The Feminist Gadfly

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

Category: LGBTIQ

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

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I Welcome the Coming Polyamorous Revolution, and You Should Too

by EddyNorthwind

[Content Note: Polyamory, discussion of homophobia and anti-poly sentiment*]

Over on Role / Reboot, an article said something that got me thinking.

My son told me that as much as he enjoyed it, he did not plan to do multiple partner sex again. He thought it was great as an introduction, but now he wanted to go back to a single heterosexual partner. As I audibly sighed with relief, he reminded me gently, “Mom, poly is the new gay.” If I wanted to keep my cred as a liberal parent I would need to accept it. This set me back for a second. I thought about how quick I was to judge other parents who refused to accept their adult children’s homosexual relationships. Poly is the outpost on the sex positive frontier that my children’s generation has reached.

Poly is the new gay. The similarities are definitely real. The Christian Right believes our “lifestyle choices” are abominations, and would rather us not exist. Poly marriage is as illegal as gay marriage, and has even less popular support. We’re both extremely othered by mainstream culture — gays with archetypes like the gay male pedophile or the scary man-hating lesbian, and poly people with images of philandering jerks and religious cults. I can easily imagine the same battles we’re fighting now over gay rights being repeated 50 years down the road over polyamory, with one key difference.

Polyamory actually is a lifestyle choice. And that’s awesome.

We’re making progress on the gay rights frontier, but that progress has mainly come about by changing how society views homosexuality, and not by changing how society views sex. I’m fine with this. All the same, it does leave much to be desired.

While it’s possible that poly rights will follow a similar route — normalizing polyamory rather than promoting sex positivity, that seems unlikely to me. There is no “born this way” for polyamory; it’s a choice. To win this one, we’re going to have to convince people that poly lifestyles are no better or worse than mono lifestyles; it’s simply a matter of preference. To do that, we’re going to have to convince people that sex is fundamentally private and personal, and that good consent, safety, and honesty are the only issues society has any business regulating or stigmatizing.

Read that last sentence again, because those two propositions are the absolute core of sex positivity. If we win poly rights, we win the culture war, at least about sex. There will be no need to worry about de-stigmatizing (safe, consensual) BDSM, because it will fall under the umbrella ideal of “your sex is not my business.”

I want to live in that future, and applaud those who are making it possible. Keep kicking ass.

~Eddy

*After reading AJ’s recent post and a ton of Shakesville, I decided to personally adopt the Shakesville policy of putting content notes on everything instead of trigger warnings on potentially volatile stuff. I haven’t talked to the other Gadflies about this yet, but if you see them doing it it’s because we’ve agreed to all start doing it.

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.