Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Utne Reader and Other Recent Events

I certainly hope this is the last Saturday of mandatory overtime I'll be forced to work for a very, very, very long time. I'm quite exhausted.

My copy of the Utne Reader that mentions me (or more accurately, my website) arrived in the mail on Thursday. I wish they'd included the actual URL; I suppose that readers who are interested could find it from a search engine easily enough, but when all the magazine specifies is "the Queer by Choice website," they could just as easily be referring to Frank Aqueno's Queer by Choice website or Daryl Vocat's Queer by Choice website or some guy named Gary's Queeer by Choice Website or any of many other queer by choice websites. If not for the fact that they emailed me and said it was my site they were mentioning, I wouldn't know whether it was mine they were referring to or not. At least I suppose if Curve is publishing a whole review devoted specifically to my website they'll surely manage to specify the actual URL of it. That will be much preferable. Aside from the absence of a URL, though, I'm pleased enough with what Utne said. Here is what it said:
"The idea that homosexuality is not a choice - that it is in some sense 'hard-wired' - is a major tenet of much gay liberation theory, a counter to the conservative view that gayness is 'mere' choice of lifestyle. But, of course, for conservatives the choices of the marketplace (big suburban house, gas-guzzling car, luxury goods) are reasonable, even sacred, while deeper and more self-defining choices (to change one's sex, to come out of the closet, to leave a failing marriage) represent irresponsible behavior that ought to be curtailed in defense of 'the family' or some other supposedly changeless traditional entity. But some gay groups like Queer By Choice are unwilling to abandon the flag of choice that has flown over so much liberationist thinking in our time, unwilling to give the field over to determinism. On their Web site, they insist that gay people (and all other people) can choose even their emotions."
I noticed that a critique of the idea that sexual preferences are genetic also appears in an unrelated article by a different author on page 26 of the same issue of Utne. This pleased me quite as much as the reference to my own website. One mention of a certain idea in a magazine constitutes an acknowledgement that the idea exists among at least a few occasional weirdos; but two mentions by two different authors in the same magazine proclaims much more strongly that this idea has actual significance beyond a mere few occasional weirdos. This other critique reads:
"Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the 'defection' of a lesbian to a straight relationship might be viewed, by a community that often feels embattled, as tantamount to betrayal. Still, as Athena Douris and Diane Anderson-Minshall report in Bitch (Fall 2002), the punishment often meted out - banishment - can be severe. Such was the fate that befell JoAnn Loulan, who for 20 years was the world's leading lesbian sex therapist and a reknowned lesbian author - until she fell in love with a man. Now she's branded a 'hasbian.' Her best friend stopped talking to her, speaking engagements disappeared, and book sales declined. So why is a woman who is open to having same-sex, opposite-sex, and transgender partners viewed as such a threat? According to Douris and Anderson-Minshall, an argument long used in support of gay rights - that you're either 'born gay' or you're not - may be partly to blame. Think about it: To say that queers can't help but love who they love because their sexuality is biologically determined pretty much removes choice from the equation. And bisexuals (or, if you prefer, 'pansexuals' or 'polysexuals') bring the question of free will - of participating in creating and defining one's own sexual orientation - to the forefront."

JoAnn Loulan obviously had a rotten best friend. I wonder, however, if the reason she was banished and her books stopped selling also had a lot to do with her being outspokenly queer by choice.
Why is everybody freaking out about it being a choice? It's a great choice. I don't know why the genetics argument is going to help us. It didn't help blacks. I think it is a pathetic argument to say "I can't help it."
     —JoAnn Loulan, quoted in "The Sexual Blur" by Ted Gideonse, from The Advocate, June 24, 1997

I keep saying to myself, what's wrong with choosing lesbianism. Maybe some of us were born that way and maybe some of us chose it. I keep trying to figure out what's wrong with choosing it. I think it's a fabulous choice. What a great idea!
     —JoAnn Loulan

There's a big controversy now: Is lesbianism hereditary? People are trying to find a genetic predisposition to being gay. I think part of this is positive in that researchers are trying to tell the establishment, "Don't try to cure homosexuality. They were born this way. A certain percent of the population is going to be this way, no matter what you do."
But even if they're right, what about those for whom it's not hereditary? Many women say it's a choice. They have chosen lesbianism because of positive experiences with women. . . . Why are we so afraid to say we chose it? It's so scary to take that chance and say, "I am choosing it. It's really what I want to do. It's not because my DNA is making me. DNA be damned, I think I'll be a lesbian."
     —JoAnn Loulan, in her book Lesbian Passion: Loving Ourselves and Each Other, p. 35
On the other hand, an article about arranged marriages contains, on page 70 of Utne, a description of a man who "is undertaking a bold step to prove his theory that love can be learned. He wrote an editorial in Psychology Today last year seeking women to participate in the experiment with him. He proposed to choose one of 'the applicants,' and together they would attempt to fall in love - consciously and deliberately." All I can say in response to that is: How the hell else would you go about falling in love? That sounds exactly like what I do every time I fall in love. I can't imagine any other possible way to do it. Why on earth does the writer describe it all in this astonished tone as though the man is undertaking a bizarre Martian ritual that's never been tried on the human species before?

Anyway. Other recent events in my life:
  • Yesterday evening after work, I bought a sewing machine. It cost $150. I've never owned a sewing machine before. I took it out of the box yesterday but I haven't actually plugged it in yet. I figured I had to buy it though, because a few days earlier I bought a bunch of purple and turquoise fabric and the mere sight of all that fabric made me too exhausted to contemplate attempting to sew it in my usual non-machine-assisted manner. I expect the machine to make everything go vastly faster.

  • The brand name printed in large letters across my new sewing machine is "Brother," and I've been trying to figure out what to make of the gender implications of that. The lettering is a sort of dull pinkish-purplish grey - perhaps you could call it "mauve" - and there's a very strange wallpaper-like repeating illustration behind the lettering: it looks like pictures of huge scary exotic stinging insects with incredibly immense long stingers. So, the pinkish-purplishness and the inclusion of a patterned design makes it seem very female-stereotyped (print patterns are very unmasculine; things designed for males are far more often solid colors), but the fact that the pattern is of a stinging insect (or at least that's what it looks like to me - perhaps I'm missing something?) seems distinctly out of synch with female stereotyping, and I'm hopelessly torn between interpreting the label "Brother" as a radical new proclamation of the masculinity of sewing machines, or else just seeing it as a standard patriarchal claiming of everything in sight as being owned by males, which does not in any way imply that females aren't still expected to do all the work of actually using the things. Of course, obviously, corporations are never radical, so I know in what way the brand name must have been meant. But the question is whether or not I can bring myself to convincingly reinterpret it to mean the exact opposite.

  • I was at the grocery store a few days ago, and when I returned from the store to my car, which has a rainbow stripe sticker across the bumper, a man had pulled his SUV with the "I Support President Bush and Our Brave Troops" into the space next to mine, and he was standing outside the SUV with all the doors open and the radio blaring Rush Limbaugh. I put my groceries into my car and the man continued to stand outside his SUV, watching me put my groceries into my car and blaring Rush Limbaugh out of his. Rush Limbaugh was ranting at the top of his lungs about how "some people want to forget all about the Founding Fathers, some people want to rewrite history and pretend our country was founded by the Founding Transsexuals or the Founding Transvestites." Now, I can honestly say I've never heard anyone mention anything at all about any of the Founding Fathers being transvestites, much less transsexuals, but solely to spite Rush Limbaugh I'm now tempted to go research and try to find evidence for such a thing.

  • In May of last year, I put $2,000 (the maximum that was allowed) into a Roth IRA certificate and immediately felt all amazingly financially responsible and well-provided for because of having done it. Now it's approaching its one-year maturity date, which means I'm finally allowed to more than double its size to a new maximum of $5,000, which is precisely what I arranged at the bank a few days ago to have done. Now I feel even more amazingly financially responsible and well-provided for than ever. Seriously, I don't know why anyone ever spends money on anything they don't absolutely need, because just the feeling of having money in the bank that's been handled in a way that enables it to earn significant interest while I sit at home and do nothing at all is the best mood-improvement device in the whole world. I can hardly wait till next May when I can do it all over again.

  • Various people I am acquainted with who've been best friends with each other for quite a long time, or who've vowed to be there for each other forever and ever no matter what, and whose possession of such close and long-lasting friendships I have long envied, have lately decided to stop speaking to each other. There are several such groups of people who've stopped speaking lately, and in each case I have talked to all the parties involved, and in each case what all of the people say basically comes down to this: "I know, it makes me terribly sad too, but I just don't seem to have the ability to fix it." And then each of them stops speaking about it and stops writing about it and lapses into silence and I don't know what any of them are thinking or feeling anymore and most of all I don't know whether they're doing anything about it. Well, for all I know perhaps it really wasn't worth having in the first place and it only looked like fun from the outside, where I was; but I want to believe it was more than that, I want to believe that you had something worth having and so I insist upon grieving over its loss, and I want all of you to know that every day I still go to each of your journals and check hopefully to see if one of these days you'll have added each other back to your LiveJournal friends lists.

  • I have a new crush and her name is Elena. I had a crush on her after she wrote me one email, and then she stopped writing to me after writing only two. I immediately feared the worst. What interests me is what my concept of "the worst" consists of: my worst fear is not of not being liked, but rather of people turning out to be people who I can't like. To not get what I want, in other words, does not depress me anywhere near as much as the fear that there might not even be anything out there in the world that's even worth wanting. So I was terrified that Elena would turn out to be someone who I wouldn't like enough to have a crush on anymore. However, this did not happen at all; I wrote back to question what the delay was about, and the reply I received was not in the least what I had feared. So the only thing in question is whether she will find me to be to her taste. And that's a very much preferable thing to be in doubt about. I am immensely relieved.

  • I finally completely finished hand-weaving the rainbow border on that white skirt tonight. I shall wear it to work on Monday.
I should really go to bed now. So I will. And tomorrow I shall attempt to get acquainted with my sewing machine.
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