Tuesday, 22 November 2011

On femininity

A few nights ago I was coming home from work, feeling fairly unremarkable. Walking up the escalator at Paddington station, I couldn't help noticing the legs of the person in front of me, which were right in my eye-line. The legs were clad in knee-high white socks with some kind of repeating red design - little cherries or hearts or something. They had a red ribbon at the top which tied at the back of the leg, and on the feet at the bottom of the legs were little shiny red shoes with round toes.

It was a charming get-up, and I absolutely despised it. I don't mean I thought, 'wow, I would never wear that', although I did. What I thought was not exactly clear - I'm not sure there were any comprehensible words. There may have been a sneer on my face. I felt hatred. I hated the things themselves, I hated the person wearing them, I felt disgust for the obvious care which had been taken in the choosing of the things.  What I felt was hatred of femininity.

I know very well how utterly wrong this is. Fine, don't choose femininity (or whatever) for yourself, don't find it attractive, don't feel drawn to it in yourself or others - but don't hate it. Don't fall into that trap, because a trap it most certainly is. Like to think of yourself as liberal, progressive, feminist (gods forbid), open-minded? Don't be reduced to a knee-jerk, femme-phobic, misogynist, reactionary puddle of loathing. It's (dare I say it?) not big and it's not clever. It's stupid, small, petty, insulting, sexist.

It's what we've taught ourselves.

For my own part, in trying to look a little deeper, I came up with an excuse for my pathetic meanness of spirit, and here it is. It's not all that exciting, and it's also pop psychology at its finest. What I think is that my reaction is a leftover of hatred of femininity in myself. Now, I don't always hate my own femininity. Sometimes I adore it; sometimes I'm perfectly fine with it, sometimes it'll do. Sometimes, in the words of delisubthefemmecub, "it's all I have". But sometimes I want to run like hell away from it. Sometimes it's the thorn in my side, when my side is basically all thorn. Sometimes I hate the bits of myself that can be called 'feminine', whether that's clothing or make-up or my own body. Sometimes I want to cut those bits off. And sometimes, when I'm not feeling strong, that hatred turns on those who express femininity willingly (or what I perceive to be willingly - their reality might be entirely different).

I know this isn't right. It's cruel and hurtful to myself and others. Does it make me feel good to denigrate others in my head? No. For a moment it gives me a feeling of superiority, but it's a nasty, mean-minded feeling, and it doesn't feel good even to me. Even at the time. It's damaging and I don't want to engage in it. When will I stop engaging in it? Will I ever?

Friday, 11 November 2011

My Genital Affirmation

Here is a link to a YouTube video I came across on Genderfork:


It is called My Genital Affirmation, and its tagline is A Vagina Dialog: A Transgender Vagina Talks Back. (I use the pronouns he/his throughout (for Simon, not his vagina!), but I don't actually know if that's what Simon prefers. Apologies if I've got it wrong.)

Description: One person speaks from various positions in one room, with one camera angle. He wears a few different outfits in different shots - a suit and tie; trousers and a shirt, a white vest top. Sometimes he wears glasses.


"First things first. My vagina prefers male pronouns. If you don't understand that, then you probably won't understand anything my vagina has to say, and should probably just stop playing this clip right now.

My vagina is tired of the people who assume that because I'm (whispers) a man, I must hate my vagina. He is not hated. He does not hate himself. My masculinity and my vagina live together in harmony. Yes, sometimes they fight; sometimes they get along fine; but regardless, they always do and always will cohabit as me.

My vagina knows that he will be asked over and over again if he is still living down there and if he is, how he's doing. He's fine! I love my vagina and the history he represents. The strength, power, potential life that all vaginas represent. Yes - I'm saying that. He is proud to be a vagina.

My vagina can take a lot, and since he is connected to my hips and my thighs, he can give even more. He can give even more.

My vagina has grown accustomed to tentative bewildered hands and mouths fumbling. He does not expect anyone to know how to handle him at first contact, or even know how to address him without proper instructions. Don't worry, he will instruct you. He just wants an open mind. What he wants and what he needs sometimes changes from day to day.

My vagina wants to be listened to and heard and understood and validated.

My vagina knows that he is misunderstood and wondered about. He is used to it. Don't think he doesn't hear what people are saying. He hears it.

My vagina recognises that many people think that I am weak and less than other men because he is part of me. Sometime this gets to him. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes he is frustrated and angry. Sometimes he is just happy to be alive.

My vagina is silent, and he is sick of his silence.

My vagina is invisible and is sick of his invisibility.

My vagina is ashamed and hidden, but doesn't want to be.

I am all man. I am all man. I am all man. And I love my vagina. I am all man and I love my vagina."

I'm not really sure what to say about it. I love it, obviously. A few of the comments mention 'The Vagina Monologues' - one suggests that Simon tries to get My Genital Affirmation included in that, since it doesn't have any pieces on trans men. My own memories of seeing and reading The Vagina Monologues are positive, but it was long enough ago that it didn't occur to me to question that lack - or even, honestly, to notice it. I wonder what a queer/trans Vagina Monologues would look like.

The section on the "potential life that all vaginas represent" is interesting to me. It seems odd in this context, given the troubled history of equating 'women' with 'vaginas' with 'child-bearing'. Simon is making a powerful case for the diversity of the vagina. I hope I'm not misrepresenting his position, but I read this video as saying 'a man can have a vagina, and it doesn't make him less of a man, or his vagina less of a vagina. But suggesting that all vaginas represent potential life troubles me. What about vaginas that are part of people (men, women, trans, queer, whatever) who can't or don't want to 'create life'? Do their vaginas still 'represent potential life', despite their feelings? Does 'biology' trump desire?

I wonder if Simon is commenting obliquely on that with his immediately-following remark "Yes - I'm saying that". Is he acknowledging the controversial nature of his statement, and reinforcing his belief nonetheless that "all vaginas [] represent potential life"? Is his reiteration a defiance along the lines of 'yes, I'm a trans man and my vagina can create life'? Because that's lovely. I'm just not sure equating all vaginas with potential life is in line with the joyful liberating cry of 'this is who I am, and I love it'. 'This is who I am, and this is who you are' doesn't quite work as well, for me.

I love the sexiness of this video, and I love the pride in the sexiness. I love the unapologetic attitude of it - the 'fuck you'ness of it, if you will. I love Simon's curly hair and his white vest. I think he's kind of a hottie, actually! And, to top it all off, his vagina sounds like a total dude. Definitely keeping an eye on that channel.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


So, boyish. I toyed with various versions of this name, and lots of them involved 'boi' rather than 'boy', but I wasn't convinced that I'd always be happy with that formulation, plus there would be that unattractive double-i in the middle. So, boyish it is.

It'll do.

This is a space for me to formulate my random thoughts - thoughts that I have while I'm on the train or lying awake at night and which seem to have nowhere to go, and which sometimes distress me. So I'm hoping that writing them down might help - or at least make me aware of whether they are worth spending more time thinking about them or not! Another vague aim is to 'improve my writing' - or at least reduce the frequency with which I use dashes. I use those too much. I'd like to become more articulate in the short, casual form, as opposed to the long, academic form that I am accustomed to. I also fancy some kind of record of the interesting things that I stumble across on the internet and have some kind of reaction too, so there will be plenty of re-postings of things that have moved me. There will be no 'posting schedule'. I am busy and lazy and not-at-all consistent, so expect 3 posts in a day and then nothing for weeks.

There's no particular theme, although I imagine gender will crop up a fair amount - almost certainly more than anything else will. Or rather, pretty much anything I talk about will be related to gender at some point.

If I've invited you here, it means I trust you to be nice - or at least, not to throw things. Please don't throw things.