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A Very Brief Thought On Double Tours

Something I can’t recall just made me think about a jump we used in Orpheus. 

It was a variant on the barrel turn that traveled through the air: you launched yourself facing one direction, then tucked the knees as you turned in the air to face back where you started. That is to say, it resembled a barrel turn, but the axis of the turn was vertical (meaning that you execute it horizontally … this is all quite confusing, written out like this, isn’t it?).

The overall effect was that of gliding through space, pivoting as you go.

Which is, if you think about it, very like a tour as well, excepting the fact that tours don’t travel[1]. Or, well, they shouldn’t, and they try not to.

  1. Clearly, this is why the Tour de France is always in France[2] and not, for example, Costa Rica.
  2. The fact that it travels around France is completely immaterial, and if you disagree with me, you’re wrong, so there 😛

Anyway, I never had the least bit of trouble executing that given turny jump, which we’ll call a “floating barrel” because it amuses me. Indeed, it was quite easy enough to milk it for an extra revolution and a half, since you had a great deal of time as you sailed sideways through the air. 

What made executing that jump so painless was simply that one executed it as three basic steps:

  • launch
  • sail
  • turn

Just now, I realized that I have, in point of fact, probably been screwing myself out of a solid double tour by conceiving of it as this rather desperate one-step process:

  • jumpturnohg-d

It might, in fact, help immensely if I thought of it just as I thought of our floating barrel:

  • launch
  • then turn

I am going to have to try this. Between that and not throwing my head back (which has never improved anybody’s ballet technique), I’m hoping I’ve got this licked.

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Cambrés: I Haz Them

Got all my cambrés back. Circular port de bras still requires a modicum of care. Forces me do it thoughtfully though.

Did the Awkward Rotator Exercise before class. L, T, & BG all took class today, too, so the boys were well-represented.

My fondus were better today, but I still had to shelve half the grand battement to keep my heart rate down.

Check Out My Fancy Hospital Pasties

I’m officially decompressing!

It turns out that what was driving me so crazy was the combination of uber-tight compression wrap and surgical drain tubing, which conspired to irritate the living daylights out of my intercostal cartilage and muscles. Those are still a bit angry, but sooooooo much better sans poky tubing and with relaxed compression.

During my surgery, I got trimmed down and liposuctioned and so forth, and now I’m all taped up and decorated with ridiculously large hospital pasties (I feel like perhaps I should decorate them?[1]) … And, yes, I still have nipples 😛

  1. Made an attempt. Didn’t bring any wide Sharpies, though. SOON.

I debated whether or not to post pictures, but I’m going to bite the bullet and do it. 

First, I’m really stoked about how clean everything looks already. My body just looks like, you know, my body. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting? But I think it involved bruises and stuff.

Second, I’m not the first guy who’s had to undertake this kind of surgery, nor will I be the last—and I was okay with it in part because I saw photos in various phases of the healing process from other guys who’d had the same thing done. Maybe mine will help someone down the line—another dancer, even—feel okay with it, too.

A note about the dancer-specific end of that: I hemmed and hawed about which surgical approach to pursue in part because of the potential for scarring and the fact that, as a male dancer, I’ll have more options if I feel like I can take roles that require me to dance shirtless [2]. 

  1. Like, for example, I’ll be able to work in modern dance, which is apparently code for “Topless Boys Live!”, ever at all

Ultimately, I opted for an approach that would leave longer scars, but in more discreet places, and would be a sure shot in terms of removing extra skin in awkward spots. Having seen myself this afternoon with no shirt and no medical pasties, I know I made the right decision.

Speaking of that, I got to see myself sans Hospital Pasties this afternoon, and I’m quite happy with the results—though as a good citizen of the internet I’m kicking myself for failing to grab a photo. 

Anyway, I had a bunch of extra skin before (thanks, collagen disorder!), but you’d never know at this point. Also, I appear to have normal tactile sensation everywhere, which is great. It wasn’t terribly likely in my case, but I was a little worried about ending up with tactile “dead zones” that could be awkward for some kinds off partnering.

There will be narrow scars below my pecs extending from about 4 cm to either side of the center of my chest (looks closer to the center in the shot below due to tape and guidelines) to a point straight down from my armpits. They probably won’t be very visible. The upside of the collagen thing is that I tend towards hypotrophic scarring, which in turn tends not to stand out too much against my ultra-pasty pallor.

Me in my super-sexy hospital pasties.

How do you like these gigantic pasties? You can also still see some of the guidelines my surgeon drew before surgery 😛

I’ve also got extra gauzy stuff and even moar tape going on under my arms where my drains came out today. Those will be there for about a week. (You guys, I really should’ve purchased stock in 3M’s medical supply division.)

I have some sutures in my aureolae, so I’m supposed to wear some kind of medical pasties for a couple of weeks whilst those heal up, but my surgeon suggests the big, square band-aids with adhesive all the way around. There’s no need for them to be huge like the current ones; 4×4 gauze just happens to be ubiquitous in US medical practices.

I feel like I should thank my ballet and aerials teachers for making my surgeon’s job and my life easier. He had zero trouble locating the margins of my pecs, and my blood supply and overall fitness are basically stellar, which made everything smoother and easier in every way.

That’s it for now. We’re heading home tomorrow, so I might even make it back in time to stand around idly at rehearsal on Wednesday, learning by osmosis.

PS: I am greatly enjoying wearing just one shirt at a time. I cannot explain how amazing that feels.

PPS: Still heckin’ itchy, though, because omg so much tape. At least the stuff under my pecs will fall off on its own in about a week.

Dances With*out* Moobs (Eventually)

I have trouble keeping my mouth shut about Big Giant News, but I’m also apparently horribly superstitious about jinxing myself, so I apologise for my recent bout of vague hint-dropping. I promise I’m not going to turn into one of those annoying hinty bloggers who try to keep readers hooked in by being annoyingly vague about things that turn out not to be all that amazing after all 😛

Anyway, yesterday I finally (FINALLY!) went “under the knife” to shed my moobs. Last week, I was super stressed-out about the upcoming surgery—not because I was worried about the surgery itself, but because I did a bunch of research and chose a doctor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—right in the path of Bad Girl Irma.

I called their office last week to find out if they might need to reschedule, and they said, “Nah, we should be fine,” which was both a relief and a little alarming, since I was worried about the potential for last-minute changes of plans.

Anyway, no rescheduling was needed, and I did indeed have the surgery yesterday.

Evidently, it went very well, and except for the fact that I puked a couple of times shortly after I awoke from anesthesia(1), I’m recovering really well.

  1. Not terribly surprising, as I’m pretty sensitive to sedatives in general 😛

The weirdest bits of the surgical experience were: 

  • Thinking, shortly after the anaesthesiologist added the “Momma said knock you out” drip to my IV, “Huh, I’m not falling asleep yet,” and then immediately falling asleep.
  • Going under with my underwear on; waking up without them (still not sure why they had to take them off for this, but no worries, I got them back).

The funny part was that the nursing staff couldn’t figure out how to put my undies back on 😛 Admittedly, the undies in question are a tad unusual. They’re jock-strap stylie, because I’m queer like that. You probably didn’t really need to know, but there you have it 😛

Anyway, I semi-slept all the way back to our hotel, then slept some more, woke up at 10 PM, ate some yoghurt and sourdough bread (which, it turns out, is very easy on the stomach), and promptly went back to sleep and stayed that way with brief awakenings until 6:30 AM.

I’m feeling pretty chipper today, though the post-surgical compression dressing is not very comfortable (could be worse, though).

So that’s finally done, anyway. I’ll be on full R&R for a couple of weeks, dance-wise, then slowly working back in so I’ll be in shape enough to perform in November and fully on form for audition season in January/February.

I’m looking forward to dancing without moobs, finally. It’s weird, in a way, because everyone I’ve mentioned it to has said, “Huh, I never would have known,” so obviously my compression vests have been doing their job well—but it’ll be nice to live life without the extra layer.

I have, by the way, been really pleased with my surgeon and his staff. I chose a doctor who has extensive experience working on intersex and trans guys as well as other guys with gynecomastia, and I feel like he really has it down to an art.

And, of course, being able to hang out in Fort Lauderdale for a week doesn’t hurt, either, even if I can’t go swimming (I can wade, though!).

So that’s it for now.

“Help! I’m bein’ compressed!” (With apologies to Monty Python :D)

Back From The Back of Beyond

I’m back from the Desert now, and catching up on life. Today was my first full day home, and I hit it hard—did a bunch of administrative life stuff, then booked it out to a 3-hour rehearsal.

Speaking of which, now that my name’s on the official cast list (or, as Autocorrupt suggests, “the official cat list”) I feel like I can stop being silent about one thing, anyway!

Cirque Louis: Kaleidoscope

I’m seriously stoked about the fact that we’re performing in the Bomhard, which is one of my two favorite local theaters.

Sadly, I missed our headshot shoot (it got moved), so my headshot won’t be in the program, but it’ll be on the website. I’m performing on hammock in this show, in addition to other things, which is pretty exciting. It’s like silks for trapeze people 😀 There will, of course, also be dancing.
Rehearsal today went really well. I’m excited about working with this cat … I mean, cast … and I’m rather a fan of our AD.

That’s it for now. Insanely busy week this week, and next week will be huge if Irma doesn’t completely destroy Fort Lauderdale.

How to Get a Dancer’s Body: Two Strategies*

I: The Slow-and-Steady Approach

  1. If you don’t live in a locality with a good professional company, move to one
  2. Go to performances. Identify a dancer whose body you wouldn’t mind having.
  3. Find a teacher. No, not a dance teacher; that takes way too long. I’m talking about a teacher of the obscure occult arts.
  4. Gather such materials as you may require: the black goat, newts’ tongues, and rooster’s egg may be difficult to source in urban areas.
  5. Using the materials and methods  already acquired, become incorporeal.
  6. Once you have become incorporeal, locate your chosen dancer and cause him or her to become incorporeal as well.
  7. Take over the body of the dancer in question.
  8. Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body.

II: The “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” Approach

  1. Start dancing. No, seriously, right now, to any kind of music or none.
  2. Are you dancing? Are you in your body? Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body!

*for best results, attempt with tongue held firmly in cheek

Mixing It Up

At my studio, we’re ostensibly proponents of the Paris Opera school — which isn’t to say that we think Paris Opera is The One True Ballet, just that that’s the style that the company employs, so that’s (technically*) what we study in class.

*In fact, our instructors are forever noting that, “And the Vaganova school does it this way, while this other thing over here is more typical of the Cecchetti method, whereas…” and then pointing out that You Might Use This Someday So You Should Learn It, Too.

That said, I owe much of the improvement in my turns to Balanchine’s technique, and I feel that’s worth ruminating on a bit.

I am not the world’s greatest natural turner — not the worst, either, but in a world where we tend to be stronger either in jumps or in turns, I am definitely in the “jumper” group.

In short, my problem is that I tend to approach turns in the same way that I approach jumps — that is, with rather a lot of athleticism (read: power and momentum). When jumping, it’s easy to translate that power and momentum and make it do what it’s supposed to do (most of the time, anyway) — curiously where even jumps that involve turns (tours en l’air and jetés entrelacés, for example) are concerned.

I suspect that it comes down to elasticity — when you begin a jump with too much force and momentum, you can pretty easily channel the excess without losing grace and élan and all that stuff. When you execute a turn with too much force and momentum, there’s less wiggle room — more or less literally.

When turning, I tend to apply way, way more force than is entirely necessary — and I tend to apply it in a way that knocks me off my axis.

It’s easy to power through a fast single turn — or even, once you get the hang of it, a fast double turn — that way**. You won’t look as good as the best turners in the class (because you’ll probably be turning with your back arched and you’ll be slightly off your axis) but you’ll look all right if your basic technique is clean and you have good legs and feet. You can complete the turn before things go terribly awry, so you probably won’t fall out of your turn or, worse, fall over.

**For what it’s worth, come to think of it, that’s probably why my pique and stepover turns always look pretty stellar — the excess just goes into the travel bit, and my passé is high, clean, and turned out, so it all comes together nicely.

When it comes to adagio turns, though, an excess of power and force — especially an excess of power and force that throws you off your axis even a little can really hose things up for you.

This is where Balanchine technique comes in.

Mr. B’s technique is famous for its emphasis on the UP.

When you see Balanchine choreography done well, the jumps tend to be very vertical, whilst the turns are precise, tight, and … um … tall, I guess?

Not that almost any turn, ever, should fall away from the vertical in ballet — but the strict emphasis Balanchine’s technique places on the vertical forces dancers to pull straight up, the way you’re technically supposed to anyway, without the shoulders breaking back from the central axis***.

***This is great for the core.

I will be the first to admit that my worst fault in turns is still (STILL!!!) a tendency to throw my head and shoulders back in my preparation. In short, that’s part of what I do with the excess of force and momentum.

I give it a big ol’ DERP HO! and try to eject it through the top of my head by throwing everything back from the shoulderblades up.

Needless to say, this is not what one might call Best Practice.

The funny thing is that, when I’m thinking about (and attempting to emulate, because sometimes ballet instructors like to mess with us) Balanchine technique, I don’t.

Instead, I keep my core pulled together and pull UP — which, coincidentally, makes it much easier to turn, since I’m not then creating a situation in which the very laws of physics are going to knock me off my leg.

Oddly enough, under those conditions, it’s suddenly quite easy to execute lovely, precise turns — even adagio turns (true fact: ever since I figured out how to do adagio turns without falling apart, I do them all the dingdangdarn time, because they’re impressive — they even feel impressive).

So, anyway. This is a thing I discovered during one of our brief excursions into Balanchine technique, and I think that’s worth noting.

A lot of us get really invested in studying one method or another (though this is less common for adult students, who often wind up taking a grab bag of classes at different studios), but each method offers something we can use.

Of course, there’s something to be said for developing a sound foundation in one method — it makes learning the basics easier (remember that thing about third position arms versus fifth position arms?).

There’s probably also an important Life Lesson here about Diversity and Learning From Unexpected Teachers and so forth, but I’ll let you glean that bit yourself.

As for this post — it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Once you’ve got the basics down, branching out and taking a class that’s couched in a different method (or even, gasp, a different discipline, like modern dance! *swoon*) might be a good way to patch up some of the holes in your technique.

Just, you know, make sure your instructor knows what she’s talking about, and stuff, the way you normally would.

That’s it for now.

Much-Belated Self Portrait for BlahPolar

I have been meaning to get this out here for a while.   Here ’tis!

This one is Prismacolor pencil and cheap ballpoint pen on paper.

image

My scanner isn’t playing well with Windows 10 yet, so I just snapped a photo with my phone.

Gender and Stuff: Even When You Opt Not To Wade, The Water’s Still There

For an intersex person who was, at one time, pretty deeply involved in activism, I actually don’t spend an enormous amount of time thinking about questions of gender and so forth. But that doesn’t mean that those questions aren’t out there, thinking of me.

The ocean’s always there, whether or not you get in.

Last year, I came to the understanding that there are people in the world who can’t detect the effects of privilege because it’s really freaking hard to see the privilege you have. (I think I’ve talked about this before.)

I came to this conclusion, in part, because of ballet and my experiences at the ADTA conference (and also because of my experiences as a presenter at academic research conferences).

Being a guy in the ballet world is kind of like experiencing male privilege on steroids. Being a guy at a conference full of polite, well-educated, socially-conscious dance-and-psychology people was much the same.

In both conditions, you’re not just a guy (or, in my case, to add layers to the problem, a conventionally-attractive white guy from a privileged socioeconomic background, etc.), you’re a guy and a unicorn, and everyone is automatically really, really nice to you so you won’t go away … and if you aren’t hip to what’s going on, you’ll just think everyone’s really nice to you because you deserve it (because that’s how we are, as humans: when we’re treated well consistently, we tend to operate on the driving, if oft-unconscious, principle that we deserve to be treated well).

In both conditions, you’re frequently surrounded by women — intelligent, thoughtful, creative, energetic women, but still women who have been brought up with the same unspoken rules, the same pressures, as all women are in this culture.

Or, like, these tights.

Or, like, these tights.

When you open your mouth, things tend to get quiet. They tend to stay quiet until you’re done talking (and, if you’re me, and you have difficulty using a small number of words to say a thing, that can take a while).

If you’re not paying attention, you might just assume everyone thinks that what you’re saying is really awesome, and they really want to hear it — when, in fact, there’s this weird cultural thing where women are very much conditioned not to interrupt men.

Even scrawny little gay dudes in silver tights.

That doesn’t mean that women don’t really want to hear what you have to say, but it does mean that there’s a barrier, for them, when it comes to grabbing some talk-time for themselves.

Not that they physically can’t, of course.

I grew up in a highly-intellectual, debate-crazed Yankee family, and let me tell you — women can interrupt and drone on and talk over you just as well as men, provided — and here’s the critical thing — that their cultural backgrounds allow for that possibility.

Melee combat at Tewkesbury Festival, 2009.

A typical dinner-table chat in my childhood home. (Image: Lee Hawkins [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

The thing is, for a lot of women — I would even say for most women (in the United States, at least) — that’s not the case.

Just like a lot of women of a certain generation would never have imagined that they could swing a kettle bell or out-judo the guys or run marathons. Like, it wouldn’t have occurred to them to even think that there was a thing out there that they could do that they weren’t doing. It wasn’t in the realm of possibility.

Worse, even if the concept of running into the verbal lists a-swingin’ that verbal mace exists in the realm of possibility, for a lot of women, it’s something they’ve been taught to see as insufferably, unbearably, abominably rude. (I agree that, at times, it can be.) Worse still, it’s something that many of the same women have been taught to tolerate in men, but not in themselves.

And it’s something a lot of men take for granted (meaning, we don’t even think about it; we don’t even know it’s there) as a right for ourselves, and will accept as simple repartée from other guys, but about which we feel immensely affronted when women do it to us.

So, culturally speaking, while sisters are, in fact, entirely capable of doing it for themselves, it really helps if dudes make a little effort (and if we don’t, like, wall them into a cultural oubliette, and stuff).

Like, we can help by learning to shut up sometimes and let someone else talk, and by learning to notice those cues that say “Hey, I am about to open my mouth and say some stuff that I think is important, or at least I would if you would shut the hell up for a second*.” Amazingly, it’s not even that huge a pain in the ass (which is to say, it’s hard, especially if for those of us who have trouble processing verbal and non-verbal information at the same time, but you don’t really lose anything except the chance to hear yourself droning on and on all the time like a complete jerk).

*I should note that I’m not sure encouraging everyone to interrupt all the time is actually a good thing. I spent my whole childhood basically thinking I was a half-wit because I’m terrible at following multiple conversational threads (I have enough trouble with just one, thank you) and any conversation with my family was basically a pitched verbal battle taking place on four or five fronts at once.

I say all this as a preamble to another discussion entirely: that of the question of gender, and of gender identity, and of the problems that have cropped up around the Caitlyn Jenner issue.

These are waters in which I tread lightly, because my experience is, well, weird. (What, me, weird? That never happens!)

As an intersex person, I am acutely aware of what it’s like to live in a body that (in some ways) doesn’t match my internal sense of identity, and (in other ways) doesn’t match other people’s expectations of who and what I am and wouldn’t no matter how I identified.

I am also aware that it’s painfully difficult to try to express why I identify as I do.

As a neuroscientist-in-the-making, I’m acutely aware of the complexities of the human brain and of the problems that tend to crop up when people who don’t have even the fairly minimal degree of expertise that I have try to make statements about causation**.

**In case you’re wondering: it’s probably nature and nurture that lead to any measurable differences we’ve noticed in the brains of men and women, not one or the other. Likewise, those differences are far from universal, and I don’t think they should be used to prescribe gender any more than, frankly, I think genitals should. That way lies one big giant freaking mess. Hint: there are going to be ladies who are happy being ladies whose brains are wired up and operating in ways that we deem “male-like,” and who want to keep on being ladies, and so forth. We probably shouldn’t tell them that they need to go out and have their genitals reassigned.

As a social-justice wonk (and, again, as an intersex person), I am acutely aware both of the problems with living in a world that demands that people’s bodies conform to pretty strict ideas of which parts go with which label and of honoring the experiences of people, especially people who have experienced real oppression, where questions of identity are concerned — whether or not those experiences have anything to do with transgressing broadly-accepted norms.

There’s a lot of noise being made right now about Jenner’s declarations about having always wanted to be able to do things like wear nail polish and participate in “girls’ night” and about her choice to reveal her post-transition self in an ultra-conventionally-feminine photoshoot.

A lot of people have (rightly) pointed out that being a woman isn’t about wearing nail polish, corsets, and frilly clothes.

Part of the problem, though, is that while we’re really good at defining what being a woman or a man isn’t about, we’re actually terrible at defining what either of those things is about.

Some of the answer, of course, involves shared cultural experience: most assigned-at-birth women have, unfortunately, cultural experiences of oppression that many transwomen don’t experience before transition.

Some transwomen, for example, know what it’s like to have lived their entire lives with the constant fear of being attacked or raped if they venture out on the streets at night (this is a thing that also happens to people who are perceived as male, especially if they are perceived as transgressing against normative conceptions of masculinity) — but many won’t know that fear until after they transition, and some will never know it at all.

Some transwomen, likewise, have been treated with less respect by peers prior to transition: hell, I’m not a transwoman, or any flavor of woman, and I am still routinely perceived as less intelligent simply because I am perceived as feminine — not female, just feminine, effeminate, whatever***.

***Curiously, this is really, really common in both geek circles and gay male circles: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the, “OMG WTF BBQ THE TWINK KNOWS WORDS” look on someone’s face at a gay men’s gathering, or how often I’ve been overlooked at geek gatherings simply because I am, in so many words, a pretty boy, and thus clearly could not know anything about math or science or computers).

However, I wouldn’t remotely begin to argue that my experience is comparable to that of, like, most women in our culture (maybe a few, who have grown up in more-progressive enclaves and not been exposed to too many idiots, I guess?).

The flavor of my experience is different; so is its relative ubiquity (broad swathes of gay men may automatically assume I’m an air-headed twink, but a lot of people might unconsciously assume that an “Asher” is going to know more about brains than an “April.“).

In the overall context of my life, the impact is smaller. There’s less crap, and there’s more cushion.

Likewise, women bear the burden of our guilt-ridden reproductive-rights mess, which, as a whole, isn’t really a thing for transwomen in our era (they can be allies, of course, but will never have to worry about the burden of deciding how to handle an unplanned pregnancy).

But any ask any woman if she thinks those are the only things that define what it is to be a woman — if oppression and struggle are the sum total of Woman.

Go ahead.

I’ll be here with an ice pack for you when you get back from having some sense knocked into you 😉

After you recover, go ask a woman about the good parts of the definition of “woman.” Then ask a few more women, and a few more.

I suspect you’ll get a lot of different answers — and that a lot of them will be applicable to what it means to be a man, too, when it really comes down to it.

A lot of them, probably most, will be just as applicable to people who can’t bear children (for whatever reason) as people who can (by whatever means). The vast majority of them will have absolutely nothing to do with genitals.

…Which, it turns out, kind of becomes a problem for anyone who is ever pressed to explain why they identify as one gender or another.

This is absolutely a question I’ve been asked, by the way — even by other gay men, who I would expect to have at least some concept. Like, seriously, “Why would you choose to live as a gay man, when you could just be a woman instead?”

Well, gosh, Kevin — I dunno. Maybe just because? The fact that my genitals are sufficiently ambiguous that I could legitimately check either box really has nothing to do with it. (To be fair, this is not a question that I’ve ever heard from someone who had known me for more than about five minutes; it’s really one of those questions you tend to reserve for imaginary people.)

I don’t, by any means, “choose” (if you can even put it that way) to live as a man because I like monster trucks or Hooters girls or sportsball.

Okay, so I am capable of appreciating monster trucks from time to time (primarily, I’ll admit, as vehicles of irony), and I’ve known a few Hooters girls who were really cool people: but that’s beside the point. As for sportsball … meh. Who wants to sit down long enough to watch that stuff?

I used to like playing lacrosse, though, because I was good at it and could smack the crap out of people with sticks. Does that count? Oh, wait, girls can like that stuff, too.

And my sister is a huge American football fan, so there’s that.

Likewise, I don’t like Mauy Thai, neuroscience, or big honking boots because I think guys should like them. Kicking people in the face is fun, neuroscience is fascinating, and big honking boots are both sexy and functional (and, on someone like me, delightfully transgressive and occasionally ironic).

And, obviously, that whole ballet thing, and my fondness for tights and glittery stuff and sparkly things … those just kind of throw spanners into the works, don’t they?

So why do I identify, and live, as a male?

Who the hell knows?

Our culture kind of requires you to pick a box. That’s the box that feels better for me.

Sure, I break its “rules” all the time, because conformity for conformity’s sake is boring, and the vast majority of the “rules” in question are fairly arbitrary cultural diktats (seriously; there are plenty of places in the world where tons of dudes wear pink, and entire countries where guys wear skirts, and so on and so forth ad nauseam).

I would say that I abide by some of them: be bold but courteous, respect the elderly, protect the young, hold the door, don’t hit anyone weaker than yourself unless you really have no other choice — but those aren’t just rules for men, now, are they?

Likewise, I recognize that the mere ability to break the rules reflects its own kind of privilege. I would take a lot more flak for flouting the rules if I came from a different background, lacked education, if I wasn’t skinny (okay, so I’m crossing the streams of social problems, here), or if my skin was less pale.

In the end, I’m only able to make these observations about privilege and about the elusive substance of gender because my background framework allows it: I have been doing this for long enough, have been answering and examining these questions for long enough, that I’ve realized that most of the answers which most of us give are basically crap.

Which is, by the way, what you get when you ask a crap question.

That’s basically the first rule of code: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

I rather doubt that Caitlyn Jenner chose to transition because she thinks liking nail polish and sparkly things makes her a woman. I will own that I haven’t devoted as much time to poring over her story as, apparently, most of my compatriots — but I do seem to recall that Jenner tried the alternative where you keep living as a dude but sometimes don frilly clothes and so forth.

Likewise, it’s deeply unlikely that she’s just all that burningly curious about the hallowed sanctum of the ladies’ room (there are easier ways to be a creeper than spending thousands of dollars on surgery and having to put up with crap from every quarter of your nation’s culture about it), or whatever else people assume about transwomen these days (curiously, one never hears the argument that transmen just want to gain access to hallowed male spaces so they can ogle our underage sons, even though it’s much easier to ogle people in the gents’, where we are expected to conduct the greater part of our business without walls and doors).

Chances are, like most of us, Jenner isn’t great at articulating the why of the whole thing.

That’s something that’s still a mystery. That doesn’t mean it’s an invalid experience (nor does it mean that Caitlyn’s experience of being a woman will be anything like it would if she had been born with a female body).

If you’d asked me, when I was a little kid, whether I felt like a boy or a girl, I would’ve said, “Boy.”

If you’d asked me why, I would’ve shrugged.

That’s still pretty much my answer. To be honest, it’s about the same answer you’d get from just about any non-trans, non-IS person if you asked them.

Little kids are pretty up front about it. Conversations tend to be like:

“Why do you want to be a girl?”

“I dunno, because I am. *shrug* Can I go on the slide now?”

Or even:

“Why do you want to be a girl?”

“I am a girl, silly! Boys are stupid! Wanna watch me jump off the high dive?”

Requiring a better “reason” from trans people (and, by extension IS people, because we are always in a freaking awkward spot — locus of both relative sympathy about our “right” to identify one way or another and of parental and medical panic about our unique bodies) is, in short, a double standard.

It’s just one that can exist because most people never have to think about their own sense of gender in that way.

In short, it’s a privilege****.

****The best lesson I ever had, by the way, in figuring out where your privilege lies, was this: on the first day of my Social Problems class with Dr. Medina, she asked us to write a list of one-word statements about who we are. She pointed out that straight people most didn’t bother to mention that they were straight; that guys mostly didn’t bother to mention that they were guys; white people didn’t bother to mention that they were white, etc. Those places where you feel like you’re the default? Those are your zones of privilege. The fewer you have, the tougher life can be.

By the by: the one thing that does really sort of drive me crazy about the whole Jenner thing is that nobody seems to be commenting on how Jenner’s existing privilege has allowed her to do things that, frankly, would very likely get a lot of transfolk killed, like transitioning in Really, Really Public Public; how her existing privilege and fame will continue to provide a cushion of privilege on which she’ll be able to float, shielded from the staggering array of crap that the average trans person will have to deal with from moment to moment on any given day.

Yeah, twenty years ago or more, she wouldn’t have been able to do what she’s doing now, and that’s cool; likewise, it’s cool that she’s increasing visibility for tans folk and that a cultural conversation is happening that was only kind of marginally happening before … but there are still problems with Jenner as an icon of trans experience.

Living the Dream, Dance Camp for Adult Dancers

The 109th Bead posted a couple of great interviews with staff and a student from Sun King Dance Camp. If you’ve been thinking about going, read on for a taste of the experience!

THE 109th BEAD

Ever thought about going to dance camp? It does sound like great fun for us grown ups to be able to take a week and live the dream. Although I haven’t had the ability to do so myself, I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the folks from Sun King Dance Camp and ask them a few questions about the hows and whys of dance camp for grown ups. This is the first installation of that interview. I hope this provides you all with some wonderful information and maybe a little bit of inspiration.

I also have the great privilege to personally know a few dancers who have attended Sun King Dance Camp. Below the Sun King interview is a featurette on an adult dancer who has attended camp. This week I get to feature my good friend Lisa Gallo. I’ve been really fortunate to train along side Lisa…

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