I don’t really want to talk about the Olympics, but I think I need to because I am a squid of rage right now.
I am sick to death of media coverage of t.A.T.u. performing at the Olympics that demeans these two and erases the years of abuse that went into that ‘fake-lesbian’ act. Yeah, I’m looking at you Towleroad and especially you, AfterEllen. I expect as much from mainstream media but queer media, you are on my shit list.
For those who don’t know, t.A.T.u. was a musical duo in the early 2000’s marketed by their creepy manager Ivan Shapavalov (who was pushing 40 at the time) as lesbians. They were scripted by him to say explicit sexual things during interviews. This started when they were 14 years old.
When they came to America, both of their English language skills (especially Julia’s) were very limited. No one is sure if they even knew what they were saying.
This same manager got Julia pregnant at 16 and to keep her performing, forced her into having an abortion. He used sex and drugs to keep them under his thumb until about 2008.
Lena admitted she was straight but a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and Julia came out as bisexual. They both participated in Moscow Pride. Were they a couple ever? No. But one is queer. Regardless of if they were a couple or not, for a generation of lesbian and bisexual women, they could turn on MTV back when it played music videos and see two women saying “I love you” while trying to escape homophobic persecution. That is a narrative we almost never see in mainstream music today, a decade later.
But I don’t see people celebrating t.A.T.u.’s cultural legacy despite being survivors of abuse. I see people enjoying a hit of holier-than-thou and calling them fake-lesbians.
It’s reasonable to ask if t.A.T.u. performing at the Olympics is collaboration or a chance for Russians to see a queer woman and an ally on stage. We can debate if they should have done the gig. We can discuss why several of Julia’s queerer songs have been removed from itunes or how her biography online has repeatedly been edited to remove these facts about her life. We can talk about how their abuse is similar to the high rates of abuse, depression, and suicide for bisexual people (higher than that of gay, lesbian, or straight folks).
But if your response to t.A.T.u. is to be angry at them for imitating or appropriating lesbianism and not to be angry at the way they were abused and manipulated, then you are a terrible fucking person. You’re the one setting queer rights back, not a pair of emotionally, physically, and sexually abused teenage girls.
* Thanks to nooffswitch for helping me fill in some of the dates and details
(This is a submission from a friend.)
Safe spaces, “LGBT” allies, and a trans girl’s anger (or, only trans people can say when a place is a safe space for the T).
My school (a college) recently held a Safe Zone training. Anyone unfamiliar with that, it’s basically a two or three hour long session of training on LGBT stuff so professors and staff can be more educated on it. Now, it’s white gay ciscentric, so most of the trans related stuff is so wrong it’s offensive. (They focus on SAAB and the “born in the wrong body” stuff.)
The goal at the end of the training is that the campus will be a more welcoming and educated place. Now, from the START I didn’t like the idea that a white cis man (gay or not) could educate a room full of other white cis people on trans issues or LGBT POC issues, the rare time where we are brought up, we’re brought up in a light that makes us look extremely homophobic, I have NEVER in my life met a gay man (cis or trans) of color (mainly black) who hated being gay and being associated with LGBT things. But that’s another issue.
White cis man educates room on trans things (not on trans things really, just on 20 year old trans terminology that mostly non-trans people came up with in the first place), and now they’re all “allies”.
I respect my REAL allies. Let me get that straight. But a majority of the “LGBT allies” are allies only to white cis gay and lesbians, don’t even TRY to listen to trans people, and are fetishizing and disrespectful. (Note: I’ve been told by numerous allies to accept my sexual harassment and assaults, even when they happen on the “safe zone” campus.)
Now, why am I angry? I’m angry because I’m ignored. I’m angry because the LGBT group on campus talks more about the non-existent plight of allies than it does what happens to trans people. In fact, in the year and a half I’ve been there, they’ve only ever mentioned trans things once. When the opportunity arises and I bring it up, I would get ignored. If I mentioned my problems to the authority figures that can help me, I get dismissed. Example: I change my name, FA office calls out former name, FA ignores me telling them to stop, FA continues to insult me and put me in danger on the busiest day of the year. I go to the authorities, and they just dismiss me and tell me I should get over it (not their precise words, but that’s what it amounted to). So I swallow my hurt and anger and I deal.
Today, when they’re talking about the Safe Zone training in class, they talk about how the school is a safe place for LGBT students. (I’m sitting there rolling my eyes, because LGBT = gay in this instance.) When the semester started, the student workers in the gym building basically get into it with me about my ID card, they don’t believe it’s mine even though it’s clearly me. They also don’t believe I’m a girl. So they try to get me to go to the men’s locker rooms. I don’t, I go about my business and go to class. I come out of the women’s locker room, and they stare at me REALLY hard. Next class, they put up a sign that says to use the “APPROPRIATE LOCKER ROOMS”, in bold print. (Note: that stupid little Safe Zone triangle is affixed to everything in the building.)
I do what it says and use the appropriate room (the women’s locker room). Since then, I’ve been getting into staring matches with the student workers and they always misgender me. But this college calls itself a safe space and I’m looked at like an angry trans bitch with a chip on her shoulder when I call bullshit.
TL;DR - Safe spaces are only safe for trans people WHEN TRANS PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE. You’re only an “LGBT” ally when ALL OF THE LETTERS IN THAT ACRONYM SAY YOU ARE. And lastly, there is no way in fucking hell that allies have some plight because they’re allies. This trans girl would prefer it if you just said gay ally, because I know that’s what you really mean. Being an ally to me would mean helping me when I’m being harassed, assaulted, or verbally abused. None of which the so-called allies in my school have done.
I hate feeling the anger about it that I do, but I’ve taken so much shit that it would hurt me to just keep taking it.
Also: commenting on my breasts and genitals just screams that you’re a predator. Professors have done that to me and thank fuck none of them teach any class I’m in. I don’t bother complaining about it anymore because apparently that’s a compliment.
In a recent opinion piece titled “All aboard the Trayvon bandwagon,” Washington Blade editor and co-owner Kevin Naff accuses 28 national LGBT groups of hype-riding because they issued an open letter opposing racial profiling and expressing solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family and friends.In Naff’s view, the Trayvon Martin atrocity is simply a consequence of lax gun laws. Race only enters the picture because “ambulance-chasing zealots like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson” have intervened. “Racial tension” over the case is purely the result of “typically lazy and even deliberately inaccurate reporting by the mainstream media” and celebrity tweets. And LGBT organizations should have nothing to say about the systemic and pervasive practice of criminalizing black men and boys because race is just a “distraction that pumps up cable ratings and generates lots of heat, but no light.
I’m going to borrow that last phrase—“generates lots of heat but no light”—and apply it to Naff’s criminally narrow lens. To accuse organizations including the National Center for Transgender Equality, UNID@S, Immigration Equality and the National Black Justice Coalition of “bandwagon posturing” is to assume that the people who make up these organizations have no stake or interest in dismantling systemic racism. Essentially what Naff has done is cast the struggle for LGBT human rights and equality as window dressing for his own demands for white male privilege.Of course we know that to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming person of color is to be—drum roll—a person of color. We know this because prisons and morgues are full of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, their loved ones and their neighbors. They have no choice or desire to atomize their struggles. Naff shouldn’t either.
DEAR LADY A: The people I know who claim they’re bi are attention-seeking and creepy. I honestly think, of the “bisexuals” I know, the guys are just gays who can’t emotionally handle being gay, and the women are trying to keep potential boyfriends interested with the promise of threesomes. Are actual bisexuals even real? If so, where are they hiding?
~~ Real Homo, Skeptical About The B in LGBT
DEAR DOUBTING HOMO: I’m not hiding and I’m bisexual, so your statement is really more about your own mistrust, isn’t it? It is the worst kind of queer self-sabotage to imply that a sexuality simply cannot be, because you can’t personally imagine it. It’s also ironic. Normally, I have a special contempt for assholes who attempt to inform me that my bisexuality is an urban myth promoted by terrified queens or an affectation I employ to impress my boyfriends. But I will try to exercise patience with you. I will even try to see it from your perspective for a moment.
To pretend like some haven’t used bisexuality as a “gateway drug” to gay or a boy-bewitching sexual tactic, would be disingenuous. Yes, there are folks who, for reasons including self-delusion, hipster trend-grubbing, or maybe just an attempt to earn better money at the stripper pole, might be bisexual pretenders. There are also straight pretenders and gay pretenders, but that doesn’t make you any less gay, does it, sir? And those gay pretenders, by the way, are sometimes boys and girls who love both boys and girls, but felt so unfairly judged by members of their own LGBT community that they actually went back into the bi closet by “picking a side.”
But for the most part, people who call themselves bi, flexible, curious or any other similar designation, are telling you the truth. You know how I know? Because it’s hard to be bi. Society immediately thinks the boys are lying and the girls are sluts, they’re queer but they’re not, they’re straight but they’re not, and they are generally just assigned the convenient homo or hetero sexuality that happens to coincide with their most current partner. They’re also some of the least supported queers in terms of organized help and education … And that’s not fun. So they must have a damned good reason (like the fact that they’ve realized they don’t give a fuck what you or society thinks they ought to be) for standing up and saying who they really are. Just like you had a damned good reason for telling the world who you really are, sir.
So, in answer to your question: Yes, bisexuals are real, and yes, they’re sometimes hiding in your ranks, and could possibly be one of your closest friends or lovers. Being fearful of something you don’t understand and can’t control is scary, isn’t it? On the bright side, now you know how homophobes feel.
I’m bi. No lie. Get used to it.
Lady A is a headmistress with an emphasis on head. She may even spank you. But only if you like that kind of thing. She can be found in the Chicago Phoenix, on Facebook, Twitter as well as all the best places to see and be seen (and sometimes even do), in Chicago.
ALL OF THE FUCKING AWARDS
So the dude who runs Queerty decided to declare me a hater and claim he’s justified in using language like “hasbian” and “LUG” and the T-word. For those of you just tuning in, the first two words are biphobic slurs (also panphobic, come to it, as there are pansexuals who could easily be labeled as such) and the last is transphobic.
I am not equating the depth of the terms, mind you. I don’t know of anyone who’s been beaten to death while being called a hasbian, after all. I’m darkly grateful there aren’t high numbers of monosexuals beating down bisexuals for daring to wear overlapping pink and blue triangles in public. It’s probably happened, but nowhere near as often. The discussion started with Queerty using biphobic language and descended more deeply into the Fail Zone from there.
He used the first two to label Gillian Anderson, someone X-Files fandom has long known to be behaviorally bisexual and who recently restated it for the record in more mainstream spaces. I don’t know how she identifies, so I’m not going to assign her one past that. That was tacky and deserving of a nose tweak via Twitter. Then after I delivered same (alongside BisexualFTW), he jumped us for it.
After calling both of us haters, he introduced the T-word as a third item in his “queer vocabulary” into the discussion and said he would not relinquish the words no matter who objected. He claims his usage of these is “abrasive but tenable” and accused us of being the kind who encourages infighting under the LGBT umbrella. Since we weren’t the ones using fighting words, the irony’s pretty high.
Then he capped it. He said I should use my “high horse” and go after black people who use the N-word. My Twitter icon is a cartoon hedgehog from an anime series called Kaitou Saint Tail. I’m also white. I try not to tell black people how to talk. It’s none of my business. But he thought it was somehow applicable. I ignored the derail and blocked him.
Here’s the thing. When you aren’t a member of a subgroup within a larger umbrella, despite the shared issues across those groups, you aren’t allowed to use the words in that free and easy fashion. Blacks and Asians may both be people of color, but an Asian person can’t use the N-word without penalty any more than a black person can use “gook” and get away with it. And as a bisexual, cisgender woman, I wouldn’t use “faggot” without a LOT of context around it. But he’s OK with reminding me my sexual orientation is considered meaningless or non-existent and reminding trans* people that they’re targets.
This is why Queerty’s wrong about biphobic and transphobic language. He’s neither bi nor trans. He’s not allowed to dismiss, belittle, or deride within the gender and sexual minority community when he’s not a member of the sub-community in question. That’s what causes the “infighting.” Abuse of privilege and attacking those who don’t conform within the ranks. And we who defend ourselves and others against that abuse are accused of being the haters in a perfect circle of fail.
And no, I don’t care how “up on queer culture” Queerty may be. He’s broken in this area and refuses to fix it. He’s not up on the culture if he ignores reality in the name of being abrasive. That argument got lobbed at me just as I was completing this post. Seriously, people. Just stop.
Auntie Kate (Bornstein) didn’t quite save my life, but she came damn close. The copy of Hello Cruel World that rests on my bookshelf is heavily dog-eared; I have donated copies to friends and to the UU youth group’s bookshelf.
As you might expect from this introduction, I’m about to criticize her pretty heavily. Over this “guest spot” by her in Dan Savage’s Savage Love. When a man writes in saying that he is straight and an ally, but doesn’t want to date a trans woman and is worried he is transphobic, this is Kate’s response:
“He’s not transphobic—not in my book,” says Kate Bornstein, author, performer, “advocate for teens, freaks, and other outlaws,” and herself a trans woman. “One more thing he’s not is straight. Sex-positive, supportive of trans folk, and heterosexual? Cool! He’s a queer heterosexual—and some of my best friends are queer heterosexuals.”
“A queer heterosexual is just as entitled to the fulfillment of their sex and gender desires as anyone else,” says Bornstein. “Sometimes those desires depend on the nature of their lover’s body. Well, trans people have bodies that are different than cis people’s bodies. We’re two (or more) mints in one—a physical blend that attracts a lot of people. FRAUD just doesn’t happen to be one of them. The fact that he’s sensitive to that blending of genders in our bodies does not make him transphobic.”
First, let’s get this out of the way: If you won’t date a trans woman because — direct quote — “I wouldn’t feel comfortable dating/having sex with a woman who had at one point in her life been a man,” you’re transphobic/cissexist. For one thing, many trans women never were men. And the fact that you couch your explanation for not wanting to date a trans woman in her trans status and excuse it with a “mental block” is pretty damn revealing.
But let’s pretend that he just has a problem with trans female bodies, as Kate seems to be asserting. Still problematic! Here’s why:
If you think you can generalize about all trans people’s bodies, you are cissexist/transphobic.
All of us are different. There is no physical quality that applies to all trans women or trans men, just like how there’s no physical quality that applies to all cis men or cis women. Some trans women have heavy jawlines, some have delicate jawlines — just like cis women. Some trans women are tall, some are short. Some trans women are curvaceous, some are skinny. Some trans women have breast implants and some don’t. Some have large breasts and some have small (these last two sentences don’t correlate how you might think they correlate). Some trans women have had surgery on their genitalia, and some haven’t.
(For the record, I am extremely skeptical of the idea that you can suddenly not be into someone because you found out their genital configuration is different from what you usually go for, given that I don’t frisk cute boys to make sure they have a dick before I hit on them. I suspect that any visceral reaction to someone’s junk not being a typical cis woman’s junk is a result of transmisogyny & het dudebro insecurity.)
It’s absurd to attribute a resistance to the idea of your partner being trans as based on bodily characteristics that are a) mutable and b) incredibly varied across the trans population.
Look, you’re not obligated to date/fuck a trans person to prove your ally status. But don’t make sweeping generalizations — it’s the difference between saying “I’ve never been interested in a trans woman” and “I’m not interested in trans women.” If you say the latter, your friends are justified in pointing out that you’re not really down with trans issues, just like parents who are fine with gay people until their kid turns out to be one. When it comes to your ally status, this “not in my bedroom” shit is illustrative, not irrelevant.
I haven’t even touched on the idea of a “queer heterosexual.” But that’s what Part 2 of 2 is about.