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“Interested in” and romance by gender on Facebook

For many years I’ve left the “interested in” field of my Facebook profile blank. Today I switched it to “men and women.”

I don’t remember my earliest reasons for keeping it blank. It’s possible that I initially felt private and not ready to come out about it. If so, that time is long past. Changing it doesn’t feel at all like a coming out to me: I’ve been comfortable with my queerness and out to friends and acquaintances for a long time, and if there was any barrier left there then I smashed it with my National Coming Out Day Facebook update in 2013 (note to self: repost that here).

No, my reason for leaving it blank for the last several years has been different: It really bugs me that the answer to “Who are you interested in” is always assumed to answered by a gender category: “men” or ”women.” Even “both” doesn't really seem like an appropriate answer. All of these answers tacitly assume first that sex and gender are—and should be—the most important basic characteristics in getting involved with a partner. All of these answers tacitly erase people who don’t conform to traditional binary gender roles. And the format of the question doesn’t really leave a space for people who simply aren’t interested in sexual or romantic relationships. In short, I find the implicit assumptions in the question itself basically offensive.

I’m interested in passionate people. I’m interested in emotionally aware people and emotionally open people. I’m interested in people who communicate through touch. I’m interested in people who want to change the world. I’m interested in people who want to change their own lives. I’m interested in people who create. I’m interested in people who show compassion toward others and who appreciate when people compassionately hold up a mirror to them because it’s a tool they can learn from. I’d be lying if I claimed that sex and gender don’t play any role at all in my attraction, but that factor is both very complex and just not the most important one to me. And reducing “interested in” to simply “men” or “women” or both completely erases all the beauty and subtlety of attraction to replace it with—essentially—a marketing demographic and a limited sexual identity. I find that erasure gut-wrenchingly offensive, and frankly I find it a bit shocking and disturbing how readily people accept it to provide a simple and direct answer.

At the same time, I have some people very close to my heart who don’t identify simply as “men” or “women.” Some feel a bit of both at different times. Some feel our cultural stereotypes of both fall flat on them, and so they don’t like to associate themselves with either label. Others find the binary categorization itself basically problematic or even offensive and thus reject it entirely. But some of these people are among the most fascinating and wonderful people in my life, and I’m not comfortable silently projecting to the world that I’m not “interested in” them simply because they don’t settle comfortably on being called a “man” or a “woman.”

And so for years I’ve left the “men” checkbox and the “women” checkbox blank, which Facebook takes to mean I’m not interested in disclosing my preferred marketing demographics. This creates its own troubles: There are a fair number of people in the world who are simply asexual and/or aromantic. These are people who aren’t interested in sexual or romantic relationships with anyone, irrespective of those people’s sex or gender. When Facebook sees “hasn't checked any boxes” and equates this with “not interested in answering,” they erase these people entirely. These people get shoved with me into my ill-fitting “not interested in disclosing” box. Some of them, I expect, would quite like to put “asexual” or “aromantic” in their profile, but they can’t.

I should pause to mention that this post isn’t an attack on Facebook. I’m incredibly excited about their recent opening up of gender identity options, and I hope they keep moving in that direction. This post, though, is about what I’ve put on my profile, and why.

So for the longest time, for all these reasons, I’ve left the “interested in” box on my FB profile blank. If they can’t represent me accurately and without offense to my friends and loved ones, I figured, I just won’t cooperate with their question. And to be honest this stance still has its appeal.

There’s value, though, in having another person interested in “men and women” out there. More and more the world is run on data, processed by computers and analyzed by marketers and politicians picking their next ads and positions. These are the people who shape public opinion and policy. And as limited and problematic as all that data is, it’s the data we’ve got. It’s the data they’ve got. It’s the data that influences real-world decisions, and keeping myself invisible to that data and to the changes that they can subsequently create feels petty and self-centered to me today.

So for today the data that I’m one more non-straight person in the world is something that I value more than waiting for more subtlety in Facebook’s representation of non-binary romantic and sexual interest. I may change my mind tomorrow, but for today Facebook can put me in the box of people who are “interested in men and women.”
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Alchemy, and love

Last weekend was Alchemy 2013. It was the seventh Alchemy, and I’ve participated in all but the first. That marks five years of massive personal growth for me, and more than any other annual event it’s been Alchemy that has consistently situated that growth in an immediate context where I can directly feel it happening. It’s been a stable marker in my life, a fire running through it, lighting it up, burning away the old, and fertilizing what remains with its ashes. This year Alchemy has been especially nourishing for me, and it’s left me both a lot to reflect on and a personal mandate to make the time for that reflection.

I haven’t been making the time for that reflection for several years now. I haven’t been posting here, obviously, but that’s only part of it. Four and a half years ago I moved from far outside Atlanta to just barely outside Atlanta. I did it for a job that became a wonderful part of my life for several of those years. I didn’t at the time connect that with being not long after my first Alchemy, but now, on reflection, that connection seems fitting. I’ve been staggeringly busy these last five years. With work, with school, with relationships, with roller derby, with self-discovery. Moving in toward town has provided me more opportunities and activities than I’ve known what to do with. And I’ve seized lots of those. This year Alchemy burned home the notion that I’ve been seizing too many of them, reveling in the excitement in them, relishing that excitement more than the nourishment that only some of them really provide me, and neglecting myself and my own emotional health in the process.

I hope that this post will be the first of many reflecting on these past few years and on what that burst of activity has taught me. It came to a head at Alchemy, and like so many big things in life, it was catalyzed by love.

At this time last week, I was sitting under the Alchemy effigy with rextrocular, and I said, “I love you.” It surprised me: They’ve been on the periphery of my life for a while now, but it’s been much more recent that we’ve both made time for each other, and only with that time that I began to feel especially close to them. But when that finally happened I fell, and I fell hard.

This post isn’t a paean to why or how that happened. I expect parts of that relationship—as well as my other happily continuing relationships—will make their way out with my other reflections in upcoming posts. This post, though, is a flag in the ground, and it’s a reflection on why it surprised me so much to feel that love and need to express it at a point in our relationship that felt so early to me.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with “I love you.” I haven’t always heard it in a healthy way, and there was a time in my life that I said it with a hefty dose of desperate codependency. I feel like I’m mostly past that, though Alchemy this year also showed me that it’s not entirely gone. But mostly over the past seven or eight years, I’ve settled on a sense that it represents that certain emotion that I feel toward someone I’m romantically interested in. I haven’t had a clear sense of exactly what it is or what it entails—something right around a fuzzy cluster of connection, attraction, and safety—but I’ve definitely felt comfortable recognizing it when I sense it, and I’ve felt comfortable sharing that sense verbally when I feel it.

Last week it surprised me, though. It came quickly. Very quickly. It came with a quickness that set warning klaxons blaring in my head, screaming that love doesn’t come on that fast, and that when it does it isn’t safe. Love is tender and vulnerable, and love quickly grown is easily lost. I’ve been especially sensitive to the pain of lost love in the past. And yet I felt it, and I said it, and I knew that it scared me, but that it was as true as I could imagine it could ever be.

On Monday—forty-eight hours and at least that many eons after sitting with rextrocular under the effigy, now so much ash and memory flowing through my veins—we sat again under a rainbow umbrella, preparing to leave the burn. I told them how I’d figured out that in the past “I love you” had meant not only a certain emotional connection, but also a promise to keep that connection alive. It felt scary to say it so quickly under the effigy because at that moment I didn’t feel like I knew myself well enough to make that promise. I’ve been so busy seizing opportunities that I’d forgotten how to recognize the things that are important to me, much less make adequate time for them. I had been starting to recognize that for months. And right then in my mind I recognized that I didn’t want to hurt them by falling through on that promise, though I hadn’t yet recognized that I was at least as afraid of hurting myself that way.

But in the forty-eight hours and at least that many eons that had passed since then, I had come to understand that I had a real need to change that pattern of overexploration and undercommitment. That I needed to make time for reflection to recognize what was valuable for me and for focus on those things once I found them. And that this particular fuzzy cluster of connection, attraction, tenderness, vulnerability, honesty, and trust was valuable enough to make a promise to keep it alive.

So I said “I love you” again.
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If that mockingbird don’t sing

I originally wrote this over on Google Plus, where I have far more conversations these days than here. I felt like it belonged here, too, though.

I spent some time this morning reflecting on my experiences growing up in Montgomery, AL, face to face with deeply—even violently—embedded race, class, and gender norms, elephants in the room that nobody dared name. We were desegregated by then, and thus clearly past the race and class differences, or so the common wisdom went. And gender—that wasn’t even on people’s radar: This was pre-Butler, after all.

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Sex: M is for misfit

Gender’s been on my mind a bit for the last year or so. It’s always been a bit of an awkward topic for me, but lately I’ve been spending some think-time trying to analyze why. I think the narrative of how it’s surfaced is interesting in its own right, but I’ve tried to write that once or twice now, and it always seems to get bogged down and unmanageable. So instead, this post is about what I’ve come up with. Before I get to gender, though, Collapse )

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: overapplied -> overruled)
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Who is this Ben person, and what is he doing with this LJ thing?

Standard apology for updating so infrequently.

When last we heard from our intrepid hero, I’d just accepted a job at Emory Libraries. Well, in fact I’d been there for several months when I posted, but my post only included up to about May-ish. Of 2009.

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That’s all I can think of right now. Anyone want to start a pool on when I make my next update? :-)

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: synecdoche -> snogged)
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Year of Insanity

So I know I’ve never been the best at keeping up with posting to LJ, but this year I’ve actually had good reason. You see, 2009 has been insane. Collapse )

And that’s just up to May, only the first half of the story. I’m past my lunch hour by now, so I’m headed back to work. I’ll finish the story of the Year of Insanity soon, I promise.

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: MMOs -> Moos)

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Birfday Party!

OK, so I’m not entirely caught up on everything yet, but I wanted to make sure to get this out. My birthday is Tuesday, and the party is Sunday the 16th — two weeks from today. Anyone who knows me and wants to come wish me a happy birthday is invited. Yes, that means you as well as any SOs you care to bring along.

As in past years, dinner is at Dominick’s in Norcross because they’re awesome with large groups. Oh, and because just yum. Yeah. And if you haven’t been there before, don’t be scared off by the prices: Their half portions are big enough to leave leftovers for all but the biggest appetites. And really, just yum.

So if you think you can make it, please comment here or find some other way to let me know. We like to get everyone on the evite so we can give Dominick’s a somewhat accurate count as the date gets closer.

Thanks, and see you there!
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Lolo Bromios?

I’ll have a real update soon, I promise. Life’s been absolutely insane for the last three or four months, and it’s finally calming down. As it’s calming, I’m taking a little much-needed relaxing time, and I’m spending some of that time catching up on True Blood.

This post is not about the show as a whole. There’s no time for that. It’s sorta about the character of Maryann Forrester, who’s supposed to be a *gulp* maenad. There’s no time for the multiple levels of wrong they get there, but in fairness the producers deserve some credit for effort. See, they actually did a little research and found some actual Dionysian epithets for her to chant. I was sorta impressed, actually.

Except that apparently they didn’t actually have anyone conversant in ancient Greek on set for filming. There are American-style ‘ch’-es that sound nothing like any credible interpretation of a chi. And — and here’s the part where it just gets silly — as far as I can tell the script must have been printed in Arial. See, the text that simply must be “Io! Io! Bromios!” got read as — Hold your breath here — “Lolo Bromios!

I swear I laughed out loud when I heard it, shortly before realizing that I’m probably one of about two dozen people who would actually notice. Anyway, since several more of those two dozen are on my flist, I thought I’d share. Lolo Bromios!

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: Arial -> Aural)

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Moving Help Requested, and House for Rent

Most of you have probably heard the rumors by now. Well, they’re true: radiantbaby and I are moving into town. Like immediately. This weekend we’ll be moving ourselves — along with bed, computers, and other necessities — from our old house in Cumming to our new house in Clarkston. Any help anyone can offer would be much appreciated, and reimbursed with soda and pizza (or beer and veggieburgers if that’s your thing; let us know).

Two weeks later, on the weekend of the 20th, we’ll be moving the rest of our furniture. Same deal: Help will be greatly appreciated, and we’ll feed you for your sweat. (Not with your sweat: That’s not our kink.).

Anyway, reply here or email me if you can help and need directions.

In related news, our Cumming house will go up for rent as soon as we’re out of it and it’s cleaned up. We must find renters to comfort our mortgage banker, and quick. This means that we will be offering it for well under the going rate in the neighborhood. We’re aiming for $650/mo for the full 1400sqft house, but we’re open to negotiation if you need a lower rate. Pets are welcome. If you’ve ever considered moving out on your own, or if you’re learning to hate your current corporate-run apartment complex home, this could be a perfect low-cost opportunity for you. Drop us a line if you want more details.

Thanks, all!

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