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"Sexophobic" as an answer - tangled thoughts on gender and first-person speech Warning: THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS! Some of the fragments below have the right colour and energy and MAY be used for the final version, to be presented as a spoken word performance at the "Encuentro". Some other parts are old drafts that I am keeping just because they remind me of ideas that can still be useful. I have the sensation that I will have to lay out 200 ideas to use only 40 at the final version. http://angg.twu.net/MONTREAL/sexophobic_as_answer.html http://angg.twu.net/gender.html Eduardo Ochs Version: 2014jan29 (find-LATEX "2013-montreal.txt") Intro ===== I spent a lot of time and energy during ten years gathering all the information that I could about hormones and about ways to remove surgically the fucking dangling thing between my legs. Twelve years have passed, and I haven't done anything concrete. Sometimes I look at myself in a mirror and what I see makes my say to myself: oh my God, the battle has been lost. I look too male, and it may be too late to change. The male hormones have won. Yet, sometimes, I have the feeling that I chose the right priorities. Those feelings come and go; I oscillate. _I am not sure of anything_. I used to imagine doctors evaluating me as a candidate for hormones and surgery - and trying to measure objectively my suffering. And when I began to prepare this talk I wrote down several very colorful descriptions of my worst moments. Then I realized how the temptation of measuring suffering is almost irresistible. My father was a survivor of the Holocaust. Sometimes I would try to tell him my troubles, and he would compare that with almost dying, and with having lots of people around you killed. He would make that a competition, and I'd always lose - and he would show, again, how ridiculous I was. So, sometimes I start an imaginary dialog with [The Holocaust is the ace of the deck - anyone who loses the competion is no longer listened to - what do we want when we talk about suffering? Relief? Attention? Respect?] Intro ===== Eu gastei muito tempo e energia, durante dez anos, procurando toda a informação que eu podia sobre hormônios e sobre jeitos de remover cirurgicamente a coisa entre as minhas pernas. Mas se passaram doze anos, e eu ainda não fiz nada de concreto. Às vezes eu me olho no espelho e o que eu vejo me faz pensar: "ai meu deus, eu perdi a batalha. Eu pareço muito masculino, e deve ser muito tarde pra mudar. Os hormônios masculinos ganharam." Mas outras vezes o sentimento é de eu escolhi as prioridades certas. Esses sentimentos vêm e vão; eu oscilo. _Eu não tenho certeza de nada_. Eu às vezes imaginava como seriam as entrevistas com os médicos que me avaliariam como candidato pra tratamento com hormônios e cirurgia - eles tentariam medir objetivamente o meu sofrimento. Quando eu comecei a preparar esta fala eu - e só há pouco tempo atrás eu percebi como a tentação Armadura ======== A coisa mais impressionante que aconteceu quando eu comecei a terapia hormonal foi quase imediata - eu tomei os remédios, fui dormir, e acordei diferente. Antes meu tórax era um bloco rígido, como uma armadura... muitos músculos meus estavam tão rígidos há décadas que eles não mandavam nenhuma informação pro meu cérebro - eles não mudavam nunca, não havia nada pra mandar. Quando eu acordei tinha, sei lá, 20, 50, 100, 200 músculos que era como se eu não tivesse antes, e que passaram a ter mobilidade e sensibilidade. Era enlouquecedor, mas era fantástico. Eu ainda estou tentando pôr em palavras porque é que às vezes eu cruzava o olhar com alguém na rua durante um ou dois segundos e o olhar dessa pessoa me salvava o dia. Olha esta idéia daqui: podia ser que eu sentisse que com aquela pessoa eu poderia tirar a armadura. Essa pessoa me dava um vislumbre, e aí eu conseguia imaginar - aliás, planejar - um futuro no qual eu não precisaria mais viver de armadura... O que aconteceria se eu afinal conseguisse me aproximar de uma pessoa dessas e me abrir com ela? Acho que eu explodiria, eu diria "obrigado" e "que alívio" e que eu procurava algo assim sem conseguir encontrar, e eu começaria a chorar - mas isso é tão perigoso, né, porque aí provavelmente a outra pessoa iria me achar um chato, dependente, descontrolado... Garimpando nos meus cadernos de anotações eu encontrei esta frase: uma armadura de espinhos que protege o meu coração. Shark boys ========== Let me try to paint a picture of how I felt it was to be male when I was a kid. Let me warn you that this is probably going to sound childish. When I was about 12 I saw a documentary about sharks. They can't stop swimming - ever - because they do not float. Being a boy in my generation was like that - I had to do things all the time - or else I would sink down to the depths of our social hierarchy, into some muddy hell with no return - into faggotness - Marta ===== I was seventeen, and my best friend - a girl called Marta Portugal, two years older than me - was throwing a party at her house; she did that often. I went there, but I was in a very bad mood, I was feeling very awkward among all those happy people, and when they said "we are going to the nightclub" I said "Ok, enjoy, I am not feeling like it, I am going home". Well, Marta tried to convince me to join, and I said: "I'll walk with you all to the door of the club, then I'll leave". We went all together, walked the ten blocks or so - she was expecting that I would change my mind - and at the door I said "bye". I can't reconstruct precisely what happend in the five seconds following that, but then she grabbed my arm with both hands and bit me with all her strength. I tried to push her, she screamed for help, yelling that I was attacking her, a fragile little girl, and, in seconds, and a circle of people formed around us and two guys held my arms. At that moment I was a threat, a man, a monster. So I had this bite mark in my arm, that took about two weeks to disappear, and everyone was asking me how I had gotten it. When I told the story to my sister she laughed and said, oh, please, Marta is not a fragile little girl, she is a wild bear. I was short, and skinny, and shy. Marta was a big woman, visibl strong and powerful in all possible senses. That scene has shaped my way of thinking about lots of things. Laws, labels, and medical opinions are important, but my feeling is that most things in life are like these situations in which a circle of people forms around us, and opinions are formed in five seconds. In that situation, when I was 17, I was a threat. The crucial question is: how can we be the person who deserves protection? The princess ============ Let me use another image. Your family moves to another city, and you change to another school. In you old school you were just an introversive kid with no close relations; you were practically invisible. In the new school something clicked somehow - another kid asked you things, and found your answers very interesting; in a matter of just a few days you were being invited to parties... in the old school you were a weirdo for being totally inept at sports; and the parties were a mess of loud people being louder, of kids running around, drinking booze and making fun of one another, everyone wanting that to be like the teenage parties from American movies - but in the new school being introversive is not a sin, you were adopted by a small group of kids who often gather together to chat for hours, and they know that the people who speak the least often came up with the best ideas, and conjure the best images - And one day one of your best friends in this new school invites you to a bigger party with more people. She - sorry, it's becoming difficult to write in a gender-neutral way, so let me make her a "she" - she invites you to this bigger party, where you know practically no one. You find your friend fascinating, she finds you fascinating too, and she is kind of protective of you. You walk together into a big house full of people, and at that moment you are a friend of that girl, you share a bit of her aura, you are two princesses getting into a party in a castle - your former self, a clumsy sad kid from your previous school, is just a distant memory - I lived for a long time believing that life was like this: that I would, at some point, go to another party, one where the really interesting people would be, and I would enter into it as a princess, and everything would work: my virtues, which were virtually valueless, in my previous school, would shine like diamonds through a light and semitransparent dress; I would be adopted, and my former self, who lived in humiliation and shame, would become just a dim memory. A princesa ========== Deixa eu usar uma outra imagem. A sua família se muda pra outra cidade, e você vai pra outra escola. Na sua escola antiga você era só uma criança introversiva que não se relacionava direito com ninguém. Na escola nova alguma coisa deu um clique - outra criança te perguntou alguma coisa e achou as suas respostas interessantes, e em poucos dias você estava sendo convidado pra festas - na escola antiga você era esquisito por ser totalmente incompetente pra esportes; e as festas eram só uma confusão de pessoas barulhentas sendo mais barulhentas ainda, pessoas correndo pra lá e pra cá bebendo e se sacaneando, todo mundo querendo que tudo fosse como nas festas de adolescentes dos filmes americanos - mas na escola nova ser introversivo não é pecado, você foi adotado por um grupinho que às vezes se reúne pra conversar por horas, e eles sabem que as pessoas que falam menos são as que às vezes aparecem com as melhores idéias, e conjuram as melhores imagens - Aí um dia - desculpa, tá ficando difícil escrever sem gênero, então deixa eu usar o feminino - uma das suas melhores amigas te convida pra uma festa maior, em que vai ter bem mais gente, e onde você não vai conhecer praticamente ninguém. Você acha essa amiga fascinante, ela acha você fascinante também, e ela age de forma meio protetora com você. Vocês duas entram juntas na pela porta da casa enorme cheia de gente, e naquele momento você é a amiga daquela garota, e você compartilha um pouco da aura dela, vocês são duas princesas entrando numa festa numa castelo - e a sua versão anterior, a menina tímida da outra escola, é só uma memória distante - Eu vivi muitos anos acreditando que a vida era assim: que eu iria em algum momento encontrar a festa certa, a em que as pessoas realmente interessantes estavam, e eu entraria nela como uma princesa, e tudo funcionaria... minhas qualidades, que eram algo praticamente sem valor na escola enterior, iriam brilhar como diamantes através de um vestido leve e semitransparente; eu seria adotada, e a versão anterior de mim, que vivia em humilhação e vergonha, se tornaria só uma memória distante. Initiative ========== I love this image - of the princess - and I will return to it soon and make several connections; but now let me talk about something much more down-to-earth: _initiative_. In Brazil men are expected to take the initiative. This was a nightmare to me, of course, and when I was a teenager things were even worse, because self-confidence was everything. It was as if you could always change from being one thing to being something completely different overnight, if you had an insight which had changed your life. So the past didn't matter much - _certainty in your current beliefs_ did. On the top of our hierarchy were the kids who had more experience, more interesting stories, more success. Ok, but success in what? _Success in getting what you wanted_ - which in theory could mean many things, but in practice very few, because some desires were recognized as real while all the others were considered coward excuses - let me explain this with a story. In a conversation between two (male) friends one says: I can't go, I'm busy this evening. The other one asks: what are you going to do? - Oh, studying. - What? - Mathematics. - Why? - I have decided to learn maths very well. - Why? - Because I want to get very good grades. - Because I have decided that I want to study Egineering. - Why? - Because it's an interesting career, and it pays well. - And?... - And I want to earn a lot of money. - Why? - Because I want to have a good car and a good house. - Why? - To fuck many women. - Ah, ok. I hope that you have all recognized a certain "something" in this story that rings true. Very few goals are socially recognized as valid as ends in themselves. The others are seen as being valid as means to an end, or sometimes not even that. So: the boys in my generation could do some activities that would make them more interesting and more adventurous; that would increase their self-confidence and they would approach the girls with a slightly better chanceof getting a "yes", and they wouldn'd care much if they would get a "no"; they would be casual about that, and would try again with someone else very soon - the underlying idea being that "winners learn with their failures instead of becoming sad with them". http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth200/Body/gaze.html http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/28/ways-of-seeing-john-berger/ John Berger wrote that in this history of images, "men act, women appear." A pitbull (2013dec03) ===================== I was going back home in the end of an evening. It was the rush hour, and the streets, even the sidewalks, were crowded. One of the main topics in the news was what to do with pitbulls. They were the dogs of choice of what we called the "pitboys", which were a kind of rich, spoiled hooligans, and there had been a handful of cases of their pitbulls attacking, and mutilating, and sometimes killing, people. So the news were full of articles about that, and there was a campaign going on about outlawing pitbulls, and either killing all of them or just making it illegal to walk with them in the streets or to have them in houses with children. Anyway, so that day I was walking back home, finding my way through a very crowded sidewalk, and I saw a space near the wall of a newsstand - and there these two teenagers, probably a brother and a sister, talking casually to one another, and their dog. Now you are probably imagining something threatening, but the teenagers looked very fragile, very sensitive, very attentive, and their dog, a pitbull who was a little older than a puppy, was looking to everyone, with her big, sad, sweet, needy eyes, saying with her whole body "hey, please, please, come play with me, I am not going to do you any harm" - and some people did make eye contact with her, but everyone, absolutely everyone, avoided her in fear, and so there, in the middle of that empty half-circle in the sidewalk, very close to the grey wall of the newsstand, was this sweet, needy dog trying to look half her size, knowing that she would have to be as sweet as possible to have anyone get close, but it wasn't working, she would have to be _much_ more sweet, more pure, more sincere - and she kept trying - This scene - this image - has never left me. This is what it is like to _be_ - sorry, rather to _walk in_ a man's body - in a macho country. We talk about male privilege - and well, male privilege mostly means that you can attack and people will sort of excuse you - 'cause they know that you are an irrational animal anyway. There is a bit of a discourse that women look for, and value, sensitive men. This is true only to a point. Sorry, let me go back to the story of the dog for an instant. We have this dog that is doing everything that she could to deserve a prince charming that one day will come and pat her in the head for five seconds. What happens if several years go by and no one comes close? If all the effort to signal to the world how we want to be sweet was in vain? We spent what felt like ages polishing our hearts, watching our thoughts and daydreams for all brute gestures, and carefully healing the brutality behind each of them, replacing that by carefulness? So: imagine that years go by and we are still seen and treated by absolutely everyone as pitbulls. Our sweetness and hope get tired, and give way to bitterness. And everyone around us say to us, with their best intentions: "you are a pitbull! Enjoy your pitbullness!". Um pitbull ========== Eu estava voltando pra casa num fim de tarde. Era a hora do rush, e a rua estava lotada de carros e a calçada entulhada de gente. Nessa The centrality of sex ===================== [This section was a first attempt, just to start to lay down a certain group of ideas and see how they could be connected. It will be completely rewritten.] So now I could bore you with a familiar story. Each one here in this audience has had a period in his life where sex was of capital importance - and not only personally, but also socially, in the sense that our peers would judge us by how we handled these new things: attractions, relationships, our changing bodies, sex - I could tell you how in my generation, of teens living in the years of freedom after the end of military dictatorship in Brazil, that was especially intense - and the few people who were not activelly dealing with teenages crushes and sex, either because of religion, or physical or psychological problems, were simply non-people - But, as I have hinted before, I was one of these outsiders - everything went wrong with me - I was ideologically gay, but at the same time I was in madly love with my best female friend, and my first kiss was with a boy when I was 19, and it was horrible, and then, two weeks later, Marta and me tried to have something physical with one another, and it was horrible too, so then I gave up - So, what was life after having to give up sex? The first thing I have to say is that my self-esteem, which was already very low, sank to the bottom. That was my first period as a sexophobic. Ok - that was an introduction. Let me apologize for the excess of teenage drama... my father was jewish - a survivor of concentration camps, even - and we are very good at playing the victims, and at self-deprecating humor. I started with that story because I wanted to talk about a bigger picture - not just of the centrality of sex in my generation, but the centrality of self-esteem - or, rather, of self-confidence. A game ====== "I am valuable; you are just desire. Every day I turn down dozens of people who look at me just like you are looking at me now. Convince me that you are better than the others. Crawl at my feet." [I tried to keep myself at a safe distance from people who could do this] No body ======= [Early childhood - wanting to be only a mind, without a body; how I realized what I was missing; I was still thinking too much] Sex === [Early adolescence - biology making heavy demands - "thank you, sucker" - the end of the party] Passing ======= ["Passing" made no sense to me] [The world of men was made of believing in lies with all your strength; the world of women had space for _not knowing_, doubts, insecurity, _thinking together_ and paying attention and listening to other people instead of affirming and monologuing - also, real communication, dealing with faults, _honesty_.] [Long hair as continuity with the past, and with always taking care of yourself; male buzzcut hair ("practical"/"needs no time for maintenance") as _always forgetting_. For me the male right to do stupid things and forget them immediately was not something that made me feel free - instead it made me feel in danger (of what my colleagues could do), and that I would be always treated as dangerous and unreliable (which made relationships based on truth and protectiveness impossible).] [When I look at someone I don't see just if that person is beautiful or not, or if she is a man or a woman - I see _layers_ - I see the history of the person and how she dealt with how others saw her in all stages of her life. People who were always seen as beautiful and valuable are boring (and dangerous, and able to discard people); people who had to make themselves interesting, and who had to value and care for each relationship they had, after the ones that matter.] [My first male role models: Rainer-Werner Fassbinder (because of Querelle), and Yukio Mishima] Porn ==== [Porn gave some glimpses on what our bodies could do; no one who matters would pay much attention to the male actors; however, porn depicts a world of "yes"s, with no rejections and no emotional side-effects] Show Confidence and self-esteem Detachment, being casual Doing things again confidence success, hierarchy higher kids reject lower people "crawl at my feet" popular kids vs outcasts beauty -> layers light-skinned, blond if possible Patti Smith's Easter Marta: big since very young her mother had just died Marta: "I want my innocence back" (I was a kid in panic) pitbulls pretending to be cuddly puppies Willim Blake: "Infant Joy" (In Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae, p.272) theater it is not the we are incapable of aggression, or that we are good-hearted people who never want to hurt anyone revenge cowards are not exciting (find-fline "~/tmp/henrique_voce_e_covarde.jpg") there's more to do than just "I love you" What to offer? Complicity? sweetness? sex? revenge together drugs, intimiacy Heart ===== Now I want to talk about something else. I can't name this thing right now - because it is the kitsch word par excellence. [Reich - body armor - ability to have empathy and to make communication - to LISTEN - describe "physically" what it is to have an open heart] Startle reflex ============== [drop this section, or keep a few things and rewrite] Please visualize a cat that just saw something threatening. He arches and contracts his back and becomes very anxious - electric - and ready to either attack or to run away. That neuro-muscular pattern that gets activated has a name: it's called the "startle reflex". When we, humans, feel threatened we contract the back of our necks in a similar, but less visible way. Muscular patterns become habits. I lived most of my life with my head tucked toward my shoulders. I started to do that when I was very, very little - to signal to others that I did not want to compete for dominance, and that I was not a threat. Muscular patterns and emotional patterns are connected. It takes patient work to stretch a muscle that has spent the last 20 years contracted. Everyone has a notion of how stretching feels and works. I like - really, really much - to see emotional habits as similar to muscular habits. I grew up in a social circle where trusting was seen as something wrong, and ridiculous. Then, when I was a teenager, and I could not stand my isolation and my shyness anymore, I understood that people do come close to other people that look like calm, relaxed and friendly cats - and they do not approach people who look like startled cats. I was a startled cat, and I would have to undo very deep habits. We say that the cat is _startled_, and this muscular pattern, which obviously affects _He become incapable of slow movements_. He is between I did something called Alexander Technique for several years, and found it so powerful and fascinating that I almost moved to England Hit and run The street ========== Politics of the streets ======================= In Brazil we have to struggle all the time with the idea that doing things publically - esp. in writing - is dangerous. It is easy to join a manifestation of, say, a thousand people and shout slogans against the most obvious culprits - big names like the governor or the mayor. But people are getting beaten, arrested, and sued. The law is random. Justice is not just. One thing that is only slowly becoming clearer for Brazilians It is much harded to join Let me explain my side. I work in a university campus in the countryside that is, for all effects, a microcosm - with one hundred professors and two thousand students. Administrative tasks transparency small groups it is easy to criticize and much harder to do something Listening ========= If you have a bit of patience I will tell you how I found a tone in which I could tell these stories - Truth ===== Remember the struggle to prove that people are born gay. We can say this is an effort to change the "medical truth". There are other corresponding efforts to change how the laws see gays. These are attempts to change the "legal truth". These are giant battles, involving hundreds of thousands of people during decades. Now let me present something much smaller, that has happened with me dozens of times. I am chatting with someone, and the subject of hitting on people pops up. I say that I don't do that much, and I explain why: the thing is that I am sexophobic. What makes the person believe me, and ask for more details in a friendly way? Because in a few cases people have reactly very badly - What I believe is that in these situations people decide to believe or not in our stories about sexuality and gender in the same way that they decide to believe in a story in theater. Confiança, satisfeitos,, pais, afeto ==================================== A gata Sílvia confiava tanto em mim que ela às vezes dormia no meio do tapete que ficava no meio da sala - ela sabia que eu iria sempre prestar atenção nela e contorná-la, que ela não seria chutada de jeito nenhum. O guilherme contou que ele trabalha pra caralho e tá no papel de homem da casa e pai e provedor, que a Mainá, filha da Nessa, ainda é super arredia e defensiva com ele, vive isolada no quarto dela. Aí eu perguntei qual é a compensação por alguém fazer papel de pai, que eu nunca entendi... e o Guilherme disse que a compensação deveria ser o afeto, até mais do que o orgulho e o reconhecimento... e aí me veio a seguinte imagem: a Maina tá sempre super ocupada com as coisas dela - é que nada tá bom ainda, aí ela não pode parar; ela não tá satisfeita, aí o afeto fica pra depois... Aí eu e o Guilherme começamos a pensar sobre o que queria dizer "satisfeito", porque afinal de contas quando a gente cuida de alguém, de uma pessoa, ou cachorro, ou gato, o que a gente quer é que esse alguém fique satisfeito em algum momento... mas o que é "satisfeito"? O que a gente espera? Deixa eu fazer um parêntese. O príncipe encantado ==================== Deixa eu voltar à imagem do príncipe encantado - ela é incrivelmente rica. Um príncipe encantado atravessa uma floresta cheia de perigos e me salva de um castelo no qual tudo está paralisado e adormecido há anos por conta de uma maldição. _Um príncipe encantado me salva_. Mas porque exatamente a mim? Droga, eu sou uma pessoa com auto-estima baixa, eu não consigo me convencer de que eu mereço... tem tantas mulheres procurando príncipes encantados por aí, e os príncipes encantados são poucos e são disputados a tapa... eu tento fazer todo o possível pra _merecer_ um príncipe encantado, e pra eu ficar visível no meio da multidão - e, o que é pior, o príncipe encantado pode ainda ser alguém que parece um sapo... então como eu vou reconhecê-lo? E como ele vai me reconhecer se eu pareço um sapo também, com esse corpo de homem? A tradução ========== Às vezes, quando eu tou contando numa conversa como eu funciono afetivamente eu uso essa expressão: "o príncipe encantado". Essa eu me permito usar com quase qualquer pessoa, porque ela é engraçada de um jeito que desarma as pessoas - então eu nem preciso me desculpar ou me justificar antes, [Conversa com a Beth - virou chave para coisas] Willim Blake: "Infant Joy" ========================== (In Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae, p.272) Tórax como armadura =================== Decodificação por gênero ======================== Elogios, carências, Daniel Adolescência é uma festa ======================== Iniciativa, paranóia Estratégia pra ficar longe de iniciativa fusão ética e drogas Pessoas bonitas vs pessoas interessantes Garota photoshopada Dias de glória (que eu nunca tive) Pisar em você Tato Coração (e confiança de que a gente vai ser entendido) Verdade em teatro e literatura Verdade médica Storytelling Eu passei anos tentando lidar com essa história. Será que só por a Marta ser mulher ela podia a qualquer momento fazer um escândalo, gritar que ela é frágil e pedir proteção? e preciosa # Local Variables: # coding: raw-text-unix # End: