Monday, November 16, 2009

Gender Binaries, Trinaries and the problem of labels...

With literally uncounted thousands of identifiers, why is gender identity given such a prominent place amongst our labels? I am rapidly reaching the place where I am ready to treat my gender the way I do my sexuality - just refusing to identify any which way. On every gender inventory I have taken, I am androgynous, tending towards feminine.

I tend towards a more archetypal male expression of self - but then I was totally socialized with what was almost hyper-masculine role models. I am the ready hand in a crisis, unafraid if a situation requires violence. I am very physical - coming towards a year in school and I still have callouses on my hands. I am typically ignorant of my emotions a lot of the time.

Yet here I am, perfectly capable of filling the momma role, the sensitive lover, the empathetic, nurturing friend. I listen, because I am genuinely interested in what you have to say. I wrap my arms around people in need of compassion without fear or embarrassment. I am extremely introspective and my ignorance of emotions, is mostly founded in my fundamental projection bias, my assumption that most people probably feel like this and it is perfectly normal - i.e. depression is not normal, so that couldn't be something I experience.

So what am I? More importantly, what does it matter? I am not averse to ideas such as genderqueer - alternatives to this supposed gender binary. If pegged, I wouldn't even be averse to identifying as such. Sometimes I am even likely to identify as male, just as sometimes the context of a conversation indicates that I should identify as straight.

To be clear, I am not confused about my gender. I am not considering gender labeling because I am insecure about who and what I am. In reality, this is something I have been thinking about a lot for quite some time, because there are a lot of people who are confused and insecure about it. And there are people who are degraded and stigmatized because of their gender issues, whether they are experiencing gender disphoria, are transgendered, intersexed, androgynous or just happen to characteristically fall more into the realm of the gender that is not their sex.

Then there are people who think the whole discussion is stupid. Who think if you have a penis you're just a guy and if you sport a uterus instead, then you're just a woman. For whom it really is just that simple and the rest is just a load of complete and utter shit. It is because of this group of people, that I am increasingly fucking tired of this need to label.

The notion that this need to preserve one's gender identity is so very intense, that the mere existence of people who don't fit into this male/female dichotomy is a threat to their own gender identity is a sign that we have some very significant problems to overcome. I am all for people exploring or not exploring these concepts, as it suits their desire and comfort levels. But the point at which their desire to avoid any and every perceived threat to their gender and sexual identities interferes with and stigmatizes who and what other people are, I start to get more than a little angry about it.

While the choices I have made in life have certainly influenced who and what I am, I did not choose to have characteristically ambiguous gender traits. I didn't choose to have a general sexual preference for women. I didn't choose to empathize the way I do, listen the way I do, brute my way through discomfort the way I do or take on most of the myriad traits, or labels that make DuWayne Brayton, DuWayne Brayton. I am the sum of my genetics, environment and to some degree the choices I have made.

So are every one of us. Every fucking one.

So what exactly is the threat that my gender identity or the gender identity of anyone else, to the gender identity of anybody else? What threat does one of my labels, pose to one of yours? I am more than a little angry about this, because that perceived threat is used to stigmatize, marginalize and even oppress whole groups of people for characteristics that they cannot control.

So I am not straight, not a man. I am not my sexuality and I am not my sex. I am not even my gender. I am a human person who is sexually attracted to other human people and who shares a lot of characteristics with a lot of other human people. If that makes you uncomfortable, if that makes you feel threatened, please refrain from blaming me. I am not the one of us who has a problem with who they are. It might, however, be a good idea if you sat down to consider exactly why I make you uncomfortable or threatened. It would be a really good idea to think about why that same sex couple, being affectionate in public like any other couple makes you uncomfortable or threatened. It would probably do you a world of good to consider why that women down the block, the one with the addams apple who occasionally still gets that five o'clock shadow makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Because our problem isn't who and what we are. Our problem is you and your destructive fucking stigmas and abuse.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Audio Books, MP3 Players (and Linux?)

I have recently become engaged in some discussions about MP3 players and audiobooks. This is becoming rather fun and exciting, with a lot of libraries (such as any public library in MI*) offering audiobook downloads, as well as options such as Audible.Com, Barnes and Noble.Com or for lower priced downloads, there are sites like Audio Books Bay. has a lot of audiobook downloads for free, there is another listing of them here and most of the paysites have free download options as well. For most any bibliophile, while actual hardcopy books are preferred, audiobooks are a great way to pass time on long drives or while engaged in most any mindless tasks.

And with the option of audiobooks in mp3 format, the question becomes - what is the best option for listening to them?

Personally, I am very happy with my 4gb Sansa Fuze. It has a Micro SDHC expansion slot, which allows you to insert a micro SD or SDHC chip at 1,2,4,8 or 16 gbs. And I am currently listening to three different books (I like to be able to suit my mood) - flipping from one book to another does not mean I lose my place, nor does powering down. When I want to resume one of the books I have been listening to, I just click resume and I am right back where I left off. It doesn't allow me to skip around within the book and go back where I was, but that is of little concern to me. It is my understanding that Sansa mp3 players do not have audiophile quality sound, but as I have hearing issues anyways and mostly listen to books, this is not a problem for me. And no one who I have played music for with it, had any issues with the sound quality.

The other option that seems popular, is the iPod touch. Stand alone it is apparently not a whole lot different than my Sansa Fuze for holding your place, but there are applications for audiobooks that apparently allow you a great deal more flexibility - including multiple bookmarks per book and the option to add notes. The downside of course, is that apposed to my Sansa Fuze that can be found for less than $60 brand new (less for the 2gb), the iPod touch starts at around $200. Of course the iPod touch is incredibly versatile, including fucking wifi, so there are other advantages. But for something cheap that will primarily be used for audiobooks, there are far more practical options available.

I have only written about the players that I have confirmed familiarity with. If you know of a player that would work well for audiobooks, please mention it in comments. I am also rather interested to know whether formatting a player with Linux would make it possible to install a better audiobook platform and whether such a thing is available. I recall Greg Laden posting instructions for formatting an iPod with Linux and would love to find out what sorts of fun things one might manage to do with a Linux based mp3 player.

* MI residents should click here to help protect the Michigan State Library system. This includes not only the MI digital library, but Melcat and other great MI library services.