NEW EPISODE: Jimmy obsesses over a 10 second interaction with his crush. Um, but none of u have ever done that right?
I’m lounging in my PJs watching Gossip Girl as my partner’s heels click down the corridor towards me. She bursts in – a vision of femme cougar hotness – and kisses me goodnight on her way out for a date with her new lover. As she prances down the hallway I yell after her “do everything I wouldn’t do!” Her laughter echoes up the stairwell, “oh I will, don’t wait up!”
To be in the dreamy non-monogamous partnership I have today took years in the making – I wasn’t always able to send my lovers off to their other dates with such good cheer. I wish lessons in how to navigate relationships came with the queer “welcome pack”. There’s this myth that you’re either the jealous type or not, when in reality – most of us experience jealousy or insecurity to some degree. Since dealing with jealousy isn’t automatically embedded in the queer gene, it’s something we have to learn. If you’d never played the piano you wouldn’t expect to immediately be able to bust out your favorite Adele number. You’d have to find a piano or keyboard you could practice on, seek out a teacher or watch youtube tutorials and obviously make a sparkly outfit that matches the piano perfectly. Similarly, non-monogamous relationships take practice and skills, particularly after the years of monogamy training most of us grow up with. There’s so much more to being in non-monogamous relationships than dealing with jealousy, but since this is the first thing many folks tend to ask, here’s some reflections on my long dalliance with the green-eyed monster.
Rewind back to over a decade ago when I was in my first non-monogamous relationships. My sentences used to start like this “I wouldn’t be jealous if only you had ______” (insert any combination of “told me at a better time”, “shared less/more details”, “been dressed in yellow polka-dots while doing a handstand with a six-legged frog in your pocket”). SIDE NOTE TO ALL OF MY EXES FROM THIS ERA– YEAH, SORRY ABOUT THAT. I felt so ashamed and unradical about being jealous or insecure that I used to try to hide it by blaming my feelings on others. Or by trying to exert control through increasingly elaborate rules and veto powers – “well he is my cousin’s ex-partner’s friend’s therapist’s mother in law’s neighbor’s mechanic – don’t you think that’s too close a connection?” And then I’d feel guilty and ricochet in the other direction “how about you start dating my best friend? You’d be perfect together!” Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with dating a partner’s best friend – but I didn’t have the skills to deal with these type of closer poly situations at the time.
Something had to shift – my relationships became so process intensive that it would take five years to negotiate a peck on the cheek with another date, after which we’d all have lost our boners anyway. So, instead of doing battle the green-eyed monster or trying to push it underground, I decided to try a different approach and I invited the monster to a cup of tea.
And a very strange thing happened. When I started to just sit and really listen to the jealousy monster, the things that came out of those gaping jaws were not more rules nor more blaming. They were bellows of much deeper things which I’d left unaddressed in my life. And being present with these groans has enabled me to heal some deep shit and grow my relationships. Depending on what the monster has to say to each us, we can figure out what is actually going on and how to address it. Here are some examples:
1) Monster: “I bet their other lover is better than you in bed”
- Do some work on sexual confidence e.g. ask your lover to give you extra compliments or tell you what makes your sexy time together unique & special.
- Make a playlist in your head about any positive sexy times you’ve gotten to have and celebrate yourself as a fabulous lover.
- If you find you are actually lacking in some skills – do some reading or take some classes – remember sexual skills take time and practice too.
- Learn to feel valuable and worthy beyond sex. Sit with the fact that, well yes, maybe they are a more experienced/ skillful fuck than you. And here’s the liberating thing: WHO CARES? That doesn’t make you less valuable or worthy as a person. It can be very freeing to not have to be the best in bed.
- Flip it on it’s head – appreciate the increased range of sexy skills your lover could bring back to your sex life from their new lovers.
2) Monster: “your lover is spending all their time with their new shiny date, and they don’t have any time for you”
- Bring it up with your lover and negotiate. Try to focus on what you want with your lover, rather than what you don’t want them to do with others. For instance, do you want more quality time? Them being more attentive when you’re together? Making a special effort to take you on dates? It may not necessarily mean your lover has to cut back on their time with others.
- Plan out other things you’re excited about so that you’re being responsible for creating your own happiness rather than relying solely on a partner. Like creating that gayest outfit to go with you new piano hobby. Dedicating time to your creative life. Or hanging out with your friends.
3) Monster: “you’re unlovable, you’re worthless and they’ll leave you for their new lover because you’re nothing”
- Recognize the ways a shitty system may have trained you to feel worthless through devaluing people of colour, Indigenous folks, femmes, women, trans folks, people with disabilities and other many other identities. So remember it’s not a personal failing if you struggle with feeling worthless.
- Ask for extra validation or support from friends, family, partners or lovers.
- Make lists of your strengths, visualize feeling good about yourself.
- Do spiritual practices from your own cultural heritage to keep you grounded and which help you feel connected to the universe so it doesn’t have to be about separate little you. For me, going for walks or gazing at stars works well (or even imaging a sky full of stars).
4) Monster: “Something’s wrong here. You’re being fucked over.”
- Is someone being dishonest with you or crossing agreed on boundaries or behaving in a way that doesn’t feel emotionally or physically safe?
- Seek out support from friends and/or counselor – make sure they have non-monogamy experience
- Communicate/ remind your partner of your boundaries and what you need to feel to safe. Ask them directly what’s going on.
- If you find your partner is being dishonest, it’s up to you how much you want to work with them to transform the situation versus getting yourself out of the relationship. It can be a difficult juggle between allowing room for mistakes and growth, yet also not accepting shitty behaviour. Remember to also think about the role you may have had in the situation e.g. if someone is feeling slut shamed or unfairly blamed, they may start to be dishonest – not that this makes that dishonesty ok, but I always find it more empowering to be able to change my own behaviour in the situation as well.
5) Monster: “they get all the dates & attention, it’s not fair”
- Bring power imbalances up with your partner, calling in support from allies and friends as needed.
- Do the work to analyze and acknowledge if/where you have dating privilege (see below) rather than leaving it up to folks who are being fucked over by power imbalances.
This last monster can get complex which makes it even more important to unpack. We live in a racist, femme-phobic, capitalist, fat-phobic, disablist hetero-patriarchy which teaches us to find certain types of people sexy and others unsexy or less desirable. These power dynamics can play out in who gets asked to dance at the queer slow dance and who has the most opportunities to go on dates. As a queer white mostly-able-bodied trans man, I have a lot of desirability privilege which manifests to different extents depending on the context. For example, I get a lot of attention in queer women’s circles, although a little less so since I started busting out my femme side. Even though I don’t tend to date women anymore (except for my partner), the attention helps me feel confident. With gay men – to whom I am predominantly attracted – my effeminacy and my trans-junk mostly thrusts me a little lower in the pecking order, although certainly I still experience a huge amount of privilege from my whiteness.
Even though it’s been a lot of unpleasant work sitting with the green eyed monster, the things I’ve gotten to learn and change filter through to way more than dealing with jealousy. I’ve gotten to grow my confidence, develop agency in creating my own happiness and have more harmonious relationships. And now my visits with said monster are much fewer and further between. With practice, I more rapidly identify what’s going on and I have a broader set of tools to quickly deal with the underlying things. What might have previously spiraled me into days of gut-wrenching anguish is now a two minute “Hello my old friend, what’s up this time? Sexual ego? Oh, isn’t that cute – my sexual ego is back. Hi sexual ego. Wait, where are you going? Oh, you’re gone already? Well, nice to see you again. Bye-bye.”
Oh, and PS the green eyed monster doesn’t just haunt poly folks – people in monogamous relationships experience jealousy too! Open relationships are often unfairly scrutinised – when they break down many people say “see non-monogamy doesn’t work!” When the shit hits the fan in monogamous relationships, we might say “they were not compatible” or “so-and-so was an asshole”, but rarely do we blame the actual relationship model itself. Conversely, there can be a real pressure in some queer communities to be non-monogamous with an underlying idea that monogamy equals oppression, while non-monogamy equals radical. I don’t see anything inherently more radical about non-monogamous relationships. I’ve seen people do monogamous relationships in deeply radical transformative ways and I’ve also seen people do non-monogamous relationships in very unradical ways.
It’s not about pitting monogamy and non-monogamy against each other. I think monogamy really suits some people and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d like to see support for a myriad of relationship models from monogamy to sluttiness to asexuality to non-monogamy to polyamory. And in fact, there are many similar relationship skills that we can build with each other, regardless of our relationship styles. Like how to be responsible when we cause harm (and we ALL hurt other people to varying degrees), sharing emotional labour, unpacking how bigger systems of power and oppression shape our relationships and learning how to make matching outfits for our piano duets and trios.
These are but a few of the topics touched up on in my theatre show, No Strings (Attached), which Gein Wong, Eventual Ashes, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and and I are delighted to present for it’s Toronto premier March 16-26, 2016. Even though some of these topics are very serious, the show is also funny and irreverent. If you came to one of the work in progress showings in 2013, it’s now grown significantly into almost twice the length and has toured across the globe to 40 cities! So, start getting your most fabulous outfits together and come and join us for the ride. Your green-eyed monsters are also invited.
You might also wanna check out this short web video series about queer dating!
NEW EPISODE: Jimmy’s adventures in casual dating – today’s episode: when clothing comes off the trans man, cis panic ensues.
CONTENT WARNING: sexually explicit.
Please share widely.
Think you’re awkward on Valentine’s Day? Well Jimmy botched it way worse than you, while trying to be a “good radical queer” – check out episode 1 of 3 of Jimmy does dating, in the lead up to a theatre show “No Strings (Attached)” by Sunny Drake. Please share widely.
I will never forget the year I spent being unable to use my hands for the most basic tasks. The challenges in my day were going to the toilet, turning the pages of a book and opening a door. I remember the shock when overnight I went from able-bodied ignorance to struggling to work, cook, clean and participate in social and other activities I’d taken for granted. I remember the painful moments of being left behind and left out. Yet I also remember the profoundly inspiring ways that my community rallied around me, fed me and supported me to return to creating theatre. My experience also shifted who I’m in community with and laid the groundwork for the immense gift of having deeper connections with people with a wide array of disabilities. This has made my world much richer – by getting to have the smarts, perspectives, love, friendship and community of many fabulous people. Whilst I have had ongoing challenges with my arms in the eight years since the original injury, I don’t claim to know what it’d be like to have a longer term or wider-reaching disability – my experiences give me only a small window into the world of disableism.
In the lead-up to a run of my theatre show No Strings (Attached) at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, I’m thinking a bunch about what it means to make my work “accessible” (oh and raising money too – click here!). There are so many layers to access. In reality, every single one of us has access needs – it’s just some of our access needs are prioritized over others. I’ve been deeply inspired by reading and conversations with disability justice activists – particularly those who are Black, Indigenous, persons of colour, queer and/or trans.
A central part of access is about being connected with community and listening deeply to what it means for people to be able to engage with a performance work. How do we promote a culture of what Mia Mingus calls “access intimacy“: where the access needs of our friends, loves, and communities are met, felt, and deeply understood?
Given that this is a big shift in where many of us put our time and resources, I’ve also been reflecting on why it is important to make my work more accessible. For me, it’s not just about simplistic notions of equality and wanting to offer my work to others. It’s about creating vibrant dialogue and action alongside others to propel us towards living in the world I want to live. It’s about the ways that having a wide array of people in my audiences creates juicy connections and conversation. I see my work as one thread in a larger conversation – it’s meant to spark reflection and discussion, healing, questioning and change. It’s both a response to other threads of the conversation and meant to be responded to. So if I’m not engaging the right people, that conversation becomes less vital, and the work loses its potential and potency. This is why I feel strongly about spending time and generating money and other resources to make sure Deaf community, sober folks, low income peoples, parents, people with disabilities and others are a part of the conversation that bounces inside and outside the theatre walls.
So, I’ve started to list some access considerations in relation to performances and events to guide my own performance planning and act as a resource for others. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Some access considerations for performances and events
Show content & artists:
- A show is more accessible to many folks when under-represented stories get told. Seeing one’s own reflection in the work can be a powerful experience. Important questions therefore include: who makes the creative works? Have there been people of colour, queers, women (trans and non-trans), other trans folks, sex workers, poor and working class folks, people with disabilities, and survivors in the centre of producing and creating the work?
- Having artistically compelling work is an important part of people being able to engage with performance, so having the time and resources to cultivate one’s skills and incubate a piece of work is also an access issue.
- Have the performances’ content been carefully screened for transphobic, racist, sexist, sex-work-phobic and other hurtful content? If you’re curating a performance night, do you know what others will be performing? Have you discussed your stance on content? There is a big difference between making work that is challenging versus work that perpetuates oppressive ideas and behaviour. For instance, if you are depicting a transphobic incident, does the performance actually unpack or transform the transphobia? Or does it simply replicate it without challenging audience members to be critical? Another way to consider content – are you asking people in the audience to sit through things more painful for them than for you? As a white person, if I’m exploring racism in the piece in a graphic way, I’m asking folks of colour to risk being triggered in a way that I don’t have to be – just like outside the theatre walls. Contrast this to a person of colour making a piece of work that is uncomfortable for white folks – this is challenging the usual power dynamic rather than replicating it. We need to take into account the context in which we’re creating work including systems of power.
- Are triggering topics dealt with in a sensitive and nuanced way? For example: physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault or violence, live gun shot sounds, police violence, suicide and childhood abuse.
- I know as a survivor, seeing graphic sexual violence can be triggering – even more so when it’s a live performance compared to TV. Personally, I find I can go deeper with the content if it is suggestive rather than graphic. I realize there are also rationales for presenting more graphic content, in which case – are there trigger warnings? Are there debrief options or active listeners available?
First Nations/ Indigenous groups:
- Is there an acknowledgement of the local First Nations/ Indigenous groups given verbally and/or in the program? Although remember this can risk become tokenistic if not coupled with many other layers of change.
- Will alcohol be served? Particularly in the first year of getting sober, I found it very difficult to be in spaces with alcohol.
- Are there good non-alcoholic drinks – not just soda/soft drinks – e.g. quality affordable juices or fancy mocktails?
- Are there sober buddies available to accompany folks upon request?
- Are there options to have some alcohol free shows?
- I’ve written an article with more about juggling the needs of sober folks and those who use alcohol or drugs – click here.
Visually Impaired & Blind access:
- Are you providing audio description for people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired?
- Is seating close to the stage prioritized for visually impaired folks?
- Are the images on your website described with alt tags?
- Some mentioned in the comments a group called Vocal Eye who arrange touch tours of props.
- Is there ASL or BSL or AUSLAN interpretation for Deaf folks? Have you allowed enough rehearsal time with the interpreters and given them the scripts well in advance?
- Are your promo videos captioned?
- Have you done promo videos in ASL? Remember it’s an entirely different language – don’t assume all Deaf folks read English.
- If it’s a scripted show, have you considered engaging a Deaf person to do the interpretation? For No Strings (Attached) we’re having a Deaf artist team up with a hearing ASL interpreter. Having a Deaf theatre artist on board means the quality of interpretation will be excellent. It’s also a way to prioritize an employment opportunity for someone who faces huge systemic barriers to employment.
- Is the work in accessible English that you don’t need a PHD to understand?
- Are there other language translations for which you could consider projecting subtitles? I’ve worked with folks to translate No Strings (Attached) into three languages for projecting subtitles while touring: Puerto Rican Spanish, Italian and German – it’s made a huge different to engagement with the work.
Trans and gender non-conforming folks:
- Are there gender-neutral washroom options as well as gendered washrooms? Can you temporarily transform a washroom into a gender-neutral option?
- Have the box office and ushering staff been briefed and trained to not assume someone’s pronoun?
- Are there affordable ticket options e.g. sliding scale options? Are there pay what you can shows? Or other subsidized or free ticket options?
- Are there options where free or subsidized tickets can be put aside under people’s name in advance? I know some folks who feel too ashamed to turn up and say they don’t have any money, so having their name on the door as a complimentary ticket makes a difference.
- Are transport tickets provided e.g. bus or train tickets? Some folks can’t afford to get to the show either.
- Is there childcare provided? Or if you run into public liability challenges, are there informal groups who could organize with each other to do collective childcare?
- Are there subsidized tickets or pay what you can options to offset the cost of babysitting?
- Are there matinees or early shows programmed which might better suit the schedules of parents?
- Are there “baby in arms” options or other “relaxed theatre” shows where a little more noise in the audience would be ok?
Fat folks & larger folks:
- Is the seating wide enough to be comfortable for fat or larger folks? Also, narrow seating with armrests can be very difficult for larger folks to fit in.
- Have you encouraged a fragrance free space in your promotional materials? Scented deodorants, perfume and colognes can be toxic for some folks.
- Is there fragrance free soap in the washrooms, and are fragrance free cleaning products used?
- For more info on how to be fragrance free, click here.
- Have you considered eliminating any strobe lighting? It can cause seizures.
- If you are determined to use strobe lighting, have you posted a warning?
- Is it wheelchair accessible? Scooter accessible? That means both entry into the building and within the building.
- Are the seating aisles wide enough? (at least 36 inches)
- Are there good audience spots for people who use wheelchairs and scooters – rather than spots tucked up the back or with terrible sight lines? Can wheelchair users also sit with their non-chair using friends? And make sure these seats (i.e., empty spaces) are organized ahead of time so you don’t have to shuffle chairs out of the way – particularly if you’re accepting latecomers to the show. Remember, in a disableist world, it can be very difficult for some people with disabilities to get there on time due to unexpected broken elevators, wheelchair transport delays etc.
- If the main concept of your performance involves standing rather than sitting in a space, are there chairs for folks who can’t stand for long? If it’s a show that’s likely to be sold out and have “standing room only” – are chairs prioritized for people who need them, regardless of whether they can pay a premium price? Audiences can also support in this by making sure we are mindful about keeping good seats for others. Additionally, pillows and carpeting for folks to sit or lie down?
- Is the space so crowded that access pathways become blocked?
- Is the stage wheelchair accessible so you can have people who use wheelchairs as performers as well as audience?
- Are there railings in the washrooms?
- If it’s not wheelchair accessible, how many stairs are there? Is there a railing?
- If the elevator breaks down, have you considered cancelled/ rescheduling the show?
Listing access details in promo:
- Living in a profoundly disableist world, many of us will not be able to meet all of these access needs, all of the time. At a very minimum, are access details clearly posted along with event information so that people don’t have to spend their valuable time doing the research? Make sure to include layers of detail like the nearest wheelchair accessible public transport stations and if it’s not wheelchair accessible – how many steps there are.
These actions are not something I can or should be able to do on my own. One of the many things I’ve learned from disabled activists is the power and importance of inter-dependence, as reflected in one of the 10 principles of Disability Justice framework by the groundbreaking performance project, Sins Invalid.
So, I’m asking for your support to donate money towards the access costs of No Strings (Attached). Here’s the link to the Fund What You Can campaign – please donate and help spread the word!
Big thanks to Arti Mehta and Chanelle Gallant for their valuable feedback and input into this article!
Photo by Hillary Green
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I just heard the news: Leslie Feinberg is dead. I’m sitting in the kitchen on my own, sobbing uncontrollably. The pot of pasta is boiling over and I’m glued to my computer screen, re-reading about hir life in between blowing my nose on my sleeve. Somehow I thought I’d get to meet Leslie at some point. Ze* has been one of my Olders, even though I know hir only through the tattered pages of passed on copies of Stone Butch Blues and Transgender Warriors. With her* death, I feel a loss of history, of critical perspectives, the loss of a warrior. While the pasta starts to disintegrate on the stove, I find myself wondering: where are all of our Olders?
Of course, there are so many Should-Be-Olders who never make it that far. Racism, trans-misogyny, violence, the AIDS crisis and so many more reasons why many never get to be Olders. And countless who do make it to Olderhood, pass too soon. Leslie, for example, died at age 65 of Lyme’s disease and multiple tick-borne co-infections, attributing her health crisis to “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science”. Her access to appropriate health care was made incredibly difficult by the active discrimination she received as a transgender person.
Clearly, we need to be working to challenge all of these systemic reasons that Should-Be-Olders never make it. But what about my role in the marginalisation of those Olders who do remain? How have I participated in pushing Olders out of movements?
There are so many barriers to older people participating in creative projects, political meetings and social spaces. Younger folks like me may judge them for not having the latest lingo, or dismiss their ideas as “dated” without reflecting more deeply on the lessons we could learn from these very same ideas. We may organise our meetings too late in the evening or up flights of stairs – the able-ism of which affects so many young disabled people too. Barriers could be technological or even about the speed at which we talk. In many cases, our communities have failed to offer the nourishment needed to sustain a long creative or political life, resulting in Olders needing to hole up at home and disconnect.
My friend Roxanna just called to check in on me and reminded me that being an Older is not necessarily just related to age, saying that in fact I am an older in many ways in my community too. I’m only 37, yet there are many situations in which I’m called on to be an older. Sometimes this is because I’m an older relative to those around me, or I’ve had the privilege and commitment of years honing the skills and roles I’m passionate about. However, other times, I’m an older because of the ways we haven’t made space for those Older than me.
I’m not just talking about queer, trans*, two spirit and transexual Olders. I’ve started to realise the way I prevent connections with a broader community of Olders too, because of my incorrect assumption that older people are inherently more conservative. Earlier this year I was invited to give a trans* talk at a church. The congregation was mostly aged 60+. When I asked in activity how congregation members had felt limited by expectations of their genders, one woman said “When I was younger, I used to really worry about what others thought was appropriate for a woman. Now I really don’t care what others think, and I’ll cut my hair however I want, wear pants or skirts and be as bossy and outspoken as I like. Life’s too short for anything else”. There was fervent nodding amongst many of the others. Huh! Perhaps many older non-trans people are potential trans* allies in ways I hadn’t even imagined. And it dawned on me: what an arrogant ass I’ve been to think I’m more radical than many older folks!
Since then I started noticing many older people open to conversations about gender and politics and other juicy topics. Yes, older people can be the keeper of traditions, both liberatory and oppressive traditions, and other times they can be the creators new ones. Many may be more attuned to what’s really important with an awareness of their days growing shorter and a keenness to leave a legacy of which they’re proud.
Olders like Leslie have left profound legacies. She’s been an example of how workers movements can celebrate gender diversity. How white trans people can be active on challenging racism. In Stone Butch Blues ze celebrated the ways sex workers and queers can make community, learn from each other and have each others backs– which is especially relevant today because of the way gay rights movements have thrown sex workers under the bus, including sex workers who are queer and/or trans women, in order to present an image of queerness or transness that would appeal to the mainstream. In honour of Leslie and in this spirit of making a place at the table for everyone, I’m renewing my commitment to appreciating, celebrating and working alongside Olders who are still alive. And I’m replenishing my commitment to my own future olderhood by nourishing myself this evening with that over-due bowl of pasta, a long warm shower and the companionship of loved ones.
* Leslie used the pronouns she/her or ze/hir, so I’ve interchanged these pronouns throughout. I love the sentiment behind this which ze said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”
A friend pointed out that white people’s use of the term “Elder” could be culturally appropriative of Australian Aboriginal communities and other First Nation’s & racialised communities. Thus, I’ve changed my article title and language from “Elders” to “Olders”. Even though the term “Elder” is used by some white communities e.g. many Christian communities, I haven’t been able to find out where the origins are and out of respect for the importance and sacredness of the word and role for many Indigenous and racialised communities, I’ve decided to change my language.
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Dear Boy Tits,
I love you dearly and yet it’s time for us to part. These outfits are my dedication to you: fashioned from thrift store tugs of war with old ladies, raiding my partner’s closet and crossing back and forth between gender segregated clothing aisles.
Every single moment of the last thirty seven years you’ve stayed loyally by my side (or at my front, as it were). You’ve cushioned my heart from many blows and boyantly helped me stay afloat through stormy years. We’ve played many a silly game together, like pretending you’re puppets talking with each other, or bouncing you up and down until you slap each other on the back like old men at the bar.
I know it’s not your fault that this gender confused world has mis-read me as a woman because of you. There’s actually nothing about you that means girl or boy or anything in particular. It’s just that I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s chest, and even though it’s a gorgeous chest, it’s doesn’t feel like mine.
All my love, Sunny
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Thanks to Tania Anderson, the incredible photographer, Janet Vu for the David Bowie makeup, (m)-elly niotakis for being the first to suggest a David Bowie concept and Chanelle Gallant and Afi Browne for letting me raid their closets for accessories & those stunning zebra print boots, and Leanne for use of her space.
— A retrospective of other Boy Tit related posts: —
I’ve recently started taking my shirt and binder/sports bra off in the men’s locker room. It didn’t begin from a desire to flash my boy tits around, rather that I was fed up with the incredibly awkward configurations I used to twist my clothes in to hide these bouncy little babies. Moreover, I was incredibly bored by transphobia and cis-sexism*. Read more…
I’m busy preparing my boy-muff for a swim in the local public pool after I was inspired by a letter I received from a trans woman in response to my recent article… Read More
The sagging sagas of the boy tits continue… I’m on tour in the USA and it seems the new body scan machine has replaced the old metal detector Xray machine in most US airports. For the second time this week, my boy tits raised the alarm on the body scanner. Read more…
With the change of seasons I noticed myself starting to angst over the thought of another summer wearing a sweaty binder. A titillating thought: as this will be the last summer I have boy tits before chest surgery in October, why not bust out of the binary and give them the flamboyant good-boobye they deserve?! They are, after all, a beautiful part of my body that I love and want to celebrate. Read more…
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Juggling drinking/user rights AND sobriety
I’m about to turn 2 years sober – woohoo! Summer was a challenging time to get sober, particularly with so many queer events in Toronto that involve booze. The warm months are now a time when I fluctuate between deep gratitude that I’m not drinking, and wistful fantasies of swilling beer on patios and swigging bourbon in the park. A lot of sober queer folks struggle to stay sober during Pride month, so I’m reflecting on what our community could do to hold us, whilst also holding space for others to have fun or cope with alcohol and drugs. Both sobriety AND drinking/user rights are access issues in social spaces and within our political movements.
Whilst I love intentionally sober space (yay for Sober Pride!), I also want our communities to be able to hold space for those who use alcohol or drugs as medication or to cope with this shitty world. I’m horrified that visionaries such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson (both trans women of colour on the frontline of Stonewall) were banned from some LGBTQ spaces because of their drinking or using. The impacts of that likely involved further marginalisation for each of them, as well as a HUGE loss of wisdom and experience to the movements which they kick started.
Here’s the thing: there’s a very big difference between some people being intoxicated within a space versus a space that feels intoxicated. For me, when a critical mass of people at a party or event are drunk or high, it becomes an intoxicated space. If there are only a few drunk people around in an overall sober/ non-drunken space, it feels way more manageabe for me. So the more people who refrain from drinking and using, the more the space can hold both sober folks and some people who are drinking or using.
I get that drugs and alcohol can be about more than coping – they can be about many things including fun, which is super important too! I’m not suggesting that everyone stop using/drinking – just that those who don’t need it, be more intentional about how and when they drink or use. Let’s remember that doing stuff without drinking or drugs can be awesomely fun too! Enjoying music and company and dancing and art events and deep conversations and connections that you are more likely to remember. No checking your sent texts to see the embarrassing things you sent! No trying to remember if you did inappropriate things.
Given that many sexual assaults, violence and other non-consensual behavior have alcohol involved, drinking less can also mean there are more folks around to support a culture of consent and community safety.
Suggestions for organising Gatherings, Dinners & Events
Various friends including Clementine Morrigan, had some great suggestions:
- If your event will include alcohol, post that on event promotions (social media, fliers etc) along with other access info.
- Organise more drug and alcohol free events, but with no one turned away for showing up either high or drunk. Communication well with guests so that people don’t start policing or shaming the folks who may turn up high or drunk.
- Serve tasty non-alcoholic drinks that are treats – not just water and soft drinks/pop. Check out Liz Shield’s tasty recipes here
- Considering many people use alcohol as a “social lubricants” (to cope with nervousness, anxiety, boredom etc), have alternative social lubricants – like activities or games. E.g. interactive food bars (tacos, waffles, burger bars…), conversation prompt games, arts and crafts areas, books, tarot cards, nail painting supplies, or whatever! (thanks Hannah Pepper-Cunningham for this suggestion)
Ally Suggestions for Individuals
Whilst event organisers have particular responsibilities, each and every one of us has a powerful role to play. So here’s my request for the Pride month (and beyond). Unless you need to use alcohol or drugs as self-medication/coping:
- Have some sober nights – like if you’re going to 4 events this month, how about choosing 2 at which you’ll be sober?
- When you are drinking or using, consume less and be mindful of what spaces you consuming them in.
- If you think it would be welcome, check-in with your sober buddies about whether they want a sober companion to go to an event with. Ask them if there’s any other support they might want or need.
The more people who refrain, the more we can hold community and space for both those who are sober AND those who use drugs and alcohol to cope.
photo by Tania Anderson
* I wrote another related article last year with more reflections on our communities and supporting sober folks – here’s the link: The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Mouth
Thanks to Clementine, Geoff, Quinto & Amy for politicizing me around sobriety as an access need.
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Facebook has come a long way from the “man/woman” drop down menu of a few years ago. We can now choose from an expanded list of gender categories by selecting “custom” from the scroll down bar, followed by options like agender, trans female, FTM, pangender, two spirit, androgynous or various other pre-determined choices. I tried typing “Pansy” and it flashed an error message across my screen, “You must select one or more custom genders”
Wait, I thought selecting a custom gender was about being able to custom define ourselves? I looked up the definition of custom – “a habitual practice; the usual way of acting in given circumstances.” I routinely rock ruffles in place of cuffs, frequently flounce about in fishnets, and customarily carry a little “too much” emotion in my otherwise “manly” voice. Does that not make me habitually a Pansy?!
Apparently our genders need to be vetted by Facebook’s gender decision making board. Who’s job is that?! Like seriously, “Hi honey I’m home! Today I decided to allow Pixie Ranger and Pansy as genders, but I thought Stardust Unicorn was going a little far so I blocked that. How was your day?”
Or maybe it’s a computer program, and when a pre-determined number of people identify as a particular gender, the lightbulb goes on in Facebooklandier. So how many Pansies does it take to change a light bulb?
And what exactly, do the gender gatekeepers fear about Pansies and Stardust Unicorns? Are they worried that people will get ridiculous and make fun of the whole gender thing? My gender is “shithead”! No wait, wait, my gender is “buttfuck penisbreath”! Because that would be a disaster – children, gender is very very very serious because otherwise white men couldn’t be the bosses of the world and besides, there’s way too much free fun already in this god-forsaken world. Are you trying to make the professional-fun-makers lose their jobs? Just how selfish are you gender non-conformists?
Maybe the gatekeepers are worried that people who define their genders in non-normative ways may topple the entire world. I mean, shit what would happen if suddenly anyone could just define themselves in any way they felt moved to? If we could no longer rely on old assumptions about gender (and many other things), we might actually need to c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e with each other. Like really and truly enquire, listen and share of ourselves. We’d no longer be able to assume that we can tell everything about someone by a limited vocabulary of words which have lost their richest meanings through the asinine assumptions dripping from the vowels and the rotting refuse caked on the consonants . When I say a word like woman or heartfelt or revolution – does it mean the same thing to you? Of course not! Language becomes laden with the baggage of the context in which it’s spoken, signed or otherwise shared. And that context, is a little (or a lot) different for each of us.
OMG and if we started to communicate more fully, we might actually begin to understand each other! Without our continuous misunderstandings, we might stop fighting and blowing each other up. And shit, let’s face it, that would be very very bad for the economy (at least this version of the economy).
I’m not saying we should abolish words or concepts like womanhood and manhood – these are beautiful things (well, people, really). It’s about politely asking these identities to stop blocking the telescope for a minute, so that we may peek through and be awestruck by the galaxy that is gender. The Carnivalesque Magicians! The Nerdy Pirates! The Petunias! The Sissies! The Bears! The Queens!
But what does this all mean? Aren’t these just words? Yes. And no. We create language to communicate important ideas. As our ideas and our understandings of ourselves and the world shift or become unobscured, so too does language need to adapt. Beneath what may seem trivial to some, is a universe of important and genius ideas and experiences. Next time you think something is trivial, I challenge you to drop your judgements (even for just an hour or so) and take the time to listen to why people are making language requests. You might surprise yourself by finding it’s liberating for you too. What’s your custom gender today?
In fact, often it’s not even about change, it’s about re-remembering, reclaiming or recentreing those who have had way more than the man/woman gender menu bar all along. It’s only really dominant western cultures that seem to be fixated on the two gender system. I’m deeply grateful to all the communities who hold warm places by the fire for a many gendered galaxy, and am praying my people will catch up soon. Two spirit people across Turtle Island (North America). Fa’afafine in Samoa. Hijras in South Asia. Sistergirls in Australia. Loosening our grip on the two-gender-man-woman-thing, is an important step in decolonisation.
Plus it’s way more fun.
What do we want? Infinite custom genders!
When do we want it! Now!
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