Rainbow(ish)

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

Pride season is not only set on fire by the summery sun, but also by the heated debates about the significance of pride. The excesses are criticized, but also the capitalist exploitation of the event, the culture of showing off perfectly sculpted bodies or the hypersexualized atmosphere, till the monopoly of the event exerted by gay white men, overshadowing the opposition to racism, lesbophobia and transphobia within the lgbt community.

Overall, I am still strongly in favor of pride as a political/social/cultural event of affirmation of the lgbt community in the wider society, inclusive of all the identities that still suffer from lack of visibility. But I can’t be a supporter of a pride that doesn’t evolve over the years: we need to cope with the criticisms, distinguish between the cheap and the constructive ones, and strive for a better pride for the years to come.

This is why I hardly tolerate pride supporters showing very little critical thinking in making their point when asked for. It seems that many pride supporters believe in some sort of “mantra of inclusion” of all non-heteronormative gender identities, which arbitrarily excludes straight people from the “pride spectrum”. Why arbitrarily? Because most of these pride supporters, anchor their conception of pride on a private understanding of their own sexuality: if they find out that they are not heterosexual, they already have a reason to be “proud”. But why? Why straight people shouldn’t be proud of their sexuality as well? Why is sexuality anything to be proud of in the first place?

There must be better reasons than a private understanding of one’s own sexuality. In a previous letter of mine, I pointed out the difference between two dimensions of gender: one is intimate, hardly definable and private; the other one is political and subject to public assessment.

The first dimension can be the basis for a positive self-identification, which has not yet political meaning and can’t be criticized in the first place. If I come to believe that I am sexually attracted to people I only feel a deep emotional bonding to, independently of their gender, then I might very well be a demisexual and identify as such. But this identification can’t be the basis for pride yet! There is nothing to be proud of about being of a certain sexual orientation/gender identity per se.

At this point, the political dimension of gender comes into play. For political affirmation, we need much better defined labels: labels and categories that potentially everyone can find intelligible, and not only our inner self. How do we find these categories? Well, they are already there, because the heteronormative society has done a wonderful job in discriminating and creating them in our place: gayphobia giving us gays, lesbophobia giving us lesbians, transphobia giving transsexuals/transgenders, to the more general misogyny giving us women, and racism Blacks, Asians, and so on and so forth.

The public/political dimension of gender is grounded mostly on negative phenomena of systematic discrimination and oppression of behaviors, allusive to non-heteronormative sexualities. In short, when asked why isn’t there any straight pride, one shouldn’t answer by appeal to private reasons, but rather keep in mind an entire history of discrimination and political fights, which contributes to give meaning to categories like “gay” and “lesbian”.

This doesn’t yet mean that if you are pansexual, demisexual, asexual, etc. or simply “privately gay” or “privately lesbian” you don’t belong in pride. In that case, rather than direct opposition to homophobia or transphobia, the motivation for pride can very well be public visibility and representation.

You might now protest: there is more to being lesbian or trans than mere resistance to homophobia and transphobia! There is more to being a woman than mere fighting misogyny and patriarchy! After all, no one ever chose to be non-heteronormative, we ended up being such, who-knows-how. Furthermore, there is beauty and positive value in enjoying one’s “spontaneous” non-heterosexuality without necessarily thinking about political visibility! We have a right to “thoughtlessness”!

I agree. But I also think that this spontaneity of behavior can’t be arbitrarily held as evidence for a public category or a public vindication: one needs good arguments in support of her positions and be open to the possibility of being shown wrong. As I’ve been arguing elsewhere, I think that the correct route to follow is anchoring basic forms of non-heteronormative behavior in our biological makeup.

Demisexuals pose a challenge to my view: they neither are direct objects of homophobia insofar as they identify as demisexuals, nor can they credibly ground their identification in their biological makeup, for it is based for the most on culturally shaped emotions. What right do they have to vindicate their “public dimension of gender”?

I don’t know but, most probably, human beings are much more complicated than what we will ever be able to find out, and a little theoretical charity with respect to demisexuals sounds very much in conformity with pride values.

Forever yours,

‘Miasha

Advertisements

Unicorns

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

Why are unicorns so central in the symbology of gay culture and lgbt culture in general? Unicorns are magical animals, they are “special” or even “unique” but they are often associated with purity, not to mention virginity. What does that have to do with the very material and often highly sexualized gay imagination?

The stigma on sexuality reminds us of something dirty rather than of the purity of the unicorn coat. One of the most ambitious aims of a movement for sexual liberation is precisely to eradicate the idea that there is any purity in certain behaviors or that virginity has any moral significance whatsoever – or that it has any meaning at all. Lgbt movements attempt to break the barriers between heterosexuality and what is considered “deviant” from it and hence “bad”, “stained”, “sick”. In the lgbt universe, purity is irrelevant, dethroned by an inclusive rainbow of all the different shapes human sexual orientation can assume.

The whiteness of the unicorn couldn’t be any further from the darkness of the sleepless nights of gay clubbing. Its lack of imperfections couldn’t be less representative of the wounded, scarred personal histories of many lgbt people.

Perhaps, unicorns are symbols of re-birth after the first coming into the world was repressed by homophobia. The virginity they stand for could be a metaphor for the brand new start of life after coming out and accepting oneself.

This looks like a plausible interpretation, but I have my doubts about it, for it sort of clashes with my conception of (gay-lgbt) pride. Being “out in the open” as a lgbt person doesn’t mean to have forgotten one’s own past. On the contrary: the scars are worn with pride. They remind us of the fights, of the resilience against all odds, of survival and of the final victory, which didn’t come without high costs.

Lgbt people can be “re-born” in a certain sense, but not without any connection to their past. Personal histories give meaning to our pride, our joie de vivre, our strengths as well as our weaknesses.

I don’t have the intellectual tools to analyze lgbt symbology any deeper, also because it would require expertise in historical and cultural studies, not to mention semiotics and hermeneutics, disciplines I know little or nothing relevant about, especially for this specific case.

Let me then just give you a hint of what I think about unicorns. As small children we have been told that unicorns do not exist. The same doesn’t necessarily happen with respect to other imaginary figures like Santa Klaus, angels or else. Unicorns are the ultimate non-existent thing – at least in the western collective unconscious.

On the other hand, lgbt people have lacked visibility and are often misrepresented. They have been marginalized and made object of false beliefs and myths. Just like unicorns, they didn’t exist in the ordinary life of most people. Not because they hadn’t been there the whole time, just because they were oppressed to the point of invisibility.

Being recognized as existent, worthy of love and acceptance is central for the construction of the personal identity of many lgbt people. The unicorn becomes the symbol of being there when many do not believe in you, to be as real and as worthy of existence as anyone else, without further justification. Just because one exists.

Unicorns do not exist. Or maybe we just failed to see that they have always been there, under another name or another form. For now, I am content of being part of the most fabulous volleyball team ever. We are the Royal Unicorns and I am a proud unicorn.

Forever yours,

‘Miasha

Hope

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

Last Saturday my hometown hosted a gay pride for the first time in its history. I already knew the event was to take place, but interestingly I found myself filled with awe as I scrolled the photos on Facebook and Instagram. It was striking for me to see the very place in which I grew up experiencing homophobia and bigotry on a daily base being invaded by rainbow flags and people of all ages and colors reunited to celebrate inclusion and the value of life in all its orientations.

I don’t live in the city I was born anymore, and I wouldn’t like to go back to live there in the future either. My city rejected me when I was most in the need of being accepted, it suffocated my personality and clipped the wings of my aspirations. It burned the soil around me, hindering my youth from flourishing and attempting to force me into madness. How can I love a place like that? How can I appreciate the perks of a hometown, which smashed the foundations of my positivity?

Back then, my city was grey and disheartening. The best people were the hypocrites, because “honesty” meant verbal harassment to me.

Now everything looks different. Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered together, swarming through the streets of the city center saying out loud that equality is no empty word to embellish political correctness. It must be substantial and it must be for everyone, unconditionally. Noticing my cousin with her husband, their two-year-old twins on the respective shoulders, and their third daughter marching along with the crowd, felt as if they were liberating the places of my oppression. I saw it as a cathartic parade, to purify the moral pollution my city was saturated by.

I wasn’t there, and I would agree with anyone accusing me of cowardice. My case is even worse, since I have not contributed to the liberation in general. I went away, leaving my past behind irremediably.

As time went by, my resentment got milder and more rational, but it has always underlied my feelings. However, something new has recently burst into my emotional spectrum. It’s a feeling I have always mistrusted, for all it usually brings is stagnation, indulgence and delusion. It is what the strong tell the weak to feel, in order to control them and justify injustice. But now I have reasons to let it grow in me. My ex fellow citizens have shown a courage and a dedication which is more than admirable, it brings hope for the future. Hope is what they make me feel for the hopeless place of my youth.

Maybe I don’t have the right to feel something as lazy as hope for people who are fighting for the ongoing liberation. Maybe they would prefer “less words and more facts” from me. Unfortunately, I doubt that I have anything to share with my hometown anymore.

I still would like to humbly dedicate this letter to them, if you will allow me to, my princess. I dedicate it to the strength they have that I lack, because they didn’t give up when I did. So, thank you, even if you won’t read this letter. Thank you because a tiny piece of world is a better place thanks to you. And my little me of the past would have been very proud of each one of you.

Forever yours,

‘Miasha