Trans Day of Visibility

The International Trans Day of Visibility was yesterday, and naturally I missed commemmorating it. Given that it is April Fool’s, today is a bad day to catch up, but I will post this anyways.

I am not trans myself, although I feel dysphoria about my body in minor mundane ways. I have met several trans people through the Lurkville LGBTQ+ centre. I doubt any of them would consider me a friend, but it has been good for me (yay privilege).

I firmly believe that trans people are going through the same thing that lesbians and gays faced twenty years ago.

I know that I have been transphobic in the past — not in the sense that I hated trans people but in the sense that I feared them and did not understand them. Participating in LGBTQ+ activities has helped a lot. So it is clear to me that trans visibility makes a difference.

I think a lot of gay and bisexual men feel threatened by the trans community. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of conflation between gay men and crossdressing. People thought gay men dressed as women to have sex with other men. The backlash against that reminds me of the contempt many bearish types have towards twinks, or the contempt many gay men have towards women, or the contempt gay men feel towards bisexuals. This is not okay. I wish cisgendered gay and bisexual men could be confident enough in their identities that they did not feel threatened when other people expressed their identities in different ways.

I am guessing that many people would still consider me transphobic. I harbour concerns about the modern trans movement just as I harbour concerns about the modern gay movement. I am hoping this does not prevent me from being an ally to the extent I am able.

I am glad that trans people are visible in my community. I want them to be safe and have fulfilling lives, just as I wish this for others. I hope I have done more good than harm in commemmorating this day. I don’t know that I have much more to say than that.

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Gay Dance

Even as I harangue poor Steven to stay on his farm (*), I exploit the advantages of city living. The Lurkville LBGTQ+ community centre put on a 70s themed dance, and I decided to go.

I bought the ticket last week, but that was as much for financial support (a whopping $3) as anything else. I was not sure I wanted to attend. First of all, a wise doctor once advised me to beware loose women and social dancing, and by attending this function I would put that in jeopardy. Also, the music at dances is too loud and hurts my ears. Also, I never went to dances as a youngster. I avoided going on certain field trips because I knew dances would be involved. I worried about proximity to alcohol and I worried about how dancing is linked to mating rituals and sex. Also, I don’t know how to dance and I have no sense of rhythm and the best I can do is the white-guy two-step.

I think the first time I tried dancing was at a workplace party five years ago. I did not want to go up, but my co-workers encouraged me to try. I tried, and it was not awful, but I felt very self-conscious.

Thus I have always felt awkward about dances, and about dancing. On the other hand I unironically love 70s disco, and have been deeply ashamed of my own self-consciousness around dance. I have been at outdoor events where others were dancing. I admired those people. I especially admired when people who were not typical dancers got up and moved their bodies. But I would always feel self-consicous, and would not join in.

So the afternoon of the dance I asked myself a question. Did I really want to go? I decided that I did. But even as I said it I knew my motives were not pure. I had read enough literature about the 1970s and 1980s party scene to know that others went to dances in order to hook up. I knew that this dance was put on as a throwback to dances held in the 1970s and 1980s in Lurkville, before there were gay bars in the area. I knew some of my motivations were predatory, and that I was hoping I would spy some luscious manflesh to be my prey.

As it turns out there was some luscious manflesh on display, and some luscious womanflesh too. But — surprise, surprise — none of it had any interest in me. The crowd definitely skewed older; I may be old but I was probably in the youngest quintile there. As it turns out this wasn’t really a dance but more of a dinner — the organizers had catered a LOT of food: sandwiches and pulled pork and salads and desserts. When I arrived, people were eating and not dancing, even though the DJ was spinning tunes. Naturally I ate too, because I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control.

I did not know many people there. But one of the people I did know is quite the free spirit. He said he wanted to dance, but that he would wait until some others were out dancing already. I pointed out that if everybody thought the way he did nobody would dance all night, and I challenged him to get on the dance floor. Then he challenged me to get on the dance floor. So I did. The free spirit started waving his arms and legs around, and I kept my arms to my sides and did the white-guy two-step, bobbing my head occasionally. And like magic, other people followed the free spirit’s lead. The dance floor began to fill up.

I felt self-conscious but this was stupid. I eat out of garbage cans; what right do I have to feel self-conscious about anything? So I closed my eyes. I let the banal lyrics and grooving basslines wash over me. I tried to let go and let the music move my body. And my body started to move.

There was no dramatic transformation. Mostly I stuck to the white-guy two-step, with a few side-steps for flair. I tried to use my arms more during choruses, which sort of worked. The important part was that I was letting the music tell my body what to do.

Meanwhile, other people were dancing and enjoying themselves. That was magic. Oddly, it was mostly the older people who got up, and mostly for the classics everybody recognised. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am” brought the crowds, with many people mouthing the lyrics as they danced. A group of bluehairs (literally — one of them had a blue hair rinse) shook their heads no no no, and then got up to shake their septuagenerian booties for a couple of numbers. There was a man in his eighties wearing a suit and tie, whom (I think) was there with his wife. They sat and watched for a long time, and eventually they came up for a dance as well.

Most of the youngsters stayed glued to their chairs. There was one young woman whose head was bobbing. I sensed that she wanted to dance, but also didn’t want to. That could have been me. That was me at all those other events where I felt too self-conscious to move my body. I felt so bad for her. But by the end of the evening she had gotten up too, dancing in a circle with a trio of youngsters who had arrived in amazing 70s vintagewear.

I kept moving my body. I probably danced (or should I say, “danced”) for three out of the four hours the dance floor was active. For some unfathomable reason, the dance floor cleared when Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was spinning, but as a wannabe rationalist I love that song (and its amazing video) so I kept going. I could sense that I looked like an idiot, and that people were staring, and I didn’t care.

The wise doctor was not wrong. Social dancing is strong magic. I have read many accounts of the 70s pre-AIDS nightlife, of people going to dance clubs and dancing and dancing. I thought all those metaphors of freedom and energy were proxies for lust. But no. Independent of the mating rituals and the sex, dancing itself feels like a form of freedom. It feels like the essence of embodiment. As I moved my body I tried to appreciate that despite my increasing aches and pains, my joints still work and my body is still capable of movement. I thought of the ticket collector at the dance, who was barely able to walk today because her hip was giving her too much trouble, and I gave thanks (to whom?) that I am not yet dealing with chronic pain.

Like other strong magic, I can sense how dangerous social dancing is. I can easily see how it could lead to loose women or worse. I got lucky. Although alcohol was consumed at the event it did not seem to be the focus. Similarly, there was little danger of sex at the event (at least not for me). If I had been braver a few decades earlier, I could be in real trouble now. But I got lucky.

Would it be wise for me to go to future dances? Am I going to become a circuit party devotee? I don’t know. I could see this becoming an expensive habit, and I could also see myself being a coward the next time I am faced with the challenge of dancing in front of others. There is talk about this dance becoming a regular event; that could be very bad for me.

I think part of the reason I was able to overcome my inhibitions was because this was an LBGTQ+ dance. I don’t know how I feel about that.

There were other disconcerting aspects to the event. One thought is quite off-topic, but as it is heavy on my mind I will write it down. Earlier in the day I ran into a former co-worker who was really struggling. He was dealing with a lot of wrist pain and despite this was recently kicked off of disability (yay bureaucracy). He was broke, and talked me into giving him $10 so he could buy meat. Meanwhile, during the event I was horrified to see many of the catering leftovers go into the trash. Forget starving children in Africa; the disparities between those who have too much and those who have too little are readily apparent right here in Lurkville. (Of course, who am I to talk? I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control around food.)

(*) I am pretty sure that everybody who follows my blog also follows his, but if not then read this: http://sooo-this-is-me.blogspot.ca/2018/03/my-little-girl.html

New Years Resolutions

I guess I should get around to making some New Year’s resolutions, huh? Maybe some unrealistically ambitious goals will cleanse our collective palates.

No doubt this set of resolutions is not very comprehensive. I hope I do not cause too much harm by missing some.

Probably I will forget these resolutions by February, and I will go back to my miserable ways.

Health

This past year has been a bad one for health concerns. These resolutions address a few of them:

  • That Shawn and his symbiote Fearsome get some relief from their shoulder troubles. They try to put on an optimistic face on it, but I get the sense that they are in bad chronic pain.

  • That Blobby heals well from screwing up his thumb.

  • That RTG get some relief from his arthritis (and the other medical ailments he faces).

  • That the new medications work, and Dr. Spo gets his blood pressure under control.

Relationships

The heart is a lonely hunter. Here are some of my resolutions around relationships:

  • That people who are looking for nice boyfriends find them. Steven from sooo-this-is-me, RJ, Walter and CB come to mind, but I am sure there are others as well.

  • That Michael54 settle into his new life post-divorce and discover himself.

Other things

  • That JP and Guido get through their renovations of the new cafe, and that Guido manages to juggle both cafes well.

Control

I had a anger flareup this evening. It was not directly related to my sexuality so it probably does not belong on this blog, but oh well.

The short story is that I had plans and was told to abandon them out of consideration for another’s needs. That put me in a position of debt, which made me grumpy. Any relationship in the world is going to have these kinds of conflicts, but my tolerance for them is small. So it is better that I am alone.

Framing this as a control issue is not wrong, but my angry insight this evening is that this was as much about autonomy as it is about control. There are many situations where I am happy to defer to the wishes of others. But I am not willing to have my autonomy limited. I was raised in an emotionally difficult environment. I have been gaslit many times. It won’t happen again.

This makes it difficult to stay in relationship and it makes it difficult to sustain employment. I started a short-term contract recently and have been struggling with the bureaucracy and the institution. Everywhere I look there are rules, rules, rules: no peeing on the floor, no picking my nose in public, and most obnoxiously holding the company line even when I strongly disagree with that line. But thems the tradeoffs. If you don’t follow the rules you don’t get paid.

Toeing the line is difficult enough in the workplace, and I think I have decided that I won’t put up with it in my personal relationships. Thus it is highly likely that I will be alone for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

If I had one goal in life, it was to avoid ending up like my father. (Gee. That’s original.) He was (and probably still is) an angry, depressive man who — as far as I could tell — had zero friends, and thus put all of the burdens of human relationship onto his spouse. He grew more and more paranoid and got to the point where he could not work any more, but did not believe in psychiatry.

I thought I would be different, but as I age I am becoming more and more like him. (Gee. That’s original too.) I am angry and anxious to the point where it is difficult to hold down a job, and indeed this short-term contract may well be the last employment I ever have. I have few friends and am doing my level best to alienate the ones that remain. I demand control of situations and pretend I want autonomy, then stomp off when other people defy my wishes. I’m too cheap to go into therapy and too stubborn to go on SSRIs. The parallels are striking.

But I never married, and I never had kids. I avoided that much. If nothing else, the cycle ends with me.

Craigslist and Internalized Homophobia

My delightful commentariat agreed that broke neurotic homos looking for love ought to try Craigslist, so I hopped on the site closest to Lurkville and took a look-see. Oy vey. I wish I owned a closet so that I could have run screaming back into it, slamming the door shut behind me.

I’m trying to disentangle the antipathy I felt while browsing the site. I returned a second time as research (not “research”) for this entry, and it is still a mess. Expect this blog entry to be even less coherent than usual.

I don’t know what else I was expecting, but clearly the m4m sections of Craigslist are oriented towards hookups. (Even the “strictly platonic” sections aren’t.) That’s one strike, but I get the feeling that it is unavoidable in the m4m universe.

There are a few people looking for less hookup-y setups, and they stick out like sore thumbs. I find myself wondering whether these people are aware of what Craigslist is for, which is unfair because Craigslist is supposed to be for relationships, not just hookups.

Most of the posters want stats and pics. Stats I can deal with (sort of — my stats are underwhelming). Pics? Although pictures and even Youtube video of me exist on the Internet, I am pretty paranoid about not having my face on the Information Superhighway, whether in a gay context or otherwise. To my knowledge I have never taken a selfie. Clearly this is a dealbreaker when looking for looooooove; everybody (including me!) wants some idea of what they are getting into when answering a personals ad.

But there are pics and there are pics. Many of these Internet strangers want pictures of private body parts, and/or pictures where the subjects are immodestly dressed. Some people even post pictures on their profiles which contain both their faces and their immodestly-dressed bodies. That seems insane to me. But again it seems par for the course.

None of this is surprising. What surprised me was how much antipathy I felt browsing the profiles, even for people who ticked some of my boxes. I don’t like drama, and human relationships are full of drama. When I read a hookup ad my anxieties turned towards creepy people and disease. When I read a non-hookup ad they turned towards irritations and arguments. This is some combination of misanthropy, homophobia and rationalization, but it surprised me nonetheless.

Then there were the long disclaimers about no-shows and creeps and “endless emails”, which made participating in this community feel like an enormous amount of hassle. I have enough hassle these days looking for work and trying to find roommates; my tolerance for dealing with strangers is exhausted.

Most of these people are not creeps. When I get out of my head enough to interact with others, it occurs to me that most people are mostly good most of the time. There are probably several people who would make good friends and reasonable sexual partners. But everybody has drama, and I just don’t want to get involved with that drama.

On the positive side, I did run across ads that reflected some of my own perversions. These people were not looking for people like me, but it is somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only deviant in town.

But (and this is where my confessions get particularly uncomfortable) even though I want to see other people’s pictures and even though I appreciate that other people are looking for similar things to what I fantasize about, I feel deep fear about other people knowing that I am looking for these things. Being recognised on such sites by people I know in my daily life would be embarrassing, to say the least. Let’s call it what it is: internalized homophobia. I can rationalize this by saying that I don’t want it to affect my next job (there is some chance I would be teaching, and my students or administration could come across these activities), but I do not know how much I believe that. Certainly people can and do get fired from their jobs for their personal lives, but there are also lots of people in similar positions who actively look for looooooove on the Internets. Honestly, I would be embarrassed to post an explicit ad on Craigslist, and that is evidence enough that I should stay away.

I hate this. I hate these vacillations. I may be in a space now where I rationally and emotionally understand that I ought to be alone, but the part of me that feels lonely and craves human touch refuses to concede defeat. I’m over 30; by now my libido should have shrivelled up and left me in peace.

If nothing else, I think that Craigslist is probably the wrong forum for me. I doubt there is a right forum. In the past I have considered OKCupid, but I doubt that would work any better. Being on that site would still involve posting pictures and interacting with other human beings.

Straight Pill

From time to time I read memes with questions like “If there was a pill that could make you straight, would you take it?”

I think my answer is “no”, but probably not for the usual reasons. In a previous episode I expressed gratitude that I was not straight, because our hypersexualized culture is tough on straight men. I also expressed a wish to be asexual instead. So if the question was “would I take a pill that could make me asexual”, the answer ought to be “yes” even though in practice such pills exist and I do not take them.

That is part of the problem with this hypothetical. Pills get expensive, and Big Pharma is all about the chronic disease management over full cure model. There probably would not be a single pill to make me straight; instead I would probably have to sign up for a lifetime of prescriptions.

Maybe more importantly, I have always felt fairly adamant that I do not want to have kids, and being straight increases the risk of such an outcome considerably. (One would think that getting the snip would reduce it, but in my case I think the snip got botched.)

But in some sense, I guess I would not take such a pill because I believe that some aspects of sexuality are functions of choice, and I have not made those choices. Whatever else I am, it is pretty apparent that I am not a Kinsey 6. The only sexual experiences I have had with another person were with a woman, and the sex itself was usually pleasant enough (although there were many aspects of that relationship that were less than fine). In some parallel universe I have exactly the same sexuality I do in this universe, but I have been married off to some nice girl and dutifully had enough kids to satisfy the grandparents (although whether my parallel universe spouse and kids are happy is quite another story).

Even without a pill, I could probably live a life that is considerably straighter than I do now, but I have decided not to. Instead I read too many gay blogs and too much LBGTQ literature, and I associate too much with other deviants.

Would being straight leave an empty space in my existence that would have to be filled with something else? Possibly. Certainly I have squandered a lot of time and energy towards my homosexuality. I just wish there were guarantees that instead of sex I would fill that empty space with more worthwhile pursuits. There are a lot of other interesting pasttimes in this world.

Third Wheel

If I could choose, what would the structure of my sexual life be?

There seems to be some spectrum of commitment when it comes to sexual intimacy. On the one extreme is committed monogamous marriage for life with no exceptions. On the other is anonymous sex in public washrooms. I feel many sexually active people (even straight people) have relationships that exist between these extremes.

We have some vocabulary to describe these middle grounds, but it is pretty sparse. Bless the poly people, who are working hard on this problem. Some of the terms I am aware of include:

  • friends with benefits
  • pillow friends
  • secondary/tertiary relationship members
  • fuck buddies
  • spouse swappers
  • swingers
  • adulterers
  • pieces on the side
  • mistresses
  • casual daters
  • no-strings-attached relationship members
  • summer romance participants

Many of these terms are pejorative, but that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that few of them are stable states. Their failure modes tend to be either heading towards long-term committed relationships or to breaking off contact.

I want something in between. I don’t want a series of anonymous partners who do not form emotional connections with me. I also have zero interest in marriage or its substitutes, where others are obligated to stay with me when it is not fun any more. I do not want to combine finances and I do not want to have kids. But it would be nice to have people in my life who are friendly towards me, whose company I enjoyed, whom I found attractive and who wanted to enjoy sex with me precisely as long as it was worthwhile for them. Such relationships would probably last on the order of a year or three — not a few weeks, and not a few decades. I do not want a large number of sexual partners, but I am not committed to monogamy either.

Is such a thing possible?

I have my doubts, because most of the ideas we have around sexual relationships either focus on having many sexual partners (whom we may or may not care for emotionally) or focus on getting married as the “win” state. People who start out casually dating with no-strings-attached relationships often find themselves in trouble when one party is happy with keeping the relationship casual and the other is wondering whether the relationship “has a future”. Then come the ultimatums, because the long term goal of dating is supposedly to move towards marriage (or close relatives like civil partnerships).

One way around this problem would be to be a third wheel. Maybe there are couples out there who are already in committed relationships, but for some reason are not happy with strict monogamy. Maybe they have discordant sex drives. Maybe an otherwise straight man is struggling with same sex attraction, but doesn’t want to break up the marriage. Maybe both partners are tops, or bottoms, or in some other state where the other partner cannot meet all the sexual needs. Maybe they feel that two sexual partners is just not enough.

I think a common strategy among such couples is to become progressively unhappy and then eventually break up. That is a bad state. Another strategy is to bring in “guest stars”, who sometimes get treated like props or extras rather than as members of the relationship.

I think of third-wheel status as being a relatively stable, medium-term relationship in which all parties are aware of the third wheel and give explicit approval to it. The goal of the third wheel is not to become part of the primary household, and it is not to be a homewrecker and steal away one of the primary partners. For the most part, the primary partners meet each other’s emotional, material and financial needs, but one or more members shares an emotional and sexual connection with the third wheel.

I do not know how I would fare in such a relationship. Probably navigating jealousy issues between the primary partners would be too much. But such a setup might work better for me than trying to find an exclusive partner with no desires for marriage.

As I write this, it occurs to me that what I am describing is a subset of polyamorous secondary relationships. So if I am serious about pursuing this (hint: probably not) that would be the place to start.

This probably counts as Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #4.

I wish I could express these wishes with more clarity and fewer words. I also wish it was more socially acceptable to express preferences for relationship structures in the middle of the spectrum.

Two Months In

Don’t worry. I doubt this will become a monthly feature. But some additional thoughts have been rattling around about this experiment:

  • I think I have firmly established the theme of this blog as “Old Lurker is a prude and unbelievably neurotic”.

  • I have started dipping my toes into more controversial topics, and it has not been going well. But things will likely get rockier in coming months.

  • It is fairly apparent to me that this is not going to be a “forever blog”. I am running out of things to write already. I expect the shelf life to be six months or so.

  • On the one hand, I am upset that I have not grown my audience this month. On the other hand, who cares? There is lots of great blog product out there; I have little to offer that makes me stand out from the crowd.

Slow Walk

To say that Lurkville Pride was tough this year would be accurate. I have never felt that enthusiastic about Pride overall (internalized homophobia?) and as previously documented I had several bad experiences. But there was one positive that may be worth documenting, and (surprise, surprise) it arose because I overcame my social anxiety long enough to think about somebody else.

The context was Lurkville’s Pride march, which consisted of walking from City Hall for one entire block, all the way to a local park. While waiting for the event to start, I milled around with a few people I knew from the LGBTQ community centre. At the periphery of our group stood an older gentleman. His dress was not particularly rainbowesque (for example, he was not wearing one of the cheap dollar store leis the organizers were passing around) and he was standing by himself. I did not know whether he was a participant in the event or just an innocent bystander.

It turns out he was a participant. The community centre was passing out ridiculous signs for us to hold while we walked, so we passed one to this fellow and he accepted it. Then we started walking.

It turns out that this fellow was fairly elderly and fairly slow. The rest of the marchers were leaving him behind. Then I made the one good decision I have all Pride: I slowed down too, and walked with him at his pace.

We started talking. He told me that this was far from his first Pride; he had been participating in Pride marches since the early 1970s. He had a picture taken of himself with a big GAY PRIDE sign. He told me what brought him to Lurkville, and how his family farm had been appropriated by the government. It was not a long march, but I learned a lot.

The fact is that this man was an elder. It is because he was brave and came out in the 1970s that I enjoy relative ease as a non-straight person today. And there are so few elders left. He is 73, which means he was in his 30s during the plague years. But he survived. Far too few did. Now many of those who survived the plague are dying of old age. But for now he is still here and still being visible.

I am sorry that the group left him behind. I am glad he did not have to walk completely alone.

Of course, I screw up everything I do, and this was no exception. I did not learn the man’s name, and I probably would not recognise him again were we to meet. But I am grateful that he marched, and I am grateful that I was able to spend time with him.

Awkward Questions

Some questions feel taboo. Some questions feel inappropriate. I find myself wanting to know the answers to personal questions that are inappropriate/awkward to ask. For all of the moaning I do about communicating openly and honestly, I sure have hangups.

Here are a few of the things I wish I knew the answers to, but which I am too reticent to ask. The pattern that these all concern me and my status with others is no accident. Partly this is because I am self-obsessed, and partly this is because asking status-related questions appears to be part of the taboo.

  • How many people notice that I am a cheapskate? A glutton? To what extent does this hurt my reputation?
  • In what ways am I difficult to tolerate? (I think I know part of the answer to this).
  • Do others find my attempts to be funny helpful? Irritating? Would they prefer that I stop?
  • To what extent am I sensorially offensive to others? Do I smell? What smells? Is my “homeless chic” style offputting?
  • Some people I would have expected to read/comment on my two blogs do not appear to do so. Are they unaware of these blogs? Are they aware but bored? Do they actively wish to avoid reading what I write?
  • To what extent is my sexuality obvious to others, even if I have not discussed the topic with them?
  • To what extent do I have the gay accent? (Or, to put it more crudely, to what extent is my voice faggy?)
  • Who dislikes me? Why? What would I have to do to make amends?
  • Who thinks I dislike them? Why?
  • Who thinks I like them? Why?
  • What set of people would consider me a friend?
  • Why do others agree to socialize with me?
  • Have I been any person’s object of sexual interest in the last decade?
  • What did I actually do wrong in that job interview? What is the real reason you don’t want me for the job?
  • Can I be forgiven for the many bad things I do/have done? What would that look like? (Who would be doing the forgiving?)
  • Has anybody benefited from my existence in this world? Has there been net benefit? What about when you take opportunity cost into account? What marginal effect would there be (positive or negative) if I was to remain alive another year? Another five years? Another ten years?
  • How much do others judge me for being unemployed?
  • For how long after my death will I be remembered? What will I be remembered for, if anything?

Although I am putting these questions on the internet, I am not expecting answers. They are awkward to answer, and I doubt I want the emotional fallout of hearing the truth. This may go some distance towards explaining the taboo.

It is somewhat surprising that most of these questions could in principle be answered. (The future-oriented ones are different, of course.)

But even if I am not looking for answers to these questions I think it is interesting to note the phenomenon. Who knows? Maybe this will become semi-regular feature.