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August 31, 2006
There was a piece in the New York Times last weekend about the debate in the queer community—particularly among lesbians—over gender-reassignment surgery. Lots of formerly butch lesbians now identify as "transmen."
The strangest revelation was that after one member of a lesbian couple became a man, they were able to get legally married in California. I thought California didn't allow gay marriage. Doesn't the fact that a marriage is legal if one partner gets a sex change kind of turn all the anti-gay-marriage arguments on their head? "No, you can't get married—well, I guess if one of you has a sex change it'll be okay." That's pretty fucked up, no?
I'm under orders to lay off the gay-marriage issue. But quickly: Yeah it's fucked up, particularly when you read all of Paul Vitello's piece ["The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack"] and learn that many transmen don't bother getting their genitals swapped out. Building a reasonably functional penis is a hell of a lot more complicated than building a reasonably functional vagina—so there's not much incentive for transmen to get an "ersatz penis," to use Vitello's term. Which makes for lots of double-vagina marriages.
Still, it's not as fucked up as you might think. Gender isn't just about genitals—the mind is gendered, and some male minds are born into female bodies and vice-versa. While denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is an injustice, a fully transitioned transman—meaning he's got an "M" on his driver's license now, not an "F"—and a woman-born woman are an opposite-sex couple, penis or no penis. If society is going to reserve marriage rights for opposite-sex couples, then you have to let transmen marry their female partners. But a lesbian couple being able to legally marry and keep on grinding their glazed donuts—as long as one of the women gets a double mastectomy, a few hormone shots, and a soul patch—only goes to show how absurd our marriage laws are.
Another small absurdity: Vitello's piece focuses on the debate in the lesbian community over transmen. Are they traitors, abandoning their community to access male privilege? I'll let the ladies and ex-ladies duke that one out, but I would like to weigh in on the fact that, as Vitello writes, "there is no apparent parallel imbroglio in the gay community toward men who become women..."
The reason there's no imbroglio in the gay community is because adult gay men rarely, if ever, decide to change their gender. I've been out of the closet for more than two decades now (since I was 7 years old!), and in all that time I've never known a single adult gay man who decided to run off and become a woman. The only men I've known who changed their gender as adults were heterosexually identified men who now identify as lesbians.
However, I've known lots of lesbians who later decided that they were and always had been men, and many more lesbians who decided they were and always had been heterosexual. At the risk of being burned in effigy at the next dyke march, the fluidity of female sexual identity sure does make me appreciate the solidity of male sexual identity. While I have to worry about my boyfriend leaving me for another man, I don't have to worry about him walking into the kitchen one day and announcing that he's always been a woman, or that he's only just realized that he's straight. A guy that's sucking cock at 18 will be still be sucking cock at 28, 38, and 108—but it seems that a woman can be eating pussy at 18, sucking cock at 28, and having her cock sucked at 38.
My sister has a client with an unusual problem. When the client and his wife divorced, he agreed to pay maintenance (alimony) for 10 years or until she remarries. She is now in a lesbian relationship. They have exchanged rings and she lists her partner as "spouse" on her child's school records. This man believes he should have the right to terminate maintenance based upon his ex-wife's "remarriage." But marriage between two women is not legally recognized in this state.
Doesn't it strike you as a major double standard that this woman can flaunt her lesbian "marriage" with impunity while she fucks her ex royally?
Double Standards For Everyone
It's a double standard, DSFE, but not one I'm prepared to get exercised about. While this woman may have an ethical obligation to turn down money that she's entitled to on a legal technicality/injustice, the fact remains that she is not married in the eyes of the law. That sucks for her, it sucks for her partner, and it sucks for your sister's royally fucked client. I hope he's directing his anger not just at his ex-wife, but also at the feds, bigoted judges, and irrational fears that keep his ex-wife from legally marrying her "spouse."
I'm an 18-year-old girl, going off to college, and I'm not sure how to identify myself. I started at my school in kindergarten, and stayed there until I graduated last week. Everyone there knew I liked both girls and boys, probably because I was kissing them from about third grade on.
I can't say I'm a lesbian because it's inaccurate, and I'm certainly not straight. I don't want to tell people I'm bi because 95 percent of the "bisexual" 18-year-old girls I've met were drunk straight chicks. So what do I say? "I'm a dyke, but I'll do boys, too"? "I'm bisexual, but not one of THOSE bisexuals"? Or should I just flirt with hot people and forget labels?
Not One Of THOSE Bisexuals
Lots of young gay men run around telling people—straight people—that they're "not like other gay people." What they mean is, "I'm not a skeezy slut." Young lesbians insist they're "not like other lesbians," meaning they're not man-hating bulldykes. These stereotypes are not without foundation, of course. There are lots of skeezy gay sluts out there and tons of man-hating bulldykes. But just as it's unfair for straights to believe that all gay men are skeezy sluts and that all dykes are man haters, it's unwise for young queers to confirm heterosexual prejudices by implying that they've just had the pleasure of meeting the one and only gay man on earth who isn't a skeezy slut or the one and only lesbian who isn't a man hater.
Don't play this idiotic game, NOOTB, unless you want to mark yourself as an immature, shallow young queer. You can tell people you're bisexual without adding the self-hating bi-phobic qualifier, i.e. "not one of THOSE bisexuals." And then, through your behavior, you can demonstrate that you—like most bisexual girls—aren't just some drunk straight chick.