Masculine of center, queer people of color; now is your time. bklyn boihood will be curating “Outside the XY: Queer, Brown Masculinity, “ an anthology highlighting the voices of masculine-of-center and/or trans* men of color, to be released by Magnus Books in print and as an e-book by mid 2015. bklyn boihood is currently accepting submissions of essays, interviews, fiction/non fiction, and literary work of all kinds. No need to be a writer. Simply submit your work before July 31st, 2014, and remember, YOU MATTER.
We are teachers, students, doctors, scientists, writers and so much more. Bois of color are everywhere, and we always have been but in mainstream media, we’re no where to be found. And for the 90 percent of people that don’t directly know someone who identifies as transgender or gender queer, it’s almost like we don’t exist. Now with Outside the XY: Queer, Brown Masculinity open for submissions, masculine of center queer people and trans* guys of color have the chance to show ourselves the most authentic way possible–because our stories to the world will be our own.
It’s important that every marginalized community have an established array of stories readily available to the public. For example, thanks to Janet Mock’s best seller Redefining Realness, we’re able to add to the public understanding of the complexity of women that are transgender. When the public doesn’t have a story to connect to when confronted with an unfamiliar image or event, we have the tendency to link it the closest story we can. It’s our humanistic need to categorize; our natural urge to simplify. Right now, there is no go-to-narrative for MoC queer and transgender men of color, so what’s the next best thing to the mainstream?
“I would say that right now there’s this one image of us; this masculine woman that’s essentially getting boiled down to a woman in boy’s clothes. Masculinity gets oversimplified into human beings that are getting misgendered and basically thought of as grown-up tomboys. ” Mo of the bklyn boihood collective stated in a recent interview.
Of course our lives are so much deeper than that. Of course our truths are so much fuller. But until the media knows that, most of the public will be in the dark.
From the growing popularity of the beautiful model Carmen Carrera, to the complex character, Sophia, portrayed by real-life transgender advocate, Laverne Cox on the ever-so-queer Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, it’s wonderful to see the growing support of transgender people of color in our society. Never have we experience so much positive visibility and productive discussion in the media as we are now.
NOTE: This essay is of the personal opinion of JasSoandSo. Because the author is a female-bodied queer attracted to cis women, this article will focus on female bisexuality.
When I initially met my best friend, she identified as specifically queer and avoided the dreaded “bisexual” term like a cat avoids water. It wasn’t until recently that she confidently accepts bisexuality as a part of her identity. Why, you ask? Because bi-haters. The worst part is, I didn’t realize, for the longest time, my own prejudice against bisexuality was no better than the bi-haters I’d actively accused.
In mainstream consciousness, the queer community is seen as a close-knit bunch. However, like any other social group, we have our own inequality issues. With the growing trans* visibility in our media, we are (very) slowly growing in support and inclusion of transgender people within our community. But sadly, with all the progression we’ve seen with trans* issues, I find we (the queer community) are equally as stagnant, or even weakening, in the understanding of bisexual people.Seeing that the bisexuality spectrum represents the majority of the LGBT community, it’s time we respect that fact.
MYTH- Bi people are just gay people that haven’t come out yet.
Today many of the people that once identified as bisexual now associate more with “queer,” due to the growing understanding and redefining of gender. Unfortunately, mainstream society hasn’t caught up with queer culture, and as of now we’re still known as LGBT and sometimes Q. Furthermore, the term “bisexuality” holds the weight of dozens of types of attraction that are far more queer, or genderqueer, than the term implies. The B in LGBT could mean anything from a person that is equally attracted, romantically and sexually, to both extremes of the gender spectrum (cis men or cis women), to a person that enjoys sex with both men and women, but is only romantically attracted to men.
MYTH- Bisexuals are indecisive or confused.
According to Buzzfeed’s quiz, ” How Gay are You,” I am “very gay.” Why thank you Buzzfeed, for confirming that for me. But in all seriousness, there is some validity in the phrase “very gay;” just refer to the Kinsey scale of sexual attraction. I’m a Kinsey scale 6, meaning I have no attraction to the “opposite sex” ( in terms of the gender binary). I’ve found over my time, as an out Kinsey 6, that I’ve felt I had some sort of right to condemn those on different parts of the sexuality spectrum than myself. I’ve been, dare I say, elitist, about something as natural and innate as sexuality.
When I learned the news that actress, Michelle Rodriguez, and stunning model, Cara Delevingne, were dating, the most ridiculous thought came into my mind; That relationship’s not going to last- they’re probably just experimenting. Umm…WHAT?
First of all, who am I to put a marker on the demise of anyone’s relationship? Second of all, their sexuality is not up for questioning by anyone but themselves. It sounds crazy, but there is a such thing called gay privilege. I find myself deciding which bisexuality is okay and which is “unacceptable”, as if I have any say in the matter. My privilege as a gay person is that my defined sexuality leaves little to no room for question from possible naysayers. Bisexuality, on the other hand, is by definition, far more fluid. The fluid nature of bisexuality makes people feel the right to question anyone that identifies as such, as if their attractions are less valid, simply because it is not as black and white.
I believe other “very gay” people like myself, when met with bisexuality, find it difficult to know where on the bisexuality spectrum our romantic interest stands, in order to protect ourselves from getting too emotionally involved, in case that person is not interested or capable of romantic attraction to us.
Are they “experimenting?”
Am I their guinea pig?
Are they “confused”, or do they really know that they want me?
All thoughts that have crossed my mind when met with the possibility of dating a bisexual woman #notproudofthis. From that discrimination, I, and many others like me, have grown unreasonably prejudice against all bisexuality. Now my critique is coming from very personal experiences with self- identified bisexual women. I do not think i’m speaking for all lesbians or female bodied queers, but I do believe many can relate to this issue.
The issue with cherry picking which bisexuality is “okay” is that we should not be discriminating at all. You see, these discriminatory thoughts encompassed me, as if the question as to whether someone is actually interested doesn’t come up regardless of that person’s sexuality. Any relationship begins with insecurity of newness and the unknown. Just because I’ve had a few bad relationships with bisexual women doesn’t mean I should discount all people that identify as bisexual.
MYTH: Bisexual women only do it to turn straight guys on.
A lot of how we understand sexuality is fueled through porn. Bisexual women in porn are almost always portrayed as hyper feminine women that hook up with other women, specifically for a male audience. Jezebel wrote an article denying the widely agreed upon belief that all women are, at least, “a little bi.” But consider this article, because this is exactly the angle porn and most other media portrayals of female bisexuality reinforce; bisexual women are best compatible with straight, cis men. The queer community faces the negative repercussions of constantly seeing this trope perpetuated, because whether consciously or not, we may learn to understand female bisexuality as hetero-centric, a.k.a- not queer. Though a very dangerous perception sexuality, I fear that’s kind of what’s happened.
Undoubtedly, popular culture understands female bisexuality as a form of a cis-male arouser. I know many self-identified “straight” women that have made out with other women “for the fun of it,” while in front of cis male comrades. Consider Katy Perry’s song ” I Kissed a Girl,” in which Katy explains that while she just found out she loves kissing girls, she also hopes her boyfriend doesn’t mind. Then there are the countless female celebrities, often “straight-identified,” that make out with each other for the wildly exaggerated publicity that follows such a stunt.
Bisexual-haters be like…
My prejudice is driven by fear. I fear bisexuality because of the complexity of the term; the idiosyncrasies that cannot be assumed simply based on someone identifying as “bi.” Fear is always the culprit behind prejudice, and my discrimination against bisexuality is no exception. So what if some bisexuality is a Kinsey scale 2 and others are 4? Is it not best we make each romantic decision on an individual basis rather than rely on faulty stereotypes to explain an entire group? Bisexuality is no less valid than gay, queer, pansexual or otherwise. To make overarching assumptions of bisexuality is to devalue the person that identifies as such, and that’s just not cool.
Love is love is love… Love you, bi family. – Jaz
UPDATED- March 16th, 2014- Jaz added note before article and also a title change.
Dogs are a man’s best friend, or so they say. But while men are throwing frisbees to their best buds in some park field, you’ll find a queerwith their best friend; the odd, yet loveable house cat.
Psychology Today enacted a study recently on the differences between self identified “cat people,” versus “dog people,” and they came up with some pretty stark polarities.
One thing I found interesting about this was that dog people tended not to differ much from those who identified as both a dog and a cat person and from those who were neither. Cat people on the other tended to differ noticeably from all the other groups, suggesting that cat people stand out from the crowd more.
Queer folks have a history of “standing out,” from drag queens to the world-wide, annual Pride Parade, where you’ll find millions of queers, queer’ing it up down a street near you. Because of the othering, or alienation of queer people throughout history, queer culture has rebelled against discrimination by adopting a practice of overt visibility, meaning to stand out against the norm on purpose. That is why today, many people assume they can spot a gay person in crowd. However, it is not their sexuality you’re seeing, but their expression of “otherness,” which in this case is their queer-mindedness.
Since the domestication of cats thousands of year ago, our furry, feline friends have been linked to strange or mystical counterparts. Due to their own mysterious nature, cats were associated with equally mysterious symbolism such as being the faces for many gods in ancient Egyptian religions to being considered the partners in crime for so-called witches of the witch trial era.Meanwhile, dogs have gone from good friends to best friends for just about everyone. They are known to be quite social, lovable and friendly. Similarly, they are featured far more often with “normal” humans as their pals than any cats have. Just check out this list of the top 30 (yes, 30!) dog movies. Pairing their history along with a usual independent disposition, cats have developed quite a name for themselves. Let’s just say dogs are definitely the better-liked of household pets…
Cats have been squared-off into the realm of other, along with weirdos, oddballs, and of course queers. It is only natural that they now be linked to queer people as our companions.
It must be understood that queer does not necessarily mean gay, as a self identified straight person can be queer-minded. It’s important that you know exactly what I mean when I say “queer,” so here’s a definition of queer in terms of our society according to Michigan International Spectrum –
Queer: Used as an umbrella identity term encompassing lesbian, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgender folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual. “Queer” originated as a derogatory word. Currently, it is being reclaimed by some people and used as a statement of empowerment. Some people identify as “queer” to distance themselves from the rigid categorization of “straight” and “gay”. Some transgender, lesbian, gay, questioning, non-labeling, and bisexual people, however, reject the use of this term due to its connotations of deviance and its tendency to gloss over and sometimes deny the differences between these groups.
It’s safe to say that queer culture has adopted the cat, and dare I say- made cat’s our mascot. We queers are all about otherness, and even those of us that don’t like cats, recognize their special place in our community. Here are some of the common reasons cats are associated with queer people, along with my commentary on each assumption:
“Pet your (actual) kitty the wrong way and you’ll get clawed. Same goes for your partner’s (figurative) cat.”- via Comediva. Yes, lesbians are known to compare their kitty to other “kitties.” The phrase, “Women are like cats, men are like dogs,” relates very closely to this assumption. Following this belief- Cats are like women, lesbians like women, so lesbians like cats. – syllogism of the day.
If you’re a man with a cat, you’re super gay. – FALSE. However, many gay men do own cats. And straight men that have cats are most definitely challenging the gender binary, by having a pet that is considered more feminine.
All gay people prefer cats to dogs. Lower-case-false. No need to stereotype the gay community. While many gay people own cats, there are also many gay, dog lovers out there. There are also gay people that despise cats. Yes, they do exist.
So sure, dogs can stay a man’s best friend. For or all intense and purposes though,cat’s are a queer’s best friend.
This essay is in response to a question I get quite often- “Why do gay people like cats so much? …Feel free to ask me equally bizarre questions below or in my messages, or on my Facebook page and I just might respond to you with an entire article!
Please enjoy these cat things below, courtesy of your resident queerdo, Jaz.
Jazzsoandso in no way supports perpetuating stereotypes. This essay is meant to parallel the many similarities between how cats are understood in society and how they relate to queer culture. Jazsoandso is also hoping to make cats the official mascot for the queer community… =)
As a child, I spoke as few words as possible. The sound of my feminine voice disgusted me. I hated to be called a girl, while loving the color pink. I was a budding genderqueer.
Boys are different from girls, they said. Fundamentally different, they’d persist. Boys don’t have long hair. Boys don’t like pink. Boys don’t cry and boys are tough. Girls like playing with dolls. Girls do poorly at math and enjoy frilly things.
Boys. I studied them. I developed obsessions with male classmates with the utter desire to someday become all that they were. I would play make believe with my siblings in which I’d only be satisfied if I took on a male role. I connected with boys in a way I never could with girls, and never quite understood why. I would wear suspenders as a tween and feel like a boss because they would make it look like I had no chest. When I started to develop, I would wrap myself in a bandage, not realizing that was a trope practiced all too often in the trans community. I would do this until my gender identity was challenged.
“You are so flat,” my very influential peers would say, prompting me to ask my mother to buy me my first training bra.
And then I discovered the internet. I learned about the term transgender. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of befores and afters, FtMs. Top surgeries, bottom surgeries, hormones. I would read and read until my eyes would blur from my families’ bright Dell desktop screen, and I’d sink in my chair, feeling the emptiness grow inside of me. It was as if the more I searched for myself, the more lost I got. Because I couldn’t avoid my feelings; I didn’t feel fully male.
I didn’t know any trans people in my anti-queer, southern town, and definitely wasn’t going to be the first. So what did I do? I conformed. Like the scared child that I was, I began to present myself as outrageously feminine, so no one would suspect anything strange. It was as if I thought people could see through me, and wanted to give them no reason to use thier x-ray vision to spot my insecurities…or my weirdness.
I fell into a bout of shame, hating my natural femininity because I’d used a false, hyper-femininity as a wall to hide behind for so long. Oh, what a person will do to fit in.
I wanted no more shame, so I turned to the bottomless internet once again, searching for a reason to love myself. I studied femininity and the power of it all. I learned that being feminine does not equate weakness. There is strength in the power of women. In femininity, there is beauty; not the skin deep kind but the unconditional kind. Through countless articles and books, and studying empowered feminist women like Betty Dobson and bell hooks, I learned to love my female body, and now I don’t want to lose it.
So here I am, yin and yang. Masculine and feminine. I wear my hair long but learned to walk from male role models growing up. The color pink still makes me smile, but I feel like a lie when wearing a dress. I still bind and wear clothes from the men or boys section, and prefer to hide my curves (the little bit that I have anyway). Not because I want to look male, but because it is how I feel most comfortable.
I call myself a boi, a budding term used in the lesbian and queer community, and truly believe if energies were gendered, I would be just that. I have little to no desire to have surgery or take hormones, though I like it when you call me “he.” I don’t mind “she” or “they” because I am that, too. All of the above, please. Sometimes I feel completely male, and wish on those days I had an attractive male body to wear. But most days I feel like both. I know it is confusing. I even confuse myself sometimes, but that’s simply how I feel. I don’t feel masculine enough to be male, nor am I feminine enough to be female. I love and accept my female body, though I ask you to not suspect that makes me a “woman.”
Through my journey, I find that in terms of gender identity, you are what you say you are. A man that wears makeup and has double D’s is still a man if he tells you so. It takes no more criteria than that. What it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are social constructs, and though the masses follow these standards, you don’t have to. I don’t have to. I prefer to say I am in between genders, masculine of center, and as I feel, I am.
I spoke recently to a dear friend that had a challenging question for me;
“Why don’t you just ignore gender? Why don’t you just be who you are and not worry about what that makes you, be it male, female or otherwise?”
I sat there, stumped and silent, too caught off guard to admit my annoyance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but this anger boiled inside me. I slowly felt the tingle as my senses returned and I blurted out,
“Because nobody wants to be an outsider!”
I certainly didn’t think before I spoke, but couldn’t ignore the truth behind my words. Nobody wants to be an outsider. No one wants to feel like they belong nowhere. So many queer and trans people walk through their lives never feeling fully human, as if there is something alien about us that no one will ever understand. That is why we search for acceptance. That is why we challenge the gender binary and tell you to call us Zir. We’re fighting for our visibility, because we don’t like feeling invisible. We are not transsexual, we are sometimes not even transgender, but we’re definitely all over the gender spectrum, as a gender “binary” is all but an illusion.
I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while now, but due to the fear of officially coming out as a genderfuck, I’ve avoided it. But as you see with this whole rant, I don’t care who knows anymore. I am tired of hiding in the binary and this is my way of connecting with all you gender queer and trans folk out there that are not interested in going all the way, on either side of the gender binary. We are the in betweeners, and we’re proud. Finally.
Fast Company recently released their 2013 “Smartest Women on Twitter” list in which you will find no, I repeat, no black women. At all. So, in honor of black-queer greatness, here’s a new series to present to you amazing, intelligent black, queer women that are smart enough to be on anyone’s “Smartest” list. These women have greatly impacted the fight towards black LGBT visibility,social justice, and all around wonderfulness- and as a nice touch, all will have Twitter accounts.
Staceyann Chin, a native Jamaican, has written a number of thought-provoking poems and even had a one-woman show at New York City’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe. She was co-writer and original performer in Russel Simmon’s Poetry Def Jam on Broadway. She wrote a memoir entitled “The Other Side of Paradise,” and was featured on “The Oprah Show” where she expressed the difficulties coming out as a lesbian in Jamaica. She has spoken openly about her pregnancy through In vitro fertilization, and proudly represents as a single, lesbian mom.
I knew I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help myself. Here is this beautiful girl standing in front of me, once interested in me. Once wanting me. If the only thing holding her back was emotions, why the hell do we need those? She looked at me, angry and frustrated, her brows furrowed and her skin a burnt orange under the frying sun. She rolled her eyes and prepped her feet to stand and I stared at her. I watched her go before she’d left as if I could see the future. I felt myself wanting her the way I thought she’d wanted me, and I couldn’t take it. I grabbed her arm and squeezed like a child to its blanket. She was my security and without her I was naked. I felt vulnerable. Not in the way people feel when they’ve been exposed in a way that makes them uncomfortable. More like a part of me had been kidnapped and I had no leads on how to find it. I didn’t know how to change her mind or make her want me the way I thought she did before.
I said, like speaking out her name unlocked some feeling in her she didn’t know she had. I was kidding myself. She ripped her arm from my grasp and stood over me. I felt like a piece of dust, just waiting for her to blow me away. I stood, towering over her, giving me this false sense of power I wish I had.
I would have rather she said nothing at all. Her words were poison. I didn’t want to stand anymore. She was moving away from me and I had no more ideas. I watched as her back turned to me and she slinked down the sunny sidewalk in her clunky red heels. I just knew she would look back at me. I knew she’d have second thoughts and come back to me, but she didn’t. She walked all the way down the block and I stood there like a zombie, wishing for more. More of anything really. I wasn’t picky.
Ever pass those “nude” colored stockings meant for alabaster complexions, watch the ever-so-typical Black rappers with their music videos in which they only include fairer-skinned Black women as their “dime pieces” (while offensive in many other ways, still a low blow to dark-skinned women), put on one of those damned “skin-toned” band aids that forever clash against dark brown, paper-cut ridden fingers, and think “Being white is awesome?” Well, I can tell you there are about a bah-trillion young, black girls that probably obsessed on that very thought. Dark Girls, a documentary that recently aired on Own, introduces this phenomenon of desired whiteness to a nation that overwhelmingly, didn’t even realize this was a thing. In case you’re still wondering though…Yep, it’s a thing.
I used to be one of those dark girls. As a preteen I remember searching online for ways to lighten my skin. I saved up my well-earned allowance to buy skin lightening creams meant for dark, under-eye circles or minor discolorations. I would wish and dream and hope for the day I could be just a few shades lighter, because lighter, to me then, equaled beauty. Whiter was better. Now a proud Black, out, queer, I’m faced with a new element of dark-girl-hating. What’s that you ask? Well, apparently, Black women are scientifically the ugliest women ever in the world. Wonderful. In 2011, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa conducted a study that found Black women to be the least attractive of all races. There was immediate backlash from a number of media outlets claiming Kanazawa’s study had a racially biased undertone, forcing him to remove his article from Psychology Today.
However, let’s move to the far less high-brow study from OKCupid’s blog to show that Kanazawa’s study may have been more of a reflection of America’s ideas of attraction that we like to let on. OkCupid has been a miniature savior for the queer community with it’s fresh and new ways of pairing up mates, with a clientele of supposedly progressive, well-educated young folks. But their study posted recently on how race affects the frequency OkCupid users get messaged shows clearly Black women don’t get too much love on the interwebs. It also showed that Black women respond almost two times more than the average, exemplifying Black women as far less selective than their non-Black female counterparts. In the predictable, non-twist of the century, the study also showed that white women and white men overwhelming showed interest in each other, while Asian and Latino people also preferred white OkCupiders.
And you wonder why little Black girls think whiter is better?
That, my friends is white privilege. I recently spoke with a close friend about being told that I “acted white,” and not being quite sure what “acting white” meant. To that she responded that she didn’t even see me as Black. Wait, what now? I was baffled by the implications of her statement. To say that you do not see my Blackness in a positive sense is to imply that Blackness is negative and therefore best left unnoticeable.
Being color blind in a symbolic sense does not make you racially conscious, but does just the opposite. Unless you are actually color blind (which only .4% of women are, by the way) then you see color, and you see Blackness. We do exist. Consciousness is the barrier between non-minority women and women of color that often goes unnoticed. Women of color forever look through a tinted lense where quite frankly, anything can be made to be seen from a racial standpoint. Dating as a Black queer means that you must unapologetically flaunt your minority flag.This means that you don’t have the privilege of forgetting what skin you’re in because whether you like it or not, Black skin comes with a little thing I like to call stereotypes. I mean, when you have to school a beautiful woman on why you feel weird eating watermelons, it tends to be a wee- bit of a damper on your lady-lovin’ parade.
I have encountered many women whom I found very attractive that after my advances, quickly express how they’re “ not into Black girls,” or as my witty, queer pal Nichelle puts it “not down with the brown.” I hate to use race here, because — let’s be real — sometimes a girl is just not that into me. It happens to the best of us. But as a Black queer, a woman’s openness to dating brown (race) is always a factor for me. My goal is not to only date other Black women or queers, as many would argue should be my plan of action anyway to avoid discrimination (though some Black women don’t even like dating other Black women). I look for other conscious queers of any race; queers who recognize their white privilege, or their ability to blend in white privilege (meaning minority women who blend effortlessly into whiteness though they may not be white-identified) and have made the active decision to see through an all-inclusive lense.
The question arises as to whether being unconscious to Blackness makes you racist. Mhmm, let me take a second on that. Yes…yes it does. In this modern day, progressing 2013 society, no queer (who are also minorities in our heteronormative society!) should be ignorant or forgetful of any other minorities within their community. The excuse of being raised conservatively is no longer acceptable. This idea parallels closely to the feminist fight in the United States, prevailing so strongly in the 1970s, in which women expressed the need for men to also claim feminism as it was a community effort, not just women’s war against our patriarchal society. Males are needed in the feminist fight if for nothing else, simply for their consciousness of women’s oppressions in the U.S. because if they are unconscious, as the majority, they would weaken women’s progression. For example, men that actively recognize women’s issues as significant would never argue against women’s birth control. In the LGBTQ community, white queers conscious of Black and minority queers, especially queers within lower income communities, would recognize the fact the Black queers living in poverty are probably not positively affected by the grand news of DOMA’s downfall, because they’re dealing with other classist or racial discriminations beyond DOMA. For example, imagine a young black queer living in the conservative south with low income and few queer-minded allies that has just come out to those close to them. Say that black queer is shunned by their family and forced to live on their own in the streets.The last thing on their mind will be the fact that they may one day be able to marry legally. This isn’t just a thought, it’s a real phenomenon for so many young minorities of the LGBT community.
Non- black queers conscious of black issues are able to work as advocates in queer discussions, and allies amongst the black queer community. They are able to speak on minority issues with a level of knowledge that may break that awkward line we cross when discussing race. Race relations are often avoided in discussions, even by the most liberal of queers, because of fear of offending or saying something inaccurate about a community you aren’t a part of. The crazy irony is our fear of offending only leads to more offense, because we wallow in ignorance in hopes of “playing it safe.” So next time you have a question for your queer, black friend, lover or otherwise about why their hair is so kinky, or where that stereotype came from that black people love chicken (Fun fact; I was raised vegan) , or even what Dark Girls and this whole dark-skinned/light-skinned thing is about, don’t be afraid to ask. No matter how offensive you think it might be, go for it. Because as queer weirdos in this hetero-normative world, we’re all in this together.