labels

Bi the way

I have been wondering how long it would take me to write this blog. It comes with some mixed feelings and apprehension, although I’m not sure why. So, I feel the need to come out…again…like start again with coming out. At the same time, I feel no need to yet the metaphor is so fun – like hide and go seek ‘in the closet, out, in another, in a bigger one, stuffier one…who will find me’. Maybe I just want a time machine and go back to 1986 and pass myself a note that says ‘do not tell your friend you think you might be a lesbian…DON’T DO IT’. I’ve never struggled with my sexuality, but I felt pressure to pick a side. In a binary system there isn’t a lot of choice. So way back in the heady days of androgyny and shoulder pads…(god…even singlets had them), if you were remotely attracted to the same sex you were gay. I was still into boys, liked them a lot, they liked me, and indeed I didn’t get to ummmm ‘test drive’ this same sex attraction for another 5 years. So…all that boy stuff in between was a phase?

So I want to re-out myself as more than likely bisexual. Although no-one really comes out as bisexual because it just doesn’t seem plausible to a lot of people who insist you must have a preference. Sure I do – sexy is sexy – done. Of course most people have their sexuality assumed by their relationship status. Which is why bisexuality itself doesn’t really ‘exist’ because monogamy insists on one partner at a time – the gender status of that person tends to define your sexuality publically. Except now I’m not even sure about my gender.

I’ve always been miss-gendered. Frankly that doesn’t bother me either. I have kind of handed over my gender status to the observer. If I’m seen as male that’s ok, except when I want to use a public toilet then I do feel grateful to be living in NZ where most people get that women sometimes have short hair and prefer shorts and jandals even in the middle of winter. But I do prefer unisex bathrooms, it just feels like anyone choosing to use them has their shit together.

Being a bisexual – bi-gendered person means I refuse to comply with most if not all usual norms around gender and sexuality however I am perpetually put into boxes, my identity is shaped by my relationships-family status and occupation. Labels serve others needs to make sense of the world, and especially themselves in relation to their own identity. The common normative assumptions form a comfortable zone of acceptance.

For the record ‘Bi’ is not a transitional sexuality, neither does it mean open to anything or anyone, at anytime, its not hypersexuality (sounds very sci-fi – like doing it at light speed). Bi women have a different experience than bi men, because of the implicit and explicit sexualisation of women for the pleasure of men, their bi status tends to be read more as sexual availability. The fear and misunderstanding for bisexual individuals comes from both gay and straight communities. People just can’t ‘figure it out’ and so make all sorts of strange and unusual statements to suggest there is something not quite right. Well – they couldn’t be more wrong. It feels pretty natural to me to be attracted to someone based on more than what they might or might not be packing in their undies.

But if I really could say anything to myself in 1986 it would be to not give myself a label and to trust my body to know and that shoulder pads do not look great when you already have actual shoulders.

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No brainer

Could someone please explain to me why giving a biological molecule to a person who is having a perpetual seizure (so is in an induced coma) that is likely to result in some form of permanent brain damage in the very least is somehow an issue about drug use? Or that in order to ‘preserve life’ and ‘do no harm’ doing nothing is better than taking a risk with something ‘unproven’. Alex Renton is 19 and had been in this state since April and the angst around him receiving cannabis oil blows my mind.

I’ve have had enough of doses of morphine to know how it works on my body. I don’t generally use substances in quantities that radically alter my senses. But when you have a kidney stone that wonderful poppy extract that is also a form of opiate is medicine! To not be passing out with pain and screaming in agony is good for me and everyone around me.

It’s time we treated cannabis with a lens other than recreational drug use. The default association of substance use and addiction is part of the problem. One reason for this is the history and social construction of what becomes ‘popular’ knowledge. This reinforces polarising so the general social discourses and culture repeat this through all media and discussion. Our language is limited to describe things so we fall into binaries that lock our understanding down for good. Many people only have to see an image of a marijuana leaf on tv and they spin out when they should just take a chill pill.

But why stop with just cannabis? LSD is already back on the research list for assisting people to feel at peace when death is immanent (whatever death is). So to be quite frank, it shouldn’t have needed so much effort for this oil to be given. Enough hand wringing Peter Dunne, we know you aren’t out flogging tinnies to teenagers. Just keep your shoes on, you probably can’t throw that high anyway. But I know a guy who can get you some stuff for that.

Battle of the Sex-isms

Apparently it was international women’s day yesterday. Ok. So WTF – What’s True Feminism? Cut to the NZ herald today for a comment on sexism and this is why journalism needs a philosophical enema. Deborah Hill Cone takes a bit of a pot shot at Alison Mau about her concern around ‘casual sexism’ that there is ‘serious sexism’ to compare it to.

This is where the backlog of neo-liberalism and post-feminism really starts to bloat these kinds of debates and the constipated arguments keep being recycled. The arguing for a continuum of serious – non-serious issues of equality or examples of discrimination simply drys out the digested mass of assumptions and absorbs the complexities to leave ‘solid’ claims that just…well…stink!

Caring about how your daughter is positioned in the educational, social, and political world by noticing comments made is not trivial. The flow on effect of this is how she will access the economic world and so what income she will ‘earn’. Some will go as far to say these arguments pale in comparison to women in countries where female genital mutilation occurs and so the dangerous illusion of relativity flushes away any chance of re-defining what might be considered worthy of caring about.

Human rights needs a rebranding and a 21st century reboot. One that re-cognises the subtle power plays of language, privilege, social construction, and ditching some moralistic high ground typical of western/capitalist neo-liberal based thinking. Instead of splitting up rights into labels of have’s and have nots and taking some strange imaginary scale system to measure when ‘equality’ is finally reached we need to question the very measures of our definitions of what makes us Hue-man.

And if you need to regain your appetite or some pain relief after all that, just do mau cone.

Dressing Down

Well what about THAT DRESS if you missed it then clearly you are not on social media or have a healthy filter on what you see. The blue/black or white/gold debate revealed the curious way ‘how we see’ is a function or a combination of interpretation by the brain and physiological aspects such as photo receptors. The next thing circulating online to challenge perception was a bunch of skeletons on a giant screen hugging and kissing then revealing themselves as….humans! shock horror. The idea was to explore how genuine love is unconditional. The conditionality is mapped on by socially constructed expectations of ‘who is behind the screen’. But I’m not convinced it was all that clever or challenging, although it did manage to make my eyes leak.

Quite simply, we don’t walk around as skeletons – ok some people look skeletal – but our framework is universally human. The homo sapiens sapiens kitset pretty much all looks the same. But I think it would’ve been more interesting to have people with different limb combinations or implants, pacemakers replaced joints – like terminator only the lovinator…don’t know if that’ll catch on.

So while I respect the intent it kind of missed the mark – and perhaps missed the level of perception that is about filters other than visual. People seem quite comfortable accepting that our inability to perceive certain colours might be to do with structures in eyes and light and various other biological features, there is no ‘discrimination’ or injustice – it just is. But the layers of meaning that come with the coverings attached to our bones is not quite so simple. Because while our skeletons might be semi genderless and ethno-neutral each layer after that creates these which are then located in culturally constructed meanings of ‘difference’ blinding us from the simple truth that human beings have created these meanings – therefore we can uncreate them at any moment we wish to. Do we want to or care to? Well that very much depends on how the meaning of your human vessel you are currently renting has in the location in time, space, history, country, planet you live on. Certain containers located at these various locations have forms of privilege and power and are able to experience their identity as less ‘problematic’ or contentious.

Putting bodies behind screens for a warm fuzzy moment does plenty to push social media buttons but we need to be having conversations and thinking in ways that reveal these social constructions on a daily basis.

Quite frankly stick me in any coloured dress and I will just hope I am invisible. No bones about it.

Four Seasons – Yeah right

It’s October – mid spring apparently, with snow falling, temperatures plummeting and winds that turn precipitation of any kind into needles according to the pain receptors in my skin, it’s just not…well…springy enough! I think we have been short changed on the naming of the seasons. NZ weather is far from a predictable or comfortable 4 phase cycle and I think many would agree we should really get on with adjusting our language to fit the reality. Our weather is confusing at the best of times and that is why I think in the spirit of Kiwi DIY we ditch the traditional 4 seasons and go for a realistic 6. Here they are:

December-January – ‘Springmer’: Ok this is when it is definitely lighter but not necessarily warmer. Christmas could be shorts and t’shirts or blizzard wear, or both. Try sitting on the beach during this time and you are likely to be sandblasted or need a beanie and jacket close by. It’s definitely not the time to ‘oil up’ unless you like being a sand magnet.

Feb-March ‘summer’: School holidays end and the weather gets hot, humidity rises and finally the sun actually packs a punch beyond searing your skin and rather than being at the beach, cooling off we pack our children off to bake and sweat in our sauna like schools buildings.

April-May ‘Simper’: I like this time of the year, it’s the old ‘autumn but I like Simper because it’s like summer doesn’t want to let go but it’s darker earlier and the humidity disappears.

June-July ‘Winter’: Here it is finally but not necessarily cold – it is dark, chillier, snow arrives.

August-September ‘Wetner’: Winter with lashings of rain with cold. Often colder than June and July.

October-November ‘Windner’: Another winter theme but equinox winds are added to the mix and as I have already mentioned pack a real punch.

I’m not sure if it will catch on but we have far more seasonal diversity than is represented in the limited quarterly divisions suggest by conventional categories. But there is a fundamental flaw in my perspective as any Southerner will know – the South Island has it’s own twist on the above, depending again on which side of the Alps you are. Perhaps the mystery of the weather is matched by our bizarre knack for building houses with reverse insulation. It wouldn’t be a Kiwi home if you didn’t put a jacket on when you got inside. Come to think of it, maybe the expression ‘yeah-na’ is weather related, because if you want to know if it’s going to rain the answer has to be both.

The only real fall out I can foresee could be with the music industry…sorry Crowded House you might have to re-write Four Seasons In One Day.

Courageous conversations and contagious curiosity

I’ve recently found myself listening to two inspiring women about their lives and learnings around identity and how this is worked within social and political constructs. Ash Beckham speaks openly about the need for more honesty and less pedantic policing of needing to get diversity right all the time. Her call is to ‘loosen up’ some of the self-protective mechanisms that hold others to ransom over every utterance they make without holding the possiblitly that perhaps people are not always intentionally biggoted or homophobic. I agree it is important to recognise good will and trying to ‘get it’ needs to be acknowledged, but is often not valued as a legitimate form of connection. Her openess about herself is refreshing as is Lana Wachowski’s private world and in naming the protective power of anonymity. It’s ironic that we seem to have gone from ensuring the world remained black and white with any rainbow descriptions of sexuality, gender identity, pushed into silent void of heteronormative public discourse to one where there is almost an expectation of openness at all times. This might be in part to large shifts in recognition through marriage equality or potentially the polar opposite depending a bit on where you are in the world. But while it would be easy to assume that in general society appears more ‘accepting and inclusive’ and visibility is perhaps preferred to complete invisibility there are some strange and unusual interpretations of how to engage with diversity.

Perhaps my breath holding is more to do with what appears to be a label grab – like some crazy sale once someone is known to have added a sense of ‘colour’ to their identity the protection of invisibilitiy and anonymity is lost. There can be a frenzy of meaning making, a rush to ask personal questions, and lascivious voyeuristic entitlemtent of displaying this label to others. Yet we do need conversations and dialogue if things are to change, but the quality of those conversations needs framing and the misappropriation of curiosity should be challenged. A good example is Anna Paquins recent interview with Larry King where Paquin continually resisted his attempt to grab hold of ‘non-practicing bisexual’ as a label. Her response was eloquent and gives us a great lens to view how the light of private, intimate parts of our identity can be split, redirected and claimed in ways that serve to uneasily represent peoples lives in ways that reinforce harmful alienating assumptions and stereotypes. No she didn’t bite (haha – only funny if you watch True Blood).

The danger is for defensiveness and silence to return to our landscape of knowledge of gender and sexuality to a rearticulation of the binary dualistic matrix. This isn’t necessary or desirable – we need to keep going down the rabbit hole. Where I think is a good place to start is asking about the role of anonymity and privacy and valuing this as much as we value public disclosure. Being critical and sensitive to how language both reveals and constructs us without always needing to censor ourselves can help reflect some of the ways limiting beliefs are constructed. For example the persistent use of prefixes for describing women based on their marital status Miss Mrs Ms – think I might start using ‘M’ on its own, sounds contemplative if you say it out loud.

I am grateful to have the likes of Ash Beckham and Lana Wachowski touch my consciousness. Rainbows both reveal the nature of light but our knowledge has been channelled by the most popular ideas of physics at the time (Newton). Few people know about Goeth who also had a theory about light and challenged Newton. I wonder what he might have to say about the above? Now that would be an interesting conversation.