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I’m up to my adorable fedora in finals right now, so I hereby open up a call for submissions for anyone who wants to guest post here (our first!) regarding Christie Blatchford’s asinine, homophobic (but she loves gays! Really! She just hates “feys”), femme-hating screed in the National Post (little boys hugging is the end of masculinity and therefore civilization! next week: kittens playing with yarn and why they enrage me so!), which I won’t link to but which I’m sure you can find.
Comment here if you’re ready to read her beads!
A bunch of stuff has happened lately, but before I move onto the next thing, I just want to say how staggered and aghast I am at the attacks in Norway. [TW: Violence, racism]
Trigger warning for suicide and for gender-based familial and psychologist-inflicted violence and abuse behind the cut — this one is pretty grim.
This is the tragic and infuriating story of a young man who was subjected to mental and physical abuse by his parents, at the behest of a “therapist,” because he was unmasculine. The therapist used him as a data point supposedly validating his “therapy” for “unwanted” gender presentation and the gayness with which he linked it. Despite growing into a superficially successful adult, he was never able to heal from the trauma this had caused and took his own life at age 38. His sister and brother are left to pick up the pieces.
From an early age, boys are fitted with emotional straightjackets tailored by a restricted code of behavior that falsely defines masculinity. In the context of “stop crying,” “stop those emotions,” and “don’t be a sissy,” we define what it means to “Be a Man!” Adherence to this “boy code” leaves many men dissociated from their feelings and incapable of accessing, naming, sharing, or accepting many of their emotions. When men don’t understand their own emotions it becomes impossible to understand the feelings of another. This creates an “empathy-deficit disorder” that is foundational to America’s epidemic of bullying, dating abuse and gender violence. Boys are taught to be tough, independent, distrusting of other males, and at all cost to avoid anything considered feminine for fear of being associated with women. This leads many men to renounce their common humanity with women so as to experience an emotional disconnect from them. Women often become objects, used to either validate masculine insecurity or satisfy physical needs. When the validation and satisfaction ends, or is infused with anger, control or alcohol, gender violence is often the result.
– Joe Ehrmann, former NFL player, from “Men Can Stop Rape”
From time to time, I get into a discussion that goes more or less along the following lines: there’s pressure on straight men to be masculine, and there’s pressure on queer men to be feminine, and both are equally bad. Or: some queer men will reject you for being too femme, and others will reject you for being too butch. Or: you are just feminine because it’s expected of you as a queer man; you’re just conforming to the stereotype and either putting on a show for the straight people or trying to impress other queers.
Not to be too blunt about it, but I’m always forced to wonder which planet these people grew up on. Where in heaven’s name is this mythical pressure on any (cissexual) man to be feminine? Where have they ever seen it? What evidence or experience can they possibly point at to back up what they’re saying? Who do they imagine I am impressing by being this way?
Let me tell you what pressure I had in my life to be femme, either before or after I came out: none.
This post will be kind of scattered and unpolished, because I’ve been neglecting my blog for like two weeks, disappointing my immense legions of followers who hang from every word that drops from my perfectly outlined, naturally full lips. (okay, I’ll just stop.) So I’m going to just post it, and if I want to add more later, I’ll do a different post.
I don’t like carrying too much stuff in my pockets (it ruins the line of skinny jeans), so throughout my undergraduate career I used one of those black, heavy-duty cotton messenger bags, which I covered with buttons with all kinds of subversive and inappropriate slogans. (Sadly, the bag bit the dust some time ago, but I still have all the buttons.) I also had a similar but smaller bag with a shoulder strap that I used for going out, and a couple of other messenger bags.
From time to time I offhandedly referred to whatever bag I had at that time as my purse. I mean, it had my wallet, my keys, my cell phone, and whatever other crap I was routinely hauling around. And frequently I would get someone (men and women alike) who would reflexively correct me. “Your bag.”
I’m not sure whether she coined it, but in her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (strongly recommended, BTW), author Julia Serano brings the word “transmisogyny” to greater attention. She defines transmisogyny separately from transphobia — hatred faced by any trans person as a result of their trans status — describing it as follows:
Transmisogyny: Sexism that specifically targets those on the trans female/trans feminine spectrums. It arises out of a synergetic interaction between oppositional and traditional sexism. It accounts for why MTF spectrum trans people tend to be more regularly demonized and ridiculed than their FTM spectrum counterparts, and why trans women face certain forms of sexualization and misogyny that are rarely (if ever) applied to non-trans women.
(continued from A Femme Grows in Montreal, part I)
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. Continuing in my tradition of learning everything I ever knew about being a fag from lesbians, I first started to consider the label ‘genderqueer’ when I read it in Alison Bechdel’s wonderful comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in the mouth of her butch, drag kinging character Lois, who proclaims, “I enjoy being a girl… in a perverse sort of way.” This gripped me. For me, it had never been a question of reconciling my feminine ways with my manhood; it was about being something other than a man.
At another revelatory time I joined a program that went into schools to do anti-homophobia workshops. As part of the training, a trans person came in and had us play “gender gumby,” a game where we would brainstorm as many labels for gender as we could think of and then drew lines to make up a network of those that applied to us. It was the first time I, personally, had ever been encouraged to think of my gender as potentially non-binary, something other than a check-box. I was thunderstruck.
I identified far more with being a fag than with being a man; given two check-boxes, I would check off M, but I always wanted to scratch it off and write “Femme gay boy” instead. My gender was a queer one.