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Why are we still fucking within the system?

by thisvibrantbody (@thisvibrantbody)


 


I’m not writing this for myself. No. That seems self-indulgent, self-absorbed. To pour my emotions out and have them fill a kind of public grotto anyone can dip their fingers into? Nah. Vulnerability? Sharing emotions? That’s not very masc of me. Grayson Perry says one of the four pillars of masculinity is no sissy stuff. Exactly. Bottle that shit up and pray it doesn’t leak out. Stop being so sensitive, Gracie. Gosh. You’ve been rejected before. Chin up. Get over it.


For the sake of what happens next, I identify as non-binary. As divisive as the topic of identity has become, it becomes relevant when a situation the majority of the world would naturally expect to conclude as it does leaves you feeling lost and insecure and aware of your difference to certain social and cultural norms.


So, this isn’t just for me. It’s for anyone that’s struggled to picture themselves in the world of love and romance that is imagined on our screens that have secured the normative, cis-gendered as the natural object of desire and remind us what kinds of desire are acceptable. This is for those whose gender representation can not be confined to either side of this imaginary binary. Specifically, this is for those whose presentation leans towards the more ‘masculine’ side of the gender binary, even though hegemonic ideas around masculinity reserve the label for those with the biological parts to match. Anyone else? Oh, they’re simply going through ‘a phase’, a tomboy, they’ll grow out of it or whatever infantilising nonsense a movie script comes up with to explain away an AFAB (assigned female at birth) character’s ‘unconventional’ presentation that aligns more with the conventionally masculine. Not to imply that masculinity is a fixed visual concept, but for the sake of clarity, I’m talking about the dapper, chivalrous, boyish and magnificent beings out there who may or may not identify with the masculine but possibly glow a little when they’re described using adjectives reserved for biological men.


Shit, I guess the visual codes can be useful.


At this point in the vast collective narrative of human history, it’s safe to say that we as a species crave representation in popular culture. It acknowledges the existence of individuals and identities within the social world by broadcasting the experiences of those similar to them. A reminder that you are not alone in this world. In the past representation in media was in the firm control of the cultural elite; the white, the cis-gendered and the heteronormative - whose narratives reflected these dominant ways of thinking. The expediency of the cis-gendered, heteronormative narrative for the progress of western, capitalist society, colonised states of love and desire, reified by state institutions and medical research that approached any body whose existence contradicted these narratives as abnormal or unnatural. This left anyone that deviated from these normative standards stateless. Technology has undoubtedly enabled greater representation through the emergence of new media platforms that makes content creation accessible to anyone with a laptop. However, gender non-conforming bodies and romances remain hard to come by. But these are the kind of stories that are critical for anyone out there questioning the gender binary, in need of a reminder that it is a binary that they have a right to question. It’s not in your head.


We’ve always been here.

Trans and gender non-conforming identities relative to the western, hegemonic understanding of the gender binary have a long and fabulous history, missing from western memory. In many cultures they were even celebrated (highly recommend Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman for evidence of this.


Alas.

What inspired this rant?


A trip to a maker’s market on a bright summer’s day becomes a stage for potential group sex between friends, before reverting to a more common use of a day out at a market in popular culture; the setting for the start of a budding romance between boy and girl.


The story unfolds on a Saturday where a cloudless blue sky oozes with joyful potential for three friends that finally had co-ordinated to spend their day off together. If witnessed from a distance as they made their way through the leafy streets of south Manchester, these three friends would all fall closer to the more masculine side of the gender spectrum. This maker’s market is a kind of sourdough bread fantasy for those with the expendable income to regularly afford artisanal cheeses, organic groceries. A world full of practical sandals, people that spend Saturday night’s in playing chess drinking natural wine. Not too much so that they miss bouldering the next day.


At the market the friends pace around slowly admiring handcrafted goods; arm behind back, leaning in to look at the wares, leaning back , stroking chins, making a remark about how what they’d just inspected may have been made. Like dads at a homeware store. But whilst passing as soon to be fathers in every manner but visual appearance, a leopard print jacket turns fathers to be into awkward boys. Leopard print jacket takes interest in the same organic chilli jam stand and challenges our bois to try the spiciest sample on offer before gracefully introducing herself into their sunny Saturday out. Obviously they all oblige, fuelled by the rush of desire similar to the kind you’d experience when you pass a gelato store and immediately crave ice-cream. Except in this situation, the ice-cream store is in a foreign country no one can speak the language of, the way these three friends tried to communicate with the newcomer.


The obvious antidote to disjointed conversations was beer. Sourdough fantasy a past dream, leopard coat flirts with, and is flirted with, the entire party. Several innuendos are made, leopard print shows a tattoo on their ass. Three tequila shots later and a foursome is suggested by the magnificent, femme fatale, bisexual. Panic successfully cuts it’s way through the tequila cushion smothering the potential consequences that come from fucking your mates. But only enough to prompt the decision to go along with the situation but only if more alcohol is acquired.


Next comes a drunken stumble to the nearest grocery store. Four walk in. Two boys lacking any manhood in the biological department walk out to witness the end scene to any romance story; cis-gendered boy and girl walking off into the sunset. Bodies intertwined like the mingling of the evening’s last light through the trees. And that, friends, was when the feelings hit.


It was being heavily flirted with, desired, almost for an hour as a non-binary human and having that desirability undercut by the existence of a body society would consider more ‘suitable’ with the conventional effeminate female. It was not knowing which of the two cis-gendered bodies that walked off together you wanted to be more. It was wanting to be neither but having the crushing noise of rom-coms and most other popular films and tv series parroting the myth that you had to choose one side.


If this was to be a cinema release the camera would naturally follow gender conforming male and female that walked off into the melting sun. The two extra bodies would’ve either not made the script or assigned characters whose only purpose was comedic relief.


As though an audience had never seen this kind of narrative before.


How unimaginative.


But pan the camera around and you will find two queers with a bottle of rum they didn’t pay for on a Saturday night, after a confusing series of events that felt as though they’d ended in a rejection neither wanted to think about.


Determined to act like real boys, the rejection fuelled an anger, an anger at how bodies like ours were left out of most sexual or romantic equations. That masculinity remained the domain of real ‘men,’ and any biological imposter an understudy that never quite makes it onto the stage of what is to be desired. That we felt as though there was nothing conventionally desirable about us because of a presentation that distanced our bodies from how the world expected us to present based on the gender we were assigned at birth.


Obviously the heated rant at the time was less nuanced and went more along the lines of;


Fuck this shit I can’t believe we got stood up for Dan, gross

As if he’s first choice, is it because he has dick?

But at least we didn’t have to see his dick

We’re fabulous, it’s her loss

As if it’s still daylight

Did that all really just happen in the middle of the day?

I blame the male gaze for this shit, what love is there out there for the butches.

Yeah, where are the butches on screen?

Are we even that butch?

Fuck knows, dude.

EIther way we’re handsome as fuck. Let’s go out.

Yeah

Another pint?

Yeah, let’s hit the town.



And then they were dancing in the queer bar, reveling in the euphoria of being able to melt into a family of social ‘others’ also missing in popular narratives around desire, now thriving as the majority in a space. The joy and community that thrived under the flashing lights of the club; a promise that a world where all bodies, sexualities and genders are celebrated is possible.


Queer theory is a mischievous way of using the system to dismantle the system. It’s a world of alternative readings of known cultural products to find traces of the identities that the intended audience of films, tv series, images, books, are unaware of, or would prefer not to exist. A world of infinite realities that speak to queer ideas and existences is able to be untangled through the subversion of the bland, repeated verses that attract the most of the world’s attention today. These remain limited to attraction between a woman and a man when concerned with love and desire, left unquestioned by those whose lives align comfortably with either of these two genders.


The masculine/feminine dichotomy alongside the ‘traditional’ ways these manifest in individuals based on their corresponding biology has been upheld through western popular culture. The omission of individuals that contradict these rigid ideas around gender is political, as well as possibly the consequence of biologically male little dick energy determined to keep masculinity exclusively for ‘men’ out of there that alternative manifestations of masculinity may threaten the relevance of the powerful/heroic manly man archetype we see in movies. From a political perspective, the reproductive capacity of women is crucial to the survival of a society and once required relationships with biological men. The consequence of this is the biologically determined gender binary that still functions as the fundamental social organising factor within society. Masculinity and femininity became laden with expectations based on the functions a person’s biology was required to perform in society as well as the belief that it was economically beneficial for people to form family units with a sole breadwinner and a partner left to tend to the future generation.Those in power confined femininity to forms that were considered desirable to the men, reflected in the roles women played in popular films and TV series. Likewise, masculinity continued to be presented as something strong and heroic.


Solidifying the gender binary also cemented sex and pleasure to the kind that results in reproduction; that between a dick and a hole, a giver and a receiver. The dynamic between these two roles is perceived as a reflection of the patriarchal hierarchy between men and women. This is performed even in queer relationships, where ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’ assume a dominant/submissive dichotomy between those involved that judges their exterior and their characteristics and matches these to a side of the gender binary. This makes intimacy a minefield for anyone whose body parts match a gender identity that person may not feel completely comfortable with.



Liz Rosenfeld’s My Kind of Cruising opens with the authors experience of giving head to a cis-gendered male while dressed in drag. Liz’s first instinct during the encounter is to remove the mustache, a visual marker understood as masculine. However their partner tells them to keep the mustache on, at which Rosenfeld states; “I remember tasting the possibilities of existing with an indefinite queer body.” This narrative highlights the instinct of a body to become gendered based on the assumed preferences of a sexual partner, alongside the reality that this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Rosenfeld believes she needs to present (as ‘feminine’) in order to satisfy their ‘masculine’ partner, an assumption made based on roles assigned to bodies and their biology in mainstream heteronormative society. Yet this reaction is rejected, challenging the notion that there is any fixed way to be desired, determined by who one is trying to be desired by.


Rosenfeld’s Indefinite Queer Body is free to exist unbothered by expectations based on their biology. Similarly, Paul, P. Preicado writes about a pansexual revolution in Testo Junkie; “the crumbling of sexual identity into a multiplicity of desires, practices, aesthetics… the invention of new molecular sensibilities and new forms of collective living.” Both authors attest to a future that is fluid, and the abundance of joy this could bring to everyone regardless of their relationship to the gender binary (if there’s even a binary at all).


Conceptualising desire beyond gendered markers and the acts that they’d correspond with opens up space for everyone to experience pleasure in ways that are joyful and affirming. It is a discussion we all should have, for a world that will be less alienating for people who identify as anything other than the box their biology would place them in. I dream of a new normal where sexual encounters come with a conversation about about how best you’d like to fuck/be fucked before assuming anyone’s role in this situation. These conversations around pleasure means that anyone is able to write their own script that aligns with how they’d like to exist and be desired. The Queer Sex Ed podcast on sharing desires talks about the playful degendering of body parts: dicks become strapless, and any hole is open up to a myriad of creative and possibly amusing adjectives; ‘mail slot/male slot,’ which have the potential to alleviate the anxieties of anyone that experiences gender dysphoria when it comes to sex.


Surely by now we’ve got sick of the narrative of girl meets boy, they fuck, the dick goes in the hole, happy ending. It’s a narrative that doesn’t work for everyone.The playful subversion of it is beneficial to everyone.


And so two friends whose desirability was once undermined in favor of a more coherently gendered body, whose reaction resulted in the start of a wonderful night on the town, and another ridiculous memory in a wonderful friendship, brings us here. I believe in a future beyond the limitations of the gender binary, and the gendered nature of desire as a product of the patriarchy and its necessity for the functioning of this capitalistic society that seeks only to produce and consume instead of nurture and question. I believe in Preicado’s pansexual revolution, and that everyone should get the chance to exist as Rosenfeld’s ‘indefinite queer body.’ My body is a body that exists, yearns to be desired as a body that is neither masculine or feminine and pleasure that doesn’t conform to rigid gender binaries and hierarchies. I hope at least part of this rant has outlined the ways that it can.


by thisvibrantbody

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