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Orientation Police
July 11, 2014 2:33 AM   Subscribe

"I’m gay. I date men. Some of those men have vaginas."
A short comic about dating trans men by cartoonist Bill Roundy, previously featured for his Brooklyn bar review comics. (You may also like his gay romance comics, e.g. this unauthorised Northstar romance.)
posted by MartinWisse (86 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is great. I really liked it. Honestly, I think it does a good job explaining a complicated subject.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:54 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the day when no-one feels it necessary to make a comic to explain the kind of person they like to fuck.
posted by modernnomad at 3:18 AM on July 11 [23 favorites]


Another great reminder that gender lives in your brain, not your bits.
posted by Apoch at 3:29 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Separating identity from the parts makes all kinds of sense, and the wider the range of available possibilities the better. For my own limited attraction the two need to be aligned, but the comic articulates his experience really well, to the point that I could hand it to people I know who have never even thought about trans stuff and they'd probably be able to get it.

I wish people weren't required to explain these things, but since they are I'm glad the author is doing it so well. For whatever reason, we seem to always want to police everyone's relationships and identity choices, when it would be so much kinder and less intrusive to limit the policing to "is everyone a consenting adult?" and then just butt out.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:34 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Cool. "There he is! Give him a label!" - the Label Police.
posted by alasdair at 3:35 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Neat. I really liked this.
posted by arnicae at 3:49 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Oh my God. I was completely on board with this until the panel where he's describing his boyfriend's parts/trans status. If I heard my husband talking about me like that, I would flip out. It is not anyone's business what someone has in their pants unless they are fucking them or a medical professional. GROSS.

I understand that this comic is very well-intentioned, but being cavalier with disclosure about a transperson is dangerous as hell.
posted by pony707 at 4:13 AM on July 11


Do you really think he didn't discuss this with his boyfriend and get his permission first?
posted by Etrigan at 4:26 AM on July 11 [26 favorites]


"Honestly, I think it does a good job explaining a complicated subject."

It's not that complicated. Don't fucking police other people's behavior. "Don't be a dick," and — even better: "Be excellent to each other."

It's really not that hard.
posted by Eideteker at 4:39 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


So he "hates being taken for straight," and he has a gold star because he's never fucked a woman, and the idea that complete strangers might think he's in a straight couple make him go "UGH"? I mean, he can fuck and love whoever he wants obviously and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's unfortunate that he's as disgusted by being taken for straight as some homophobic people are at the opposite possibility. Though, on the other hand, I can also imagine how compulsory heterosexuality could engender some bitterness so maybe I'm being unfair.
posted by clockzero at 4:41 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Though, on the other hand, I can also imagine how compulsory heterosexuality could engender some bitterness so maybe I'm being unfair.

That's what I take it for; frustration at identity erasure rather than disgust at straight coupling. Where I do see the latter sometimes it mostly seems to come from a place of jest (albeit quite the sharp type) so I'm inclined to be generous either way.

I like this. It has a certain clarity; there's little extraneous to the message. The "X and the City" provoked a couple of snorts too.
posted by solarion at 4:47 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


I don't think that's an ugh of disgust. It's an ugh of "not this again." And, yeah, I think you're being unfair.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:48 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


The older I get, the more I'm 'whatever,' about this stuff. That said, good comic, funny well-drawn, informative.
posted by jonmc at 4:59 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


When writing about your sex life, it can be relevant to talk about parts. He was discussing his own issues (or lack thereof) with dating someone who did not have a biological penis (a big deal for some gay men/straight women). Leading to my favorite lines: "and when it is required...we're well supplied" with a shelf of penises.
posted by jb at 5:02 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


It's really not that hard.

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying. "Don't be a dick" is a behavioral thing. Really, nobody should be inquiring about what genitals anyone's partner has. That being said, if you OFFER that the last four relationships you've had were with trans men who have vaginas, I think there are going to be people who are naturally curious about that. I don't think curiosity about sexual orientation and how it relates to gender vs. physical presentation is a bad thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:02 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


also, with trans men, bottom surgery is much less of an option - therefore, whether you've had it or not really is a moot point (as they almost certainly haven't - though hormones do change things).
posted by jb at 5:04 AM on July 11


I still don't really understand the gold star gay thing, but I do know it's a thing.

Why is bisexuality so stigmatized, particularly for men? Do gay men feel accessorized by bisexual men? Is it because bisexual men more easily pass for straight, and there's not as much perceived struggle in the coming out sense? "Ew vaginas" seems so focused on misogyny, but surely being a gold star gay is hardly about the roles that women play or don't play compared to those of men.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:05 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Roundy identifies as gay, but also included this comic in the collection Anything that Loves: Comics beyond "Gay" and "Straight".

The "ewww vaginas thing" isn't misogyny: just like some lesbians/straight are seriously turned off by penises, some gay men (and some straight women) find vaginas not just not appealing, but anti-appealing. As weird as it sounds, I've actually had these conversations with friends, and had a straight guy & a gay woman bond over their common disgust/dislike of seeing penis. Neither are misandrynist. Sexual attraction is a spectrum, and someone has to anchor the extremes while the rest of us float vaguely in the middle.
posted by jb at 5:13 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Why is bisexuality so stigmatized, particularly for men?

Bisexuality has a lot of stigma in part because bisexuality challenges heteropatriarchy in different ways from being gay or lesbian. Bisexuals have the opportunity to move between spaces without being defined by either, and in a world where heterosexuality is compulsory and there is constant pressure to fit in with hetero norms, there is obviously some tension between people who are seen as having the option to "choose" to be straight and those who can't.

I'd also note that bisexuality for women is both stigmatized and fetishized. I don't know if men get it worse than women, but the two experiences are very different in some ways.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:17 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


I can also imagine how compulsory heterosexuality could engender some bitterness so maybe I'm being unfair.

Yes, you are?

Society doesn't question straight men for being straight. It doesn't oppress them. It doesn't treat their relationships as lesser. It doesn't send them to pray-away-the-straight camps or tell them it's just a phase or a perversion. Straight men are overrepresented in the media and in the government.

A straight man who reacts viscerally to being mistaken as gay is not reacting that way because of a history of denigration and erasure for being straight.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:17 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Perhaps worth another thread, but how is the progress on GRT for transmen? I (perhaps erroneously) got the impression phalloplasty had gotten much better/more sophisticated in the last 10 years,
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:20 AM on July 11


Why are you so obsessed with my boyfriend's junk?

Indeed.
posted by arcticseal at 5:22 AM on July 11


Both "eww vaginas" and "eww penises" are silly attitudes based on a bunch of cultural baggage, and "eww vaginas" in particular ties into a larger cultural history of talking about vaginas as dirty and gross that does mean it borders on misogyny. Most of the time these statements are defensive - when a straight man says "eww penises" he is making sure you know he is straight. It is potentially hurtful language to people who do not fit the gender binary as comfortably as you, and it is unnecessary.
posted by Nothing at 5:30 AM on July 11 [15 favorites]


Well, this piece may or may not totally answer your question, Another Fine Product, but it is pretty informative. And the author kindly notes right up front that she got consent and feedback from the person she wrote it about, so at least in that respect, it seems respectful.
posted by clavicle at 5:38 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I've gotten "eww, vaginas" to my face from gay men I consider friends, and it does come off as incredibly misogynistic, even if that's not their intent. Okay, I completely understand if they're not your thing, but the "eww" reaction always makes me feel like the eww-er isn't satisfied with the four feet of distance and two-plus layers of clothing between him and my repulsive crotch. It's not a long jump from "an essential part of your body is disgusting" to "you are disgusting."

Most of us have learned from an early age not to go "eww" when we see a face we find unattractive or get offered a dish we'd rather not eat. It's rude.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:49 AM on July 11 [40 favorites]


Cool. "There he is! Give him a label!" - the Label Police.

Yes, that made me laugh out loud, as the kids say.
posted by rtha at 5:53 AM on July 11


I don't know, I think the guy is giving himself too much of a pass, and painting other people as clueless when he has bought into the same attitudes. Given his overall self-description, I really doubt that in the 90s, when he was earning his Gold Star, that he would have conferred one on someone who slept with transmen with vaginas. I think it's great that he's gotten beyond that thinking, and certainly dating a transman will help with that, but this is actually a very complex subject for many people who are not bigots. I really think that the rhetorical and political position that this is all easy, and just about not being an asshole, doesn't do anyone any favors. I think overall the comic does a good job of working through that complexity.

I liked the comic, but to the extent that it talks about label police, I think the author only gets a pass because of which stage of his life he chose to depict.
posted by OmieWise at 6:08 AM on July 11 [14 favorites]


I think it just goes to show that labels put too much control on people's thinking about sexuality and gender identity. Bisexuality seems to confuse people a lot more than it should because of the supposed idea that we exist in a world where there are people who are straight, and there are people who are gay which is then treated like some kind of inversion of heterosexuality, which then makes anything in the middle harder to understand than it should be.

I've had trouble explaining to my mom and other people why bisexuality doesn't imply promiscuity or infidelity because I think people view it as one person literally having two sexualities (which I guess is somewhat implied by the name) rather than just sexual tastes that extend across genders.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have words to describe people's sexual preferences/orientations, but that we shouldn't let ourselves treat them as literally enforced, immutable aspects of a person.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:17 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I still don't really understand the gold star gay thing, but I do know it's a thing.

Part of what goes on there, I think, is history. Remember, up until very recently, it was not only common but usual for gay and lesbian people to go through their lives unhappily trying to be straight because they had no word or concept to attach to how they felt. The mean "coming out age" has dropped precipitously because GLBT youth have models to guide them which were not there a generation or two earlier.

So the "Gold Star Gay" is at least as much "I have always been able to admit my attraction to men" as "I have never been contaminated by a woman." That latter sense exists, but it's not the main sense, as far as I have noticed.

And obviously, the reason he doesn't call himself bisexual is that he's not bisexual. As the comic says, he's attracted solely to men (and mostly short men). That some of these men are trans men doesn't make him bisexual instead of gay because those trans men are men, and their relationships -- emotional, physical, and sexual -- take place within a gay context.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:19 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


I think that breaking down one's own assumptions and attitudes is not easy, but not being an asshole to someone else because of who their partner is ought to be the minimum standard of behavior. There are many ways to lessen one's ignorance and discomfort without being a jerk!
posted by rtha at 6:19 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I liked the comic, but to the extent that it talks about label police, I think the author only gets a pass because of which stage of his life he chose to depict.

Perhaps, but even assuming your assumptions are true, does it matter?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:21 AM on July 11


Note btw that the "eww vaginas" comes from "gay men with ...less... nuanced views" and Roundy himself doesn't have a problem with them, as long as they're part of "his hot boyfriend".
posted by MartinWisse at 6:23 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I liked the comic, but to the extent that it talks about label police, I think the author only gets a pass because of which stage of his life he chose to depict.

It's not enough to not be judgmental; one must never have been judgmental. Would that be Gold Star Tolerance you're advocating here?
posted by Etrigan at 6:31 AM on July 11 [13 favorites]


Perhaps, but even assuming your assumptions are true, does it matter?

I think it does. I think his good comic loses some power by being partially a "these idiots just don't get it" comic rather than just a "this is complex, let me help you along" comic. I think part of the reason it's the former is because the author isn't being honest about his own journey. I don't think that invalidates the overall message or anything, but I do think it affects its reception. This isn't, by the way, the dreaded "tone argument." It's a comment on how I perceive the honesty of the author, and hence how their presentation convinces me. I'm not arguing that he should be nicer, I'm arguing that he should be more honest with himself and us.

This is in the realm of a constructive criticism, and seems uncontroversial to me as a comment on this piece of work, which of course does not mean that everyone has to agree with me.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


People, people, calm down. It’s only a meat loaf recipe.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


It's not enough to not be judgmental; one must never have been judgmental. Would that be Gold Star Tolerance you're advocating here?

No. See my comment above. This isn't about being judgmental or not. He is right that the people acting like idiots are actually acting like idiots.
posted by OmieWise at 6:35 AM on July 11


I don't see how his having been (or not - as fas as I can tell it's just baseless speculation) an idiot too doesn't make the idiocy he's describing any less idiotic, or provide any burden of responsibility on him to describe it in other terms, or talk about his own idiocy.
posted by Dysk at 6:38 AM on July 11


See my comment above. This isn't about being judgmental or not.

Your comment above includes the line: I think part of the reason it's the former is because the author isn't being honest about his own journey.

What about "isn't being honest" strikes you as non-judgmental? For that matter, what makes you think he isn't being honest about his own journey?
posted by Etrigan at 6:39 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Yes, you are?

Society doesn't question straight men for being straight. It doesn't oppress them. It doesn't treat their relationships as lesser. It doesn't send them to pray-away-the-straight camps or tell them it's just a phase or a perversion. Straight men are overrepresented in the media and in the government.

A straight man who reacts viscerally to being mistaken as gay is not reacting that way because of a history of denigration and erasure for being straight.


Of course, you're completely right about the historical and extant oppression and persecution of gay men. I'm not trying to deny that, or equate it with the life experiences of straight men.

Gay men still gave agency, though. They're not just victims, despite the history and bigotry. The reason I say that is to point out that even gay men who date transmen can sometimes say things that aren't cool, or that rub someone the wrong way for valid reasons, and such speech isn't necessarily implied by their queerness, nor is it necessarily ethically justified by their oppression, even if the oppression maybe makes it understandable. That's just my opinion, anyway.
posted by clockzero at 6:40 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


As person going into my sixth decade I say "eww" to it all.

I should probably visit a doctor.

Gender identification and attraction exist along several continua and I'll shut up now.
posted by vapidave at 6:46 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


What about "isn't being honest" strikes you as non-judgmental?

I'm sorry, I was not clear and you have mis-read me. I am being judgmental about the comic, as all consumers of media should be. I am not saying that the author should not be judgmental about people who are idiots.

As I said in my first comment, I am making a judgment based on his self-presentation about what he was like in the 90s. I was around in the 90s, I knew guys like him, and I know what the prevailing attitudes were. Sure, I could be wrong in this specific case, but I'm telling you me reaction.
posted by OmieWise at 6:50 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


vapidave, if I understand right, are you trying to frame asexuality/lack of sexual desire as "I don't even OWN a sexuality."?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:50 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Would it be correct to say he is not so much attracted to men (narrowly XY defined with the expected giblets) as he is to perhaps to some sort of "aura of maleness", irregardless of the actual plumbing? Sorry, just an old guy here trying to get a handle on this...
posted by jim in austin at 7:07 AM on July 11


It would be much more correct to say that he's attracted to men (broadly defined not by sex or "giblets," but by gender identity).

Specifically, he's attracted to shorter men who "perform" butch.
posted by explosion at 7:13 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, a certain form of expressed misogyny along the lines of "vaginas are nasty, and so is cunnilingus" is something that I've heard among some gay men. My google fu is failing me, but at least one out comedian when I first came out joked about oral sex as the bright line separating gay and straight men. To be clear, the problem there is that it goes beyond difference to open disgust as a political and community marker.

At least in my experience, a lot of identity policing regarding partners of trans and non-binary people centers on essentialist stereotypes about how sex works. (I think that making oral sex the new normal has likely made this worse.) I'm a bit fond of the point that many of the important bits of sex happen above-the-belt.

(There's a whole mess of other weirdness going on right now policing bi partners of trans people. But that needs a different comic.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:14 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I think the point of the comic was to help understand that "aura of maleness" = male. I really liked this comic, it helped me understand stuff at the edges, that doesn't fall along our expected boundaries and points out how silly even thinking of them as hard and fast "boundaries" is.
posted by mathowie at 7:15 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


The "Ugh, I hope no one thinks we're a straight couple." thing is all about erasure in my experience.

As a cis woman who identified as lesbian for a very long time and in the last decade, after having married a gay man, came out as asexual, it's weird being misidentified. I'm not straight. I've never been heterosexual. When my husband and I go out and we're misidentified, I completely understand it, because, hell, we look like a straight couple, but it does feel like we're a fly on the wall of some secret club.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:34 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Related, I think: Transgender People Are Not Responsible for Educating You
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:58 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


It’s only a meat loaf recipe.

What, meat loaf again?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:05 AM on July 11


*waves*
This comic came out last year, but it's really making a tour of the Internet this week! Anyway, it was a nice surprise to see it on the blue this morning.

I'll check in if people have direct questions, but the conversation seem to be going fine without me.
posted by Bill_Roundy at 8:10 AM on July 11 [47 favorites]


I loved this comic. I'm a big enough woman to admit that as liberal, progressive, and well-intentioned as I like to think I am on gender and trans issues, sometimes I struggle to cross a mental hurdle in my own education and evolution. My brain has struggled with this one, hung up on "BUT BUT BUT... VAGINA!" and I super-appreciate people who are not actually responsible for educating me or anyone else reaching out to do so.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:24 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the "ugh, I hope no one thinks we're a straight couple" thing isn't about "eww, heterosexuality!" as it is about your queerness, something that means a lot to you and changes the way you view the world and has affected the way the world has treated you, being wallpapered over with this image of a traditional relationship that you don't identify with at all. It's someone projecting their own ideas of how your relationship works onto you, and they're getting it wrong.

I know a couple where one of them is a masculine-of-center nonbinary trans person who gets read as male, and one of them is the coolest sweetest trans woman in the world (sorry, I have a crush), and as she progresses with her transition it's becoming clear that eventually the world will read them as a straight couple, which she finds hilarious because NOOOOPE.

I know a couple where they are both queer and travel all over the gender spectrum with glitter eyeliner in hand, but some people would be like "wayull, this one has this kinda body so they're a girl and this one has this kinda body so they're a boy which means they're straight," and they're not. They're queer. They have all these prior relationship that were more visibly queer, but this one isn't, so much. That doesn't mean it's any less queer.

Here's the thing about queerness (to me, a young pansexual queer identifies somewhere on the trans/genderweird spectrum, obviously everyone is different):

I'm always queer. I'm queer when I'm eating cornflakes, I'm queer when I'm dating a cis boy in an ostensibly straight relationship, I'm queer when I'm drinking cocktails in my kiddie pool. But there's something special about dating someone else who is also queer. We clutch each other and mock faint everytime Alex Vause is on screen during OITNB, we have long in depth discussions about what to do if one of disassociates during sex and what language we prefer for our bodies, we glare down creeps in bad neighborhoods who want to know if we're boys or girls, we commiserate about binders or borrow each others' wigs, and we bake each other cakes when a hormone prescription comes through.

Obviously those are all singular experiences drawn from my memories of past partners, and a bunch of queer people are reading that and thinking "um, I suck at baking cakes, actually."

There's nothing wrong with being a straight couple, but when you very much are not one, it can feel like all those special moments and trying experiences, all those struggles and celebrations, get erased. And they mean a lot to me.

hi bill i love all your comics!!!
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:25 AM on July 11 [42 favorites]


I find both the comic and the discussion to be really fascinating, speaking as a completely vanilla straight guy. It's been really interesting to watch the evolution of gender identity contexts over the last 20 years or so, into what is now a complex intersection of continuums (continua?) regarding physical sexual characteristics, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The possibilities, apparently, are endless. The permutation in this comic is a new one for me, and after an initial O_O for a few seconds, I salute this guy for being who he is.

On the erasure issue, my sister is bisexual, and has struggled with continuing to assert her identity as bi after having married a man, had two kids, and is leading a traditionally "normal" (scare-quotes intentional) family life. I can understand the frustration against those who assume she's no longer bi.

[On an amusing tangent, two of the four-or-so women my sister dated seriously have since come out as transmen. My sister has joked that, if that happens a couple more times, would she become retroactively straight?]
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:51 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I hope I didn't upset or discomfit anyone with anything I said in this thread. There's clearly a dimension to the "ugh, we're not actually heterosexual" sentiment which is easily understandable to people, like those in this thread who talk about erasure. It's not obvious to me probably because I'm a cis, straight man who has always dated women. I want to support Mefi being a safe space and so I'm sorry if I inadvertently worked against that. I have a much clearer sense now of how onerous it must be to feel that hegemonic pressure both for individuals and couples to be legible to hetero society, and through that pressure, also to be pressed into the very identities that don't fit them.
posted by clockzero at 8:59 AM on July 11 [16 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with being a straight couple, but when you very much are not one, it can feel like all those special moments and trying experiences, all those struggles and celebrations, get erased. And they mean a lot to me.

My experience is that my straight partners had a fair bit of cultural, legal, and psychological privilege that they carried with them into our relationship, ranging from "boys don't count" to gaslighting emotional abuse as my fault since I'm stereotyped as inherently untrustworthy. I'm not saying that every heterosexual person does this, just that the existence of anti-gay and anti-bisexual discrimination gives them a certain degree of power should they choose to engage in retributive outing, sexuality-shaming, or courtroom drama. A study came out this year reporting that bisexual people experience appalling rates of relationship abuse much higher than any other sexuality.

Which means, that I and my partner can wrap the season of Orphan Black, and have a conversation about how that show explores variations in gender and sexuality in relationship to our own fluid genders and sexualities, without needing to work from first principles or sooth over anxieties about how that discussion changes our relationship.

That and I don't know what to say when certain co-workers ask me for dating advice because I have not dated outside of the queer or kinky social networks since high school.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:08 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


My experience is that my straight partners had a fair bit of cultural, legal, and psychological privilege that they carried with them into our relationship, ranging from "boys don't count" to gaslighting emotional abuse as my fault since I'm stereotyped as inherently untrustworthy.

Can you explain that a little more? I don't understand what you mean by "boys don't count", and do you mean that bisexuals are viewed as untrustworthy? (Honestly just curious, not challenging or anything.)

In other news, Orphan Black is amazing and it's a travesty that she didn't get an Emmy nomination.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:29 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Bisexuals being viewed as untrustworthy partners (ie sexually promiscuous and prone to cheating) is very much a thing in some circles.
posted by Dysk at 10:00 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much of this comes from the fact that at least at one point in time, one way that some gay people would get sympathy from some straight people was to play into same-genital panic. "You know that terror you have of touching penises? Well I have that about vaginas!" and the whole "Born that way" thing. "It's not that I choose to do this! I'd be as straight as you if I could! But alas, I was born to love penis like you love vaginas!"

So I think it's natural that there's some confusion to have that pulled back, because some people are probably like "whoa whoa whoa, but you said you weren't choosing this, you said you could absolutely under no circumstances have sex with a vagina, no way, no how, and yet now you are having sex with a vagina, what the hell is going on?" And there's no way to go back and say "Actually, I was catering to your prejudice, really various body parts don't actually freak me out."
posted by corb at 10:02 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder if bisexuals are viewed as untrustworthy partners because of insecurity on the part of the people dating bisexuals. That is -- if I am dating a bisexual woman, (assuming, for now, a binary gender context) there is approximately 50% of the population (that is, people with vaginas) that I literally cannot compete with (not having a vagina and all). So I could (not saying I would, but this is a thought experiment) be paranoid that, when my bisexual partner swings the other way (yes, I know that's not how it works) and has a craving for vagina, I will be out on the street.

Obviously that's ridiculous, but I wonder if that's the foundation for such mistrust. A bisexual partner, being conceivably attracted to twice as many people as I could be, is twice as likely to leave me for someone else. Something like that.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:12 AM on July 11


I wonder how much of this comes from the fact that at least at one point in time, one way that some gay people would get sympathy from some straight people was to play into same-genital panic.

Based solely on some gay men I have known (thankfully very few) who have expressed "ew, nasty vaginas!" sentiments, it is not to gain sympathy, but because they hate women. They hate women to the extent that (to them) all we are is "ew, nasty vaginas!"

I suppose people like you describe could exist - it's a big weird world, after all - but I've never heard of much less met any gay guy like that. Also, in my experience, it's much more common to initially come out as bi (because coming out as Really Gay, All The Way) was seen as worse and definitely more permanent. Of course, the irony is that actually being bi mostly just gets you shit from everyone who thinks their opinion should matter to you.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Based solely on some gay men I have known (thankfully very few) who have expressed "ew, nasty vaginas!" sentiments, it is not to gain sympathy, but because they hate women. They hate women to the extent that (to them) all we are is "ew, nasty vaginas!"

I think this is pretty unfair. I mean, I'm sure these people exist, but if you asked a straight woman about vaginas, chances are she wouldn't be interested in having sex that involved any other vagina than her own. And chances are she might say, "Ew." It's rude, but it's not misogynistic, necessarily.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:25 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Answered in mail.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:25 AM on July 11


just a "this is complex, let me help you along" comic

Um well that's actually exactly how I read this comic. Maybe having dated and slept with transmen, and one of my best friends having a transman/genderqueer boyfriend/partner might contribute to this.

But frankly this comic should be required reading for every gay man on the planet.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:57 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Also, in my experience, it's much more common to initially come out as bi (because coming out as Really Gay, All The Way) was seen as worse and definitely more permanent. Of course, the irony is that actually being bi mostly just gets you shit from everyone who thinks their opinion should matter to you.

I hate this phenomenon. It happens, and I think it's not totally a bad thing; it gives people a bit of flexibility to explore who they are. The number of bi/gay men who talk about their first time sleeping with a man as "oh, yes, cool, confirmation that I *do* like men!" is pretty high, in my experience. And I had that thought once too. But the flip side is that, well, for someone like me who most definitely is not gay (I'll answer to bi but kinda prefer queer), it's an opening for people - mostly gay men, in my case - to make it clear that they think I'm still kinda closeted.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:29 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


There are so many factors in desire that go beyond male/female or gender presentation (butch/femme) that are hard to define. If three of his past four partners have been transmen this is definitely more of a thing than just liking short butch guys. But I don't know what that thing would be.

There was one night I was dancing with a transman at a club, but thought at the time he was another cis-gendered gay guy. His physical package was totally my type - solid muscle, tattoos, a little hairy in the chest - I should of been swooning mad with desire. And yet I felt nothing, to the point where I was actually pondering this on the dance floor (this is the hottest guy in the club; why isn't my body responding?).

Later, when my friends told me who he was, I concluded that there must have been some chemical thing, some pheromone, that wasn't there for me. But that's a guess; I've never seen this aspect of libido explored.

Would it be correct to say he is not so much attracted to men (narrowly XY defined with the expected giblets) as he is to perhaps to some sort of "aura of maleness"

I think we need a lot more axes on the old Kinsey Scale. An axis for male/female (alternate: xx or xy giblets), an axis for gender identity, and axis for chemical response, an axis for butch/femme ... I think we'd have more than enough axes for a multi-dimensional tesseract.
posted by kanewai at 11:35 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I think this is pretty unfair.

Well, I'll apologize for casting aspersions on people for whom this is not the case, but it's definitely not an unfair assertion about the actual men I've known who were (are) like this. And just because a woman can go "ew, vaginas!" doesn't mean misogyny can't be involved - women can also enact misogyny, and it's not like there isn't a long, long history of vaginas being treated as dirty, smelly, full of teeth and dangerous, etc. and by association, likewise their owners. It could be simple rudeness of expression, but misogyny is not out of the question.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on July 11


Cool comic. Man, I can't be the first person to wish you could shake hands with someone and know exactly how they want to be treated/identified/cared about, 'cause it's disheartening as hell to repeatedly realize you're doing it wrong.

Obviously, not as bad as having it done wrong to you, but... yeah.
posted by Mooski at 11:49 AM on July 11


it's definitely not an unfair assertion about the actual men I've known who were (are) like this.

The number of gay cismen I've known who say "EWW VAGINA PUKEY" are a large part of the reason why I so very rarely interact with the gay community anymore. It got so fucking tiring explaining that no, vaginas do not smell like fish unless there's some sort of infection, and no, vaginas aren't gross, and by the way without a fucking vagina you wouldn't be here so STFU until you grow TFU.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:54 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


trans/genderweird spectrum

I am a fan of this.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:55 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I think this is pretty unfair. I mean, I'm sure these people exist, but if you asked a straight woman about vaginas, chances are she wouldn't be interested in having sex that involved any other vagina than her own. And chances are she might say, "Ew." It's rude, but it's not misogynistic, necessarily.

Not necessarily, but I think that going beyond "not my thing" to "because it's like rotten fish" clearly crosses that line.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:56 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


by the way without a fucking vagina you wouldn't be here so STFU until you grow TFU.

To be fair, it's mostly just the uterus that matters. The theoretical vagina-less cis-woman could still have children, but she'd need a C-section and some curious manner of artificial insemination.
posted by explosion at 12:09 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Well, okay, but you get my point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:15 PM on July 11


I used to run an HIV hotline way, way back in the day. I taught a 52 hour course on HIV, that included male and female anatomy, to all of our volunteers. I still have gay men coming up to me to this day remarking that I was the person that taught them that vaginas do not smell fishy unless there is a bacterial infection and that the vagina expands and contracts and doesn't become "loose" with childbirth.

Grown ass men.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:39 PM on July 11


The whole "you are untrustworthy as a dating partner because you will leave me the moment someone with different genitalia than mine catches your eye" is definitely part of the untrustworthy thing, Ben Trismegistus. Another 'untrustworthy' thing that comes up sometimes is the idea that, as a bisexual, I must be totally incapable of having a platonic friendship. Obviously I must want to screw every single person I meet and thus all of my interactions with others are shallow and sexual, not ever based on just liking people as people. Just another untrustworthy, flighty, lying, cheating bisexual.

It's really pretty stupid.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this comic before, but I'm delighted to see it again.
posted by Stacey at 1:07 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I still have gay men coming up to me to this day remarking that I was the person that taught them that vaginas do not smell fishy unless there is a bacterial infection and that the vagina expands and contracts and doesn't become "loose" with childbirth.

Grown ass men.


This is not exclusive to grown ass gay men, I assure you.
posted by Etrigan at 1:45 PM on July 11


I still have gay men coming up to me to this day remarking that I was the person that taught them that vaginas do not smell fishy unless there is a bacterial infection and that the vagina expands and contracts and doesn't become "loose" with childbirth.

Grown ass men.


Has bugger all to do with being gay and everything to do with the insidious, misogynist narrative about women that permeates our culture.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:16 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Actually it has plenty to do with being gay, because gay men in general are horrific misogynists. Maybe we express it differently than straight men do, but the whole 'fish' thing (including actually referring to women as fish FFS) is not something I've heard come up much amongst straight men, whereas I guarantee in any gaybourhood you'll hear it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:28 PM on July 11


I wonder how different the reaction would have been if the comic's title were: "I'm straight. I date women. Some of those women have penises."
posted by graymouser at 3:52 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I know people who have the same ewwww yuck reaction to penises. Neither hate men - one is a man, the other a woman who has many male friends and gets on very well with them. Neither are homophobic; both pro-actively support LGBT rights. But both have a sexual orientation that is so exclusively towards women that the sight of penises turns them off.

If I didn't know these people and know that neither is homophobic or misandrist, maybe I would wonder. But as much as my bi-core is confused, my brain just accepts what they say on good faith and chocks it up to the wonderful spectrum that is humanity.
posted by jb at 4:18 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder how different the reaction would have been if the comic's title were: "I'm straight. I date women. Some of those women have penises."

I can only assume there would have been a lot of homophobic responses (elsewhere, I mean, not here) instead of the transphobic ones.

Plus ca change..
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:21 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


This straight man feels very edified by that comic, so thank you. Just a few months ago I was talking with my gay male friend who talked about his new lover, a trans man (born with a vagina, that is). I just chalked it up to him experimenting with straight sex, or him being bisexual, but no. He's homosexual, still, but his partner situation is just different from the norm.
posted by zardoz at 7:37 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I can only assume there would have been a lot of homophobic responses (elsewhere, I mean, not here) instead of the transphobic ones.

I can't see how you can have a homophobic reaction to a straight man having a relationship with a trans woman without there being a whole hell of a lot of transphobia involved there - transphobia is pretty much what creates the idea of there being any homo of which to be phobic in that situation.
posted by Dysk at 9:22 PM on July 12


Couldn't it be basically trans-denial plus homophobia? Maybe that's just fine parsing of different flavor a of assholishness, but I definitely know people who wouldn't see that scenario as anything other than two men with an unusual twist; in their heads they aren't anything other than routinely anti-gay. I think sometimes the world views really are far apart on this, unfortunately.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:37 PM on July 12


people who wouldn't see that scenario as anything other than two men

...and that's the transphobia!
posted by Dysk at 10:14 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Couldn't it be basically trans-denial plus homophobia?

Yeah, I wasn't clear. I should have said 'homophobic and trans-erasing responses.' Which, yes, is transphobia but I think trans-erasure + homophobia is a slightly different animal than straight-up (ahem) transphobia? Or perhaps more accurately is a more specific subset.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:23 AM on July 13


Thinking trans women are men is, like, textbook transphobia, fffm.
posted by Corinth at 4:16 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


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