Being a Feminist Gay Male in a World of Women

Look. Introverts aren’t special. Extroverts aren’t special. Unlike what Lena Dunham or Zooey Deschanel or Jennifer Lawrence are saying, not having good social skills or people skills isn’t cute or quirky. It’s sad and taxing.

One of my good friends in a French class in Jakarta confessed that she used to hate me because she thought I was distant and aloof. No. It was because I didn’t have any friends in class and I didn’t know how to strike a conversation. I was (still am, somewhat) afraid of rejection and so I never made the first move. No one befriended me, so I concentrated on learning and getting good grades. This was back in 2002. Fast forward thirteen years later and I still don’t know how to behave.

I just came home from a public discussion where only seven out of dozens of attendees were men, and I might be the only gay man there. A few weeks ago, there was a breach of trust in the Tribal belly dance community. It involved a very well-known festival in NorCal that was organized by a bellydancer (and her husband). All these times, almost everyone thought that the husband was an ally, someone who supported the belly dance community, which, let’s face it, is predominantly women (whether cis or trans). Apparently, the husband of the organizer had a secret group on Facebook. The secret group was originally made for DJs. It started with discussions about DJ stuff, then it escalated. The husband, and another man (who is apparently a photographer and a husband of another female bellydancer), had posted photographs of belly dance performers (men and women) and making not just highly inappropriate statements, but very sexist, misogynistic, humiliating comments about them. Even posting real names of the dancers.

For some, this may not be a big deal. “They’re men being men,” or, “It’s not like they’re really acting it out.”

If it’s a stranger, I’ll probably get it. I do not condone it, I will still say that the statement “men being men” is very reductive, but I’ll probably get it.

But those remarks came from men these dancers had trusted. Those remarks came from men these dancers had hugged and kissed and confided in and had heart-to-heart conversations with.

The dance festival that was supposed to be a safe space, a haven (not just for women, although mostly for women, because again, bellydancers are predominantly women), no longer became a safe space.

And there I was, in the back of a room somewhere in Los Angeles, in a discussion about the dance festival. I listened to women share their very private experiences and fears and triggers. I witnessed these women cry openly as they confronted their fears and let everyone in the room know the hurt and anguish they felt as old wounds were reopened by the recent dance festival debacle. They held each other. The comforted each other.

Some men talked too. Straight men who have bellydancer wife/girlfriend. Straight men who made sure that they would never behave like those two sexist husbands. Some men said that they would kick the asses of those nasty, sexist men, and other men yelled yeah they would too.

But where does that leave me?

I’m a gay male. I consider myself androgynous, but by all accounts, I’m still a cisgender male. I don’t want to cut off my penis or grow breasts. I don’t want to not have sexual organs because I love sex and I love having an orgasm.

I feel weird calling myself a man because I don’t identify with that word, because there’s a sense of masculinity that’s attached to it, and I’m neither masculine nor do I want to be.

But still.

I used to feel comfortable hugging females and women, including bellydancers, but now, with this breach of trust, I feel like I need to take a step back. I always try not to wander into a female changing room. I always prefer to change in the bathroom. Some welcomed me inside their changing room and they freely changed in front of me, but it still felt weird. Part of it was probably because I was raised with different values concerning nudity.

I never feel comfortable hugging males, or even striking a conversation with men, especially straight men, because I don’t want to give the impression that I want to have sex with them. I don’t have a lot of straight male friends because of that very reason. And the reason is because I grew up learning that many straight males are afraid of gay males because they think gay males are predators and will turn them gay. It is my own personal crusade to make sure that I don’t have sex with straight males.

One of the husbands of the bellydancer who were present in the community meeting (not the sexist husbands), did say that as men, we have a lot to learn.

I know I do.

I have never experienced true grief. Both my parents are still alive. Both my siblings are still alive. I’ve experienced grief when I lost my cats, and they meant a lot to me, but without being reductive to my own experience, I’m not an empath. I can never feel what other people feel. Everything that I’ve experienced, my sex, my gender, my race, my sexuality, my upbringing, my socioeconomic background, my genes, all of these contribute to my identity and how I process thoughts and emotions and memories.

I can never know what females feel. Even if I were raped, I would never know how female rape survivors feel, because I’m not a female. I can never know what straight males feel, because although I have a penis, I’m not attracted to females.

I am unique and so is everyone around me.

I have different threshold of tolerance, to pain, to suffering, to humiliation, to heartbreaks. I deal with my own traumas differently. I deal with my life differently. And so do other people.

What is okay to you may not be okay to another person. A female dancer may welcome me to change in her dressing room while she’s there, because she doesn’t see me as a threat, but another female dancer may object to that because she considers me a man, and I’ll be happy to leave.

I am not inconvenienced by whatever happened to the dance festival. I never felt attached to it. I don’t personally know the organizer or her husband, but I’ve read some of the vile remarks from the DJ group and they angered me. But again, I’m not one of the performers who were personally attacked in said DJ group.

But I’ve made a decision. This decision is good for now. I may change it next month or next year, since I’m constantly growing and learning and educating myself. I will make mistakes. I’m not being pessimistic. It’s just the reality.

My decision is: my being gay has nothing to do with this. I’m still a male (notice that I don’t use the gender-term “man”), but there’s a bigger, more pressing issue here. I know that I can be an ally to women, but I’d also like to acknowledge that everyone is unique. Which is why, from this day on, I will try not to generalize. I will try to remember what everyone’s preference is when it comes to fundamental things like boundaries. I’ll keep a rolodex in my brain to keep track of what you allow me to do or to say and to be respectful.

But my brain is small, and my memory can sometimes be wonky, so please bear with me if I keep making mistakes and repeating them (hopefully not too many times). And always, always, always, remind me when I’ve crossed the line. Do it gently, do it harshly, do it however you like, but remember that like you, I also have feelings.

Know that I will avoid you if I think you feel uncomfortable to be around me, or if I think you can never forgive me for what I’ve done. I will wait until you can forgive me, until we can have an awkward but warm talk, until you’re sure that you can trust me again. That’s how I salvage a relationship, by giving time and space.

But I’m not selfless.

Know also that you and I have the right to shut each other out, if it needs to come to that, and it’s fine, because we both can survive without each other.

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dealing with microaggression

When I was a kid, I love, love, love comic books. Being feminine and gay, I worshipped Wonder Woman and Catwoman and Poison Ivy and Shadow Cat and Supergirl and BlackCat and Sorceress and the likes. As I grew older, the feminist in me learned that comic books are sexist. Now, I can’t even watch Justice League without being appalled. Also, I’m going to shout out a big fuck you to Jim Balent for destroying Catwoman by overly sexualizing her. May a homosexual bite your cock off.

The same thing goes for Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. I used to like it, but then I realized that the Rromani people in the movie are depicted as thieves and con artists. I can’t say that all Rromanis are saintly, but surely not all of them are bad.

Nowadays, there are people, like the owner of this Tumblr, who take time singling out people who use the term “gypsy” on Tumblr to reblog their “gypsy”-tagged post and set the record straight (that “gypsy” is actually a derogatory term, much like “fag” and “retard” and “nigger” and that “gypsies” don’t wear long skirts or live freely in moving houses, that “gypsies” are actually still largely thought of as thieves and therefore persecuted). I don’t know how I feel about this Tumblr blog. I mean, I’m pretty sure the owner is doing a service to Rromani people, yet I feel like her approach is sometimes very subjective. For example, the Tumblr blog started out as a site that called out what is and isn’t belly dance (hence the name), and the owner apparently thinks this is belly dance. So in my eyes, the blog has lost credibility.

Yet, like a freak accident or a horror movie, I still check it from time to time, if only just to see how stupid people can get. One thing led to another, and I found this Tumblr. Hoo, boy. Talk about microaggression.

First of all, using Tumblr to do long blog posts bug the glitter out of me. I mean, really. Tumblr is meant as a microblogging platform, to reblog quotes, reblog pictures. This blogging and reblogging and adding stuff on the reblogging and how the entries become truncated or look like a long chain of Re: Re: RE: re: RE: Re e-mails, they’re just not easy on my eyes (and brain).

I don’t really care when you call people out to show them they’re using derogatory terms, hopefully out of ignorance, and not because their purpose is to troll. It’s a good thing. Even if you think you’re God’s (or whoever deity’s) gift to enlighten people. Until you’re tired and think that no one listens. Good for you. Heck, if it were up to me, I’d punch the daylight out of people who use the term “fag” or “retard”.

I don’t even care when you show that everyone is against you. Because, hey, no good deed goes unpunished, right?

But I take offence when you start bullying people. Correct me if I’m wrong here, and I’m chalking the (probable) mistake to my dislike for Tumblr’s reblog/reply lay-out, but here’s the gist (the original blog post was deleted):

A Tumblr blogger wrote that (the eras) 40’s and 50’s were so cute and then another blogger replied, “Not for black people”. And well, you can read what MyJourneyMyThoughts’ reply is (it’s the one in white).

I wanted to scream. There’s a great line from Devil Wears Prada (the movie) when Andrea is freaking out and Emily says, “You know, I rarely say this to people who… aren’t me, but you have got to calm down. Bloody hell.”

Bloody hell indeed. Okay I need to calm down.

Okay, I’m calm (and very turned on). Thank you, Stanley Tucci.

Now, there’s microaggression and then there’s totally missing the point (which is a logical fallacy).

I wear Indian jewelry. I wear Pakistani jewelry. I’m from Indonesia and I wear Indonesian jewelry and the famous Indonesian Batik. I love the Egyptian assuit. All of these countries are famous for the persecution of homosexuals, extreme and fanatic muslims, and the raping of women. I’m gay and a feminist. Do I go around trolling every goddamn Indian/Pakistani/Indonesian/Egyptian jewelry/fabric website and remind them about the atrocity the people of said countries have done to women and gays? Nope.

Do I go trolling around comic book forums bashing Stan Lee and calling him sexist for creating Stripperella?

Do I feel compelled to do those things? Sometimes. But I sure as hell wouldn’t because I’d be missing the point and doing (puny) cyberbullying.

Like another poster said, I doubt that the original Tumblr post was meant to describe the time when black people were still being persecuted and murdered in the US. I mean, the 1920s was such a good era for fashion, but the Nazi was also going around killing people. 

There’s also a post on said Tumblr of Kurt Cobain’s photo with a kitten on his thigh. The caption says: “Kurt Cobain + cats = perfection”. I love cats and probably end up living (or dying) in a house full of cats, but I’m restraining myself from commenting on that post that Kurt Cobain was a heroin addict and committed suicide (so he’s not exactly your definition of “perfection”, although when cats are involved…).

As a belly dancer, specifically a Tribal belly dancer, I know I’m doing what some call cultural appropriation. This term “cultural appropriator” is somewhat derogatory to people. Well, at least to me. I equate it with ignorance, with not knowing any better, and not wanting to learn. In the belly dance world, there is another word that’s also derogatory and yet still being thrown around. That word is “gypsy”. There are many dance troupes out there, whom I sincerely respect, that use the word as part of their troupe name.

Let me be honest. I never cared about the word “gypsy”. I never associated it with free spirit, not even with belly dance. Sure, there’s the “Gypsy Skirt“, and I help perpetuate the stereotype that the Rromanis (that’s the official, non-derogatory term for people widely described as gypsies) women wear that kind of skirt. You know, the flowy, circlular, multi-layered, 10 to 25 yard skirts.

Since we’re defending the Rromanis, people should know that Rroma culture is homophobic. Although, again, probably there are some Rromanis who are more tolerant, but still. Oh, and the Tumblr blogger is a self-professed queer woman.

My point is, if you scrutinize and find a fault in every single little thing (thus being microaggressive), then you won’t find beauty, and your life will just be horrible.

opium

I was busy ranting mumbling talking doing a monologue about religion to one of my friends when I discovered that:

All religions that were created to give hope and beautiful empty promises to those who are poor (therefore powerless and helpless and downtrodden) are most likely to be successful. Why? Because the majority of people are poor (therefore powerless and helpless and downtrodden) and need some sort of hope that everything’s going to be okay and that the minority (oppressors (rich people)) will get what they deserve in the afterlife.

Then these people rise against the kings and rulers and powerful figures because God wants them (Jews vs. Egyptians, Jews vs. the Canaanites, Jews vs. pretty much everyone, early Christians against Romans, early Christians against Jews, Muhammadean Islam vs. Jews, Muhammadean Islam vs. Arab Pagans) and overthrow the thrones.

And then, these people elect someone (a war general, a prophet, a representation of God), who, backed by God (“God hath spoken through me,” or something like that) strategically destroys other religions by vandalizing idols, appropriating temples, killing and or proselytizing “unbelievers” or generally making their lives miserable (like early Islam and the tax for being non-Islam or non-convert or non-Arab), thus asserting power and restarting the whole cycle of the powerful and the oppressed, without knowing it.

What can I say. Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.

So I thought I had this crazy (whee!) brilliant epiphany, then my friend said, “Exactly! That’s what Marx said!”

And then I thought, “Fuck! Bitch stole my idea!”

Mmmhmm, daddy. Or gramps?

Mmmhmm, daddy. Or gramps?

Tangential thought #1: It came to me that I learned about Marxism and his idea that religion is the opiate of the masses when I was senior high. My memory about it is somewhat vague, possibly due to the fact that my sociology teacher that time was a really, really hot daddy-type whose chest hair used to peek out of his shirt and whose bulges were all in the right places (I vividly remember those dark indigo pants. Sigh). Every time he talked about the goddamn revolution, I just wanted him to do all sorts of nasty stuff to me.

Tangential thought #2: Damn, I couldn’t remember his full name nor find his picture on Facebook!

Not-so-Tangential thought: Obviously this theory doesn’t work with gays and transgendered, because we’re the minority. Which makes me question this: The ratio of female to male in this world isn’t really that steep (100 women to 101 men) , so why the huge discrimination against women everywhere?

Somewhat-related thought: This. Gotta love the new pope.

so-and-so enters dressed as a girl

Here, come closer. Let me tell you a story.

Have you heard of drag queens? Yes. Of course you have. They’ve been with us for a long time now. You can find them in ancient lores and tales, reliefs and real life. The Romans, the Arabs, the Greeks, the Hindis, all great and not-so-great nations have men who dress as women and sing and dance and recite poems and jokes and make people laugh and cry and laugh again. Do you you know what “drag” stands for”? See this post’s title. So thank you, Shakespeare, whoever you are, for coining the word “drag”.

Now then, have you heard of Islam? Oh, absolutely. Well, I am not here to criticize Islam or muslims. Who am I to do so? It is true that I’ve spent all my life being persecuted by it and other religions, but I digress. What I’m trying to say is that Islam does not like men dressing up as women, and vice versa. What I’m trying to say is that Islam does not like women. Period. Especially her period. Period.

What if I told you that Indonesia had the biggest muslim population in the world? Oh, but it’s true.

Now what if I told you that there are drag queens in Indonesia? Not just in Bali, where Islam’s mighty claws cannot rip and tear them to pieces, but in places like Yogyakarta, where its Sultan called International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Intersex Association (ILGA) unethical and denied its right to hold a conference. Yes. In Indonesia, where even ILGA’s website is blocked, like a porn site, a smut site, an illegal site. Yes. In Indonesia, where protection of sexual-orientation is not recognized and homosexuality and cross-dressing are still considered deviations. Illnesses.

Yet nothing can stop these showgirls from shaving their face, from tucking between their legs. With their paddings and their stockings and their leggings and their heels and their rouge and powder and fake eyelashes and cream and bronzer and gilded microphones.

Nothing can stop these showgirls from receiving adoration from women, men, those who are both, and those who do not want to be either.

Nothing can stop these showgirls from being what they are, for being ahead of their time, for being brave, for being both frank and Francine. For defying death in a country whose main religion still condones stoning and cutting off hands and legs.

Nothing can stop these showgirls from coming, basking in the spotlight, and leaving a trail of glitter.

And that’s all they really ever want. Now go spread the word.

The drag queens of Oyot Godhong Cabaret Show at Mirota Batik / House of Raminten, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photos by yours truly.

The drag queens of Oyot Godhong Cabaret Show at Mirota Batik / House of Raminten, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photos by yours truly.

Indonesia, a country overrun by Islamic idiots.

Indonesia, a country overrun by Islamic idiots. Happy Ramadan and Eid.

***

Inspired by the Anachronism Prompt from the Daily Post.

they say i’m a fag

They say I’m a fag
And that’s the honest truth
I don’t deny it
I’ve been that way since my youth

They say I’m ugly
Well, I have good and bad days
My skin isn’t flawless and I have Orc teeth
And insecurities about my body and my face

They say I’m a weirdo
I know I’m sometimes strange
And more often than not
I act deranged

They say I’m passive-aggressive
Like it’s something awful
I’ve seen other things they do
That are far more horrible

Well, they can say anything they want
They can say anything they please
As long as they don’t say I can’t live my life
And live my dreams and live in peace

hate the religion and the religious

You know, I’m really tired of reading/hearing people write/say “hate homosexuality, don’t hate homosexuals”. What in straight hell does that even mean? Homosexuals exist because we commit homosexual acts. No matter what anyone thinks, sex is a natural act and there are people who exclusively have sex with members of the opposite sex (like my parents, well, as far as I know anyway) and those who exclusively have sex with members of the same sex (like me).

So, in light of that statement, which is usually made by religious people from monotheistic and patriarchal religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), I say hate the religion AND the religious. Why?

  1. For wars (jihad, holy wars, whatever) they’ve created, especially the collateral damage (loss of innocent souls including and especially those of animals’, loss of reputation of country involved (yeah, I’m talking about my lovely country Indonesia, yay us!)). Seriously, do homosexuals create wars? Fashion wars, perhaps, because we’re chic and we know what’s gorgeous and what’s not (obviously this doesn’t reflect people like Johnny Weir) and we’re not scared to tell our friends, “Honey, don’t.”

    So many don'ts, so little time.

    So many don’ts, so little time. But then again, he’s not my friend.

  2. For the persecution of women and homosexuals. 

    I’m not only talking about the visible one right now (*cough*Islam*cough* and to some extent Catholicism (if I were a Catholic, I’d rather have a female pope)), but also past actions like this. Oh yeah, I still harbor resentment.To make matters worse, women of Islam, do you know that you only inherit 1/8 of your dead husband’s money, and that’s so much less than your son and your daughter? But hey, money doesn’t make the world go round, does it? No, of course not, but it offers a sense of comfort and protection, especially when one’s older and more feeble. Also, polygamy? Really?

    This is probably the least horrifying and gory image I can get from the Internet.

    This is probably the least horrifying and gory image I can get from the Internet of persecution of women.

  3. For wanting others to convert. 

    Oh yes. Classic. Pitting the “believers” with the “unbelievers”. You know, for religions as persecuted as Christianity and Islam, you think they’d be less of a bully. But no. This reminds me of one of my exes who told me he was abused by his boyfriend and then went on and did horrible things to me.* 

    Also, just so you know, the Jews welcomed Muhammad when he traveled (hijra) in June 622 CE from Mecca to Medina (then called Yathrib) after his failed campaign. The leaders of Jewish tribes in Yathrib were intrigued and let him come. Big mistake. Muhammad banished Jews, not only from Yathrib, but also from Arabia, beginning with the Qaynuqa tribe in 624 CE (that’s two years after Muhammad arrived in Yathrib). Want more evidence? Knock yourself out.

    As romantic as this looks, caravans crossing deserts had to deal with extreme desert temperature and raids.

    As romantic as this looks, caravans crossing deserts had to deal with extreme desert temperature and raids. Painting by Charles Theodore Frere.

  4. For basic intolerance. 

    Ah, my muslim friends acquaintances  fellow human beings countrymen who are now doing the fasting tradition in Ramadan. Do you really have to parade every sahur (meal before dawn to prepare for that day’s fast) and scream and shout every three in the morning? Not everyone in the vicinity is muslim, you intolerant bunch. 

    Also, the morning call to prayers? Can you turn the volume down, please? Some of us need sleep. I’m looking at you, the muslims at Masjid Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta. I live like a mile away from you and I can hear you loud and clear every goddamn morning and now, ever night from 1 AM to 2 AM, I can hear fiery (or is it angry?) preaching from your mosque, right before the sahur parade. Just a basic background for those who aren’t familiar with muslim practices: muslims pray five times daily, and it’s customary to be reminded with a call to prayer (adhan) that it’s praying time. This adhan is broadcast from minarets using loudspeakers (in some cases, REALLY LOUDspeakers). 

    In Malaysia, a Chinese couple was jailed for promoting the eating of pork during Ramadan and non-muslim students ate in a toilet TO PRACTICE TOLERANCE. 

    Indonesia of course has its own case to deal with: a member of Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam / FPI, a notoriously violent and stupid “organization”) was involved in a fatal hit-and-run while doing Ramadan raids in Kendal (no doubt driving under influence, as they’re usually drunk during raids to summon their courage. I’m not joking).

    I could totally relate to Grendel (from Beowulf tale). That poor, horrible creature just wants to sleep.

    I could totally relate to Grendel (from Beowulf tale). That poor, horrible creature just wants to sleep.

So, let me ask you this, how can you separate the religious from religion? I mean, sure not all religious people behave that way. Not every religious man or woman or whatever condone violence and driving out others who don’t share the same faith. Just like homosexuality and homosexuals. Not everyone of us is a predator. Not everyone of us wants to have sex all the time.

Happy Ramadan, happy Eid, happy whatever religious festivity you want. May peace be with you. Thank goodness I’m vegetarian, otherwise I’d eat pork in front of mosques.

But really, who am I to teach about hate? After all, I am not a preacher. Or religious.

Dat nose!

Dat nose!

*Addendum: on Facebook, a friend pointed out that religion wasn’t the core of problem, it’s power.

Why, yes. Of course it’s power. In the Old Testament, Jews were the victims, then they rose to power (and tormented Christians and Pagans). In the New Testament, Christians were the victims, then they rose to power (and tormented Jews and Pagans). In Quran, Muslims were the victims, then Islam rose to power (and tormented Jews and Christians and Pagans).