When I started writing this, I opened with a casual reference to "a friend of mine." It occurred to me shortly thereafter that we'd never actually met, though we've been connected down the wire for several years, and we do share certain interests: she's a car buff, she watches MLP:FiM and she follows fashion. So "a friend of mine" she is. And she did something recently that took me slightly by surprise: I knew the facts of the matter, but I'd never seen them codified in this way. To the header of a photoblog she runs, she added this description: "Curator is a pansexual transgender woman (pronouns: she-her-hers)." (She's since dropped the description, which does not mean she's changed.)

Okay, maybe I didn't know "pansexual," but technically that's none of my beeswax anyway, and I wouldn't have asked. And the word means pretty much what you think it does: says the OED, "not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity." I don't relate to this personally, being decidedly inhibited myself; but in an era where all manner of people are closeted for all sorts of reasons, usually bad — there are those who, if they could, would lock me away for writing pony stories — I have to applaud this "This is what I am, take it or leave it" stance.

About a quarter-century back, a former coworker died at an appallingly young age from something I'd never heard of before. There were those who deemed it necessary to enlighten me, and when they did, I felt more insulted than instructed: the chap was maybe more of a party animal than I was (as who wasn't?), but I'd never heard that he'd ever been unkind to anyone, and the idea that the Almighty would conjure up a whole new disease just to punish him and others like him — well, that didn't sound like any deity I wanted anything to do with.

Still, when things boil down to "A handful of people are wrong" versus "God Himself is wrong", I know which way to bet. I didn't go out of my way to meet gay people, though it turned out I'd known several all along and didn't know it. "You never asked," said one, sensibly enough. Silly me: I'd thought it was none of my business. I continued to be puzzled, however, by all the talk about the Dire Threat they presented. They certainly didn't threaten me: only once did a gay man try to pick me up, and once I'd let it be known that I was playing for a different team, he politely backed away and presumably went on to the next available candidate. Later, I shrugged it off; after all, I wasn't all that cute to begin with.

In the middle Eighties, perhaps motivated by Joni Mitchell, who'd looked at life from both sides now, I conjured up a feminine persona for online use. I learned two things from that experiment: first, that people are all too willing to jump to conclusions, which didn't surprise me, and second, that it wasn't that difficult for me to shift gears, as it were, which did. Up to this point, I was pretty solidly a Kinsey zero; that hadn't changed, but whatever innate revulsion was supposed to keep me from sliding elsewhere had dissipated, if it had ever really been there in the first place.

People with "hardware mismatches," to borrow my euphemism of the time, were at the time below my personal radar: I had read Christine Jorgensen's book; as counter, I'd read David Reuben's Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, which curtly dismissed M2F types as "castrated and mutilated female impersonators." Still, we're talking a purely binary form of gender, possessors of Tab A or Slot B, and it hadn't yet occurred to me that there might be something in between, or off the scale entirely.

Now the problem with going off the scale, I think, has to do with a bit of academic skullduggery called "intersectional analysis," which posits that the issues of any one group are inextricably bound up with the issues of any other group to which you might belong: "Intersectional analysis is about saying 'I am black, and I am also a woman, which makes me a kind of Power Ranger because when these traits combine I get a new, MEGA-OPPRESSION'." The one advantage of this technique, I submit, is that it gives you a wider choice of enemies, which is useful if your particular mindset demands such. Having pared down my own list of enemies to about the size of "People who think Nancy Pelosi is anything other than a shakedown artist," I find it incomprehensible and/or counterproductive; all else being equal, I try to keep my personal relationships more one-on-one and less us-vs.-them.

As you might think, I am not keen on the idea of politicizing gender, as I am not keen on the idea of politicizing anything: the surest way to ensure a problem is not solved is to turn it over to not-even-slightly-disinterested parties who view it as yet another means to their desired end. And this is why my friend's public announcement struck me as important: instead of leaving it up to the Sensitivity Enforcers, she's made her disclosures with the expectations that they will be honored by people of honor. She didn't say "the politicians be damned"; but I will.

The Vent

  19 January 2014

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