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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Confederacy of Amorphosity

Transsexuals and bisexuals are the inside outsiders of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) movement. Our place in the sphere of gayness is neither contested nor entirely accepted, and through that discomforting influence, we have changed the course that queerness will take as it winds through the landscape of the cultural mainstream.

Just as we are not entirely comfortable within gayness, we are not entirely sexually separate from the greater population. We cannot claim exclusive membership in gayness, bisexuals for obvious reasons, and transsexuals for complex ones. A lack of creativity has branded trans and bi/pansexual people as traitors, double agents, and saboteurs. In fact, the anger that motivate these statements stem from our transcendence of allegiance.

Transgender people are routinely accepted into LGBT organizations, yet rarely is this commitment manifested beyond the allowance of trans people to be in attendance in these organizations. Typically, no one wants to be seen as exclusionist, yet fail to understand exclusion as not a moral issue (by which they do right by simply assuring themselves of their good intentions.) Inclusion is an ongoing state of education, action, and realization. It should not be mistook for a moral or political process; it is a transcendent one with unfathomable implications.

Generally unsubstantiated lip service is also paid to bisexual inclusion. Though successful gay and lesbian battles often painlessly translate into benefits for bisexual people, what is actually spoken within LGBT activist settings, not to mention nearly every other mainstream setting, contributes to bisexual invisibility. Historically, bisexual women have fought to be included in lesbian and feminist organizations and groups; the reasons for their dis-inclusion has ranged from their "divided alliance" between the sexes to representing a source of sexual insecurity and possible heartbreak for lesbian-identified women.

Despite Kinsey's report that the majority of human beings are, in desire or in action, bisexual, a profoundly invisible continues to this day, as gay, lesbian, and trans visibility mounts. Bisexuality's presence on television, for example is almost completely nil. Karen Walker of Will & Grace and Captain Jack Harkness of BBC sci-fi show Torchwood are the only mainstream bisexual television characters I am aware of--although I have to admit that I am not an avid TV watcher. An either-or mentality on sexual orientation persists senselessly throughout all popular media, the discourse of which cannot seem to even approach the possibility of a non-monosexual orientation; gay characters are stereotyped to the point where 'homosexuality' in the public eye develops a highly unique flavor that is untranslatable into heterosexual characterization. All of these factors contribute to bisexual invisibility, and to the type of oppression understood to be the most basic: denial of existence. To deny the existence of a group of existents is to fill the space they ought to occupy with other monoliths, forcing them either out of mainstream society or into a silent submission. In its highest manifestation, denial of existence may generate in the denied one a type of transcendent consciousness--when looking outside for acknowledgment no longer works, we turn within, either in self-hatred or self-embrace.

Trans, bisexual, and queer individuals have fought for a long time to be included in gay organizations, a fight which has finally yielded an abundant and politically correct acronymizing of the queer movement. Even when inclusion is finally granted, it is usually on the fringes. When I, as a transgender person, attend a GBLT activist or social group, I consistently feel that my place is to be quiet. I know I am basically welcome, but I am not 'in the club.' The forum is for discussion of gay and lesbian issues, for gay and lesbian voices to assert gay and lesbian realities. Bi, queer and trans people have fought for inclusion in these gay-focused groups partially because we have badly needed the community. Fighting isolation figures prevalently into queer movements, and people of smaller minority sexualities and genders are often even more isolated than lesbians and gays.

Although we of the smaller sexual and gender minorities can construct alternate communities, there is an even bigger reason that smaller minority sexualities feel the need to be included in the gay and lesbian clubs. Their move toward political power has the potential to carry us forward in our movements. Gender identity rights bills pass because they are tacked on to sexual orientation rights bills. Strides for gay people often filter down to trans and queer people. However, just as often, they don't.

My first experience going to a LGBT group was in central Maine, at the age of sixteen. There were about twenty gay and bisexual teenagers supervised by a couple of nice adults who themselves were not gay. On the night I attended, the adults suggested we split up into two groups--boys and girls--to do an activity. I sat quietly with the girls and did not participate, because I did not want to publicly out myself to these adults and kids, who evidently had no consciousness of transgender issues, or perhaps even existence. I did not want to quietly tell an adult that I didn't actually identify as either, whispering an embarrassing problem to a grown-up as if I had just wet my pants and needed to be let to go and get changed.

A few years later, I joined a queer youth group three hours from my home that was radical, progressive, and primarily transgender and queer, and made round-trip drives to volunteer with them for three years until they closed their doors due to loss of private and federal funding.

As I grow older, I find that I no longer attempt to seek out gay- and lesbian- dominated spaces. I would rather seek out my trans and queer brother-sisters for company. I have found that there are similarities between bi, pan, and fluidly sexual people and transgender people that go beyond invisibility and disinclusion in both the mainstream and "LGBT" communities, and these things link us in ways that shed light on the purpose for that disinclusion. I'll say first that bisexual and trans people are, of course, not two distinct groups, but have deep, complex, and meaningful overlaps.

The transgender character Hedwig of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch sang, "There's not much of a difference/between a bridge and a wall/without me right in the middle/you wouldn't be nowhere at all." There is a phenomenon in human society of both needing and demonizing our bridges and walls. Leslie Feinberg, in zir book Transgender Warriors, states that it took a thousand years for the Catholic church to convince the peasantry that queer people were not holy. This holiness that has historically been conferred upon queer people world over is not a flattering statement on the individual queer person; it is an example of a society acting in its own best interest by establishing special station for individuals who do not fit the common roles of the society. Free from interference from a colossal power structure, humans choose to create ritual ways of comprehending and assimilating all aspects of their world. A society with a heterosexual, binary gender system absolutely requires queerness, and that queerness can act as a bridge or a wall. Whether it manifests as either, it functions to preserve and harmonize the social order.

In our society, gayness has become the third gender, the third wheel to heteronormativity. This is a first step. The next step is likely to be resisted and ignored to nearly the same extent as the first. It is the construction of secondary bridges and walls; a further breakdown of roles. If gayness perpetuates heteronormativity by its position as a maligned and fascinating third option, then bi/pan sexuality and transsexuality have come to further break down that balance. Bi/pansexuality and transsexuality do not allow for the gay/straight dichotomy, the very dichotomy that upholds the man/woman dichotomy. In this way they are powerful cultural disturbances, for they interrupt the ability to form sexual and gender positionalities.

Shifting from heteronormativity to a world that encompasses homosexuality is for many people a tremendous and treacherous paradigm shift. Once the first shift is completed, new, more liberal positionalities can be formed. Among these are the gay/straight dichotomy, and the "born that way"/genetic origin argument. With deep respect for the courage that it has taken many people to make that first paradigm shift, we must not compromise or hesitate in implementing the next one, the one that is demanded by our very transgender or bisexual existence.

A new wave of bisexuals, pansexuals, omni/multi/metasexuals, queers, unapologetic transsexuals, genderqueers, etc. have come by the natural and gentle truth of their own beings to disrupt every remaining vestige of 'politically-correct' pretension and bring humanity into a nowhere-land, a world in which staunch moral positions can no longer be claimed, because on your left and right are two queers who will refute them.

These boundary-breakers are queers who do not necessarily believe that they were 'born gay,' who do not know what their sexuality is and are not concerned, who fuck who they please and do as they chose. They are not even necessarily "queer." They are trannies without sob stories and straight people without heteronormativity. I asked my friend, Thomas, who has a very queer sensibility, if his intensive questioning of his sexuality had led him to identify as straight. "I ask myself that every morning," he said. "So far, the answer has always been yes." Tomorrow? None of us know who we'll be, or be with, on that mysterious day.

I think that a mutuality between trans and bisexual people is more appropriate than a shared GBLT community at this point, yet no mutual exclusion is neccessary, or of course, possible. I do not think we of fluid gender and sexuality should stop trying to enter those spaces, and do so freely and openly and with noise. I do think that bisexual and trans people are linked in from a spiritual standpoint, and this makes us powerful spiritual allies and thus cultural agents.

Interestingly, bi/trans/queer specific groups make sense in terms of socializing and dating. As a trans person, I have always felt distinctly uncomfortable in gay/lesbian dominated spaces, simply because I am around people who are actively creating a culture around their monosexual and often genitally-based sexualities. I am unlikely to come home from a GBLT group with a gay man's number; I am much more likely to be either read as a dyke or assigned to an acceptable but desexualized trans-person category. They'll call me by the right pronouns (maybe) but no shift in understanding will occur.

I feel much better in spaces that are, without even trying, very queer. These are groups of friends whose sexual preferences and genders span reaches that are known to be not always nameable and certainly not able to be pinned down. They are people more interested in each other as persons than in cultural connotations, words, & concepts. They are spaces that are safe for people to be exactly as they are: amorphous, alive, changing.

3 comments :

  1. 1/Trans people can be niether gay nor non-gay/

    2/now that gays are absorbed be straight so queers are the new gays/

    3/trans people will win once we've turned most of the planet queer/


    that is what you said above !!


    i always knew it but i never had it put so eloquently before.


    neat-o website, BTW

    I'm'a tell people to shop here.


    more writing soon.


    Luv
    -Lamb

    ReplyDelete
  2. " intersex individuals have fought for a long time to be included in gay organizations"

    ~ bullshit. not true. leave us alone. thank you.

    "Bi, queer, trans, and INTERSEX people have fought for inclusion in these gay-focused groups partially because we have badly needed the community."

    ~Waddya mean "we"?
    no offense..but you know nothing about intersex. that's all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gail,
      Sorry about that. I am not intersex and shouldn't presume to make statements like that. I apologize. While I know that some intersex people have been interested in being included, that is certainly not the case for all and I doubt that it applies to enough intersex individuals to warrant a blanket statement like the one I made. I've edited the text and I appreciate your feedback.

      Delete