Making Our Bodies Matter

A friend and I started talking about communities, alliances and feminism(s) a few months ago — this conversation is a brief culmination of our identities and ideologies.

Me: Writing about bodies isn’t too difficult for me, that was until I realised “writing about bodies” meant writing of bodies other than mine, or even if I were to write about myself, the language automatically becomes clinical, my gaze objective and the talk goes to whatever is ailing me — it’s never about how I feel about my body, my relationship with my scars or what I see when I look in the mirror. As I am now living in a new city and adjusting to the weather patterns here, I have to take more care of my skin here than in I did in Mumbai, I have to leave myself notes to apply [x] cream before my heels crack and bleed — it’s such a jarring experience to see that my body has carried on without me (in a sense), has already started cracking, started healing in some parts while I have gone on and done something else. It all came to a head when I was thinking of Suheir Hammad‘s words — when she says “What am I saying when I say I sit in this body, dream in this body, expel in this body, inherit in this body” — where she posits the body as a start to all experiences, and here I was forgetting to take care of my body altogether, even in the most routine and seemingly trivial ways. I’ve often complained to friends that I feel ‘bound’ in this city — as public transport systems are irregular and auto rickshaws are a luxury I cannot always afford — so most of my ‘movement’ is between my apartment, the massive Uni campus and its libraries. Now that I re-think what I mean when I say ‘bound’, I mean more than just physical limits to where I can go or am kept from, I find limits in my syllables and expressions — precisely because my body feels those limits more intimately and primarily, as if my body translates these borders in the silences that creep up everywhere, from my thoughts to my academic writing. It’s only when I completely stopped producing words and syllables a week ago, went for a three-hour long walk, felt my words come back to me as I described to my guardian just why were my heels bleeding this time I realised how closely my body felt limited here*

*This isn’t to say there weren’t other barriers in Mumbai, just that navigating these particular changes is an entirely new experience for me.

Renee: It’s equally jarring to see your body stopped in time, unable to keep up with you, and trying to formulate contingencies for when it starts to slide backwards in time. This has been my experience since losing my job just more than a year ago.

My teeth hurt all the time now; one has eroded almost to the gum line, and I touch them constantly with my tongue and my fingers to make sure none are loose. I waited out a UTI two months ago, but an ear infection still lingers (and makes my teeth ache even more). There is no money for a doctor or dentist to attend to current ills, never mind the dreams I once had for my body. Most upsetting, when my current stash of hormone pills runs out, in perhaps a month or so, I may not be able to afford more, and at that point the person I know as me officially begins to disintegrate. I never really knew myself before starting hormones, and the threat of losing that is terrifying beyond what I can describe. Already I find myself glancing in the mirror more often, touching my face, to make sure I still exist.

But it’s not just the physical degradation I feel. For now, I’m staying in a friend’s spare room, sleeping upon a mattress on the floor, with all my worldly possessions piled in boxes around me. My days are lived largely in the space between my bed and the downstairs basement, where the household television is. I have few reasons to go anywhere else, and fewer resources to do so. I wear the same clothes most days, because to do anything else means doing more laundry, which inevitably costs someone money, even if that someone isn’t me. I don’t shower every day, or moisturize, or shave, or wear makeup, because all of those things are an expense too…and so again my body suffers.

It’s apropos that my body gets neglected first and most, as it’s the rejection of my body by others that led me here. Slowly it decays, out of sight and forgotten.

(more…)

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The Landscape Ahead: Who Will Identify The Individual?

Identity—the very essence of who we are and how we interact with others—is in the middle of a period of extraordinary tumult. The Internet and a host of new communications technologies have transformed the concept of identity and redefined our relationships to businesses, governments and constantly churning networks of friends and peers.

Growing numbers of digital natives now define themselves by their Web presence as well as their real-world presence. Indeed, they move seamlessly from their online to offline lives, and they expect to assert who they are on their own terms.

Call it the audacity of self-identity. I am whatever I say I am.

J.D. Lasica, Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing (emphasis mine)

There are several types of identity by which we all are known.  The two identity types that most people are familiar with are:

Self Identity – the way one person is defined by one’s self.  It is the act of a person telling a group – “This is who I am”.

Group Identity – the way one person is defined by a group of people.  It is the act of a group telling a person: “This is who you are”.

Most of us employ a mixture of group identity terms as self-identity.  We use language, which we did not invent, to describe who we are.  Often, we did not even choose the words we use (i.e. fat, skinny, smart, gay, man, woman, tall…and so on).  Labels, judgments, names, terms – all consisting of language.

It is society, in this model, that decides how ‘best’ or fully to recognize someone and define them.  What are a person’s rights?  Society will decide.  What is good behavior in personal appearance, sexual preference, gender assignation?  Society will decide.  Who is good-looking?  Society will decide.  Basically, when the question is ‘how am I to be identified or valued?’ Society will decide.

Regarding labels, let me briefly touch on some reasons why they are unreliable, right out of the gate:

Language is a metaphor. The words we speak and print are substitutes for things that we use to communicate.  The words ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ are not people.  Each of us is our own self, made up of different atomic mass, independently operating, existing and thinking.  We don’t even look or sound the same from one person to the next, based on differing values and sensory perceptions.  ‘Gay’ or ‘straight’ mean different things to different people and they mean different things simply if the label is applied after or before two people meet for the first time.

Perceptions vary. What looks blue to me can look violet to the next person.  I can look at a 30-year-old person and see someone young.  My daughter can look at the same person and see someone that is ‘very old’.

My working theory is that labels are most effective when a person uses them to describe one’s self.  They are much less accurate when someone is labeling another person.

None of this is new or revolutionary, but it’s important to bear in mind for this conversation.

The dynamic between self-identity and group identity is mirrored in the competition between self-determination and herd/mob behavior.  This struggle has been in the mainstream conversation for over 200 years, because it played out in the struggle for democracty and liberty in the United States.

The evolution of ‘the rights of the individual’ is interesting because the topic is framed within a context that rights are granted by government, society, the group.  The Declaration of Independence opened the door a crack with the following language:

all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This document is essentially a list of ways that the group (US Government) will recognize people.  The Bill of Rights, furthers this assertion of primacy in the description of individuals.  People exist as rights, because the document (as proxy for the group) says so.  Also, the document states the manner in which people will be recognized, not just who but what.

For its time, the documents above were revolutionary.  Everyone’s frame of mind was in the collective…parish, village, family, clan, tribe, kingdom and so on.  They took group definitions ‘out onto the skinny branches’ where they were dangerously close to being more about the individual than the group – by asserting that in some ways the group must recognize the individual.

From there, the definition of the individual has been tested, refined and broadened to extend these rights to include blacks, indigenous peoples, women and children.  As grew the rights of the individual, so grew the expectation of autonomy from one group of individuals to the next.

Looking back, I think that the biggest crack in the herd model was the First Ammendment.  Free speech, freedom of assembly basically left open the barn door, eventually allowing the herd to roam free.  There have been attempts to slow the exodus by trickery and fear-mongering, with lines drawn in the sand even now, on issues like gay marriage, gender rights and more.

A common thread persisted however, that when these individuals spoke up for and demanded their rights – it was over the larger group’s objections and with their permission or decree that rights were granted.  The framework of the group granting the individual a definition of rights persisted.  It was still about smaller groups fighting to have rights as individuals.

Over time, the framework for the conversation shifted.  The model for a group demanding the rights of its individuals had been established as precedent.  Namely, that individuals could wrest power from the mob.  Eventually, people began to ask other questions, changing the context:

What other rights do we have?

What rights to I have?

Why am I asking for my rights from the group?

The cat is out of the bag.  Not only are people asking these questions, but we are coming up with answers.  Free speech gave power to the individual.

The Herd or the Individual?

The herd-mind is everyone working for the group.

The hive-mind or herd-mind can be inefficient, dishonest and manipulative. The herd-mind behavior is assumed to be a coordinate effort by many to achieve a common goal.  Even if the coordination is merely a reliance on tradition and allegedly proven ways of success and the common good. The messaging of herd-mind labels and definitions of who people are and what they should be doing, comes from religion, government, advertising, entertainment and corporate culture settings.  Dress this way, speak this way, think this way…and so on.

It is in reality, many people operating for the benefit of a few or for no coordinated reason.  Whereas most people in the herd are working, making money, spending money, paying taxes and going along with things because it is a past-looking view.  A patriarchal view of the idealized family structure imprinted upon the society at large.  It is also a convenient responsibility dodge for the timid masses.  As if people become clones of Sgt. Schultz “I see nothing!” becomes the mantra.

It is the status quo.

The individual mind is one person working for their own benefit.

The examples of selfish individuals, concerned only with themselves and their own successes are in everyone’s life.  That is the unhealthy version.  The image of a balance individual is not one propagated through history.  In élite circles, certainly these minds exist, but as ‘shakers & movers’ and ‘captains of industry’.  For a very select few, the whole slate of freedom and individuality have always been available.

The model of an individual naming one’s own self in one’s own terms is not a common one – until now.  What has been needed is for individuals to stop defining themselves on the group’s terms.

Neither a society of only individuals or only the group can be viable..  There needs to exist a middle ground, where the health of the group and the individual are both supported.  Throughout history, the balance of power was tilted toward the group.  With overpopulation, starvation, disease bearing down on us, we will either choose now to find that balance or soon find ourselves without a say in the matter, as military dictatorships place us all under their thumbs ‘for our own good’, using the urgency of the world crises as justifications for their draconian dictatorships (see Bush/Cheney right after 9/11).  We can look in our past and our present for some likely examples: Somalia, Ethiopia, India, Burma, China, Darfur…and that shameful list goes on.

Our societies are in crisis and status quo political and religious organizations propose that we eschew science for religion, and reject birth control for rampant breeding.  Both strategies good only for swelling the ranks of poverty.

Signs of change and a way forward.

Social media is a playground for creating new identities on the fly.  People are practicing the craft, the thought process, the experience, the creativity and the rewards of creating themselves in their own image – for their own reasons.  Web presences in various formats abound with new ones being created daily, from pictures, email addresses, names, avatars, moving characters, sounds and operational / functional creations each serving as a new identity.

Here in the phyisical plane, we are seeing an explosion of ways that people identify themselves in their own terms and for their own reasons.  In terms of sex, gender, body – definitions that have been taboo or criminal for centuries are now simply someone’s way of saying ‘this is me’.  Which, is what they always have been.

Conversations in the lives of trans gender people are among the most rich and fertile examples of the choices and fluidity of self-identity.

Sex-positive groups, blogs and other social meeting points are a place for individuals to practice this new craft of individuals existing in their own terms as a healthy group that can sustain itself and its members.  It is a very exciting time that we live in.  We are watching the birth of a society built upon the strength of individual identity.

This is a weekly post by Arvan. Remember the Open Guest Posting Policy? It still works!

Slipping Out Of Gendered Spaces

Earlier this week I was discussing Wuthering Heights with my class of 11th graders. We were talking about how demarcations, borders and outlines of the Body are continuously challenged in the text, in such a way that the Body becomes a hybrid of human and beast. At one point Catherine exclaims, “Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He is always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being”, here the Body possesses masculine and feminine spaces simultaneously, which by extension ‘queers’ love, as well as allows the Body to dislocate itself from chronic heteronormativity. I was about to explain how the text polices this ‘abnormal’ body when one student asked me to stop. He couldn’t reconcile the idea that a woman’s body can embody and imprint from her lover’s body and identity. He didn’t like that she remained autonomous of her identity while slipping into Heathcliff’s body (figuratively speaking) at will. The way he put it, “Why isn’t she happy with the space she’s given?”. As trans-phobic his statement was, I could understand where it stemmed from. Even when all I wanted to do was stop the class right there and start discussing transphobia, probably also whack him on the head¹ with Gender Trouble till he saw how pungent his assumption was and all I could do was try to not start ranting and fuming, I could see why he thought this way. As a culture, we’re told to see transsexuals and intersex people as the Other, we’re encouraged when we participate in erasing people who identify as trans; so my student’s reaction was hardly out of the ordinary. What stuck with me is how ‘natural’ it was for my student to say what he said, without even pausing to consider that androgyny or ‘gender bending’ may go beyond people who are ‘born that way’.

I don’t really remember how I finished the class, I do remember mulling over what my student said even as I was waiting on the platform for my train to come. Before I knew it, I’m standing in front of the ‘Ladies Compartment’ marked with blue stripes and for a second I couldn’t move.  We gender our spaces wherever and whenever possible, and this differently ‘marked’ compartment proved just that. The reason behind keeping separate train compartments for Ladies and Dudes is to keep groping and sexual harassment to the minimum — by employing the Cure The Disease And Spare The Symptom Method — but the boundaries are clear. If I look like a Lady, I must travel in the space alloted to me or I shouldn’t complain when I get assaulted when I travel by the ‘general’ compartment; questions whether I identify as a Lady are quite easily ignored. At social gatherings and dinner parties, somehow unanimously women use separate rooms or tables, where even the talk is gendered. The Dudes sit sipping alcohol and talking of ‘dudely’ things finance, architecture, politics — I don’t even know what else as I’m generally in the opposite section — whereas Ladies talk about children, husbands, cooking, chores and ungrateful relatives. As a child I used to think that men must speak a different language altogether as they seldom talked to girls or women. This isn’t to say the two genders never interact socially — we’re one of the biggest populations on the planet, so some social intercourse is happening somewhere — but that in the presence of these different spaces, we don’t step out of our boundaries. I am often uncomfortable in such gendered tables or rooms as the manufactured differences always get to me; not because I’m uneasy in my prescribed gender but because there is no scope for me to transgress if I ever wanted to. Media and social traditions foster the idea that a person who identifies as queer or trans is a laughing-stock. In fact most encounters with hijras leave people giggling, because opinions like “can you imagine being a man down there! It’s so sad and funny!” are too commonplace. In fact, “Bobby Darling” is used as a slur to discourage boys from showing their effeminacy, effectively silencing the woman behind this slur as a body who independently chose her trans identity.

Under feminist discourse, the Body is a site of production and consumption of knowledge, power and desire; but the question that concerns us today is which Body is allowed this power. As Butler beautifully points out in Bodies That Matter, often there is a selective politics involved in normalising cis, White and thin bodies over any other Body. Which is precisely why trans and intersex bodies are seen as strangely asexual or overtly promiscuous — pick one according to the ruling party’s policy as well as your mood! — the goal is to render them ‘alien’, Other, ‘different’, to ‘expose their limitations’. This way, passing invasive laws, abusing trans people, trafficking trans bodies becomes quite easy. Earlier this month the Indian government passed a bill that offers hijras a monthly pension as a way of ‘helping’ them, since “most eunuchs live in misery” as Jagdish Mamgain of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is quoted by the Belfast Telegraph as saying. While there is no denying that most hijras and trans people of other lesser known communities do live in abject poverty, that they are often discriminated against because of their ‘ill-fitting body’ or that they belong to an ‘inferior caste’, I don’t see how this bill is any way beneficial to them. My problem with this bill doesn’t lie in the idea that ‘those filthy hijras get money for being deformed!’ like many right-winged arseholes do, but rather how even here the trans body is under scrutiny and policing. According to this bill, “a eunuch must submit a medical certificate from a government hospital as proof of no longer having male genitalia, as well as an affidavit proclaiming they are not married and proof of age” to qualify for this meager pension. So hijras whose male appendages have been forcibly castrated — to keep the fine tradition of the hijra community alive — in other words, people who identify as transwomen are allowed this pension. What about transmen? Or people who aren’t born intersex, but choose to transition or identify as trans? Apparently, their bodies don’t matter under the Law’s consideration. We’re again ensnared into normalising and preferring one type of trans body over another.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of such a law or any gendered space is how any category — hijra, woman, man — are placed in a metonymic process where people who fall under specified categories — transwomen, heterosexual woman and man — become interchangeable till the point that any individual who deviates from this norm is punished and coloured invisible. While I am indeed happy for people who will benefit from this bill I can’t ignore the Othered Bodies, left to be oppressed and disposed as the stronger hegemonic narrative wills them to be. And out from these policed and controlled laws comes yet another gendered space where the Body is yet again sculpted, chained and punished till it mutates to socially sanctioned norms while the metaphorical body within it is long dead.

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1. Not really, as I oppose any kind of violence — especially the violent kind — but I did get furious for a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Disease Of Being Universal

This week, as India deals with the after-effects of Obama’s visit,  where we dissect every word he said, try to re-read into the words he didn’t say, search for any snippets of news that would piece the puzzle to just what did the President really want to convey, we somehow conspicuously forget to think about the organised deaths in the Kashmir Valley. This is an old strategy employed by Indian politicians and policy-makers, to completely dodge the issue and hope the problem — this can mean anything: the poor, the huge population, silly Ladies asking for rights, take your pick according to your mood! — will just dissolve away as we busy ourselves with four more years of systematic oligarchy. Every single newspaper since the past three weeks have been talking about the President’s impending visit to India, covered every second of his visit and now are doing soul-deep articles on the clothes the First Couple wore and other extremely relevant topics while the account of four Dalit women who were raped yesterday just outside of Mumbai for pressing charges against army officials for previous episodes of unwarranted assault and violence are somehow unwritten about.

This morning as I seethed in fury at the sheer injustice of it all, another post about the Obama visit shines at me from its spot on the newspaper. I can re-hear the words, “I am so happy, that India has now left behind the rank of being a Third World Country” that had almost become the national rhetoric last week; only this time the question “At whose cost?” is glowing just beneath it and refuses to go away unanswered. Many history lessons from my school days come to mind where I’d read India’s name in the list of ‘backward’ nations and shuffle around it, swirling the words in my mouth, imagining what ‘forward’ must look like then. And today, it seems that ‘forward’ is here; I’d always thought this day would somehow magically manifest itself over the calendar, be celebrated and leave a mark. Little did I know, this very mark will never come off of my skin, no matter how hard I try to scrape it off. I can’t seem to understand our dedication to the words “global village” or “solidarity” especially since they’ve started to look more dangerous than ever to me, considering our fetish with borders and chalk lines; between nations and states, added to our affinity with using the many perks of ‘democracy’ — military authoritarianism of course! — or any other ‘freedoms’ can afford us. In some part of my LadyBrain I can for a few moments understand why would being ‘Universal’ appeal to us, for who wouldn’t want to UnWrite the narrative of the Empire, People Of The Olde Interwebes? I won’t lie, being the Inscriber has held its charm for me; I have dreamt many times how would possessing and prodding spaces feel like, instead of just ‘occupying them’. But when reality sinks in, too many discrepancies between the dream and the lived reality become painfully visible.

The newspaper is still open, screaming the words ‘global economy’, ‘freer economic policies’, ‘exchange of privilege’ and I can’t help but laugh. We’re a country that is constructed by the Center to delight, to serve and to offer free culture to exoticise and to make Other. We thrive on selling decoded culture to anyone who wants to buy it, to being one of the major supplier of agency-less DustyBodies so that the status quo of the superior races does not shift; and in this process we’ve internalised the belief that being universal is the only way to progress, that when we leave the stench of our Third World Bodies behind can we don our shiny new skins of Being Them, which almost always is white. Being a universal MudSquatter is a very peculiar position to be in, trapped in two worlds of appropriation and tokenism. A few weeks ago, a theorist I met told me my poems need to be ‘less gendered’ and ‘more universal’ if I want to see them published in any International Anthology. As I was leaving, he reminded me to not completely erase the “gender aspect” or even the “Indian flavour” because then the reader would be disappointed to not find the Image Of The Indian Woman zie had in mind. I laughed it off then, internally vowing to never set eye on this DoucheColonial theorist ever again, only today I can see the meaning of his words, maybe not the way he intended them though.

When my fellow feminists and I were discussing the Radical Movement of the 80’s in India for a panel discussion a while back,  how flawed the movement was and specifically how it condoned mass-erasure of people who wouldn’t fit the prescription of being affluent, educated and upper-caste, somehow the talk shifts to devdasis and hijras. Devdasis are a specific caste of temple-dancers theoretically speaking,  but in reality they are prostitutes, available for the consumption of Brahmins and other caste-privileged dudes and hijras are India’s equivalent of intersex and/or transsexuals, again the dynamics of caste, class and community intersect, localising the phenomenon to specifics of our Culture. One feminist suggested that they way to ‘deal’ with Devdasis is to just categorise them as ‘prostitutes’ and then just work towards legalising prostitution. While I wholeheartedly am in favour of legalising prostitution — what part of giving agency back to DustyLadies doesn’t sound fun to you? — the ‘blemish’ of caste cannot be erased that easily, we need a solution that goes beyond just legalisation. Practices of Devdasi’s vary from state to state and are further fissured by more caste demarcations, where a few communities practice it for economic reasons and aren’t necessarily bound to prostitution by birth as other communities are. When these specific communities are bound to prostitution by birth — as the women who are born into the caste that worships Yellama are — the problem goes more than just skin deep, here women aren’t allowed to have a choice of other than selling their bodies, to keep the ‘tradition’ going. Applying the Universal answer here isn’t enough, I said it then and I’ll still repeat it. The same goes for the ‘treatment’ of Hijras, as out here, trans-sexuality isn’t a choice or an organic biological need or any other reason that works with agency. Here Hijras are interwoven with specific communities, classes and castes, to the extent that sometimes little boys are kidnapped and made trans-sexual; or they have to be born inter-sexed and the family abandons the baby for some reason only to be adopted by the Hijra community of that region. Universal narratives of transgender , trans-sexual and inter-sex cannot be blindly applied here. Again, Universalism reared its ugly head again as one activist suggested a Pride March “just like the one they have in D.C” when what we need are more obtuse measures of having the Hijras integrated in society like allowing them to reside in commercial housing areas rather than communes in the outskirts of the city and so on.

My first foray into Dalit feminism was two years ago and one day I excitedly compared it to Black Feminism, as both are oppressed because of their gender and race/caste for a paper. Recently, poring over my journals from that year, I was enraged at the 18 year-old me for erasing each culture and forgetting their specific conflicts and expressions, for letting the ‘Global’ or the more cannonised view step into the ‘Local’, in effect blunting each movement. What I cannot rub away is how overwhelmingly easy it is to be Universal, to allow the Bigger Narrative wash over you. What disturbs me today is how responsibility is squared on POC’s shoulders to keep up with the Global norm though the invasion by this very Global norm comes through Colonial channels and dialogues, how we have to go ‘Glocal’ while the Bigger Empire remains intact. We have to start cherishing hybridity, plurality and differences before the Disease Of Being Universal swallows us whole.

Advocating Choice in Sex, Gender & Body Identity

Jaded16’s Note: A strange trend has developed these days. MenPeople are making sense! On a number of issues! Rather regularly. Here is Arvan of SexGenderBody with another post! That makes sense!

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I like choice.  I believe in choice.  I think about choice as the exercise of one’s own mind and as fulfillment of any rights granted by a society.

My personal experience of rights is that they do not exist outside of the agreements that combine to create and define a society.  I won’t venture into the unprovable belief that rights are given by god.  For this conversation, I am talking about the rights granted by the social contract(s) we agree to follow as a group for the benefit if the group and by extension – ourselves.  In that context, rights are an agreement to what we can and cannot do, as individuals or groups within the society at-large.

As individuals, we demonstrate the reasons for our rights.  In fact, so many conversations demand that we prove why we have rights.  The rights of the privileged exist and everyone else is seemingly forced to fight for theirs – one painful step at a time.

When it comes to choice, our human cultures and societies seem to be giving a lot of preference to reasons over choice.  Take for example, identifying ones self as gay or trans.  There are plenty of conversations about how we don’t have a choice in being gay or trans.  Many good minds have found physical evidence that we were born that way.  Some people know at an early age that their gender, sex or body identity does not align with the hetero gender binary definition.  They are born thinking and feeling that way.  I absolutely believe that.  (I don’t know the science in detail, but it seems pretty sound to me.  However, I am in NO WAY even beginning to question this information, which I happen to believe is true.)

So many anti-gay arguments claim that the “gay lifestyle” corrupts “normal” people.  The inference is that gay is a choice and a danger all together.   It’s not just about being gay, either.  Trans folk, persons of color, persons living with different bodies and abilities, different gender definitions, different sexual expressions and identities all face demands for justification and acceptance.  A common statement is that people are born this way and that there is a) no choice and b) nothing wrong with it.  For some people, I am 100% positive that we are born with our sexual preference, gender identity and body definitions.  Absolutely positive.  But, what about someone that decides to make a choice without any of that going on?

I am asking why I have to prove that I was born this way, for people to accept me as I identify myself?  For the right to choose the terms of my own identity?

I have heard many derisive comments leveled at “pretend lesbians” or “fashionably gay” people as well as declarations of why someone is not really bisexual because…?

It seems to me that the idea of choosing for personal reasons that have meaning only to the individual – are challenged, ignored or devalued by well…just about every element of society.  The status quo, the smaller groups fighting for their group identity and a whole lot of the rest of us.

I don’t need a reason to be gay or straight or bi or trans or abled or equal.  If I choose to identify as gay or bi or trans, do I need to prove that I was born this way for me to have society’s permission to be identified as I say I am?

So fucking what if I do decide on whim to suck cock or wear a dress?  What if I suspend from hooks in my skin?  What if I cover my body in tattoos?  What if I decide to be referred to as hir for no other reason than it suits me today?  When technology allows in the future, we may be able to change our gender back and forth as we see fit.  (We already do so in virtual spaces like Internet chat rooms and Second Life, etc.) Will we need a reason to do so?  Why?

You can probably tell by now that I don’t think we need a reason for our choice of identity.  Not one bit.

I’ll tell you what I do wonder.  Is this just a product of bully culture, gang fighting and a widespread belief that if we stand up and declare ourselves as individuals on our own terms and with no one else’s permission – then we won’t have a fucking chance of surviving?  How much of our daily language and concepts are built on the idea of group identity?  Do we, as human beings constantly, invisibly and unquestioningly assume that we can only survive under the protection of some group’s agreement?  Is it the only way?

Let’s look at it another way.  Let’s suppose that there exists this strong current of belief inside the social contract of our societies that we have to belong to a group identity and that we all need to have the agreement of others for the group to survive.  Some individual comes up with its own identity definition.  Why worry?  If the group is looking out for itself, that individual will not be able to survive the elements of nature that are external to society.  If this group identity aspect is a means for survival of the group, then the individuals that move out of the group agreement are on their own.  Good luck to ya, etc.

It’s not really a threat.  No real reason to be upset.  But, people to get upset and they are threatened.

What is so threatening about an identity chosen independent of the group and for reasons that have nothing to do with the group?

What is so threatening about choice?

Why are people so quick to argue that we were “born this way”?  Why are groups so quick to accuse others of “lifestyle choice” and to declare it a threat  or ill?

I have my suspicions of course.  I suspect that we don’t examine our language and take these concepts of group identity for granted.  I suspect that people who profit from the patriarchal, militaristic and religious intolerance don’t want to lose their gravy train (and by profit, I mean the hoarding of wealth combined with the harvest of human misery).

So, what do we do about it?  Why am I even bringing this up?  If any of this has merit at all, how can a change be instituted?  It seems that if I start a call to action, I’m still engaging in group identity, group action and group thinking.  So, here’s my plan:

I personally; me; no on else; just me…I want every one of you to know that however you identify yourself, for whatever reason, for no reason…whatever – I accept you on your own terms, in your own words, as you see fit.  You don’t owe me an explanation for anything.  You can come and go as you please, dressed as you like and addressed in whatever pronoun, adverb, punctuation or linguistic construct you choose.  Call yourself whatever you will and that is who you are to me.

Please regard me in the same manner.

P.S. Remember that guest posting policy? Use the link! To make more sense! More than me saying this anyway.


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