Monday, 29 September 2008

Lonely in the Desert: A Post of Unbridled Narcissism

Here I am on the last night of a work-related conference, wasting time before our closing dinner. It's been an intense, busy weekend. I'm not great at this stuff, mingling and chatting and all that. In the past I've felt ineffably backward, wrong, and out of place. This time was different, especially since I was aware of the need to forge of professional identity that will fit with my sense of self. On the one hand I felt like I was always carrying difference with me, queerness dragging behind me like a cape. On the other hand I was more comfortable with myself, and that made it easier to connect with people, too. I actually spent a lot of time hanging out with some (straight) women here and really enjoying it, not in a flirtatious sense at all but just as colleagues and human beings. That's not something I get to do very often. (Not that I usually flirt with straight women, not at all, it's usually just much more awkward and wary.)

And yet. I feel tired, I miss queer people, I really miss my apartment and my girl. Finding vegetarian food here has been a real hassle and I'm hungry. There's a black bug (or a gaggle of them?) crawling across my hotel room floor, back and forth. It creeps me out but I don't have the heart to kill it, or the energy to carry it all the way downstairs and out through the lobby. Stupid windows don't open.

I have a long day of traveling tomorrow and then the next day I'm supposed to have coffee with my mom. I haven't written much about family stuff here, partly I guess because I don't want too much of it out there on the internet. But basically things are not really ok, in the slow motion passive way characteristic of my family. My new priorities, my new outlook on life, my new independence: not really ok. And honestly, it hurts, even though I feel deep down that I'm making the right choices. This year I've felt like I'm in a battle for my own existence, refusing to live the mummified almost soul dead life I had before. I realize I've been less careful of my family's feelings, less deferential. And slowly, slowly, my guts no longer turn on a dime with their (her) disapproval (again quoting the fabulous tongue-tied).

But that's a depressing note to end on, isn't it? I will leave you with the image elevators doors closing on two women working at the hotel, a brief moment of slightly embarrassed, mostly smiling eye contact between me and the one who's just finished saying *something* about " Rachel Maddow." I'm taking the most ego-boosting interpretation of that one, folks. Yes I am.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Nonsense in Three Parts

I'm off to a work-related conference thing tomorrow. I'm excited about seeing a new city and hopefully making some professional connections. I'm not so excited about having to fly (all that being cooped up and shuffled about like livestock). And I'm a bit nervous about the fact that I'll have a randomly assigned roommate. With whom I will have in common: the letter "F" on our drivers' licenses. Wish me luck...?

And a few questions for you smart technically savvy folks out there...
-How do you get that cool thing where you can see who's updated on your blogroll?
-How about that Twitter update thing?
-And... what's the scoop on Twitter etiquette? Do you follow the people who follow you? Vice versa? (Hussy Red, help me out here...)

Finally, I actually dreamt about k.d. lang this week. That's how stupid excited I am for these concerts. In my dream I was in some sort of back-up chorus for her, and we were rehearsing. Oddly she was wearing not only a black skirt (which she does sometimes) but also those funny high-heeled shoes with the little tiny heel. (T. says they're called kitten heels?) Afterwards we chatted, and she told me she had to do make-up advertisements to make the money to pay her therapist. And then I rested my head on her shoulder and felt utterly at peace, and I thought, well, she smells like a butch, in spite of those shoes. No, I do not remember what butch smelled like in my dream. Good lord. Where does this stuff come from?

Saturday, 20 September 2008

All Tied Up

This is for Greg... here is the tie FreedomGirl gave me for my birthday. I'm not necessarily rocking it in these pictures, though. I'm just about the least photogenic person on the planet (please forgive the headless horseman effect, it's the only way I could bear to put these up).

For the masculine fashion connoisseurs, check out the very British spread collar. I'm a walking Marks & Spencer advertisement--I'm sure the modeling offer will come any day now.

And for the bird's-eye view...

It's Cold Outside, It Gets So Hot In Here

This is going to be a free association post.

The title is from U2's 11 o'clock tick tock, which they used to play at the end of their concerts. I used to be a very serious U2 fan, and then one day, their music just stopped doing it for me. I still like it, I don't change the station when it comes on the radio or anything, but I've just moved on. Life is funny that way.

It is cold outside. I like it, but I'm not used to it yet. I do like getting to wear jackets and stuff though. I'm a big fan of outerwear. For a while I wore the pea coat my grandfather wore in the Navy which was super cool, but I'm actually a bit big for it (I'm taller than my grandfather and my arms are longer than his).

Hot in here... not literally. This dancing thing is crazy hot, though. We've just started learning and let me tell you, this dance is on fire. I'm learning how to lead which requires summoning up total confidence and direction--you have to communicate to your partner what to do with decisive motions and the sheer force of your own conviction. I have a lot of that energy but I am used to keeping it smashed down and hidden away pretty much everywhere but the bedroom. Learning to dance in this way has so far been absolutely therapeutic and liberating, not to mention darn sexy. Of course we're both terrible so far. It's not easy. But no way am I giving up--I want to do it right.

So far I've danced mostly with my teacher--T. and I aren't really good enough to dance together yet. You're supposed to dance with a variety of people, not just your usual partner all the time. At the last class, the teacher was demonstrating the different ways of holding your partner, which range up to chests-touching-close. This is another way learning to dance is stretching me and releasing things in me. My family does almost no physical touching; even hugs hello and goodbye are quick and distant, more distant than the closest dancing embrace. And being touched has always been, for me, a complicated and fraught thing: what I could accept, what I could reject, what it meant. I realized, during the lesson, that I was so afraid that my teacher would hate having to touch me, would be repelled by having my body that close to hers. And that the human closeness that happens when dancing is actually profoundly reassuring and grounding to me, even though I have to overcome my fears about it. It warms something in me that has been cold for so long.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Survey on Transgender Discrimination

I got this from my (very sexy) local lesbian meetup group and took the survey this evening. It's one of the better-written surveys I've ever taken. And I'm not just saying that because they gave me "masculine woman/butch" as a listed identity option, either.

If you're transgender or gender-nonconforming, have a look, and take the survey if you can. (I believe it's for US residents, but correct me if I'm wrong on that.)

Comprehensive national survey on transgender discrimination launched by National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Respond to the survey online at

"This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone's voice in this, everyone's participation."
— Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1465
(Cell) 917.704.6358

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 — In the wake of one of the most violent years on record of assaults on transgender people, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have teamed up on a comprehensive national survey to collect data on discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, public accommodations, healthcare, education, family life and criminal justice.

To date, in 2008, several young gender non-conforming people of color have been murdered, including California junior high school student Lawrence King, who was shot in public during the school day. King's murder, and the murders of Simmie Williams in South Carolina and Angie Zapata in Greeley, Colo., come in a year in which we are still working to include transgender provisions in a federal bill to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual workers from discrimination in employment.

Hate crimes against transgender people suggest multiple points of vulnerability, which can compound each other: discrimination in employment may lead to unstable housing situations that in turn can leave transgender people at the mercy of public programs and public officials who may not respond respectfully or appropriately to them. These stressors add burdens in a healthcare system that is often unprepared for transgender people's needs. The list goes on. "We know that transgender people face discrimination on multiple fronts," said Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE. "This data will help us sort out the combination of forces that leave transgender people vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness and violence."

Jaime Grant, director of the Task Force Policy Institute, noted, "There is so little concrete data on the needs and risks associated with the widespread discrimination we see in the lives of the transgender people we know. This data will help point the way to an appropriate policy agenda to ensure that transgender people have a fair chance to contribute their talents in the workplace, in our educational systems and in our communities."

NCTE and the Task Force have partnered with Pennsylvania State University's Center for the Study of Higher Education to collect and analyze the data. Applying rigorous academic standards to the investigation will strengthen any case made to legislators, policy makers, healthcare providers and others whose decisions impact the lives of transgender people. A national team of experts in survey research and transgender issues developed the questionnaire, which can be completed online at

Keisling notes: "This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone's voice in this, everyone's participation."

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement's premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge. © 2008 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 1325 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. Fax 202.393.2241. TTY 202.393.2284.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please visit

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Clothes That Matter: A Very k.d. Sequel

At the risk of the turning my blog into a Judith Butler & k.d. lang fan site (not that that would be a bad thing, of course), I present you with the following videos. They're from around the same time, the mid-1980s, back when k.d. was the lead singer of the ReClines and I was in elementary school.

To my eyes, there's a huge contrast between the two videos (apart from the fact that Lemming Polka just rocks and it's an almost flawless performance, too). The level of confidence, of comfort, hell, just watch the videos for posture alone--k.d. alternately looks like she's ducking a blow or about to be violently ill in portions of "Hanky Panky". And the real kicker? Keep an eye out for the cowboy in red in the middle of "Hanky Panky". Yeah, clothes matter.

And k.d. lang is the best. And I'm going to see her. TWICE (thank you Jess & Tina!). I'm so darn excited.

OK, so, first, "Hanky Panky":

Now take a deep breath (if you're like me, you need one). Sit back and enjoy the awesomeness of "Lemming Polka":

And lest anyone think I'm picking on k.d. here, I offer proof that I understand: I wore a lot of skirts in the mid-1980s, too.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Clothes That Matter

Only two posts so far this month, September is buzzing away, and I have so much I could write about.

Odd times last weekend. At one social event, a woman described her distaste for “militant” looking lesbians ... then described the exact outfit I was wearing. (Striped shirt tucked into jeans, if you must know. It’s my lucky shirt, actually, the very first item of men’s clothing I bought this spring and one of my very favorite things to wear.) I knew it was about her own struggles with her sexual orientation and visibility (she’s bi and with a woman), not really about me ultimately. Still, white tall femme, as Jesse James would say? And of course I had that little moment of panic: am I an ugly, militant lesbian snickered at by all the cool kids? Sigh.

The next day was a wedding so straight, it was like queers were never invented. Except for yours truly and my faithful femme sidekick, of course. I’m exaggerating, but only a little. A measure of my own changing identity... when we were invited early this year, I joked with T. that I’d go in drag. I didn’t, of course, I went as me. Which meant wearing all men’s clothing. Which is how I would have described drag, then. Which did in fact earn me: one extremely uncomfortable older male relative, a large number of curious glances (plus one I’m pretty sure was hostile), a whole lot of feeling like a fish out of water, and the designation ‘dapper’ from the sweetheart bride who was the whole reason we even went to this thing.

During the ceremony, I got to thinking about gender theory and the latest Judith Butler book I’m reading, Bodies That Matter. The book is, in part, Butler’s response to criticisms made about Gender Trouble. Reading it, I felt for the first time like I really get what she means by the word “performative.” As Butler puts it, neither performativity nor social construction are meant to imply that gender is something you can choose to put on or take off, like the clothes in your closet. (Hussy Red makes this point beautifully in her recent post about being a femme, which also underscores how painful it is to have people suggest that your gender is like a jacket.)

So an identity isn’t performative because you “perform” it like a role, like a character you put on at Halloween. It’s performative because you create it, or a little bit of it, a version of it, with your actions. There’s no original man or woman or femme or butch or mountain-goat-gender out there, that we can each “do” better or worse. Rather, all those identities come into being, and evolve, and exist, through our doing them.

Sitting there at the wedding, the only female-bodied person in male attire, I thought to myself, I’m not imitating a thing called “man”. All of us here, any of us doing any kind of masculinity, are constantly present at its creation. We’re all a little bit in drag, and mostly not, because mostly we’re just doing us, as best we can, whatever the circumstances that might have made us the varied ways we are.

Well, it made me feel better, anyway. That, and the fact that the slightly-queer-looking caterer-woman gave me a very nice smile. That was good, too.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

names & no name

Have you helped Jess decide on hir new name yet? Well, go on, and then come back here.

I admire Jess’s decision: it takes a lot of courage and certainty to choose a new name. Me, I’m in name limbo here. My real name is ok. It’s not one of the super-feminine female names, though it’s also unambiguously a girl’s name. Sort of like the gray wool skirt of names. My middle name is in the same general category. Nothing wrong with either of them, but I’ve never really identified with them, either. When someone says my real name, oftentimes, a ghostly image seems to appear next to me: the girl I think they’re imagining, the girl I thought I was supposed to be, the girl I’m definitely not. It’s a strange, disembodied feeling, and I admit I prefer it when people don’t use my name at all.

I read an old interview with k.d. lang (shocking, I know) where she talks about the song on IngĂ©nue with the line “Where is your head, Kathryn?” For the less k.d.-obsessed, her full name is Kathryn Dawn Lang. The interviewer suggested that the line was especially personal since that was probably how she thought of herself in her own mind. k.d. laughed and replied that it was more the sound of her mother reprimanding her. She didn’t say what she calls herself inside her own head.

I don’t call myself anything, generally, or at least nothing like a name. In my own internal consciousness I’m nameless, which seems just fine to me, though I admit it could suggest some existential question.

But despite my lack of identification with my proper name, I’ve never sustained a nickname, either. In daily life T. calls me ‘sweetie’ or ‘baby’. Adorable, but not how I want to introduce myself. I’ve grown really fond of this “Leo MacCool” self, but I don’t think I want hir to leave the confines of cyberspace. Recently I’ve been trying out another nickname, derived from my last name, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit, either.

I tried this meme but the results ranged from silly to bad. Some highlights:
Your rock star name (first pet, current car): Casey Honda (um, no. Not even remotely rock star.)
Your gangsta name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Chocolate Doc Martens (tasty lesbian treat!)
Your Native American name (favorite color, favorite animal): Blue Sheep (sheep dip gone wrong?)
Superhero name (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Beer (ewww)
Dancer name (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Soap Bounty (oh yeah, I think we have a winner... not. Bounty Bars are the British version of Mounds, coconut covered in chocolate. So good.)
TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Kovaliv Kalamazoo (my personal favorite. What’s not to love?)
Spy name (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Spring Sunflowers (I. Don’t. Think. So. Seriously, if I were a spy, I’d really, really hope for something a little darker and edgier than this.)
Cartoon name:(favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Peach Boxers (awww)

So... do you identify with your name? How did you get a nickname that felt right? And how did you know it felt right? Any tips or thoughts or suggestions?

Until next time, I’m ... Soap Bounty.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

my girl is tough

I'm so glad Hurricane Gustav seems not to have a repeat of the disasters of a few years ago.

Like everywhere else, I guess, this hurricane spawned talk, at my house, of hurricanes past. Our stories aren't too impressive; forgive us, we're from the North.

Then T. said, dead serious, "I was in a Category 2 hurricance once. It wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. We lost thirteen trees. But they were weaklings."

She slays me.