Goodreads Review: Carry On.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read Fangirl, one of the things I really connected to in that book was the fanfiction aspect (since I read AT LEAST as much fanfic as I do published fic). I really liked the made-up-yet-Harry-Potter-like “Original Fic” that Cath was writing fic for, because it got to play with all the familiar things I love about HP fanfic while not getting bogged down by actual HP canon. So when I found out that Carry On was actually a thing out there that I could read, I was obviously pretty excited. I was also pretty curious, because I wasn’t sure exactly how a Simon Snow novel would play out independently.

Like the author says, though, this isn’t the canon Snow of Fangirl, or Cath’s fanfic Snow. This is Rainbow Rowell’s Snow. And it’s pretty fantastic. First off, as noted multiple times in my status updates, I really loved the magical system in this book. It’s consistent and logical, brilliant and fresh, and utterly ridiculous and fun. It certainly makes the battles entertaining as hell to read. I didn’t mention in my updates, but I equally loved the replacement swears and exclamations that were mixed in with the more recognizable and everyday types. I definitely have a thing for that in media, because it makes language more believable to have swearing and slang (especially when it’s teenagers/adults), and it makes it more unique and world-building to have at least some of it be original. Or maybe my Buffy influence is showing a little there…

Either way, I think when it’s done well it adds to the dialogue and makes a more natural flow to conversation. And here it really felt like it worked; I could hear the characters’ voices in my head when I was reading, because their words and thoughts felt like real speech and real people. That doesn’t always happen — in fact it doesn’t happen for me very often at all — so it made it extra special for me.

Speaking of the characters, there are quite a few amazingly awesome characters in this book. Baz is sassy and snarky as hell, and I utterly love him to bits and want more. Penelope kicks ass, obviously, and I even really liked Agatha after a while. Simon was not actually as annoying as I thought he’d be, given that Harry Potter tends to drive me up the wall. Even a lot of the adults were pretty cool and interesting. I really appreciated all the diversity, of course, but I can’t help but be a little annoyed at the UTTER LACK of, at any point in Simon wondering if he’s gay now, that there was ZERO mention of the word “bisexual” in his or anyone else’s mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for all the times gay and queer get talked about (not just for Simon, and not just him and Baz, either), bisexual NEVER gets mentioned once, for any of them. Which is a real shame, because otherwise I have no complaints or criticisms.

As a side note, the final confrontation between Simon and the Humdrum actually played out thematically a lot like the climax of a novella I wrote as a teen. I should go look at it again, brush up the writing a little, etc. It’s a good theme for a final showdown, and it’s nice to see it get used. But first, I need to go read Fangirl again…and then maybe Carry On again…which might make me need to read Fangirl again…

If you don’t hear from me again, I’m stuck in an endless reread loop. Send help. (Or chocolate and scones and tea.) (Either way is good.)

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Storytelling is a superpower, and other thoughts.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve said (written) a lot of positive things on here about fanfiction. I stand by everything I’ve said before, but due to some recent discussions I’ve been seeing on Twitter lately, I wanted to add a little complexity to my position on some of the issues surrounding fanfic.

Storytelling is important. How we tell the story, what we choose to focus on, and what we do with it afterward, all matter very deeply. These things effect people in a very real way, with very real consequences to their lives. This post is going to talk about some topics that you might not want to expose yourself to right now. I talk about them in pretty general terms, but if even hearing (reading) the name of an issue will adversely effect you, please take care of yourself first and not read this post until/unless you’re in a mentally and emotionally safe place to do so.

The discussions that sparked my own thoughts into wanting to write this post was about toxic shipping in fandom and fanfics. The release of Jessica Jones on Netflix is starting lots of very awesome powerful dialogue due to the incredible handling of PTSD, abuse, rape, misogyny, and other relevant topics for today’s culture. It’s also brought out some less awesome behavior with those people who seem to see romantic tragedy where others see abuse, manipulation, and rape. These are people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica Jones, ignoring all evidence that that’s about the most sickening and unhealthy thing they could possible do. That’s not even touching on the fact that shipping an abusive one-sided relationship is triggering for survivors of such, and also the fact that it’s showing support and/or excusing that kind of behavior in the real world.

The things we create in fiction don’t live in a vacuum, safe and away from all “real world” consequences. It doesn’t matter if we’re creating TV shows, best-selling YA fiction, or internet-only fanfic. All it takes is other people, even just one other person, seeing it. The moment that happens, it’s effecting the real world. It has become part of the world, released into the wild to spawn and grown and change in someone’s mind, becoming part of their thoughts and ideas. So us storytellers must, MUST, be responsible about what we say. But we also have to let go after it’s out there. The time for us to make sure we’re getting it as right as we can is while we’re creating it. After that, it’s too late. It’s already out there, and we don’t get a second change to fix our mistakes.

So when the story is about an abusive relationship, it needs to be called out on being an abusive relationship IN THE NARRATIVE. This is something Jessica Jones did. My skin crawled seeing Kilgrave, despite how much I adore David Tennant. They never shrank away from the fact he was a horrible awful person, even when they gave him complexity and backstory and explanations (and please note: these were NEVER framed as excuses except by Kilgrave). Not all narratives do this; in fact, very few of them do at all. They turn abusers into someone misunderstood, broken but fixable through love and sacrifice. That’s the lessons learned by people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica, because like Kilgrave, they learned about love by seeing it in movies and TV shows. That kind of narrative about love not how the real world works, and survivors of abusive relationships know it.

People who buy into the toxic narrative and defend it are hurting the survivors. They’re also hurting themselves and anyone else who listens to that narrative, because it makes it easier for the myth to perpetuate. They’re giving confusion and uncertainty to people who won’t always recognize abuse because it’s been dressed up as romance. They’re giving excuses and justification to those who will use romanticized abuse to get what they want from other people, consciously or not. They’re supporting a culture that doesn’t acknowledge rape, abuse, misogynist, violence against women. They’re supporting a culture that can’t tell the difference between what’s okay and what isn’t. They’re supporting a culture that devalues the abused and their experiences.

I’m not saying the people who ship these things are bad, necessarily. They might be. I don’t know, because I don’t know them at all. All I can tell is that they’re certainly misinformed and in desperate need of some feminist education. I’m sure a lot of them would disagree with me and call me a lot of horrible things if they read this. I’m sure a lot of them wouldn’t even realize the irony of doing that, how it would in fact prove my point better than my own words can. This happens all the time, both on the internet and in the “real world”. Despite all progress, we’re still living in a toxic culture, one where just telling the truth about it on the internet can, and often does, lead to death threats, rape threats, and verbal abuse.

Which is why storytelling is so desperately important. The real world hurts, and a lot of us use escapism to survive it — I certainly do. The thing is, it isn’t really escapism. It’s just a different way to change and explore the very same narrative we’re living in day after day. The way that narrative is framed will either make our wounds bleed more, or help them to heal. If someone is telling a story with toxic relationships, framing them as tragic romance is adding to the very thing that’s hurting us in the first place. But framing them with in-your-face honest realism, showing just how bad and awful and insidious they are, makes them become something we can then point to and say, “See, this is what’s really going on. This is what it feels like to be stalked and manipulated and trapped and then survive. It’s not romantic. It’s not something you get over by the next episode. It’s scary as hell, and it changes you for life. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you strong. It’s awful, and it’s happening every day. But we can still fight back.”

There was another conversation happening a few days ago. It was about how J.K. Rowling was continuing to tell people the right and wrong ways to interpret her characters. These people were talking about how hurtful it was for an author to do that. They had bonded with the people in these stories because the characters resonated with real life experiences and people. The characters were real to them, like all our favorite fiction characters are real to us. They had claimed them, had written and read fanfiction about them, had created their own narrative and framing about them, both by using what was in the text and by going beyond it. These people were offended and outraged at the author telling them they were wrong in their own interpretations.

So how are those people different from the people shipping Kilgrave/Jessica Jones?

They’re different for a very simple reason: the framing and narrative created by toxic shipping is ADDING to a toxic culture. But these outraged fans are creating interpretations to DISMANTLE toxic culture. They’re creating narrative to add POC, to add queer relationships, to call out abusers, and other important issues that were overlooked or deemed unimportant in the original text. No work of fiction is perfect, even Harry Potter, and it can certainly be hard to tackling every issue at once. So these people are taking something they love, something profoundly important to our generation, a touchstone of our culture, and they’re adding this framing to it. They’re doing it because they love it, and because they have the real life experiences and knowledge to understand where the failings and shortcomings are, and they have the passion to try and fix them. This is something I love and adore about fandom, by the way.

J.K. Rowling coming along and telling them that no, those things are wrong, is hugely upsetting. Harry Potter and co are her creations, but as soon as she published the stories, their names and experience became ours, too. They’re part of everyone who reads the books or watches the movies or listens to the audiotapes. They’re part of our culture, a lexicon in our ongoing dialogue about the world. She doesn’t get to invalidate that by telling us we’re doing it wrong. She can and does try, but it doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. She had her chance to tell that story, and now it’s our turn. Which means the responsibility in how the story is framed falls to us, too.

A storyteller gets one shot to get it right. And, regardless of if they do or not, everyone who received that story then gets their own shot to get it right. And on, and on, and on. Stories never really die or go away. They keep mutating, traveling, forming and breaking apart and reforming, over and over and over. Stories are alive, even the ones pinned down with print or film or tape. They’re alive in our minds, as soon as we read them or watch them or listen to them. They never leave us, and they never stop changing our thoughts and feelings and actions. They get passed on, warping themselves through the lens of our perceptions and experiences, and again through those same things of the ones who receive it from us.

How we tell the stories is so important. They can literally change the world for someone, for good or bad. The moment we’ve told the story, we’ve lost the chance to tell it better. So we’d better get it the best we can the first time, because that’s all we get, and with that one chance we can heal or break someone else. It’s scary and huge and real, and it’s powerful and beautiful and magic. Storytelling is the ultimate superpower. It doesn’t matter if you think you have an audience or not. Chances are, someone somewhere is still listening. You’re touching their life. So you can either add to the toxic culture that’s probably already hurting them, or you can use that superpower to help create dialogue to dismantle it, and let them know they’re not alone.

We all have our own experiences, our own truths and struggles and wounds and insights. Storytelling is how we can share those things, finding the common ground with others and opening the eyes and minds of those who never realized what life was like for us. It’s a chance create understanding, compassion, empathy, outrage, revelation, and a myriad of other things that are extremely hard to pass on without the wonder that is storytelling. Storytelling is how we learn about other people, it’s how we can grow to understand the world, how we remember the past, and how we can shape the future.

That’s one reason why I think fanfiction is so important. Not everyone has the same experiences (obviously), so when someone can take a beloved narrative like the Harry Potter books and flesh it out even more by drawing on their own unique view, that adds to both the story as a whole, and to my own views of other people. I can become a little more aware of other peoples’ realities in the real world, and the world of Harry Potter gets a little closer to being complete because more than one voice is adding to it. The more voices and the more diversity gets added to it, the better it gets at breaking down toxic culture for more people. No one is going to get things 100% right, but the more people who add to it, the better the chances get for the overlap to make up the difference. Not to mention how cathartic it can be to add to that narrative and framing yourself, which is exactly what I experienced the first time I venture into writing fanfic as an angsty teen.

I’m a storyteller myself. Not just in this blog, either. I recently finished a first draft of a novel I hope to actually publish in the next year or so, and I’ve started on a sequel already. I’ve been world-building fantasy and sci-fi worlds for stories since I was about twelve or so, and do it by playing Let’s Pretend for as long as I can remember. Saying I love it is kind of a “does not compute” understatement moment for me, because it’s just part of who I am. It’s not something I’m passionate about, because it’s synonymous with passion for me. I breath, I blink, my heart beats, I create people and worlds and scenarios in my head. It just is. Obviously, thinking about getting to share one of those worlds and some of those characters is exciting and cool. But you know what the thing I’m most excited about is? It’s seeing what other people will do with them.

I want to see my own stories get out there, because I want to see how they grow and change with each new interpretation. I want to see what other stories get told with these characters who are real to me, because that means they’re real enough to someone else to inspire those other stories. I want to see what will happen when someone else uses them to tell personal stories, uses them to explore other issues, uses them fulfill other dreams and hopes. I want to see how someone else thinks the story should end. I want those things because seeing them will make me a better storyteller, and a better person. Those are the things that will help me understand someone else, and help me to understand the world and the cultures and all those other things I’m not going to experience as myself. I don’t know what it’s like to live the world as someone else, but using stories like this helps me get closer to that. Especially if they’re using the power of storytelling for good.

Stay strong, cyber-friends, and keep telling stories that help to heal and dismantle those toxic cultures.

Love,

GeGi.

This weekend, on Twitter…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

There’s been a lot to be outraged by recently…

If you haven’t been reading #YesAllWomen on Twitter, please do. It’s made national news, as well it should, and is heartbreaking (in that that conversations still needs to happen) and hopeful (in that since it does need to happen, it’s happening in a beautiful way and seems to be opening some eyes — even if others still seem to be willfully blind). These stories need to be heard, if only so that we know we’re not alone in living them.

But that’s not the topic I want to talk about right now; I’ve said quite a bit about feminism and humanity and my own past quite a bit already, and while it never seems to be enough — since we keep having these problems — I don’t feel like rehashing it at the moment. I’ve been a little too raw the last few weeks to do that.

Instead, I want to focus on something else that happened recently, something that may seem superficial in the wake of such violence and hate against women, but which was still hurtful to people I care about and is still important to discuss for the sake of a part of a culture I dearly love. Actually, what I want to talk about is a much bigger problem, and the thing that happened merely the starting place for my thoughts on something related.

Thus, while it is obvious to viewers of the show I’ll be discussing who is it I’m talking about, I’m not going to name the actors involved. What I have to say isn’t so much about them, as it is about using them as examples of this bigger problem they happen to have illustrated so perfectly.

The context: Two actors, the leading stars of the popular and long-running sci-fi TV show Supernatural, made some comments at a convention a few days ago that have set off quite a reaction and much controversy in the fandom (not to mention PR issues for the show itself). The comments were about a popular ‘shipping of two male characters on the show, one of which one of the actors in question portrays. [For those who don’t speak Fandom Geek, “shipping” in  short-hand for seeing those characters as being in a relationship.]

Some disclaimers and background: I’ve only watched the first few seasons of Supernatural. However, I’m extremely spoilered on the show, and I have friends who are much more deeply involved in the fandom, and have seen all episodes. I speak as someone outside the fandom, but also as someone who understands it somewhat and cares about it. I watched a clip and read quotes of some of comments, and have read articles and reactions in various places online.

The event: They adamantly denied the ship would ever be canon, that it had never been intended to be hinted at, and made it clear that they did not approve of the ship, or think much of the fans who shipped them. They took it beyond simply vocalize their personal opinions and views of how they are playing their own characters, by continually mocked a large portion of loyal fanbase with disparaging remarks about the ship and the shippers, pandering to laughter in the audience about the very idea of a male/male ship on the show, and portraying the whole idea of such a ship into a joke.

The bigger problem: This is not okay. This is bullying, plain and simple.

The actors were bullying on stage, and receiving cheers and applause for it. I was uncomfortable just watching it, much less when I thought about it later and realized what I had actually seen. It was obvious the actors were uncomfortable with the idea of male/male relationships, and seemingly felt the need to air their discomfort to this receptive crowd. Their decision to give voice to such opinions in a public forum not only shows little understanding of how fandoms work in an internet age, but also gives those who would follow in their footsteps a feeling of vindication and permission to continue the bullying beyond the convention, leading to a hostile environment of people attacking those who have been supporting the ship.

This whole situation is deeply problematic on so many levels.

Many if not all of those shippers are people who badly need and want a positive non-hetro relationship involving strong and fully developed leading characters to be portrayed on a favorite sci-fi show. That’s not too much to ask for. That’s something that should already be normalized, yet never has been and is obviously still a long time in coming. This should not be something that gets turned into a joke or a punchline. This is not something that should make those fans the subject of continued online bullying and harassment, something they already had to deal with constantly.

Directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, the two actors have contributed to a culture of bullying, harassing, and threatening “otherness”. They targeted a portion of their own fans and supporters to do it. They have giving an example of behavior to the more privileged fans, showing that it is acceptable to them to continue bullying, harassing, and threatening. I hope that was not their intention, but that was the consequence.

This is disturbing and irresponsible behavior of public figures.

While I can hardly demand someone act or do things in a certain way simply because they are popular — they are still just people, after all, and have all the same rights to autonomy as anyone else — I can and do hope that those who find themselves in positions of influence would have the common sense to use that power with care and humility and at the very least, humanity. Feeding into the culture of bullying is the very antithesis of that hope.

Geek culture, sci-fi culture, and fandoms are already struggling. Not even taking into account how problematic many of the very high quality shows being produced these days are; or the fact that when those shows are called out for being problematic the reactions tend to set off powder kegs of rabid controversy and personal name-calling (at best) more than thoughtful discussion most of time; or the fact that rampant white male hetro privilege is the base norm for pretty much everything ever (even in subcultures); there’s still the basic problem of the people involved.

On one hand, they can be amazing, warm and inviting and supportive; these are subcultures where you can find your tribe and discover people who get just as passionate as you about whatever it is you love. On the other hand, the past and sometimes current reputation is as a hostile, unwelcoming, elitist, boy’s club environment. Both are true right now, and some of the leading public figures within those cultures are working hard to tip the balance into something healthy that can grow and become every greater. Some of those leaders are even white hetero males — the ones enlightened enough to be willing to listen and learn to recognize the problems, and to help try to rid our subculture of prejudices, bullying behaviors, and sometimes even rape culture.

Comments like the ones given by Supernatural‘s main co-stars are exactly the sort of negative setback we, the portion of population who support being supportive and responsible, don’t need and don’t want. There are so many examples of actors who aren’t even part of our culture, who are embraced and beloved by us for being on our favorite shows, and demonstrate such gracious and humble respect for our support — however much they might be bemused or confused by it. It makes me sad that these two men, for whatever reason, can’t seem to have followed in one of those shining examples.

These two actors made a very big, very hurtful mistake. They have alienated and bullied some of their loyal and supportive fans. They have lost viewers for a show that’s been give them a paycheck for the past decade. They have caused a rift, and didn’t seem to care one bit at the time about what they were doing and who they were attacking.

I hope they can see the fallout of this, and realize the full impact of what they did. I hope they can learn and grow from this experience. Even if they never attempt to make up for it, I hope they at least never do something like this again. I hope other actors see the hornet’s nest they stirred up among the show’s supporters and beyond, and take pause to reconsider before making such blunders themselves.

To those who have been impacted and hurt by this, I extend to you my deepest sympathies and many internet hugs. If you haven’t found it yet, check out #USSDestiel for some shipper love and fun from fellow fans. They’re showing off the best of our subculture, by rising from the bullying undaunted to become stronger and even more supportive of one another.

Love,

GeGi.

Talking about Privileges.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I want to talk about privilege. I’ve mentioned various types of privilege in several previous posts, so I think it would be good to define and describe it a bit for those readers who may be unfamiliar with thinking about the lenses through which they view and interact with the world.

There are basically as many types of privilege as there are different types of people in the world. To my understanding, “privilege” is just a shorthand way of saying: This type of person fits societal standards of “normal/ideal” in this aspect. Of course, this has a lot of hidden and obvious negatives towards those who are not that type of person, and a lot of hidden and obvious benefits for those that do. Let me give some examples…

Cis-gender privilege: Cis-gender is a shorthand way of saying that the gender of the body (sex) matches the gender in the head (gender). If your body’s gender/sex was born matching with what you know you are inside as a person, then you are probably cis-gender. If there’s a difference (transgendered, genderqueer, genderfluid, androgynous, etc), you are probably not cis-gendered. I use the word “probably” because I try not to tell people they ARE this way or that way due to a definition. I respect whatever label you feel most comfortable with; it’s always your choice.

So here’s a scenario of cis-gendered privilege: you think of yourself as male, and look male, and have always been that way. If someone called “sir” you probably wouldn’t think twice about it. So imagine if you felt exactly the same way about your identity as male, but were born into and currently have a female body? Getting called “sir” would be thrilling, but rare at best. You would be surrounded by constant reminders that you are different, that you are not privileged to the same forms of automatic treatment as the guy next to you. If you are not cis-gendered, your life is filled with battles and struggles on a daily basis, from paperwork to public bathrooms. And it doesn’t usually end even if you fully transition to being perceived by others as the matching gender (called “passing”). The act of trying to pass or transition itself is often a result of being outside the privilege of being cis-gendered, requiring extraordinary amounts of time, expense, effort, and sacrifice.

Male privilege: Those who appear male have crazy amounts of privilege in this society, especially if they are also white (which is a whole other category of privilege, of course). Being female-bodied myself, I recognize and envy their privilege of not living in this society as a women; trust me, it’s often difficult and rage-inducing at the best of times. Men have the privilege of automatic respect, of not being forced in a position of fearing or even preventing rape (note how pretty much all the advice about preventing rape is directed towards WOMEN), of having basically any body type be okay, of having a bad day without getting called a bitch, of being sexual without being called a slut, of basically any less-than-ideal human behavior without being shamed for it. The list of male privilege goes on, but it’s rough being a feminist and talking about this, so I’m going to stop before I induce too much rage in myself.

White privilege: This is one of the privileges I DO have, although I’m currently living in a place where that makes me a minority. Obviously I can’t speak from authority from the unprivileged side of the lens on this one, but I can still think about some of the more obvious privileges I receive from it. This includes things like; media portrayal (my race is not automatically the “bad guy”, or forced into a role of beneficial wise adviser. My race is not restricted to a few portrayals and generalities in news footage, or used for fear-mongering on a daily basis.); how I’m treated in random interactions with strangers (without automatic suspicion, or invasive personal questions.); interactions with positions of authority (I won’t harassed by security, my word will be believed equally against another, I will be trusted, I will get hired.); and so on.

There are many many more types of privilege — straight privilege springs to mind immediately — but these examples should be enough to start helping you to thinking about this issue and see more of them on your own. For the RPG-minded of you, remember that privilege stacks the more of them you have. A perfect example of this is the frequent use of “white cis-gendered straight male” as the automatic assumption in any hypothetical person in a conversation or media. If the hypothetical person is not one of those things, that variation must be stated, otherwise it doesn’t exist. The above described person in real life will also enjoy the most benefits from society, and can basically get away with being completely evil. (Which is NOT to say that all those fitting that description are evil. Just that they could probably get away with it IF they were, based on how many of them seem to when they are.)

Basically all privileges pretty much boil down to how people (including media, ect) treat you based on their assumptions and your outward appearance. This is why the whole mess privilege creates is so inaccurate and unfair, and why it can be so difficult to deal with. It’s something we’re all raised with. It starts the moment we come into this world and are slapped with our first set of labels. From that moment on, we are indoctrinated with the expectations of those labels, and all the privileges and disadvantages that go along with them.

It can be a long hard struggle to fight free of those labels, and the lenses they give the world, but I think it’s worth it. Even if you are the most privileged of people, recognizing your position and realizing what the world is like for others can only benefit everyone. The more we can work towards understanding the world through the experiences and eyes of others, the more tolerance and change we can bring into reality. That’s my dream, anyway.

As always, please leave any comments or questions you might have, and I’ll try to respond ASAP!

Love,

GeGi.

Advanced Sexuality 101.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

In last week’s Tuesday post I talked a bit about my gender identity. Thanks to some inspiration from one of my bloggy friends, I thought a good follow-up would be talking a little more on that, and start talking about sexuality. This is a huge subject to cover in one post, so I’m going to try for just a basic introduction to some of the more complex aspects this time. If you have any questions afterward feel free to ask in the comments!

To a majority of people, I think sexuality is still considered a bit of a yes/no, black/white, gay/straight subject. Hopefully quite a few people are aware of some of the middle ground — bisexuality — and see that it is a legitimate aspect of a spectrum. However, there’s a growing awareness that sexuality, like gender, can be much more complex and multifaceted in reality and practice.

Below is a useful chart for reference; I like this one because it contains enough categories that I think it starts to reflect a bit more accuracy with us more complex humans, yet it is still a fairly simple and accessible breakdown for those being introduced to this concept.

According to this chart’s categories and definitions, for instance, I would currently self-identity this way:

  • Gender Identity is genderqueer.
  • Romantic Attraction is lesbian.
  • Sexual Attraction is bisexual.
  • Sex is female.
  • Sexual Practice is grey asexual.

This is basically why I label my sexuality with the catch-all term “queer”, in case you wondered.

Now, I’ve already talked about being genderqueer in the prior post I mentioned. “Bisexual”, for me, is not about binary genders; it is saying “I like those with gender/sex like me, and I like those with gender/sex unlike me”. I prefer it to pan-sexual for personal reasons (nothing against those who prefer pan-sexual! I’ve used that label as well, and have zero problems with it. Labeling yourself is all about personal preference). I’m going to assume that “lesbian” and “female” probably don’t need explaining. If they do, then just ask me in the comments, or do a search on the internet, or look in the local library.

As for the last category, “grey asexual” is a term that can have different definitions depending on who you ask. Broadly speaking, it can be an umbrella-term for folks that aren’t quite sexual, but aren’t quite asexual either. The middle ground, so to speak. This one is a bit tricky for some people to understand, so I’ll get into it more further down. For now, just try to keep in mind that sexuality can be more than just an “on/off” thing for some of us.

I’m going to assume that thinking of sexuality and gender in these ways is new and unfamiliar for you. If it isn’t, awesome! I love awareness and diversity, so good for you! For the rest of you, I’m going to start getting into these categories a little more. This subject is about as huge as the number of people in the human race, since we’re all incredibly diverse and unique in many ways — so if I get something wrong, it’s because I can only speak for myself and my own understanding. Think of this as an introduction rather than the definitive word on the subject.

Obviously, a lot of people are probably not overly complex, and therefore might not think of some of these things being separate categories; not every chart separates romantic attraction, sexual attraction, and sexual practice, for instance. But that’s one of the reasons I love this particular chart. Those ARE separate things for some people, and defining our own sexuality to ourselves — much less coming out to other people — can get very confusing very quickly without the realization that we can have different answers for those aspects.

Much the same way my biology is female but my mind and personality are genderqueer, I experience physical attraction — “that person looks sexy”, etc — to all genders, but tend to only have romantic attraction — “I wanna spend time with that person”, etc — with non-male/female gender types. Oddly enough, I’ve been in more “dating” type relationships with men; I guess I seem to come off as a straight female unless I correct people all the time, and for a while it was easier from me to do as expected and ignore how I felt, due to unfortunate circumstances. But I usually didn’t feel quite right in those relationships, more like I was playing a part than just being me, and they rarely lasted very long.

As for sexual practice, I would personally like to break down this category further: Sexual Practice Identity and Sexual Practice Behavior. Like the separation of other categories, those can legitimately be different things for some people. It can cause confusion and distress for one’s self and others trying to deal with the seeming paradoxes caused by trying to definite them as one thing. Currently my answers would be the same for both, but there have been times when they were not. For instance, the last time I was in a relationship, my identity was still grey asexual, but my behavior wasn’t. That caused a lot of problems and stress for me, because at the time I didn’t know how to break it down into these categories to reconcile how I felt with how I acted.

Speaking of grey asexual, this would be a good time to get into another aspect of the sexuality spectrum. Hopefully most people are aware of the range between gay and straight, with bisexuality being in the middle. However, this is only one side of a sexuality pyramid. Asexuality — those who do not experience sexual attraction/desires — is the other tip. In that vast space between those points, are all the people in-between; those who rarely experience sexual feelings, those who only do under very particular circumstances, those who experience it very atypically, and so on. If you want more information about this, I suggest you check out AVEN’s website here, because it’s basically a whole other post to really get into it, and I’m just doing overviews at this point.

I call myself grey asexual to indicate that I’m somewhere in the middle of that pyramid/spectrum. In terms of Sexual Practice (both behavior and identity), I don’t consider myself completely asexual; yet I have very little interest at the moment in pursuing a physical relationship with anyone — and am only slightly less averse to the idea of a romantic non-physical relationship (those relationships would be called demisexual, by some definitions). As mentioned above, I have a history of feeling conflicted about physical relationships even when I do think I want them — so I’m pretty sure I would label myself grey asexual for my Sexual Practice Identity even when my Behavior did not indicate it.

All in all, I tend to approach all aspects of my sexuality — like my gender — as being quite fluid. I’m aware this view is pretty atypical from the majority. It can lead to a lot of confusion and uncertainty, for myself and others, but I find the fluid and multifaceted approach helps my own sanity more than it hurts anything else, and that’s the important thing. Everything I’ve talked about here is only as useful as it is helpful; if it doesn’t help you, don’t apply it to you. But by the same token, please keep it in mind when dealing with others, so you can be respectful of their identities and needs.

There’s a lot of information in this post, so I’m going to leave at that for now. I didn’t really get into everything, but it’s a start, and hopefully it will spark some interest in learning more about this fascinating subject! If you have any questions or would like me to do another follow-up on one of these topics, leave a comment…

Love,

GeGi.

“I contain multitudes.”

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve mentioned before that I am genderqueer. In case that interests any of you, I thought that today I’ll talk about it a little more.

When I was a kid, I never heard of any options outside the gender binary (male/female). I was female-bodied, so I figured that meant I was female. I grew up in the country, and I was either by myself or tagging after older kids a lot. My favorite game was coming up with fantasy scenarios — usually along the lines of my being an elf ranger with a stick for a sword and an imaginary bow, fighting orcs and having epic adventure quests. I was quiet and and uncomfortable around girls my age, because I couldn’t relate to them. They were interested in love stories and playing mommy and being mean towards other girls, and I wasn’t. I was more interested in trying to prove that I could be as good or better than boys at anything, being physically strong, and having fantasy adventures alone in the woods.

As I got older and the other girls started reaching the ‘boy-crazy’ phase, I related less and less. I swore to myself that I would NEVER become obsessed with make-up and skin and clothes and especially with boys. It all seemed like such a waste of time to me, when there were so many other interesting things to do and think about — like reading, and fantasy games, and archery lessons, and riding horses, and running around in the woods.

As I entered teenhood, I got more and more uncomfortable with my body. I wore baggy boyish clothes, because anything more feminine or revealing felt awkward and wrong. I spent more time online, looking for things that would help me understand why I had slowly stopped feeling the pride I had felt as a child in my body and gender. I started fantasizing about being a boy, and experimented with binding my chest. I imagined what I would have been like had I been born male. I started writing stories with male narration. Yet I didn’t quite feel comfortable with claiming a transgender identity. Being a girl still didn’t feel right, but I didn’t quite feel like a boy either. I started identifying with androgyny, and the idea of being “both” and “other” at the same time.

When I first came across the terms “genderqueer”  and “genderfluid”– the idea that gender is a spectrum and one’s position on it can be outside the usual categories, and can even change dependent solely on how one feels at any given moment — I knew I had finally found the answer I’d been so desperately looking for. It was freeing and liberating; suddenly I could let go of the guilt I felt at “failing” to be a girl, or at “failing” to be a transboy. I wasn’t either, and I didn’t have to choice between them. I could just choose to be ME, free of gender labels that didn’t fit anyway and had been feeling more and more like they were full of constraints and expectations.

Some days I want to be a bit girly. Some days I want to be a boy. Some days I’m still horribly uncomfortable in my own body, because it is so very female. Some days I don’t care. Mostly, I wish society in general knew that gender wasn’t always binary, so people would see me as my actual gender rather than just my female body.

I worry sometimes that telling people about all this will make them think that I hate or fear being female, or that I have “penis envy”, or some other completely error-filled assumption that helps them invalidate my feelings in their world-view. My response to these and similar claims: I believe those feelings are probably normal reactions in a society that creates a world where being female is a bad thing, and being male is a good thing, and it speaks vastly more about the problems with such a society than it does the invalidity of those feelings. I don’t know how much of what I feel about my personal gender is in reaction to living in an insidiously patriarchal culture. Even if the answer was “100%”, should that really make a difference? We don’t exist in a vacuum, so why should my influences make what I feel less valid? It’s still how I feel.

If we lived in a more equal society, I would hope that it would also be more equal towards a less binary view of things like gender and sexuality. I want to live in a society where the person I know I am is accepted as valid without explanation or defense, where discussion is surrounded by genuine interest instead of attacks, and I would be able to check the box that says “fluid”. All those things should be basic freedoms for all people.

At the end of the day, how I feel about ANYTHING when it comes to identity — gender and sexuality included — tends to be in constant flux. It’s part of being alive, at least for me. It’s part of my growth and change and exploration. Fluidity is part of my identity. I call myself genderqueer because that’s who I am. I know it the same way others know they are male or female.

Love,

GeGi.

Young People Push Back Against Gender Categories

Young People Push Back Against Gender Categories

My Mum sent me this link a while back, following a conversation we had about same topic. I finally got around to listening to it (I know, I know, I’m a terrible procrastinator), and was really impressed with the positive way they handled this subject for such a short segment.
As a self-identified queer and fluid person myself, I really loved hearing this on NPR, and wanted to share it.