emanix

emanix


Maxine's Journal

Adventures of the Polka-Dotted One


[sticky post]Welcome to my world
emanix
emanix
I'm posting this entry for the edification of new readers, as a flag to my important posts (at least the ones important to me), and a map of my world.

My name's Maxine Green. I'm an artist and illustrator by trade, polyamorous (and many other things) by nature, a scientist at heart, and an activist by accident.

My introductory post is here: Butterfly

A continuing series of scribblings about the things that are important to me:
Defining My Terms: 1. Bisexuality
Defining my Terms 2: Polyamory
Defining my Terms 3: Kink
Defining My Terms 4: Radical Agnostic
(because not everything is about sex)
Some More Definitions
Recipe for the Good Life
Defining My Terms: On Gender.


Original Essays/Articles:

SAMOTURE - or This is What an Activist Looks Like (2009-10-01)
Bisexuality & Statistics: Twice as many dates? (2010-07-16)
Secret Loves (why they suck) (2010-06-10)
The Emanixine Creed (2010-10-03)
The big, beautiful shiny rainbow of kink (A.K.A. there's no One True Way) (2011-04-25)
On hierarchies, relationships and cat ownership. (March 9th, 2013)
On how touching someone without asking is assault. EVEN IF THEY LIKED IT. (October 17th, 2012)
I Am Not Here For Your Entertainment. (The Story) (October 25th, 2011)
Self-Evident Epiphanies - Human Beings. (January 30th, 2011)
Hi, I'm poly and I don't exist. (August 1st, 2010)
Polyamory and Statistics, or “Why haven't we found 'our third' yet?” (September 8th, 2014)
Polyamory: Not just many lovers, but many KINDS of love. (March 4th, 2015)
More on Poly and the Media: Diversity Vs. Representation (October 25th, 2015)
From the Archives --- Activism: The Incurable Bug (Originally published on Polytical.org) (December 29th, 2015)
. (.)


Resources:

Bicon Follow-Up - Poly 201 responses. (2010-09-05)
Bicon Follow-Up 2 - Recipe for Aloe-based Lube (2010-09-05)
Bicon Follow-Up 3 - SM/Breathplay, with link to Jay Wiseman's Essays (2010-09-05)
How to Be Trans-friendly and Subvert Crummy Gender Roles at the Same Time, in Five Easy Steps! (2010-04-07)
Legal Prostitutes Have HALF the Infection Rate of 'Straight' Population (2010-07-12)
'The Bastards! - A sympathetic technique for relationship harmony.' (September 27th, 2013)
More Bad Science - Contraception and Statistics. (a.k.a. Implanon Implants: They're Fine.) (January 9th, 2011)
Pharmacologist cookery, or 'what I cook when I have a cold'. :) (July 12th, 2015)
So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People? (October 1st, 2015)
. (.)

Some more "Me Manual" stuff:

Let's Only Date Grown-ups. (June 8th, 2012)
Form Letter (Response to idiots sending me form letters on dating sites and social networks) (October 23rd, 2013)
On Pain, Punishment and Perverse Incentives (February 3rd, 2012)
One from the Archives: Why I Love Techies. (November 21st, 2014 (Original, 2007))
The Penis Size Rant (September 18th, 2014)
Why My House is a Christmas Free Zone. (December 15th, 2014)
Height is Power (November 3rd, 2015)
. (.)


No doubt I'll edit this further as new things occur to me, and as my essay series grows.

In the meantime, enjoy!

M.

x

My Grandad's Butter Knife
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emanix
When I arrived to stay with my Grandad, after he got sick, he was chopping vegetables with a butter knife.

I almost asked him why, but after a moment's consideration I realised I already knew.



An engineer all his life, my Grandad was famous – at least within our family – for making new things out of other things. Need a new wardrobe? We'll whip one up out of this old door we had lying around. A new shelf for the coffee table? I'll just bang one together out of this old fruit box! I suspect there were at least a few other folks outside of our family who appreciated his talents, as he volunteered for decades at the Anson museum in Poynton, making steam engines work, building enclosures and supports and new pieces wherever they happened to be needed, to really get the best out of the machinery that was brought in, but he was always quietly proud of these things. Never one to blow his own trumpet or to brag, he would just quietly get on and make things work.

Some of the best and most memorable gifts I remember from when I was a child were things that had been made out of other things. The sled made from an iron bedstead, which was used once and then forever confiscated for fear of us beheading some other small child, ill-equipped to move out of the way of our heavy and brakeless vehicle barrelling down the hillside towards them at unstoppable speeds. The pop-gun made from an old bicycle pump and loaded with wine bottle corks, which was quietly hidden from my younger cousins after causing havoc around the entire neighbourhood. The indestructible set of hand cut and coloured wooden building blocks, which were handed down from sister to brother to cousin, and are probably still somewhere in the family, being used to build small walls and occasionally beat competitive siblings around the head. He had a talent for coming up with the noisiest, messiest, most dangerous, but above all most exciting toys, all of which were things made from junk that just happened to be laying around in his shed or in the house.
As a grown woman now, I look back and see that some of what lay behind this was that, with a large family and little money, making the best of what he had was always an important part of life, but I also suspect that the reason he had such a way with all of us was because he was firmly in touch with the part of him that had never grown up.

He never treated any of us grandchildren differently because we were girls or boys. It is only in hindsight I realise how unusual that was. If you showed any interest in his workshop he would take you out and show you how things worked. It was Grandad who gave me my first hammer, showed me how to use a screwdriver, all of those basic sorts of DIY and carpentry things, and showed me the sorts of things that you could achieve with just a few simple tools. He also showed me that a lot of the time, if you don't have something, you can make it just as easily as going out to buy it. This is a philosophy that has stuck with me through the years and, in times when I too was short on cash, has made the difference between having what I needed or going without. 'Make Do and Mend', a slogan from his teenage years during the war, was firmly centred within my own childhood philosophy and still informs at least some of my thinking today.

Towards the end of his life, it became clear that Grandad was becoming increasingly unwell with the cancer that would finally kill him, but he remained fiercely independent. Determined to Make Do and Mend his way through to the last. When I came to stay, with the express purpose of helping him out around the home, he initially insisted on cooking dinner for both of us. After all, I was a guest!

That first night, while he was still up and walking around, before the pain and sickness got too much, I watched him chop carrots with a butter knife, and I felt a sense of rightness in the world. We might not have the perfect tools to do the job, but we had a knife sharpener dammit and we could make do.

I was not a perfect nurse. Care giving is something that has never come particularly naturally to me. He was not a perfect patient either. Fiercely independent, he struggled to receive help in any form. Over the coming weeks, though, we fell into a comfortable pattern of companionship. I would work on my laptop, in my Gran's old armchair, while he would watch the TV. Later, over dinner, which he would allow me to cook more often as time went on, we would talk about his teenage years, or about engineering, or about the many crazy jobs he had done in his working years. Having known him all through my childhood, I treasured this time getting to know my Grandad again as an adult, even while it was hard watching him shrink away and slowly lose what remained of his sense of humour, as constant pain and physical weakness started to get the better of him. He was still him, though. Still the man I had adored as a tiny child, climbing on the back of his armchair to comb his hair into ridiculous shapes using the steel comb he always kept in his pocket, laughing along with my delight at the crazy shapes I created, like horns or a mohawk. Still the man who had told me he would drive his invalid cart off a cliff rather than be looked after. We made do.

Later, when it was all over, I gathered with my family to clear out the house. There was one object, and only one that I was determined to have as a keepsake. One that nobody else cared about.

I made a bee line for the kitchen and picked up my Grandad's butter knife. It was razor sharp.

It lives now in my own kitchen drawer, because what is the point of owning a tool if you're not going to use it? (I can almost hear my Grandad saying this even now) – I keep it sharp, as no butter knife ever was, and sometimes I chop vegetables with it. It reminds me that even imperfect tools can make life better, and that a lot of the time in life, you already have what you need... it just happens to look like something else.

Schrodinger Sex, or Why Mainstream Dating is Way Too Kinky for Me.
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emanix
Dear world, I am a hardcore kinkster and 'vanilla' dating is way too kinky for me.

Content note: Explicit discussion of sexual assault, 'vanilla' culture, and rape. Also some incredibly heteronormative pronoun use in some paragraphs (because cultural critique).




I'm bent over a table amidst a group of strangers, with my skirt somewhere up around my shoulders and no underwear on, being spanked by someone I just met about half an hour ago, surrounded by people of all sorts of genders, colours and inclinations, who are having various sorts of sex in all sorts of combinations and different ways, and I suddenly realise... I feel totally comfortable, sexy and safe.



Why do I feel so good there? Because I've just spent the afternoon talking with most of the people in this room about consent culture, and I feel comfortable in the knowledge that, in this room at least, only 'yes' means 'yes'... and there are a whole bunch of people there to make sure it stays that way. The super-hot person I'm playing with established a few relevant boundaries verbally with me before we started. We talked about what I liked and didn't like, and a little about what they were into as well, we talked about what we were going to do and what we definitely weren't going to, and that's freed me up to enjoy the sensations of what we're doing right now without feeling like I'm 'obliged' to do anything else... although before we're done I ask for a few other things too, because I'm having such a great time.

On a date with an established partner I can push things even further. When I later relate some of my experiences to a 'vanilla' (or non-kinky) friend, he is horrified. "How can anyone consent to that?" he asks, but the important thing to me is that I absolutely did, consciously, knowingly and up-front.

Later, over tea and crumpets, my vanilla friend relates a few stories about his own dating experiences that have me choking on my refreshments.

"She said WHAT?" I gasp, horrified by what I just heard. "Was there a safe-word?"

"She told me not to ask her what she wanted," he repeated, "she said it was 'more romantic' just to take whatever I wanted." and worse... she had told him that, secretly, this was what ALL women wanted... to be 'forced', 'taken' or 'ravished' without any regard for their consent or desires of their own. Worse still, this was not the first date to have told my friend that same thing.

People, this is not okay.

I'm sitting there literally open-mouthed in horror as my friend tells me this. I don't know much about Louis CK's other comedy, but he pretty much nails this one right here in this clip: "Are you out of your fucking MIND?! You think I'm just gonna RAPE you, on the off-chance that you're into that shit?"



Sing it, uh... brother!

Vanilla ladies, if you're reading this (and I hope at least some of you are), I want you to know that what you're asking for is known to the kinky community as 'consensual non-consent' or 'rape play' and it's considered to be 'extreme' even by people who literally put needles in each other for fun.

Rape play is something I might possibly, if I was feeling brave, consider doing with an established partner, someone I'd played with for months if not years, and whose references I'd checked out thoroughly, and if I was asking someone to ignore me saying 'no' or 'stop', either verbally or non-verbally, there is absolutely no way I am doing that without explicit boundaries and limits that we'd talked about in advance and an established 'safeword'. Why? Because there are just SO MANY ways that can go wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I have friends on the kink scene who do go and meet guys and do rape play scenes without safewords with folks they just met online. I don't judge them. They are totally entitled to choose their own safety boundaries. The difference between those friends and the average vanilla lady though, is that they know that without safewords the 'no' that they have already agreed doesn't mean 'no' won't stop things happening. They know they're doing something that's edgy, dangerous and which comes with the risk of them getting assaulted in ways they weren't looking for, raped for real or even killed.

Folks like me - freaky-deaky folks who like to negotiate our scary sex up front look on at these people in awe and say 'Woah, that's hardcore'... and yet somehow this is a norm in vanilla dating? For people who date in the mainstream it is apparently relatively normal to go back to some guy's house after you've just met him or had maybe a couple of dates and say 'do whatever you want to me, just don't ask first.'*

Woah... Yeah... that's hardcore.

Even if you're expecting your 'no' to mean No. Even if you're expecting a guy to just 'read you' and 'do his own thing' right up to the point where you say 'no', we're already running into problems: if you've told someone not to ask for your consent, if you've told them not to communicate about what they want to do with you, then by the time they've done something you don't like THE BOUNDARY IS ALREADY CROSSED. The assault has already happened. Maybe what you secretly wanted was for this guy to ravish you ruthlessly but gently like a hero in some romantic novel and instead he's taken you literally about doing 'anything he wants' has thrown you over the edge of the kitchen sink and is roughly wedging his cock into your unconsenting little backside using dish soap as lube whilst throwing a bucket of beans over your head and planning which limb he's going to cut off next... but by the time you realise it's a no and tell him so, he's ALREADY HURTING YOU. If you've told him to ignore your 'no'... what then?

At best, what you're asking for is 'Schrodinger Sex'. Just like we don't know whether Schrodinger's hypothetical cat is alive or dead until we open the box and look, with Schrodinger Sex we don't know whether what we're getting is a nice time or a jail sentence until after the date is over. Consent is either applied retrospectively... or it isn't. The poor guy you're dating doesn't know if you're going to say 'thank you' after your date, or whether you're going to call the police on him because he unwittingly did something you didn't like. As someone who occasionally takes that 'guy' role in kinky dating I can tell you - that sucks.
...As a BDSM 'top' I can't even do it. I cannot even bring myself to touch someone who tells me to just 'do whatever I want' without establishing limits or a safeword because I am too concerned it is going to end with my accidentally hitting some button that it just hadn't occurred to them to mention that they couldn't stand, maybe because they hadn't even imagined it was a thing, and ending up with someone I liked enough to go to bed with having a terrible time. Right there, as a top, that's where I use my own safeword and get the hell out of that scene, conscious that the worst case scenario is not just an upset partner but an assault charge

The other trouble with Schrodinger Sex is that, even if it goes well, it is almost without exception bad sex. Assuming that nobody's boundaries get crossed, the sex you'll be getting will be incredibly dull and unimaginative - because there really is no way to get off the beaten track and do anything more interesting than basic run of the mill rom-com sex without ever talking about what actually turns you on.
Sure, you might only be interested in relatively 'normal' sex. You might not ever want to have the sort of sex that horrifies my friends, but maybe you'd really enjoy playing with a vibrator or two, or having syrup drizzled on some random body part and licked off, or maybe there is some special trick that someone can do with your body that - you never figured out why - just really works for you and you alone. That's never going to happen if neither of you can talk to your partner about it. That sort of awesome, super-orgasmic sex doesn't happen in real life without two-way communication. It requires not just 'not saying no' but actively communicating and actively saying 'yes' and 'please' to things.

Worst of all, if you've ever made the claim that 'being forced is something ALL women secretly want': This is how you train guys to rape women like me. Women who have never played 'hard to get' in their lives, and for whom 'no' really does mean No. Please, for the love of whatever makes you happy, PLEASE stop telling people that. It might be true for you, but it is NOT true for every woman and it is not true for me.

In the mean time, I think I'm going to stick with my nice, safe orgies.




*NB. The bit I am questioning here is the 'don't ask'. I am absolutely not victim-blaming or judging any woman who ever visited a guy in his home because she felt safe and expected him to respect her boundaries, only questioning how it's possible to respect boundaries if you can't ask about them.

NB2. (For the kinksters) I'm not saying that abuse doesn't happen in kink or fetish communities either. It most definitely does, but the idea of dating folks who not only aren't practiced in active negotiation around sexual practices but who explicitly don't believe in it... that's a hard limit for me!

From the Archives --- Activism: The Incurable Bug
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emanix

(Originally published on Polytical.org)



Survivor Story: One woman’s tale of her exposure to an incurable virus


You might not have heard of it, or be aware of the symptoms, but if you are a member of a group, you too could be exposed to this devastating disease. We spoke to one brave individual who took time out of her treatment regime, and despite the possible stigma of being labelled an ‘Activist’, to speak to us about the effect that her activism has had on her life.

Maxine Green has been a carrier of Activism since 2006.


“I remember the date. It was at the start of December 2006, in a small cafe in London. I’d met a couple of guys and we had hit it off instantly, we were talking and talking... After several hours of social intercourse I left the building with no idea I had been unknowingly infected with Activism. “


Like many sufferers of Activism, Maxine Green didn’t realise she was infected until long after the initial contact, and symptoms took several years to appear. She describes the slow onset of symptoms:


“It wasn’t until 2009 that I actually knew I’d been infected. I had gone along to a couple of social events over the previous couple of years, and met people who were already infected, but I had never really thought that it could hit me too. Then, towards the end of 2008 I started getting the urge to... to *volunteer*. I was a little worried, but I assumed it was just a passing thing, and not going to take over my life. But by the middle of 2009 there was no getting away from it. I was organising things right, left and centre, blogging, speaking out in public spaces, and even talking to national press. I really didn’t want the label, but I finally had to admit to myself that I was displaying all of the symptoms of Activism.”


There’s nothing new about Activism. It’s an STI (Socially Transmitted Inclination) that’s been around for centuries, and present in almost every society. This is an often debilitating condition which can take a great toll on the lives of sufferers and those around them. Activism can be contracted in a variety of ways, including aurally, verbally (by means of two-way social intercourse), textually, pictorially, or via sign-language, and may even sometimes occur spontaneously in populations where there are no carriers present. It’s only in recent years though, that the full reach of Activism has begun to be understood.


Symptoms include sleeplessness, agitation, inability to tolerate the status quo, an increased sensitivity to, and intolerance of bigotry and ignorance, and a tendency to take on responsibility, sometimes to personal detriment. Later stages of terminal Activism include exhaustion, cynicism, and ‘burnout’, as well as increasingly neurotic behaviour and a feeling that ‘everybody is expecting me to fix EVERYTHING!’. This feeling, sadly, is often true.


Despite the symptoms however, with proper treatment, sufferers of activism can and do live extremely productive lives. In fact, often more productive than others. Although there is no known cure, symptoms can be relieved by the application of rest, delegation of duties and recruitment of assistants. In a few cases, spontaneous remission can take place which may last for several years. Particularly aggressive strains may need to be treated with a harsh regimen of enforced removal from social settings, unplugging from social media, powering off mobile phones, and even prolonged vacations to remote locations with no internet or social gatherings. Many sufferers are also now trying a controversial new treatment: Enforced Administration (of) Tea and Biscuits In Comfy Chair, or EATaBICC. Little is currently known about the long term effects of this treatment, however it appears to provide great short term relief, and results to date look hopeful. Definitely to be avoided are conferences and workshops, which are known to inflame activist tendencies.


Certain categories of people seem to hold a natural immunity to Activism. The two main groups of these are known as ‘privileged’, and ‘lazy’. If you are not blessed with this natural immunity, it appears the only way to be absolutely certain of avoiding this distressing condition is to avoid being part of any social group at all.


If you think you, or someone you know might be suffering from Activism, ask yourself this question: What are you going to do about it? If the answer is ‘organise...’ it may already be too late.


If you are polyamorous and an activist, you may find support or sympathy here in the UK at the Poly Activists google group: http://groups.google.com/group/polyactivists


Maxine Green came out as suffering from Activism in 2009, and has since been involved in organising Polyday, OpenCon, and a couple of other sexuality related events. If you see her in person, please feel free to apply EATaBICC treatment.


Defining My Terms: On Gender.
emanix
emanix
.

This is an essay about gender. Mostly it's about mine, though due to the way that gender works it is incredibly difficult to self-define in any way that doesn't reference how everyone else 'does' gender. It has been a long time coming and has not been easy to write.

I have started and stopped writing this essay several times over the last few years, because I was never happy with it, much as I have never been happy with gender in and of itself. My original title was 'Gender-Fucked', referencing both the joyful playing with gender that tends to happen in the queer communities I'm a part of, but also the fact that it felt like there was no good way to turn. There were problems in every direction. There still are. It's still a messy and difficult subject, and yet it's so deeply rooted in our culture that it feels like an enormous omission not to talk about it, especially within the context of an essay series about my personal definitions. So here is the story about how I came to my current gender definition: 'Trickster'.

But first, a little bit about what 'gender' actually is.

Collage of images of myself with different gender presentations, overlaid with an image of a Rubin Vase.
Gender: Mostly an illusion.

What is gender?


The way our society is set up we just can't get away from it. Gender is built in to the way we interact with each other at an incredibly deep level. It's the first thing most of us ask about a baby. It influences the way we interact with each other on all sorts of conscious and unconscious levels. When we meet people on the street, or deal with them professionally, we are expected to reliably 'read' their gender and respond accordingly. To choose between the titles 'Sir' and 'Madam' with 100% accuracy, and then apply all of the assumptions and behaviours associated with those labels. Our language doesn't even *have* a non-gendered polite term that can be used on a first meeting, yet to ask, amongst the vast majority of our society, to imply that the person in front of you is somehow 'failing' at gender, that they are failing to be male enough or female enough for you to recognise without error is so taboo as to be almost unmentionable. It's seen as so rude we literally can't even talk about it. We whisper behind backs, not out of spite, but out of fear of offending, and yet... if it's so all-important, why on earth would we expect people to *guess*?

The biggest trouble with gender, though, is that, much like money, it's imaginary. It's a set of coded symbols through which we simplify our understanding of the world. A currency, if you will, only for the exchange of social pleasantries and expectations rather than goods. And also like money, we know that gender has value because other people tell us that it does. We know what men are supposed to be like, and what women are supposed to be like, because the rest of society tells us so, and we know that someone is a man or a woman because they look and act like we expect of their labels... and if they don't act like their labels, we tell them so, reinforcing those labels and stereotypes as negative space even when we happen to respect that particular person's right to be different.
"You're not like other girls" we might say to a woman, "you're a tom-boy, aren't you?", or "you embrace your feminine side" to a man. Reinforcing the stereotypes even as we accept difference. Because somehow the exceptions prove the rule instead of making it irrelevant. Little, if anything, about gender is actually written into our genetic code, but it's encoded into the society we live in so deeply that many of us forget that. It's self-fulfilling prophecy, a perpetual motion machine, a serpent devouring its own tail. And it's almost impossible to live outside of.

Gender Trouble


I have had trouble with gender all of my life.

I wish I could say that I would have had just as much trouble with gender if I had been born into a male body. Sadly I don't think that's true. A large part of my gender trouble has been to do with the fact that, born with 'innie' genitalia, I was told from birth that I was a girl, and that as a girl, I would grow up to be a woman. Two categories which I have been battling with all my life since, thanks to societal ideas of what being 'feminine' means. Either way, I spent a large chunk of my life desperately wanting to be male. Planning for it, wishing for it, determined that I would somehow magically at puberty become something other than my genes might have indicated, and then when it didn't happen, considering surgery, hormones, all that shebang.

Does that make me trans? It's hard to say. If you had asked me at any age between ten and twenty years old, I would have said yes. Earlier, or later, not so much. Given a childhood spent mostly with my nose mostly buried in text books and science fiction, I felt that there was a world of possibility out there, and it simply didn't occur to me that there was any difference between how girls and boys should behave. It was only later, as I was approaching puberty, that it started becoming clearer to me that there were expectations associated with being a girl. Being a girl meant wearing dresses, and being told off if I tore them climbing trees. It meant makeup and hair styles and babies, it meant lower pay and being unable to make the first move, and a whole lot of other things I had no interest in. And worst of all, it meant being passive. A prize, a damsel in distress, at best a companion, a wife, a mother, a helpmeet. I started to feel that I needed to be male simply in order to be a protagonist in my own life. From puberty through to my early twenties I became increasingly sure that what I wanted was a male body to match the man I felt like inside.

Those who have met me or who have seen a picture of me recently, will of course realise that I chose not to transition. For now. I am not now running around in the world wearing a male body, or even 'male' clothes. At least, not most of the time.

So what happened? Was there a sudden change of heart? Was there a realisation that I'm actually happy with my body and the gender that I was assigned because of it? Not really. Some of those feelings are still there. They didn't just melt away into nothing. Having breasts is inconvenient at best. As I have no intention of having babies they're just useless weight I carry around with me. Periods are pointless and miserable. There are one or two good bits, but on the whole I don't celebrate having a female body. I tolerate it. I keep tabs on medical technology that might some day be able to offer me the bit of 'masculinity' I'd like the most: yes, okay, it's a penis. (Even a freudian stopped clock is right twice a day, after all). I remain ambivalent about accepting the label of 'woman' and reserve my right to change later, but eventually I decided I was not going to try to transition. Or not any time soon, anyway.

One part of my decision not to transition was stupidly pragmatic: For several rather unpleasant medical reasons, my body simply hates wearing trousers. There was every chance that if I did transition I could well be doomed to kilt-wearing for the rest of my life, without the medical technology to give me the appropriate genitalia (and artificial cocks really are incredibly basic, even more than a decade later, and limited both in function and feeling). If I was going to be stuck with wearing skirts, I reasoned, I might as well leave open the choice to wear a full range of the damn things without getting beaten up.

The second part of my decision not to assume a male identity was a growing sense that setting myself outside of the category of 'woman' because I hated the expectations that were associated with having a particular sort of body, was only to add weight to the heap of those expectations. If I was to define myself as 'not a woman' because 'woman' meant being x, y and z, then wasn't I reinforcing that category, narrowing it still further for those still stuck inside it? Did I have to define myself only in terms of what I was not, instead of what I was? I began to feel that transitioning would be, for me, a way of climbing the mountain of privilege by standing on other women's faces. Should I get outside of the box and stand on top, or should I kick it open from the inside?

So does that make me, instead, genderqueer? I find that a hard question as well. Some days it seems to me that yes, the idea of a middle ground between genders is a perfectly fine place to be, that genderqueer's habit of picking and choosing aspects of whatever gender suits at any one time amounts to exactly the sort of questioning that I would like to do, and that building gender-neutral options into our culture is terribly important. I'll support anyone's choice to define themselves as 'other' any day. But at other times I can't help wondering if the middle ground is just more weight piled up on top of the lids of the boxes of both male and female. If genderqueer is the vase between two faces, does it mean that both categories of 'man' and 'woman' are defined and reinforced by negative space without actually questioning the definitions of either of those categories? Can genderqueerness even exist without the binary categories it pushes off from? Does it make gender less relevant, or does the very act of 'queering' it bring gender stereotypes to the fore? I still don't have answers to those questions.

So what am I?


I'm female-bodied, yes. And mostly I dress in a way that makes a pantomime out of that. I have often referred to this manner of dressing as 'fuck-you femme'. To dress in such a manner that makes it abundantly clear that yes, I'm a 'girl', and I am also competent, articulate, powerful and not to be messed with. I choose to over-do femininity in ways that make people uncomfortably aware that it is a form of drag. I 'perform' femininity in a way that challenges notions of what that means, and makes it clear that it *is* a performance (and while gender isn't only about style of dress, an awful lot of it is).

Except sometimes I won't. Sometimes I do other things. Maybe I'll go out in male drag, or packing a strap-on under a pretty dress, or add a false mustache to set off the lipstick I'm wearing that day. Because the idea that these things don't go together needs challenging. Maybe I'll encourage my partners and friends to question their own gender, or express it differently just to see what happens, and especially what happens when we challenge the status quo together. Because society really needs people asking the questions 'why shouldn't I?', 'why not?', and as an artist I have the privilege of being able to say that challenging these assumptions is literally my job (not that it isn't everybody's job to question their own assumptions, but sometimes folks need a little help).

Trans doesn't fit. Genderqueer doesn't quite fit. So many things didn't seem to quite fit. 'Woman', though I choose to use it now as my primary identity for the purposes of challenging assumptions, still doesn't quite fit.

It literally took me years to come up with a word that really resonated with me, and eventually I reached into mythological archetypes to come up with a quick way to sum up how I feel about my own gender identity. The word that finally clicked for me, out of the blue in the early hours of one sleepless morning, is 'Trickster'.

Image of Loki, a well known example of a Trickster character from mythology.
Loki is one example of a mythological character known for playing with gender.

A New (Old) Archetype


In mythology, tricksters "...violate principles of social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis"(Source). A quote which I think rather elegantly describes the way in which I play with gender in a way that aims to challenge and re-establish new norms. Seen as a crucial part of the stability of their society, many tricksters also literally play tricks with gender in their stories in ways that encourage the observer to question how fixed their definitions really are.

As a Trickster, I choose to be unashamedly who I am, in all the ways that match and mismatch with the categories that people put me into, and those I put myself into, and in all the ways I shift and change from day to day and with the passing seasons. I try to live my life as though gender was irrelevant, because quite often the way to effect change is to act as though the world is already how you would like it to be. Most of all, though, I choose to challenge, to question, and to cause and support other people to do the same.

So for now, I'm sticking with the female body and feminine presentation, although I have absolutely no intention of fitting in with social ideas about what that means. I'm sticking with being called, for the purposes of most of society, a 'woman', because I think the way we treat women, and the assumptions that even women make about what it means to be a woman is an area where our society really needs challenging. For now I choose to be inside that box kicking outwards and breaking down the barriers from the inside, but that identity feels, and probably always will feel relatively superficial to me. Whereas in the archetype of the Trickster I finally feel like I have found a label that sums up my identity much deeper down, and underlying everything that I have ever been is that need to explore, to examine, and to question.

That's who I am. Deep down, my identity is 'someone who questions'.

Ultimately, I'm perfectly happy for folks to call me 'she', 'he', 'they' or 'cheeseburger' as a pronoun, or whatever else they fancy. I really don't mind, as long as they also question the underlying assumptions that go along with those labels. If they don't, they might be in for a surprise.

Height is Power
emanix
emanix
.

Food for thought.

Look down on,
Inferior,
Beneath me,
To overlook,
Cast down,
Downcast,
Depressed,
To fall for,
To take down,
To suppress.

Look up to,
Aim high,
Lofty,
Superior,
High-flying,
A raise.
To think highly of,
From on high.
To elevate.
An uprising.

I do not wear my heels, my heavy, stompy, world-destroying heels, 'despite' being a feminist.
I wear them to even the score.


---

It always strikes me as somewhat amusing that high heels are seen as a feminine thing now: it is seen as demeaning, in our current cultural climate, for a man to wear 'girls shoes' - and yet, once upon a time, men, and especially members of the aristocracy, were the only people who wore them. It was a lord's right to tower over his people.

A few centuries back, for a woman to wear heels was a political act.
Because the idea that a woman could dare to approach the height of a man was challenging, unreasonable, shocking behaviour.

Personally, I think it still holds some value.



More on Poly and the Media: Diversity Vs. Representation
Activist
emanix
A couple of days ago, this article was posted in one of the Polyamory discussion groups on Facebook.

While it's a few months old now, it is a worrying article, and I haven't seen many taking a different perspective. Now, I'm certainly not going to claim that our entire worldwide polyamorous community is perfect in how we handle these things (I won't claim that I am, either), but as a long time poly person, and as someone who first took on poly activism while living below the UK's poverty line, this article also erases ME, or at least me of a few years ago, and as a result I can't help feeling that at least a portion of polyamory's diversity problem is less one of community membership than of representation.
(I note that the article also falls foul of the traditional conflation between polyamory and swinging... since when did questioning the monogamous norms of our society, or building an intentional family require attending sex parties?!)

Cartoon illustration of Jim the Homeless Bunny

According to articles like the one above, a few years ago I couldn't possibly have been poly. (Which is strange, because I'm pretty sure I was)

How can we challenge these articles telling us that we don't exist?



This is a topic that came up at Polyday last week, in London, and especially in our 'poly and the media' workshop: How to get a more representative sample of our community actually out there and visible to the world?

I don't know about the poly community in the US, but the poly community in the UK has a HUGE problem with representation in the media, which doesn't cover anything like the diversity we actually have in the community. The people who get all the media coverage tend to be white, middle class, straight cis men and white, middle class, straight or bisexual cis women (or people who can be sufficiently whitewashed or 'straight-washed' or otherwise made to appear that way). This despite the fact that, as a community, we have folks from all sorts of racial and cultural backgrounds, from all classes, folks with various disabilities and mental illness diagnoses, folks who are rich and poor, employed and not, folks of all sexualities and genders, the full LGBTQIA* rainbow (I have heard folks in the US complain that the poly community is 'too straight'. Over here we have had complaints that heterosexual couples have felt intimidated because the UK poly community seems so overwhelmingly queer)... but the mainstream media is written mostly by white, well-off, middle class straight cis people, and they tend to write articles only about people who are like themselves and who are most like their perceived audiences, which misses out the vast majority of our community.

So it is tremendously frustrating to see the same sorts of articles over and over again, about the same sorts of people, in media written by white, well-off, middle class, straight cis people and aimed at an audience of other white, well-off, middle class, straight cis people, and then to see further articles analysing those other articles and believing that this is somehow representative of our actual community, whilst so many folks are being ignored, whitewashed or 'glossed over' by mainstream media.

Cartoon illustration, with quote Dont hate the media. Become the media. - Jello Biafra

My own suggestion, to challenge the dominant narrative out there, is that we need to start making our own media. Anyone who is here in this group clearly already has access to the internet, and a keyboard of some sort. That's all you need to write a blog. That and a microphone is all you need to start a podcast. Most smartphones these days are good enough to record YouTube videos. Why leave it to mainstream media to represent us, when we can represent ourselves?

Lets *write* the articles about the intersections between race and poly, between class and poly, between poverty and poly. Lets talk about how these things play out in our lives, about who we are and what we do. Let's talk about the ways poly can help us to support each other in hardship, but also the difficulties of being poly in combination with different cultural expectations. Lets get our voices out there and challenge the idea that these privileged folks so beloved of the mainstream media are the only people who are allowed to be poly.

Happily, there are people already starting to challenge these stories, and I think this is awesome. I absolutely love this cartoon which went out on Everyday Feminism last month, by Joamette Gil, a queer Afrocuban illustrator, cartoonist and writer, based in the US. I'd love to see more stuff like this!

Also, in response to my post on Facebook I was introduced to the Poly Role Models page on Tumblr, which I absolutely adore. More please!

If you have more links related to poly and diversity, and especially ones written by poly people for other poly people, I'd love to see them in the comments.

Links & Bookmarks - 7th October 2015
emanix
emanix
Something that my long distance sweetie tacit does occasionally is post links to articles and pages he finds interesting. I like this idea, so I think I'm going to steal it!

Here is a list of pages I have recently found interesting:

Activist type things



Polyday! Saturday 17th October 2015 :: London


This year's Polyday takes place in ten days time! Do you have your ticket? (I am speaking on at least one panel this year, 'Poly & the Media' about my media experiences, and would love to see folks there!)

Important discussion about sex worker rights happening in Scotland.
JEAN URQUHART MSP - Please take part in my consultation on a new sex work law
If you have studied or have any connection with sex work, please take a look at this consultation document. Important work is being done here to protect the rights of sex workers, and hard facts and data in the comments will be particularly useful. (Deadline December 1st)

Looks interesting: Writing fellowships on a feminist magazine.
ANNOUNCING BITCH MEDIA FELLOWSHIPS FOR WRITERS
Bitch Media, for almost 20 years an independent, nonprofit feminist media organization, is pleased to announce the Bitch Media Fellowships for Writers, a series of three-month intensive writing fellowships whose goal is to develop, support, and amplify emerging, diverse voices in feminist, activist, and pop-culture media. The program will be directed by Bitch cofounder Andi Zeisler.
Applicants must apply for one of four categories (reproductive rights and justice, pop-culture criticism, technology, and global feminism). Applicants may apply for more than one category, but must send separate applications for each one. If you are unavailable to accept a fellowship during a specific quarter next year, please make sure to include that information in your application.
(Deadline for Application: November 1, 2015)


Fantastic post on bisexual awareness
Marcus's post on 'Nonmonosexuality'
"What things, I asked, turned people on or off about others?"

"I started the chart off with a few suggestions, like "good teeth" and "snoring" and as the columns filled some things went in both columns, like "arrogance" and "sense of humour". When we got to the bottom of the sheet I turned to the room, and asked if they could tell me what was missing?"

...Can you say, without clicking on the link?


And lastly, but not least,


The UK Poly mailing list!


British poly folks, did you know there is a mailing list (email list) for everything related to polyamory and polyamorous people in the UK? http://lists.poly.org.uk

It is also sorely in need of more publicity because it is currently very hard to find in a google search. Please help us to get the word out by sharing this link!


Random interesting stuff


Mechanical music with Matthew Shotton and the Amazing B0rkestra

This fascinating video showing the construction of a tile-roof hut out of materials found within the nearby area.

The Anarchist Library

The Slow Watch. £200 seems like an awful lot of money for a watch with two of the hands removed, so I have been watching these for months hoping that the price would come down or they would introduce a cheaper version, but I think they are beautiful. Still waiting! #SlowerThanSlow

So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People?
tea
emanix
An open letter to media people who want to interview poly people. Including five reasons your approaches may be failing, six ways you can stand out over the norm, and a few suggestions on where to get in touch with polyamorous folks.

Dear Media Folks,

As a poly activist, I see a lot of media requests. It seems like every other week there is another email going around mailing lists and social media, often to little avail. I see that many of you are finding it difficult to engage with polyamorous people, and you're not really sure why. I'd like to help you identify some of the reasons your approaches may not be working, some of the experiences of poly people who have already spoken with the media, and how you might improve on both of these things. So let's sit down, have a nice cup of tea (or whatever you prefer) and talk about it.

Here are some of the reasons you may not be finding the poly folks you're looking for:


#1 - Polyamory doesn't look, or work, the way you're imagining.

An awful lot of media requests ask explicitly for 'polyamorous couples', 'trouples' or 'triads'. To many more experienced poly folks this is a glaring sign of cluelessness: To most of us, poly isn't something that couples do, or 'couples-plus-one'. It is something that people do.

Triad-structure relationships, and especially live-in ones are incredibly rare, even within the polyamorous community. Here is an essay that explains why this is.

Most media requests also focus heavily on live-in families, whereas for many long-term polyamorous people long-distance relationships are the norm rather than the exception.

Requests for live-in poly families exclude large parts of our community who live in geographically distributed networks, as 'solopoly' people in long term relationships that are less obviously entwined, or who subscribe to relationship anarchy and live in even more different situations. I myself am a long-time poly activist, but have been turned down for several media engagements because (hilariously!) by their definition I 'wasn't poly enough' because I wasn't living with any of my long term partners. Hint: This is a great way to discourage poly activists from passing on your details!

We're sorry. We know it isn't quite so photogenic, but most poly relationship structures look more like this
than this


It is also worth mentioning that the poly groups who DO look like this are often 'newbies' themselves: Folks who have started out in a monogamous relationship and decided to 'open up'. That's fine, if what you're wanting to document is exactly that process of transition, but please understand that the general rule of thumb is that the longer someone has been polyamorous, the more complex their relationship structures will be. By focusing on smaller poly households you will be cutting yourself off from a wealth of poly experience and information.

You can find some more information about the different ways people 'do' polyamory here.

#2 - Poly people are not (currently) protected by anti-discrimination laws.

Unlike sexuality, gender or religion, being polyamorous is not considered to be a 'protected' status under current UK anti-discrimination law (or in most of the rest of the world either). This means that a polyamorous person has no automatic recourse under law if sacked, verbally abused, or refused any sort of job or service for reasons of being polyamorous. It's not that we believe we are particularly under attack, but who wants to be a test case?

Until our legal status is clarified, for poly people who have financial commitments, dependents or careers that they are keen to keep, remaining closeted is often the preferred option. Being 'out' is the province of the young, carefree and entrepreneurial amongst us. Happily there are more of us bucking that trend every year, but the number of polyamorous people who can afford to be 'out' is still relatively small.

We are also aware of cases where families have been reported to child welfare authorities for having more than the 'usual' number of parents, or where polyamory has been brought up in custody cases. For many poly folks who have children there is no question: Being 'out', and especially in the media, is not an option.

With all of that, it isn't really surprising that the number of polyamorous people who are willing to talk publicly about being is pretty limited.

#3 - Many of us have already had poor experiences talking to the media.

Did you include words like 'sensitivity' and 'privacy' in your opening message? The trouble is, so did these people.

The pool of poly activists and media-capable polyamorous people is small, so chances are that most of us will already have given a media interview or two, and been badly misquoted, poorly edited and generally felt pretty cheesed off with the results. A good interview where the participants feel they have been fairly accurately represented is pretty rare, and usually comes from someone who has had experiences outside of monogamy themselves.

We suspect it is usually not deliberate. Many folks come in carrying their own preconceptions about what polyamory is, how it works, what it looks like, and what the outcomes will be, and it is natural to seek out stories that fit into one's own preconceptions. Unfortunately, it is very hard for us poly people to separate out the objective, unbiased (but often still uninformed) reporters from the sensationalists just from a few brief emails, so many of us are understandably wary.

#4 - Frankly, we're embarrassed by some of the media that is already out there!

From poorly staged 'Cuddle Parties' through awkward reality TV style documentaries about hippy sex gurus giving us all way too much information straight into the camera, all the way out to Louis Theroux style exposés talking about orgies and who knows what else, much of the portrayal of polyamory in mainstream media is pretty cringeworthy stuff. It's hard to say if these interviews were fairly edited, or whether the folks involved really are the crackpots they're made out to be, but for some of our less ingenuous poly activists the idea of being tarred with the same brush is really not terribly attractive.

We're also tremendously bored of articles and shows that focus only on the 'sex' aspect of poly. Do monogamous people get asked about the sexual aspects of their marriages? No. It gets really old.

To combat this, many of us prefer to create our own media that we have full control over. To record our own podcasts and YouTube videos, create our own online magazines and write our own blogs (Hi!).

#5 - Most of us just want to get on with our lives.

The vast majority of poly people, activists included, are really not all that thrilled by the media 'buzz'. Unlike many folks who might be interviewed in the papers or for documentaries, we don't have a product we're selling or a cause we're championing, other than the ability to get on and live our own lives in peace. Every moment we're talking to you takes away from the time we would otherwise be spending working in our day jobs, and our night jobs, and our weekend jobs (many polyamorous people are self-employed), scheduling time with our partners, travelling between houses, doing emotional processing (endless emotional processing!). Oh, and just occasionally actually going on dates. Those of us who are activists or even just open to occasional media contact may well be feeling pretty burned out. I know I am!

We are a growing but still fairly small percentage of the population, but we receive a disproportionate amount of media attention. Apparently challenging the dominant ideal of monogamy is 'edgy' and 'fashionable' or something these days. Except most of us aren't doing it to be edgy. We're doing it because we just happen to believe that it is okay to love more than one person at a time, and we're a bit busy actually doing that!

.

So what should you do if you want to connect with poly people?



1. Drop the word 'couple'.

In the world of experienced polyamorous folk, polyamory is not 'couple-centric' and you will be alienating a great many long-term polys by using language that very obviously comes from a monogamous mindset. For extra bonus points, sticking with using 'family' instead of words like 'triad' or 'trouple' can really get across the fact that you understand poly families come in lots of different shapes, sizes and living configurations.

2. Demonstrate an awareness of our position.

Do your research. Instead of just promising sensitivity, try showing it up front. Think it's unfair that poly isn't a protected status? Say so! Read a few blogs from poly people about our media experiences and get an understanding of the sorts of mistakes and fallacies media folks usually bring into interviews. If you can't quite get your head around all of it, that's fine, but demonstrating that you have tried will mark you out as someone who has actually done some proper background research and put you on a better footing for starting the interview.

3. Build a portfolio of work

that demonstrates your knowledge of the topic and how you intend to handle it.

Sure, everyone has to start from somewhere, and perhaps as a journalist or a documentarian you have never covered this topic before. Why not then browse through existing works by poly people and see if you can find something that speaks to you. Quoting our own words back at us – in context – is a great way of demonstrating understanding. Or put together a brief sample article or video that shows roughly the sort of story you expect to be telling. Try to sum up what you know of poly so far, what your gaps in knowledge are, and what it is that you want to learn. Then we will know whether we fit your paradigm or not.

4. Offer editorial input and opportunities for feedback.

We know you have deadlines, but many of the worst media experiences we have had have involved being terribly paraphrased or misquoted, and this gives us the opportunity to correct errors before they can embarrass us – or you! - in print. This is also a great way to build trust with folks, which may mean leaving the door open for more interviews in future.

5. Be flexible!

Poly people tend to have busy lives. Being flexible about meeting times and places could mean the difference between being able to meet and chat or not at all. We know you have lives too, so we don't expect you to be on call 24 hours a day, but being able to think outside the box could come in pretty handy. Don't worry, we're good at scheduling. We get a lot of practice!

6. LISTEN!

If poly people talk to you about concerns with your approach or your plans for your work, pay attention. We don't mind educating people. After all, that's what we activist types are here for, but we can and will withdraw if we feel our concerns are not being taken seriously.

What NOT to do:

Whatever you do, if you want to maintain any goodwill within the polyamorous community at all, DON'T lie, cheat or 'infiltrate' groups of polyamorous people in the hope of getting a juicier story. Firstly it won't work (Seriously, poly really isn't all that exciting. It's just like regular dating, only with more people), and secondly, poly people talk to each other! Since so many of us are in long-distance relationships, our romantic and familial networks often extend across countries, sometimes even internationally, and our grapevine works fast. If you upset one group of poly people, chances are the rest of us will know about it within a day or two. On the flip side, if you deal fairly and equitably with us, and make the experience a positive one, we might well be able to put you in touch with poly folks all over the country, perhaps even the world!

Where to find Poly People?

So now you've done a bit of background research about what polyamory really looks like, how it works and what poly people want to say to the world. How do you get your message to the people you want to talk to?

1. - If you're in the UK, try sending a message to the admin of the UK Poly Mailing list who will be able to pass it on to a nation-wide group of polyamorous and poly-friendly people.

2. - Facebook and Twitter are great places to connect with polyamorous people. Check out the #poly and #polyamory hashtags.

3. - Check out existing poly media. Many poly people have blogs, just like mine. Getting in touch with people who are already engaging in activism and talking about their relationship structures in the public eye tends to be far more effective than showering general poly groups with media requests.

4. - Leave a comment here! I don't mind forwarding the odd message to my poly networks. All the better if you've followed the advice above. :)

Looking forward to new and better media interactions,

Sincerely,

Maxine.

Pharmacologist cookery, or 'what I cook when I have a cold'. :)
emanix
emanix
Diagram of a sick bunny. Image from www.chaosbunny.com.

This post initially arose out of a discussion about homeopathy (and indeed most other 'alternative' styles of treatment), about which, having trained in pharmacology at university, I usually end up in a paradox loop.

Yes, according to all of the research available, everyone who is saying that homeopathy is no better than a placebo is correct... BUT the placebo is one of the safest and most powerful treatments known to medical science. So I'm torn. When someone has a virus (for example, the common cold) or some other condition that is otherwise untreatable, is it worse to say 'I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do for you.' or to give someone a sugar pill and say 'this will make you feel better'... and it does? If a placebo treatment is effective, is it even a lie?

I also think the reason we have such enormous trouble getting rid of 'alternative' unscientific treatments is because they genuinely do offer something that empirical medicine doesn't, and that is often the simple sense of being heard, cared for and of being able to 'do something', where medical science might just say 'wait this out'.

Which is why I feel so excited about having found something of a middle ground: When I or my friends have an infection, I 'prescribe' a whole list of foods known for antimicrobial properties (usually resulting in a rather nice curry!). It's not 'medicine', precisely, but evidence suggests that each of the individual items themselves should help at least a little bit more than a placebo would, good nutrition is *always* useful and the sense of being able to 'do something' about the situation is an enormous relief.


My personal infection-fighting shopping list is as follows (I will try to come back and edit this later to add proper references and update it with new possibly bug-fighting foods as and when I spot them):

Garlic (evidence of some antimicrobial properties, including antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal)

Onions (evidence of some antimicrobial properties)

Ginger (evidence of some antimicrobial properties)

Cinnamon (evidence of some antimicrobial properties, also kills insect larvae)

Cloves ("")

Cardamom (evidence of some antimicrobial, and some anti inflammatory properties)

Hot Chilli Peppers (you guessed it, evidence of some antimicrobial properties. Also stimulates endorphin release for pain relief, and is a pretty effective decongestant)

Sweet peppers/bell peppers (super-high in vitamin C)

Tomatoes (high in vit. C, which is good for the immune system, and lycopene- antioxidant, lowers stroke risk, apparently good for asthma sufferers)

Lemon (more vit. C)

Something high in zinc, which is known for helping the immune system along (lamb is supposed to be good, as are quite a lot of nuts, and iirc a fair few kinds of fish as well.)

Something that's a good source of protein, to help build and repair new cells (usually chicken, fish or lamb, also eggs, cheese or pretty much any sort of nuts).

[ Tea and Cookies are not on the list yet, but I can always hope!]

---

...All of the above can be referenced via pubmed. It's not a coincidence that a lot of those items on the list are strongly flavoured 'aromatic' foods - a lot of the pungent flavours we find so fascinating turn out to be the plants natural chemical defences against invading bugs. I've probably missed off a few, but a rule of thumb seems to be that if it's a strongly flavoured spice, fruit, or vegetable, then it probably has some bug-killing properties.

It turns out that all that's pretty close to a recipe for a lamb doppiaza right there, which coincidentally happens to be my favourite curry (other kinds of curry are available)! Also quite a lot of thai food (A good tom yum soup is also great for keeping hydrated, too, as well as containing lots of anti-bug foods!).

I'd love to see more recipe suggestions and additions to my list in the comments here!

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