Transcending Boundaries 2014 Keynote Address ‘Inclusion Is Not A Moonshot’

Below you’ll find my keynote address from Transcending Boundaries Conference 2014. The recording of the address didn’t work out, so I re-recorded it from my office. The text has been slightly modified to better suit print. 



Before I get going with the body of today’s address, I’d like to do a little exercise to help us look at how we think about inclusion in our community. And please, for the love of all that is decent in the world, don’t try to read too much into the order as I go, sometimes a list is just a list. Here are some common generalizations people have about people in the queer and LGBT community:

  • Bi people are often perceived as not “really” part of our community since there’s a perception that they can could always be with someone of the opposite sex
  • Cis gay men are seen as having so many societal advantages as to no longer be subjects of oppression and bigotry.
  • Lesbian and gay women are expected to cleave to hetero-normative gender expressions in their relationships, in the form of having a mandatory butch and fem partner
  • Trans* people are often portrayed as having one universal narrative of what it means to be transgender transsexual, or genderqueer.
  • Queer people are associated with being young and college educated.
  • Asexual people are all too often assumed to be simply inexperienced or afraid of sex
  • People make all sorts of presumptions about intersex people’s bodies
  • Polyamorous people are thought to be impulsive, flighty, or incapable of commitment.
  • People who engage in kink or BDSM practices are seen as unhealthy, prone to abuse, or inherently misogynistic.
  • When it comes to “questioning” people, there’s the belief that the “question” will always resolve in one of the preceding categories.
  • And of course, there’s a widespread belief that allies must have family or friends who are queer/LGBT or secretly have queer/LGBT leanings of their own.

OK, now here’s the question I want you to ask yourself: how closely did you pay attention to the points on that list that weren’t directly applicable to your life? Did you really listen to the others, or were you too caught up in waiting to hear what I was going to say about the demographic or issue closest to your own personal experience?

If you’re really being honest with yourself, did you pretty much just look for your piece of the pie?

Or do you really feel like you took in the whole list.

On that note, did you weigh the relative severity of each of the scenarios listed to see who I was putting forth as having things the worst or best?

It’s not fun to think about is it? It’s easy to find ourselves feeling terribly defensive in moments like these. Furthering the conversation around inclusion is incredibly important, especially now, when the future of our community is more uncertain than ever, but you can already see why it’s a conversation we really struggle to have.

Speaking of: I was asked to give this address fourteen months ago, and it has absolutely kicked my ass that whole time.

A big part of that is that I haven’t been able to escape the idea that maybe it’s just not appropriate for me to give this keynote. I love TBC, and I was immensely honored to be asked. But the truth is, having a cisgender white guy talk about inclusion at a queer conference just doesn’t seem like the best idea.

There’s no escaping the fact that by virtue of my being a cis white guy, I am perceived by many people in this room as an embodiment of an oppressive system that robs people of power and agency. And I’ve struggled in crafting it, given that I’m coming from an undeniable place of privilege, to address people who struggle against forces of disempowerment driven by the very privileges I carry through life.

After all, I found myself asking, what was there for me to say?

That as a broad community queer/LGBTQ people kinda suck at inclusion? I’m pretty sure most of you already know that. And over the last year of work on this topic I’ve thought about many ways to say it, so some of what I will have to say is about us, and some of it is about me.

I actually wrote a version of this address with as little of myself in it as possible. Objectively, it wasn’t a bad keynote, but it wasn’t the right one for me to give. I’m not a speechwriter, I’m a storyteller and an educator. Inclusion, as we’ll see is not a moonshot, and I’m not JFK, and both of those things are just going to have to be OK, because that’s what we’ve got to work with.

Speaking of JFK, I’m both a science and a history nerd so I was aware of Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in September of 1962. You may never have heard of the Rice University speech, but I’m sure you’ve heard this part of it:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard

Think about this: less than three months earlier John Glenn had become the first American to complete an orbit our planet, and here the President was giving the nation little over seven years to set foot on another world. America’s “moonshot” was monumental task that we’d pledged ourselves to.

The following decade saw a series of clear milestones laid out and achieved as we raced to go from from cramming someone into the nosecone of a ballistic missile to traveling to the moon. And on July 24th 1969, Apollo 11 returned to earth carrying the first humans to have set foot on celestial body.

The moment Apollo 11 splashed down in the ocean, everyone who would follow after in the pursuit of a goal were pretty screwed. President Kennedy and the people behind the space program had created impossibly big shoes to fill, and from there on out we’ve been trying to. After all, how many times have we heard “how is it that we can put a man on the moon but not… whatever?”

You’re probably wondering what the point of that little history lesson was.

You see, one side effect of stressing out about this address, was that ideas about inclusion would pop into my head at random times. For me, random times pretty much meant in the shower or falling asleep. I have significant OCD, and became somewhat obsessed with the idea that the perfect thought would occur to me, and I’d forget it. So I got a waterproof case for my phone for the shower-driven ideas, and kept a notepad by my bed. “Inclusion is not a moonshot” was one of the more puzzling thoughts my fatigue addled brain put out there at four AM. But for some reason, I found myself unable to dismiss it come morning. The process of trying to figure it out helped shape my understanding of how we as a community all too often fall short when it comes to inclusion.

Before I was a sex and kink educator, or an LGBT activist for that matter, I was a product designer. The methodological approach to problem solving that got us to the moon makes sense to that part of my brain. Identify a problem, break it down into manageable chunks, complete steps A to Z, and voila, you’ve landed on the moon. It’s a good way to address many problems, and it’s useful for everything from interplanetary travel to grocery shopping.

What it isn’t good at is dealing with soft, squishy, human problems. The moonshot model can’t describe love, or how to create art, and when push comes to shove, it doesn’t do very well when it comes to building community either.

And we really try.

When it comes to being inclusive, we persistently follow a top-down, systematic approach to being better at this whole thing. It does a pretty awesome job of making privileged people feel less guilty about their privilege, but that’s about it.

This is the way of thinking that says “if we put a trans* person on our board then we’re inclusive” or “it’s not our fault that people of color just aren’t interested in our community” or to be personal for a moment “we’ve never had a cis guy give one of our keynotes and figured it was time.” The underlying idea is that leadership decisions can effectively bring about organic change to a whole community or demographic, and on the balance it just doesn’t work.

I’m not trying to say that way of doing things never leads to positive outcomes, it absolutely does, and it sure beats the living hell out of not doing anything at all. But when change comes, it does so because of the strength and determination of a few dedicated individuals who carve out a place for themselves and hold space for more people like them.

I have the utmost respect for those folks, but I also feel sorry for them. Down that road lies burnout and bitterness for too many, and even more tragically, it’s not unheard of for the departure of one or two critical people in a community to render it no longer as comfortable or safe for the those they were holding space for. In time those people drift away, rendering all the hard work that went into giving them a voice or a place in the community for naught.

Screw all of that, we can to do better.

Continue reading

LGBT People Aren’t Nazis and Christian Extremists Aren’t 1930s & 40s Jews

I rarely talk about my milk-religion, although on the balance my experience growing up in Judaism was a positive one, because these days I am about as bad a Jew as is possible in 2014.

Being a surgically sterilized polytheistic pagan who regrew his foreskin, I’m pretty much the embodiment of a broken link in a chair of ancestry going back hundreds or even thousands of years. There are likely people out there who do greater disservice to the faith, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one on short notice.

However, while I may have betrayed the faith of my forebears, racially my background is purely Eastern European Jew.

Given that it’s an identity I generally reject, you might imagine that it takes a staggaringly grievous offense to fill me with anger as a Jew. But in the last few weeks, right-wing Christianity has been doing a bang-up job of it.

I am thirty-three years old, and thus belong to the last generation to be raised surrounded by survivors of the Nazi concentration, work, and death camps. From a young age I was told the stories of my people’s systematic dehumanization and mechanized extermination.

Before my thirteenth birthday I’d seen photos and read accounts of the world’s first factory-based genocide: the piles of corpses, mounds of ash, death chambers build for efficient wholesale slaughter, and the emaciated frames of hopeless survivors being liberated by the advancing American and Soviet militaries/ These are all part of my racial memory, and central to the experience of what it meant to be a late 20th-century Jew.

For a long time, I believed that Scott Lively’s disgraceful book The Pink Swastika, which asserts that…the Nazi party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history and is often touted or referenced by Christian extremists, was the lowest the right could sink.

The last few weeks have proven that belief to be tragically incorrect.

I’m going to draw on the excellent Right Wing Watch for these links, since I don’t want to drive traffic to the original sources (most often Matt Barber’s vile website), but those sources are all cited within the posts I’ve linked to:

  • Far-right columnist John Biver said that “…full capitulation to the homosexual agenda… or it will be re-education, incarceration, bankruptcy, marginalization, and state-sanctioned ridicule… or worse… are there any available cattle cars around?” He was alluding to the cattle cars in which millions of Jews were shipped to extermination camp.
  • Pat Fagan, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, criticized a United Nations report on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church by comparing it to Kristallnacht, the pogrom against German Jews in 1938 seen by many as the true beginning of the Jewish experience of the Nazi Holocaust (as distinct from the Nazi oppression and extermination of other populations such as the Roma, the disabled, and homosexuals)
  • Christian extremist Matt Barber said, “Christians are going to have to start wearing a yellow cross. Are we in 1939 Germany here?” He was referring to the yellow Star of David worn by Jews in the ghettoes and later the camps. Gay men wore a pink triangle, lesbians wore a black one (which was multipurpose), and Roma a brown one.
  • Indiana pastor Jeff Allen, writing (again) on Matt Barber’s website, said of gay and liberal activists: “Many of them really do console themselves with fantasies of their own Kristallnacht, in which Christians are euphemistically “taken out of the way” as part of the ‘gay’-stapo’s ‘final solution’ to the ‘Christian problem.'”

And that’s just the last few weeks! However, lest you feel I’m unfairly picking on Matt Barber, going back further we find:

  • Bryan Fischer on the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings: “…doing to [Christians] what the Nazis did to the Jews”
  • And one more classic from Fischer: “Ladies and gentlemen, they are Nazis. Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”

And so, for all the Christians, homophobes, and right-wing activists who don’t seem to get it, speaking as someone who is racially, if not spiritually Jewish, allow me to make something abundantly clear:

Not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, have prayers to your particular god read at state-funded functions/institutions, or have the government make legal policies based on your particular holy book, is most emphatically not the same as being torn from your homes and families, and then systematically exterminated.

If you think that it is, your life has been so blessed with social privilege that you have become disconnected from reality.

Trying To Balance Conflicting Identities on National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day, and it’s got me thinking about the complex nature of identities and openness. More specifically, I’ve been told that I’m to write a post on that topic as penance for not addressing it the way She wanted me to in today’s What You Need To Know on I should really be sleeping, but my tics are so severe that the anti-tic medicine I take at night isn’t doing shit. So while I wait for my sedatives to kick in, here goes:

 The subject of identity is probably the most common threat binding Notes From A Barking Shaman’s six year run together. I suppose I’ve hardly ever stopped exploring and dissecting who it is that I am as I move through the world, and yet somehow I feel less sure myself now than at any time I can remember since sitting down to write my first post back in September of ’06.

For the first time in recent memory, I find myself in the incredibly unfamiliar place of being closeted in one way or another across many areas of my life, and to be honest it doesn’t sit well with me.

I move through many different spheres and sub-cultures, and the values they each hold dear are often in direct conflict with one another. It’s a delicate balancing act, and I exist in a state of constant struggle not to be a social and ideological chameleon, but rather to hold on to a solid sense of self-identity.

Perhaps the biggest conflict is between my pagan identity and my work as an LGBT blogger and activist. Although I’ve talked in the vaguest terms about being pagan in my writing for The Bilerico Project, where I am now associate editor, the progressive LGBT movement is overwhelmingly anti-religion and faith. And as a rule, it seems that atheists seem to hold pagans, and in particular practitioners of magic, as one infinitesimal step above radical conservative Christians in terms of disdain-worthiness. The Lady really wanted me to use NCOD as an opportunity to address my pagan identity directly with that audience, but I chickened out in the interest of self-preservation. I could potentially build my LGBT activism and blogging work into a semi-reliable paycheck (in higher paying speaking gigs if nothing else), and I’m reluctant to burn my bridges any faster than I already do by defending faith as a concept, and pro-equality religious people as a whole in my writing there.

Given the LGBT community’s general view on religion, my faith, service to the gods, and place as a magician, is something that I heavily downplay in my feeble attempts at dating as well. Although I suppose that could be part of why I’ve not had good luck lately. I’m open about my paganism on OKCupid, but it’s a conversation topic I steer away from with potential suitors.

But within the pagan community I don’t particularly feel free to be my unbridled self either. First and foremost, the pagan response to my Tourette often makes me incredibly angry, and so I tend to try to suppress my symptoms as much as possible in pagan space. Believe it or not, some people see the TS as a sign of the gods disfavor towards me, and others can’t accept that someone could have the talent and discipline for magic when their body isn’t fully within their control.

Beyond those issues, you’d be amazed how many people want to “fix” my TS. Best case scenario they hound me to let them try, worst case they just try without asking my permission first. I’ve also been told that I should just (insert deity to pray to, wacky diet to try, crystal to carry, position to sleep in, etc), or better yet, just “let go of my negativity” and my TS will be cured.

I could go into a long and very technical magical explanation of the flaw that underpins most of the “cures” people have tried or wanted to try, but I’m just going to say that I’ve worked with some of the finest healers, magicians, and energy workers that I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and while I can use certain magical techniques to manage the symptoms for short periods of time (I can suppress tics far longer than any Touretter I’ve met who wasn’t a fellow magician), “curing” the Tourette is not feasible.

That’s a personal issue in my interactions with the pagan community, but there’s an ideological one as well. I’m a scientist at heart, and technology, science, exploration, and intellectual curiosity are deeply important to me. I’m not going to say too much here, because there’s a whole NFaBS post on this topic coming, but I and many of my friends and colleagues have noticed a growing anti-intellectual thread within the pagan community that seems deeply at odds with our history. I had an argument with someone not all that long ago about the gods-blessed Polio vaccine for Hel’s sake! And I’m going to choose not to delve into some of the “conversations” on economics I’ve heard recently.

All that said, you can imagine that a pagan, much less a spirit worker, doesn’t exactly feel welcome in science-friendly spaces either though. And there’s a popular meme, particularly in the online lay-science community that any religious faith is incompatible with even an interest in scientific thought and advancement.

On a different note, I’m certainly not closeted within kink/BDSM space about being GSRM, but as I’ve discussed before, my sexual orientation doesn’t fit well within the kink/BDSM world that I travel in. Likewise, the gay community can range from very accepting of kink and polyamory, to not remotely. I’ve chosen to build my identity within the world of LGBT blogging and activism from a position that uses my kink experience and status as an asset, although I do recognize that it closes as many doors as it opens.

I’m open to an extent about my spiritual beliefs as a kinkster and in my work as a kink/sexuality educator, but only to a point. The BDSM community wants spiritual programing, classes, and rituals, but stripped of any overtly religious or pagan context. This means that while I’m widely known as a shaman, ritualist, and facilitator of cathartic ordeals and scenes, my actual pagan beliefs are far less known or public.

I don’t know that I have a sense of where my GSRM identity fits within the pagan community, or within my own identity as a pagan person. I’ve only ever been involved with very accepting pagan communities such as Asphodel or FSA, but at the same time, for all their inclusivity, I’ve never felt like I explored the spiritual nature of my sexual orientation or identity. Certainly I’ve never had my sexual orientation and spiritual/magical being working in synergy the way I have with my kink/BDSM identity and my spiritual and magical Work. That’s something I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to explore at some point in the future.

So as I move through the world on National Coming Out Day, I wrestle with how to balance the myriad and sometimes conflicting roles I have to wear and identities I carry:

Gods-slave, Magician, Shaman, Educator, Writer, Activist, Presenter, Event (Assistant) Producer, Photographer, Kinkster, Switch, Touretter, Poly, Disabled Person, Designer, Mechanic, Gay, Queer, Male, Cisgender, Gun Owner, Liberal, and the list could go on.

I feel like an understanding of how to make all these roles/identities work and play well together is just beyond my reach, but that in time I’ll get the hang of it. Maybe some will have to merge, maybe some will have to be let go, and maybe still more will be added to the list, but no matter what, laying them out and giving them acknowledgment on National Coming Out Day is no bad place to start.

My Cis Guy Problem

I’ve got posts I should be working on about actual topics that matter to people, but I have to get this one purged from my brain so I can get some *real* work done. Before I continue I want to get an important point out of the way: it’s relevant to the entire context of this post to know that I’m male identified and was male assigned at birth. Also called “cis gender,” or “cis” for short, it’s the opposite of being transgender or transexual (trans*), and is how most people identify, even if they aren’t familiar with the word(s).

Now on to the post:

I’m in my 32nd year, and I have never been in a relationship with a cisgender guy who was both emotionally invested in me as a person, and attracted to or sexually interested in me.

That’s a really hard thing for me to write about for two reasons:

  • Because I don’t know how to write about it without seemingly to dismiss the incredible emotional intimacy and hot sex that I’ve had with the many awesome trans* men in my life.
  • It really is something I find terribly painful to say, in part because of what it says about my failed marriage, and in part because of what it says about me as a person. 

Let me take on the second point first:

Yes, I was with a cis guy for eight years. And yes, we had a lot of sex (of one form or another) during that time. However, our ex never really hid the fact that he wasn’t attracted to me sexually. Periodically he would go through a phase where he would announce that he’d never actually been sexually attracted to me in the first place, and had been “lying” to save my feelings. Then we’d stop being physically intimate for a period of weeks or months, until he decided he was ready to re-engage with me sexually. It was regular as clockwork (18months) but never stopped being horrible.

He even accused me of sexually assaulting him. Saying that since I knew that he didn’t want to be sexually intimate with me, when he initiated sex I had an obligation to say “no” regardless of how insistent he was that it was what he wanted. That I ignored his “preemptive revoking of consent,” in his mind made me an assailant.

With the physical and emotional distance three years apart has bought me (along with a LOT of therapy), I can see that this behavior could be seen as a kind of emotionally abuse, but it doesn’t actually detract from the driving issue in this post.

Since leaving us, Asrik in fact has for the most part not pursued other men. And while he describes himself as bi/pan-sexual, he isn’t open to relationships with guys (if you’re reading this Asrik, I stumbled onto your OKC profile when researching moving to the PNW, and you were the one who asked me to review your “what I’m looking for” list on Fetlife). He may have used his conflicted sexuality as a weapon, but it’s the conflicted nature of his sexuality that’s actually the relevant point here.

I don’t want to make this sound like it’s all about one guy though, because it isn’t. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first back up to point number one:

I’ve had some amazing experiences, both sexual and emotional, with the trans* men in my life. Some have been lovers or friends with benefits, while others have been partners or boyfriends.

The last thing I want to do is come across as saying that I don’t value the FAAB men in my life, or that I don’t see them as men. Neither are true. My life would be far less rich without the men who are important to me, and some of the most “masculine” and male men I’ve ever known have been trans*. That I have a stupid issue around wanting to be accepted by cis guys is my issue, not theirs, and I hate myself for having it.

That’s not hyperbole either, it’s fair to say that I deeply loath that I care in the slightest whether another cis guy can both emotionally and physically engage with me, particularly when so many men who happen not to be cis, have done both.

I said that this wasn’t an issue about one guy (Asrik), and it’s true.

For some reason, maybe spooky, maybe not, I have a life-long history with cis guys who are not able or willing to engage simultaneously on both a physical and emotional level with me. It’s a pattern that dates back to my early adolescence playing with other boys at sleepover parties. The role of the one who wants, but isn’t wanted, is a very familiar one, and maybe that’s why I’ve been so willing to play it so often in my relationships.

Before Asrik, Fire and I briefly dated a different guy who wasn’t all that into men. Since Asrik, I’ve been in one actual *relationship* with a cis guy, but he felt pretty much the same way Asrik did, drawn to me emotionally and able to engage sexually, but not really attracted to me.

I’ve also encountered the exact opposite: men who were open to fooling around, but didn’t want anything beyond the physical. It’s worth noting that I was thirty-one the first time I had a sexual encounter with a cis guy who actually wanted me sexually, and it just a one-time hook-up from Manhunt. It was still enough to teach me the profound difference between grudging and enthusiastic sex. And it cast a whole new light on the “good” sex I’d had with cis guys before.

There’s a third, and related classification of guy that I’ve been involved with, and that’s the “conflicted straight/bi boy.” You could argue that the cis guys I’ve been in relationships with fit this category, but it’s one that can apply as easily to hookups as to relationships.

For some reason they are the one kind of cis guy who seeks me out (other than 60yr old married men on hookup sites). For years, I was happy to “help” these guys explore their feelings, because I found it affirming to have a cis guy need/want me in some way. But doing so has always left me feeling worse about myself in the end. Sex or relationships with someone who feels conflicted about their feelings for you can be devastating for one’s sense of self worth, a lesson you’d think I’d have learned during eight years of marriage to Asrik. It took a guy giving me oral sex while crying in despair over the realization that he liked it, to make me realize that I needed a break from taking conflicted bi guys to bed.

I wish I could tell you why I cared about any of this. For a long time I thought it was just a penis thing. I’m an enormous fan of cis guys’ genitals, and I thought I was just missing having access to a dick or two. But I’ve had hookups at conferences and with guys I met online, and while it’s sort of fun, it doesn’t do anything to help me feel better about this bigger issue.

Intellectually I can understand that I’m not really what gay cis guys are looking for. I’m poly, and cis guys in their 30s are generally looking for “the one.” I’m kinky, but in a way that doesn’t fit within the narrow confines of most gay male BDSM. My faith is another huge issue in the gay dating world, where overwhelmingly it is understood that atheism is the LGBT default. And of course, there’s the Tourette (the “barking” in Notes from a Barking Shaman), which is a dating obstacle to start with, and seems particularly problematic with gay men.

Understanding some of why I’ve been out of the closet for 19 years but have never had a healthy relationship with a cis guy doesn’t really change anything though. In my mind this has become a double edged personal failing, both that I’m undesirable/unable to be with cis guys in that way, and that I give a shit what cis guys think.

I know this is one of the more rambling and pointless posts I’ve made in a while, and I apologize for that. Del and I have a joint NFaBS/SGaR post on the word “shaman” that will be awesome coming up soon, and I’ve got some religion and politics posts that I think you will appreciate. But in keeping with my new commitment to greater openness about who I am and where my internal processes have been, I felt it was important that I share the experience here.

Not So ‘Queer’ After All

I don’t make a habit of reposting my Bilerico blogging here on NFABS, because I don’t want this blog to become a feed for my Bilerico work. That said, this post both fits well with NFABS’ general themes, and with my new commitment to greater openness. This post originally appeared on The Bilerico Project on 9/26/12

Not So ‘Queer’ After All 

Early this year, not long after becoming a regular contributor for The Bilerico Project, I wrote a post on the controversial subject of the reclaimed word “queer” as a personal identity.

At the time, I laid out the arguments for why I felt “queer” was the right word for who I was and how I lived my life. I’m not only someone whose partners are of the same gender, but also someone who is polyamorous, kinky, and who rejects the very narrow confines of who the gay world, and media in particular, sometimes try to say “gay” people are.

I also wrote about the fact that while I didn’t see having trans men partners as inherently contrary to someone identifying as “gay”, the widespread and destructive transphobia I often see within the gay community made me reluctant to embrace the word as my own. 

When I wrote that post in January, I’d been identifying as “queer” for many years, and didn’t really expect that I’d be writing this one less than a year later.

 You see, I find myself feeling as if I can’t continue to identify as “queer” anymore.

Before I get to my own situation though, I want to briefly address the use of “queer” as an umbrella community term. Talking about the “queer community” as an alternative to saying “gay community” or “LGBT community” has never really sat all that well with me. Sure, the alphabet soup of letters such as LGBTQQAI can get incredibly cumbersome, but the whole point of a reclaimed word is that people make the choice to reclaim it forthemselves, not have it thrust upon them in the manner of their oppressors. If you don’t like the word “queer” you certainly shouldn’t have to have it used to describe you.

Personally, I’m a fan of GSM or GSRM to describe our community more than any other acronym I’ve seen lately. It stands for Gender & Sexual Minorities or Gender, Sexual & Relationship Minorities, and has a deliberate catch-all quality that I appreciate.

But it isn’t the advent of a new term that has me felling the need to let go of my queer identity. As far as I know there isn’t yet a term for a someone who fits within the GSRM umbrella, and I’m not eager to invent one.

Rather, the issue is that I have come to find “queer” a less inclusive word than either it once was, or I once perceived it to be. I’ve always been a bit of an anomaly as a cis man who ID’s as queer, particularly as a cis queer guy who is primarily interested in same-sex relationships. Which isn’t to say I haven’t met others, I’m not a special snowflake.

But I’ve noticed more and more that queer spaces are not open to me as a cis guy, Many organizations, parties, etc, that identify as being queer-focused are formally or unofficially only open to cis women, trans women and trans men. An interesting corollary to this is that when I’ve been in open queer space, people have tended to assume I’m trans*, and are sometimes taken aback to discover otherwise. This has, at times, let to some ugly situations, with there being a perception of deceit on my part, or of me as a cis guy intruding on, and compromising the feeling of safety of queer space, even if that space hasn’t been formally designated as not open to cis men.

Words and labels are slippery things, that’s what makes them so powerful, and yet so potentially contentious. I understand that I could choose to continue to ID as queer and no one can stop me. But I also recognize that labels serve a valuable purpose, and if the broader definition within our community, or at least my little corner of it, of “queer” has becoming something I’m not, it makes little sense for me to continue using it.

On a selfish note, it’s painful to be told “this thing that is like you, isn’t open to you.” To be completely clear: I’m not saying that anyone has to include me in anything, or that my experience is somehow unique or particularly onerous. And yes, I do acknowledge that an expectation of inclusion on my part can be chalked up to my own white-cis-male privilege. But if the definition of what it means to be queer has evolved in a way that doesn’t include cis men, my point still holds that it is a poor descriptor for me to continue using.

Which of course, leaves me in a bind. The reasons that “gay” doesn’t work for me don’t magically vanish just because “queer” doesn’t either. If we’re only interested in the question of who I seek sexual and romantic intimacy with, the overly clinical “homoflexible” could conceivably work. But for me that may be a descriptor, but not really a coherent identity. Likewise, “a GSRM” makes my orientation sound like an expensive Japanese motorcycle rather than a way to navigate the complex waters of self-identity.

For now I’ll explore and try to make my own road. There will probably be times when “queer” is the most useful shorthand, and others when “homoflexible,” or “gay” might be. Hopefully in time I’ll find a new place of comfort with one of these words, or someone will invent a new one entirely.

I call “not it!”


As an aside, the multifaceted topic of self-identified “women’s spaces,” such as the Boston-based group MOB, that are open to trans men as well as trans women and cis women could easily be a post in itself, but it’s one I’m completely unqualified to write. I hope someone else will do so, maybe as a guest post for us one of these days.