Friday, 1 August 2014

Wading into the never ending, highly charged Rupaul 'Tranny' debate

When it comes to the rupaul dragrace issue of using the word 'tranny' I think it best to first talk about the nature of language and why some words become taboo to use.
Language isn’t just a way of directly communicating, it also carries with it a rich and subtle second set of meaning from the culture that births it. Indeed there have been historical attempts to aid the suppression of a culture by banning people from using local languages and dialects.
This means some words become taboo to use because of the negative social context and histories attached to them. When someone uses such words it signals a lack of understanding or even support for the social histories and institutions that caused such suppression and violence. This is why it pisses me off whenever I hear my 'I'm-not-racist-but' uncle use the term 'paki shop' for the local corner shop.
Normally use of words with bigoted connotations are pretty straightforward. You have the Cis, white, male heteronomative majority using terms that carry horrible connotations which tastily approve the social oppression/side-lining of a cultural 'other', gay, black, woman, trans ect. A simple case of aggressor and subject.

This is where the Dragrace use of 'tyranny' becomes a little more complex.

Drag is its own culture and community, with its own histories, cultural norms and yes, from that it has grown its own language and terms. A small subgroup with an already shunned group, they have historically been the most visible section of the gay community, forgoing the luxury of passing, which has sadly meant they have often been attacked not just from the outside heteronormative culture for breaking the rules of sexuality and gender, but from homonormaitve members of the LGBT community.

Tranny has often been used as a slur against members of the drag community in its history and the culture responded by reclaiming it for their own venacular. Turning it into a general term of identification and stripping it of its negative context. Much like the larger LGBT community has successfully done with the term queer. Drag queens use of the word tranny has become a part of their cultural language.

Transpeople have also been subject to the same slur and their response has been quite different; to reject the use of the word in any context as a rejection of all the negative stereotypes and destructive, ignorant attitudes that it carries.

This is the crux of the matter. You have two societal 'others', both with a cultural/historical claim to a highly charged word. Its at this point my views become a bit conflicted. Does one group have the right to come and pressure the other into changing its internal cultural mediums? I dont think so, my gut feeling is that it isnt right to do that, and this is understandably where a lot of the anger and backlash from the drag community comes from.
drag race is a different kettle of fish. Its not the whole drag community, its a small section that has become a teaching point and gateway to a large cisgendered/heterosexual audience. This power and position means it has a responsibility. Its contribution to cultural language and dialogue will have a lasting affect on wider societies view of transpeople.

Do I think the show's use of those words transphobic? No.
Do I think it could have legitimised transphobia in society? Yes.

I guess my point is this, the drag community should be able to continue to use to words of its own culture and context however they see fit WITHIN their own community. No one else, gay straight, trans, has a right to interfere with that. OUTSIDE the drag community, like popular tv shows, then it becomes a matter of acknowledging how Such words carry cultural context for other groups, like transpeople and the damage it can do.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Gym Thing: "cutting? ugh, cutting!"

“You know I’m so glad bulking season is over, I finally get to start cutting!” Said no gym goer ever!
I don’t do cutting, mostly because it’s one of the least enjoyable things at can be done in relation to the gym. Sure, there is the struggle with lifting weights and the soreness and stiffness that come the day after and even the long trudging stretches of time in the cardio section, but with all of these I feel good after with a great sense of achievement and a flood of enorphins. When it comes to cutting I just feel crap, and hungry, and tired and just plain miserable. Beyond this however, my mental health starts to deteriorate.
Spending a stretch of time starving myself to the point where my body has to dig into its fat reserves are never fun. I’m just constantly tired and hungry, so very hungry. My sex drive goes, my ability to concentrate goes but beyond that my mental health suffers. It starts with me feeling ratty and short tempered. I begin to see my body in a negative light and start measuring my waist all the time. I start to feel horrible about myself and hate how my body is. This is the biggest thing that makes cutting repellent to me.
Since starting back at the gym four years ago my relationship with my body has completely changed. I feel I relate to my body in a much more positive way, I have gained a greater understanding of how it works and I don’t feel powerless against it. That may seem a weird thing to say, that I felt subjugated by my body, but I did. It seemed like my weight and body shape were things I was trapped by. My skinny arms were something forced on me and I couldn’t change that. If I became fatter or thinner, it was because of reasons I didn’t understand and so felt dragged along by my body for the ride. Now I know I can affect change on my body. I know how my activities and eating patterns affect it. If my body starts to go in a direction I don’t want, I can just change my behaviour and my body will respond. This feeling of control over my own self has improved my body image to no end. I now like my body, not for what it has changed into, but because it isn’t something that makes me feel bad about. Its part of me, not something forced onto me. Sure there are goals I have set to achieve in terms of body shape but I’m happy with where I’m starting from.
This all seems to go out the window when cutting.
The wearing down of my mental health probably has a lot to do with this. Being miserable and tired for so long won’t do anyone any good, but then further combined with fighting against an appetite that I often loose against and lack of easy progress means that old feeling of my body being an object I am forced to deal with, rather part of me, rears its ugly head.
Being a cub helps a lot with it, as I don’t feel any social pressure to strive for the classic gay mans abs when I can have a rubable belly instead (well most of the time, going to Hampstead heath pond and sitting in a large group of topless gay men all with abs in speedos) so if I feel my bellies getting beyond my comfort zone I just start clean bulking and do a bit more cardio, which is normally enough to bring things back to where I want them.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Whats In a Puppy Name

My musings on the nature of how puppy boys are named

I thought I would put to paper (or more accurately, screen) some thoughts that have been swirling about my head for a while, and lately became fuel for a conversation with a friend. The main topic of conversation was the nature of puppy names.
Now for full disclosure, I do not identify as a pup as many people I know do. it has caused me some consideration as I have a lot of puppy tendencies, when the people around me are pups I feel I can let out a side of myself that clicks with them. The tactile, huggy, happy, in-the-moment part of my self blooms. I have even started barking back with the pups I know. I have joked with them that they are slowly trying to assimilate me into puppy-hood like a playful, kinky borg collective. But I fundamentally do not feel that puppy hood as a whole fits me. I do not have that inert ‘puppyness’ I see in others. But one thing about puppy culture fascinates me; the names.
Names in general fascinate me, I grew up fed on fantasy novels and Wiccan books that all agreed names have special meaning. I have noticed that people tend to create an online name that they use all over the internet, a name they chose for themselves rather than their birth name. So puppy names fascinate me for the fact that puppies never decide their own names.
This seems alien to me. The notion that you need another person to name you seems wrong to me, it is a concept that does not sit right in my brain. I understand that real dogs don’t have the language or mental setup for names, so they are always given them by owners, and so it makes sense that a puppy boy’s name would be given by their trainer/owner/master/generic-dom-term-here. But there is a part of me that can’t wrap my brain around such an important part of your personal identity being dependant on other people and because of that, often being transient.
I have noted the widespread use of mythological references in puppy names. My NSFW twitter feed is filled with names from the Norse and Greek pantheon. This I wonder if it is because of the symbolic nature of mythological characters. The Norse and Greek myths were often anthropomorphic personifications that had very singular character traits; Pride, wisdom, hubris, trickery, kindness, compassion etc. so I can see why they would be popular puppy names being clear shorthand for what a pups personality may be like. In this respect I suspect Puppy names are in their nature are more descriptors than identifiers. As with real dogs, they tend to have names that are more descripted of their doggy nature. How many highly energetic, but low on attention dogs have we all met  called something like ‘Sparky’ or the like.
On my limited experience with my own full puppy play from a play night with some friends  I was given the full mits and muzzle treatment and was given the name Pup Scamp for the night. Which I found fit me well in its implications of acting cute but naughty, but I can’t say I felt any massive connection to it. It’s not like my Birth name or my ‘internet name’ of mouse that touches to a deep part of me.
Many puppies change their name with a new owner. Feeling the old one no longer fits. Is this because with each person that enters and leaves our lives we are changed, and so the name only fits a version of the puppies self that has passed? Or is the name works as a symbol of their relationship to another person more than a symbol of their self? It’s a topic I wish to understand more about but again it seems to point to the name being a descriptor rather than an identifier.
I would love to talk with more puppies about this, because it’s something that I am hungry to understand and really fascinated by and a subject that has given me much thought in my wider musings of others, and my own identity.

This is my Big Bro Pete. He’s one of the dearest and most important people in my life. This weekend for a much delayed birthday present I gave him my old pair of chaps that don’t fit me anymore and boy does he look good in them. I don’t see him nearly enough as I want to as he’s living outside of London currently, but when I moved to London having him close by helped me a lot to ajust. 
Also, the fun we have when he I and my bf get together is insane and provided me with so many great memories.