adrienmundi: (Default)
In a lot of ways, in a lot of places, "no one speaks for me" is a rejection of someone else appropriating one's voice, a reclamation of the right to speak and a preliminary act of doing just that. It's often a very powerful utterance, righteously strident and often very good.

But not always. Specifically, it's not always good for me. Generally, I think when people say, "no one speaks for me" they mean in a given context: no one speaks for me on worker relation issues, I can speak for myself; no one speaks for me on moral issues, I can speak for myself; usw. Generally, I think it's a rejection of the adjective aspect of an adjectival noun phrase (in the examples above, possibly 'factory line workers' or 'southern protestants').

But there's also a cohesive element for when people can speak for you, or for some inclusive aspect of who you are (a shift from 'one' to 'you/me' probably indicates something important). People seem to be social creatures, to varying degrees, and inclusive speech can be a way to signal social connections.

Identity is weird, in that I think everyone has multiple identities, but many pass as unremarked and functionally invisible, particularly if one is a member of one of several contextually dominant identity groups. Completely without malice, it is very easy to assume that "this is how we are" is so self evident as to not warrant commentary or reflexive analysis. I suspect everyone is guilty of this at times; speaking for myself, I certainly am.

Problems for me occur around sex and gender*. I've written before, and painful length, about how I think that the idea that one is either a man or a woman is an unmarked, often unremarked, category (not that 'man' or 'woman' necessarily are (though a strong case can be made that in a lot of contexts, 'man' is the unmarked category, that's not where I'm going with this), but that membership in one or the other category is). So, when conversation comes up around what kind of man or woman one is, it kind of leaves me out (and often exposes me to the strange etiquette question of when and how to inform people that I'm not a member of the class they assign me; Miss Manners is no help there). I suspect a lot of people think I make too big a deal out of that, or assume that happens more than it actually does. To that, I'd like to pose an experiment: for one full day, try to be consciously aware of every time media, interaction or conversation make inclusive reference to your membership on one or the other group.

But this isn't just about sex-as-body, but also about sex-as-orientation. The mainstream definitions of sexual orientation are entirely predicated on the idea that one is either a man or a woman, and that one's partner is as well. Think about it: bi-, hetero- or homosexual require membership to even begin to be useful descriptors. One is a woman/man attracted to men/women/both. Where do I fit in that? I say I'm not bisexual because it potentially leaves too many hot people out, and that's true and (hopefully) clever, but really it's a way to try and mask the pain of second order conceptual exclusion with something funny that might make people think. Homosexual? 'Homo-' means same, and there's really not many people I've met with the same sense of gendered self as I experience, so that's kind of out. 'Hetero-' means 'other', so if I were linguistically literal, I could say I was heterosexual, since everyone is different than me, but that's not the usage most commonly in play, and any potential cleverness would be lost.

So, despite being on the minority end of the LGBT minority, even in conversations that are probably supposed to be differently inclusive, I rarely feel included. In a lot of cases, I am literally excluded (this is why I rail, probably pointlessly, on the de facto equation of "trans" to "transsexual"). In the areas in which I think most people are on solid footing, gender identity and sexual orientation, no one speaks for me, speaks in a way that includes me as a subject of concern or consideration. For me, in this instance, "no one speaks for me" is a very lonely and isolating experience.

adrienmundi: (Default)
A recent conversation has really underscored in a local, visceral way that my identity issues are, well, different. Different than either dominant or mainstream resistance themes, and not terribly simple when viewed from the assumption that sex=gender=nature, automatically. There is an aesthetic aspect, but I don't think I'm that different from most people in that regard; who doesn't wish they were taller/leaner/curvier/shorter/etc? I stray from the script, but the impulse isn't foreign.

But there's also something about being 'out of tune'. With myself mostly, I think, and it's about bridging the distance from deep inside me* out into the world. At the moment, it takes so much effort, through an ill-tuned medium to the frequency I'm trying to transmit, that I'm wasting energy like crazy. I'm not making the impact I would like, that I think I'm maybe capable of making, because I'm out of tune. I'm not dysphoric; there's nothing wrong with my body, just things that could be more right. I'm not sure that distinction makes any sense to anyone outside of my head.

It's not a semiotics issue in this case. I'm very relieved about that; one of my biggest personal fears is being trapped by mistaking the signifier for what it does, should or could signify. In this case, really, it feels like this impetus for change is self tuning, self expression, getting more of me out of the unproductive depths of my self and more available to the world, to people I care about, to do some work, expend some effort in ways that feel productive by my internal standards (ratio of effort expended, even if no one sees, to effect).

But, of course, that's ideal, self to self kind of stuff. The world, or large parts of it, still read from the script, still interpret others from it, and in not inconsequential ways, can enforce their interpretations on others, or at least the consequences of them. It feels like this is where I'm kind of fucked, because I don't just color outside of the lines, I color on the walls, and I'm not so sure I or anyone who doesn't want to be should be constrained by the concept of lines. I don't believe in just men or women, or the occasionally imagined "in-betweens"**, so I'm not at all invested in defending any of those positions for myself (but I'll throw down in a heart beat on behalf of anyone who wants to claim them for themselves). But the forced interpretations... I'm going to be judged by those very ideas I reject, held accountable to them, and there really isn't much I can do about that individually, and that sucks. A lot.

I can work to bring myself more in tune with my self; I very much need to. But that will put me very much at odds with the scripted roles, and everyone who follows them. That's asking a lot, a whole hell of a lot, and I doubt my ability to run that kind of a gauntlet on any regular basis. I hate that it seems like I can either see to my personal needs, or I can have access to social contact, but I can't have both***.

I still believe there's something in (my) culture that makes someone like me possible to exist, to have the experiences, ask the questions and give the answers I have that got me to here, this weird place that seems to exist outside of (my) official cultural catalog of possibilities, but I really, really wish there was also something in (my) culture that granted the possibility of realizing the potential I feel so acutely, rather than being a moment of crisis for the official standard.

*it's a description of experienced space, not an invocation of dualism
**I'm not endorsing the "in between" concept; I hate it, think it's offensive and demeaning, particularly when utilized by cisgendered folks to order others
***this is the place where I'd historically say it'd be easier if I was transsexual, but I'm not sure that's true. different, easy in some ways, but on the whole, I don't think I'm in any position to say
adrienmundi: (Default)
(in which I confess weakness and failure of imagination)

Anyone who has read here semi-regularly, or talked to me for any length of time at all, has probably heard me say things about the gendered state of social interaction, specifically that I think most people automatically expect humans to fall into either easily identifiable male or female, that they naturalize that expectation, and base a lot of their assumptions and default settings on it. At this point, I think that's old news, from my perspective, but it's still an important stepping off point.

I also talk/write pretty openly about identifying myself as neither man nor woman (I'm leaving the largely invisible assumed link between sex and gender nigh implicit), though to be honest I write much more openly about it than I talk about it in much of my daily life. I have often complained, and still complain, that perceptual and categorical limitations of others invariably lead to me being defined as something which I do not identify myself.

It's a relative new thing for me to look at identity as both internal and social (here is a more in depth look at the topic), and today I'm not liking a lot of what that says about me, to me. I think I used to fight more successfully for a not-man status (because that's almost always the default to which I am assigned) than I do now, and I think part of it had to do with social manifestation. Due to some circles in which I moved (goth, glam, *cough*larp*cough*), and the opportunities they presented, I played more openly with some of the visible markers of not-man-ness, approaching-aspects-of-woman-ness (using general defs, not mine, but not feeling the scare quotes today). Sure, I suspect that no matter the ensemble, I was generally taken as a man in girl clothes (except for a few times I think I was read as transsexual), but it seemed like there was enough of a confusion of signals and manifestation to leave people with the slippery idea of, hopefully, at least, "this may be a man in a way I don't understand man" (which, while a long way from ideal, is still better than most default interactions).

But for a variety of reasons (the post-millenial practical death of goth, absorption of spanky industrial, often frustrating glam djs and loss of venues, general suck of prominent larpers, etc.) those opportunities are no longer available to me, and I've not replaced them in kind. To be honest, I'm not sure in kind exists locally; if it does, I haven't found it. What I've found surprising (and disappointing) is that my sense of self as anything positive, gender wise, has been fading as those externalizations recede, leaving me to define/feel my sense of gender in the negative (not a man, not a woman, not some point on an imaginary line between them). It seems I have a problem finding a positive, internal sense of a gendered self without some social reality.

To be sure, some of this I've denied myself. I'm stupidly suspicious of my friends, who've stated repeatedly and often (less so over time, probably in part due to the vehemence and dismissiveness of my rejection) that I could manifest pretty much any way I wanted around them. To the extent that such a rejection was unexamined, I think it was a mistake, but emotionally, my reaction still makes sense to me; it doesn't feel socially real or meaningful if acceptance (too strongly positive a word, but I'm word stupid right now) is based on individual relationships with me, with personal affinity. I don't think I've been able to articulate that until just recently, but I don't think it's an a posteriori justificaton: more a untangling of meaning.

What this shows me about myself is that while I can have a sense of self which I think is valid and legitimate (not a man, not a woman), the socially defines aspects of identity seem rooted, probably unsurprisingly, in what feels socially possible, viable. To the extent that a social identity, or the social aspects of my gender identity, doesn't appear possible, it reflects on the internal framing of my sense of my own gender identity. In other words, I am shocked and disappointed to discover that the line between internal and social is fuzzier and permeable in both directions.

I find myself at the moment having difficulty reconciling an internal sense of self which rings true, and a feel of the social terrain in which there appears no sufficient possible manifestation of said self, and no amount of willpower or thought seems to be able to help me bridge that apparent gap. This is affecting me in a host of bad ways, from body image, social disengagement, contraction of horizons, inability of/failure to imagine something better towards which to work, usw. I need to find a way to get over this, or at least a crossing point, but also one that doesn't feel like capitulation or defeat.
adrienmundi: (Default)
Identity is tricky, really. It's one of those concept, words, that everyone thinks means the same thing to everyone, or at least means the same things for everyone else as the speaker/writer does, at that time. I know I'm opening up myself to the accusation of projection here, and I'll accept the accuracy of that, but I'm pretty sure it's not just projection.

From the social sciences side, particularly the cultural studies angle, identity seems to come across as a sense of self in relation to group membership or the potential of group membership. It's largely internal in origin; there's a lot of focus on the validity of self naming, self assigning, as a fundamental level of individual respect, and honestly, I think that's a good argument.

But there's also a social aspect of identity that's largely external, I think. It's how people, all of us, sort others (at least some of the time; I've yet to meet, or be, anyone who doesn't). It's not simply a question of objective perception and accurately delineating, though; people can only be sorted by criteria that are known, accepted, and perceptible. It's in this bit that the social aspect of externally sourced identity can come into contrast with the personal, internally sourced identity.

I could make a series of attempts to draw on examples more removed from me than not, in categories more generally in play than those most directly of interest to me, but that'd be a bit of uncomfortable deflection, and wouldn't serve my longer term project, which is at least in part to get those categories more widely distributed. So, I'm getting personal.

When people see me, I think they generally see someone they presume to be male, and based on that presumption, think I'm some flavor of a man (that the link between male and man is largely unquestioned and automatic is another problem). For the most part, this isn't really their fault; they've been trained pretty much since birth in those categories, to see them as natural and half of the only game in town. However, it is their fault that they discard potential bits of data that might call one or both of those into question. If not for the perceptual 'error handling', I think it's not that difficult to tell that I have small, but present, breasts in most of the clothing I wear. If one is looking, there are other so-called secondary sexual characteristics present in me that aren't generally lumped under either male or man, but they tend to be discarded because they don't fit the perceptual filter assigned to contain my meaning.

But, if they want to be people who respect others, and who expect to be respected in return, they are responsible for their own education and the damage their own ignorance does. Everyone has at least one area in which it would be perfectly understandable if others interpreted them differently than they define themselves, but in which it is also perfectly understandable if they get hurt and frustrated at. I don't think this experience is that foreign.

But, back to my own case, I say I'm not a man (as far as I know, I'm male, but I've never sought to confirm or deny that). To the extent that anyone is, I'm the expert on my sense of self, and it's not unreasonable to expect that to be acknowledged. I think in a lot of cases, what confuses the issue for me is that I also say I'm not a woman. If I were to present myself within the widely accepted binary of male/man, female/woman it would be something people could more easily accept, because it doesn't question the conceptual framework, merely my place within it. I'm not saying that would lead to instant, easy acceptace; there are a lot of people who don't accept transsexuals or the concept of transsexualism, but I would suggest that they understand what they're rejecting. The idea that someone can experience themselves as not a man, not a woman, and not just some combination of the two (another pet peeve of mine) is really dissonant to a lot of people. I suspect this is why I'm so generally taken as a man with modifiers, because I don't accept the easier (not easy) out of woman with modifiers (I include the common misperception of transsexualism, that of a 'man who wants to be a woman', in my case, in that category).

So, I'm generally perceived of as a man. Because I don't express a certain amount of standard man-markers, I think a lot of people who are open to perception of difference tend to assume I'm non-straight (usually gay). On rare occasions I' assumed to be bi, but this is no more accurate than when people relievedly decide I'm straight because my SO appears to be female and a woman ('assume' because in the former instance, they'll likely never know, and in the latter, they'll likely never ask). From my perspective, this is inaccurate, a case of specious logic based on the miscategorization of me as a man; from that perspective, it's legitimate for me to balk.

But socially, I am perceived as a man, and as heterosexual. That means, whether I ask for it or not, I am granted heterosexual privilege (I definitely don't ask for it, if there's any question). This underscores the fact that there are consequences, be they positive, negative, or indifferent, to socially recognized identity, and that in many cases, they're often more than simply positive or negative across the board. That's not my conclusion, because I don't think I have one; I don't mean to make a tidy bow on this so that everyone (me included) can feel better about the mistakes they make, and will continue to make, regarding others because they're both miscategorizer and miscategorized; that's much, much to simple to be accurate or useful.

I have tended to adamantly, and at times, aggressively, insist on the total supremacy of self definition. I still think people have the right to that, and it's not at all unreasonable for people to insist on that in dealings with others who claim to respect others, either generally or individually. I still maintain that the burden of educating others is not mine alone, or even at all (and the opposite is true; it's not the responsibility of others to educate me on their issues, but mine). I say it's understandable that people make the misperceptions and mistakes they do, and it is, but that excuses nothing, and it does nothing to make it less painful when they do. Knowing that in all likelihood, I do something similar to them doesn't make me feel better, or justify complacency in any way. What I hope it does is make me more open to the idea of other possibilities, to the idea that I might be wrong and/or ignorant, and that while it might be understandable, from my perspective, it's not ideal, and I should work hard to learn and understand when that is the case. I'd like to think that's the case with others, but honestly, some days, it feels like a luxury I can ill afford. I'm working on that, too.

il promesso

Jul. 2nd, 2008 06:55 pm
adrienmundi: (Default)
I mean to write about bodies. It's been a long time since I've touched that subject. I mean to write about bodies, about mine, about them in general, about struggling to overcome a cultural dualism that I find deeply injurious, about how trans identity, my trans identity in particular, interacts with that cultural dualism, about how the body carries social identity markers, how that may reflect or conflict with internal or personally claimed identity, about identity as a complex series of interactions, not a simple, smooth vector of meaning.

It's a huge undertaking. I can't do it neatly or easily, but I don't really have a choice in this, it seems. This topic has me, rather than the other way around, and I resist at my own misfortune. Stay tuned.
adrienmundi: (Default)
Community is a weird thing. Or, to be more accurate, what I understand of community makes it a weird thing (I'm not of the mindset to solipsize to universality tonight). There's something of it that's about identity, something I don't quite understand. Also, something about volition, but that could be less widespread and locally defined by my own rejection of most non-volitional (or maybe default?) communities, and having the privilege to reject some of the volitional that have come my way.

I've all but turned my back on my family of birth. I can't remember exactly when the last time I spoke to my father was, but it's been at least five years; I talk to my mom maybe twice a year; my sister, as infrequently as possible; I've not spoken to any of my aunts, uncles or cousins in almost four years. I used to think it meant that something was wrong with me, that this group into which I was born chafed me so, wound me so tight I felt close to snapping in their presence. Then, I felt like something was wrong with everyone else, that they put up with this (if much of literature, film, drama, etc, are to be believed) without pushing either them or themselves away. Now, I don't miss my family, but I'm deeply envious of those who do maintain connection, who get something positive out of it. It makes me feel very xenogenetic, which is both good and bad.

The gendery stuff comes into play here, as well. If I were just willing to round off some edges, suppress bits of self, quell come impulses and reactions, I could fit in with... people who do exactly that, and seem to cling desperately to each other rather than facing the shifting sand beneath their feet (and here I said I wasn't going to universalize my own perspective). I suppose that makes sense, from a certain perspective; if you don't accept the one, how can you not run towards the other? Again, like family, there is a place, at a cost; in not having a place, there are (hopefully) some benefits, and definitely some costs (I'm almost certain to talk about life without a model very soon, but not today).

I've got friends, some of the best, most amazing people anyone is likely to meet; I treasure them beyond value. But, are friends a community? In some senses, yes, I suspect so, but in others, ways hard to define, I don't think so. They feel like a series of one to one relationships, with no clear defining focus among them all, each to each in varying degrees. That's not to diminish them in any way, I don't think, but it's not quite community.

Work: work is something that's come to stand in for a lot in the USA. Some people socialize, date, connect almost exclusively with work people. Sure, it's more efficient (in bad connotations); they're the people you see probably more than any other. I don't, really. At work, I cherish my lunch break as time alone, away from people who aren't my community or my friends, but want to insist on acting like it, sort of. I think this is where I brush up against several closets at once: my gender, mysticism, aestheticism, sensitivities, desires... There seems little place for anything far afield from the expected standard in the workplace, or at least my workplace.

This is where I always anticipate some resistance. Yes, I know everyone, at some place and around at least one thing, experience alienation. It's been suggested that this is the most uniquely human trait, feeling excluded and/or on the perpetual point of rejection, if only that one thing were widely known, but... I still feel like a sad, special snowflake. I don't feel rooted in any way that makes me more readily graspable, verstandlich to others. I don't have easy access points, and I'm not sure how to have them without rounding edges, smoothing out textures.

Maybe I'll blame it on the very permissive early 70s tv shows I was exposed to. I mean, I saw The Point when I was four, and it left a hell of a mark. Fucking acid head cartoonists.

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