RadFem Dialogue II: Let’s Just Be Friends

Posted: December 25, 2009 in Troll Wars


Petaluma, ca @TheTeaRoom | Dec 09

Polly at verymadcows has responded to my call for dialogue. I am going to quote Polly extensively and comment in line. Poly is very complimentary. Thank you Polly. I am going to focus on our disagreements, but I think we actually agree on a lot of things.

Jasper’s interpretation of female sexuality is just the same as most of the rest of the human race. Jasper thinks active female sexuality doesn’t exist.
And this is why Jasper, and large swathes of the rest of the male human race are so disturbed by lesbians. Not political lesbians, actual lesbians. Ones that like cunts.

If I was going to get all POMO at this point, I’d start talking about Monique Wittig and how lesbians destabilise the heterosexual matrix. But it’s really a lot more simple than that. The majority of heterosexual human males don’t want to believe females can possibly have active sexual desire. And even more specifically they don’t want to believe lesbians exist, because where does that leave them? Hence a lesbian cannot possibly be a female who actively sexually desires females.. She has: according to Jasper (or at least Jasper’s friend) to be a woman who is afraid of being sexually desired by men.

Polly, I am not sure what your definition of “active female sexuality” is, but I do believe in strongly gynophyllic females. I think most of the human race have bisexual tendencies. The 100% gay or straight individuals are the exception. The Gay/Straight binary is a social achievement rather than a biological one. You say elsewhere that you are a gender atheist. Well I am a homo/hetero atheist.
So in my world Lesbian is a social category populated by the Female-Born, who identify as being 100% gay. Many of them are 100% gay but a significant number are aroused by both female and male bodies. It is this latter category of bisexual females that I am concerned with. I have no interest whatsoever in lesbians who are not attracted to me. In fact if a Fab self identifies as Lesbian rather than as Queer my walls go up and I find someone else to talk to. Fortunately, lesbians are not my chosen dating pool.
Queer identitfied Bi-/Pansexual females are my preferred dating pool. The queer life experience is important because these Fabs know want to subvert hetero-patriarchal gender scripts. The straight-identified girls I have dated have had trouble subverting gender roles. All too often they want a male to be stronger than they are and to take control.
When a young, hip San Franciscan Fabs says “I identify as queer,” she is usually professing openness to all genders. This is the sense of queer identity being an alternative to lesbian identity. My frustration is that bisexual women of lesbian history often feel strong social pressure not act on desire for Mabs. Queer bisexual Fabs face being socially ostracized for being with a Mab. I have had sex with a few Queer Bisexual Fabs. Interestingly the two Fabs that were from out of town both remained interested in friendship post-sex. The three that were part of the local queer scene all got trippy and cut off contact and never returned my phone calls after having sex. One lesbian told me that in her circle “it was OK to fuck a Male as long as you hated him afterwords.” You had to make fun of him to your friends. This is an almost exact homology to the hetero-patriarchal phenomenon of “hogging.” The scripts of masculinity say “You can pick up a fat girl in a bar, as long as you express contempt for her to your friends.” (See the excellent “Rodeo” piece in “The Fat Studies Reader”.)
So, to reiterate I have no desire whatsoever to interact with self-defined lesbians. I also have no interest in entering Fab separatist spaces, but I do find the bio-separatist impulse to be reactionary. Not being attracted to Mabs is altogether different from projecting all your shit on Mabs. Separatism, Othering and Hate go hand in hand. Dividing humans into reified groups of Us and Them is regressive, not progressive. On the left it seems to be motivated by Nietzsche’s vengeful resentment, and is justified by Marxian terminology of class warfare. But Nietzsche showed us that class/race/gender resentment all spring from a Neo-Calvinist victim narrative which performs and supports mutual marginalization rather than ending it. Judith Butler and Wendy Brown have both explored this aspect of anti-Mab feminism.
I desire to date self identified Queer Bisexual Fabs, but I find that the old prejudices and phobias die hard. Many hip post-dyke spaces in San Francisco use the Queer signifier to say we are inclusive of queer-identified Mabs. The inclusiveness is unfortunately more theoretical rather than real. Part of this is because part of the tolerance is liberal lip-service. proclaiming yourself inclusive does not mean that you stop projecting your shit on the “Other”, as African-Americans often find when dealing with white American liberals. The other problem is that Mab-haters show up in these theoretically inclusive spaces and treat them like Fab-separatist spaces.
This leads to the mindfuck that my Mab-body is fetishized on the crowded queer dancefloor. At the Stay Gold queer party, I was cruised non-stop. Fabs told me I was a “sexy bitch” and slapped my ass, and initiated dirty-dancing as long as their friends were not watching. As soon as the lights come on though, they distance themselves. I am just a dirty fantasy, like all marginaliized and fetishized sub-groups.
I hear the Transwoman argument that lesbians should be interested in them because they are women. They are claiming a ‘right’ to be desired. That is not my trip. I listened to queer bisexual girls and often heard “I do not like Males in dresses. I am turned on by males who subvert gender.” They liked the combo of stubble and lipstick. They were turned off when I tried to pass as female. My Male-body combined with a feminine gender was precisely what turned them on.
So my complaint is not that Queer Fabs are not attracted to me, because many of them are and they express their desire very clearly. My issue is that a relationship with me carries the same stigma that “inter-racial” dating carries in many social group. I want assimilation into non-separatist Queer space, and I am calling out the stigmatization of bisexuallity within those spaces.

According to Jasper’s friend Eileen, women become lesbians and reject femininity because they think there is no way men would find them attractive, so they reject the whole shooting match. Right, so that explains Lindsay Lohan does it? Come on, Eileen, this is just the ‘lesbians are only lesbians because they’re too ugly to get a man’ myth beloved of misogynist males everywhere rehashed for a POMO audience.

Finally, Polly, shame on you for equating my opinion and Eilleen’s opinion. I listen to her because she is intelligent and has lived the lesbian lifestyle for so many years. She makes a good informant because she is a queer outsider and refuses to drink the Kool-Aid. My guess is that she was speaking autobiographically and then projecting it onto others. She over-generalizes, and she is a queer identified bisexual rather than your definition of lesbian, but please do not put her words in my mouth.

And Jasper really, really doesn’t understand why lesbians don’t want anything to do with him. Let me spare you further pain J. It’s really simple. Lesbians are attracted to a sex, not a gender. Therefore no matter how culturally like a woman you become, you’ve still got a penis.

This is an interesting point. I have found that many of the queer bisexual fabs I have talked to express an attraction to gender rather than sex. Again and again I see Women who like butch Fabs and Transguys during a lesbian segment of their identity trajectory turn out to go for manly men and machos when they turn bisexual or straight. I myself am attracted to Femmes of both sexes. For some reason though I feel that Male-identified and Genderqueer Mabs manage to really perform femininity without apology. Mabs trying to pass as Fab so often project a low self esteem, and a desire to be invisible. They often do not get that they need to enculturate and learn the art of Femme in order to employ Femme attraction. That is a big turn off for me, and I assume for many Queer Fabs too.

When I say I’m a lesbian I mean one thing only. I’m a female person sexually attracted to female people. Now if you have a different definition fine, I don’t own words. But it doesn’t change me. And telling me that no, no, there are 12 extra neurons somewhere in your brain that are just like a female brain isn’t going to cut it either, because contrary to popular belief, the brain IS NOT the primary sexual organ.

Again this sounds like a Serranoan argument you are critiquing rather than mine. Mabs have to earn attraction by being attractive, and in my experience it is the Bisexual identified rather than lesbian identified Fabs, who I look too. That being said, I posit that a huge number of Lesbians actually are physiologically attracted to Mabs, but the the lesbian identity category requires the suppression of these inconvenient desires. See this excellent essay from lesbilicious.co.uk for an analysis of biphobia among the lesbian identified.

Christmas is a special celebration of gluttonous consumption.
Merry Consumption Day, Sweeties

Comments
  1. polly says:

    Hi Jasper

    Thanks for the response. Yes, first of all I wasn’t just critiquing you, I shoved the Seranoan arguments in there as well but I’m essentially lazy, but maybe I owe you a bit of an apology there if I misrepresented your position. And thanks for clarifying your position on being included in queer spaces.

    There was a bit of a kerfuffle a while ago when someone wrote a post saying that to have a sexual orientation was to fetishise genitals. And my answer is yes, to have a sexual orientation IS to fetishise certain genitals, but I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I think the idea that we’re attracted sexually to people’s personalities or their genders is bullshit. There are many lesbian women I love for example that I could never be sexually attracted to. It’s all down to that indefinable thing ‘chemistry’ But anyway there was a debate on whether we’re attracted to sex or gender here.

    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2009/09/08/you-thought-i-was-just-kidding/

    And yes, I’d cruise you if I was into males, you’re a physically attractive person. And did I mention I’m shallow? And I do like the aesthetics of this blog particularly, it’s a visual treat.

    The Seranoans really wind me up, which is when I discovered your blog I was citing it all over the internet as really interesting. The Seranoan argument goes like this – my gender is woman, therefore that makes my male body female, so anyone attracted to female bodies who isn’t attracted to me is TRANSPHOBIC. What?

    You are about the only trans blogger I can think of who will admit to being male. The rest seem to think that if they repeat that they are female long enough it will make it true.

    I respect the position of those people who feel a real dissonance with their bodies, and that it’s a physical thing rather than a function of gender, but again this is entirely different from the position represented above.

    I actually like what you do with gender a lot, because despite being a gender atheist, I think it’s genuinely subversive. And the extent of that subversiveness can be judged by the ruffled feathers elsewhere.

    I’m not a separatist BTW, since I don’t believe males are inherently anything. I got in a lot of shit for saying I might not be a lesbian if I didn’t live in a patriarchy. Which doesn’t mean I’m a political lesbian, it does mean that I neither know, nor care, why I’m a lesbian, but patriarchy constructs male and female in such a way that none of us know what we would be like outside a patriarchy.

    I suppose where I disagree is the idea that we can move outside patriarchy just by the queer movement. Apart from the fact that ‘queer’ seems often to encompass a lot of gender essentialists in queer clothing, (since a large number of the seranoans define themselves as queer), as factcheckme and others have pointed out there’s a whole machine out there enforcing patriarchy which is somewhat less visible in the western world, but it’s still there. In the non western world all bets are off, female = reproductive slave, whether you like it or not. (and of course abortion isn’t a done deal in most of the western world)

    This is why a lot of females ARE separatists, it’s the only way to (temporarily) be away from patriarchy. As a western lesbian I can to an extent live ‘outside’ the heterosexual matrix temporarily, but I’m still reminded of it, and back in it, the minute I leave a lesbian space and walk down the street on my way home.

  2. polly says:

    That being said, I posit that a huge number of Lesbians actually are physiologically attracted to Mabs, but the the lesbian identity category requires the suppression of these inconvenient desires.

    I don’t think is necessarily true either. I mean, I always cite prison as an example that almost everyone is actually bisexual in extremis, but actually most lesbians I know are the ‘gold star’ variety. I think the lesbilicious essay is a misrepresentation of the truth since at least 3 of my ‘gold star’ lesbian friends have been in long term relationships with bisexual women. A lot of lesbians are wary of having relationships with women who are actively involved with men, but that’s because generally these turn out to be a complete head fuck. It’s simply a fact that a woman who’s got a long heterosexual history who ‘turns’ is likely to have a lot of internalised homophobia. Certainly among my group of friends, we have no problem with my friend’s ex and her boyfriend being part of the group, why would we?

    There are, a number of women I think who ARE bisexual but don’t want to admit it, but these fall largely in the political lesbian category. And though I don’t know what it’s like in the USA, I know possibly ONE political lesbian over here, out of all the lesbians I know. But again that’s something that got me into a whole heap of trouble…

  3. polly says:

    For some reason though I feel that Male-identified and Genderqueer Mabs manage to really perform femininity without apology.

    I agree with this. However, femininity is a stigmatised category that is alternately demanded of FABs and they are then derided for performing it. I think MABs can escape this stigma because femininity is not required of them, and they are seen as being transgressive in a way that females are not, whatever gender they perform. Females who perform masculinity are seen not only as being unfeminine, but as claiming a status to which they are not entitled. Even powerful females (think Margaret Thatcher) must bear the tokens of femininity.

  4. Jasper Gregory says:

    Hi Polly, thanks for commenting and I hope you keep it up. every time I start a reply it turns into a draft post. I never figured out the comment thread thing I suppose.
    As an experiment I will write a few short replies.

    Apart from the fact that ‘queer’ seems often to encompass a lot of gender essentialists in queer clothing, (since a large number of the seranoans define themselves as queer)
    In the whipping girl Serrano rejects Queer Theory and its critique of gender. Serrano represents a retreat into Positivism and Biological Determinism. She is an Empirical Biologist after all.
    Her followers use queer as a synonym for LGBT not as in a Queer Movement or Queer Theory.

  5. Jasper Gregory says:

    This is why a lot of females ARE separatists, it’s the only way to (temporarily) be away from patriarchy.
    I would posit that all gender inverts (yes, I really am using that term) are violently policed by hetero-patriarchal scripts. Fab inverts in San Francisco have created safe spaces in lesbian and queer social space.
    As a Mab invert who eschews the Transsexual model of inversion, I have found no safe space not even in San Francisco. There is literally no place for us. That is why we dream of refuge in Lesbian space, and that is why out rejection stings so deeply.
    When I gave up hope of a lesbian refuge, I went insane with grief and rage, because that meant giving up all hope of refuge.

  6. […] post Polly said I actually like what you do with gender a lot, because despite being a gender atheist, I think […]

  7. polly says:

    I have to say Jasper, I’ve never been to San Francisco, but there are a lot of mixed queer spaces here in rainy ol’ Manchester, where you wouldn’t feel the least bit out of place. And more or less no lesbian only spaces – even lesbian clubs allow men in. Largely because £££’s rule and women only spaces aren’t commercial I suspect. So I am surprised that the same isn’t true over in the US of A.

    Mind you we did give the world the industrial revolution, Marx and Engels, the Smiths, Joy Division, etc etc etc…..

  8. polly says:

    And I don’t know what Serano is on about half the time, and I don’t think she does either. A lot of what she says is deeply contradictory. At one point she appears to claim to be transsexual, and says gender is experiential and externally constructed, and the next minute she’s saying her gender makes her female. Make yer mind up Julia….

  9. Jasper Gregory says:

    Regarding mixed queer spaces, I have a few thoughts.
    1) I lived in The Netherlands for 16 years. That experience taught me that generalizing across cultures is always deceptive. The similarities are on the surface, but under that surface lie hugely incompatible core assumptions.
    I talked to someone who did the lesbian separatist lifestyle in San Francisco and then moved to London. Here her life was structured around her lesbian identity category. In London it was just one category among many.
    2) The gay and lesbian identity groups do not mix very much in San Francisco. I can think of two events that are truly integrated Stay Gold, which happens once a month, and Tingle Tangel which happens four times a year.
    Most ‘queer’ events are really dyke and transguy events. They usually ‘try’ to be inclusive of Mab Inverts, but are not really safe spaces for Mabs. The discrimination is just more subtle. I feel tolerated on the margins, but I am a big fat “Other.” Everything I said or did was evaluated with suspicion. It is just not a psychologically healthy place to be. It is analogous to being an African American in a crypto-racist society, you will only belong once you internalize the hatred that th society holds for you.

  10. […] Transwoman Jasper Gregory Soldiers On Jasper has been exploring the world of the love that dare not speak its name, becoming a “tranny dyke”, as she terms it.  She would be amusing if she wasn’t so darn aggressive and offensive elsewhere.  This time she has decided to approach “lesbian separatists” and after being taken to school on some of their blogs, has backtracked and now just wants to be friends. […]

  11. BobrDobr says:

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  12. […] post Polly mentioned I really like what you do with gender a lot, simply because in spite of being a gender atheist, I […]

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