Monday, 28 May 2007

Visibility

A bisexual man i know whose been only sleeping with women lately, was complaining that his sexuality is invisible. Which got me thinking.

It ties back to what i was writing about "middle-class butches(?)", cause i think our invisibility is actually a sign of our privilege. It leaves working class butches to shoulder all the weight of representing Butch (which isn't a super-fun job in this culture).

Female Masculinities (a book i was dissing a couple of posts back) makes the point that while white middle class lesbians complained about their invisibility, non-white and working class lesbians were extremely visible and were/are getting beat up on the street for it.

which isn't to say that having no visible role models, (either in your life or on tv, or in books, or walking down the street) that having no one see you as you really are - is easy. It's not, it's like looking into a mirror and seeing nothing there (i got that from adrienne rich) and it's crazy-making. It's just that you have more choices and more power than those who are noticed as deviant.

On any given day I can wear the t-shirt that says 'gender dysphoric'. Or Not. It's not written all over my walk, my haircuts, my clothes, my speech, in a language that everyone can read, as it is for some people. And my bisexual friend can declare his attraction to other men, or not. depending on how many bigots are around, whether he's trying to get a job etc.

Which led me to conclude that it's all about who you're complaining to. I should definately be whingeing at other middle class masculine women to front up with descriptions of our specific experience, confronting people who refuse to recognise my masculinity, and challenging middle-class parents who don't give their daughters the chance to express their masculinity... but i shouldn't expect working class butches to have much sympathy for my invisibility. And i shouldn't present it as the greatest challenge facing butches today.

11 comments:

smushie said...

yay, i finally found your blog. you're cool! i miss you heaps

Anonymous said...

This is a really good point. I'm a queer woman currently involved with a man, and whilst I feel invisible I totally acknowledge my privilege.

Your blog is a good read.

e.

Anonymous said...

Hi pippi,
This is beeyootifull!

You are strong, courageous, and I love that you are explicitly dealing to class, ethicity & gender in the issues you are writing about.

There's a discussion & some movies presented by Mani Mitchell, part of OutTakes, $th June, 7pm, @ Paramount, on Intersex, but also transgender, etc issues - you might find it interesting.

XXX & hugs,
Kerry
http://blog.myspace.com/anarkaytie

Anonymous said...

sorry, that should read 4th June. *sigh* typo-queen here... K

Anonymous said...

Pip!! Your blog rulz :) oh my god it makes me realise how utterly irrelevant and vapid my blog is!

I love what you are writing about. As a white middle-class slightly gender confused person, I'd say you're totally right about the importance of whom one complains to or challenges.

Right now I feel extremely visible cos I'm white in a place where most people aren't, and I feel gross about it because to some people (maybe just those who work at advertising agencies) white is an ideal. It's a strange experience for me to be seen as "exotic". But I would not equate it with other peoples experiences of being viewed this way, because there are so many different variables.

So I'm going off on a tangent. Wouldn't it be great if everyone could be neither vulnerably obvious nor invisible, just respected and acknowledged for who we are? I know you just living your life honestly is part of what will make this happen.

Lots o love to you and to the loves of your life
xoxoxo
Jen

jen said...

And I should add, most people who are exoticised don't recieve the daily benefits of white middle class privilege.

Anonymous said...

nice to see some familar faces in cyberworld! thanks for saying hi :) internet anoymity is weird.

e - i think queers in straight relationships need to see that invisibility can be a privilege; but i'm also intrested in what it means to not 'fit' properly in queer or straight community. As someone sitting on the fence between being a masculine woman and a transsexual man - i know it sucks to not have a community... i guess many/most people don't fit simply in one community and have to try and get support for each aspect of who they are in different places (and deal with the other parts of who you are being unseen)... i might turn ths into a post if i get a chance

thanks kerry, i'm def going.
there's also a cool movie on sun 4.30 at paramount called GenderRebel.

jen, can you post a link to your blog? i've lost the address. miss you

pip

Anonymous said...

I guess that I think the work to fit in has to be done by those in positions of privilege. I don't really know entirely what I mean by that, and I'd be interested to read your post *hint hint!*. I think that I view my position in terms of power dynamics. And that's where it gets confusing for me.

I am interested in fitting in because at present I don't really have community and I find it really difficult to be an outsider in a straight setting and a queer setting. Especially because my appearance is relatively femme, which definitely, again, is an example of invisibilty and privilege.

Interested to hear more!

e.

Les said...

Hey, late to the party here, but thought I'd leave a comment anyway.

I'm middle class American living in Europe. I wear the disphoric shirt every day, whether I want to or not. I can pass as male (rarely) but never as girly. And I tended to be treated poorly depending on how I dress class-wise. I'm always in men's clothes, but if I dress as a buisiness man, things go ok. If I dress more casually, people treat me as if I were a criminal (ie, following me around stores to make sure that I don't steal stuff). Even if I'm in bike gear, which is not usually a marker of lower class status.

So gender presentation and class markers definitely overlap. Your post has got me thinking, because I assumed people treated me as if they expect me to be a thug solely for reasons of gender, but class is definitely intertwined.

I don't know how I feel about invisibility as privilege. It can be more convient to be in the closet, but I wouldn't call that a privilege. It's stifiling and soul-killing.

Herman Maia Coyote said...

As a Working Class/Middle Class mix genderqueer bisexual I was feeling frustrated to watch a clip from S. Bear Bergman (Butch is a Noun)'s blog , in which ze describes middle class things like buying Calvin Klein and Jockey For Her underwear and going to a seafood restaurant with the family as a matter of boring routine against which hir story is set, and I am feeling invisible with my working class self because it seems Bear is the hot new Butch spokesman.

Herman Maia Coyote said...

BTW you do not know me, I found yer blog by googling "middle class transgender" and I found yer friend Maia's blog, where she quoted this post and recommended you. You look interesting. I wish I could write like you. Here's my Myspace:

http://www.myspace.com/hermanmaia