Saturday, December 09, 2006

Swimming laps in the queerphabet soup

For many, many years I identified as bisexual. Actually for a decent chunk of that time, my personal sexual identity was pansexual – pan being all encompassing. Having had a range of partners including trans and intersex people, I acknowledge that there are certainly more than two sexes, and probably a different gender expression if not identity for each person on the planet.

So while I generally (publicly, politically) called myself bisexual (so many people struggle conceptually with the broadness of bisexuality, let alone moving even further away from binary thinking); I really embraced pansexuality. I loved the largeness of the word. All encompassing; wide open spaces; don’t fence me in. As a pagan, *Pan is one of my all time favourite poster gods. Half-animal, all musky smelling and feral. Earthy, goaty and sexual. A leering, queering trickster deity. Silly looking with little horns, cloven hooves and little fluffy tail. Yet to those of us who honour the wild gods of the earth, and the body’s intelligence – he is all wisdom and nobility.

Over a long time – years and years, my attraction for bio guys was on the wane. So was my comfort with heterosexuality. My one significant relationship with a str8 man was fraught with a fundamental lack of compatibility. Although an anarcho activist boy, how could he a str8 white able bodied man get my experience of marginalisation – and how my whore activism, and queer community space nurtured me (and why I insisted on wearing queer tshirts on our dates).

I was never ever comfortable with passing for str8. I never wanted, or knew what to do with heterosexual privilege. It pissed me off that my parents were ready to embrace any guy I was with– no matter how casual – as my life partner, and any woman, no matter how much she made my heart sing, as just a good friend. I still hate the stereotype of bi women always prioritising their relationships with male partners - that was never my practice, or the practice of the other bi community attached women I knew. I recognise that for some het community attached bi women, there is little incentive to honour the women in your life, I'd like to see that as being more about the heterosexism and general misogyny in our culture, that takes some personal awareness and internal work to move beyond.

So for a long time I was narrowing my partner choices to women, gender queers and bi guys who I could put in lingerie and fuck their arses. This worked for a while, but then many of the bi guys I was fucking were so very into their own cocks, so penis in vagina sex became The Main Event. All the other fun, creative, sexy things people can do together were sidelined. While I’m not averse to being fucked, it’s certainly not my most favourite dish on the menu.

Then – of course there is politics. The grooviest, most progressive boys I was playing with were still too far from being comparable to the gorgeous, smart feminist women in my life. Unfortunately the pro-feminist men’s movement seems just as tiny and lacking in influence as it did 10 years ago, while the other men’s movement is full of intimidating black shirts and seething resentment towards women.

The acknowledgement that bio men were no longer part of my erotic world was a sad one for me. My sexuality was no longer the neat reflection of my coalitionist politics, my instinct for inclusion. The tiny but sex positive bi community had always been so much cooler about my sex work, about my trans partners, about the dresses and heels. I also would like to believe that men will one day be better at understanding the impacts of sexism and refusing to participate in it; but who has the time to wait for that fine day? So it took me a damn long time to stop mourning my loss and to be comfortable identifying as a dyke, even now I usually add some words – femme dyke, queer dyke, dyke whore.

I now really like being a part of the shift in the dyke community – away from lesbian separatism. Away from policing our own behaviour. Towards a more diverse community. Towards sex positivity. Along with lesbianism, my attraction towards butch women has increased. While I make more sense in dyke spaces if I’m with a butch – I look less like a str8 girl who’s lost her way – my interest in butches isn’t around anchoring an identity, or around fitting in, or safety. It’s more about my life long passion for gender queers. I’ve always loved and appreciated the bravery exhibited by people who look uncompromisingly queer. Who are never going to pass as str8.There is a certain way butches communicate, inhabit their bodies and spaces that makes me weak at the knees. I never feel like I can even explain this quality, let alone understand it – as how I live in the world is quite, quite different. I don’t get much homophobia as I walk through the world; I get constant unwanted sexual attention from men instead. Obviously, I’ve capitalised on that by doing sex work – but who can say what is harder to live with – the invisibility and sleaze experienced by femmes, or the homophobia experienced by butches?

In many ways, I'm a very unstereotype femme. I didn't date butches at all up until relatively recently, partly because there isn't much of a butch-femme scene in Lil old Adelaide when I was growing up - and also, as a bi whore, the experiences of marginalisation I had felt within the lesbian community meant that up until the last 4 years or so, I wasn't dating dykes at all. It was safer and easier to stick to other bi whores (usually also femmes) than risk the impact of stigma up close. And as someone with a strong femme identity since my late teens, but without the expectation that femme means I must date a certain way, I don't feel like I have to be dating or fucking anyone at all to validate my queerness, or to justify my presence in the community. I know in every cell of my body that I'm queer as fuck.

My journey continues, swimming my way through queer waters. I’ve always tried to tell the truth about my life and feelings – and that means embracing change and growth. I hate that my life experience might somehow add to the pervasive notion of bisexuality as a phase one goes through, however I have always felt that the goddess meant me to walk a certain path – and that my path so far seems to be a fluid one.

*For further ideas about the personality of Pan, and his importance, I recommend Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

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