The Feminist Gadfly

Discussing the problems of feminist identification in the context of gender egalitarianism

Category: Gay rights

Open Letter to Paul Ryan

by EddyNorthwind

[Content Note: Paul Ryan, dehumanizing language, mention of Hell]

Dear Rep. Paul Ryan,

I was going to say that you’re a sack of shit, but then I realized that that was unfair to shit. Shit makes decent fertilizer. You are the chemical waste that set fire to the Cuyahoga; you are the plastic island in the pacific; you are the bully, the bullet, the overdose, and the razor blade; you are everything that is wrong with this world and none of what is right.

In the likely event that you are unaware of which of your many utterly inhuman actions triggered this rant, I’m referring to your recent speech in Cincinnati in which you implied that I, along with ~54% of the country, are not human. In your words, “The things you talk about like traditional marriage and family and entrepreneurship — these aren’t values that are indicative to any one person or creed or color. These are American values, these are universal human values.”

Mr. Ryan, I am both human and an American. I do not share your value of “traditional marriage.” In fact, I find it utterly contemptible. That you would presume to speak for god and seek to use this presumption to deny millions of people their most basic human rights tells me that you are far beyond just unfit for public office. Your narcissism, chauvinism, and hatred are dangerous, and people are right to fear a government with you at the top.

Mr. Ryan, when you get to hell, take solace in the fact that your path there was both narrow and straight¹.

No love,
Eddy

¹ Stolen from Guante’s poem “Neutral

So It Turns Out I’m Not Straight

by EddyNorthwind

My name is Eddy, and I am…well, that’s the issue.

When I hit puberty and was suddenly feeling all sorts of strange feelings in my pants, my parents gave me a book about the birds and the bees which, relative to what some of my peers were getting, was pretty damn progressive. It didn’t give instructions for condoms, but it at least told me that they existed. It hit important topics like the subjectivity of cultural notions of attractiveness — complete with pictures of male and female paragons of beauty from different cultures. It even mentioned homosexuality, something that, comparing notes with my peers who had received similar talks or books, was not touched on by most parents in my social group.

The problem: the book tried it’s damnedest to remain “neutral” about homosexuality. With great quotes like “some religions believe that homosexuality is a sin. Others believe it is perfectly natural and no better or worse than heterosexuality. If you think you might be homosexual, talk to your parents and religious leaders for guidance” (paraphrased), the book did an excellent job of pleasing precisely nobody, liberal or conservative, to the extent that I seriously wonder how my parents found it.

One of the “neutral” positions taken would have a pretty large effect on my life. “Many boys and girls in adolescence experience same sex attraction, but later go on to be heterosexual. Sexual attraction may not be ‘fixed’ until adulthood, so don’t worry too much if you do experience homosexual attraction and don’t want to. It may be just a phase” (Again paraphrased). It seemed possible, and I had no reason to doubt it, so I took it for truth. Then the attractions came.

Going through puberty, there was never any doubt that I liked girls. Less clear was how I felt about guys. Periodically, I’d look at a guy and think, “Damn.” Thing is, it never happened so often that I was unable to write it off as “I just wish I could be him” or “it’s just a phase”. Homophobia was a very real thing in my community, and I had internalized some of it. A combination of that prejudice and fear of becoming an outcast pushed me to convince myself that I wasn’t attracted to men — I just thought some were pretty.

That self-deception held pretty strongly until I went off to college and was suddenly free from home’s shackles. At this point, I had befriended enough queer folk that the internalized homophobia was long gone, washed away by positive experiences with members of the feared group. There was, though, still a very real fear of being rejected by my family and peers if I were to come out as more than just an ally. There also weren’t that many hot guys around — I tend to go for guys with beards, something rare in my high school and delightfully common in college.

Things started off pretty slow and alcohol-induced. I’d drunkenly cuddle with another man, I’d look at a guy after a couple drinks and think a little more than “I wish I looked like that”, or some assdrip at a party would not-quite-enough-to-call-campus-police-but-definitely-lacking-enthusiastic-consent kiss me, and I would think about how I would’ve responded had he just fucking asked to avoid thinking about what had actually happened. Then, midway through last year, I sent the following text to AJ, in my typical can’t-walk-straight-but-dammit-I-can-spell style:

“Remind me in the morning that if I kinda sorta like guys while drunk, I probably kinda sorta like guys while sober.”

Amazingly, I ended up not needing reminding, but AJ obliged anyways. Then came the identity issue.

Straight was out — I knew I was way too into dudes for that. But bisexual didn’t seem quite right, either. I definitely have a preference: I find a little over half of the women I meet physically attractive, but only about one in ten guys. I also don’t like anal with either gender, which seemed to lessen credibility the homosexual attraction. I felt like, if I called myself bi, that would be cheapening the label for people who are “more bi” than I am, as silly as that sounds.

So I like men, just not as much as women. AJ, in his pedantry, thinks that I should just call myself bi and explain the specifics only when asked. And, after writing this out, I’m inclined to agree with him. I like both men and women. If that isn’t the definition of bisexuality, then what is?

~Eddy

In Defense of “Born This Way”: A Response

by EddyNorthwind

As some of you have no doubt noticed, AJ recently posted a rant about the phrase “born this way” and its kyriarchal implications.

I agree completely that the phrase is problematic and, in an ideal world, would not need to be used. Where I disagree, however, is in AJ’s assessment that now is the time to stop using it.

Because, to be blunt, his opinion reeks of the privilege of someone who has never had to live in an area where homophobia is rampant.

I wish I could, as AJ does, just say “fuck those people!” and ride off into the sunset. “Those people”, however, are not just some abstract concept, encountered only when they show up with bibles and ridiculous protest signs. “Those people” are my high school teachers and classmates, my neighbors, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and, until very recently, my father. “Those people” are the reason I spent six years convincing myself that I had no attraction to men whatsoever, and those people are the reason I am currently absolutely terrified to act on that attraction. “Those people” are also my support structure and, as wrong as they are, they’re all I have.

The rhetoric of “born this way” convinced my father to switch his position from “I will disown any gay sons” to “I don’t understand it at all, and I’m not comfortable with it, but you guys are my kids and I will love you no matter what.” Without that shift, the thought of coming out to my parents would not have crossed my mind as an option.

The rhetoric of “born this way”, argued brilliantly by my class’ out-and-proud assistant principal, convinced my high school administration to allow the formation of a gay-straight alliance, which has since provided a safe space for four classes of LGBTIQ teens.

As problematic as it is, “born this way” has lead to a marked improvement in my own life and in the lives of countless others. It works. We know it works, because public opinion on gay rights is shifting in our favor and has been for some time. The fact that we ought not need to apologize for our attractions is something to worry about after existential concerns like bullying and child abuse are gone. Internalized prejudices rarely die before their hosts, but we can at the very least convince homophobes that we cannot just be prayed away. I’ll take tolerance now over compassion and understanding in some far-off, indeterminate future.

~Eddy

Disclaimer: I’m a 2 on the Kinsey scale who still hasn’t decided whether to identify as bi or “heteroflexible”. (Gods, I hate that word, but it’s useful.) My romantic options are not significantly hampered by only dating women. I have the ability to remain closeted to my family without much effort, something I am acutely aware that not everybody gets to do. I also do not have the privilege of being from a community that is at all accepting of homosexuality, though, and I still have some lingering doubt about my father, so please consider my decision to remain closeted thus far in it’s full context.

A Rant

by aronjerrison

Every time that I try to write a post, I get stuck with the same problem. Of all the things that are making me angry right now, what ought I write about?

Well, today at least, I’m going to be writing about something with which Eddy will disagree, strenuously.

With the recent Chick-fil-A controversy and the resurgence of BSA problems, queer rights have been at the forefront of my mind lately. In particular, a piece of rhetoric that nearly all of us use when trying to convince homophobes to be tolerant. I am speaking, of course, about being “born this way.”

I am not attempting to present an argument about the origins of homosexuality. I just think that queer folk, myself included, have a hard enough time. Why would we want to de-legitimise our own sexualities?

Every time that someone says “Don’t hate gay people, they can’t control to whom they are attracted.”, they are implying that, were sexuality a choice, homosexuality would be the wrong one.

How can we stand for this?!*

Eddy has claimed, and most likely will claim again, that rhetoric like this is important because it can help sway people who can’t accept the validity of homosexuality.

My response is always the same. “Fuck those people!”

I want the right to marry whomsoever I chose. I want the right to adopt without facing discrimination. I don’t want to have to worry about my sexuality being a barrier to employment.

I also don’t want to degrade myself by dismissing my sexuality as an unfortunate circumstance of birth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me, nor, indeed, with anyone else who doesn’t conform the heteronormative paradigm. If someone finds his/her/hirself to be unable to accept that, I will not condescend to meet them half way.

Homophobes are beneath my contempt.

-AJ

*It’s at times like this that I wish I had an interrobang on my keyboard.