Trin writes about transgression at sm-f. I've written about it too, in the past. So I'ma write about it a bit again.
Transgress, etymologically 'trans-' (across, beyond, through) + 'gress' (step, walk).
To step beyond, across, through; there is an implied line, and a space beyond it.
I think the most transgressive thing I've done in the last week is get married.
Not in that hipster-ironic no-Birkenstocks way that somehow requires a DJ and in which not doing a name change is worth blogging on, just ... stepping through.
And it wasn't done to be transgressive, to be the cool thing that shows the mainstream world up, it was done like most marriages are done these days: as a matter of formal commitment, because of love. There was no flashy smugness about how different it all was, because it was what it was, and we did what worked for us.
It was not one of those exclusive monogamous structures, of course, and rather than being 'given away' by any subset of parents, we walked to the center with our legal spouses. And even for those who might acknowledge the possibility of multiple relationships, I transgress expectations with my two partners, and they transgress expectations by not throwing some kind of hissy about how their possession object might possibly fuck someone else.
We had no officiant; we had a friend serve as a herald to announce what we were doing and declare that it was time to have a party. Similarly, what religion was present was in the poetry of our vows, touching on symbolism shared and not shared, expressing concepts and feelings. No gods were invited, as we don't really have gods that care about that sort of thing.
Our ceremony and vows were written as explicitly d/s, though I suspect that fact was not especially obvious to others because we are reasonably subtle and not terribly in-your-face about it. And not the sort of fetishistic kink stuff one can find googling up slave contracts, but threads of the actual nature of our partnership, and gestures that reflect that.
The wedding reception was a potluck cookout, conveniently for us landing on the first gorgeous weekend day of the spring and thus the correct time to throw a grill party. We served mead that we had bottled the previous day with my father's assistance, though it was too hot to drink much of anything that sweet and alcoholic even for the people present who weren't pregnant.
And maybe this isn't all that far on the other side of the line of the expected - I certainly doubt we startled anyone who actually knew us, but we know people who know where we live - but when I look at the world outside the little pocket of people who think we make sense, I can see the shape of the alien, not playing by the rules.
Taking the rules and bending them a little until they're something that fits.
Sometimes they only take a little bending. Sometimes they take ... a little more.
Do I transgress?
Very well, then, I transgress;
(I am large--I contain myself.)
30 April, 2009
Trin writes about transgression at sm-f. I've written about it too, in the past. So I'ma write about it a bit again.
28 April, 2009
Earlier today I was directed at this post on the nature of vocation and art. And commercialism and art, which I wrote about before, a bit.
In my religious toolbox, there is this word, 'shai'. As it was first taught to me, shai means fate -- but not fate in the sense of predestination, fate as a calling, a vocation: that which one will accomplish unless rendered incapable. Another way of expressing it, to rummage in another bit of my religious toolbox, is the phrase, "What is the work of this God?"
I have spent so much of my life looking for the foundations I needed to chase my vocations. Feeling the lack of things, the absent portions, not having it arranged where I wanted. And feeling an underlying fear that if I got what I thought I needed, I would be so hooked on the seeking the parts that I would never be satisfied, never be able to move on and take the next step, would be always looking for new criteria to meet, new standards to set, new avenues to perfection.
But I am where I need to be. I am where, if one believes in fate, in shai, in whatever you want to call it, I am supposed to be. I have the tools laid out before me to do the work of this God, the circumstances for it, the conditions are right.
Even if I have lost the writers' discussion group that I once loved, I am still capable of writing, spinning stories and theories and shapes of worlds. The child I have wanted for years is kicking me in the poor abused ribs, and has been all day; that deep draw towards motherhood is satisfied, without ache, replaced with a bit of backache and a tendency to sleep in more than I would otherwise do. I have two wedding rings to wear, at least if the pregnancy-induced swelling of my fingers would go down enough to fit them over my knuckles safely; I have security in the love and devotion of my husbands and my place in their lives. I have space to pursue my dreams and be a part of the foundation of all of these.
The prelude is done; the work of this God is now.
24 April, 2009
I just deleted a half-written post to the newsgroup I was ranting about recently. Not because it was part of the ongoing thrash about whether "twat" is sexist or "lame" is ablist, but because in that environment ...
... one of the things that I'm working on, at least in theory, is a space opera. The current site of the action is a planet named Paradi.
Someone posted a belief that Teh Future would be that mythical postracial society in which interbreeding had eliminated all racial differences, a theory that I find ... irritating and implausible. A reply was posted pointing out that if space colonisation came before certain other things, such would clearly not happen.
Which is part of what happened with Paradi. So I half-wrote a post about Paradi's background, and then deleted it.
Because the backstory of Paradi is this:
The wealthy nations/nationgroups drove the first wave of interstellar colonisation. Partly to minimise conflicts, and partly because it was just easier to divide things up that way, each one of them went in a somewhat different direction; sometimes new coalitions between them went out on a vector partway between the two parent nations' claims and so on. In that first wave, all of the best nearby planets for colonisation were taken: in other words, the water-belt planets around yellow main sequence stars. Terraforming technology required was minimal and mostly biological, getting human-edible plants adapted to the new places and so on. (It's a space opera. I reserve the right to make it easy.)
The second wave was driven by military and industry, and started to fill in the clusters. While first-wave worlds were largely pleasant ones, these were varying degrees of marginal, collecting resources and building listening outposts and setting up shipyards and so on. Some of these drove new terraforming technologies; some drove new robotics techniques; all of them worked on consolidating the new worlds empires. Border zones got established to minimize conflicts over resources, so nobody would settle near a different power, even if there was a nice planet; whole galaxies of potential for nice planets out there, after all.
Eventually, the technology got well enough developed and old enough (thus, cheap enough) that the poorer people back on Earth could consider launching colonial missions of their own, rather than perhaps hooking up with the richer folks if they were lucky. Some nations went alone; others formed coalitions. All were stuck with a basic problem: most of the known, nearby planets that might be plausibly settled or terraformed into settleability were either claimed or in the demilitarised buffer zones of the larger powers, which, of course, had the resources of multiple worlds rather than simply dominating Earth's resources. The good nearby planets had been chosen as start vectors; new good planets tended to be discovered by expansion of the existing bubbles.
Paradi orbits a young, bright, white star. The star is hotter than Sol, and puts out a fair bit more UV; while Paradi's orbit is further out from its sun than Earth's from Sol, keeping it in the water belt, it's still not the nicest place to consider settling. Especially for the paler-skinned nations, for while science is quite advanced in this story, it has not yet cured cancer.
Paradi was settled by a coalition of Caribbean nations; it is named in Kreyol, and the name choice was somewhat propagandistic. Its population is largely black-skinned, and has likely gotten more so since it was settled. It is well away from much of the ordinary populated space, as its settlers were not confident of being able to hold a territorial claim if one of the great powers took an interest, and thus chose security through obscurity.
(How much of this is in the book? That Paradi was settled from the Caribbean, the narrator can manage on his Spanish and English in most cases, that the days get glaringly bright and there's a siesta tradition in the worst of the heat, that the planet is reasonably distant from most other settled ones, and the hospital in the main city has a large oncology department. The amount of stuff the author knows that's off the edges of the page can be immense.)
Once upon a time I could have written a post about Paradi and made it to that newsgroup, and we'd have talked about the plausibility of the sociopolitical setup, the sort of culture that winds up on a planet with that background, the nature of terraforming or interstellar travel, someone would probably have pointed out a bug with this background that was bad enough to be worth considering a revision in even for a space opera, something. Other people would have contributed their own space colony stories or commented that they had gotten an idea from mine. Someone would have written a short-short to illustrate a relevant point. Someone else would have a fine time with a pun.
Now ... I'd give odds that one or more of the racial background, the geopolitics, or the class issues thus revealed would blow up into a giant shitstorm.
So I didn't post.
I miss my sane, useful, productive writers professional chat group.
But I guess I'm accepting that today isn't five years ago.
21 April, 2009
Belledame's post about language and dehumanisation and ... stuff has finally shaken me loose of the dithering about whether or not I wanted to post this here.
This is the text of a post I did not make to usenet earlier today, because I knew that whatever response it got would be entirely too depressing, and I'd rather be working on my wedding liturgy than flail at people who refuse to wrap their heads around things.
The context is whether insulting people with the word "twat" is misogynistic, by the way. And whether pointing out such use of language, even if accurate, is something worth concerning oneself about. It is perhaps unsurprising that it's the same usenet group as this one. I suspect, after nine and a half years there, it's coming up on time for me to give up and find some other writers' kibbutzing group.
Actually, this is one of those things that's fairly fundamental, from the right perspective.
I grew up in a culture in which words with a female gendering association were used as significant insults to imply that people were subhuman. (Likewise, I grew up in a culture in which words referring to disabilities were used to imply that people were subhuman, and I live *now* in a culture in which words referring to sexual orientation are used to imply that people are subhuman.)
The flavor of the discourse is such that I am *constantly* reminded of my second-class status in many contexts. One newsgroup I read is only manageable because I killfile for such sexist comments on the first offense. The insult discourse is, to me, *the same thing* as the treatment of traditionally female-gendered labor as less important and less worthy of remuneration than traditionally male-gendered labor, to pick a for-example. Womanness is less worthy than maleness; thus, womanness is an insult and woman-work doesn't pay well.
All of these are rooted in the notion that femaleness is less valuable than maleness, intrinsically a marked case, something of low status and low worth. And in a "you've got to be carefully taught" kind of way, people who can inanely parrot language without thinking that reinforces that notion create, reinforce, and support a systematic setup in which not only is femaleness something shameful - and thus something that women are obligated to feel bad about - but one in which I could, say, get excellent general medical coverage to address my prostate problems but coverage of my pregnancy is a special interest costing more.
I don't have the luxury of being able to treat it as a separate, minor issue; it may be tiny, but if it is tiny it is only so because in this context we are looking at something that's only three iterations of the fractal pattern. It's not a different fractal from the same pattern at a thousand iterations, and, being a fractal, it looks *exactly the same*.
I live in a world where my fundamental worthlessness is taken as a given, and where that message constantly reinforced by sexist-rooted invective among many, many other things.
Building a world where I am a valuable human being requires challenging the subtext of an entire culture. Sometimes I'm too tired to fight the same damn battles again and again, because it never ends; there's always someone who thinks that having my _existence_ treated as sufficient background to formulate an insult is not a real problem worth being concerned about.
I don't know; I kind of value my existence. Having it framed as degrading by default gets wearing.
No, womanness being used as an insult is not the biggest problem in the universe, but a world in which womanness was not immediately siezed upon as one of those high-calibre heavy hitters would necessarily be a profoundly different one than this one.
20 April, 2009
One of Ren's prompts for this next round of the Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy was on the importance of women naming their own sexuality. And I've been thinking about that one for a while.
And after a lot of contemplation, I'm left with the feeling that it boils down to "If I don't do it, someone else will." If I want to leave it inchoate, unnamed, mysterious, I have to keep it entirely secret, because any sign that I have a hint of sexuality somewhere will be dragged out and assigned meaning by someone else. Even the category of being unsexed can be sexualised in some cases.
I have to make my own meanings, hold to them, define myself, or someone else will try to override me.
I am a cissexual woman. If I don't work on what, if anything, that means then I can get swept away in all of the cultural meanings of 'woman' and buffeted between them. Trapped between madonna and whore, career woman and brainwashed housewife, all the dichotamous piles of what 'woman' means. Whether it means I'm perceived as a set of penetratable holes and some boobs, or a little child in need of paternalistic protection, or both simultaneously, or one of the other godawful forms of womanness that floats around and tries to latch onto people like a facehugger out of Aliens and infest them with parasitic larvae doesn't matter: if I don't have a strong enough narrative of myself to refute these things, I can get infected and corrupted by these things. I am someone with these body parts and no dysphoria about them; it has no ontology, no deeper truth.
I am heterosexual. I am not in denial of my true and intrinsic bisexuality; I am not compelled into unsatisfying relationships by a heteronormative culture; I do not experience my orientation as fluid and malleable because I am a woman; I do not project my sexuality into images of women in the media; I do not consider my attractions to be oppression. I like looking at certain men, because I find them attractive, and I am just fine with that, thanks.
I am a sexual assault survivor. I am not a victim for revictimising, an object of pity, someone whose entire life and reality orbits around a golden afternoon in 1992 that left its marks in my mind. I will not be truncated and boxed into no more than helplessness and damage. I will not accept the myths, that I have a perpetually defective sexuality because of my experiences, that I just need to loosen up and get laid more to get over my trauma, that my kink or my polyamory or my anything else is a result of being warped, that my flashbacks or fears are a sign that I am a defective. All of which I have heard. I am a person who had a horrible experience; I have suffered, and I have worked to heal.
I am polyamorous. I am not looking for a quick lay, I am not available to just anyone, I am not too damaged to commit, I am not incapable of real love, I am not any of these other stereotypes or condemnations. I was not abandoned by my father, nor was I sexually abused. I am a person with two wonderful, committed, loving partners to spend my life with and another person of whom I am quite fond indeed.
I am kinky. My kink was not created by assault, manufactured by patriarchy, adapted from a need to seek abuse and disparagement, born of a sense of inferiority, a sign that I am a pathetic doormat, an invitation to treat me like a victim, or a signpost to deeper psychological defects. It is what it is, and I have invited commentary on neither the legitimacy of how I choose to conduct my relationships nor the progress of my spiritual development.
I am pregnant. This is not a validation of traditional barefoot-in-the-kitchen mores, a sign that I am more interested in baybees than my own autonomy, ownership by a man, a betrayal of women's freedom, a perpetuation of patriarchy, a sign that I am the right kind of woman with correct values, an embodiment of The Goddess [tm], or whatever other crazed myths that come up about motherhood. It is a part of the process of mammalian reproduction, which is not unrelated to sexuality.
Also: I am an emotional abuse survivor. I have my stories. If you want to define my reality for me, to override who I am and where I came from, to erase my stories, you are just like the one who abused me. I will exist in defiance of you and your fantasies about who I am, and I will not be quiet because you find me inconvenient. I don't care what your agenda is, whether it is important to you as a feminist or a traditionalist or a whatever else that people like me not exist and not be heard: you are the enemy of my personhood and my souls, and I deny you the power to name me.
I am many, many things, multitudinous beyond listing, and I. Am. Not. Yours.
I don't want other people's stories about me. I have my own.
If you want to have stories about me, listen - or, as a friend put it once, refrain from copulation and discorporate.
16 April, 2009
Inspired by some talk elsewhere in the blogworld and such about abuse and female abusers ...
I'm not actually going to go into depth on the mommy issues front, though that is obviously a major factor; I want to write about adolescent dynamics.
It has always been easier for me to write about the bullying from the boys; it was so concrete and clear and distinct. I can trace chunks of things to those specific actions, those specific situations. And it's ... acceptable, easy, part of the standard narrative, for a woman to write about trauma inflicted by male entities, to put stories about sexual harassment or violence out in the forefront and talk about them. Talk about this, and one will get the support and the emotional recognition and the sense of community that comes of having the experience recognised and categorised as like the rest of us.
In my early adolescence, there were adults (sex largely irrelevant, generally positively inclined towards me), background people (sex largely irrelevant, generally just Face In Crowd people and irrelevant), individuals (sex depending on the individual; of the individuals who were actually positive presences in my life, the overwhelming majority were male), and The Boy Mobs and The Girl Mobs.
To the Boy Mobs, I was a target: prey, a toy, an isolated female-appearing figure with no support network, an object on which they could vent their explorations of sexuality. I was under no illusions that they were friendly; their hostility and depersonalisation was simple and straightforward enough that it presented a certain amount of protection from them: what I saw was what I got. It just happened that what I saw was negative.
Girl Mobs were ... complicated. For the most part they were content to treat me with a distant, mocking derision, laughing when they did not ignore me. Sometimes they stared, making great goggle-eyes of pointed attentiveness to the space alien; every so often one might detach to approach me and ask a question - pop culture, stylish fashion, that sort of thing - in order to determine that yes, I was completely incompetent at socialising like real people and take that information back to the Girl Mob to titter over.
For some reason, though, I thought the Girl Mobs might be less hostile. I suspect because I had picked up on some of the cultural assumptions that People Of My Sex Are My Natural Allies And Likely To Think Like Me, because there's no damn good reason to think of it otherwise. Perhaps it was also because they were more likely to be content to simply ignore my existence than make a game of me, and that might almost pass for benign. Sometimes, when a member of a Girl Mob would approach me, she would pass herself off as an Individual, someone with whom I might be able to form a relationship, someone who might be a friend ...
... who might invite me to a slumber party at a nonexistent address.
Boy Mobs were more likely to be physically dangerous, but at least they didn't even pretend to treat me like a potential person in order to get my guard down. I didn't trust them, I didn't have any reason to like them, and even though they hurt me badly, I didn't expect anything but hurt from them, so there was no betrayal.
Girl Mobs, when they deigned to notice me, lived for the joy of crushing hope and destroying the dregs of capacity for trust that my mother left me. At least they generally considered me beneath their notice, and besides, setting up a good and proper backstab takes more finesse than trying to cop a feel on the bus.
13 April, 2009
The Guardian weighs in. The CBC too.
PNH comments at Making Light.
Commentary on the trolling claims from Bryant at Livejournal.
Creative and angry Amazon users start playing with tags on the current top hits for 'homosexuality'. Others are going through the database tagging disappeared books with 'amazonfail'.
Neil Gaiman's input.
Fandom personality Cleolinda comments. One of her commenters adds some bonus WTF.
A tech blog muses on the exploit, pointing out that it doesn't fit a standard definition of 'glitch' but rather a human-exploitable software file that was exploited by humans.
Why it won't get fixed instantly.
(This post may wind up being updated as more stuff crosses my field of vision. Or it may not.)
Rounds of adds:
On scaling and monopolies.
Broadly speaking, concerns about accessibility to books in the modern era.
The Wild Hunt notes effects on pagan books.
Erynn Laurie continues to express her poor opinion of Amazon, which I am linking because I am coming from a reasonably similar perspective.
Gawker suspects a hacker. Meanwhile, Deanna Zandt comments on how, even if it is a hacker, that doesn't get Amazon off the hook.
Metadata analysis at Dear Author. Definitely read this one!
Another overview post.
The disability community is also affected; given the desexualisation of the disabled, this also deserves a bit of shouting. I would note that I believe Serrano's Whipping Girl, a book about trans issues, was also delisted.
An anonymous Amazon employee claims to have found something. Also, Amazon spokespeople are embarassed.
The NY Times comments on the entire thing.
Heather Corinna is pissed off.
12 April, 2009
Because screwing over small publishers using POD wasn't enough, it's now time to target sexuality, and mysteriously, queer sexuality appears to be harder hit than normative sexuality....
Mark Probst noticed and that seems to have sparked a chain of response and miscellaneous commentary about some things only containing Kindle links.
One notes that several books that were previously in the bestseller ranks were vanished by this action.
Affected books include not only things like Heather Has Two Mommies (adult content, you know) but Kate Bornstein's Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws. !!!!
And some other books have been affected as well, apparently, some feminist books, sex and disability .... I can't get over the suicide prevention book, though.
Amazon claims that this is a glitch. As a result of this glitch, whatever may be the case, a search on Amazon for 'homosexuality' is producing results like this (I just checked that screenshot against reality, and it appears to still be the case). Various people are dubious, some with suggestions about what happened there.
This has apparently been going on at some level since February at least.
To be marginally fair, an alternate theory is that Amazon.com has been epically trolled. Though as several commenters point out, that's not necessarily as redeeming as one might hope.
A link collection for those who want to do further investigation.
06 April, 2009
For the last few years, I have lived at an amiable distance from my mother. We had our little sweesaws (she tends to alternate between 'we have the bestest mother-daughter relationship ever, we're so close!' and 'I don't know what to do with you, you shut me out, you're so hostile' at more or less random), but for the most part managed to construct a basic irrelevance to each other. I had stopped being actively closeted from her, but was not engaging with her about basics of my life; she didn't ask, because she blatantly didn't want to know.
Then I got pregnant.
Then things got ... surreal.
Her immediate first reaction to my pregnancy was, "I get to be a grandma?!" (Compare my father's reaction: "I am pleased and terrified with you.") Followed by what I hope was a joke about taking pressure off my brother (me: married eight years, stable life situation; my brother: serious financial issues, health issues up the wazoo and no insurance, recently in new relationship). A few "that reminds me of me!" stories, with an almost accidental smattering of advice, and inappropriate disclosure about her sex life with my father.
And her first request was that I ask my husband to take a sequence of photos of my belly so that she could vicariously enjoy the experience of my pregnancy. Which I honestly barely noticed as something to remark upon before my family all responded to it with, "Isn't that kind of ... creepy?"
She sent me the most amazing wedding anniversary card - it was so amazing I brought it to show my shrink - that on the surface layer was all supportive noises, the subtext of which was, "Children will destroy your life. You'll decide it's worth it, but you've chosen to sacrifice everything for them, and they now own you. By the way, since you're my oldest kid, this was all for you, you know. Bear the burden well, and enjoy your pregnancy, because it's the last of life you get for twenty years."
I talked with her on the phone while we were in the process of picking out a prenatal medical practitioner, and there was much more "that reminds me of me!", with some follow-on "And I haven't infected you with panic recently!" about the necessity of being properly prepared for Catastrophic Hospital Births Like My Brother's.
She asked me my due date; I told her about when. She was so sad; she's a part-time art teacher, and that fell during the summer semester. So she wouldn't be able to sit by my side, you know.
I answered the phone at one point, thinking that it might be the doctor's office calling about some blood tests, and it was her. We talked about some books she was considering sending me, and various other things, and she suggested that I should imagine that she was there to rub my belly since she wasn't actually there to do it. My skin crawled off and wound up under the couch.
After that, she followed up with a "And, you know, your lifestyle is outside my comfort zone, but I really want to understand..." and I finally figured it out. The woman who was so uncomfortable with my family that she fled the room and cleaned the kitchen when I sat snuggled up to my liege on the couch, whose response to my saying my liege had recently bought a car with almost her exact criteria was to ask if my husband had any advice instead, has suddenly recognised that pretending it isn't there might cut her off from the intimate position in my life that she wants, the one where my pregnancy is all an experience where she can vicariously go through the whole parenting process without actually having to do the work parts.
I'm still not real to her, not really; I'm a vessel for whatever she wants to pour into me. The fact that I had my own life, with things she doesn't understand, was something that kept her away, up until I had something she wanted. And then there's the quick leap to those things that had been avoided for years to try to smooth it over and make our relationship something where I would be amenable to the intimacy of letting her colonise my head again.
Realising it made the package of books much easier to deal with. Not the books themselves, but the letter that came with them, which can be summarised as:
- Here are the books I could find to send you.
- I totally loved this one and looked at the pictures every day.
- I'm glad to hear you're feeling better.
- I felt the best I ever did in my life during my pregnancy!
- I hope the position of your placenta doesn't mean you need a c-section.
I ... will admit that I just laughed.
That fear doesn't fit me. I'm not your dress-up doll.
02 April, 2009
I spent a while the other day peering at my body in the mirror.
It feels thick and unfamiliar to me. Not just in the now actually visible curve of belly, the immensity of the left breast rendered heavy enough to point downwards, the contusion-colored nipples, the smattering of acne between my breasts. Just ... different.
It's not wrong. This is what a body that is doing what I am doing right now looks like. This solidity, this embodiment, this thing is what a mother-to-be looks like. I know this, and I still wonder where the body came from that my head is sitting on right now.
I am simultaneously more invested and centered in my own physicality than I have ever been in my life and an observer of that physicality from the outside.
I know genderqueer women who found that their comfort with the concept of womanhood and being a woman was cemented by pregnancy. I know other people who found that pregnancy was the last straw in their toleration of the concept of womanhood, who then came out as trans or established themselves as firmly other-gendered.
I think I was expecting one of those, that I might learn womanhood from my child, or that I might finally kick off the last expectations that I belonged there. And yet I can't be surprised to find that the experience is really neither for me. Everything on an angle, here.
It just feels that it's ... not my turn in the timeshare. Right now, the body is working on constructing a life that currently wants to kick me in the bladder (thanks, kid). I chose the process, I went in with my eyes open, and now I'm a passenger until it comes time to do something else with the body.
My husband mentioned in passing talking about sex-life post-birth at some point, and there's a part of me that laughed, because I feel rooted and earthy and unsexual right now. I have the wrong body at the moment, you'll have to wait until it's my turn in the saddle again. Which isn't to say that I'm not capable of sexual response, it's just ... hard to get connected up to a sense of body that isn't otherwise occupied. I've spent a few evenings curled up against one of the fellows contemplating that if I were me right now, I'd probably be interested in sex, but right now, it's a ... distant sort of theoretical possibility, most of the time.
Who is the woman in the mirror, the one with my face?