This week I have been absent,
Absent from my usual worries and stresses,
From my regular schedule and routines,
Absent from my day-to-day duties,
And absent from myself.
This week my family was struck,
With a death no one could grapple,
It is this death that has removed me from myself,
For I have no time for day-to-day duties and thoughts,
Nor have I care for my schedule.
A death no one could understand,
A loss that surprised many,
For we mourn, not just for him,
But for the times we will not have,
And the words we cannot say.
This week I have been absent,
Willfully forgetting all of the trivial nonsense in my brain,
Remembering the times I had, and the words I said,
And participating in life, in family, and in love.
Telling myself it is ok to be absent once in a while.
Gender is an incredible thing when you think about it. The attention to gender is overwhelming – actually, is there anything we pay more attention to? We have “rules” of what makes a boy and what makes a girl, a man or a woman. We need comfortable narratives for the gender expressions of gay men and women (effeminate and butch identities, for example).
Hell, we get nervous or threatened when we can’t work out someone’s gender.
As I’ve said in a previous post, we are obsessed by it. We like to control the uncontrollable because gender, no matter how hard we try to bring solid facts to it, is arbitrary. Completely based on culture, on judgement, on opinion. And therefore needs as much attention, regulation, and control as possible.
The trans* community often reports feeling that they are under pressure to “pass” as their preferred gender. This is of course a very reasonable desire to have. However, it consequently means that gender stereotypes and gender roles are pushed more vigorously on trans* people than they are for cis people. For example, in a recent Mardi Gras parade, there were reports of a transman wearing pink shorts and being ridiculed for it. Now if the pink short-wearing person was a cis-man, I doubt it would even be an issue. It’s the fact that the pink shorts were worn by a trans-man that people felt threatened by it. It comes back to control and comfortable narratives. A trans-man HAS to follow the outdated rules for being a man – cross it and his gender identity will be doubted. A cis-man has a little bit of lee-way though, because he was born with a penis. Apparently, genitals still matter to how we portray and express ourselves. Hardly a surprise, considering we still worry about colour associations with gender.
Clearly this social reaction toward trans* people will only perpetuate gender stereotypes and prejudice.
So what is gender? Gender is as defined by cultural meaning and understanding. Every culture has different rules for men and women, and I’m not just talking about geographic cultures, but also cultures within communities, workplaces, sports, clubs, friendship groups, families, etc..
Think about your gender identity and all the different gender-based roles you have in your life (whether or not you tend to follow the rules); for example, as an employee, a child, a parent, a sibling, a hobbyist, a friend, a lover, a spouse, a partner, a patron – every culture in society has an idea of how cis-, intersex, and trans* need to act and speak. And you are probably well aware of each of them.
Gender is arbitrary and as such as we are obsessed by it. We control and regulate it across cultures and societies. Most importantly, we come up with comfortable narratives to explain and feel ok around people whose gender identity is different from us. We are category-hungry; as humans we love to categorise – it is in our nature. As such, prejudice is inevitable. I accept that. However, it is vital to continue to question and be aware of gender stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.
Moral of the story; gender is arbitrary, so be a decent person and respect people around you. K?
I am in a defacto relationship. People keep asking me, “When are you two going to get married?”. I know they mean well/its a potential start to a gossipy conversation, but its a little bit puzzling as to why it is asked in the first place.
What is meant by the question “When are you two going to get married?”? Well, I’m sure it could mean a lot of things…
1) They really want to get invited to the wedding and get free booze and food (hey, that has to be one of the best things about a wedding, right?)
2) Its almost like a logical step in our culture to go from dating to defacto to engaged to married (some skip the defacto part and launch straight in).
3) They fear for our legal status and death/Will issues within our defacto relationship.
4) (and I fear this one the most) It means our relationship is not wholesome and true and honest until we obtain a marriage certificate.
If its the first, I empathise. I love a good wedding with an open bar tab. Awesome.
If its the second, well I understand that too. Its hard to deal with a couple who don’t follow the social order of these things (AKA: mind your own goddamn business!)
If its the third, defacto couples in Australia, gay or straight, are recognised in most areas of the law as married couples are.
And if its the fourth, well. I’m worried.
See, our reply to this question is that we have decided not to get married. Our relationship is whole and true and honest. We are in love. We do not want a marriage certificate because we feel we are committed to each other already. I personally do not wish to support a social institution that has always discriminated (think the disabled, the mentally ill, race, religion, class, wealth, gender identity and sexuality). I personally find it quite a demeaning and humiliating institute to women. I do not want to be given to one man by another man. I’m not going to wear white to represent my supposed virginity (because a woman’s hymen equals purity and worthiness, apparently).
Not to mention the cost of a wedding (“holy crap, let’s go travelling instead!”) . And no thank you, I’m not going to organise the whole bloody wedding by myself (seriously, why is it always that the bride has to organise everything?!).
Of course I don’t want to seem arrogant or virtuous in my rejection of the marriage institute. I know you can do your weddings however you please and leave off the sexism and forget about the gay and trans* discrimination for a day. People get married everyday, for a variety of reasons. I have picked my reason: if my partner ever got his British citizenship, we will make the trek to the registry office. Romantic, huh?
Of course, I forgot about the romance. The materialistic romance. The materialistic, individualistic romance. I get it. Its a fairytale. And weddings are very romantic. It is beautiful to see two people stand there and say they will be each other’s until they die. Hmm.. morbid, but romantic.
I shouldn’t be hating on marriage so much. I am going to be a maid of honour very soon, and I am genuinely excited by it. I am excited because my best friend and her finance are deliriously happy. And I guess that is what matters in the end. I too am deliriously happy in my defacto relationship. Just stop asking “when are you two going to get married?”. It bugs me that you too do not think that my relationship is worthy. Because it is.
Oh and sorry to the people who want free booze and cake. Genuine apology there.
As I sit here, waiting for the day to start,
The bittersweet winter is my company.
Bitter is the cold and frosty mornings,
Sweet is the sun and crisp, clean air.
The grass is dotted with dew;
The frost from this morning melted,
A gentle breeze turns the air,
And nibbles at my fingertips.
The trees are bare,
The leaves gone from autumn’s past.
There is a stillness, a silence in the city,
Yet the winter is loud in its show.
The cold air will thaw as the sun streams in,
But as evening settles, it will frost –
Embrace the town, and blanket it.
Canberra, my home town,
I have come to expect the bittersweet winters,
Bitter is the cold, the frost, and ice on the roads,
Sweet is the sun rays, and the crisp, clean air.
As the bitter cold bites at your nose,
The sun will soon warm it.
As the sweet air is inhaled,
The wind will soon turn it.
And as the bitter thawing of the dew comes along,
The frost will soon present itself.
And as the sweet fog of winter encompasses the town,
We will soon wake to another day.
Warm in our beds,
Hot cup of tea in our hands.
The season has changed.
It is bittersweet.
It is forgiving.
It is beautiful.
Its brilliant for a lot of things. Googling. Wiki. Youtubing for hours on end. I could go on.
What it is not so great for is the ever-expanding mass of fuckwits who post abuse and threats.
When Melbourne-based feminist/writer Clementine Ford posted abusive messages she had received in the last week, from men commenting on her body to dick pics right through to rape and death threats, she was banned from Facebook. Why? Because she violated online community standards. When she and her followers reported the abusive comments to Facebook however, the messages were deemed acceptable.
As much as we’d like to think of these abusive men as exceptions to the norm, it turned out that some of the comments derived from teenage boys. Some have since been suspended from the school after they were named and shamed.
This incident was a stark demonstration of rape culture and victim blaming. To paraphrase Ms Ford on “The Project” last night, it tells girls and women that this kind of harassment is inevitable and we should just expect such hideous abuse as users of the internet. The moment we expose abuse, our voices are silenced.
From now on, I will be naming and shaming any online abuse I receive. Because I should not have to expect abuse. It should not be expected of me to ignore or delete abuse. It should not be expected of me to block abusers. What should be expected is a zero tolerance policy on abuse and a safe, supportive way of reporting abuse. If people feel they have to abuse me, they should be prepared for their friends and family to see it. Abuse should not be seen as inevitable. Let’s move on from victim blaming. It’s just not ok, and everyone knows you’re a defensive, immoral fuck when you do it.
When I tell people this, I often get one of several responses.
1) “Do you have a problem with commitment?”
2) “Is there something wrong with you and your partner?”
3) “How does that work?”
4) “I would never let my girlfriend do that” – actual quote from a guy off Tinder.
Trust within a relationship is often equated with exclusive monogamy. We like to trust our partner not to cheat. Often, this is the make or break point in a relationship. It is a big thing when two people become exclusive. It is a big thing when a partner has a one night stand. It can be a big thing when a partner flirts or texts or hangs out with another person. But why?
We are misguided by this idea. Why do we care so much? Is it that big a deal when our partner has sex with or thinks about having sex with someone else? Yes, we get a bruised ego, and of course, we wonder if they really love us and if they will leave us. And of course those feelings are important and understandable. But I want to put forward a different view. We are a non-monogamous species living in a culture that obsesses over infidelity to the point where we can’t trust each other.
I was watching the TV the other night and an ad for the site “Ashley Madison” came on. The site provides already-attached people the opportunity to meet others who want to cheat. The slogan? “Life’s too short. Have an affair.” The ad portrayed a heterosexual couple living as zombies doing day-to-day things, until the woman secretly discovers this site, presumably has an affair, and, miraculously, becomes a living human again. I found this ad fascinating. It was obviously not a swinging site because the man had no clue of his (presumably) wife’s extramartial activity. It was purely a site dedicated to people who are willing to cheat on their partners.
Now I’m not sure whether this level of secrecy within a relationship is healthy, but it does show that there is a market for people who want to stay with their partner but also want to fuck other people. Surely, this market is not surprising. There are so many divorces and affairs that go on all the time in Western culture, no wonder people are worried. But instead of trying to control it, why not embrace it? Imagine a life where zombie woman told zombie man that she would like to have sex with someone else, and zombie man was like, “Yep sure, honey- in fact, I might make an account myself!”
Trust is not solely equated with exclusivity and fidelity. Trust is depending on one another, confiding in one another, and just generally working life out together. No one likes deception. Deception is not ok. In this blog entry, I am simply questioning the taboo status of honest open relationships, swinging couples, polyamorous relationships, and casual sex with multiple partners. Is it so wrong and bizarre? Let’s move on from the obession and control of infidelity and explore the fact we may have a sexual nature that exists outside a normative relationship.