Overweening Generalist

Saturday, June 2, 2012

She-males, Semantics, and the Sexual Wilderness

Having this Internet doohickey sure can open your eyes to things you...ya know? Might never have...seen...thought about.

Like...uhhh...(warning: "porn" pics to illustrate an important point--->) these are all "boys"...umm..I mean they have that one thing that still...hoo-boy..."qualifies?" them as...oh fuck it: they're chicks with dicks. She-males. Pre-op transsexuals.

And this totally fascinates me. I've looked at some porn and seen some pretty good-looking...I'll call them she-males. And this continues to get more and more interesting, because of the gender identity thing. I wrote a bit about it in a different context HERE.

But here's what's really cosmically hilarious to me. Over and over I stumble on a very real problem out there, a problem having not to do with those people who choose to modify their bodies with hormones and surgeries and all that...but with your run-of-the-mill heterosexual male who's attracted to she-males (also called t-girls, among other things), and worries if this makes them "gay."

                               Andrej Pejic, a New York runway fashion model. A male,
                               Pejic models both men's and women's clothes. Whattya 

Recently on the San Francisco Craig's List's Rants and Raves I saw a subject line that read "If a straight man has sex with a post-op transsexual is he gay?" (Please note the word "is" here; I'm gonna harp on it a bit later on.)

There were a handful of replies. One person said this makes you "not exactly straight"..."he'd be bisexual and toward the heterosexual side..." (Note the form of "is" here: "be." I appreciated the assumption of the continuum of gender identity hinted at here.)

Another respondent seemed to mix the person in question with transvestites. I must note that the "post-op" is often mistaken: often intelligent people don't know that "post-op" refers to those who elected to go all the way and switch genitalia; the porn stuff is almost always "pre-op," or guys who elected to alter their bodies so they looked like females in every way possible, save for saving their penis. Add to that: the original query from Craig's List could be talking about a female who became male, post-op and all, and we just don't know for sure what was meant, but I assume - and everyone who responded assumed also - that the straight male had sex with someone who had female characteristics...and we can see how wonderfully weird this stuff can get when we try to talk about it!

Most of us are conditioned - myself included - to the idea of two sexes, two genders, or a few genders. But these very feminine-looking (and often quite pretty!) humans with natural penises...this seems like another example of a cultural guerrilla ontology. Let me see if I can explain myself...

Another respondent to the Craig's List query wrote that the question reminded him/her of the LGBT "crisis" in San Francisco, of "some lesbians getting sex changed to be 'male-ish' and start having sex with Gay (sic) men." Which I had no idea was happening. This person added that former lesbian girlfriends are "puzzled." I would think so!

Maybe it's just me, but I find all of this totally marvelous; Nature continues to flummox our best attempts to nail Her (It?) down.

I loved this person's response: "It doesn't really matter if other people don't understand them; maybe it makes sense to themselves; but even that's irrelevant because it's their bodies and lives to do with as they wish after all." Rarely do you see this level of intelligence on Rants and Raves.

One person said yes, it makes you gay, and furthermore this nullifies that "gay gene" or "I was born that way" hypothesis. Which made no sense to me. Does it to you?

Others, predictably: "You're a fag now" "How disgusting" "Using this as an excuse to not admit you're gay" Etc. (Dan Savage got a variation of this question in 2009, and what a terrific response: skip down to the third letter, starting with "I'm a 24 year old guy...")

Personally, I have never had sex with a she-male, but I find some of them very attractive. I don't know how I'd actually respond physiologically if I..."had the chance." But that's what I find so very interesting: I'm attracted to the femininity I perceive in some she-males (I'm not sure if the term "androgyne" would also apply here); they have all the curves and facial features I've grown to find very appealing. Maybe if I was with one and her voice sounded too masculine I would be turned off enough to not have sex? I don't know! But Scarlett Johansson has a deep, throaty voice and I dig her. Is it because I "know" Scarlett "is really" female (or if not it's so far a very well-kept secret) that I wouldn't give it a second thought (assuming in some dreamland I had the chance) and go at her like a wild man?

And why, if a she-male was pretty enough and charming enough, would I let that thing dangling between her legs be a deal-breaker? I have one too. It can be thought of as a very large clitoris. (I said it "can be.")

Okay, so I have no problems with gay men. I have many warm friendships with them. I will divulge that I once experimented to see if I could be bisexual, and it just wasn't there for me. (There's still a dispute over whether bisexuality really exists, but I'll have to write about that some other day.) But he didn't look anything like "her":

                                            Honestly, I can't say for sure what I'd do
                                            with this gorgeous she-male. But I do 

What gets me is the rampant homophobia in the "it makes you gay" stuff. As if those categories are so reified they're like - pardon the pun - straitjackets. Once you've shown your hand, you're "out" and forever NOT ONE OF US. Not "normal." Normal stands for a statistical finding. If it appears you are not in the majority, well, then you just might be a threat to us somehow. Who knows, some invisible entities might spread to us "normal" people and then you and your non-normal kind are CONTAMINATING us! We used to be PURE!

Okay, so here's the deal with gender and semantics: when we use the "is" of identity, we shortchange ourselves here. Nature has thrown us a change-up (sorry, football fans!), and we've swung way ahead of the pitch. We can be smarter. If you think you "are" straight, go ahead and say it, either to yourself or to everyone. If you think you "are" gay...same deal. If you say someone else "is" a fag because of some action, well, fine, but you seem to show yourself a boor. Anything we say about someone's sexual preference or - far more complex - gender seems only our own way of trying to make sense of, or categorizing others' actions or tastes or preferences or presentations. Ultimately, in a free society, we need to acknowledge that gender and sexuality is far, far more complex - and, I'd argue, wonderful - than our impoverished upbringings prepared us for.

(That one time you accidentally wandered into the wrong bathroom? Did you say, "Oh no! Oops! I think I am male/female now!"? Nope, didn't think so...)

So, if I one day do have some sort of sexual encounter with a very feminine-looking person with a penis, you can say to yourself, "He is gay!" I don't care. I think it's misleading in the first place, and in the second place, so what? There's nothing wrong with "being" gay in the sense of "queer" behaviors! And most importantly: we made up those words. Actions are not the words we use to describe them. The words act as conventions. They make things convenient for us, because, after all, we do desire to communicate with each other. We tend to gossip.

We seem to make linguistic, categorical errors with very little care or thought, and in so doing make ourselves appear ignorant, cruel, and maybe even stupid. We can go a long way toward - maybe completely? - cure this malady by trying as hard as we can to get rid of "is" and its forms (am, are, was, were, be) from our language when describing others' sexualities or presentations of gender. When I mentioned the term "guerrilla ontology," a term I got from Robert Anton Wilson, the "ontology" part is traditionally an area of philosophy (like epistemology or aesthetics) that concerns itself with the aspect of Being. In Indo-European languages, the copulae (is, am, was, are, were, be) neurolinguistically encourages us to think of the ontological status - the Being-ness - of something as possibly more "real" than some things warrant. ("I am a bevotrax and she is a clatronix. He was vinpoled, but not anymore. Together, we are all skeezinixes! In truth, we always were!")

Here's how I see it: The guerrilla ontology of she-males seems like a sneak attack that totally surprises us, and forces us to adjust our thinking, perceiving, and language in an attempt to grapple with that area of "sex" or "gender." It's another reason I like this stuff: the intellectual fucking involved.

We have human experiences, sometimes unusual ones. Phenomenologically, they go on in "real time," and maybe we ought to try to always remember, there is a pre-language aspect of everything we do! Everything else: reflections, descriptions, conversations, categorizations....these constitute the realms of increasingly ABSTRACT thought, and our language may not "be" up to the task.

Finally: I'm just going to come right out and admit it: I prefer females with vaginas. People might call me "straight." Okay...But that doesn't mean you can treat me poorly. And she-males present us with a terrific teachable moment, don't they? Some will "get it." Others will most definitely not...

Oh yes: would do you make of Andrej Pejic, the "Prettiest Boy In The World"?

                                          Another androgyne image. I didn't fact-check
                                           to tell whether this "really is" a male or 
                                          "really is" a female. I like not knowing.


Eric Wagner said...

Interesting piece. E-prime does seem to me a wonderful tool. (Some semantic ambiguity has crept into my perceptions after reading your mind-altering blog.)

michael said...

You and I use E-prime in our own ways; this time I "pushed" it in the name of averting ignorance and opening up our minds.

But the main reason I apply it for my own nervous system (<-----a Strange Loop there?) seems foremost as a mind-altering agent.

Here's where RAW was uneasily embraced by the (too-"straight" for my tastes) General Semantics community: he linked Korzybski with zen and cannabis.

To say my blog has had a mind-altering effect IS an honorable thing to me, so...danke schoen!

Anonymous said...

An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your site.
My site > www.PenisAdvantageDiscount.org