‘You’re Too Pretty to Be Gay’ Is Not a Compliment | Anita Dolce Vita

Via Huffington Post

In her HuffPost blog post “The Assumption of Heterosexuality When You’re a Feminine Lesbian,” femme blogger Megan Evans mentions that gay men often tell her that she is “too pretty to be gay.” Megan’s experience resonates with me because some people find it necessary to “educate” me about how, in their expert opinion, my sexual orientation is not congruent with my physical appearance. I have also been told that I’m “too pretty to be a lesbian” and other versions of that assertion, such as, “But you’re pretty; you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend,” or, “You don’t look gay.” Most people who spew such nonsense expect me to delight in their backhanded praise and are surprised when I inform them that telling someone that she is too pretty to be a lesbian is actually not a compliment. Believing that there is a point on some arbitrary scale at which a woman is too attractive to be gay is based on the assumption that heterosexual women are inherently better-looking, and that’s just plain homophobic.

To be clear, I am not writing this piece to toot my own horn. This is not one of those tortured-pretty-girl, Samantha Brick-type posts. I do not think that some peoples’ beliefs that I am too pretty to be gay are based on how “beautiful” I am according to some superficial measure of what is deemed aesthetically pleasing by the dominant culture. In fact, as a biracial woman, society is constantly bombarding me with messages that my hair, lips, and thighs are not as desirable as Pam Anderson types with lighter skin; straight, blonde hair; and an unattainable figure. Rather, I believe that people are often confused by my femininity, because the prevailing stereotype is that lesbians are simply not feminine. Just think back to last year, when Florida’s former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll stated, in response to claims that she was involved in a lesbian affair, “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.” The lack of femme visibility, as Evans documents in her blog post, as well as homophobia, misogyny, gender norms, and heteronormativity contribute to this stereotype. When feminine lesbians challenge existing stereotypes that all lesbians are masculine, it short-circuits peoples’ brains.

But let’s look at one of the roots of this stereotype a bit more. In 2008 CoverGirl cosmetics signed Ellen DeGeneres as one of their spokesmodels. While CoverGirl considers DeGeneres to be attractive enough to represent their brand and join the ranks of other famous CoverGirls like Sofia Vergara, Rihanna, and Christie Brinkley, people often say that DeGeneres “looks gay,” and that her more feminine wife, Portia de Rossi, is “too pretty to be a lesbian.” So why is it that some people believe that DeGeneres looks like a lesbian, but her wife does not fit the mold? Why would some people think that DeGeneres is “attractive enough” to be a CoverGirl but still consider her beauty substandard enough to clearly mark her as gay?

I would argue that the answer is found in Ellen’s short hair and masculine-inspired wardrobe. Society frowns upon female masculinity. If lesbians are believed to be more masculine than their heterosexual counterparts, and society views female masculinity as unattractive, then people might conclude that heterosexual women are better-looking.

On multiple occasions I have heard butch-identified women who are in butch/femme relationships state that people often think of their femme partners as the more attractive one in the couple. dapperQ, a fashion and empowerment website for the unconventionally masculine at which I am Managing Editor, continually receives emails from readers who are tired of being told that they would look better if they just wore a dress. And remember when that high school picture of a blonde, long-haired Rachel Maddow surfaced? The Internet was flooded with comments about how hot Maddow “used to be.” The message: If you are a woman and cut off your hair and dress more masculine, then you look gayer and therefore less beautiful. What an awful message!

Nevertheless, there are plenty of people, including me, who find female masculinity beautiful. I actually prefer to date women who lean toward the androgynous side on the masculine-feminine spectrum. For example, my fiancée happens to sport more of a Rachel Maddow/Ellen DeGeneres look and does not wear dresses, heels, or makeup. I think she’s gorgeous! And no, this does not mean that I should just be with a man if I find androgyny or masculinity attractive. (In a subsequent post, I will discuss how simply dressing masculine does not change your sex.)

Ultimately, female beauty is defined by what men find attractive and is offered for the male gaze, which marginalizes women and reduces us to body parts, as author Dan Pearce discusses in his piece “Worthless Women and the Men Who Make Them.” Thus, when someone tells me something ridiculous like “but you’re pretty; you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend” upon discovering that I am gay, they are essentially telling me that they believe that lesbians are too ugly to find a man. News flash: Women don’t become lesbians because they cannot land a boyfriend. Furthermore, women, both feminine and masculine, are beautiful despite what men think of them. Standards of beauty rooted in misogyny are destructive not just to lesbians but to all women (and men).

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Letters for My Siblings: Call for Submissions …

Reblogged from Letters For My Brothers

Letters for My Siblings: Call for Submissions

Deadline: February 1, 2014

Word Limit: 2500

Publisher: Transgress Press

Contact: lettersformysiblings@gmail.com

The Lambda Literary Finalist Letters for My Brothers asked transsexual men to pass on to their pre-transition selves any important advice that they had as post-transition men. In Letters for My Siblings, we wish to capture short pieces of a similar spirit from people who are genderqueer, gender non-conforming, bigender, agender, or who simply don’t fit nicely into the boxes of “man” and “woman”.

Your submission should be between 500 and 2500 words and address one or more of the prompts below.

Not all prompts will apply to all writers. Your submission should be about your own lived experience — please avoid delving too far into the theoretical, or making broad generalizations about any group (even one that you belong to).

Send all submissions to lettersformysiblings@gmail.com by February 1, 2014. Authors will be notified of acceptance within six weeks of the submission deadline.

• What does it mean to transition as a non-binary identified person? How have you transitioned medically, legally, socially, or otherwise, and why? Has your transition been an important part of your identity and/or experience? How and why?

• Where do you fit in the larger trans* community? Have you found friendship and connection among other trans* people, binary or non-binary? Have you encountered discrimination or resistance to your identity within the trans* community?

• Have you been able to find or create language to describe your gender/experience? Are you intentional about using (or NOT using) particular words for your gender / experience? Why do you use (or not use) these?

• How has your non-binary identity intersected with other parts of your identity, such as your race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability/disability, or age? Are there times when these other parts of your identity come in conflict with your gender? If so, how do you manage these conflicts?

• What do you like about being non-binary? What is your biggest frustration? How do you navigate a world set up only for men and women?

• Who are your mentors? Who has guided you on your journey / transition? Who do you look up to?

• What advice would you give to genderqueer/gender non-conforming/non-binary people who are at the beginning of their journey?

As compensation for their contribution, all authors will receive a free copy of the anthology upon its publication. Transgress Press will donate all proceeds to organizations benefiting trans communities (www.transgresspress.com/our-donations).

We look forward to hearing from you!

Roadblocks

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Hello, we’re returning your call.

My Partner: Hi! I’m calling… Um, well, because I want to start on hormone replacement therapy. I’m a trans person!

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Okay, and what can we do for you?

My Partner: Well, I’ll take whatever you can do to get me started on that.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: ….

My Partner: I guess… Ideally I’d like to begin an estrogen regimen, you know, with regular check-ins. I was recommended to call here by Dr. XXXXXXX.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Is she your primary care physician?

My Partner: No. I don’t have a doctor.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: So how can I help you?

My Partner: Wait, I’m sorry. Is this the MCV LGBT Psychiatry Clinic?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Yes it is.

My Partner: Oh. Well… As I understand it, the first thing I would need to get a prescription would be a letter from a psychiatrist or counselor..?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: ….

My Partner: Is that something that you do here?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: No, we don’t provide evaluations for sexual reassignment or hormone replacement treatments.

My Partner: Oh. Sooo… Why is there a letter T in your LGBT?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: If you’re experiencing any anxiety or depression relating to your sexuality, we have counselors who will see you for that.

My Partner: ….

My Partner: Now that you mention it.

The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good

Reblogged from Social Justice League

A while ago, tumblr user “iamateenagefeminist” compiled a list of non-oppressive insults, a public service that will never be forgotten. The people of tumblr wept with joy and appreciation (although it should be noted that the people of tumblr will literally weep over a drawing of an owl). The list is not perfect, and “ugly” should NOT be on there as it reinforces beauty hierarchies. Still, I was happy to find it, because I am always looking for more insults that don’t reinforce oppressive social structures.

But if you scroll through the reblogs you’ll see that not everyone was enamoured of the idea of creating this list at all. In particular, several people said that trying to find non-oppressive ways to insult other people is “missing the point” of social justice. Those people seem to think that being nice is a core part of social justice. But those people are wrong.

Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalisation and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.

Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?”. This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.

On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialisation of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.

How many more acts that reinforce kyriarchy have to be done nicely and politely before we stop giving people any credit for niceness? Does the niceness of these acts make them acceptable? It does not.

An even bigger issue is that if people think social justice is about niceness, it means they have fundamentally misunderstood privilege. Privilege does not mean you live in a world where people are nice to you and never insult you. It means you live in a world in which you, and people like you, are given systematic advantages over other people. Being marginalised does not mean people are always nasty to you, it means you live in a world in which many aspects of the cultural, social and economic systems are stacked against people like you. Some very privileged people have had awful experiences in life, but it does not erase their privilege. That is because privilege is about groups of people being given different rights and opportunities by the law and by socio-cultural norms. Incidentally, that is why you can have some forms of privilege and not others, and it doesn’t make sense to try to “tally up” one’s privilege into a sum total and compare it against others’.

By the way, the first person who says “But then why are TV shows a social justice issue?” in the comments will have their head put on a pike as an example to others. Cultural narratives are part of what builds and reinforces social roles, and those determine what opportunities a person has – and the rights they can actually exercise, even if they have them in the law. If you don’t believe me and don’t want to accept this idea, you will now google “stereotype threat”, you will read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, you will watch this speech by Esther Duflo on women and development (which talks about stereotypes and outcomes), and THEN you may return to this blog.

The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)

Furthermore, I think the confusion of meanness with oppression is the root cause of why bigots feel that calling someone a “bigot” is as bad as calling someone a “tranny” or taking away their rights. You know, previously I thought they were just being willfully obtuse, but now I realise what is going on. For example, most racists appear to feel that calling POC a racist slur is a roughly equal moral harm to POC calling them a “racist fuckhead”. That’s because they do not understand that using a racist slur is bad in any sense other than it hurts someone’s feelings. And they know from experience that it hurts someone’s feelings to be called racist douche.

So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression.

Being good and being nice are totally unrelated. We need to get serious about debunking this myth, because the confusion between the two is obfuscating our message and handing our oppressors another tool with which to silence us. In some cases, this confusion is putting people (especially women) in real danger.

This social movement can’t achieve its goals if people think it’s essentially some kind of niceness revolution. And anyway, social justice is not about making the world a nicer place. It’s about taking back the rights and opportunities denied to us by law or by social and cultural norms – and breaking out of the toxic mindset that wants us to say please and thank you when we do.

Language and Thoughts on Feeling “Stuck”

Language is my current point of struggle with my gender. I cannot articulate my “self” because there are no words for us, and without words I cannot conceive of myself clearly. My mental image of myself is foggy, my gender is a gaseous cloud, an amorphous blob. I want it to congeal, solidify. I want to be able to tell you who I am, what my gender is, what it feels like, but I don’t even know. There aren’t any words for people like me.

I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to move past this point, if the language will come with time. Looking back, I’ve come a long way from where I was a year ago in terms of how I think abut and the ways in which I’m struggling with me gender. And all the times that I felt “stuck” like I couldn’t move forward in my exploration of my gender eventually passed. I found something, thought something, or read something that helped me move on. So part of me knows that with time and introspection*  I will find ways** or language to express what my personal gender is (rather than what its not), but struggling towards that feels so frustrating and futile. I have no idea how to go about it (hence the struggling) and I don’t even know where to look to for ideas, because within the context of this culture, the dominant culture of western civilization, the only one that is mine to inherit, we (non-binary folks) are new. For people like me who have no other culture to inherit than this toxic, brutal, genocidal one there is no history of people like ourselves to look to, we have to make it. and thats hard.

I think that there may be ways we can look to other cultures, ones that do have histories of people like us, for insight and understanding, for clarity, but I’m hesitant to do that or encourage other white people do that because, ya know, appropriation is kind of a thing white people are good at. White people have stolen away the meanings and the sacredness of so many things from so many cultures and I don’t really want to risk being a part of that as a non-binary person.

For perspective, I try to remember how far “Trans” has come as a whole since Harry Benjamin first began his work with “transsexuals” in 1948. Trans people’s collective ideas about gender identity, transness and their sense of themselves has evolved pretty rapidly in the past 65 years.

Non-binary trans folks are really really new in western culture and given time we’ll grow and evolve too, I know this, I know that our theory and perspective and sense of ourselves will change and expand in good ways and that that will take time, its just so hard for me to be patient.

In the mean time, I’m trying to learn to find the positives in being undefineable.

* and solitude, I’ve found being alone to be very helpful, but more on that another time

** I’m looking into art as means of exploring and communicating about my gender without relying on language

Trans* Men and the Erasure of Childhood Femininity

Reblogging this because I totally feel like this about my childhood too. I’m not a trans* man, but I frequently feel pressured to redact parts of my childhood to fit the “correct narrative”, to prove that I really am trans* or at least not provide information that could be used to invalidate my identity. This is an awesome post!

Reblogged from The Rainbow Hub

By Michael Young

Gender identity is far more complex than what you wear or what hobbies you partake in. It is more complicated than how you wear your hair or the toys that you played with as a child. Many trans* men proudly proclaim that they never liked dresses, they always kept their hair short, they were a ‘tom boy’. They keep anything ‘feminine’ close to their chest, secret and hidden lest someone clutch it and hold it aloft as ‘proof’ that they are not trans* enough.

This is my confession: in many ways, I was not a typically masculine child. My parents granted me the freedom to express myself without fear or judgement. I loved the Power Rangers and Polly Pocketequally. I had long, flowing blond hair and perpetually scabby knees. I dabbled in make-up, played dress-up and skateboarded too fast down steep hills like I had some kind of death wish.

These things are not what make me a man. Equally, they do not make me less of one.

The hardest part of coming out, for me, was not pronouns or family or work. It was the pressure to disconnect myself from certain aspects of my childhood, the person that I had once been (and still am, in many ways). To edit myself – talk about my eighth birthday and leave out the fairy castle cake, paint my experiences in blue rather than pink or purple. It was the sudden revelation that I could not talk about my first boyfriend, or any boyfriend, without it feeling somehow socially unacceptable, without someone double-taking or their smile freezing on their face.

I felt ashamed of the ballet class I took when I was five, the dress I wore to my prom, the snapshots on the walls that damned me for my ‘girlhood’. Like somehow, if I was a ‘real man’, I wouldn’t have or shouldn’t have partaken in these things. I erased whole sections of my childhood, consciously locked them away and didn’t talk about them for fear of being judged. Of being told I wasn’t really trans*, that my interests or hobbies or the way I looked took away my credibility.

I would never tell a cis boy that he can’t do ballet, or play with make-up, or dress up in pink. I would never tell him that those things mean he’s not a ‘real’ boy. Yet I still felt the shame associated with that, and still judged myself by those arbitrary standards.

Many of us boast about hating dresses from an early age, or about wanting to be Spiderman for Halloween like that somehow validates our masculinity. Like we have to dress up our childhood as a stereotypical boyhood in order to be real, or to be taken seriously. But if we liked to knit, or our favourite colour was pink, or we went to prom in a dress, that’s okay. It doesn’t define us. We can talk about that without being less of a man. It doesn’t make us fake, it doesn’t invalidate our gender, and it isn’t shameful.

We are not born knowing that the colour pink is for girls and that the colour blue is for boys. Gender isn’t formed by what you wear, what you do, what you like or how you express yourself. Gender is what’s inside you, and no one can define that but yourself. No matter what you looked like or how you expressed yourself as a child. My name is Michael, and I am a man who had a fairy castle cake for my eighth birthday. And I’m okay with that.

How Does It Feel to Be Southern and LGBTQ After the SCOTUS Decisions?

Reblogged from The Huffington Post

I am a white, queer woman who lives in the rural South. I work for a multiracial, Southern LGBTQ organization. That means that the Supreme Court decisions relating to the Voting Rights Act (VRA), affirmative action, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Fifth Amendment, Prop 8, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) all affect me. Why?

Because I live in a part of this country where my family and community have no basic protections at all. Google the word “gay” and the town I live in, “Goldsboro, N.C.,” and notice how many hits you get: zero. That’s right. There are no LGBT community centers, no clinics, and no advocacy groups within an hour of us. There are also no basic protections for work, safety, or families in most of our Southern states.

But you know what living without those basic protections reminds you? That justice is not an individual or single-issue need. The working-poor black communities down my street, and the farm workers outside in the heat 10 miles away, lack all kinds of basic protections too. We need a strong and vibrant LGBTQ movement that will not quit until we are a fierce and crucial team within the league of people in this country who are playing to win justice for everyone.

So the group I work with, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), made this video, called “Marry the Movement”:

We made it because we believe that the real victory in DOMA and Prop 8 being struck down is the victory of thousands of LGBTQ people and our allies who have changed the culture of this country, not just its policies and laws. We also know, because we live it every single day, that there is so much more to be done for LGBTQ justice in this country. We cannot be whole as an LGBTQ community while some of us have every privilege under the law and thousands of us do not because we are living in the South, or because we are transgender, or because we are undocumented, or black and poor.

We know that in times like these, LGBTQ people need each other, and that we must turn to each other in the spirit of our collective survival. There is still much work to be done in order to bring the reality of true justice home to the South and the whole country, so join me (and SONG) in “Marrying the Movement” until every LGBTQ person has full dignity, safety, and liberation.