Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on feminism and faggotry

I'm fond of saying that most faggots wouldn't know feminism if you hit them over the head with it, but usually this isn't as funny as it sounds. So often it means that my sex life stays separate from my politics, the gestures of passion don't grow impassioned. I’m trying to create a space where the rigor of politics builds desire into something I can finally imagine. Unfortunately, I can't necessarily say that I've seen politicized people treat one another better, but I want to know what it would mean to build a culture of possibility.

I'm trying to talk about faggotry and feminism, how they intersect so clearly in my life but elsewhere they’re rings around one another. Feminism taught me to politicize every choice, including the ways in which I claim desire. I want to say that faggotry taught me to claim desire, including the ways in which I politicize every choice. Just because that sounds symmetrical. It would make things easier.

Kids on the playground called me faggot way before I knew that I had choices. I mean boys -- it's boys who called me faggot. Years before I knew what it meant, at least the cocksucking part, and then years more before I realized they didn't know about the cocksucking part they just knew I wasn't going to become a man if I didn't play by their rules. I hated them, and I hated their rules.

When I realized that it was gender they were seeing not desire, that little boys are monsters because of their parents and the cultures that makes them enact violence in order to access power -- when I realized these things, that's when I realized I needed to be a faggot because it was the only way they wouldn't win.

This was feminism: I was claiming a space outside in order to break apart their rules. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I claimed freak, right? Because I wanted to scare people into giving me my own space. I wanted to inspire kids beaten down still showing a spark not to care about everyone else. I would never have used the word kids -- we were already 14, 15, right? Anyway, that was after I decided to cook my own meals, do my own dishes because I saw the way this was required of my mother.

No need to track whether I was a feminist before a freak, a freak before queer, queer before faggot. I know this all took a while, that each layer makes the other, that none of this prepared me for the relentless dehumanization in gay male sexual spaces. Gay was never an identity I embraced, someone on the street would say are you gay? No, darling, I would say -- I'm a faggot.

The problem with gay male sexual spaces is that they’re almost like some homophobe on the street, demanding your adherence to the worst norms of masculinity unless you want your head bashed in I mean a blowjob. And feminist spaces, where the energy is so high the possibilities bright and glowing but I look around for faggots and I can count them on my fingers, sometimes just one hand.

10 comments:

Panic said...

Wow. Yeah, I'm thinking about it now (and I thought about it when you replied to my comment a while back) and there's so little room for gay men (I can't use the f-word, I'm sorry) in Feminism. I think partially it's because Feminists have a tough time reconsiling what out gay men have to deal with, with the male privilege that still comes with it. And then the ways in which that privilege is dismantled through homophobia and such. I don't claim to be anything of an expert on the topic, but you've definitely got me thinking!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Panic, thanks so much for your thoughts -- I've always found a lot of room in feminisms (lowercase) -- way more room than within gay male cultures, specifically room to politicize identity, question every choice, and challenge the sickening world that surrounds us (imperialism, cultures of violence, patriarchy, heteronormativity, racism, ableism, classism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.)... Sexually, however, I find myself in altogether different and more troubling spaces -- one of the things I'm trying to do now is to integrate the two, I mean to create sexual spaces that give me as much hope as feminism or at least to inhabit my own sexuality in a way that inspires me instead of leaving me feeling trapped.

Love --
mattilda

matty said...

I'm not social or involved enough in the Bay Area. But, thus far I've always felt welcomed wherever I've gone except for a few queer (male) bars where I was either not dressed the way every other guy was or I was too thin to be of interest to the chubby guys. ...bears they call themselves, I believe.

However, I have to say that on the few times I've ventured into F settings I often feel that I'm meant to defend my presence regarding why I am there.

I'm not too big on having to defend or prove why I am somewhere. If I'm there it is because I want to be there.

...maybe it is all the diet coke and migraine medication talking.

kisses,
matty

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Gay bars are the worst, that's what I say... I've always felt exponentially more welcome in feminist spaces, but often these are spaces I'm helping to create. Although even when otherwise, I think my flamboyance fits in/stands out better when there are politics around me, I mean politics that inspire... I hear what you're saying about having to defend/prove, although that hasn't been the case for me -- or maybe I just don't pay attention... I guess that doesn't happen in gay bars even when people hate you, then they just hate you. Ah, the community!

Love --
mattilda

annaham said...

Incredible, incredible post. Linking to it.

xo

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

AnnaHam, thanks so much! Today's a difficult exhaustion sinus sadness day, so your note makes me happier... And what a cute new picture!

Love --
mattilda

Olias Fall said...

Hey Mattilda, I was just wondering what you thought about fags using the term "bitches." I recently met a queer-identified, fag/faerie man who uses the term bitches a lot. And to me, the attitude seems to be, "oh well since I'm not a straight referring to chicks as bitches, it's okay..." I think it's fucked up, but I'm not really sure what to say to him. I think he's playing out a similar role of masculinity/male-dominance etc. to that of mainstream straight society.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Well, it all depends at first I thought you meant talking about other fags as bitches, I have no problem with that -- although talking about straight guys as bitches would be ideal... And I think it doesn't always work as an assertion of male dominance even when referring to women, but when you say your friend is "playing out a similar role of masculinity/male-dominance etc. to that of mainstream straight society," well I'm guessing you're right -- there's so much misogyny in gay male cultures, and you're also right that often gay men, faggots, and even queens think it's okay to say the most misogynist things because they're not straight guys.

Thanks for writing!

Love --
mattilda

Michael Faris said...

Hey, I'm a bit behind in my blog reading, so I finally read this. I loved it! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm linking to it too. :)

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Michael, there's no time deadline for reading the blog -- I'm so glad you enjoyed this entry, and thanks so much for the link!!

Love --
mattilda