Landfall

love-spiralAll of my life, I have never had the experience of being in love with only one person.

There have always been at least two people in my romantic desire field, and sometimes as many as six. But everyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with before now (all of my previous relationships have been very monogamous) has been staunchly anti-polymory, and treated my feelings about it very unkindly. Being now, at last, in two relationships with people who are themselves poly, something just became obvious.

It has literally only just occurred to me that this “stay hidden or be chidden” experience of being polyamorous was just as much a contributor to my PTSS as transphobia and homophobia (and the abuse and bullying stuff) have been.

This is the first time in my life that I’m able to be fully “out” as being in love with more than one person, and to act on it, and to have them respond back wholeheartedly the same way, and it be accepted and rejoiced in by all of us – and I can tell I’m still wary and flinching, expecting anger and punishment for something that’s entirely normal and has always been a part of my experience. Again.

I name this tormentor: polyphobia. I have had partners in the past literally declare me mentally unwell for just having feelings for other people as well as them (even though I never acted on those feelings, having agreed/resigned to monogamy). The relief at being with people who just empathise with and affirm this experience brings up both joy and sorrow.

What a thing.

It’s reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago, which I think I already posted here at some point – but I’m going to do so again. This is for all of us who have been made to fear our true selves. We may look, and love, at last.

Mirror, Mirror

So there’s the great ocean there
And one day, you glance out
Out beyond the land
And you know something bad is coming

Gulls start from the waters, yarring
Bubbles and things rise, float
Stillish seas no longer still
Disturbed sun shatters in sparkles

Something huge
Something terrible
Long ago foretold, long feared
Rising from the very roots

Finally you glimpse it
Dark vast shape surging
Inescapable through the depths
The ocean dances and bows to it

And it breaks through the surface
Looming, menacing
Dripping, encrusted
And it looks at you

And looking into its eyes
You see your scared reflection
And then with fine cloth, and your warm breath
You gently begin to polish it

Advertisements

Consensuality

I’m in two polyamorous romantic relationships (yay me! ahem…) They’re both asexual relationships, but until a month ago, only one of them was.

I finally summoned up the courage to tell the partner I’ve been reluctantly sexual with/for that I couldn’t be that any more. It wasn’t an easy conversation at first, though in the end they made their peace with it – because it had been on the cards since we first got together (I’d always told them I was essentially asexual).

But what clinched it, for both of us in a way, was that after we’d agreed to take sex off the menu at least for the moment, they suggested trying a role-play where they would ask me if I wanted to have sex later, so that I could experience saying no. And what we found was that even in that most supportive of contexts, I still almost can’t.

What I’ve come to realise as a consequence of that conversation is that I don’t think I’ve ever had consensual sex in my life – by which I mean that I can’t actually consent, because (as a consequence of an abusive childhood) in the moment I find it near impossible to withhold consent.

I’ve got no idea what this is going to mean in the long run, but right now it’s very, very liberating to acknowledge that this is a true thing about me, and to have immediate, direct experience to back it up (for those times when I might turn up the self-doubt to 11).

And it’s freed me up into sensuality. I mean, I’ve already been describing myself for a few years as asexual and polysensual – but knowing that the person I’m being sensual with knows that from me, it’s absolutely not going to be foreplay, makes me feel way more safe to express my passionate self sensually instead. 

I still experience a lot of confusion. Being part of a very sexualised society, and having had a very sexualised childhood too, some part of me is strongly inclined to interpret physical intimacy through a sexual lens; I also have a body that does sexual response, though I’ve no desire to act on that. But this is a confusion I understand well enough not to be distressed by it. I’m embracing my consensuality now… 🙂 

Asterisk Not Obelisk

2001 obelisk at sunrise
I’d like to share an interesting example of trans social histories and the subjective nature of “stories” that I participated in a few days ago, after posting something on Facebook.

I came out as trans nearly 5 years ago now, and I joined a big online trans forum (which I ended up as a mod on for a while, until the forum infighting made me run for cover – but that’s another story).

There was a nasty phenomenon going on all of the time that I was there, of (mainly) trans women who’d had, or intended to have, surgery thinking of themselves as the “TrueTrans™” people, and making a distinction between being transsexual (which they thought of as “really trans”) and transgender (which they treated as “the lower classes”).

In response to that hierarchical nonsense, the label trans* (with an asterisk) started being used by people, who meant by it specifically “trans+whatever (-gender, -sexual, whatever, none) is simply trans and simply valid – nobody gets to police anyone else’s identity or labels anyway, but surgery is no yardstick of the validity of someone’s transness.” So having been a part of that movement, I associate trans* with equality as well as inclusivity.

Meanwhile, it turns out that in other trans circles and communities, trans* got coined too, but with several different and competing meanings and intents, all of which were different from the meaning/intent we were using. And now there’s been a strong backlash against using trans*, because for many people it has apparently come to represent the exact opposite of what it meant to us. To those people, it means “trans people are the TrueTrans™ people, and everyone else is merely trans*” – or/and it’s come to mean somehow that the voices of white, entitled transmasculine people are heard at the expense of everyone else (this is what I’m being told, anyway).

So I innocently used the phrase “supporting trans* young people” in a post the other day, and got strafed by someone for whom this is a slur. We sort of discussed the matter, I did some reading up (this, and this, and by way of balance this), and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m no longer going to use I still can’t decide whether I’m going to stop using the asterisk, since though it means something really positive to me and a load of people, there are another load of people out there who feel very disenfranchised by it.

Actually, I’d be very content for trans to become the default term, if it meant we moved on from transgender/transsexual (and that godsawful “transgendered” that people use sometimes) altogether (and all together). Shortening of terms is a good sign of cultural assimilation, according to sociolinguistics.

I’m also fascinated by how each group of us had no idea that trans* meant anything different to other people from what we were used to it meaning, and how easy it is to assume that “my/our story” must be the “true story”.

End of ramble.

Edited to add: An interesting thought just struck me: to those of us with a computing background, the asterisk very much symbolises inclusivity, as it means “anything at all can go here” – whereas for non-computery folk and/or academics, the asterisk perhaps implies “not important enough to include in the main text, but worthy of a footnote”. I’d never even considered the possible differences in asterisk-affect.

The discussion in that fb thread continues, and it’s clear that there are as many people who value the asterisk as there are those who cringe at it. Perhaps it’s time for trans[*] – or for a new word.

Meeting yourself coming the other way

both-waysAs you may know, I describe my gender identity sometimes as an archipelago of gender islands within a broader ocean of me – and one of my various gender islands I can best describe as “trans man”.

I was recently mightily strafed on a genderqueer facebook group for mentioning this, by a gender-politics-fuelled trans man (who has since left the group – because we’re not political enough there, thank goodness).

Although I’ve had little negative response before to describing myself this way (including from trans men), I’ve been thinking since then how I might better explain this – as I did a very poor job at the time, and as I’m sure it won’t be the last time I get asked to explain myself. So I thought I’d write this blog-thing about it, partly to get it straight in my mind, and partly so that in the future, I can just point people here instead of having to trot it out all over again…

Actually, having this impetus to mull things over has meant it’s become a lot clearer in my mind how to explain this (and funnily enough, it was one of the “accusations” levelled at me by the aforementioned strafing trans man that put me onto this, but I’ll come to that later). So…

Imagine (if this isn’t you already) that you were born into a female body. At a certain point in your life, you find yourself facing the fact that “woman” isn’t the right word for what you are. You’re something a lot broader than that, something more androgynous. You do find yourself fascinated by and drawn towards the world of trans men… except that you’re not a man either. After much soul-searching, you realise that what you really want to be, the person you’d feel most yourself being, is somewhere in between these two.

You realise that you’d like to have top surgery, because your breasts don’t make a lot of sense to you, and because they’re the thing that gets you most automatically IDed as a “woman”. But you have no interest in bottom surgery, you pretty much like things as they are, down there – and you’re not really interested in “going all the way” with testosterone either, although it would make you more the shape you feel you should be, because it would do too many other things that don’t fit who you are.

So far, so non-binary FAAB trans* person.

Now imagine that you’re all this – but for some crazy reason, you’re in a man’s body. Then you’d pretty much be me.

So that’s what I mean, when I say that my gender archipelago consists of several islands: woman, androgyne, and something best described as “trans man”. I’m not a man, I never should have been a man, have never really been one, have never wanted to “pass” as one – I just looked more like one for a long time. I’m not a woman either, not solely a woman, I’m something on the way out of womanhood, something androgyne, but still closer to a woman than a man – Womandrogyne.

And the reason why I keep saying “some part of my gender identity could best be described as trans man” is because the only thing that remotely comes close to an experience I can really resonate with is that of some non-binary trans men.

The aforementioned strafing trans man told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t make claims to know what I’d feel like if I’d been born in a different body. I call bullshit on that, in no uncertain terms – because that’s what anyone who’s trans* is basically doing – it’s our imagination (by which I absolutely do not mean anything resembling mere fantasy; I mean our capacity to engage empathically with possibility) that tells us that if we were something other than we currently are on the anatomy or sex-identity or gender-expression spectrum, we’d be being ourselves more faithfully, more authentically.

So I state unapologetically for the record that if I’d been born with a female body, I’d be transitioning in some way towards androgyny – and I can state that because that very accurately and honestly describes who I actually am. I just got a weird break on the anatomy front, so I’m having to come at it from a very different angle, but that’s profoundly irrelevant.

If you’re remotely trans yourself, do not try to tell me you have the right to recognise your true self as other than you currently are physically, to imagine how and who you would be if that were not the case, and to aspire to do something about that – and then tell me I don’t have that right, because my sense of self is too far outside your experience.

This is not a quibble about labels. Labels are just vague models of our experience. I’m choosing to wear the label of “like a non-binary trans man” because when non-binary trans men describe their experience in any detail, I recognise myself in their description, in a way that I can’t in any other context.

Let’s be quite clear here: I have never claimed to be a trans man, I do not describe myself as a trans man, I am not a trans man. I am saying that within the stupid limitations of language, that’s the closest approximation I have to a big part of my experience, and I’m sticking with it as a pointer.

Questions? Comments?

vajrasattva

[This photo is of a 4 foot high statue of the Bodhisattva Vajrasattva (a Buddhist archetypal being), made by an artist friend called Aloka and loved by me at first sight. For me, this image is the quintessence of androgyny both in art and in spirituality (no, I’m not really sure what that means either, just go with it, I’m being lyrical). It’s an entertaining paradox that I both believe in and don’t believe in gender identity, that it’s both meaningful and meaningless to me – and Vajrasattva embodies that paradox in beauty here.]

Contains artificial favourings

the-pI’m going to be uncomfortable out loud, here.

I’ve been thinking about writing this for the last week or so, since I started noticing a stridence in me concerning the absurd amount of casual misogyny there is in my culture – in the press, in the media, in advertising, (in friends), you name it.

I spend quite a lot of time at the moment feeling like a stroppy teenager, in spite of being 50. Fair enough, I’m going through a hormone-and-transition-induced second adolescence/puberty, and being a stroppy teen comes with the territory of trying to figure out who the hell you suddenly are in the face of all this change in you, and others’ reactions to it. And teenagers often become politically strident because they’re starting to get their first firsthand glimpses of the more global iniquities built into the adulthood they’re being expected to participate in.

One of the reasons why I love the fifth Harry Potter book so much is that Harry is 15 in it, and spends the entire book being pissed off at everyone. With plenty of good reason – but it felt to me that there was this beautiful acknowledgement of the shift from childhood to adolescence and that duelling awareness of powerfulness and powerlessness that it raises up in you. I love Harry so much for his frustration with everything.

So yes, all that, but now back to me and my discomfort (stop putting it off… I was just setting the scene, see… I know, but get on with it… okay.)

I’m going to try to write as objectively as I can about something I have very subjective feelings about, and that’s the Demon P-Word. There’s this word that gets used an awful lot these days in discussion of gender, race, sexuality, ability, and so on and that word is privilege. I had at first planned to see whether I could write this whole blog-thing without actually using that word, because it has become so loaded with connotation that, ironically, it’s very hard to maintain objective discourse whilst using it. But then I felt that my discomfort with the word demands that I not try to dodge this. I’m actually quite scared, sitting here, contemplating writing My Position On Privilege™.

I’ll start by taking a stab at defining it. In the specific way it gets used currently in political discourse, I think this: Privilege is any advantage you don’t know you have, because you’ve never been without it.

Why I’m uncomfortable with a lot of the use of this term I’ve come across lately is that it appears to be wielded as a kind of trump card during any debate, in order to declare another person’s views or opinions invalid, and I find that creepy and underhand. I think you can only declare someone’s opinions or views invalid by explaining why they’re wrong – not by declaring that person inherently invalid due to their different life experience.

So I’ve made my Statement Of Position there, and in making it, I’ve actually decided I’m going to avoid writing that word for the rest of this blog-thing (because it’s so loaded, and not just for me), and use instead the word advantage. I think advantage is a both more transparent and less elitist way of saying the same thing, because the P-Word is historically loaded with a connotation of class, wealth, position, stuff like that, and drips with personal prejudice for that reason – it’s impossible not to use it to some extent as an insult.

And now after a brief pause to do something else, I feel obliged ask myself: Or is it just you imagining this? And no, I’m pretty confident that a lot of the time, there’s covert or overt bile in people’s use of the P-Word against others. It’s like they’re saying “You won the advantage game, so you lose the argument. End of story.” And that’s nonsense.

Just to be very, very clear: I am in no way questioning the existence of advantage, just the use of the P-Word as a lazy means to “win” a debate – and I sometimes see it used well and as part of a cogent explanation too.

*****

Blah, blah. What all this is meant to be about, now that I’ve got all that out of the way, is that I’ve noticed myself of late becoming this strident feminist teenager, posting outrageous examples of casual misogyny on facebook as I encounter them either online, or just in the course of daily life.

And what this has drawn my uncomfortable attention to is the fact that I’m like this now, two years into a male-to-female gender transition… and I wasn’t like this before. It’s all relative, of course – I was aware to some extent of all this kind of crap going on out there, but it didn’t affect me personally in the way it does now that I finally have my permission to be a woman. And this leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that yes, I lived with an advantage for the whole time I was “passing” as a man, an advantage that I’m no longer living with, and that’s why this stuff pisses me off now in a way that it didn’t before.

My main excuse for taking so long to realise this seems reasonable to me, now that I think about it. You see, as I began transitioning, I spent a lot more time online and in the company of people having these kinds of discussions and debates around gender and advantage and suchlike, and I think that this abuse of the P-Word I wrote about earlier led me to shun the idea that I did actually have an advantage due to not growing up as a woman, because it kept being couched in a “therefore we can pretend you and your views do not exist” kind of way. Even a lot of people who use the P-Word out there are now fed up with the P-Wars, a kind of Top Trumps card game in which people seem to be working out who wins a debate not on the basis of who makes the best reasoning case, but on the basis of who was the most oppressed and least advantaged.

Well, now that I’ve got here, I just want to acknowledge out loud that yes, there is that difference between being a cis woman and being a trans woman; the difference that by not growing up as a woman in this culture, you don’t get first-hand experience of casual misogyny until you live as a woman. And since this endemic misogyny is a painful thing to live with, when it’s clearly directed at me myself, I can only imagine what it would be like to grow up with that your entire life.

Of course, my ability to imagine this is helped a lot by all the negativity and prejudice that was directed at me myself while I was growing up, for being Jewish, gender-nonconforming, queer, smart, short-sighted, having (as a kid) buck teeth, and then through being abused and so on – so I know what it’s like, I just can’t know it directly.

And knowing and acknowledging this difference, I’m filled with a sad compassion for women, whoever we are, and however we arrive at womanhood. That’s all I really wanted to say. My culture is much improved compared to when I was growing up, but this stuff is still going on all the time. I’d really love there to be a point in the future where women could grow up never encountering this except in history lessons.

women-courage

Aye, there’s the shrub

barbie-legsThis is about… well, a quote I came across today (from the Canadian band Propagandhi) is very apposite: “Ordinary people do fucked-up things when fucked-up things become ordinary.” This will be about The Middle Way (sort of) and gender stereotypes, and cultural pressure, and something I’m saving for later for dramatic effect.

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on facebook about not being interested in shaving her legs. This caused a small avalanche of responses from women friends, explaining various ways in which it could be made easier to do.

I notice two things here. The first is that as a woman, not being interested in shaving your legs is sufficiently off-centre culturally speaking (in our particular culture, anyway) that it’s noteworthy enough to want to post about. The second (and more fascinating one for me) is that it’s very, very difficult for most women to hear another woman say “I’m not interested in shaving my legs” and take it at face value. Hence in their minds, they seem to translate what they’ve just heard directly into “Actually, as a woman of course I’d really like to be able to shave my legs, but I don’t know how/lack the confidence/lack the time to do it…” and take it from there.

Personal Disclosure: I shave my arms and legs, every few days. I do this because although I have been taking hormones for 2 years now, the body hair on my arms and legs still resembles male more than female body hair (somewhat black and wiry), and I don’t wish to look like a man ever again – I used to look like a very furry levantine bloke. This hair is slowly fading and getting finer, and on my torso has pretty much vanished now, but once my arms and legs have caught up with my torso, I won’t need to shave any more, because I won’t have hair that I don’t want to have. And then I won’t shave.

So I haven’t personally been on the receiving end of this kind of “education” from women regarding my body hair, but I have experienced a barrage of it, particularly from other trans women, for not being interested in make-up. We have a conversation, it eventually comes around to me saying “I’m a tomboy, and I don’t like make-up so I don’t wear it.” They often begin by saying how they understand, and how everyone is different and so on – but then inevitably they crack under some weird internal pressure and start telling me where I can go to get lessons in applying make-up, clearly under the impression that regardless of what I’ve just told them, the issue is really that I’m too scared to do what I obviously really long to do, which is to wear flawless make-up and be a Proper Woman™.

Here we are, then. In Buddhism, there’s a concept known as The Middle Way, which (massive oversimplification alert) points to the need to transcend extremes through transcending the dualisms that plague our minds in life – in this case, feminine/masculine. Women in this culture are drawn magnetically (nay, shoved) towards an extreme called “femininity” (as defined by whoever, but which at this particular point in history includes the wearing of make-up and the shaving of legs), and they are led to think of this as The Norm. From this cultural magnetic pole, not doing either of those things, if you’re a woman, is deemed Extreme.

This is interesting, isn’t it? (Oh, please say yes…)

This is a general principle in life: if enough people believe or do something, it’s Normal. No matter how extreme it is in the broader picture, at least within that culture (be it an entire society, a country, a region, a subculture like emo or football supporters or Christians or whatever) it’s Normal, and not doing it or believing it is Extreme. So much unnecessary strife is caused both in groups and individually by this tendency to think in polar, binary, dualistic ways about everything –  it’s either this or it’s that, right/wrong, good/bad, in/out, saved/damned, female/male, to be or not to be, and so on.

So what’s this thing I’m saving for later for dramatic effect? It struck me, reading the responses to my friend’s comment on not being interested in shaving her legs, that so much of the gender-stereotyping behaviour in our culture is self-perpetuating, and that being a feminine woman (or a masculine man) is very much like a manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome. This is the term for when people get kidnapped, and often (out of an unconscious sense of self-preservation, in order to stop the experience from being as horrific as it actually is) persuade themselves that they like their kidnapper and what they stand for, and side with them and excuse/justify their behaviour.

We women are pressured into doing stuff like shaving our legs. Then we normalise the experience for ourselves, and then we come up with justifications for doing it that allow us to pretend we’re making a choice. That’s the extreme, polar position, of course. Women are doing this to a greater or lesser extent. But this well nigh ubiquitous knee-jerk response to someone saying “I’m not interested in doing this optional leg shaving thing, thanks very much” is such a giveaway that these women seeking to enlighten us are not doing so from a position of personal choice.

So if  you find yourself (and I’m saying this to myself, before I say it to you, gentle reader) strongly drawn to defend a belief or activity that someone else says they’re not fussed about… take a good look at yourself. Why do you care sufficiently to be evangelical? And seriously, about make-up or removing body hair, for fuck’s sake? Let go.

willow_catkin
[I apologise for not being able to find a decent multiethnic photo of Barbie-doll legs. This here is a furry catkin – don’t tell me you don’t find it cute, even if you have a pollen allergy…]

*****

PS: Bloody hell’s bells. I started writing this blog-thing around 11 months ago, and made a point of not advertising it to anybody. I decided I was writing it primarily as a way of sorting some things out in my own mind to do with the subjects that preoccupied me – being a Buddhist trans woman going through transition, whilst also dealing with acute PTSD – and that if people found it, it would be because they were interested in the same things I am. Somewhere along the line, people have started finding this and reading it, and I now have 50 followers, whatever that actually means.

Well, what it really means is that some people have found this blog-thing because they’re interested in the same things. Some people have found it by googling other things randomly connected with things I’ve mentioned in this blog-thing in passing, and some of those have stayed to visit. And I know for certain that a few people have found this blog-thing through misspelling things in google, because I get to see some pretty funny “search results” listed as what brought people here. Admittedly, mostly it’s peacock feathers :). Anyway, I just wanted to say to the people out there who’ve let me know they are appreciating at least some of what I’m writing, thanks for letting me know. I hope what I’m writing is helpful to others, because I’d like it to be. It’s certainly helping me, writing this.

How can something sarong feel so right?

blossom-bootsSorry. Even when I’m narked about something, I can’t resist a good pun. Just be grateful that I don’t write copy for tabloids.

Anyway. Before I get onto the main topic of this blog-thing (sorry, this is going to be a long ‘un), let’s just take a moment in awed silence to admire this photo to the right, here. It’s what I imagine my 50% BUTCH teeshirt would look like if it were reinterpreted as an impressionist painting.

…shhhh…

Honestly, the first time I saw this photo, it made me cry, because it’s such an adept and beautiful expression of what I meant by 50% BUTCH, the commingling and flirting with multiple gender identities and stereotypes and expressions. I love it so much.

Okay, now back to being narked, and the subject of this blog-thing. Two separate but interconnected experiences I had today, and my reactions to them, and consequent musings thereon.

This morning, I was singing sea-related songs with a choir I’m in, at an RNLI (that’s lifeboats) fundraiser in a posh little estuary town. During our interval, I got chatting with one of the women I like most in the choir, though I don’t know her very well yet. It turns out she’s worked in the past with endocrinologists and plastic surgeons, and is down with the whole trans thing. Sort of. We had a really nice friendly conversation about my transition, and she asked me how long I’ve been on hormones (two years). And then she said “And when do you plan on starting to wear women’s clothes?” and I couldn’t help myself, I laughed out loud.

I then pointed to my ensemble and said “The socks are the only menswear items – and that’s only because my feet are too bloody big.” I then proceeded to educate her on The Life And Fashions Of A Trans Tomboy. She took it well, and was apologetic, and got the point that women present a vastly broad spectrum of clothing expression, within which my outfit was by no means anywhere near the “masculine extreme”. (I was wearing black cotton moleskin bootcut trousers, a pale-blue-and-white striped vest top, an equally pale blue cotton hat, and purple converse lo-tops. I mean, come on.)

So that was alright, best belovèd. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this, and won’t be the last, I’m sure.

Then after the gig, I headed home on a blisteringly hot train, and got home to a flat that was 30˚C. So I thought I give in, and I broke out the sarongs. I have four sarongs – two Thai ones, and two tie-dyed African ones. I put on one of the Thai ones, and then for a laugh, I photographed myself and posted it on facebook (I don’t habitually go for selfies, please note) with the caption “I don’t do skirts/dresses, but sarongs are unisex, and it’s bloody hot, thus… for the well-dressed trans tomboy about town.” (Yes, I am out everywhere, including on facebook.)

What happened next was very frustrating, until it became more hilarious than frustrating (though it stayed frustrating too, and I’ll get on to that…)

I received several responses (including private messages) of “encouragement” from straight women friends (both trans and cis), and I discovered that it was virtually impossible for them to get their heads around the fact that when I write “No, I don’t like skirts/dresses on me ever, and almost never on anyone else either :)” I mean exactly that, and not, for example, “Aye me, I long to wear skirts/dresses but alas, I lack the self-confidence and/or fashion knowledge :(.”

I kept thinking I’d got there with each of them, and that they finally got it, only to have them somehow press their own reset buttons, and jump in all over again with “…but you could look really good in a skirt if you <insert heterofemme fashion tip/self-help bollocks here>…” In the end, as I say, I got more amused than frustrated – and decided to share the frustration, so I began simply posting “No, I don’t like skirts/dresses” over and over again to their replies, until they just shut up.

These two experiences together in one day have wound me up into writing about them, but also been cause for me to wonder: Why do I feel perfectly comfortable wearing a sarong, and perfectly uncomfortable wearing a skirt/dress? So that’s what the rest of this is going to be about, because (as they say on South Park) I’ve learned something here today.

How is a sarong so different, for me, from a skirt? (Let’s assume from now on that skirt is shirthand hahaha, shorthand for skirt/dress, because I can’t be bothered to keep typing that – even though explaining this to you has taken up way more characters, blah blah eat less peanut m&ms, Womandrogyne… (…okay…))

Well, as I said earlier, a sarong is a unisex garment. In many countries where a sarong (or its analogue – I’m using sarong as shorthand for colourful-piece-of-cloth-that-you-wrap-around-your-bottom-half) is worn as everyday wear, both men and women wear them. Yes, there are usually different forms or colours depending on your gender, but the basic garment is unisex. This is why I’m comfortable wearing it – because it’s an androgynous garment. It doesn’t (for me, and that’s what’s important here) point in my own culture to a very specific gender. Slinky girl models wear them, hunky expensive male footballers wear them.

That explains why I like wearing sarongs, and am comfortable wearing them in front of others (though I prefer to do so barefoot). But why don’t I like skirts? this is the bit I’ve got a lot closer to understanding over the last few hours. (I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to get here, I had a lot to say and I’m full of chocolate and peanuts and a bit überverbose in consequence).

When it comes down to it, it’s a visceral suspicion that women’s skirts are a symbol of oppression of women. Why? Well, if you set up a culture so that exposing your genitalia (even if slightly covered) is considered a no-no, and then you put just the females within that culture into clothing whose bottom ends are freely open, you’re basically saying “No: you may not – and it is assumed that you will not – be as active and free with your body as men are, because otherwise you will show your slightly-covered ladyparts and be immediately written off as a harlot of some sort.” And it is often harder to run in a skirt (let’s not even get onto high heels – I’m certainly never going to get onto them, and it’s not because I’m 6’3″) so a degree of relative helplessness is often built in too.

So something in me is sufficiently certain that on women, skirts are somehow a symbol of shame and repression, and there’s no way in hell you’re getting me into one of those things.

Of course, there’s also the fact that I hardly ever find them aesthetic (or in fact not-absurd) when other people are wearing them, so I don’t want to wear them because I think they look ridiculous. But that’s also intertwangled with my sense of what skirts represent.

For sure, you have the same potential body-parts exposure issues with a sarong – but then men share that burden, so it’s no longer a finger pointed at women.

I’m really surprised to find myself thinking all this, and writing it, today. But then, as you’ll have gathered from my recent blog-thing about the girly-keys, I seem to have entered a phase in my growing-up-into-a-woman where I’m becoming acutely aware of the bollocks going on out there, the profoundly deep, thick, and cloying layer of Double Standards in the What’s Acceptable In Women/Men game.

I know I’m by no means the first person to notice this stuff. I’ve read some of it before, myself, especially about how so much of women’s fashion seems to be about the sexualising of defencelessness. It’s just that, as the saying goes, This Time, It’s Personal. And I’ll come back at this point to the fact that all my queer women friends just get it, and most of my straight women friends (as seen above) don’t. I have to assume that it’s very firmly implanted into the straight woman’s psyche that True Woman = Skirts/Dresses, to the point where they’re condemned to defend that nonsense. And that queer women have already had to swim upstream against so much cultural conditioning about what makes a True Woman that they have no problem understanding my mistrust and dislike of skirts, even if they like them themselves.

I expect I’ll have more to say on this, either to clarify or contradict what I’ve just written today. Because it’s a big conceptual leap to take, and why should I assume it’s perfect first go? For example, it has just occurred to me to add that my visceral mistrust of being made to appear defenceless is fed by my experience of having been abused. So apparel suited to flight is relevant to my needs (running away, not wings).

I leave you with another image I’m rather fond of…

apronangelo[I apologise: unusually, I don’t know where either of these two images originates.]