Posts Tagged ‘Queer’

So apparently there was a study which found that among the lesbians sampled 75% were overweight or obese.

I first heard of this when I saw this article on my facebook feed about what is wrong with the statistic. The woman who wrote that article mainly takes issue with the fact that the sample size for lesbians was 87 compared to a sample size of 5,460 straight women.

I read this awhile back, and it made me uncomfortable, but I often like to stop and sit on those kinds of thoughts and feelings for awhile so I give myself time to think through why. But my thought at the time and my thought now remains- so what if it is true?

Putting aside whether the statistic is good or accurate, I’m more concerned with why we care one way or the other.

The author of this article is concerned that this statistic will be accepted as fact, will morph into countless memes and jokes used to mock lesbians and “delegitimize our sexuality”.

But it seems to me- as a fat lesbian- that the underlying issue to that is that it’s considered mock worthy to be a fat lesbian.

Ferndale Pride with Extra Lesbian Sticker

Fat Lesbian! … Fat extra lesbian? … or Extra Fat Lesbian?

Side note: I took 3 selfies at ferndale pride with 3 stickers- extra queer, extra gay, and extra lesbian (all 3 being terms I identify with), and of course it’s the extra lesbian one, which was most relevant to this post, that I like the least. Oh well. 

And why should this statistic “delegitimize our sexuality”? Being fat does not make my sexual orientation any less legitimate.

The author of the article explains further: “the publicity around this ’75 percent of lesbians are fat’ statistic on social media is at present exacerbating the stereotype that ‘lesbians are just a bunch of ugly, lazy, misguided women with low self-esteem who can’t get a husband because they’re fat and don’t wear make-up, and therefore they’re terrible people and don’t deserve to be taken seriously!'”

And here is where I get deeply uncomfortable with this. Because my sexual orientation is not a response to low self-esteem nor an inability to get a husband. Being fat doesn’t mean I have low self-esteem and it sure as fuck does not mean I can’t get a man. I get hit on by men with some frequency. Whether or not those are men I’d actually date even if I was dating men is another issue. But if I were really desperate for a man, I could get one. But I’m not. 1. I’m single and not desperate for a relationship period. I have no interest in being with someone just for the sake of not being single and proving to society that I found someone who found me attractive. 2. More on point here, I don’t want to date men. I am attracted to women. My attraction to women is not a back up, substitute for men. And my weight does not make that any less so.

The stereotype that “lesbians are just a bunch of ugly, lazy, misguided women with low self-esteem who can’t get a husband because they’re fat and don’t wear make-up” is a problematic one. It’s a problematic one for fat lesbians too. It’s still problematic even if 75% of lesbians are overweight or obese. Because fat lesbians are not lesbians because we are too fat to get a man. Being fat and a lesbian does not make this stereotype true. Just like lesbian women who don’t wear makeup don’t make this stereotype true. If 75% of lesbian don’t wear makeup this stereotype would still be a heaping pile of bullshit.

So given that fat lesbians are still not lesbians due to an inability to get a man, given many men find fat women attractive, and that the reasons fat women are lesbians are pretty much the same as the reasons thin women are lesbians- what would it matter if 75% of lesbians are fat?

And I leave you with: Extra Fat Lesbian in Rainbow Fishnets

And I leave you with: Extra Fat Lesbian in Rainbow Fishnets

So I just posted on how fat acceptance has nothing to do with demanding that people find fat people attractive, but I was thinking today, amused at how the folks who complain about this and make it all about attraction always assume everyone else must share their own preferences in attraction too. This such a common trope I’ve found- that fat women demand everyone find us beautiful (still not what it’s really about, but…), yet we will only ever date conventionally attractive men. And of course the assumption is men.

I’ve had a number of folks online ask me what I find attractive, clearly trying to catch me in my hypocrisy of demanding others find me attractive (except for how I’ve never done that) when I also would prefer thinner men. If I point out I’m primarily attracted to women, the assumption remains that I would find only thin women attractive.

And I just can’t help but laugh at this, when it is so far from the truth. Because I find many, many fat women incredibly attractive. To be far, I also find many, many thin women incredibly attractive! I don’t consider myself a fat admirer or anything like that, there is nothing about fat itself that I find attractive, I just find many fat women very attractive exactly as they are. I frequently find myself saying I don’t have a type that I’m attracted to, because I really don’t: short, tall, thin, fat, femme, butch, whatever it can all be very attractive to me.

Can be. This isn’t to say I find all people equally attractive. Of course I don’t, there are some people I’m just “oh, damn, they look good!” It’s just that what looks good to me for one person can be totally different than what looks good to me for another person.

So for all those who are so curious about my attractions as a fat woman- no, I don’t find thin women automatically more attractive than fat women. I also don’t find fat women automatically attractive than thin women.

Spilt Milk has an amazing blog post on queer mothering in a straight world, very worth a read. As I was reading through the blog post I found myself crying. And I wasn’t really sure why; this shouldn’t, to me, evoke such a strong emotional response.

But when I think about it, it should be totally reasonable for this to be an emotional topic for me. Reading that post I started crying thinking about what my future children might experience. Ideally my future involves meeting a woman who I will fall in love with and want to start a family with, and if that happens then my future children will have two mommies. Reading that also made me wonder and worry if my future kids in this scenario will be taught that that they have only one real mother, and what if I’m relegated to the role of unreal?

I notice this as a theme with queer issues and myself. I often find myself surprised by how emotional I feel about them, but more than the surprise at it I find that I often feel like I’m not “allowed” to have these feelings.

Coming out was one example. I was afraid of coming out- every time I have. Because I’ve never been 100% sure how people would react, if people would see me differently. And yet, I felt I wasn’t really allowed to be afraid of it. I’m very lucky to have friends and family who are supportive, and I knew they were ok with lgbtq people before coming out. The first people I came out to were close friends. And while I knew those friends had other friends who were queer and were allies, I couldn’t help but wonder if me being queer would change things between us. Would they feel differently about common friendly touches, or expressions now? If I tell a girl friend that I love her, as I’ve done many times, will she start to think I mean something other than friendship with that?

I had similar fears coming out to family. Yes, they’ve always been supportive of queer friends and family. But I also know that how we feel about things can be different in theory, or when it’s distanced from us, than how we feel when we are forced to confront it up close and personal. And sometimes we do not react according to our ideals when things hit close to home. I also know that things can look different when you are on the outside rather than inside- the degree of acceptance can seem different from an outsider perspective than an inside one. Actually the above blog post has an example of this- from the outside, to a straight parent the school may seem very accepting of queer parents and different families by including Tango Makes Three, whereas from the perspective of the author as a queer parent who met with the school and saw them reject 3 other books that represent queer parents the level of acceptance would seem a bit lower. There are a lot of aspects of prejudice and discrimination that we don’t see unless we are on the receiving end.

Even though queer issues are deeply personal ones to me, and ones that it’s reasonable for people to feel emotional about, I still often feel that I personally am not entitled to feel that way. That I am appropriating these feelings. That because I have been lucky to have people in my life who are supportive and because I have certain levels of passing privilege I’m appropriating these feelings that belong to people who really have to struggle with these things- people who have to face friends and family who are homophobic, people who are currently in same-sex relationships (compared to me being single and able to pass with no relationship that would out me), and queer parents who actually have to deal with those struggles (compared to me whose relationship to queer parenting is all based on a hypothetical future right now).

And the rational part of me knows this makes no sense, that as a queer person being emotional about queer issues is not appropriating anything. And yet I still found myself surprised when these issues have such an emotional impact one me.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately both just in my own life as I spend time in front of my mirror putting on makeup, as well as in discussions with other folks on the topic of gender, appearances, and makeup.

I’ve always liked makeup and wearing it, but I didn’t use to wear it as often and wasn’t really as into make up as I have been the last couple of years. I learned more about makeup application and started wearing it more, along with learning more about hair style techniques as my health got worse. A lot of it has to do with looking healthier. With make-up I can cover up dark circles under my eyes, petechial hemorrhages, and any other discolorations. I’ve learned ways to help cover up hair loss- side parts, dry shampoo, and hair mousse.

I like wearing makeup, I like playing around with it and with different looks. I find it fun the ways you can change your look with makeup.

A close up from the first time I did rainbow eyeshadow

A close up from the first time I did rainbow eyeshadow

Wearing makeup and dressing up and the like also is a constant reminder and evidence to me of how much gender is an act. When I put on make up and dresses and the like I feel like gender is something I put on, play with, make a conscious choice to display in a certain way.

Full look with rainbow eyeshadow and my fedora.

Full look with rainbow eyeshadow and my fedora.

I don’t mean this in a gender identify sense though. Because I still 100% identify as a woman regardless of how I present myself. But it becomes clear that gender is largely a construct. I’ve said before on here that I am femme/hard femme. I’ve never really been very butch. But I can play with my gender in different ways. I can be very feminine and girly and put on make up and dresses and heels. Or I can choose to dress in a more masculine way, forgo makeup, and even cut my hair short.

Fuck your gender norms

Fuck your gender norms

Most of the time I prefer something in between. I like to combine things that are traditionally more masculine with things traditionally more feminine. Makeup and my fedora, a dress with combat boots, shaving my head and paring it with makeup and a feminine look, a blazer with an otherwise girly outfit, et cetera.

Of course there are other times these pairing were less a choice than something the felt required of me. In college I shaved my head- full on buzz cut as you can see up there. It drew a lot of attention. Some positive, some silly- people were always wanting to feel my head (not that I can blame them, it felt very cool :-P), but also a fair bit of negative attention too. I got asked why I was trying to look like a boy. Of course I was never trying to look like a boy. This very awesome article talks more too about how women who dress more masculine/butch are not trying to look like men. Of course I’ve never even been very masculine/butch either. But I felt even more pressure to wear dresses and skirts after accusations that I was trying to look like a man by shaving my head, like I had to prove my gender, or try to show I was still feminine girly. Which is really stupid.

But it drives home a lot, to me at least, how much gender in our society is just an act. I’m still a woman regardless, but whether I’m feminine, masculine, femme, butch, conforming to or violating norms all comes down to these very temporary and malleable things like makeup, clothing, and hair.

But while there are all these sides of makeup and fashion that are very interesting to me and I enjoy thinking about, and playing around with, there is another side that often is missing in a lot of discussions of this. One a day to day basis, I’m not thinking about any of those things when I wear makeup. I’m thinking about looking healthy. I’m thinking about trying to look in a way that avoids people telling me I look sick or tired or asking what’s wrong. Some days I can go without makeup. Other days, I look in the mirror without any make up on, or my hair done in any way, and I realize just how sick I look. I mentioned briefly in my post on the hardest part of having chronic health problems that I’m basically always exhausted and always in pain. In varies in severity, but it’s pretty much a constant. And that sucks. But if I can avoid it, I would rather not look as awful as I feel all the time. So for me, makeup and hair and all these things are very significantly impacted by my health and disabilities.

I’ve come across this idea many times that women who attracted to women should in some way or another follow the same “rules” or norms as straight men. I mean, afterall, we are both attracted to women, so shouldn’t matters related to that be the same?

Except, not really. Just because I’m also attracted to women doesn’t make me the same as a straight man, and trying to explain why is a little hard because it feels obvious- I’m not straight and I’m not a man. Obviously the two experiences will be different.

One example I’m reminded of is something that has come up a few times with some straight men friends of mine. I have a few small pinup images in my living room. I love old fashion pinups! Seems sort of natural to me to put some up in my home. Some straight men friends find this weird. And maybe it is. I don’t know, I’m often weird!

But I find their reasoning weird. The reasoning given is usually “even men don’t hang up pictures of naked women on their walls!” (Straight being implied there.) And all I can think is ‘… ok. I’m not a man.’ Well, that and the fact that most pinup images are not of naked women and the ones I have that are naked are not full frontal or anything.

This is an example of one I have where the woman is naked:

The way they say it though you’d think it was hardcore porn or something.

Now I’m not trying to imply that it’s normal for queer women to decorate their homes with pinup art. I’m just saying, I find it really weird the implication in these statements that as a queer woman I should be behaving like a straight man. As if it makes any kind of sense to tell me that men don’t do X in order to imply I should not do X, when I am not a man.

This is just one example, but I’ve come across this idea before. This idea that queer women are just like straight men or should behave just like straight men because we are all attracted to women.

But it just doesn’t work that way. And seems to be an extension of the idea of straight men as the default. Straight men are the default and so it’s the default way of acting if you are attracted to women, so anyone who attracted to women should act like straight men.

It reminds me too of something I read, though I can’t remember where, that made a comparison about how a club or event requiring kink wear might turn away a straight man in a business suit, but a lesbian in one could be considered “kinky” to get in. Because a straight man in a business suit is normal, whereas a woman in one is breaking gender norms.

It all kind of comes back to basics, as a queer woman, I am neither straight, nor a man.  And that means something! It means something to my experiences. My experiences with sexuality and relationships are not those of a straight person, they are of a queer person in a heteronormative society. Similarly, I’m not a man and my experiences in the world are not going to be those of a man, but of a woman in a sexist society.

And sometimes, the ways those things differentiate my experiences from those of straight men are obvious. I’ve spent a lot of time around straight men who talk in very degrading terms about women they’ve had sex with, want to have sex with, and don’t want to have sex with. I feel no comradery in this talk just because I also sleep with women. Because I’m a woman. That means I am subject to and always at risk of being subject to this type of degrading commentary. Because as a woman, sexism hurts me in a way it does not hurt straight men.

I’m also reminded of something I saw just today- starting with Jenny Trout’s awesome piece on wearing a bikini which then lead me to her blog post about her feelings and responses to that piece, all of which is awesome in many ways, but on topic here I am reminded of her pointing out a man who responded to the piece simply with “no thanks”. Not uncommon. Because straight men are taught to view women’s value based on whether or not they want to fuck us. It doesn’t really matter if we would want to fuck them, they are still taught in our society that it matters if they don’t deem us fuckable. Society does not teach queer women that our attraction is so almighty as to determine other people’s worth. In fact, queer attractions are usually not considered or represented at all. Further as a woman, queer or straight, I’m still subjected to the other side of men thinking my worth is based on their assessment of my sexual attractiveness.

So while straight men and queer women are both attracted to women, the experiences are vastly different.

Now, how exactly that translates over to my love for pinups, I’m not sure. I just know that it doesn’t make any sense to assume that the norms of straight men apply to me as a queer woman.

 

This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, though I’ve been struggling with how to phrase this.

Often these days when I am working out, trying to build muscle, and being thrilled when I see more muscle on me, I also feel a liberation in that in being queer.

This comes mainly from not giving a fuck if men find me attractive. Because as women, there is a pretty strong message that being muscular is not attractive. Not to mention that muscular gets conflated with looking like a man. Most weight lifting advice aimed at women that I’ve seen spends a good deal of time dealing with the issue of bulking and how women are physiologically incapable of building bulky muscle like that. Which isn’t actually true, relying on a very narrow view of sex and gender and failing to recognize that many folks fall out of the “norm” for their sex/gender in various ways- some they may not even be aware of. Including the fact that hormone levels, which most of this “women can’t get bulky” stuff relies on, vary vastly among cis gendered women, and you don’t even really know where you fall in the normative spectrum with that unless you’ve had those tested which most folks haven’t.

But I’m getting a little off track, my point is, even when advocating weight lifting, there is still this common fear for women of getting too bulky. Because building muscle and being strong does cause one to veer off traditional gender norms a bit for women. And we are often told that men find muscles on women gross and/or intimidating. Men are supposed to be stronger and protect women, and women fail if we are stronger and don’t make them feel needed- How I Met Your Mother addresses this once with Robin when Ted comments on how it’s nice to feel needed and Robin never made him feel that way because she could take care of things herself.

Now obviously these are generalities and stereotypes, and plenty of men do find women with muscle, who are strong and capable very attractive, it’s just not really the dominate message in our culture. So there is a sense of relief that I don’t have to think about or worry about that.

Because being queer, there is a lot more acceptance of breaking gender norms. Because queer sexualities are already viewed as somewhat gender deviant. And it seems much more normal among queer women than straight women to break other gender norms and social roles- androgynous looks are well accepted typically with many queer women choosing to wear men’s clothing.

For me, I’m pretty much on the femme side of things, yet still I feel that I can go a bit more masculine in small ways and still potentially be attractive to other women rather than feeling I have to be totally girly. In fact, with a slight issue of femme invisibility butching my look up a little I feel like I’m probably more inclined to be read as gay/queer and more likely then to attract attention from other queer women.

And I think building muscle goes into this.

Which is odd in a way because there is no guarantee of such things. When I was dating my ex I was not working out due to health issues and whenever I mentioned missing it and wanting to be well enough to work out, she would say things discouraging it. I didn’t need to workout. She worked out, and also wore almost exclusively men’s clothing, but she clearly was attracted to me being more girly and being “softer”- not hard and muscled.  So it’s very clear to me that queer women can find muscles a turn off just as much add straight men.

Which leave me just finding it very hard to explain why I feel this way. Because there is a contradiction there, yet I still feel like I have more freedom, in a way, to break gender norms as a queer woman than I did when I identified as straight, or even bi, when I still thought about being attractive to men.

So I’m going to go a little off topic from the fitness and body image stuff here. I saw this post “I have to come out as a lesbian everyday, and it’s exhausting” and wanted to share that as well as some of my own thoughts.

The constant coming out is one thing I think most straight folks just don’t get. As the author of that piece says, we think about and talk about coming out as one big event that happens and is done. And we tend to think that queer people are either in the closet, or out. It’s all or nothing. Of course it’s not that simple.

Even the big reveals aren’t always. I first came out to my friends as bi in early college. But between then and a little over a year ago I was not out to my family. Around the time I came out to my family I then “came out” to some friends as a lesbian.

Changing identities can make this all the more complicated! I currently prefer “queer” as an ID, though lesbian or gay are ok with me. My primary attraction is toward women but it’s not impossible that I could be attracted to a man.  Quantified I’d say I’m probably 90-95% gay.

I’ve had similar experiences to the author. Being femme (I like the term “hard femme” and feel it’s fairly accurate for me) I don’t typically set off people’s gaydar. Even within lgbtq spaces I’m used to being assumed to be a straight ally. I’ve also had friends I’ve had to come out to multiple times because it just never seemed to stick that i’m queer. “Well you’re straight…” NO! Not only have I told you, many times now, that I’m not- you hung out with me and my ex-girlfriend when we were together numerous times, how do you still think I’m straight!?!

And there is the constant coming out in daily life… and again not fitting neatly into one of the lgb boxes can make that more complicated though. I think of when I’ve met new people and they started talking about karaoke, I start to talk about how I used to go out to karaoke a lot when I was with my ex and I realize that in order to finish what I’m saying I have to either use the correct feminine pronouns and out myself to people I don’t know well enough yet to know how they will react (and while the vast majority of folks will not react to that violently, I still have to worry about the minority of folks who would, because I don’t know if someone I just met is in that minority) or I  just outright lie by using masculine pronouns, or I try to really awkwardly reword what I’m saying to avoid any pronoun usage, or names, or labels like “girlfriend”/”boyfriend”.

And while I’d say I’m semi-out at work (there are some people who know, most folks it’s never come up with), at every new job it becomes a question of if I should out myself there, and the risks if I do (particularly when employers can openly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation if they choose under current law).

The closeted/out dichotomy isn’t really a dichotomy at all because many queer folks are simultaneously both just in different situations. For some folks that means only being “out” to a small number of people, while for others it may mean being out but not wanting to bother correcting an assumption on the part of a stranger, and for many something else in between there.

But “coming out” isn’t so much one big event as it is a process that never really ends.