Archive for the Romance Category

Unconscious desires

Posted in Orientation, Romance, Sexuality on March 18, 2009 by alterisego

I’ve been overexamining my desires so much that I don’t have the slightest idea anymore what I’m into or even what my sexual orientation is. But, just now, I was awoken rudely from a sex dream by my alarm clock, so I had the opportunity to find out. And it wasn’t at all what I would have expected: it was a very vanilla, romantic, lesbian love story. It involved a lot of cuddling and slow-dancing with the woman who was the object of my affections, who I don’t think was anyone in real life. It was weird. It’s very much thrown me for a loop, so much was I expecting rough sex to make up the sum of my unconscious desire, and also so much was I doubting both my womanness and at the same time my queerness. I mean, I guess this dream isn’t the sum total of my sexual preferences, but it was a startling indication.

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Unpacking Psychological Shit

Posted in Feminism, Gender, Romance, Sexuality on January 28, 2009 by alterisego

Tonight I finished this book called Middlesex. I don’t really want to take the time to summarize it, but very briefly the central plot point is that the main character is intersexed: genetically male, but with hormonal imbalances that made his genitalia appear female, and so he was raised as a girl until he was a teenager. It’s a great novel—not life-changing or anything, but a great novel. But in the midst of that, it’s cast me into self-doubt. It’s made me wonder what and who the fuck I am.

Obviously my genitalia are as normal as any girl’s, except for the fact that I’ve never taken a good look at them and don’t care to, nor have I ever been successful at masturbation. I’ve never inserted anything into my vagina, be it a tampon or fingers or the other things one puts in vaginas. I’ve never been able to have the least female and feminine success with what goes on down there. What’s more, it all disgusts me. I don’t want to touch my genitals because they’re gross. Revolting. Something I just want to hide away and not think about.

And so I get on in a state of prepubescent androgyny. I don’t hide my breasts or my hips. I don’t pursue hormones or surgery. I don’t try to live as a man. But I try to defeminize myself, and to desexualize myself. Somehow it’s safer to avoid any clothing that one finds in the girls’ section, and to wear the most conservative and least sexy of all women’s underwear, which is where I can’t hide. My underwear bespeaks old lady, or Christian homeschooled girl, because I don’t have to worry—and also hope—that no one will ever see me in it. The first thing I do in the morning is have a shower and dress. The last thing I do at night is put on pyjamas and get into bed, pulling the covers up over my head.

But I can’t explain why this is. I don’t understand what makes me hate so much my body and my life as a girl, as a woman. I can’t explain what makes me shrink away from the epithet of “woman,” the worry that now that I am so nearly 19 that I may call myself so, now that I am physiologically adult, I have to be a “woman.” I’m okay with being an “adult”—with doing my taxes, with working to pay for anything that isn’t tuition, room, and board, with making my own life choices. But being a “woman”? Being an individual who bleeds every month, who has to take pills in order to keep it in check, and to not become pregnant? Who has to worry about becoming pregnant? Who has to fight every day against the preconceptions and the barriers that a name and a birth certificate and the genitals behind them bestow upon her? Who is a “her,” undeniably, and who hates all that this entails.

I had this conversation with my mom last night, and she asked me why I was letting someone else define “woman” for me. Though she acknowledged that it was understandable why I felt this way, because you guys may deny it, but my mom and my dad and my sister and I have had many conversations about the culture of masculinity at my high school, and how damaging it is to those who try to beat it. Many of my female classmates tried to beat it by being attractive and appealing. And I tried to beat it by becoming androgynous and dirty-minded, by trying to beat them all, the smart and popular boys that is, at their own game. But it never worked, because I am a woman. I was never captain of my quizbowl team, which was all I dreamed for high school, and every match senior year I came home crying because my coach still liked the (male) captain better. Because I am a woman, I cried.

It’s this I hate, this gender essentialism that pervades my life. And I try to get past, and explain, and overcome, the deep abiding resentment that boils within me, the anger of high school and at high school, the tears rushing burning to my eyes right now as I think about how marginalized, how isolated, how other I felt. And I think that is part of it, how I turned away from dresses and dolls and imaginary games, to become, or attempt to become, collegiate androgyny of time immemorial. I channel a different time, when gender-bending was de rigeur, and I sit on my couch now in retro jeans, corduroy button-down, and this tweed blazer I love so much, gazing up at Allen Ginsberg on my opposite wall and thinking of the image I try to cultivate.

The friends I’ve made here remind me of this line-straddling, and make me consider what I might have been if it weren’t for my middle school, my high school, and what it all did to me as I tried not to be plowed under. The person I like the most here in college—I wouldn’t go so far as to say “best friend,” but certainly one of my favorite people—is a man who’s the kind of nerd I always was, before. Back when I wore long dresses or sometimes a Thomas Jefferson costume. He is the first person since my beloved seventh grade teacher to know about the Jacobite rebellions, to rekindle my love of the Royal Navy, to talk to me about fantasy books starring woodland creatures, to sit down with me and play Age of Empires on his MacBook. And he isn’t a man’s man; he’s gay in an Oscar Wilde way, all channeled into his intellectualism and his posturing, the way he drinks tea in his sweater vest, the way he sits with his leg folded under him and declaims, in his Oxford accent, about Victorian essayists. I don’t have to run to keep up with him in the masculinity race; I don’t have to be competitive except when playing Risk, and that’s a competition I take joy in. He’s brilliant, probably smarter than me, and yet he doesn’t beat me down. His friends don’t ignore me. Because here in the world of university, there are people to whom gender essentialism isn’t everything. I’ve found my belonging among the gay men and their allies, for some reason, and it ceases to matter constantly that I’m left behind for having breasts and a vagina. I could wear a tie or a dress; they don’t bat an eyelid. They’re used to things either way.

But if they’re not gender-essentialist, I am, or else I wouldn’t balk so at “woman.” Which is of course a bad thing to be, a very silly thing to be when you identify as feminist, when you identify as queer, and when you’re conversant in the language of theory that comes with that. I’m a tool of the patriarchy, then; I’m letting the patriarchal society define my gender and its roles. I’m letting it tell me that I’m not a good enough woman, that I therefore must be Other. Which isn’t a feminist thing to do. Which is a dangerous, wrong, and politically incorrect thing to do. To call myself not-woman makes me feel guilty, a traitor to my gonads.

But on the other hand, I think, a certain brand of feminism can no more tell me what to call myself than it can order me that my rape fantasies and my submission are anti-feminist, that I’m a tool of the patriarchy in that respect. We know that’s not true. We’ve been through that before. So need we worry about the woman, either?

I do, though, you see, because I worry how artificial it is, how much of it is a pure posture, a reaction to years of my life as a subject of sexism (and I know that sexism’s there. That’s one thing I’m sure about). And I also worry because I know that’s not the only reason. That there’s more, deeper, that I can’t divine, to the horror I feel, the bile that rises in my throat, when I try to touch myself, and the shame I feel of my body. I don’t know altogether what’s causing that, and for someone like me who is used to figuring things out, that’s a scary thought.

What started me panicking last night, and what led to a two-hour conversation with my mom, is that I worry what all this means is that I will be perpetually alone, perpetually Other, perpetually incapable of having a meaningful relationship. I remain jealous of my sister, now on her fifth (if I’m counting correctly) boyfriend, wondering what’s wrong with me, what’s so dead inside. And I worry this will just continue, that I will become not just 19 next week, but then I will become 29, 39, 49, 59… and it will continue, and I will die in an apartment all alone, all unloved, because I don’t know where the part of me is that can open up and can not be scared of and ashamed of myself. I feel as if there’s something so wrong and so empty and so missing inside of me, and I don’t know where to look for it.

Valentine’s Day and college applications

Posted in Current Events, Feminism, Orientation, Real Life, Romance on February 14, 2008 by alterisego

I hate Valentine’s Day. Loathe it. Detest it. Revile it. Abhor it. Et cetera. This vitriol has been born of several years of external pressure to “have a valentine”, I suppose. Even if you aren’t “together” with someone on February 14, it seems like you’re expected to express your affection in other ways. My school ran a “Valentine Gram” thing and we were presented with various opportunities to send messages to our secret crushes. Folks ask other folks out. And of course all the established couples have to do the whole roses/chocolates/dinner ew stereotypical clichéd expensive sexist materialist version of romance thing. And I can’t stand the industry, and I resent the pressure that I need to be with someone or pursuing someone. It’s sort of like how in junior high and early high school, the reason I completely stopped hanging out with girls for a time was because they were always asking me, “Who do you like?” and I usually felt ashamed of my crushes, either because they were other girls or because they were unpopular or conventionally unattractive (male or female) kids, and I hated the invasion of privacy. It’s just the same on Valentine’s Day. We’re asked to publicly declare our love, make a holiday and an occasion out of it — that’s not so much my style.

I mentioned the materialism, and I guess that’s the easiest element of Valentine’s Day to pinpoint as unpleasant. One of my major annoyances in life, that I’m not nearly as vocal about as I’d like to be, is the popular assumption that maintaining a romantic and/or sexual relationship with someone entails buying them off: with dinners, movies and other entertainment, tokens of affection like flowers or jewelry or other presents. I have never been able to understand the way that to so many of my peers, the people who they say “I love you” to become prostitutes: folks date people they don’t even like personally, trying to win them over with these material gifts just because they’re attractive, good in bed, etc. I know that it works this way slightly less in the real world, but in the world of not-quite-adults, this is what I see. This is how Valentine’s Day looks to my eyes: a passing period that’s an unusual sea of red and pink, heart-shaped balloons floating above the seething mass of teenagers and your risk of bumping into someone carrying a tray of cupcakes increased exponentially.

And don’t even get me started on the subjugation, theory terms. Sexism, of course, and heteronormativity. Valentine’s Day promotes everything that is “acceptable” to the mainstream. And I know that loads of “unacceptable” folks are expressing their love on Valentine’s Day — the event was touched on at the lesbian parenting blog Mombian, for example, and Valentine’s Day productions of The Vagina Monologues have happened across the country. But ask the proverbial, er, person on the street, and they’re hardly going to call Valentine’s Day a celebration of sex-positivism and love having no boundaries and all that good stuff. No, it’s candy hearts and pink paper decorations and mainstream, mainstream, mainstream.

So enough of that, and now we’ll transition neatly into another rant, also having to do with heteronormativity. In the process of figuring out what corner of North America I’ll be in come September, I also have to find some funds to get me there. Doing so requires filling out quite a few forms, such as the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board company’s CSS/Profile, in addition to various schools’ individual forms. Now, my family is of the one-mom, one-dad, still-married variety, but I’ve paid close attention to the wordings on the forms asking for copious details on every aspect of yours and your parents’ finances. Of everything I’ve filled out to date, only one form — the CSS/Profile — contains spaces for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”, then asking you to further specify whether each parent is a mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, legal guardian, etc. You could conceivably complete the form with two mothers, two fathers, a mother and a stepmother, etc. However, no other form is so forgiving, restricting your options to just one mother and one father. It’s mind-boggling: I mean, I expect this sort of thing from the government, so wasn’t too surprised to see it on the FAFSA. But then you have these private universities who are supposedly so enlightened as to have gender identity listed in their non-discrimination statements, and can’t manage to account for families with LGBT parents. I wrote an email to one school, since they asked for feedback on their online financial aid application, protesting this set-up. Somewhat predictably, I didn’t receive a reply.

I also have to wonder how parents with any more complicated family configuration deal with the intricacies of the financial aid forms. I have friends whose parents (of the one mother-one father configuration) are divorced, and these require that the non-custodial parent fill out an independent form, in addition to the standard form being filed by the custodial parent and the child. But what about families where the parents live together, but one was unable to secure second-parent adoption? What about families where one parent is not the biological mother or father? There are also, I am sure, even less traditional parenting arrangements, not limited to sets of parents less than or equal to two, that sort of thing, though I don’t suppose anyone can expect them to be accounted for anytime soon.

Anyway. So I know we can pretty much expect discrimination everywhere, but I was honestly surprised by the situation of financial aid.

And that was your set of rants for this evening.