Sunday, September 21, 2008

Three People Who Demonstrated...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...that Bodies Really are Secondary

This posting was going to be about how I needed to be more consciously inclusive of bisexual people because I had my consciousness raised at the recent Out & Equal Workplace Summit and had been wanting to write about the workshop, where it happened, but that posting-theme has been hijacked by even more pressing thoughts -- thoughts that were cousins, I guess, of some bisexuals' struggles to be understood, but not twins:

Bodies as Objects to Transcend

The brilliant Riva Lehrer's latest exhibit and accompanying book were the most amazing demo of her art yet! Riva's writing knocked me out as much as her visual art. In "Totems and Familiars," which went with the exhibit, she wrote:
...if one inhabits a socially challenged body, it virtually guarantees a struggle between the seeming of appearance and the truth of the self. The visibly 'different' person must develop inner resources in order to survive.

Just a couple of hours prior to seeing Riva's artful words and images, I had posted the following at the new Transworkplace network:
From my experience, the top factors in my success or lack of in the workplace have been my:

  • Skills
  • Reputation
  • Appearance
  • Enthusiasm
  • Sense of humor.

These factors seem obvious, and I want to give an example re: appearance: I'll never be the cute, small, curvaceous type of woman that makes some conventional men most comfortable to work with. Instead, I'm tall, with a gender-ambiguous voice, features and energy, and a number of transwomen have assumed I'm post-op (I'm not, but rather, have always been just over the border of female) and so I try to have a winning personality that people want to be around, since I know that most people are afraid of ambiguity. That strategy has served me well so far....

The First Person

So I, myself, was the first person to whom I was referring, who has managed to some degree to demonstrate that bodies are secondary, i.e., a lesbian woman loves me and finds me attractive, which is a sign of success, since I'm also lesbian, and I'm relatively successful in my career as well, no matter my gender-ambiguity.

The Second Person

Riva's narrative reminded me that she was the second person. For a short time, when I lived in Chicago, more than 17 years ago, Riva and I had had a romantic relationship. It had ended naturally and fairly swiftly because maybe both of us had romance-ADD back then.

When Riva and I met in New York this past spring, I was feeling a bit guilty that Pat was not with me; I hadn't predicted that I would feel that way. I thought that our quick time together was ancient history and I didn't bargain for any desire to make new history with Riva.

That was my short-sightedness, as it turned out. I did not tell Riva how I was feeling at the time because I did not wish to betray Pat, and it was a lovely dinner with marvelous conversation, but the evening would have turned ugly, if I had tried to realize any of my amorous thoughts, since not only was I not sure that Riva felt the same way, and not only did she already have a partner herself, but also, the deal I had with Pat was that we were monogamous -- and had been so for 16 years so far, and planned to be till either one's death...and probably past then, even.

What being with Riva reminded me, though, was that people's brains are primary, and their bodies, secondary, as Riva's body is affected by scoliosis, and is not average...and then, as I wrote above, neither is my body average. What is average?

The Third Person

In a Talmud class that I took at my synagogue a number of years ago, one of my classmates was a transwoman. She was the smartest, most interesting and most endearing person in the whole course, including the teacher. One night, I gave her a ride home after class. She was so, so appealing as we drove and then parked to talk a bit more in front of the brownstone, where she lived. I found myself wishing I didn't have to say goodbye to her. Again, I felt guilty, as I was already partnered with Pat, and I did say goodbye and nothing un-kosher ever happened between us. I don't know if she felt the same way and of course, I never checked. She's now blissfully married to another woman in our congregation.

While driving home, I remember that I felt really wistful because it hit me that my classmate still had her male genitals and it was during the time that I was trying to get pregnant by IUI, using an anonymous donor's sperm. Ugh, I could probably get pregnant more easily if only she and I were free for her to impregnate me, I remember feeling.

Really, doesn't this make the case for bisexuality? Or for the wider-than-conventionally-realized human capacity for love and desire? Maybe I don't need to write that posting on bisexuality afterall. Why not just acknowledge that all of us have the capacity to be attracted to anyone who's attractive for whatever reason he or she is attractive -- and in my case, the reason has always been any person's dazzling brain even more than any person's dazzling body.