Sexual harassment or pick-up tactics? Groping in the gay community #LGBT #MeToo #feminism

Sexual harassment or pick-up tactics? Groping in the gay community #LGBT #MeToo #feminism

“Boys will be boys”, right? Seems many of the tactics of straight men have also been used in the gay community…

Interesting days we live through, eh? I’m not even referring to the orange cheeto currently occupying the White House, although he is, of course, one of the worst offenders in terms of the whole #MeToo campaign, yet oddly, while male chauvinist pig after male chauvinist pig has been forced out of their jobs (too many to name), DOTUS himself seems to still hover unfazed, above it all. Strange times. Sexual harassment isn’t anything new of course, but the #MeToo campaign has grown into something much bigger, much larger, and it’s refreshing to see how so many millions of women around the world suddenly rise up and demand things to change for the better, at last, at long last.

From my personal vantage point, I look at this all with a certain amusement, because I don’t even get it, I don’t understand how any man would want to grab a woman by her genitals or shove his hands down her bra to give her a good squeeze. But that’s because I’m gay, and I’ve just not interested, and why would I squeeze goods I’m not interested in buying? That would be like squeezing avocados in a store just to see whether they were, in fact, ripe or not, even though you don’t like them. However, I do like men, and so it stands to reason that I might do what is done to women, but to other (gay) men? I’ll get back to that later.

The question warrants asking, because we’ve seen the stories told about other LGBT men, from disgraced Kevin Spacey to George Takei. And it made me wonder, because when “uncle George” talked about his own experiences with Howard Stern, and seemed to shrug off some allegations with “not remembering”, people were understandably upset. Yet don’t we all forget? Let me just say this with regards to my own experiences: I have met people I’ve apparently had sex with, many years later, and I had absolutely no recollection of it. That is, of course, embarrassing in that moment when you see that person again, but is just a symptom of what we think is important in our lives, and what isn’t. “What”, mind you, not necessarily “who”. Do I remember ever behaving inappropriately toward other men? In bars, discos or elsewhere? Honestly? I don’t remember. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. I am a flawed human being like the rest of them, but unless someone specifically was to jump-start my memories, I can’t remember anything. I don’t think it’s likely though, because of my own experiences as a victim of sexual assault, rape and my deep convictions with regards to that topic. What I do remember, however, are my own experiences as a young gay man, going out, and the constant groping and touching going on in gay bars. Someone recently wrote an excellent post about this on Facebook, in response to the allegations against George Takei, and I do remember all of this going on vividly. Yes, it may have been part of the male gay community, and it may have almost been a necessity to meet people a long time ago when our entire community was reduced to sex(uality). Does that mean we still have to do things this way? I asked some gay men around me, some my age, some older, some younger, about their own experiences, and these are some of their answers:

“Things were very different for gay men in the 80s. Being groped was a regular part of my life. If I didn’t like it, I’d tell the guy to back off, but I wouldn’t make a huge deal about it. There were exceptions, such as the story I’ve told about a man pulling me into a dark room and yanking my pants down. I had to literally fight him off, and that was scary.

But things are different now. Men can’t grab at each other like they used to. People have learned more about boundaries — which is a good thing.”

Someone else had this to say, and I can sympathize with him, not to mention that I felt the same when I felt like an ugly duckling:

“When I first went clubbing in […] as a student I would be grabbed and pinched and oogled all the time. It was just how it was in gay clubs then. It may be the same I don’t know I’ve not been clubbing recently.
To be honest, having struggled with who I’d fancy and getting my head around it being men, back then I took the grabbing & pinching as a compliment because it meant *someone* fancied me; even if I didn’t wanna go to bed with them it was an option I then had unlike before.”

Here’s a comment that I know many women will recognize:

“That was a part of gay culture I hated. Being groped, pinched, fondled without permission pissed me off. Being told what a cold bitch I was for rejecting these advances made it worse.”

I wish I knew for certain that things have changed. Someone very wise said on a podcast the other day that the LGBT community suffers from more alcohol and drug abuse, is more prone to mental illness than anyone else. Given our treatment by parents, schools, workplaces, and society at large, no surprise. Sadly, where alcohol and drugs go in, sense goes out, and people act stupidly. So I’m not as optimistic as the first commenter above. But it certainly seems necessary.

I remember being subjected to all of the above, and I know for a fact that there are three decades between the first and the second commentator, so if anything’s changed, it must’ve been very recently. Some aspects of gay history and culture are unique, and they’re mostly going away (from bathhouses to sex clubs), and our more open embracing of our sexuality, or sex drive to be more accurate, isn’t a bad thing per se. I quite like having sex myself, and I quite dislike monogamy and societal rules built around religious concepts and morality. They serve no one but to oppress. We are one of the few species on the planet that can actually have sex just for enjoyment, and enjoying ourselves, feeling good is not a bad thing (don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise), quite the contrary. Happy people are more likely to be good people, helpful and honest. Suppressing our sex drive, to hide behind veils of vows of monogamy etc. will only lead to people cheating and lying to each other, from the Groper in Chief to Roy Moore and all those other men who have been caught with their pants around their ankles. And where there’s a straight man, there’s usually also a woman. It takes two to tango. Women have sex drives, too.

Here’s the point though: to have a sex drive, to embrace it, have sex with multiple partners or to merely jerk off to a good porn flick or an erotic story is all fine, but to force your needs onto others just isn’t cool. As gay men, we can’t hide behind our “oppressed” label anymore. I hated being disrespected by older gay men in clubs when I was young, and I’d hate to do the same to the young men growing up today. Mind you, I haven’t been to a club in decades (which is why I have no clue what goes on these days), but I do meet other gay men all the time, at conventions, meetings, events. And I keep my distance, physically.

There is a “pecking order” in society. We all know that age, money, job, gender, sexuality, they all give you power over others, perceived or otherwise, depending on the culture of that society. Some use that to their advantage, which is wrong. That’s the only way I can say this. However, to get to the real root issue here, we must dig deeper. MUCH deeper. Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast I listen to regularly, a podcast I was on just two weeks ago, as a guest. The guest on Monday’s recording was Alok Vaid-Menon, a trans artist, and activist. Let me just say that his words summarize most beautifully the real issues we face in our cis-gender-centered world, and if you have a half hour, I highly recommend you listen to Alok with an open mind. I’ve written about feminism in the past, and how I believe that our fate (i.e. that of the LGBT community) depends on the success of feminism, first. Alok explains why, and I don’t remember just how many times I shouted “I totally agree” while walking my miles on the treadmill, listening to him. You can find the episode right here.

Once again, a long post. My apologies. But these are important days for all of us, no matter whether we cis-identify or not, and how we act based upon that in the world that surrounds us. What is your take on all this? I’m curious to hear from you, as always.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good weekend.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: The #MeToo campaign also reveals the dangers of #homophobia

#MondayBlogs: The #MeToo campaign also reveals the dangers of #homophobia

Why the example of Kevin Spacey and others should serve as a reminder of just how dangerous homophobia can be

No, I’m not going to excuse Mr. Spacey’s behavior, which – although not proven in a court of law – has been subject to so many young men coming forward with similar stories that we simply cannot turn a blind eye. I’m not a court, but I’m also not going to apologize for his behavior or in any way try to minimize it. What I want to point at is something else entirely, how people like Mr. Spacey (we currently have a similar example with an LGBT woman in our public broadcasting system here in Sweden, and allegations against George Takei have also surfaced) who have lived closeted most of their lives, endanger themselves and – more importantly – others, for fear of being outed.

Why would anyone be afraid of being outed?

Right! Right? Well, being LGBT is unlike being a “four-eyes” or a “redhead”, things kids were teased with when I grew up. Being LGBT can get you killed, fired, imprisoned, put in a mental institution, neutered or made homeless (to just mention a few relatively common side effects.) Even in the U.S., where gays and Lesbians can get married these days, they could also lose their jobs for it, be refused access to anything from cakes to healthcare, and the Vice President of the Republic (a closeted gay himself!) wants to hang us all… Are you sure it’s so given to come out?

Yet we should, we have to. Particularly in the countries where being LGBT isn’t illegal. But that’s not the point here today. Instead, let me go back a few years, to that fateful night of Kevin Spacey’s assault on a very young Anthony Rapp, way back in 1986. What a year that was. Remember? Reagan was president, HIV was everywhere. Rock Hudson was already dead, and people were panicking that “poor Krystle might have AIDS…” That’s the world where a much younger Kevin met a fourteen-year-old Anthony. It’s a world where Hollywood is so homophobic and so closeted (remember how Stephen on Dynasty had his boyfriend killed by his own dad, and nobody batted an eyelash? Since we’re already on Dynasty turf with Rock Hudson…) that coming out, for a young actor like Kevin Spacey, irrespectively whether it is as gay or bisexual would’ve effectively meant the end of his fledgeling career. If you look at his IMDB profile you’ll see that he was just about to get his first roles in TV and film. No young actor (in their right mind) would’ve come out. They’re still not doing it…

His behavior is inexcusable, of course (I can’t say this enough), but at least partially explainable because of the environment that LGBT people face. You can’t date openly, like everyone else, so you do it clandestinely, and some just can’t do that without stepping over the line. Ask any Republican congressman or senator who’s been caught in similar positions over the decades, either with (young) boys or with male escorts. There’s a reason why they did it clandestinely: homophobia. Because they knew that if they came out, their careers would be over: politics, business or the movie industry, doesn’t matter. Most straight actors just date ahead, no worries about tomorrow’s repercussions. Some, like senatorial candidate Roy Moore, still doesn’t care that he once dated teens. Different topic, but equally disgusting.

Over the years, things have changed, and very brave people in many countries have come out and paved the way for others, Ellen DeGeneres being one good example in the U.S. Kevin Spacey’s weird coming out (as if anyone in the LGBT community didn’t already know) last week was awkward at best, and people have said pretty much everything that needs to be said about that. Yet this is still a thing. People his generation and younger are still afraid of coming out, and that fear, that paralyzing feeling of what a coming out might do to your career, is numbing. Couple it with the immense power of stardom (or economic, political power) and you have a very toxic mix. I think the Swedish case, and as revealed over the past few days, George Takei, are all expressions of this. And for the final time, not an excuse, merely a possible explanation. Worse still, not only does their closet behavior threaten their own existence, but also that of the people around them. I don’t doubt that there was a level of attraction between the stars and their victims. I’ve been the younger man attracted (being as much of a closet case as they were) to the older, too. I wasn’t out. Heck, I wasn’t even fully aware of being gay. But my older suitors were, smelling the gay (we call it gaydar) on me. That makes young LGBT people particularly vulnerable, because they’re not only insecure about their true identity, far from accepting it, and then being preyed upon? Wow. A dangerous cocktail. I was lucky to have been treated with respect and love, but when the other person is a star, closeted and paranoid, a quick “getting their rocks off” may be the only thing on their mind, not your well-being.

I can’t know if Mr. Spacey had acted differently if he’d been straight like a fiddle, or out. Plenty of straight men (and women) who’ve acted horribly against their fellow human beings. I honestly couldn’t say. Looking at other powerful predators from the Kennedys, Donald Trump, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et al., homophobia isn’t necessary, but secrets and lies certainly aren’t helpful in situations like that. And I think in this situation, it might have made it worse… What do you think? One thing’s for sure. The #MeToo campaign better keep going until we have this mess sorted out for good, because no woman, no man deserves to be treated this way, against their will, and most certainly no minor.

It’s an unacceptable behavior to harass other people, sexually or otherwise. My take. What’s yours?

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans

Why writing LGBT stories doesn’t make you part of the LGBT community #amwriting #LGBT

Why writing LGBT stories doesn’t make you part of the LGBT community #amwriting #LGBT

Authors can’t expect the LGBT community to rally to their side based on faulty expectations

Let’s talk about author drama, shall we? It’s been a sad couple of weeks around me. A suicide, a (potential) suicide attempt and yet another author who decided “enough is enough”. The suicide and the author are not directly related, yet they are, in a way, as the author claimed they quit because of a lack of support and help from the others in the industry, plus a general rant about how disappointed they were by the lack of inclusiveness from what they’d thought was an “inclusive” group, the LGBT book genre. So allow me to rip off this band-aid once and for all and clarify two very important things, which people seem to get wrong:

Authors don’t owe other authors shit… We only owe readers.

Writing is a trade for most, a form of art for some. But to pay bills, we must make money. While I don’t think this necessarily makes us competitors (because I do not believe the writing cake to be finite), it is a business: we pay for cover art, editing, proofing, and we’re being paid for each sold book. Some (more and more) of us self-publish, others use intermediaries in the form of agents and publishers and share some of the profits with them.

As authors, our allegiance lies with our readers, they are our customers. And they should lie with our suppliers and co-workers within a publishing house. We are no different than any other “company”. Yes, we should be civil and respectful of each other, and we should help each other because that is how we build a better world. However, and I can’t stress this enough, 1) we can never expect others to reciprocate and 2) we most certainly shouldn’t help others with that expectation. Even my four-year-old son has already learned that lesson: you do good because it makes you feel good, not because you want good to be done back. After all, the golden rule says: treat others the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t say “treat others well to be treated well back”…

We do owe our success to our readers, whether we have one hundred or one million. They buy our books, they praise us, review us, and keep us going. They don’t owe us anything (except civility), but we owe them everything. It’s as simple as that, and if you aren’t absolutely clear about this, you need to read up on business 101.

Writing LGBT doesn’t make you LGBT

This is a bit trickier. And it has to do with the fact that the vast majority of LGBT literature is written by heterosexual women. And for the umpteenth time (before anyone gets angry and upset), there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. As a writer of […], you are a member of the […] writing guild/community. Writing a novel about black people doesn’t make a white person black, and writing romance about two men fucking their way to their HEA doesn’t make you a member of the LGBT community. Sorry if this comes as a surprise or shock, but it doesn’t. So to rant about a lack of support and how disappointed you are by the lack of inclusiveness is pointless. Allow me to exemplify: last summer, after publishing my book about a gay Sami man and his journey back to his roots, I expressed interest in attending a Sami Pride event in Finland. I was ready and willing to fly there on my own expense to participate and learn more about where the Sami LGBT community is at and where it’s heading. I wasn’t welcome. I’ll grant you, that stung quite a bit at first, but I understand. I’m not Sami, and they wanted a safe space to be among others who have the same experiences, the same background.

The LGBT community is not more inclusive than any other group

This is hopefully not coming as a shock to anyone, but it needs to be said out loud every now and then. Being gay, Lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex doesn’t make us better human beings. It makes us a bit different than most others, but neither better nor worse. Just different. When people think that we should be more inclusive just because we’ve evolved to include more letters over the decades, you’re naïve at best. I’d probably use different words to describe such an expectation. Because it shows a level of ignorance about not even knowing what got yourself into writing about us. The LGBT community has always been at each other’s throats, just as any other group that comes together to fight for a common goal: G’s fighting with L’s over partying v political activism, G’s and L’s fighting with B’s over having it both ways (literally) and not making up their minds, G’s and L’s accusing T’s of treason to their own kind, and giving in to the het majority. This is a coarse oversimplification to make a specific point, but all of these arguments were used at times before we realized it was a lot more complicated, and long before we huddled together after we had realized that only together were we truly strong. We’re human beings, flawed, learning, making mistakes.

We still fight, we still struggle, and we still don’t agree over whether e.g. asexuals and aromantics are part of the community. We struggle, we fight. A lot. And like any community, we need borders to exist, to define what we are, and what we’re not. It’s the very core definition of a community. And therefore for as much inclusivity as we show, and while I agree that the rainbow flag is a symbol of universal love, not everyone can be part of the community, and heterosexuals just aren’t. They’re the oppressors, they’re the ones who put all the legislation on the books making us illegal, putting death sentences over our heads, discriminating against us. Can they be supporters? Absolutely! Allies? Yes. But not part of. Hopefully, one day, we’ll no longer see discrimination, then we may no longer need the LGBT community. We’re not there. Far from it.

Writing gay romance doesn’t make you LGBT

So, in closing. If you write about two boys going at it in your books, that is great. If you do so with an open mind, do your research and don’t write (physically) impossible sex, you can keep your phantasies of HEA, of Santorum- & pain-free anal sex, of Mpreg, gay-for-you, monogamy and whatever else you think will tickle the bones of your readers. But no, unless you are LGBT, you’re not a member of the LGBT community. There are more and more LGBT members writing our stories: trans men, trans women, gay men and Lesbians, bisexuals and intersex individuals. For the most part, their stories will invariably be different, over time, focusing on the grim reality of our existence, and they may not always have a HEA.

So why does this creep up again and again?

Over the years, I’ve met quite a few authors and readers of “gay romance” who felt victimized, felt as if they didn’t belong to the “het majority” for many individual reasons. Some actually turned out to be LGBT and have since come out, some struggle with mental disease, some struggle with self-esteem & body issues, and they all have in common that our society, as a whole, isn’t very forgiving if you’re not a size two or smaller, with huge pointy breasts and a Stepford wife behavior. To read is an escape, to read fluffy romance is a great escape, to read about two hunks humping a great way to get your rocks off. I know of people who read gay non-con (aka rape) erotica to exert some sort of mental revenge on their own male assailants. They relish the pain, the anguish unleashed on those poor fictional boys, over and over again. I understand all that, and I think it’s great. Whatever helps. Certainly beats unleashing that revenge on real boys…

But you’re still straight, you’re not illegal. You don’t risk jail or a death penalty for loving who you love. You can get married (or not), your choice. You don’t risk losing your job, you don’t risk being turned away from a business or a hospital because of who you are. You can go to the bathroom without being jailed or ridiculed. You don’t need to be sterilized before having sex reassignment surgery. Because of all those risks, mental health issues are rampant within the LGBT community, suicide rates a lot higher than in society in general. Our gut reaction when we first realize we’re “not like everyone else” is depression, anxiety, fear. We want to change, we strive to change, would give almost anything to change, to be straight, to be like the rest. To belong. Been there, done that, carry the scars. For many of us, depression and suicidal thoughts are going to be constant companions throughout the rest of our lives.

Straight people suffer from mental disease, too. They suffer from horrible losses and have their lives thrown for loops, too. The reasons may be different, the reactions similar. Now picture this: LGBT people have that, too, on top of everything else. Our parents die, our siblings fall sick, friends have accidents etc. And we suffer even more, on top of everything else.

As authors, LGBT or not, as fellow human beings, we offer our sympathy, we help our friends, but there is only so much we can do for colleagues in the industry, readers, people we barely know. As authors with thousands of “friends” (which aren’t real friends, make no mistake) online, we can only do so much. We have our own families, real friends, our own lives to look after. You just cannot expect help. That’s society’s task. That’s where you need to get help.

I’m sorry if people in the LGBT writing space feel disappointed that the LGBT community doesn’t rally to help them in their time of need. But the change needs to happen elsewhere. You just can’t expect an oppressed minority to carry the weight of the world, you can’t. It’s not fair, not to you, not to us. Instead, build a support system around you that is based on real friends, people you can rely on, no matter who they are.

What is your take? Am I wrong? Let’s hear it. This is something I’ve struggled with myself for a long time, and I finally had this “epiphany” over the weekend, about why there are so many misconceptions within the LGBT writing (I refuse to use the two-letter acronym) industry. Am I onto something or is my brain out on “thin ice”? It would hardly be the first time… LOL

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans

Why writing LGBT stories doesn’t make you part of the LGBT community #amwriting #LGBT

#Review: Werecat: The Sim Ru Prophecy by Andrew J. Peters #paranormal #AmReading #LGBT

The Sim Ru Prophecy is a fulminant climax of Peters’ Werecat series

Where to start? I think I need to go back to how I met Andy, online, on Twitter to be exact, not sure why, but there aren’t that many LGBT authors out there. We began to talk about each other’s works and before long, he offered me to read his latest one, about werecats. I’m not a big fan of paranormal and while were-animals and vampires had long served as metaphors to depict the suffering of the LGBT minority in society, I wasn’t sure if I really needed another one, particularly since these cats were all gay. But I read it, and against my ‘usual’ instinct to stay clear of a series (say it with me: I hate series!), I kept reading book two and three. I’ve reviewed one book here and interviewed Andy after the first book had come out in 2013.

Cover of Andy Peters’ The Sim Ru Prophesy

Andy’s writing is really captivating. It’s been a while since I had read book three (as many years) and I’d forgotten about how that had ended. But after a few pages, I was back in the story and The Sim Ru Prophecy doesn’t disappoint. The action is riveting, the story captivating and engaging, the characters grow and even Farzan, Jacks’ love interest becomes a full-fledged and believable human being. Yeah, one of the few non-werecats of the series.

I no longer wonder about the werecats or even question their existence. They’ve become a normal part of my imagination (contrary to my spell-checker which constantly questions my spelling of werecats, the very word.) I’ve pretty much read the entire book in two settings. That’s how engrossed I was, and how curious I was to find out how it would end. I had my reservations at the beginning of the first book, where Andy includes a sex scene while the two men are cats. Not something easily erased from my retinas. But there’s been nothing of the sort in the other installments, as he’s found his voice. The sex is no longer needed, at least not in the graphic details of book one.

Andy has a knack for historical details, for prophecies and legends (as his other series about Atlantis littered with Greek mythology proves), and this book is no different. Loads of mysticism, ancient legends of feline and human deities. Combined with a bit of bad U.S. government interference and a pinch of terrorism, Andy paints a picture that is impossible to resist and one that draws you in as a reader. A political yet also historical thriller of sorts, where the paranormal is but a superficial coat of paint (which isn’t a criticism, mind you.)

I enjoyed this series immensely, and now that you can read the entire series in one go, I highly recommend that you do. The first book is available for FREE on Amazon (right now), and the series as a whole is highly discounted. A great read for little money. I will miss my cats and Jacks and his friends. Then again, I can always go back and read it again… Got get that book today, because The Sim Ru Prophecy is a fulminant climax of a captivating story.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend.

Hans

Are feminists inadvertedly becoming feminism’s biggest foes? #equality #LGBT #equal_rights

Are feminists inadvertedly becoming feminism’s biggest foes? #equality #LGBT #equal_rights

Fighting for equality is tiresome, fighting feminists is exhausting, yet I have no choice

The title of the post will probably be enough to rile feminists everywhere. That’s not really my intention. But I do admit the topic is a tad controversial. I’ve had an interesting online experience on Facebook the other day, and I just couldn’t get over my own reaction to it, nor how my friends handled it. So I figured the best way forward was to broaden the discussion, and see if indeed this is an issue or not. I think it is, even more so after this incident. I’ve always been a feminist, or at least for as long as I can remember. For very good reasons, so let me explain how and why first.

Male is the norm, female the deviation

The statement above alone is enough to get a feminist’s blood boiling, including my own. But simply because we hate a statement with every fiber of our being doesn’t make it any less true or valid. Yes, it’s “wrong” and awful that societies still see things this way, but it’s where we are:

  • Women make less money than man, no matter what profession
  • Traditionally “female” jobs (e.g. nursing) are paid less than comparable “male” jobs (e.g. engineering)
  • Medical research still has the “male” as the norm, despite wide-spread proof that women respond differently to medications than men
  • I could go on… and on, and on

These days, the #MeToo hashtag is shining a light on a different aspect of the plight of women around the globe, and I’ve yet to meet a single woman who hasn’t been able to use it. And it’s not just a western phenomenon, nor is this something we can blame “immigrants” or “refugees” for, as some white men try to do. It’s a male thing. Men asserting, exercising their power using sexual overtures and unwanted advances over women, and men. Yes, gay men can be swines, too, and even though cultural norms in the gay community are different, sexual harassment is still sexual harassment, as the recent revelations about Kevin Spacey show, even worse when the victim is a minor.

No, not drag, it’s a costume, big difference. Yet even this, being labeled a “queen” is a two-edged sort, it’s as much about ruling something as it is being a drama queen, a faggot, a poof. And while we in the gay community use this term on ourselves, to hear it from someone else is like the n-word. And remember, a queen, to this day, is never quite king.

As a gay man, I am acutely aware of this male norm thing, because being gay is all about being considered a traitor to my own gender, attributed all the characteristics society deems undesirable, or less worth: emotional, wimpy, femme, weak, submissive etc. Now I know that’s far from the truth for most gay men, not even the minority, but that’s the perception in society, which is what this is about. Perception, not reality. Because the gay men we see out there, the ones that everyone easily spots a mile away are the ones who fit the pattern.

Nobody bats an eyelash at the butch biker or garbage man because he “couldn’t be gay…” (too masculine, blah, blah, blah) Even in my own community, we discriminate against our own with BS labels such as “straight-acting” (and we all instinctively know what that means… sadly.) or asking for guys who aren’t effeminate. In Turkey, you’re not considered gay as long as you’re a top, because it’s the act of receiving which makes you a homosexual. #facepalm Do they even know that most gay couples never even have penetrative sex? Duh! But yeah, again, cultural norms. It’s the receiving, the submissive, perceived feminine aspect which is considered of a lesser value. In the broader LGBT community, there’s also this weird thing of gay men being “better” than lesbians or trans men being considered better than trans women. Makes you shake your head, but it’s all tied to the above: the male is valued higher at the stock exchange of life than the female.

No equality for me without gender equality

So why is feminism so important to me? Why do I fight so hard and incessantly for gender equality? Why am I being such a nag about women’s equal rights? I mean, I stand to lose, right? Being a man and all? To a degree, I might, although, I’m gay, remember, so I’m already at the bottom of the ladder… I firmly believe that we can’t even begin to dream of equality for the LGBT community as long as we see the male valued higher than the female. As long as me being a stay at home dad is seen as a bigger disappointment than a woman declining a promotion, as long as my nag for caring for others is valued less than a mathematical mind, as long as emotions are worth less than computations, as long as women aren’t allowed to vote everywhere on the planet, granted equal pay for equal work, naturally fill about half of every position available in parliaments, government etc., for as long as anything male is seen as better, I’ll keep struggling and fighting, and sometimes brushing even feminists against the grain. Because only when we no longer bat an eyelash at a boy’s decision to become a nurse or a girl’s decision to forego childbearing (to just take two examples of a million), that’s when we can talk about equality of the sexes, and that’s when we, the LGBT community have a shot at the same. Because when being gay, with all those “female” attributes we apparently exhibit, is no longer seen as less valuable, less desirable, we will already have become equals. There’s an interesting TED talk which discusses why straight families have gay kids, and it has to do with nurturing (a very female trait, a great human trait IMHO). Without realizing it, this champion of LGBT rights slapped a ginormous female sign on all our foreheads. I wear mine with pride, but society at large?

So what happened with that Facebook thing?

The new Kindle logo. I really like it, visually. I just wish they would’ve included a girl, too.

Last week, Amazon launched a rebranded app for the Kindle. A boy sitting under a tree, reading a book. A beautiful image, peaceful. Yet it rubbed me the wrong way. As an author, I know that eight out of ten readers are girls/women. And once again, they were left sidelined to the male dominant. I pointed out as much in my Facebook post, asking Amazon what they were thinking.

I got responses, though not from Amazon, but from my feminist friends:

  • How do you know it’s a boy?
  • I looked like that when I was a pre-teen…
  • Why do girls still have to wear long hair and skirts?
  • We need to encourage boys to read… (to just name a few)

Not a single man engaged in the discussion, interestingly. My first reaction was disbelief. Why don’t they see what I see? Why aren’t they as infuriated by this as I am? Then I realized it had to do with the fact that many of the people responding were not only emancipated women, but several also members of the LGBT community themselves, and used to bend gender on a daily basis. I’m glad they have reached a stage in their lives when they no longer see this as a problem. But to me, the problem is much larger (see above) and I got so upset that I began to take it out on my family, and needed a forceful reminder from my husband (thank you) to calm down. Yes, I am a drama queen at times. I get to say that, you don’t. I am really passionate about these things, and as tiny a detail, as this may seem, it’s just another piece to the grand puzzle of the world order of gender inequality, another reminder of how much work we still have to do.

I wonder: what if the image instead had been a girl under the tree, and a man had made a dismissive remark about it. How would they have reacted then?

Our son is constantly misgendered due to his longish hair. Mind you, we try hard to keep his options open should he at some point realize that he isn’t male. This isn’t about that though.

I think about little girls in Riyadh, dressed in pink by their moms before having to hide under the niqab or one of the girls I saw at that disgusting kids’ beauty pageant in Denver at the same hotel where GRL was hosted last week. Will they be able to see themselves in that boy under the tree? I bet you they won’t. And how do I know that a child in short hair, a t-shirt and jeans is indeed a boy and not a girl? Because that’s how society at large “paints” boys, not girls, it’s still pink for girls and blue for boys. Don’t believe me? Go to Costco or Walmart any day of the week.

My son is constantly misgendered as a girl due to his relatively long hair. To believe Amazon to be a feminist company that intentionally portrays a girl in a stereotypical boy look is criminally negligent to the feminist cause. Yes, I understand the question being asked, and NO, there is nothing wrong (of course) with a boy looking like a girl (or vice versa), OF COURSE NOT, duh. But that’s me, that’s feminism, that’s how the LGBT community sees the world, that’s NOT how society at large looks like. That’s NOT how most boys and girls are raised today. That’s not what they pick up in the schoolyard, that’s not what they see on TV shows, not what they hear from the current president of the United States. Sadly. And so, sadly, most boys will never see that logo, as they’ll probably never pick up a Kindle in the first place (so no encouragement), and girls seeing that logo will only be reminded of the lesser value of their sex attributed to them by society. As if such a reminder was needed.

Yes, boys need to be encouraged to read, but why, WHY does that require a boy under a tree to get there? An image they won’t even see unless the encouragement’s already paid off? Why can’t a boy get to the point where he sees himself reflected in a girl sitting under a tree reading? And before you turn tables on me, I know girls can already do that, because they’re doing it every day, 24×7. Just like I, as a gay man, have been force-fed straight relationships, romance, and dramas from my birth (it still didn’t help though, didn’t turn me). I UNDERSTAND what it means to be het, I really do. I had to work really hard to get to the point where being het was no longer the desired state. It took me ten to fifteen years to accept, for myself, that being gay is as good as being something, anything else on the sexuality spectrum. I read posts on Facebook where mothers complain about a lack of role models for their boys, now that SuperWoman (is still a woman), and the leads in the latest two StarWars movies are strong women. And I’m exploding with rage: Superman, Batman, the Flash, and just about every other fucking movie still has strong male leads. And why is it expected of girls to see themselves in male role models, but boys are somehow deemed incapable of seeing themselves in a female role model? HUH? Ladies, are you underestimating your boys? Just look to sports, where to this day it’s “soccer”, but “women’s soccer”, “tennis” and “ladies’ tennis”. And why, why do my feminist friends perpetrate such standards by playing the gender bender card, which is irrelevant to the vast majority of people, a card which loses its trump value the minute we get to the desired state of “male = female” in terms of value attribution. All of a sudden, genderqueer, trans, genderfluid, intersex, gay, bi, lesbian et al will have become variations on a scale ranging from valued (male) to valued (female), rather than what it is today, valued (male) to “less desired” (female), being less desired the more on the female side of the scale you are, where trans women are at the bottom of the scale, because they can’t even pull that (i.e. a feminine look) off properly, as if the Stepford wife look is all women have to be proud of… #facepalm It kills me when I see my friends hurt, and I’ve seen pain to last me a lifetime and then some.

So what’s wrong with a boy on the Kindle logo? Nothing really. Except for everything it says about our society, our planet and gender equality. Why not a boy and a girl sitting next to each other, both reading in harmony? I’m so tired of having to fight for this. I’m tired of having to constantly correct the horrible notions my son keeps shlepping home, wondering where he gets them from, which friends are “bad” for him, not because I would ever blame a four or five-year-old, but the parents and family members behind them, who indoctrinate their sons and daughters with such awful values. I’m tired of having to fight for people who don’t want to be fought for, for people who no longer see just how underprivileged they still are. I’m “fortunate”. I still get daily reminders of just how “worthless” I am to society, from the Kremlin, the White House to the slaughters of gay men in the Caucasus and Africa, the rounding up of my kind in Egypt or Indonesia, or the man being jailed in Dubai for accidentally touching a man’s ass with his hand in a crowded bar. I may be married, but just as easily as I got that right, it could be taken away again (as could be the case in the U.S. if the conservatives get their way on the Supreme Court). I may have a son, but society may decide at any given point that I’m not a good enough parent and take him away, just look at Russia. I can never truly relax, there are so many countries I can never visit because of the death penalty on my head, currently ten. I don’t need constant reminders of why I need to keep fighting, no matter how tired I am. I’m just sad that not all my sisters get the point or seem to have lost sight of the greater goal over their personal accomplishments (of which I’m proud of course).

Either that, or it’s me, which would be easier for everybody else, of course. LOL, I don’t know. I’m tired and while I don’t mind fighting the bad guys, being cut off at the ankles by your own hurts… So what’s your take? I’ve had time to process this and I’m ready to engage in serious debate. So feel free to comment below.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

Are feminists inadvertedly becoming feminism’s biggest foes? #equality #LGBT #equal_rights

What it means to be disabled today, an eye-opening experience #ASMSG #equality #equalrights

Seeing things through a different lens is humbling and makes you grateful for your own life

Having just come back from a convention, I spent a lot of time with people from all walks of life: rich, poor, young, old, various gender and sexualities etc. And I spent time with my friend Tracy, who’s confined to a wheelchair. It taught me a lot. I’m an empath, and I take great pride in understanding where people come from, what they feel and their emotional state of mind. Normally, I can tell someone’s mood before they do (or as they approach me, not having said a word). However, it’s a different animal to understand how someone’s life is, the obstacles they face etc. A couple of years ago I had an eye-opening experience with my friend Claudine and the shocking level of racism in the U.S. when we were on vacation together. It’s one thing to “read” about or intellectually “understand” racism, but it’s another thing entirely when you witness is face-to-face.

Tracy and I at the recent convention.

Last week, with Tracy, I faced the challenges people with disability face in our society, every day. Tracy suffers from cerebral palsy, and usually sits in a wheelchair, as walking on her own has become increasingly difficult. Through her, I experienced just how difficult it is, still, to this day, to get around and be an active part of society when you’re stuck in a chair.

One of the first things I noticed was her outlook or perspective. Literally being at the height of everyone else’s hips, Tracy sees more ass than anyone ever should. To make a conversation in a group possible, the circle needs to widen considerably to allow for a comfortable angle for everyone to see each other. Normally, when chatting in a small group, we tend to stand huddled relatively close together, but for someone in a wheelchair to fit in, that circle needs to widen, which is uncustomary for the “abled” participants. I had never really noticed this before, but as I pushed her chair toward several groups of people (I’ll get back to the reasons why I pushed the chair) I instinctively began to view the world through her eyes, and that was one of the first things I noticed. Needless to say, people also don’t see her coming, not from behind (duh…) but often not even from the front, as their eyes just aren’t focused three feet down.

A hallway from hell… Can you imagine having to push yourself up and down this corridor even once or twice? But several times per day? Yes, it makes for a more quiet environment, but for a wheelchair, this is awful. Why not use to walls to absorb sound instead? Photo: Helen Shaw

The second thing I noticed was how badly we construct things for wheelchairs. Your typical American sidewalks with those creases between concrete blocks make it difficult, almost impossible, for a chair to pass over, the small wheels in the front easily get stuck, and believe me, it’s not easy to push them forward or to do so yourself if you’re alone in the chair. And to lift the chair and push across on the back wheels? Yeah, had it not been for a person actually sitting in it, and the handles of the chair provide no leverage effect to push down, making it virtually impossible. All we could do was for Tracy to stand up, push the chair forward a few inches and try again. Imagine someone who can’t get up at all?

Carpets… Our hotel was full of carpets, everywhere. To push a wheelchair over carpets, or for Tracy to push herself? Not easy and very, very tiring. And when you have to do this ten, fifteen times a day, down long corridors? Wow. We tried to help as much as we could, but why don’t architects consider this shit?

Worst of all though were the non-accessible sidewalks in the parking lot. Yes, the hotel has handicap parking, but what if you are with someone who’s not allowed to park there? Every threshold at that parking lot was 6 inches high, and every time, Tracy had to stand up, take a couple of painful steps to make way for the chair to come up, sit down, start all over at the next threshold, up, down, up, down. All in all, we had to do that about six times. Makes you wonder how this is even possible in 2017.

Having to live like this every day? People bumping into you everywhere because they don’t expect you, don’t see you, all the obstacles, elevator doors crushing into you and what not… I appreciate the patience Tracy and others in her situation have. Yes, they have no choice, but we as a society could make things a little bit easier for them. It’s not rocket science, after all. Have you had any experiences with friends, or yourself?

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend.

Hans