Subject: on relationships.
Date: Fri 15 Jan 1999 - 14:18:57 GMT
Does talking about psychopathology of some relationships where one or both
partners identify as transgender automatically psychopathologize all
relationships where one or both partners identify as transgender? I believe
that it doesn't, any more than talking about the psychopathology of some
"heterosexual" relationships psychopathologizes all relationships.
I self-identify as queer, and to me that means sex positive, as long as that
sex is consensual. It also means, however, that I am sex-talk positive,
believing that talking about sex in ways that express how we feel about how we
are treated, exploring our own feelings is important, even if that talk can be
construed as psychopathologizing. I am not a big fan of Ray Blanchard. His
study of gynandromorphophiles consisted of listening to what these guys say in
voice mail personal ads. He seems to be more interested in publishing than
helping build better relationships, and that means I often feel non-
consensually used by him as a stepping stone in his career, a lab rat.
What's the difference between a good relationship and a bad relationship? In
my opinion, a good relationship is where we accept our partner as a full human
and a bad relationship is where we see our partner as an object to fulfill our
fantasies and expectations. Good relationships are two complete humans taking
care of each other, bad relationships are incomplete humans looking for what
they think they need to make them happy.
There are all sorts of ways and reasons people have in this culture for
projection. It could be a woman's fantasy about a perfect husband, a man's
fantasy about a she-male (or other sex worker), a codependent's fantasy about
being needed, a users fantasy about an enabler, and on and on. The situations
are different, but the process is the same: the other person is surfaced,
projected upon, objectified as "the answer," rather than being accepted as a
This isn't, obviously, dead simple. Relationships which start as objectified
and projected lust grow into deeper connections over time. There are great
reasons for acting out fantasies in a safe, sane and consensual way that can
satisfy us and our longings. Every relationship has some projection and some
connection, but it's the balance that makes the difference, just like every
other area of life.
The story I referenced here is an interesting one. It's the tale of a domme
who does a talk at a BDSM group -- obviously something she is into -- but who
is non-consentually forced into a top role and gets angry. The group leader
then rationalizes her behavior in a way that keeps her objectified, and she
leaves, running into a man who sees her as a person. The dance is clear: she
likes being a domme, but doesn't like being forced into some projected domme
role, and finds some balance.
Carol Queen has posited that many relationships are unconsciously pushed into
sm models by the people in them, most often by passive-agressive people who
use pushy bottom techniques to try to turn their partner into a top. I
believe that this phenomena that she has observed is the acting out of
projection and objectification in an unconscious way -- and you all know that
I am not a big fan of unconscious choices.
If we truly do get to know others, to see who they are inside the package, and
develop understanding, respect and compassion for them, then no relationship,
no matter how it may look from the outside, is objectified. I believe that
some slave/master relationships may in fact be less objectified than
conventional heterosexual marriages, because the BDSM relationship is more
considered, more safe, sane and consensual. Some relationships between
clients and sex workers may even be non-objectified, though I would suspect
that the vast majority are very much about fantasy fulfillment and not about
genuine human connection. It may be, though, that by having an objectfied
sex-worker partner, an indvidual can have a better relationship with another
partner, though the challenge loss of intimacy through compartmentalization
can be hard to overcome.
I don't intend to characterize any relationship, or any indviduals
relationship patterns by this discussion. I do intend to look at the issues
of being objectfied, which are common to marginalized groups, and which I have
experienced first hand, usually by men who assume that my transgender is a
fulfillment of their sexual fantasies.
There are great relationships whic include a transgendered partner,
relationships where the partners practice safe, sane, consenual and respectful
connection with each other. Those relationships follow no models -- some are
kiki, some havs survived the gender shift of a partner, some are poly and some
mono and so on.
It seems important, however, to talk about what makes relationships great (and
what makes them not-great) without assuming that any discussion stigmatizes
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