beyond the binaries

Posts tagged essay

64 notes

Interesting read about how strength is gendered.

Submission from Alex T:

I don’t know if this is the correct place for posting this but I found an interesting essay about how society genders strength.

- Alex T

This is a really cool article! It’s “Believing is seeing: Biology as Ideology” by Judith Lorber. It centers on sports and technology as gendered/sexed realms. Here’s the abstract:

Western ideology takes biology as the cause, and behavior and social statuses as the effects, and then proceeds to construct biological dichotomies to justify the “naturalness” of gendered behavior and gendered social statuses. What we believe is what we see—two sexes producing two genders. The process, however, goes the other way: gender constructs social bodies to be different and unequal. The content of the two sets of constructed social categories, “females and males” and “women and men,” is so varied that their use in research without further specification renders the results spurious.

Filed under article body essay sports biology technology submission

75 notes

"Moment of realness" by Lesbian Dad

I strongly recommend this whole post; but if you don’t have time, these fragments capture the intensity of the story:

"The boychild and I were at a stationary supply store this morning, getting the nicest congratulations on completing Kindergarten/ congratulations on starting preschool gifties I know to give these kids: spiffy little hardback notebooks and fresh felt-tipped pens with which to fill them. Per usual, the boychild is in a dress.  (…)

Two young men walk in, knit hats scrunched down over straggly hair, skateboards in hand.  I’d been pulling out my wallet and beginning to pay for the supplies when they walked in and paused at the entrance of the store, staring at my boy.  Just after I’d given the proprietor my money, I felt their looking. I also saw one whisper something to the other, and chuckle a bit.

I turn to the one nearest to me, the one who was whispered to — he wasn’t that much shorter, so it was easy to make eye contact. And I just stare dead in his eyes. No “Hello,” at least not at first. No nothing. Just a dead-on, true, wordless, my soul is tired look.

I have nothing to say to him. Not with words. But I also feel like I don’t need to. Right now, at this stage of it all, and often, all I want to do is put the other young people on notice: I am watching you watch my child. What you do or say next will happen with that child’s parent’s knowledge.

Several moments pass, during which we are both looking in each other’s eyes, the young man and me. His are hazel-brown, darker than my son’s, lighter than mine. He has freckles.


I exchange one last look with the boy/young man. No words: for each of our reasons we have nothing to say, or nothing we can say, there and then.

Except I sense some kindness in the boy’s eyes.  He is young, but on the verge of his own individuality. He is entering the peak years of the crucible-hot formation of his masculinity: ad agencies, media empires, every force in the culture around him is ramping up first to tell him who he is, then sell him what he needs to be who he is. Male femininity is not part of this onslaught.

Except he is himself, and for a flicker, I see this in his eyes, and I wonder perhaps whether when he was looking at my boy, he didn’t see an object for derision, but maybe himself, a dozen or so years ago.”

Filed under lesbian dad children essay story

166 notes

Julia Serano: Bisexuality does not reinforce the gender binary

An extract:

"The reason why I identify as bisexual is two-fold.

First, on a physical level, the attraction that I feel toward male-bodied people feels very different to me on a visceral level than the attraction that I feel toward female-bodied people. And having sex with a female partner feels very different to me than having sex with a male partner.

Such feelings are difficult to put into words, and I am not quite sure what the source of this difference is, but presumably it is related to what makes exclusively homosexual or heterosexual people attracted to one sex or the other, but not both.

I know that some people describe themselves as pansexual, which may work well for them, but I personally am not a big fan of that label with regards to my own sexuality, as it erases the way in which my attraction toward women is different from the attraction I experience toward men (and vice versa).

The second, and far more important reason (at least for me), why I embrace the word bisexual is that people perceive me and react to me very differently depending on whether the person I am coupled with is (or appears to be) a woman or a man.

In the hetero-mainstream, when I am paired with a man, I am read as straight; when I am paired with a woman, I am read as queer. In queer settings, when I am paired with a woman, I am read as lesbian/dyke/queer and viewed as a legitimate member of the community.

But when I am paired with a man (especially when the man in question is cisgender), then I am not merely unaccepted and viewed as an outsider, but I may even be accused of buying into or reinforcing the hetero-patriarchy.

So in other words, the “bi” in bisexual does not merely refer to the types of people that I am sexual with, but to the fact that both the straight and queer worlds view me in two very different ways depending upon who I happen to be partnered with at any given moment.

This aspect of the bisexual experience is not captured by the word ‘pansexual,’ nor by the more general word ‘queer.’”

It also includes a neat history of the bi community and how it’s similar to the history of the trans movement.

Filed under bisexuality essay julia serano labels

24 notes

"A Letter to My Body" by Sarah Graham

An audio essay by an intersex woman:

"Sarah Graham, who is now a successful therapist and addictions counsellor, explores her at times turbulent relationship with her body. From the age of eight Sarah was given ongoing medical treatment for a disorder of sexual development - but she only learned the real nature of her diagnosis at the age of twenty-five when a gynaecologist finally revealed the truth: that she is an intersex woman. She has XY chromosomes. She had never questioned her sex and had lived her life as a woman. Doctors had even shielded her parents from the truth about her gender.

The shock of the revelation led Sarah on a path of depression and addiction which nearly killed her. However she has gradually rebuilt her health and her self esteem. In this essay she makes peace with her body and questions our society’s polarised expectations of gender.”

Filed under intersex audio essay story

1 note

Staying power - By, Ivan Coyote


I am good at finding my kind of place for breakfast. Especially in small towns. This place had all the right elements.

It was embedded in the middle of a mini-mall, in between a second-hand furniture store and a laundrymat. Lots of new pickups parked outside. All-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet on Sunday nights. All-day breakfast for five bucks. Neon “open” sign flashing in the window. Vinyl booths and chrome-edged tables that have been there since the ’50s.

I pulled up a stool at the counter and the owner passed me a newspaper and slopped coffee into my cup without asking.

The old guy sat down right next to me a minute or so later.

I had seen him and his hand-carved cane coming up the sidewalk when I was parking. GWG jeans, a white Stanfield V-neck T-shirt under a faded red and blue plaid jacket, work boots with stainless steel starting to show at the toes where the leather was worn through. Clean-shaven. Export-A cigarette pack peeking out of his breast pocket.

I know this kind of man. He has worked hard every day of his life. Paid his bills. Buried his wife.

He keeps his garage spotless, draws outlines of hammers in black felt pen on the pegboard above his workbench, repairs the lawnmower of the single lady next door, even though he doesn’t like her noisy kids. My father will be this kind of man one day, sooner than I would like to admit.

The owner smiles hello at the old guy. “Soup of the day and pie with ice cream after?”

The old-timer nods and then spins his stool around to address the two older ladies tucked into the first booth by the door. “Bea. Helen. Enjoying the sunshine?”

They smile, exchange niceties, and then he turns back to me, squinting at the headlines in the open newspaper in front of me. “No good news in there; I read it this morning.”

We get to talking. He asks me what I am doing in town, as it is painfully obvious to all of us that I am not from there. I tell him I am a writer, in town to teach some creative writing classes at the high school.

“Ah, an educated man then?” he narrows his eyes at me, and then smiles, as if to let me know he will not hold this against me, even though he should.

I shrug. We move on and talk about other things.

As far as I can tell, he continues to think I am a young man. I can tell by his comfortable body language, how he slaps me in the upper arm with the back of a gnarled hand when I crack a joke, the kinds of questions he asks me. The details about his own life he reveals.

Some people would say that I am being dishonest, that I am lying, to not stop him mid-sentence and inform him, even though he has not asked me, that according to what he has been taught to believe about these things, I am female.

The people who believe that I am being deceitful have never lived in a skin like mine. I answer his questions with the truth. I mind my pronouns, sure, but I do not lie. Ever. (read on)

Filed under ivan e. coyote essay