So of late there’s been a great deal of talk in my life (not personally just coincidentally) about gender, equality and identity.
There are some people talking about gaybros, there are concerns about economic roles of men and women in a class I’m taking and of course there’s this big rape incident in Stuebenville.
On the one hand, I like to look on gay society as a place where people are freed from gender, but in practice this isn’t usually the case at all. More on that later on. I will say that gays have something to offer straights here in that LGBT society is far more conversant with and aware of gender issues than straight society at large tends to be, but then again that’s the result of forming your own individual identity I’d wager.
So, let’s begin with the rape, the most controversial. I’m going to be sticking up for men in this case- obviously not the rapists. On the one hand I’m appalled that there were so many young men who knew what was going on and either lacked the wherewithal or the force of character to put a stop to it. I think that sentiment is shared by many, with varying degrees of passion.
I watched the leaked video on youtube (it’s not actual rape footage) of a young man making a series of jokes in poor taste about how drunk the girl was. He’s a jackass of course. What makes me feel better about the incident is that the other boys in the background told him he was a jackass and if you listen into that discussion, you hear some young boys asking questions like “what if that was your daughter” and “I have a little sister man.” I take heart in this video because in these comments I can see that the Stuebenville party was not attended by a bunch of raping misogynists.
True, I wish the attitude of “what if that was your daughter” had converted into them actually factually going over to where this was happening and putting a stop to it, but here is my first comment on gender. These are teenage boys, and while I don’t think we’re wrong to hope that they’d protect a young girls honor (I’m using that language deliberately) these aren’t trained police officers or adults or knights of yore and I don’t think they should be held to task legally for failing to step in.
My first comment about gender is that we expect a lot of courage out of young boys, courage that we don’t expect out of young girls. Whether that’s a disservice to one sex or the other is a matter for debate, but simply having hit puberty doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that these boys are responsible to become soldiers in the war against rape immediately. They themselves are still just kids, and the kind of courage to put a stop to a rape, while admirable, shouldn’t be mandatory for kids who were, from their comments, just as shocked at what they saw as the rest of us were. What’s more they were there watching something happen, and violent and coercive things can happen very fast. They can happen fast enough that an unseasoned half-drunk 16 year old might freeze or get scared and confused, and that’s not something they should be prosecuted for. Indeed, that males also get raped is underreported, and I think that the courage and stoicism that we unfairly expect from young boys is a factor in that underreporting.
As for the perpetrators, there are few punishments I would personally consider adequate to redress what’s been done, but at the same time there is an important question about gender that should have been addressed in their upbringing. At some point, these boys got in their head the idea that being a man means sexual dominance and predation, that being a woman means objectification and degradation. When the prosecutor says “they treated her like a toy” the question I ask is “where did they learn to play?” That the overwhelming majority of sexual crimes are committed by heterosexual males is a sad commentary on how maladjusted the gender identity is in that population. I’ll not hazard a guess at the model I imagined, but at some point where someone could have said “Conan the barbarian isn’t actually a role-model” no one did. Watch the original Schwarzenegger version, just the opening 20 minutes or so before he’s freed, and you’re going to see the upbringing of a rapist being glorified right up to the actual rape of a girl on screen. You and I know that it’s fantasy, that adults can play at rough sex and have a good time, but kids see this kind of thing and get it in their heads that this is what men are. They get it in their heads that being savage and brutish is how they can make their way in the world, and no one is evidently there to tell them that what they’re watching is only make believe or just joking. There’s a fascination with Conan-esque figures, with the brutal caveman sort. I like it myself actually, but I’ve always been aware enough to tell the difference between dark fantasy and what’s right.
So, let’s talk about gaybros and gender freedom in the LGBT world.
I myself have encountered gay elements who were keen on doing my nails, or dressing me up in skirts or other such things that I wasn’t comfortable with. I’ve also met gay men with a masculinity so patently artificial and obviously for show that I couldn’t take them seriously, and these 20 and 30 years my seniors.
If there is a problem for stereotype glitter gays enforcing femme behavior, there is surely a problem with stereotype homme as well. I’ve experienced this first hand in the leather community, a place where I as a fresh veteran was repeatedly told to butch it up by flight attendants and store clerks playing make believe badass. This wasn’t all-pervasive in the community and I have nothing but respect for the leather community as a whole, but this is a prevalent practice in leather-type gay scenes just as it’s femme analog is in some of the drag and glitter scenes I’m reading about this morning.
I just feel it’s a big shame for people who didn’t come to being gay in a fashion similar to how I did that they’re missing the outstanding opportunity to develop their own identities free of the gender roles that other people would force upon them. We end out having to redefine ourselves regardless because heterosexuality is a part of the hetero-male and hetero-female identity. That is to say being a gay man is a different gender from being a straight man.
-note on the difference between Gender and Sex——————————-
Sex is that which makes you a male- your penis and musculature and skeletal development and so on. Gender is what makes you a man- having a car a house a job and a wife- as opposed to being a fairy- having a boyfriend and a glitter fingernail polish collection and a trendy apartment. That is to say that while there are biological factors involved, manhood or fairydom are cultural constructs that inform behavior and social roles. The two penises are just as good as one another, but they won’t be judged the same.
People use the term “stereotype” with perhaps an overreach on what they’re on about. My argument for you today is that there are dozens of genders in male homosexuality. I’m not a girl and won’t pretend to know extensively about lesbians, but we can certainly tell the difference between a diesel and a lipstick and see that there is a gender divide between the two women.
What I contend however is that being a bottom is a different sexuality from being a top in gay terms, that being a gaybro is different from being a career dancer and that identification within different gay “stereotypes” actually accounts for participation in a sex-exclusive gender. Everyone involved is male, that is included, but their gender as say a bodybuilding bottom is radically different from a drag show top.
For my part it never really made a great deal of sense to me. I fiddled around with gender identity during my early twenties but after the war and perhaps just as I got older and more secure in myself the need to cling to any idea of masculinity hasn’t even been a bother.
Weirdly I’m told that I have an “organic masculinity” or that “I seem comfortable just being a man.” I would hazard that I just do whatever I want- and it’s a great and varied deal- and it just seems to come out that way, without thinking about “am I being very macho or am I being femme.”
I have a gender identity, that’s to be sure, but for the life of me I can’t begin to tell you how it works, I can’t self-identify it. I’m sexually versatile and I absolutely love my time in the gym. Yet, when I hear that guy grunting for dear life I think how insecure he seems. When I squee over video games or Shakespeare or sit in the part writing poetry, I’m not concerned that I might be turning into an over-estrogenated eunuch either.
But I have a construction of masculinity that’s based upon my service. I served honorably in wartime and as far as I’m concerned I don’t have anything to prove to anybody where my balls are concerned. That’s the basis of my comfort, I’d say, the place where my security in my masculinity rests so that I’m not constantly on guard against coming off too femme or worried about if my voice is deep enough for leather daddies to think me adequate.
I feel a great well of pity for anyone gay, straight, male or female who doesn’t have that comfortable and unassailable place where they can rest the foundations of their identity. How would I have reacted to those leather daddies if I hadn’t had that? How would I have reacted to the drag queens? Would I have ended up pretending to like painting my nails or slathering my chest with Rogaine? Let’s not even bother wondering about how I would have reacted to heteronormative pressures. That there are people who can come to peace with themselves without a foundation like the one I developed in the army blows my mind, and I hold a deep respect for people that can do that, that can go into the firestorm of contemporary gender pressure without armor like mine.
I can speak competently about the kinds of pressures and stresses that are put on people to conform to because this feature has let me avoid them so often. I’ve literally had people telling me that I could act effeminate if I wanted to or that there was nothing wrong with being more butch (I hate the word by the way, it sounds so… 1970s) and that I didn’t have to “hide who I was anymore.” What they were twlling me wasn’t helpful because it wasn’t accurate. They didn’t want me to be me, they wanted me to be who they thought I should be, just like the assholes who wrote DADT.
That’s the whole point, I was never really hiding anything after I came out. I kissed that (jerk) boy in front of my platoon buddies one night and after that I was just me, without pretense or concern. What was amazing was how little of me had to change because of that.
And what’s more I still get attracted to girls some times. Not often, they don’t tend to be as… well let’s just say my idea of human beauty calls for a lot of protein and that I have nothing but respect for the fairer sex, despite my feelings about the inefficiency of organs that you only ever really use during nursing. I mean seriously how does the body justify spending the calories to maintain them the rest of the time? But I digress.
The point is, bisexuality is another of those tricky gender issues. We tolerate and even encourage it among women, but it’s of the gravest taboo among men, even in the LGBT community, where it even gets a letter in the acronym. Mention bisexuality on a date with a boy or girl and they will immediately figure you for a whore and before you know it that’s exactly what they’ll have made out of you. I once dated a girl who offered her gay friend up to me on a platter and was then incredibly angry when he and I hit it off. I’m not saying I was blameless here, but the idea that bisexuality doesn’t count unless it’s practicing bisexuality is the biggest challenge facing modern bisexual males. A close second is the idea that it’s a transitory state between being unsure about your sexuality and choosing a “side” like there ever was one to begin with.
So. What are my concluding thoughts on gender? That it’s a rotten way to organize people.
(and thank you so much for finishing)
I am increasingly of the opinion that gender is the most damaging social construct at work in society today. It is more damaging than race, more damaging than ageism. It’s one thing to tell people that growing to a certain age (or not growing there yet) is reason to give up on doing something they want, another to tell them that a skin color or language is a barrier, but something altogether more sinister to say that their penises or cervixi (plural?) don’t count as much because they don’t conform to a set of parameters that someone else made up.