Dressing queer in the office

Carolyn Wysinger writes about fitting in with the office dress code when you’re queer while still staying true to yourself:

As fate would have it, my first week on the call-center floor fell on a weekend, which is a casual dress period. I made friends as soon as I hit the floor because c’mon, who doesn’t love me?! The very next day I came in and did all the dapper bois proud. Black slacks, white dress shirt with a pink/black/white silk tie. Hair freshly twisted up with my shades on. And yes I turned many heads. I walked in and saw all the women in the office look over to watch me walk down the aisle. I got to my group and nobody said a word. And then finally one of the women supervisors said “Ooh I like your tie.” And so my journey as the first boi in began.

Of course, the image she puts forward here immediately reminds me of:



That kind of gender separated dress code — or even having an explicit dress code — is somewhat less common in the Netherlands and you see as many women professionals in what y’all would call pant suits as in skirts. The other uniform, common to women in non-representative roles are the slightly too short white leggings, which seems to be the fuck you, I dress for comfort symbol of the (older) Dutch woman. It’s ubiqitous enough and annoys enough people that it has had facebook campaigns launched against it.

Imagine wanting new experiences as a sf reader!

So Alex Dally MacFarlane started a series on gender diversity in science fiction which some obnoxious little wankstain “author” called Larry Correia took exception to, whose nonsense was aptly but slightly more charitably than I would’ve done dissected by everbody’s science fiction pinup, Jim C. Hines. The gist of Correia’s ranting was that nobody was interested in all that gender nonsense and it was all political correctness and message writing and people want story, not strange queer or agender people in their fiction, anyway, you know the type.

Basically what he seems to say is that only white straight men read science fiction and they don’t want to read about anybody else but themselves, because the familiar is truely what you read sf for. Well, Ria off off Bibliotropic is here to set him straight (heh) on the first part:

I love opening a book and sinking into the story and discovering that a character is like me. Whether that means they’re asexual or agendered or just have a weakness for knitting with cashmere yarn, it’s a little bright light that goes on, a link between me and the person whose story I am following, and it makes me want to read about them even more. It’s a very selfish impulse to want to read about people in whom I can see myself reflected.

But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. It makes the character real, because I am real. It makes them a person, because I am a person. It means they have no point, because I have no point, but why should that mean that I and everything about me should disappear for the comfort of people who already have far more options to see themselves reflected in the pages of the novels they read? My existence doesn’t depend on someone learning a lesson from me. I am not an after-school special.

And I’ll set him straight on the second. You know, these days I not only reading science fiction that doesn’t feature the kind of protagonist I can see in the mirror, but actively seek it out. I bought Ascension because its cover featured a black woman; heck, this is my FemShep. Why? Not out of some poofaced desire to know what it would be like to be a black woman in the future, that would be slightly offensive, but because it’s fun, it’s interesting to read the adventures of somebody who isn’t you.

And that’s something people like Correia just can’t understand, that people can be genuinely interested in post-binary gender, even if they’re not personally involved in it. Which is just sad for a science fiction writer.

Queer characters in sf

Nicola Griffith has a new novel out, Hild and is getting a bit fed up with people asking about her heroine’s sexuality:

Interviewers and reviewers have already asked me: So why is Hild a lesbian?

I say: First, she’s bisexual. Second, why the fuck not?

I am tired of having to have a reason for characters being queer. When my first agent told me that my proposal for Slow River was “not a selling outline,” I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, why does Lore [the protagonist] have to have a girlfriend?” I said, “Because she’s a dyke.” And fired her.

Nicola Griffith is right that it should be normal for some characters to be queer, that there doesn’t have to be a reason for them to be and that more science fiction/fantasy writers should be unafraid to use queer characters if they want to. What I’m more worried about is whether the average science fiction writer is up to writing queer characters without it coming over as exploitative or overtly preachy.

But more queer characters, yes please.

“I’m an endangered species. I shouldn’t be anymore.”

Samantha Allen, in one of the better posts I’ve seen on the subject, talks about the contineous harassement of trans* people by a certain kind of radfem:

In some bizarre alternate reality, however, I’m seen as a villain who invades “real” women’s spaces and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. A small but vocal band of activists known as “Radfems” see transgender women like myself as a blight on the feminist movement, but — because their views are not representative of the feminist movement as a whole — many trans*-inclusive feminists refer to them as TERFs, or Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

Things change

Some new horrible history I learned about today: forty years ago today In New Orleans, thirtytwo people were murdered through arson, in what was the largest mass murder of LGBT people in US history:

Just before 8:00p, the doorbell rang insistently. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen, expecting a taxi driver, asked his friend Luther Boggs to let the man in. Perhaps Boggs, after he pulled the door open, had just enough time to smell the Ronsonol lighter fluid that the attacker of the UpStairs Lounge had sprayed on the steps. In the next instant, he found himself in unimaginable pain as the fireball exploded, pushing upward and into the bar.

It’s a horrible, upsetting piece of history, depressing even, but what is important is that it is history and things are getting better, as Joe Belknap Wall argues:

Forty years ago, when I was five, I was destined to be a victim, but things changed. We spoke up, sat in, made our points. Things changed.

Thirty years ago, when I was fifteen, I was destined to be a marginal citizen, but things changed. A disease came out of nowhere and shook the world, even as our President did nothing and said nothing, even as the population cracked jokes and shrugged it off and the preachers waved their crosses to stir up the hate, but we spoke up, stood fast, and made people see. Things changed.

[...]

Today, I am forty-five, and I am still a citizen without full protection under the law, but—

Today, I can marry in my state, and receive the protections accorded to the rest of my neighbors. If I fall victim to a crime driven by hate, it will be investigated. Few, if any, people will laugh and point and make a mockery of my basic human dignity. I am no longer required, by the dominant cultural norm, to be ashamed of who I am, and the people who once felt empowered to fuel the fires of hatred and intolerance are the ones on the run. The last of the churches built on foundations of hate are being deserted by their children, who were not raised with the old faith that had them accepting an injustice because they were told to, and the louder they get, the more they demonstrate that it’s all just a death rattle, destined to go silent as the older generations fade away, and the churches may yet turn back to the message of love.

When I feel that hot rush of rage, reflecting on what happened forty years ago today, I want to say “WE ARE COMING FOR ALL OF YOU,” but I don’t need to. The future is coming, and daylight and information wipe the world clean of those old, ugly falsehoods and make fools of those who used to get away with promulgating that fetid, soul-killing bullshit. There are miles to go on the way to a just, open, loving world, but we have come farther than ever before.

The trouble with Penny Arcade

It sadly does not come as a surprise that one of the Penny Arcade boys made some ignorant, transphobic remarks. This is not the first time either of them was caught saying something dumb and hurtfull, nor the first time that they dug in first rather than apologise and acknowledging that they’d done wrong. It’s not so much that they deliberately set out to provoke or hurt people but rather that they’re somewhat more ignorant about certain hot button topics than they themselves realise, nor all that used to being contradicted. So instead of backing down, they double down on the offensiveness instead.

Why this is may be explained by their own history. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik were your typical gaming nerds that through a combination of luck and hard work managed to make what was just another gaming webcomic into a multimillion dollar business, themselves into nerd kings. They’re in a position where they rarely have to listen to anybody else, with an audience that actively sucks up to them and they have that typical nerd mentality of thinking they know everything about anything. It’s not full on Dunning Kruger, but it does mean they have trouble recognising their own ignorance at times. Which is deadly when it comes to these kind of indentity issues. What’s troubling is that they also seem unwilling to address their ignorance, preferring to just not talk about these things instead.

In conclusion, Penny Arcade is a land of contrasts, not willfully evil but perhaps willfully stupid.

The trans life



A while back NBC’s Dateline did a surprisingly good and respectful documentary about Josie Romero, a nine year old trans girl and how she and her parents dealt with the fact that their little boy was actually their little girl. It also looks at the medical challenges young trans children have to deal with, those who start transition before puberty. If you know your physical gender doesn’t match your real one, going through puberty is hell, as that’s of course when the physical differences between boys and girls really start to matter in all sorts of way. Going through that, then going through physical transition to get to your chosen gender does all sorts of things to your body. Therefore the best practise for children like Josie is to start them on hormone blockers to delay puberty a few years, then start hormone treatment when they’re old enough for it to get the physical transition going. It all sounds scary if you haven’t had to think about it before, but the Dateline documentary does well in presenting it as honest and positive as possible.

If you want a slighter wider view of what living your life as a trans person means, take a look at the Trans Scribe series over at the “girl on girl culture” magazine Autostraddle. It’s a honest, at times moving series, that shows that trans lives don’t have to be tragic.

France joins the civilised world

The French parliament votes in favour of gay marriage:

France has become the 14th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage , pushing through François Hollande’s flagship social reform after months of street protests, political slanging matches and a rise in homophobic attacks.

After 331 votes in favour and 225 votes against, there were chants of “Equality! Equality!” in the French assembly, where the Socialists have an absolute majority. But thousands of riot police and water-cannons were in place near parliament in advance of street demonstrations planned against the law.

Rich Johnston, you ignorant slut

DC Comics hire Orson Scott Card, science fiction author and noted homophobe, to write some Superman stories. People not surprisingly object. Bleeding Cool mudracker Rich Johnston comments and feels the need to warn people about the evils of censorship:

Some try to draw a line between an opinionated person and an activist. I disagree, any famous person who expresses an opinion, especially in this day and age, de facto becomes an activist for that opinion.

It’s a very dangerous game, it has led in the past to witchtrials, McCarthyite or otherwise, and it’s no better than the actions of, say, One Million Moms. And next time? It could be you…

This is the sort of naive fear people who don’t pay enough attention to history and politics have, from vaguely remembered civics classes and decades of middle of the road propaganda about how all kinds of extremism are equally bad, the sort of semi-liberal idea that goals don’t matter, but methods do. Which leads to such absurdities as saying that taking action against bigotry is as bad as the bigotry itself, as notable dimwit Mark Millar has done. Of course if you follow this logic to the bitter end, not only could you never boycott writers or artists for being bigots, you should actually be obliged to buy their comics, or you’re punishing them for their opinions.

But of course there’s a huge difference between those McCarthyite showtrials Johnston is so worried about and grassroots boycott campaigns. McCarthy operated with the full support of the state and most of the press against people who actually were a danger to the United States, to further his own career, destroying the lives of those he persecuted. Orson Scott Card meanwhile is a successful writer with a long career who never had to suffer for his bigotry, who will still be rich and successful even if he never gets to write Superman.

What’s more, it’s not his speech that people object to, nasty though his opinions about homosexuality are, but the fact that he is actually on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, which works hard to keep homosexual people second class citizens in America. It’s somewhat disingenuous of Johnston to ignore this and pretend he’s just some ordinary person with unfortunate opinions, as harmless as your racist nan.

Can you let somebody like that write for Superman, symbol of Truth, Justice and the American Way, who used to take on the Klan in his radio adventures? Really?