Letters: Readers Talk Back!
Only ATM Can Help!
Ever since attending the Fifth International Conference on Bisexuality in Boston this spring, my mind has been in turmoil. Only you can help! My waking hours are consumed with visions of Mark Silver in a black mesh top. I'm not sure how many genders there are anymore. I just can't keep anything straight! I've enclosed a check for my sponsor subscription. Please forward my collection of helpful information and bisexual porn to the enclosed address. Thank you so much!
Love Without Limits?
After reading Kerwin Brook's review of Deborah Anapol's book Love Without Limits in your Fall #15 issue, I felt compelled to write and offer an alternate opinion. I am not denying the validity of the remarks made, only that I feel that the book was taken out of the context for which it was intended, namely an outline for those interested in a primarily polyfidelitous relationship. The reviewer seemed to be trying to apply the book to the much more diverse group of bisexuals and gays who enjoy open relating in any and all forms.
I am a bisexual polyamorous female actively seeking, with my partner, a female to join our relationship as a loving intimate third. I find being bisexual much easier socially than wanting to be involved in a group relationship. Many bisexuals complain about the lack of a strong community, but it is even more lonely for poly people when even their fellow gays and bis are so quick to cry "but I'm monogamous!" as if loving more than one person were the "real" crime.
Deborah's simplistic breakdown of polyamory was precisely what made it such a healing experience for me to read. Its basic and straightforward representations reminded me of the truths behind my chosen lifestyle and gave me a much-needed sense of belonging to a larger group outside of my partner and myself.
I meet many people willing to openly relate in a casual way, which I find fulfilling and enjoyable on many levels, but not many of them are courageous enough to challenge their fears and truly share their most precious beloved relationship. Deborah's book helped to validate my dream of finding deep love with many at the same time. I don't feel her statement about "polyamory not being promiscuity" was meant to be moral or judgmental. Only that the two words are not synonymous and that swinging isn't the topic of this book.
I agree that the book doesn't address every kind of open relationship. It addresses a very specific type of relating, and if you are in the small minority of people like me who desire a "traditional" marriage with more than one, it is a beautiful book that states the basic truths of polyamory and opens you up to feeling hopeful about your dream and okay about yourself.
Up with Male Bonding
Hi. I'm a journalist, age 40. I'm presently in a closeted housing situation so I keep my incoming mail and phone calls discreet. I'm writing to express my appreciation for ATM. I love Mr. Random's fiction in issue #16 ("Boys Who Do Boys"). I shared the story with my girlfriend, and she's agreed to call me names like "bitchmeat" during our power-exchange games. I love male bonding, especially nude wrestling and cross-dressing. I'm happy to ally myself with FABGLITTER. I'm bi, and venerate multiple fetishes.
Name withheld by request
Responding to the Issues No One's Talking About
I wanted to bring up some points in response to Heather Franek's article, "Talking About the Issues No One's Expressing" (ATM #17). First off, I think she brings up many critical issues for transgendered allies to think about, such as where, in all of our intellectualizing and fetishizing of transgendered people, is there space for simple sexual interaction? As a third-genderish bi partner of a bi tranny boy, I think it's been long since time we, as a community, started facing up to our own squeamishness, our own transphobia. Sex is where a lot of oppressions live, where they really come out. Thanks for opening up the discussion.
I do take issue, however, with the idea that the fractious relationship between trans women and non-trans women is because trans women don't own up enough to their previous incarnations' privileges. While I agree with some of the points Heather brings up, I find this idea problematic. I am also not convinced that some MtFs' rather conservative concepts of "womanhood" stem entirely from their male upbringing. The pressure from gender clinics, which can withhold necessary services if the "subject" is not "gender congruent" enough, has a lot to answer for in regards to these ideals as well.
Here in Vancouver, the debate around including trans women in women-only spaces is currently raging, and has culminated in some downright frightening occurrences. A flyer in issues of a gay and lesbian paper said, in part, that trans women "are, like all men, dangerous, violent, manipulative, and lazy" and that "they" were "attacking women and girls." Additionally, a group of prominent feminists from well-funded, mainstream-ish women's groups met with our human rights commissioner to dissuade her from including "transgendered" in her recommendations for changes to the Human Rights Code, thereby challenging the right of transgendered people for basic protection under the law. Straight-up hate, I'd call it, whether it's coming from oppressed-when-raised biological women or not.
This debate reminds me how I used to feel whenever lesbians would start harping on and on about my straight privilege the second I came out as being bi. They didn't want to openly discuss the lesbian community's -- or for that matter, their own -- biphobia. They didn't want to talk about how it felt being on "invited guest" status within the community, where you could easily be ostracized at a second's notice for being one of those "impolite angry bis." No, all they wanted to discuss were the reams of "straight privilege" that I was accessing every second of every day, apparently even while being bashed with my girlfriend. They were asking for one-sided honesty, and that's not a discussion, that's just a strange game of one-upmanship: You have privilege, therefore I don't have to deal with my own responsibility in this.
Biological women want trans women to confess all of the male privilege they have ever had growing up. But they won't similarly talk about their relative privilege of growing up non-transgendered. Yes, they were oppressed as girls, but at least they felt like girls and had a body to match. And if some of these girls turned out to be tranny boys, at least there's some indulgence, a bit of breathing room, under the category of tomboy.
There's no room to breathe if you're seen as a femmy or sissy boy. I understand that a lot of trans women did experience that and the accompanying violence that being seen as such entails. Bio women don't want to own up to the fact that growing up with what feels like the right shape around you is also a privilege, if we really want to be honest about it. If there's going to be an honest discussion, it has to be an equal honesty.
We could learn a lot from one another. Yes, our experiences are different, and most trans women I've met are pretty obviously aware of that. Bio gals grew up being fucked with 'cuz they were girls. Trans women grew up being fucked with 'cuz they were girly "boys". This patriarchal systems sees both as "lesser-than". We could teach each other a lot about what it is to be "women", but only if it's a fair fight. Only if the honesty is having it both ways, too. (Is that bi-honesty? :) )
Godzilla's Bi, Too
First, thanx for a great magazine. Second, while reading the June issue of Details, I came across an excerpt from Godzilla's diary (translated by Jeff MacGregor). According to the "diary," Godzilla went to a shrink -- he is now diagnosed as clinically insecure -- who said that his insecurities as a younger lizard "drove me into the high school drama department all those years ago. A gangly, closeted bisexual teen with terrible, terrible skin and radioactive breath." I was very pleased to see this. Just an FYI.
Tired of Hearing from the Franeks of the World
Okay, so Heather Franek's girlfriend P.K. transitioned at the age of 45. I don't care that Franek claims that many of the MtFs she knows "have not worked through their male shit enough to really understand what the world is like for genetic or female-reared women". I'm tired of hearing the Franeks of the world whine about how tough it is "to grow up as female in this society" as they selectively focus upon the experience of transsexuals with decades of adult male privilege.
I completed my sex-change in the '70s -- and am still younger than Franek's P.K. For the many male-to-female transsexuals like me who were true to ourselves when we were young, male privilege is every bit as alien as it is to Franek -- and we didn't have access to the second-class status of female which Franek wraps around herself like a hair shirt. Difficult as it may be for the Franeks of the world to comprehend, we count ourselves lucky to have attained the relative safety and privilege she grew up taking for granted.
Franek's confession that -- despite her oppressed-female background and 10 years' experience as "an anti-violence trainer" -- she has never been as frightened as she was riding a bus at night with a transsexual, gives her away. Especially since she admits that "nothing even happened". Franek's claim that "no adult experience can convey what it's like to grow up as female in this society" cuts both ways -- no adult experience of hers can convey what it's like to grow up as transsexual in this society, with that kind of fear instilled and reinforced through socially sanctioned violence.
I am tired of hearing from women like Franek who have not worked through their female shit enough to really understand what the world is like for young transsexuals.
Margaret Deirdre O'Hartigan
ATM Defies the Niches
Greetings. Thank you for the invite to subscribe to ATM. It is one of the most exciting reads I've come across in quite a while. I'm a 40-year-old queer, HIV+, atheist in a fundamentalist Christian family. I listen largely to punk rock, but I'm also a Deadhead with 100+ shows. I was never considered "gay enough" for the gay scene, was criticized for not being exclusively gay, and to this day am mostly repelled by what passes for gay culture.
As an HIV+ person who abhors the use of pharmaceuticals in favor of vegetarianism, cannabis and various natural and holistic healing methods, I have passed 12 years since my diagnosis as a total non-progressor, but in the process I have been considered a pariah and a danger to the ASOs and the AIDS bureaucracy. I guess what I'm saying is that I've never really fit anywhere, ever. I find in your organization and magazine, alternatives to all the niches that are dictated to us.
Please enter my sub and send me another #17. Best of luck for continued success for ATM.
Peace and noise,
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