And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby

21 06 2013

Un-able/-willing to think long thoughts, but still wanna say some things; thus:

*Sully’s been running a series on bisexuality (including a rather disingenuous vid of Dan Savage on how he loves the bis), to which I find myself mildly irritated.

Only mildly. I’m a mid-life bi who can’t be arsed to date anyone (or be arsed enough to do whateverthehell I’d have to do to entice someone to date me), male or female, and it’s just so obvious to me that this is a Real Thing that discussions of its existence are, well, irritating.

Most of what’s been said is about men, with the requisite oo-women-are-bendy disclaimers, and gay men who once said they were bi seem to be holding court in these posts, but, I dunno, more bi-straight men and bi-women ruminating on this might be nice.

Don’t know how much control Sullivan has on who writes in, however. (And no, I won’t be writing in, and not just because I don’t want to be another bendy-broad: I just don’t have much to say about my own experiences.)

*Another bit from Sullivan: He posted what what seemed to me two contradictory pieces In the same post) on drone warfare.

The first concerns the tedium of drone surveillance, as well as the clarity of the videos (“A nine-camera sensor nicknamed Gorgon Stare is capable of streaming full video with enough resolution to discern facial expressions.”). Through repeated viewings, drone operators become familiar with their subjects:

“It might be little things like a group of kids throwing rocks at goats, or at each other, or an old man startled by a barking dog,” says Mike. “You get a sense of daily life. I’ve been on the same shift for a month and you learn the patterns. Like, I’ll know at 5 a.m. this guy is gonna go outside and take a shit. I’ve seen a lot of dudes take shits.”

The second bit comes from Sascha-Dominik Bachmann

Keith Shurtleff, the US Army Chaplain and military ethics teacher, aptly summarized this concern “that as war becomes safer and easier, as soldiers are removed from the horrors of war and see the enemy not as humans but as blips on a screen, there is very real danger of losing the deterrent that such horrors provide.”

So my question is this: if the drone operator can see the people with whom he’s become so familiar, how removed is he, really, from the horrors of war? Is he not more aware of the humanity of possible targets than, say, pilots, for whom targets really are “blips on a screen”?

*No, Jordan Bloom, just because “The libertarian says the draft is slavery” doesn’t make it so.

I hold to my civic republican beliefs and consider shared civic obligation of particular importance to a pluralist (pluralistic?) society.

Yes, national service can be a problem, but, done right, it doesn’t have to be. I would favor a mandatory 2-yr paid stint in either military or civilian service beginning within some months of leaving/graduating from high school for all citizens and those who want to become citizens.

Yes, there’s an argument for/behind this, but did I mention the un-able-willing thing?

*George Packer has put together some great posts at the New Yorker on the financialization and Siliconization of our economy, and what it means for all of those folks who just don’t fit on Wall Street or in the Valley.

I borrowed a number of quotes from his “Change the World” piece on Silicon Valley for my summer pol sci class, highlighting the certainty of the tech-heads of their ability to lead [some of] us out of the swamp of politics and into the clean, well-lit techno-utopia beyond.

Can you guess my response to that certainty?

*This fucking guy:

Never, ever, ever, wait for a SIGN before you escalate! You will miss out on the vast majority of chances if you sit around waiting for SIGNS. Men are notoriously bad at reading women’s minds and body language. Don’t think that you’re any different. From now on you must ASSUME that she is attracted to you and wants to be ravished. It’s a difference in mindset that makes champs champs and chumps chumps.

. . .

Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.

Should I note for fairness’s sake that if a woman really really really makes super-crystal clear that she’s just not that into you then This Fucking Guy does allow that perhaps you should back off, if only to try again later, er, for safety’s sake?

Didn’t think so.

*Think vaginas are icky?

Fine, whatever. Just don’t be shocked that not everyone shares your belief  that vaginas are “objectively gross.”

(And not that you’ve asked, but I won’t be sleeping with you, either.)

*It’s a bad idea to arm the Syrian rebels. Bad bad bad.

I’m generally opposed to slippery slope analogies, but this is one case where it seems that if the US gives a guy a gun, we see little reason not to give him a cannon, then an RPG, and on and on until we get sucked in or distracted and everything goes to hell.

More to the point, as bad a butcher as Assad is—and he’s bad—the US has shown little-to-no-ability to make these situations better rather than worse.

I was agnostic-on-to-mildly supportive-of the Libyan intervention, but I can’t really tell you why I think this is such a bad idea.

But it is.

*Shall we end on a happy note?

My window-basil is growing like gangbusters. It apparently likes the rain as much as I do.

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It’s too late baby

29 07 2012

I used to be straight—that’s important to acknowledge.

I wasn’t repressing or in denial or running away from myself; before the age of 40, I was straight. After  40, not so much.

When I lived in Albuquerque I used to take my dirty clothes to a laundry a couple of blocks away. I got to know one of the women who ran the joint (damn, what’s her name? I can picture her, long dark hair, broad face, broad shoulders), and we’d talk while my clothes tumbled and I think we may have even gone out for beers a few time. She was a lesbian, was surprised I was not a lesbian, and stated with some confidence that I must therefore be bi.

You’re bi; you are. You know it. She wasn’t bullying or unkind, and said it with a fair amount of humor, but she meant it, too. I allowed for the possibility—I had plenty o’ friends who were lesbian, had lived with lesbians, had even had crushes on women—but it was an intellectual allowance, nothing more. Even my crushes were more emotional than anything else; I didn’t swoon at the thought of these women, and I certainly didn’t want to get naked with them.

I swooned around men. Not all men, not even most men, but if there was any swooning to be done, it was in the presence of a man.

So how to explain the switch? And it did feel as if a switch had been flipped: one moment, straight, the next moment, Holy cow!

I’ve mentioned before my friend M. thought this switch might have been related to a recent burst of creativity: I was still a bit dazed at having completed a draft of my first novel (that would be The Unexpected Neighbor, link on the sidebar) when prior to writing it I didn’t know that I could write it, had been in New York for less than a year, and my life was kinda shitty but not in a shitty way (if you know what I mean, which I’m not sure I do).

Anyway.

She thought I was opening myself up in ways I hadn’t before, and that this new interest in women was all a part of that. I still don’t know that I accept that, but since I don’t have any better story, I figured I might as well use M’s.

That I don’t have a better story, however, does get in the way of coming out to the folks who knew me when I was straight. Stating that I’m bisexual to new friends isn’t a big deal—there’s nothing to explain—but how to explain to old friends that before I was this and now I’m that?

Perhaps the problem is that I feel the need to explain, but wouldn’t you? And if your friend told you that she was this and now she’s that, wouldn’t you want to know?

Actually, when I put it like that, it’s not a dilemma, not really: One of things friends do is hash over what’s going on with ourselves, so this would just be another ingredient in the hash.

No, the dilemma is in dealing with the skepticism that I was ever not bisexual, or that I’m saying I’m bisexual because I’m unwilling to come out all of the way as a lesbian.

I know, I know: tough shit, people will believe what they want to believe. But given that among my many agonies is that regarding what to tell those close to me about me, if I am to reveal something, then I want it understood that I am revealing something true about myself.

What is true may change, but it still matters, and the truth is, I used to be straight, and now I’m not. Don’t know why, don’t know how, but there it is.

There it is.





Come out, come out wherever you are

26 07 2012

I’m half-out as a bisexual.

Andrew Sullivan has been banging away at the fact that the late Sally Ride chose not to come out as a lesbian while she lived, and getting a fair amount of push-back from readers; he’s holding firm.

My first reaction to his original column was What a dick.

I read his column every day and link to it with some regularity, so I’m not unfamiliar with his habit of making everything about him. (It’s annoying, but it’s his blog, and, frankly, I’m probably even more guilty of the Me! Me! M-Fucking-E ME! approach to blogging. So.)

Anyway, that initial reaction was along the lines of He really doesn’t get how hard it is for women in male-dominated fields; sexism piled with homophobia might have been too much. I modified that reaction somewhat as I considered that she could have come out after she left the space program, could have come out in the past few years, and that maybe it would have been better had she been as out to the general public as she apparently was with intimates.

Still, I think Sullivan does discount both the dynamics of sexism and temperamental differences regarding revelations about one’s private life. He implies that she labored in the closet, and that now we know that her real lesson to young lesbans was and is: duck and cover.

But we don’t, in fact, know that this was her lesson. Just because she wasn’t out in a dramatically public way doesn’t have to mean that her “real” lesson was “hide away”. There is, after all, a difference between discretion and shame.

As unfair as I think Sullivan is in his autopsy of Ride’s relationship to her public persona—he didn’t know her, didn’t know her motives—I do nonetheless have to wonder about my own half-outing.

I could be cute, I suppose, and say that as a bisexual I could only be half-out, but what I really mean is that I’m out to some (all of my friends in New York & some of my colleagues, some of my non-New York friends), not to others (family, students), generally ambiguous in reference to any (hypothetical, sigh) partners, and will answer truthfully if asked directly by someone who I don’t think is crossing any lines in the query.

Who I don’t think is crossing any lines: This is the kicker, isn’t it? What if a student would ask? A boss? Would that person be crossing a line?

Or should I be the one who crosses the line by coming out to, say, my students and everyone I work with? I have no fear of discrimination at work, and no great worries of adverse reactions from my students, but I haven’t come out fully at the office or in the classroom* in part because I don’t think it’s any of their business. I like my privacy, and I don’t think openness in some areas of my life requires me to display every aspect of my life.

(*There’s also the matter of the appropriateness of revealing personal information in the classroom. I do offer bits from my life if they’re relevant to the subject at hand, so it’s not out of the question that my own sexuality would be relevant in some discussions; just coming out a propos of nothing—Hi, I’m your professor and I’m bisexual!—would manifestly not be the way to go.)

But—and here is where Sullivan and everyone else who argues for the urgency of coming out makes sense to me—by not saying anything, I allow others to draw false inferences of my sexuality, a falseness under which I may duck and cover and which has social implications. I am uneasy, still, with the inferences others may draw if I come out as bisexual, even as I am also uneasy with the assumption by others that I’m straight.

My reasons for not slamming that closet door behind me, then, has less to do with social opprobrium than my own fear of the personal reactions to a personal revelation. I don’t think anyone in my family would really care all that much, or, to be honest, really be surprised—any surprise might be that I’m bisexual and not a lesbian—nor do I think that the few friends who I haven’t told would care much, either; if they would, their distress would likely center on how long it took me to tell them, not what I told them.

And, of course, that it’s been a number of years since I’ve become bisexual only makes the conversation now even more awkward: Why didn’t you say something earlier?

Sigh.

I struggle with what to reveal and what to tuck away in so many things; unlike almost every other of those things, however, this one is not just about me.





Talkin’ at the Texaco

8 06 2009

To SmallTown and back in 48 fun-filled hours! Whoo-hoo!

It wasn’t bad, actually, and another 12 or even 24 more hours would not have been the worst thing.

Still, all that quiet was unnerving. Fucking BIRDS woke me in the morning!

That’s not right.

Paying the same amount for a pitcher of beer that I would pay for a pint, well, that IS something New York could learn from SmallTown.

Saw family, saw friends, laughed a lot.

Came out as bi to half my friends. Would have come out to them all, but, mm, timing. Besides, one of the people I told is unlikely to keep the news to herself, even though I asked her to.

Ts. knows everything about everyone, and tells all to all. So be it.

Found out something bad a friend had gone through, long ago. Those who heard this were suprised, but not shocked. Certain things made sense, in retrospect.

What was striking, however, was the guilt carried these decades later by the woman who told us. She was a kid, in no damned position to do anything, and unlikely to have found help from anyone in a position to help, and still, she feels she should have done. . . something.

If nothing else, I hope she got a bit of relief telling us. I fear she has not.

Really not happy smelling like an ashtray after my night out. Yes, in this respect, at least, smelly New York is less smelly than SmallTown.

Found out S. and her husband will be visiting New York at the end of this month. I hope we can at least squeeze in time for a beer. At a smoke-free bar.

T. and I firmed up plans for her visit in August. I know: August in New York sucks (hot, smelly, hot & smelly), but she has time and I have time and what the hell, we’ve been through worse together.

Now I have to decide whether to go back for a class reunion this fall. Shees, and I have issues with Facebook; don’t know that I’d do much better face-to-face. . . .





Some of my best friends are. . .

21 12 2008

Rick Warren loves gay people.  Most people know I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of Purpose Driven Life helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia.

(A gay home? What the hell is that? Is everything all, you know, queer inside?)

And Rod Dreher of CrunchyCon lets it be known, just before he starts screeching about Nazi/Stalinist/intolerant/militant gay activists, that a former roommate of his is gay, that by golly he has friends who are gay.

No, Pastor Warren and Mr. Dreher are absolutely tolerant of the gays. No, it’s those nasty militant gays who are the intolerant ones, the ones who throw around terms like ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’ and yell at those who seek to keep the sodomites in their rightful place.

And the whole marriage thing? Let’s let the good pastor explain his opposition to gay marriage: I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Now that’s tolerance! Comparing same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy! But hey, he at least said he wasn’t so much opposed to California’s domestic partnership laws which grant hospital visitation rights or allow anyone to name anyone else an insurance beneficiary. Although I don’t know that he’s said anything about advancing a domestic partnership agenda in other states. . . .

The problem, Mr. Warren believes, is that gays don’t seek, um, equality (can’t quite say that word, can ya, Pastor?), but ‘approval’: Much of this debate is not really about civil rights, but a desire for approval. The fact that 70% of blacks supported Prop 8 shows they don’t believe it is a civil rights issue. Gays in California already have their rights. What they desire is approval and validation from those who disagree with them, and they are willing to force it by law if necessary. Any disapproval is quickly labeled “hate speech. Imagine if we held that standard in every other disagreement Americans have? There would be no free speech. That’s why, on the traditional marriage side, many saw Prop 8 as a free speech issue: Don’t force me to validate a lifestyle I disagree with. It is not the same as marriage.” And many saw the Teacher’s Union contribution of $3 million against Prop 8, as a effort to insure that children would be taught to approve what most parents disapprove of.

Ooookaaaaay. ‘Force by law’? Damned, um, straight. Disapprove of me all you like, just as you can disapprove of divorce; just leave me my laws on equal marriage and divorce.

And if you can’t handle having someone label your speech hateful, tough shit. You want to be able to rip on your preferred opponents without anyone calling you out on that ripping—who doesn’t? But someone calling your speech hateful hardly impedes your rights to such speech. Yeah, I know, too many people think ‘hate speech’ should be outlawed (a terrible, terrible idea), but has it been? Have you been arrested crossing the state lines into Massachusetts or Connecticut, Mr. Warren?

Somehow I’ve managed to put up with terms like femi-nazi and traitor, and I’m nobody. I’d rather not be compared to the Gestapo, but I hardly think my rights have been lessened by the moron who’d called me that.You, you big, powerful man, you, you shouldn’t have a problem dealing with a few sissies, should you? (I mean, without hiding behind those African-American voters who supported Prop 8. Because majorities are never wrong about rights for minorities, especially if some of those majority members are minorities in other contexts—right?) If not, well, don’t worry: hurt feelings do not equal fewer rights.

So can the talk about the scary, child-indoctrinating queers. Oh, wait, did I as a citizen just shred your rights as a citizen to blather about incestuous, pedophiliac, polygamous gays?

And how intolerant is it of me to call you intolerant? Am I threatening your rights by stating that if tolerance is to mean anything beyond ‘I won’t kill you,’ then those who profess to tolerate Others deserve to be smacked verbally for unloading such nonsense as ‘I care about gay people’ or ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ while in the next breath explaining why queers shouldn’t marry or adopt kids, or why the demand for equal treatment under the law is somehow out of line or, gasp, militant.

Militant gay activists. Jeez, that sounds familiar. Militant unionists. Militant black activists. Militant feminists. The gall of us, refusing to accept our inferior status!

I don’t have a gun. I don’t want to shoot you or blow you up. I’m just not willing to go to the back of the line because of the discomfort I cause to your delicate moral sensibilities.

[All quotes courtesy of a transcript of a recent interview, as well as updates, posted on BeliefNet; emphases in the original.]

A coda: I’m not crazy about the term bisexual. It’s not that it’s inaccurate, any more than homosexual or heterosexual is, but that it sticks too close—hell, it is—the technical definition of a form of sexual orientation. Hets get ‘straight’, and homos get ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ (along with a bunch of other happy and not-so-happy designations), but bis? We get. . . bi. Blech.

I prefer ‘ambi-sexual’, as in ‘both, around’ (thanks Webster’s!). Ya still got the ‘bi’, but it’s rounded out, more lyrical. Plus, fretful person that I am, I like the proximity to other ambis, as in ‘ambiguous’ or ‘ambivalent’.

Bi? No, ‘ambi’. Works for me.





Johnny, are you queer?

13 11 2008

I used to be straight; now, not so much.

It’s an odd thing, in the midst of one’s life, to shift from one position to another, from one side to the middle.

Is that what bisexuality is? The middle? I guess, if sexuality is to be stretched across a linear spectrum (‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you measure. . .’).

I don’t know that sexuality is to be stretched across the linear spectrum.

Despite having once written a (very bad) conference paper on the biology of sexuality, I claim no expertise on the origins or development of sexuality. Yeah, evolutionarily speaking, het sex makes sense, but so what: while we are also evolutionary creatures, we are not only evolutionary creatures. Besides, what about the urge to reproduce requires orgasms?

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So I’m bi, but I don’t know that I’m bi in the same way someone else is bi. (Then again, when I was straight, I don’t know that I was straight in the same way others were straight.) It’s not that I suddenly want to sleep with every woman or have threesomes or feel the need to alternate man-woman-man-woman in my affections.

Nope, it’s much simpler than that. Although I do have all kinds of attractions to all kinds of people, in almost all of these instances, the attraction isn’t sexual. (This is good, as it would be awkward if I wanted to sleep with my friends. Some people could manage that; I couldn’t.) But, sometimes, I am intensely attracted to someone, and want to get to know him (and now, her) in a variety of unbiblical ways.

And that’s it. Before, if I happened to find myself physically attracted to someone, that person was a guy. I didn’t question this. Then, about a year and a-half ago, I was jolted by the recognition that, hm, I could be physically attracted to a woman.

Whoa! Jolted is the right term: Where the hell did this come from?

I have long had friends who are lesbians, have joked about who I’d jump the fence for, said that while I wasn’t turned off by the thought of sleeping with a woman, I wasn’t particularly turned on by it, either. Yeah, I said, I could sleep with a woman and probably enjoy it, but I don’t think she’d get much out of it.

Have I been in denial all this time? Nah. I think that before I wasn’t attracted to both women and men, and now I am.

Why the switch? I came to this realization around the time I finished my first novel, when I was still a bit dazed at the fact that I had written a novel. So, at one point, when talking about both the novel and this bi-recognition to M.P, I mentioned my bewilderment. Maybe these things are connected, she said. Maybe in opening yourself to the writing, in letting yourself be creative, you let out other parts of yourself. M. is much more willing to call upon spiritual notions than I am, but what she said made a kind of sense to me. I have no other explanation.

As a practical matter, however, little has changed. I was alone then and I’m alone now. Being bi, I tell people, just gives me twice as many ways to screw things up.

Beyond such bitter-tinged glibness, however, there is something real. On a political level, I’m no longer just a gay-positive straight chick, acting on principle and on behalf of friends. In fact, a big part of the reason I’m blogging about this now is in response to Prop 8. I don’t live in California and I have no desire to marry anyone, but that my fellow citizens could take away a constitutionally-recognized right to marry doesn’t just offend my principles, it slices at the possibilities of my own life. Denouncing Prop 8 without coming clean—coming out—feels like lying. Liberation can’t be built on lies.

But this is not mainly a political issue for me, largely because I’ve always supported the ‘gay agenda’. No, this is deeply personal, and deeply disruptive of my sense of self. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s not as if I previously had a strong sense of who I am, but I’ve been able in many ways to treat this as a philosophical puzzle. Having my sexuality thrown into question—thrown open—forces me out of my abstractions and into the actual world. Before, I could think idly about what a possible future relationship looked like, how we’d deal with each other, etc., and continue in this nice, smooth, speculative groove. I was operating in default mode, unquestioned and unreal.

No more. I’ve been tossed out of myself, and now have to decide whether to crawl back into that (appropriately adjusted and resealed) groove, or take this chance to find something new.

Take a chance, I know, take the chance! But I’m so used to crawling. . . .