Winter
Death, Life, Transformation

The second wave of feminism, rather than having crashed onto the shore, is still far out to sea, slowly and inexorably gathering momentum. None of us who are alive today will witness more than the first rumbles of the coming social upheaval. Middle-class western women have the privilege of serving the longest revolution, not of directing it. The ideological battles that feminists are engaged in are necessary, but they are preliminary to the emergence of female power, which will not flow decorously out from the universities or from the consumerist women's press. Female power will rush upon us in the persons of women who have nothing to lose, having lost everything already. It could surge up in China where so many women divorced for bearing girl children are living and working together, or in Thailand, where prositution and AIDS are destroying a generation, in Iran or anywhere else where women are on a collision course with Islamic fundamentalism, or anywhere the famished laborer sees luxury foods for the western market grown on the land which used to provide for her and her children. And the women of the rich world had better hope that when female energy ignites they do not find themselves on the wrong side.
--Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman, 1999

Carry yourself as one who will change the world, because you will.
--Robin Morgan

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Hearrtadmin
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""Queer By Choice""
 
   I came across this website today and spent some time there-- very interesting.

http://www.queerbychoice.com/

Though the site itself isn't straight-up feminist, there's a lot of great information and good writing here, including writings about social construction vs. essentialism (wrt to sexual "identity") which are quite down-to-earth and readable, not that feminist writings aren't to those of us who love them, but sometimes they aren't so understandable to those who are new to feminism.

I'm going to post a couple excerpts from their FAQ and site. Their theory is, being gay or lesbian or bisexual is something people choose to be. There is no genetic component, they don't believe, to sexual preference; what people have cited to as scientific evidence is either fraudulent or inconclusive, actually. While all the people whose writings are on the site are not 100 percent social constructionist (though some are), by definition none are essentialist. They get into explaining the arguments and politics of social construction and essentialism (wrt to, again, sexual identity), too, which is interesting.

Heart


I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Hearrtadmin
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1. "Choice"
 
   On the Queer By Choice FAQ, the author writes that QBC people have "chosen" to feel attracted to the same sex. In response to the question about how it is that people can "choose" their feelings, the FAQ reads as follows:

***

You mean some people can just look at someone
and decide whether to be attracted to them?

That's not exactly the kind of choice we mean. Here's another way of looking at it:

We might envision the erotic potential we're born with as a shapeless mass of water. As we experience different things throughout our lives, we build dams or dig channels to direct the flow of that water toward certain types of people—people with certain hairstyles, certain personality styles, certain accents, certain opinions, and frequently, certain genders. Sometimes we make a conscious choice to build a dam or dig a channel; other times we blindly follow directions when our parents or the media tell us that greater happiness is to be found by directing the flow toward the opposite sex. At still other times, any emotional association from an experience we've had can provide the tiny ripple that starts the water flowing in a particular direction, and from there the water might even dig its own channel deeper without our help—for example, if you've had promising beginnings with several short males with green mohawks and nose rings (even if those relationships later ended badly), then when you get introduced to another short male with a green mohawk and a nose ring, you might quite possibly be more predisposed to feel affectionate toward or "at home" with him, or to immediately wonder as soon as you see him whether this might be your next promising beginning.

Now, at the particular moment that you meet someone you're attracted to, you may not have much choice about being attracted to them because in that one moment you probably don't have time to instantaneously reconstruct all the dams and channels that took many years to build. But if your reasons for having built the dams and channels in the way that you did become outdated, then over a period of time when the water level has subsided a bit, you might deliberately rebuild them in a different style—or you might unconsciously develop other emotional associations without ever really thinking about the fact that lately you're not so fixated on short males with green mohawks and nose rings as you used to be.

On the other hand, if you built your dams and channels to direct your attraction toward the same sex because your shared experience of the same gender role enables you to genuinely relate better to them in some way which is important to you, then even though you might consciously try to change and become more attracted to the opposite sex for the sake of social acceptance, your attraction to the same sex probably will not change—because the wish for social acceptance is an awfully stupid motivation for being attracted to someone, and something inside you must have realized this in order for you to feel same-sex attraction in the first place.

http://www.queerbychoice.com/lookat.html

***

Heart


I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Hearrtadmin
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2. "Essentialist v. Social Constructionist"
 
   Again from the FAQ:

What is the difference between essentialist and social constructionist techniques for fighting homophobia?

Social constructionists believe that although same-sex love has occurred in all cultures, the concept of certain people being predisposed to love only one sex (and thus being "homosexuals" or "heterosexuals") is an inaccurate concept invented by modern Western society, and does not accurately describe how human sexuality develops in other cultures. They believe that a person who describes themself as homo or hetero and orients their sexual behavior toward only one gender does this only because their culture has fed them certain ideas about sexual identity.

Essentialists believe that the concept of people being "homosexuals" and "heterosexuals" accurately reflects an unchangeable reality which holds true for all cultures in all of history, and thus that a person's homosexuality or heterosexuality constitutes an unchangeable "essence" rather than a socially constructed characteristic.

People who believe sexual preference is always inborn are pure essentialists. People who do not believe anyone is born with any predisposition toward any particular sexual preference are pure social constructionists. There are also many people who are somewhere in the middle and agree with certain aspects of both social constructionism and essentialism; they may believe that there's some degree of biological influence on sexual preference but that cultural ideas also have an important influence. Queer by choice people are by definition not pure essentialists, but not all of us are pure social constructionists either (although a lot of us are).

In their efforts to fight homophobia, essentialists tend to start with the assumption that queers will always be in the 10% minority and that heterosexuals will always be in the 90% majority. Essentialists typically try to promote queer rights through arguing that gay people "can't help" being queer and saying that giving queer people equal rights to marry and not be discriminated against will not cause anyone else to become queer.

Social constructionists tend to believe that in a truly liberated society where same-sex desire was not stigmatized, everyone would feel and acknowledge feeling same-sex sexual desire, and exclusive heterosexuality would fade out of existence. Thus, they believe that in order to win queer rights we have to also teach hets to liberate their own queer potential. Social constructionists typically try to promote queer rights by talking about other cultures where all members of the society were expected to have same-sex relationships, and by asking hets to imagine that they'd grown up in a society like that, and by trying to get hets to face and accept their own queer potential and see same-sex desire as a natural part of what all humans are capable of experiencing.

Essentialist queer activists typically get mad at social constructionist queer activists for being too threatening to hets by actively trying to convert hets to queerness. But social constructionist queer activists typically get mad at essentialist queer activists for making hets too comfortable, agreeing with too many het ideas and not challenging het people's deepest fear of their own queer potential.

http://www.queerbychoice.com/essentialism.html

***

Heart


I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Hearrtadmin
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3. "Why?"
 
   More from the FAQ

***

Why would you want to be queer in such a homophobic world?

You know, there's more to queerness than being discriminated against. Ask your queer friends if they want to turn hetero — the odds are that most of them don't. Whatever their reasons for wanting to remain queer, those reasons are probably also good reasons for people to choose to become queer. Some possible reasons for choosing to be queer include the following:

It may be easier to relate to members of our own gender on an understanding, nonexploitative level.
It may seem silly to reject perfectly good people just because of the shape of their sex organs.
If we don't believe queerness is genetic and we also don't see anything immoral about choosing it, then limiting ourselves to loving only members of the opposite gender just from pure fear of social condemnation might make us feel like cowards.
We may be looking for a sense of purpose in life, and reclaiming the right of all people to love and make love to members of our own gender may provide us with a sense of purpose.
We may admire the queer community and want to be a part of it.
We may be rebelling against the sexually repressive culture.
If like most non-queers we find that the idea of being called queer scares us, we may recognize that the only way to overcome any fear is to face it and do what scares us most—to become queer.

One final note: People who choose to be queer do not generally do so with the idea that being queer will be some kind of nonstop party. But as Frank Aqueno says on his Queer by Choice website, people often choose for good and rational reasons to do painful things. Some people volunteer to fight in wars and die for their country. Other people choose to practice civil disobedience and be arrested and/or beaten up for the sake of their cause. For many of us, choosing to become queer may feel something like that. Also, most of us who made a fully conscious and direct choice to become queer also tend never to have believed the hype about queerness being in any way immoral.

ven though I was normally homophobic prior to this choice, I didn't really understand the ramifications of being queer til my mother actually thought I was.. soo.. that's how someone can choose the horrible, horrible life of being queer. And, besides, I'd already become a feminist a year or so prior to my choice & decided I never wanted to marry a man. I figured I would just live a sad and lonely life. It was a godsend for me to find out that being lesbian was actually an option. Oh, and for the record, no, when I chose to be queer I did not do so due to any book or anything. I did so because I wanted to do so. I had no idea it was a "political statement" or anything else. I was a feminist, and I saw it pretty obvious that being lesbian was the only way I could live freely in my personal life.
—Eve Shalom, "Common Sense (or Lack Thereof)," diary entry on glass.poetess.org, May 31, 2000

I have friends who are straight, you know. I realize it's problematical for them because they have not been able to get out of where I was at, at that particular trap. I think of heterosexuality as a kind of trap. And they can't get out of that trap. I've been known to say, "I think you would be better off without men." And some women say to me, "I just can't bring myself to do that." And I tell them all, "I don't expect you to make any compromises on my account. It's your life." But culture and society says you sleep with men if you're a woman.
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996

http://www.queerbychoice.com/why.html

***

Heart

I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Hearrtadmin
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4. "*"
 
   http://www.queerbychoice.com/humorlinks.html

http://www.gentlespirit.com/margins/Images/happy.gif";>

Heart

I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Branjor
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5. "Thanks for the website...."
 
   LAST EDITED ON Dec-10-03 AT 09:30 PM (PT)

LAST EDITED ON Dec-10-03 AT 09:29 PM (PT)

I was beginning to think that people like me, who think being a lesbian is a choice, not something encoded in my genes, were extinct in this "scientifically sophisticated" society we live in. This society in which nonscientists think that science has explained all of human behavior in terms of "genes" and in which the media is forever popularizing this idea.

As to how on earth people "choose" their feelings/attractions, maybe this example sheds some light on it. Gah, I hope the example is not offensive and I know enough to know what I am talking about. If not, please accept my apologies in advance. The example: A man is a known Nazi. No matter how sexually attractive or charming he may be, heterosexual Jewish women (or anyone else worth their salt, IMO) are unlikely to fall in love with him. The reason? Because they CHOOSE not to feel that way about a known Nazi. And they do not feel sexually deprived or fantasize about him in the least. (At least I don't THINK so but I hope I'm not treading on thin ice here.)

Anyway, I will have to check out that website.


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funnie
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6. "thoughts on choice"
 
   LAST EDITED ON Dec-11-03 AT 09:45 AM (PT)

I agree with the premise that it's highly unlikely that anyone is born with a strong sexual attraction wholly limited to one sex.

OTOH, I feel pretty uncomfortable saying "nobody's *really* born gay/straight," even though I might think it, because although straight people could stand to hear that more often, it's not my place to (for instance) heap some "false consciousness" on a lesbian who feels her attraction to women is so fundamental that it's nature, not nurture.

The overriding assumption in modern patriarchal society is that heterosexuality is wholly "nature" and homosexuality is wholly "choice," so I think it's more important overall to get out the word that people are Het By Choice (now *there's* a button I don't want!) than it is to zone in yet *again* on people "choosing to be gay," even if it's not at all from a homophobic theoretical platform.

Now, clearly, it's important for gays and lesbians who recognize that there are ways they've channelled themselves (or have been channelled by others) toward exclusive or virtually exclusive attraction to the same sex to be able to read that others feel similarly, as Branjor just indicated.

But as far as society-wide-repercussions, I'd really like to see an investigation of the "choice" and "conditioning" behind so-called exclusive attraction to the opposite sex. I would think that for a lot of gays and lesbians, interpreting their lives as a matter of choice seems invasive and negating, given this particular cultural soup, and I think that if the dominant majority (heteros) came to terms with the fact that their interpersonal interactions, behavior patterns, and relationships are NOT as hard-wired as they'd like to think they are, the questions that came out of that would practically break down patriarchy and give enough breathing room to GLB for them to investigate nature/nurture without coercion breathing down their neck.

Of course, framing my heterosexuality in terms of choice makes me supremely uncomfortable, which is a pretty convincing argument for it being a good approach. Mostly I'm okay with being uncomfortable, but then again, upon placing myself in Branjor's attraction-to-Nazis example, I took strong umbrage with the implication that I'm not worth my salt. :p


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Hearrtadmin
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7. "*"
 
   branjor, yeah, I don't have a problem with that example you've used, in part because I've used that same kind of logic here and elsewhere myself! I was looking for a post I recently wrote where Sophia and I, I think, were talking about attractions to young men, and my thinking was, even if I do experience some immediate, visceral attraction, it's mitigated by all sorts of other thoughts, like who is this guy? Is he a rapist/child molester/porn freak? Does he go to strip bars? Is he mean to animals and children? Does he hit his girlfriend? His kids? His mom? And that takes care of that attraction right quick. And I think the more women are aware of what men are, what they do, the greater the likelihood that these feelings of attraction become just suspect in an ongoing way, such that it begins to make a lot more sense to us that we *do* have a lot more control over these attractions than we once may have thought we had.

And yeah, funnie, I know what you mean about feeling uncomfortable thinking about being het by choice, but I like what char said once in a discussion along the same lines. She said something like that in discussions of Marxist theory, nobody feels bad because they've "chosen" to get a job, somehow we're able to not take that kind of discussion so personally as this one.

Heart


I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind. -- Andrea Dworkin


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Branjor
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8. "Thinking more..."
 
   LAST EDITED ON Dec-11-03 AT 02:34 PM (PT)

LAST EDITED ON Dec-11-03 AT 02:28 PM (PT)

...about discomfort thinking of oneself as "het by choice" while I am not uncomfortable thinking of myself as "lesbian by choice": maybe the discomfort with "het by choice" is partly related to a feeling that it makes the heterosexuality seem less "secure" in a society that severely punishes anything but heterosexuality, whereas "lesbian by choice" does the same thing in a society that would LIKE to see lesbianism as a less compelling choice.

What I like about "lesbian by choice" is that it says that lesbianism CAN be a choice, not just a tragic accident which one would change if one could.

Not sure exactly what you are taking umbrage at, Funnie (?), unless you have been attracted to Nazis. Maybe "worth their salt" was a poor choice of words if one who IS "worth their salt" has been having involuntary attractions to people who are not good in some way. Lesbians can also be attracted to people who are not good or not good for them in some way. I myself have been attracted to straight women and nonfeminist women in my day.


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Me
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9. "hmm"
 
   To me this site doesn't seem to "ring true". My first hunch is that the creator of the website is actually MTF, not lesbian, especially because of the repeated use of "queer" instead of homosexual, gay, or lesbian. Just my hunch though. Also, based on my personal experience, both of these arguments "nature" and "nurture" are argumetns posed by those on the outside of the gay/lesbian community. Most of us don't give a hang -- we just are. Setting up nature vs nuture or anything close to that still sounds to me as if someone is trying to legitimize gay/lesbian realities. The fact of the matter is, most of us know we are legitimate and don't give any more thought to it than our heterosexual conterparts.


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Me
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10. "."
 
   from Gayle Madwin's livejournal:

"I kept my gender a secret online from March 1999 until November 2001, when I gave a radio interview on the subject of choosing to be queer, which pretty well gave away my gender since my voice is easily labeled as female. "

things that make you say "hmmmm"


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