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Contemplating Queer and Women’s Only Spaces…

Discussing an annual women’s party that is no longer going to welcome trans-men next year with Lee over email, I expressed that the exclusion made me sad. Although he explained that the decision was to make trans-women feel at ease (which I can understand and respect), it still irks me that some people need to be EXCLUDED in order to make others feel welcome or comfortable (especially those that similarly face discrimination and issues of acceptance.) While I recognize the party is a “Women’s Party”, I feel like anyone who has a connection to the women’s community should be permitted to attend.

Frankly, I have an issue with spaces that aren’t all-inclusive. While I do my best to understand and respect groups/spaces that call for restrictions, I personally find them limiting… and offensive. I know it shouldn’t bother me because the restrictions don’t pertain to me, yet I can’t help but object because it defines who/what I should be… and I have enough issues with feeling accepted as it is. I don’t want to transition, yet don’t feel like I can (or want to) classify myself as always/only female. It’s confusing, and yet I don’t really question it… I just don’t think others understand. Being told what I have to be, or more specifically what I cannot be, makes my skin crawl. Under Kate Bornstein’s definition of trans being transgressively gendered, I’d apply. I’m not transitioning. I don’t want to, but I surely like the permission to fuck with gender… and I’d feel much less inclined to do so in a space that said “women only.”

I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s definitely an issue I have been chewing on. Lately, I find myself shying away from heteronormative spaces and seeking out more queer spaces and events. (Mind you, queer is different than gay in that it permits more flexibility in expression of gender, orientation, and sexuality in general.) While some parties, like Switch in NYC, are seemingly women and trans, the main exclusion are those identifying as ‘straight.’ After finally attending my first Switch party this past Friday, I can honestly say that it had a VERY different feel than any other party I’ve attended. Laid-back, no pretense, I felt at ease and free to be myself. While I struggle to feel “queer enough”, I felt the space and people permitted and welcomed all different kinds of expressions of gender. As I stood there in my plaid skirt, thigh-high fishnets, vintage-style garterbelt, knee-high NewRock stomping boots, and packing cock, I didn’t feel like I had to fit a definition. It was a welcome change from the staunch and restrictive spaces that permeate the scene.

I recognize common ground helps to solidify a community, yet I urge us all to consider other avenues for uniting us rather than basing them on who we fuck, what parts we have, or what expression of gender we choose. I guess that’s why I created Alphabet Soup…. because I don’t see what we do (or don’t do), who we fuck, and/or how we self-identify as being reasons why we can’t all mingle and play together.

If only more people shared my queer enthusiasm for sexuality when I propositioned him at camp last year by saying, “Whatever you’ve got, I’ll suck it.”

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9 Responses so far.

  1. Margo Eve says:

    That’s the wonderful thing about freedom of assembly. You can get together in whatever gender/orientation combo that you want. I mean, why get upset about a gender permutation exclusion when you are seeking more “queer space”, which excludes the hetero cis-gendered?

    Any space, whether it is exclusive or inclusive without limits, seeks to serve the purpose of making attendees feel like they belong. There was once a club where guys were encouraged (or at least not discouraged) from wanking themselves while other’s played. Many people couldn’t stand it b/c they didn’t “feel safe” – so now there are No wanking policies in many – if not most – clubs. Is that exclusionary or just selective?

    Yes, some times people are selective in what they need. Other times they are more inclusive. Some people need to work up to said inclusiveness. Other people… well… they are you.

    But, I’m certain, if you think about it, there are times you don’t want to be around X population – even if the X-factor has nothing to do with gender. Doesn’t mean you NEVER want to be around them, just not for certain activities.

    And that’s ok.

    • Mina says:

      Margo – I guess you wouldn’t know this because you’re not in the NYC area, but I host a monthly happy hour (Alphabet Soup) that IS all-inclusive… so, while I speak of Switch, it is really the only party I have attended recently that wasn’t specifically gay or hetero. (For more information about Alphabet Soup, go to the Alphabet Soup tab on my side-bar)

      As I said, I recognize that policies are made to make people feel safe and comfortable. I just find that restrictive policies make me itch. I don’t know… while I have to admit the close-minded hetero cisgendered could be removed from space without hurting my feelings, the same could really go for close-minded and judgmental people of any orientation and lovestyle. My only limitation is that people respect each other and their choices/preferences/expressions/etc.

  2. Sarah Sloane says:

    For me it comes to having safe space available to everyone. There are times when I need to be around other queer women, just for my own emotional contentment (how they got to be women, I don’t care, and I’m not against the transmasculine population being present, but that’s just me). I respect the needs for other limiting events / organizations.

    It’s more a case of why the limitation exists. Does it exist to give a group of bottom or submissive identified people a chance to connect and relax without feeling like a dominant person is either on the prowl, or will end up directing the meeting? Is it about giving transmen & transwomen a place where they can talk about where they’re at without having to answer the “so, what’s in yer pants?” questions? Is it about giving men a space where they can play without being ogled or having attention drawn to them in negative ways? I can get those – it’s lines that are drawn for the benefit of those within, rather than the blind exclusion of those without.

    • Mina says:

      Sarah – I guess I’m just baffled by what I don’t really need myself… and I should stop taking offense to something that obviously has some positives. As you said, perhaps it really is a matter of
      WHY
      those limitations exist? And well, perhaps I’m just too forward thinking to suggest that people get passed their differences and judgments, and just enjoy each other as humans. Seriously… am I really all that rare that I don’t care what’s in someone’s pants, who they like to fuck, or what they like to do behind closed doors (so long as it isn’t axe-murdering)? :S

  3. Margo Eve says:

    I’m pretty sure if you think about it you’ll see you might care more about other things. This isn’t a hot button issue on this side, but how do you feel about conservative, religious folks who just don’t understand anything beyond the binary because it’s all they’ve been taught to understand?

    I mean, would you actually ever want to date/play with a Bush Republican?

  4. Wendy Blackheart says:

    Nothing is truly ‘all inclusive’, and sometimes I don’t think everything *should* be all inclusive. Sometimes I want to spend time with just chicks. Sometimes I just want to be around kinky people. Sometimes I want to hang out with other toppy ladies. We all have varying boundaries, and when they’re set somewhere, by a group, they ought to be respected.

    And even some of the events that seem inclusive, aren’t always. Suspension excludes, or attempts to exclude, those who’s definition of fetish attire doesn’t fit their own, as to many other parties.

    Even Alphabet soup seems to lean more towards the kinky side, rather than queer. Queer kinksters, perhaps, but kink scares away and excludes those pesky vanilla people who might come otherwise – even if they’re queer too.

    (this isn’t an attack or condemnation, of course. Just pointin’ stuff out.)

  5. Sublimefemme says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and really appreciate your perspective. At the risk of jumping into this thread half-cocked (since I’m not familiar with the parties you refer to here), I want to say that I think you make an excellent point:

    “I recognize common ground helps to solidify a community, yet I urge us all to consider other avenues for uniting us rather than basing them on who we fuck, what parts we have, or what expression of gender we choose.”

    Generally speaking, I don’t think the means justify the ends. In other words, WHY a limitation or exclusion exists is not really a justification for doing it. Perhaps inclusivity seems utopian now, as Wendy Blackheart (great name) suggests, but I think it’s great that you are challenging people to hold onto their identities a little less tightly.

    BTW Say hi to CatalinaLoves for me. She’s one of the first bloggers I connected with at The Femme’s Guide.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog! Stop by and visit me at Sublimefemme Unbound the next time your in the neighborhood.

  6. Mina,

    I consider this exact issue frequently. I come down on the side of the fence that favors inclusion of all. I am no more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than anyone else. I simply live with the negative effects of exclusion and have yet to see the positive in my own life or at large.

    There are many aspects of this conversation that I consider:
    – What is to be gained? Lost?
    – Is exclusion being used as a replacement for in-group management of the participants and curriculum?
    – Is the group becoming a top-down decision tree?
    – Is the group becoming an echo chamber?
    – What does the group hope to accomplish as a result? How will they measure effectiveness?
    – Whom does exclusion serve?
    – What does exclusion say about the group to outsiders? Prospective members?

    Anyway, great post. Thanks for it.

    -sgb