[Update] A Quickie

*giggle giggle* Do you see what I did there? *giggle*

*clears her throat* Anyway..

If you noticed that I was gone, I am sorry about that. I have been dealing with a lot of changes over the past little while, and I imagine that I will be dealing with many more as the months roll on. However, I think that I have started to settle into my new role and my new place.

And, that was the hint for some of the changes that I have experienced as of late: I moved. This wasn’t really a minor thing for me, I moved more than 2500km across the country. (Sheesh Canada is huge). So, instead of coming to you from some little Southwestern Ontario town, I am coming to you from the largest city in Saskatchewan!

I can already feel the reader comments forming as they read that: Why Saskatchewan? There is nothing in Saskatchewan!

Well… You would think that. But, I have to say that there is far more happening in this city in the prairies than there was going on back home. Plus, there is graduate school. That’s right! I am in Graduate School and being all Graduate School-ly, whatever that means. So far, it is meant that I have a lot of reading to do, a lot of writing to do, and a major research project to begin. But, I guess that wasn’t enough for me, because I also got myself a job working in an awesomely sex-positive, sex toy shop. ( ^_^ )

So, yeah. Things have changed.

What does that mean about my blogging habit? I haven’t a clue at the moment. Over the last little while, I just didn’t have the time to even think about the blog as I went about trying to situate myself in my new home and my new town. However, now that the weather is cooling down and the demands of Graduate school are starting to kick in, I think that there may be some time for posting here and there. However, the content of those posts is going to more closely reflect what I am working on at school at the moment than some arbitrary topic around Post-Modernism or Sexual and Gender Minority issues.

… Who am I kidding? Everyone knows that I went to Graduate School to study Sexual and Gender Minority issues, so that should still be there in spade.

Anyway, I said that this would be quick and it seems to be dragging on a bit now. So, I will leave you with the TL;DR version: a list of new things to happen in my life over the last couple months.

New things:

  • Holding my first job in a retail setting
  • Starting my first year of a Graduate school program!
  • First time west of Lansing, Michigan
  • First solo drive of more than 2000km
  • First job working more than 6 hours a week
  • Possible: first time earning enough to be over the poverty line!
  • First time owning my own car

The Reason I Refuse to go Stealth

[Image] Stealth, as written on a hockey stick

Photo by:Andrew Jensen

Going stealth is something which a lot of Trans* people strive for at the beginning of their transition. They hope, as many would, that never bringing up the fact that they were assigned to the wrong sex category at birth would make their life much easier somehow.

I was one of those. When I first started transitioning, I felt that the end goal was to be fully female (whatever the hell that means). I thought that, at the end of my transition, I should be able to just stop mentioning that I was Trans* and fade into the background. I thought that I would just be able to live my life, as just another woman, without being hated or discriminated against because of who I was. I mean, I even lied to my first boyfriend about it. (A story for another time)

Today however, I am of a completely different mind. I have been in the process of transitioning for over 5 years now and, if I wanted to, I could probably go stealth.

I just don’t want to anymore.

It isn’t because I don’t think my life would be any easier if I just stopped talking about being Trans*, I know that it almost certainly would. Instead, it is because I now feel that it would be selfish of me to go stealth.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t think it is inherently selfish to go stealth. There are a lot of reasons to make that decision, for or against, and some of them are really good ones. Personal and familial safety are two of the biggest of those, and I would never fault anyone for doing what they need to to survive.

However, for me, I feel as though it would be. You see, I am rather lucky for the most part. I live in Canada (a white, mostly progressive country) as a white, young, passable Trans* person. I do not get threats or harassment while walking down the street. I don’t get told that I am not allowed in Rainbow safe spaces or Women’s Only spaces. I don’t get picked on or made fun of because of the way that I look.

The only time that I get blow back for being Trans* is when I out myself.

This just isn’t true for many Trans* people in my community or even for many Trans* people in the larger Trans* communities. For many Trans* people, they don’t have any choice but to not pass. It isn’t due to any failure of their own, but rather a failure of their genetics or their current situation. However, as a result of no indiscretion on their part, they are thrown into the role of being the public image of the Trans* community.

In this role, these members of the Trans* community have their body and actions policed. Everything they do, everything they say, is assumed to be generalizable to the entirety of the Trans* community. They are forced, often without the knowledge or ability to do so, to defend the Trans* community and all of its members.

And, in choosing to be stealth, as a privileged person with little risk of societal reprisals, I am condoning the mistreatment of those who can’t hide from society’s abuse and harassment. I am choosing to relegate my knowledge of the Trans* communities and the experiences I have gained throughout my transition to the dustbin, never to be used again.

And, that just isn’t fair.

That isn’t fair to me or my narrative. That isn’t fair to the Trans* community. That isn’t fair for the larger Rainbow communities. It just isn’t fair for anyone.

So, for that reason, I actively choose, as I hope to always do, to use my privileged position within the Trans* communities to advocate, fight, and rally for the inclusion of all Trans* people in society. And, I actively choose not to hide or to force the others around me to create my narrative for me.

What is Sex? No, Seriously.

[Image] A lit up red sign reading "Sex in Progress"

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby
Photo by: Jean KOULEV

A while back, I wrote a post on my personal blog about how my lack of a definition for sex (and, thus, sexuality) caused me issues understanding asexuality as it related to me. So, I thought that I would try to examine the topic a bit more closely.

What is sex?

This is a question that I have been struggling with for years without any formal answer to it. When I was younger, I thought that sex was simply the act of one man penetrating one woman with his penis. But as time went on, my definition grew to include people who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. When I did this, my definition moved from centering the phallus and the act of penetration to centering sexual touch and orgasm. In this definition, I thought that sex was an act between two people with the goal of one or both of them having an orgasm.

This then shifted again as I started hearing about the possibility that more than two people could be involved in sexual activity at a time, and it shifted again when I found out that consent was an active process that is continuous, shifting, and explicit. At this point, the definition was something to the effect of “sex is an act between two or more actively consenting adults with the goal of one or more of them having an orgasm.” In this definition, the acts themselves aren’t really defined, you could really have a thing for shoes, masturbate looking while licking someone else’s shoes, and that would be considered sex (in this definition). Likewise, sex would also include touching, groping, massaging, or penetrating with the goal of, orgasm.

But then things shifted again. As I started reading more about sex positivity I learned about the move by many to remove orgasm as the center of sex. The reason is that there are many people in the world who enjoy sex but do not have the ability to have an orgasm. This doesn’t necessarily make it so that they are broken people or that they have a sexual dysfunction or something, but instead that they have sex like everyone else, just without orgasm.

This, truthfully, fucked over my definitions of sex. If it isn’t centered around particular parts of the body or particular acts or particular goals. What is left to define sex? It is just a case of “sex is what I call it?” Or, even worse, “I know it when I see it?”

So, hitting a bit of a bump in the road at this point, I did what every 25 year old person would do when faced with this question: I asked my mother!

After my mother stopped laughing at the fact her 25 year old, married daughter asked her this question, the conversation continued much like the development of my personal definition. We went through definition after definition countering each one with an example of sex that didn’t fit. Eventually, she too got stuck. But throughout my discussion with her, the conversation seemed to center around intimacy-which she defined as physical and emotional closeness-and genital manipulation.

Then I went over to my facebook, and I started asking my friends about it. Again, this conversation took much the same form as the last, moving from definitions based solely around penetration towards more broad definitions. For a while, however, there was one definition that stuck (until it was ultimately defeated yet again). This definition is that sex is a consensual act between two or more people which includes penetration and/or orgasm.

While I do still have issues with both of those ideas, somehow the combining of them seemed to make a lot of sense. But shortly after this was posted, someone mentioned that sex is something that you could do by yourself and should be about something pleasurable. I really like this idea that sexual pleasure or sexual arousal is a part of the definition, but this reconstruction of sex as something that you can do alone, without penetration or orgasm, really sent the discussion all the way back to square one.

While these discussions didn’t really get me the definition that I was looking for, I did find some things that seem to be rather important to the definition, should there be one. Placing consent and pleasure at the center of the definition, as the place that all sexual activity originates, is one such idea I found to be extremely important.  Further, the fact that emotional and physical intimacy seem to be recurring themes, while not perfect by any means, suggests that these also play a role in sex in someway, even if it is just a socialized, scripted one. And lastly, the idea that orgasm and penetration, while both very problematic defining attributes of sexual activity, seem to be very culturally linked to the idea of sex as a whole.

Being that I had a long trip of self-discovery prior to asking others for their input, I am sure that I am biasing the analysis in some way. But, more than that, I am not really surprised that the conversations seemed to center around what it did. Rather, I am surprised that, while everyone I asked seemed to treat the question in such a blasé manner, no one had a clear, consistent definition which they stuck to.

But, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Given that I have yet to come up with a consistent definition of what sex is, perhaps you can help me out. Tell me your thoughts or the definitions that you use in the comments below. Perhaps, with your help, we can plug this whole in the English language once and for all!

A Letter to the Reader

A feather quill resting on a number of scrolls of parchment

Original Photo by Hc_07

Hello again everyone,

I am really excited to announce that, once again, I have decided to make writing a larger part of my life. This is something that I have been thinking about for some time now, but I just hadn’t worked up the courage to do so. And when I say courage, I mean courage. You see, I think the issue was just some combination of fear, anxiety, and stage fright that held me back from creating the material I wished to create. (What? Those are the same thing? Darn.) That’s right, what a lot of my avoidance to writing (and creating in general) comes down to is fear.

I mean, I am not really afraid of what people will say about my work. After all, everyone has the right to like or dislike my opinion all they want, and I am completely fine with most of the ways that people express this like or dislike. So, if it isn’t that, just what am I afraid of?

Well, for the most part, the biggest things that I am afraid of in the process of creating content for the world are 1) that people could misrepresent my work or 2) that I might change my mind at some indeterminate point in the future.

For the first of these, I think that the issue is really quite simple. The work that I create, I create within a certain context. It is extremely meaningful to me, and I set out for my words to mean one, clear, poignant thing. However, when you, the reader, are reading this, you are not sitting in the contextual bubble in which it was created. This means that what I thought was a clear, meaningful commentary could be completely lost on you, or, worse, it could mean something entirely different! This makes me nervous at the best of times, but when I am writing opinions that challenge some of the main tenets of society, this nervousness turns to fear, or even terror.

Somewhat related to this is my fear that I might change my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that I am a fallible human being and that I grow over time. But there is something about the permanence of the internet that scares the bejeebers out of me. I am constantly paranoid that one day I am going to go back over the work that I have created and think “What the hell was I doing?” 

So, with all of that, how can I claim that I am going to continue writing here? Well, you see… I can’t, and I don’t want to make any promises of that sort. However, I do want to acknowledge my fear and acknowledge that I am wanting to try in spite of it. And also, I want to make my motivations and my plans clear; not just for the readers of this, but for myself.

This coming fall, I will be attending graduate school. I will be taking class with people set to become accomplished academics and theorists. I will be pushed to write, write, and write. And in all of that, I want this place, this blog, to be my space, my draft board, and my jewel of subversion. I seek to make available here, not only my thoughts and opinions, but also the work that I complete, the works that I seek to publish in journals and conferences. I seek to distribute the work that I do to whoever wants to read it or (more likely) whoever happens to stumble across it.

So, today, I am claiming this space again as my own, and making the plans to use it to accomplish my goals. And hopefully, one day, all that fear that I mentioned above will just be an after thought as I publish my thoughts for the world to see.

The Ebb and Flow of my Psyche

I have noticed that a lot of my psyche happens to have a very noticeable ebb and flow to it. As a switch, this isn’t surprising for my submission/Dominance. But the same thing happens to my writing ability. Sometimes I can be one of the most verbose people on earth: writing and writing and writing till my finger cramp and my ink/battery dies. (As you may notice of the last update.) However, at other times, I am concise. During the times that I feel the need to be concise, I seem to find writing frustrating and slow. I have trouble with formatting, even more trouble with spelling and grammar, and major self-confidence issues. (That is, I feel that what I do write is complete shite.) Conversely, when I am feeling like I am able to write, I want to write. I like my work, I have fun playing with ideas on paper and find truly enjoyable.

This pattern can be seen with a lot of my other abilities too. Sometimes I worry that it means that something is wrong with me or I wonder if I should try to do something to make it more even all the time. This is one of those times. I wish that I could write like I was able to earlier in the week. I am sure that my thesis supervisor wishes that too.

As you may have noticed, I am not in a verbose mood at the moment. Likewise, I apologize if this post comes off as badly as I think it is.

Personal Update: Travelling Nightmares

So, I thought that I should write a blog post today. I thought that I should archive my nightmares with my bi-annual trip and get on to something a bit more feministy/humanisty.

I make a trip twice each year, and have been for at least 2 years now, to the United Kingdom (UK). (I live in North America usually) I have family and close friends in the UK and I have to say that I love the place. I love that they have signs that for just about everything. I love that roads don’t have to be re-paved yearly. I love that they have (arguably) a better healthcare system then we do at home. But, most of all, I love my fiancée and I love my adopted family and friends here. This year they have been having a lot of trouble with the weather in the UK, especially the south coast. Usually, the weather is warm (relatively) with no snow, a bit of rain, and maybe a thunderstorm or two. This year, there is snow; lots of snow. There is enough snow this year to shut down London’s Heathrow airport (one of the largest and busiest airports in the world). And this is exactly what happens the day that I was to fly in.

My connecting flight was meant to leave Detroit Metro at 21:00  (9:00 PM) but Heathrow was closed at the time, desperately trying to clear the snow and ice from the runways. The flight was delayed (but not cancelled). We got the all-clear at about midnight and we started off. We flew for about 2 hours before we were told to turn around and head back. We were just off the coast of Newfoundland at the time. The Pilot came on and mentioned that we will be touching down in New York and waiting for Heathrow to re-open, but since we were overweight for a non-emergency landing, we will have to circle for a while to burn off fuel. Some 3 hours later, we landed in New York. Once on the ground, we learned that Heathrow was going to be closed for some time and we would be staying in hotels until we were able to get out.

That night, we were all loaded back up into buses and we headed back to the airport. After a monster of a line and a heck of a wait to get checked in, we all just assigned to flights. There were 2 flights that night that we could be on. Our scheduled leaving time was 22:00 (10:00PM) originally, but that was delayed. It was about this time that the rumours started. It was amazing to listen to these people, seemingly rational people, playing a large, tired, and annoyed version of telephone (or Chinese whispers [but I don’t like that name as it implies there is something wrong with those of Chinese descent]) with details such as who was assigned to which plane, why all the other flights were cancelled, when the flights would be able to leave, and who was that (*dramatized gasp*) person from New York that paid thousands of dollars to get on the flight and kick one of the Detroiters off.

We ended up leaving at about midnight. We made it to Heathrow safe and sound, and after a terribly long wait on the runway to get into the gate we got off the plane and into the UK at about 15:00 (3:00PM) local time. It was a tiring experience, there were a lot of people who felt really strongly about what the airline should or should not have done. There were people ready to get into fights. There were people who willing helped out others. I feel that I remained pretty cool and collected throughout the ordeal (after all, there wasn’t much that I could have done that would have improved the weather in the UK). But, looking back now (3 days later) it is interesting the psychology that came into play during this ordeal.