There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back

…well, tell her that I miss our little talks.  My, but I have left this blog rather bereft in the latter half of the year.  Let’s set about fixing that, shall we?  I know I left those italics around here somewhere–

(Content: discussion of homophobia, biphobia, stereotypes, daguerreotypes, dwarvish holidays, birdplanes, five gold rings, four sociopolitical musings, three French words, two Chinese proverbs, and that’s it because every time we try to put a partridge decoration on the tree one of the cats tries to eat it, I kid you not.)

故曰:知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆。 “So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.”

Sun Wu

Not that they need to be your enemies, nor do you need to be battling.  The broader point is that only understanding yourself, or only understanding other people and not yourself, are both inadequate.  I used to be bad at both.  I’m still bad at understanding other people, but I’ve been trying to find better ways to get along with humanity, and trying to learn from what I can figure out about myself.  We’ve just passed the ten-year mark from when my long slow climb out of complete foolishness began (which is a story full of oddity and cliché that started when I met a girl, and it has no further particular relevance to these writings).

So the cool thing about realising that I am bisexual was that it naturally led to realising a bunch of other stuff, too.  Take a question like: can men and women ever really be friends?  People will ask this very earnestly, even now in the third millennium of the Common Era.  Well, the stereotype of the lady and her gay best friend would certainly suggest it’s possible—wait, wait, not the gays, straight men (gay people in this context of course being in the same category as the not-Real Americans of US politics).  My mistake.  And we’re not talking about the ‘Ha ha it is so great that we are just friends maybe you would like to make out some time’ kind of friendship, either.  Hmmmmmm.  Can anyone ever have a legitimate friendship when the other person is part of the half of the world population that is agglomerated under the gender to which they are attracted?  Is this miracle possible?

Well, yes, or else I wouldn’t have any friends at all.  (Encroyable!)  Already bisexuality is enriching the consistency of my worldview!  (I suppose I could try to only hang out with agender people?  That seems like a lot of work.)  Now, in order for this to be a convincing argument, we’d first have to get people to understand that ‘bisexual’ doesn’t mean ‘wants to get naked with absolutely everyone everywhere all the time’, so I figure people will continue to ask this Deep Question for a while yet, but the point is that I don’t have to waste any more time with it either.  And if ever again I’m trying to figure out if I can somehow maintain a legitimate friendship with a woman I find attractive, I can just remind myself that I know I’ve managed to do so with attractive guys without even trying, and I don’t have to buy into the social message that the lure of A Person Of Compatible Gender is some kind of reason-bewildering force majeure.

I’ve noticed something about ogling, too.  In our culture, where women are the Attractive Gender and men (even with the most dashing chapeau) may only be judged Not Hideous begrudgingly with special approval from the legislative branch signed under the last light of Durin’s Day, there’s much ado about ogling.  It’s an approved Manly Pastime, ogling women, and women are quite justifiably not always happy about this and so good parents will do their best to teach male children that ogling women is disrespectful.  I had pretty good parents, all things considered (and much though I may tease them for their scientist ways), and my mother has lived a good example of why feminism matters, and I was pretty solidly taught about respect for women, such that I felt very awkward about liking girls, and the idea that women are whole people who occasionally like to do a bit of ogling themselves (and so forth) took some getting used to.  I still feel a bit guilty if I, shall we say, excessively appreciate a woman in real life.

No one ever taught me not to ogle dudes.  I also wasn’t taught any kind of homophobia, save by the kids in school, and I got over that on my own as time passed.  I also wasn’t taught that I needed to respect the personhood and identity of men in the way it was emphasised for women.  I end up feeling like I’m in a bizarro world—homophobes the world over try to make men feel shame and guilt over being attracted to men, and here I get myself tied into knots worrying that I’m being insufficiently respectful of gorgeous women in the confines of my head but my conscience is free as a birdplane when it comes to hot dudes.

The last major thing that leapt out at me as I settled into the world-upheaving revelation that I think some dudes are hot was: seriously, this is what everyone’s so worked up over?  I mean, the fact that I referred to myself for a few years as ’empirically straight’* is a hint that I wasn’t exactly in deep denial over anything, but still, realising that when it came to the straight/queer divide I was on the latter side emphasised for me just how absurdly overblown the division is.  It also taught me conclusively just how powerful the concept of Othering is.  Like I said, I was not taught to hate people for not being straight, and while I had some issues of personal identity (more on that in another post) I don’t think I ever judged anyone else for it.  I have been in favour of equal rights and social status for as long as I have known that there were unequal rights and prejudice.  But there was some subconscious way in which I still thought I knew that They were different from Us, some way I didn’t think I could ever truly understand a queer person (how this would be different from the way in which I’m still pretty sure I could never 100% truly understand anyone at all, I don’t know).  But then I realised that They was Us already, that I am part of the whole rainbow controversy that millions of people are so very very worked up about.  To which I can only say: seriously?

You guys.

I think you can find something better to do with your time.

It’s honestly not that different from all y’all straights.

I’m fortunate enough to live in Canada, where equality under the law is not terrible, and certainly I’d be fine if I ended up wanting to marry either of a man or woman.  And what baffles me is that I may imagine a marriage between myself and a woman, or myself and a man, and it’s not an especially different beast, but one is still seen as Upholding The True Way and the other will Implode Civilisation Forever.  It’s rather like being told that my choice between necktie and bowtie will supercharge or destroy the global economy.  I have always enjoyed the joke about the Queer Agenda (go to work, get groceries, watch the news, sleep) but my proper appreciation of it has only just begun.  It is vrai.

These are the thoughts and issues I’ve already mulled over and come to some kind of conclusion on.  There’s more I’m still puzzling: for example, most people (such as my entire family) still think I’m straight and I can’t quite decide if that means I should consider myself closeted or what.  (Did I spontaneously become closeted the moment I realised I was bi and no one else knew, or did the waveform not collapse until I elected to not immediately tell everyone else?)  I’m not trying to hide being bi, but I’m not going around declaring it to strangers either, largely because straight people aren’t expected to inform everyone that they’re straight and I don’t feel I should be obligated either.

On the other hand, identifying as queer remains a radical act as long as everything is heteronormative, and the more visible we are the better we have a chance to help people notice homophobia and the better we can support folks who are still closeted for their own protection and so forth.  So it’s one of those things where I have to decide between doing things the way I think they ought to be done in an enlightened society (some people will find out I’m bi because I talk about it like this, some will find out because they see me with a dude if or when that happens, and some will never know because it’s not bloody relevant to the scenario) or doing things in the way that they shouldn’t have to be (explicitly identifying as bi when not mandatory because 吹皱一池春水).

And also, but unrelated, since it’s the fifth day of Christmas now, I’m curious: do y’all figure the five gold rings were supposed to be worn one-per-finger, or all on a single finger like a suit of digit armor?**

*By which, I would explain, I meant that all evidence indicated that I was only attracted to women, but I didn’t have any strong personal sense that I couldn’t be attracted to a dude, I just hadn’t ever been so in the same way.  Once I realised I was bi, I did a bit of a walk back through memory and noticed that the evidence was not in fact nearly as one-sided as it had seemed to me.  “Oh—so that friend in drama class I always felt a bit weird around—ohhhh.”  (In my defence, there were a lot of hot girls in grade 12 drama class.  It didn’t take much latent internalised homophobia to point my attention elsewhere.)

**Or maybe they’re not all finger rings?  Some could go in the ears?  Nose is right out, for my preferences.  So is the eyebrow, usually–although see above there was that one guy back in grade 12 drama…

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10 comments on “There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back

  1. KLA says:

    This post made me realize a few things. One of them being that being a bi-woman is easier than being a bi-man. No, not because society on the whole is gentler to us, but because the whole gawking thing just does not come into play in the same way. Women stare at each other often for totally innocent reasons “Those boots be BITCHIN’!” and unless the dudes in my life have been lying to me (likely) many guys LIKE it when women check them out – though there is the risk of being caught and hit on and they’re always prettier until they start trying to talk to you :/

  2. Brin says:

    Song of the year. Last year’s was Landscape by Florence + the Machine. I thought you should know.

    I do know, for which I blame you entirely. (And by “blame” I mean “thank”. Also, “The Great Collapse”.)

    my conscience is free as a birdplane when it comes to hot dudes.

    That birdplane doesn’t seem especially free.

    some way I didn’t think I could ever truly understand a queer person (how this would be different from the way in which I’m still pretty sure I could never 100% truly understand anyone at all, I don’t know).

    I thought the non-grokking of other sexualities was part of the general non-grokking of other people.

    do y’all figure the five gold rings were supposed to be worn one-per-finger, or all on a single finger like a suit of digit armor?

    I had kind of been assuming one-per-finger, but digit armour is neat.

  3. frasersherman says:

    Actually I’ve seen quite a lot of fuss over the years about OMG, if we let gays shower with straight men they’ll totally check them out! They’ll THINK about them! No straight man wants to be thought about That Way\ (and occasionally I see the same about I Caught Fugly Women Checking Me Out Oooh Icky). Echidne of the Snakes has blogged a couple of times about how tied up with gender roles this is–being checked out by someone you’re not interested in is (for those squealing and squawking) very much the female role.
    If Canadians aren’t that nuts, so much the better.

  4. Will Wildman says:

    Certainly, homophobes anywhere will discuss how hideous the thought of being checked out by a member of the same gender is, but in most circumstances it doesn’t get brought up as a simple fact of raising a child. When people talk about remembering to treat men as individuals and not just pretty meat, it’s treated as comedic irony (because that’s how we talk about women). Men aren’t supposed to check out men because Bigotry, not because objectification is wrong. That’s the contrast that I’ve been noticing.

  5. frasersherman says:

    Oh yeah, no question it’s not about objectification in general.

  6. Clearly one is a wedding ring and the other four are intended for the right hand, one per finger (the thumb is not a finger so it goes ringless) so that they might be used as the golden equivalent of brass knuckles but not be noticed as such until you use them. (Yes, the problems with this theory are many.)

    Or it’s just so you have one for every non-end day of the week, because who wants to wear the same ring day after day.

  7. Will Wildman says:

    Ornate gold rings that can be subtly interlocked to form brass knuckles are clearly the best possible accompaniment to an engagement band. I can’t imagine why we’re not doing this already.

  8. Lonespark says:

    Once I realised I was bi, I did a bit of a walk back through memory and noticed that the evidence was not in fact nearly as one-sided as it had seemed to me. ”Oh—so that friend in drama class I always felt a bit weird around—ohhhh.”

    I had the same experience. I was also kind of disappointed that I could no longer qualify as an Ally. I’m married to a guy and I moved away from all the places I’d previously lived as an adult. Very few people know that I’m not straight. I’m definitely passing and getting extra privileges, and yet it’s totally not relevant or anyone’s business most of the time. Most people get a fly-by mention of my ex-girlfriend at some point, but I feel like that doesn’t really get it across…

    If we can’t be friends with people we’re attracted to then pansexual persons such as myself are DOOOOOMED to a friendless existence. Evidence suggests that this is not the case, although there’s always some awkwardness when I try to figure out appropriate boundaries.

  9. Lonespark says:

    I find ogling real people kind of creepy, except in spaces and situations where they are obviously encouraging it, in which case it can be good fun. Otherwise it’s entitled disrespect. I sure have enjoyed various Avengers and dwarves and whatnot in the last few years. If I thought I could tolerate the Twilight movies I believe they also offer some good ogles.

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