It's been far too long since I've updated this, as usual, but this time I think I have a reasonably good excuse: I've had a lot on my mind, and I wanted to make sure I said it in as well-reasoned and carefully-considered a manner as possible. There's been a lot of discussion-provoking thought of late, and I wanted to take the time I needed to mentally masticate it into something reasonable, rather than follow my gut response and post the first thing that came to mind. As I've said before, I'm a writer, not an orator. My first inclination is usually to make a great bloody mess of everything because I'm posting from the hindbrain and the fingertips, not the cerebrum and the mental digestion center. My first drafts of things such as this are usually very visceral, and unpleasant even for the author to review later.
Some time back, an infamous video of the excesses at gay pride marches made the rounds. This got a number of people very distinctly put out and they all wanted to share this link with the world, each saying in some fashion, "go look at this for yourself" adding no additional content. Now, this internet-Crying-Game trick really doesn't impress me, and when three of my friends all post within minutes of each other, each suggesting I look at the same thing and none offering a single word of commentary, I pretty much wrote off the whole thing as very likely some gimmick. Ultimately, however, I was dragged into the fray and I watched, but I had the sound off on my computer at the time, so I sat through several minutes of scenes from pride parades with absolutely no commentary whatsoever. No voice-over, no slurs, no nothing. Just scenes of people trying to be pretty, people trying to be flashy, people making public home movies, that sort of thing. I saw nothing in the footage at which I took offence, and promptly wrote the whole thing off as a "whatever".
Let me repeat one important part of that paragraph, because it will come up later: I saw nothing at which I took offence in the gay pride march video. Public sex doesn't bother me. Drag doesn't bother me. Leatherboys don't bother me. Cops in uniform marching in pride parades annoy me, but only insofar as cops in uniform—or indeed, people in most traditional uniforms—annoy me, and I suspect most of that is a mental shorthand for people assuming that the uniform and by extention the role in society that wearing the uniform connotes makes them somehow more deserving of preferential treatment and exemptions from the social mores governing bad behavior. I don't get the same response for flight attendants or astronauts than I do for military types and police. Nor do I get it for doctors. I do get it for business suits, though. In fact, upon further reflection, I think this particular response is limited to uniforms and jobs that people assume grants them some kind of social privilege.
That, however, is an entire essay unto itself, perhaps one I will inflict upon the public after I have had time to digest it more fully. For now, my concern remains the video and how it relates to my sense of cultural alienation.
After my initial soundless screening, in which I found the whole thing to be relatively boring, I discovered quite by accident that there was in fact a voiceover to the images. So, I went to try to load the video again after fiddling with my sound, and within five minutes I had closed the browser tab in which YouTube had started spewing its noxious contents and gone on to other things. The words being read off-camera for the benefit of the audience were more annoying and, dare I say "offensive", than the contents of the video itself. I didn't bother sitting through the whole thing, because to me it became apparent within the first few minutes where the speaker was trying to lead with his arguments, and by this point I had seen the explosions in everyone's blogs over it and I didn't feel like listening to the whole speech. If anyone thinks I missed anything really important, let me know, but I doubt I'd get anything more out of it than I already have at this point.
Now, the point of bringing up this video is not to rehash old arguments, or to try to open old wounds, or even to try to bring affront to folks, but to show this as the starting point in my latest winding thought process about my beliefs, my views, and where I stand vis-a-vis the society around me. This video was really just one example of what I consider a much larger disconnect. I know I've talked about this before, but at the time I focused very heavily on religion, and while I consider that important, it's not the only point at which I differ from "my fellow Americans". I'll be mentioning it again here, but only as part of a larger picture.
So, before this conversation turns into what some people will no doubt interpret as angst and whining, let me establish what I mean when I say "this is not my tribe":
- My politics are different.
- When I say different here, I don't mean by a few degrees, either. I mean different. I am, very likely, sufficiently to the left and bottom of the average American as to be considered one of the "dangerous nutjobs". For those of you who haven't seen the Political Compass site, go take a look and take their test. The American public, by and large, falls in the top-right corner. Senator Kerry, contrary to popular opinion, was not a "leftist". He was merely less to the right than Bush. Nor was he a libertarian; he was merely less authoritarian than Bush. This country doesn't have a viable liberal/libertarian party. We have a center-right mildly authoritarian party and we have a far-right strongly authoritarian party, and these are painted as the political extremes. I'm so far outside the political extremes that I really don't even register on the map of the American political landscape. For those of you who are numbers-fetishists, I came in at -5.13 Economic (Left/Right) and -7.74 Social (Top/Bottom). By their calculations, that puts me at slightly more anarchistic than the Dalai Lama and only barely less collectivist.
- My religion is different.
- I warned you that I'd be mentioning this again, but this time it's with a little more data. The University of Minnesota's sociology department recently found in a study that atheists are America's most distrusted minority. As one of the estimated three percent of the American population that doesn't believe in a supreme being, I am by and large excluded from public debate on many issues, simply because of the assumption that I lack any sense of morality because I lack faith in a higher power. The two positions are by and large unrelated to each other, but they're inexorably wed in the minds of the typical American, and this keeps me from really having any voice on moral issues in public. It's not that I don't have opinions and beliefs, but that because I lack religious grounding they don't count nearly as much as others', no matter how ridiculous or obviously wrongheaded they might be. American culture has improved overall in its tolerance of differing moral and religious views, but when it comes to atheism it hasn't gotten any further than the 1950s when the Communists couldn't be trusted not to drop the bomb because God wasn't staying their hands.
- My sexuality is different.
This one is such a big category that I'm really going to have to break it down into manageable chunks.
First and foremost, I'm a furry. Why include this under sexuality, you ask? Because to be quite blunt, the human form does not interest me sexually. Yes, I'm serious. The human body, by and large, does not push any of my buttons. It just... doesn't. This has several odd side effects, one of which is that a lot of marketing just slides off of me. If it's a product designed to make people look sexy, or if it's advertised in a fashion that plays up the sex factor, it's probably just not going to register with me, or if it does it's going to be a in a negative context. I don't "get" fashion, generally speaking. I mean, I undesrtand the purpose, but I don't really get the point, because I'm pretty much immune to the results.
This isn't to say that I don't find some people more attractive than others. I don't want this to come across as "you all look the same to me". That's not the case at all, and if that's the impression I'm giving then I'm doing it wrong. What I really am trying to say is that any sexual attraction I have to people is based on intellect and personality, not on looks. I do find some people physically interesting, and others physically uninteresting or even unappealing, but I can't say I've ever seen anyone that I thought was sex-worthy based solely on how zie looked.
This also isn't to say that I don't have a sex life. I do, and it's fairly dense if not exactly regular, but it's loaded with ideas that would probably leave a lot of people scratching their heads. I have a lot of kinks, and some of those probably don't even look like kinks to the outside world. If either of these strike you as funny, you probably understand what I mean.
All of that probably ties very heavily into my next bit, which is that even post-op, I'm still what I would consider as heavily dysmorphic. I don't like my body very much, I never have and I doubt I ever will. Being overweight doesn't help, but that honestly isn't even the root cause. I hate being tall. When I imagine myself, I'm still a little pudgy, maybe ten or fifteen pounds over ideal, but I'm short. Not impossibly short, not micro, but a much more reasonable five-foot-seven, maybe even up to five-nine if you really make me stretch. That's where I want to be, yet here I am towering in at six-foot-four. I hate it. Make no mistake, I loathe being this tall, for reasons that go far beyond my inability to find clothes that fit that I like, assuming I can even figure out what that would be. I'm not too keen about the hair I still have from my pre-transition days, but that's less disgust and more annoyance. It's something like my weight that I can fix, but that I know will take time and dedication. The height is what really kills me; it's beyond my ability to rectify, and it makes fighting with everything else really feel like a waste of time. Knowing I'll never get to where I really want to be, why extend the effort to fix anything else?
- My relationships are different.
- This is related to both sexuality and politics, but distinct enough from either that I think it deserves its own category. I'm polyamorous and polysexual, though not currently expressing either. Infidelity, to me, is what you do that your partners don't know about. If my wife's happiness is expanded by sleeping with someone else and I trust that person, then it expands my happiness by letting her do it, and vice versa. I believe that the question of whether same-sex marriage should be legalized is so antiquated that the very fact we have to ask it reveals an undercurrent of barbarism about our society that makes me uncomfortable. I support polygamous marriages, human-robot couplings, furry-human relationships, dogs and cats living together, and a whole host of other groupings that would probably make most mainstream Americans really disturbed. Jessie and I have invited others into our relationships, and while they haven't worked out in the long run that doesn't mean we've given up on the idea of it ever possibly happening.
Any one of these things would probably on its own take a social revolution to correct, perhaps even two or three to slowly bring society closer to the direction in which I think it ought to move, but each of these takes time, and rarely can more than one or two be fought at a time lest people burn out and give up out of apathy. Civil rights, equal rights, human rights, each of these fights had to happen on its own more or less in isolation, even if the underlying principles behind each are the same, because people still work on stereotypes and we still suffer from hindbrain diseases and poor biological programming. Right now I'm looking at so many struggles to make myself part of the mainstream that I can say I honestly don't believe it will happen within my lifetime.
When I make noises about "going to Canada", it's not that Canada is any better than America. It is in some ways, but it's more removed in others, with the added alienation of being an expat and even to some degree of "being an American", which has in recent years become something of a stigma, even if I'm nothing like the other people with whom I share a place of birth. Really, the cry is a desire to find a home whose laws and culture more closely resembles my own, but truth be told there really is no such place on earth right now. I mean, Canada's a step in the right direction, maybe even a couple of steps, but it might not really be any grand improvement in the long run.
Ideally, I'd join up with an anarchocollectivist Free State Project and take over Vermont or Washington State or the like. That, however, depends on there being as many "freaks" as I'd like to dream of there being, and of all of us being in a position to move to the same place to take over the local legislature and enact the kinds of laws that would make us happy. I can't really see that working out in the long run, but it's a great fantasy.
Come sail away with me.