Monday, April 14, 2008


From: Christi

I love your books, and I've been reading your Ask Nicola section for years.

I'm a lesbian, and recently I've been reading a lot of 'genderqueer' stuff - where people claim that 'lesbians' don't exist - everyone is bisexual, and 'women' don't exist - everyone is transgendered.

I am a 100% lesbian and %100 woman so I find the genderqueer stuff to be obnoxious. And I think it undermines gay/lesbian civil rights to say that gays and lesbians don't exist.

What is your take on it? Do you think it is a trend? And what is your response if a 'queer' person tells you you are not really a lesbian, or not really a woman?

Apparently, there are 'transgendered' lesbians. If a man walked up to you and told you that he identified as a lesbian - what would you say. Is there any appropriate response - because I can't think on one.

The odd thing, is that the whole 'genderqueer' concept is supposed to be more inclusive, but I think it is completely alienating.

Of course straight people exist, of course lesbians exist, of course genderqueers exist. I don't have a problem with any of it/us--except when people declare there is only one way to look at the world. And when it comes to gender and sexuality--issues of identity--people can often get quite dogged. Kelley ran into this a while ago with her fabulous collection of stories, Dangerous Space. She talks about it in an interview. It's a long interview, so here's the relevant quote:

I was at dinner recently with some friends, one of whom had read Dangerous Space and one of whom had not. And the person who had not read the collection couldn’t understand the fact that Mars is not gendered as a character. And said to me “But…but…but…whether someone’s male or female is the first thing we notice. The first thing we ask about a baby is, you know, is it a boy or a girl. And if you’re going to meet someone you want to know, if you can’t tell from the name, is it a man or woman. How can you possibly create a setting or a situation in which none of those cues…where people don’t talk to someone as if they’re a man or a woman? When it's so important! How can you do that?!” [This person was] pounding on the table and I finally got a little irritated and said, “This is speculative fiction – I can do whatever I want.”

These days I rarely think in terms of 'dyke' or 'straight' or 'man' or 'woman' (or all those dozens of categories that would take way too long to list here). I prefer to think of people in terms of being human, and then whether they're likeable. Then, of the likeable ones, whether they're worth having dinner with. Then of the worth-having-dinner with crew, should they be invited to our house? And of those who come to the house, will they be friends? So that's how I currently prefer to see the world.

Of course, 'prefer' doesn't mean I always do. Given our upbringing, we're all sexist, racist, heterosexist, ableist , ageist, lookist and every other -ist on the planet. That's just the way it is. But if we're lucky, we learn as we mature to discount that first, instant visceral deep-down response that is always (always if you grew up on this planet) lurking in the background, and to substitute honest, personal judgement for that off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all prejudgement. That prejudice.

Religion, too, is a playground for the dogged and their dogma. I don't believe in god, or reincarnation, or karma, but I'd never pour scorn on someone who does; I'd never spend time trying to convince them they're wrong. After all, maybe they're not. So I spend my life listening to people talk about things that I'm pretty sure are claptrap (gender issues, religion, politics) and I smile genially and have another drink. It's a big world, with room for all kinds.

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