a woman, despite your stating otherwise.

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EL 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Going to respond to this anon first. Hello, anon!

First of all - yeah, my post focused way more on the experiences of binary trans people, at the expense of nonbinary trans people. That's my fault - I chose to speak about the people I personally knew more about, and even though I tried to make it clear that I wasn't speaking for/about everyone, I didn't really try hard enough. I'm sorry. Clearly, within this conversation, I am representing one side within the tensions you're referring to. Having somebody represent another is healthy for a conversation like this.

"I fully agree and understand and appreciate that many trans people do struggle with that journey before finding the binary gender that is right for them and true to who they are, but find the implication that those of us who don't choose a binary gender aren't "comfortable and brave" actively hurtful."

That's really fair. I'm sorry that I said something that was hurtful to you in that way. Again, that's my bad.

That kind of depends on what you're referring to as "coming out." The most important trans person in my life kind of always knew what was going on, and merely lacked the language and exact conceptual understanding to express that. Until she learned about it, and everything clicked into place, and she went "oooh, that makes sense!" Are we treating a realization as a "coming out"? I suppose that if we come at the idea from the perspective of ritualizing queerness - where coming out is some sort of coming-of-age ritual - a queer b'nai mitzvah, if you will - then we can go with the "every queer person has to come out, if even just to themselves" narrative. But that's taking a non-monolithic set of experiences and making them monolithic as a rhetorical tool for community building. Which has its value, but, to my mind, can only contribute so much to a more literal conversation about a monolithic trans experience.

In regards to your last paragraph, I should probably clarify. I'm not saying that it's ACTUALLY simple for a majority of society to accept that genital essentialism is terrible metric of gender, and that trans people just ARE their gender. I'm saying that the concept itself is simple. Part of this discussion, which I should probably make more explicit, is the notion of what it means to "challenge" an idea. Trans people existing, both in the world and within the context of romantic relationships, can provide a challenge to society's ideas of gender in the same way that a cat challenges a small child's schema that all four-legged creatures are dogs. But the above is not an active choice, on the cat's part, to throw down a challenge to anybody. The cat is not queering doghood by existing. Similarly, a trans person is not AUTOMATICALLY actively making the choice to deliberately queer anything. Trans people CAN make that choice, just like any other queer people can. But to hang the concept of proactively throwing down a challenge to society's concept of gender by merely existing is to actively strip trans people of the choice to live however they want to. It's a burden and an accusation. Trans people, under such an assumption, lose the ability to merely be people, and become a rhetorical, illustrative tool for queerness. And to become such a device is dehumanizing. The fact that you, personally, choose to actively participate in queerness is absolutely your prerogative, but a significant portion of its value is the fact that it is still a choice you are making. To politicize your existence yourself can be noble. To have your existence politicized against your will sounds like oppression to me.

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Sam Keeper 1 month, 4 weeks ago

To augment this alchemical perspective with a structualist one, I think it's worth noting that regardless of intent-to-transgress, queerness transgresses signs and norms that people take for granted. In this sense I do think aceness implicitly and in many ways explicitly and consciously is tied to radical change. To be out of the closet and trans is to make visible the arbitrary nature of the discursive nature of gender. Unless you just pass that well, which honestly I... tend to not take into account too much because my reality is not one of being able to pass and might never be. Meanwhile to demand a visible presence of aceness within queerness makes visible the arbitrary nature of desire discourses, and I think has a knock-on effect of troubling a lot of our assumptions about what desire is "natural," where attraction stems from, and what consent looks like even. Asserting this as a valid identity turns and twists these things into configurations where new contours become visible.

One thing that seems to unify queerness is having to choose between being held in position, or being, simply through the physics of discourse, an agent of torque.

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Janine 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Thank you, thank you, for this, Jane.

In my own naivety I had always assumed that ace/aro people were unambiguously considered part of the queer umbrella, and was pretty shocked over the last few days when I turned out to be wrong about that.

It really upsets me that this community has now become a game of monopolising oppression, of deciding to what extent a minority has to suffer before it can reap the benefits of joining the community. Honestly, the crap I've seen from people I follow - well, followed - on tumblr over the last week - stuff like "Call it discrimination if you like, I'm just protecting my own". I don't mean to throw a false equivalency in here, but well, that sure does sound like tactics and rhetoric used by a certain other group.

Pretty fucking clearly, ace/aro people suffer, and they suffer because of the same fetishised heterosexuality that causes other queer people to suffer. They suffer because society, broadly, is obsessed with the idealised image of a cis man and a cis woman having sex. Maybe that's an oversimplification, but I think it hits the main points. Society is obsessed with sex. That sex is grounded in a very ancient tradition, and its understanding of "man" and "woman" hasn't yet evolved to be trans-inclusive. So it causes L, G, B, and T people to become marginalised. And probably a few other letters too.

I hope we eventually come to regard ace/aro exclusionists with the same contempt we hold for TERFs. And I hope that, by then, the good people on that side of the argument have chosen the right side. (And while I'm at it, I hope straight, cis people stop telling me who should be allowed in my community.)

All of this is particularly depressing in the wake of Charlottesville. The strength of the LGBT+ community has always been its unity, its solidarity. And just now that the likes of Cantwell are trying to bring that same unity to the alt-right, we're too busy wondering whether ace people are actually imposters who want to... um... wait, what are they supposed to want? I can't believe we're having this argument while literal Nazis are walking the streets.

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Janine 1 month, 4 weeks ago

(The "L, G, B and T" bit should include an "A". I am aware of the irony in this typo.)

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Lambda 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Has something happened over the last few days that I've missed?

I think the most interesting difference between a-stuff and various other things in this area is the ambiguities. If you're attracted to people of the same sex or disgusted by your genitals, it's pretty obvious that you're a person whom various bigots are going to hate. But if you've never experienced romantic attraction, I'm not sure it's possible to tell whether you can't ever experience it, or whether you've just never encountered or imagined someone towards whom you could. I tend to assume that both must be possible because you should always assume any type of person you can imagine exists, and thinking scientific method, what sort of observation could distinguish between the two?

Though taking quantum theory philosophy whereby anything unknowable is random, someone who has never experienced romantic attraction is both possibilities in an alive/dead cat sense, although here you never open the box but you might just hear a miaow from it, only one of the possibilities is verifiable with new observations.

(And everyone starts out that way.)

It's not really important. Even if you are Schrodinger's a-*, you're still someone society is going to try to "fix" or deny the existence of or exclude etc. But I think it can make it more difficult to be assertive, there isn't that background of certainty. Or at least if there is, I don't see how to reach it.

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J 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I'm not 100% certain whether I'm getting the gist of your comment, but "you only have to find the right person" has been the most consistent overlap between my experiences as a lesbian (i.e. grey-homoromantic, but that's getting pretty technical) and my experiences as an asexual woman.

What is the significant difference between not experiencing attraction to men and not experiencing attraction to anyone? To the right bigot (who is often just trying to be lovingly reassuring), I'm always going to be ambiguously capable of whatever they perceive to be normality.

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Lambda 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I'm not 100% certain whether I'm getting the gist of your question either, but it might be that "not experiencing attraction to men" presumably includes experiencing attraction to women, and hence contains positive evidence of what sort of "being attracted to people" nature you have, whilst not experiencing attraction to anyone only provides negative evidence. So it's like - are there kangaroos in Australia? Yes. Are there tigers in Australia (not zoos etc.)? Well, nobody's ever found one...

There is another difference when it comes to "you only have to find the right person" annoyingness. If you're attracted to lots of people of gender A, and then after 30 years you first experience attraction to gender B, then it's probably just an exception, (and nobody should be calling them "the right person" just because it's someone's first het-direction attraction, if it's that way round, of course). But if you've never experienced attraction, but then after 30 years you do, then that's probably going to be quite pleasing.

But the simplest reason nobody should ever "you only have to find the right person" at anyone else is that nobody ever has any basis for making that claim. If anyone insisted that there must be wild tigers in Australia which just haven't been found because they're everywhere, we'd think them mad.

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kevin merchant 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Can anyone write an article explaining some of the terms in use here please? The jargon is so complex as to be almost un-understandable

Ta

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John Smartcric 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I also thought same, please any one here explain the tough language in simple terms like aco ace is queer, what's that man? Wait I am collecting the words which I am not getting. thx in advance.

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DocGerbil100 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Hello. :)

I had to look up some of these terms. For others unfamiliar, Ace and Aro appear to mean asexual and aromantic. I'm uncertain what the precise definitions of these things are, but I expect there are many conversations about them elsewhere, for anyone interested.

Apparently, there's some debate about whether persons identifying as Aro / Ace should be allowed to also identify themselves as queer.

Speaking personally, as someone who dances in his own strange corners, I'd just as soon avoid all the labels altogether. I try to treat other people as individuals and hope others can show me the same courtesy.

It may not be a popular view, but I feel no great need to be defined by anyone else's overwrought definitions of gender-identity, race or sexuality - much less assert myself to be part of any social communities where I apparently have to seek someone else's permission first.

In my lifetime, I've experienced as much discrimination from people typically identified as victims of oppression as I have from traditional oppressors. I'm not impressed by any of them.

To paraphrase a wise man, whoever I'm with, that's who I'm with. Anyone who wants to judge me by more than that can kindly fuck right off. :)

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