The Little Pink Bottle That Could

DSC_3842cThis may look like an ordinary water bottle (I don’t know anything about the bike shop so don’t ask) and you would be correct. However, at one time it’s symbolism extended far beyond its function.

I acquired this sports bottle semi- unintentionally. I had entered a mountain bike race at Kickapoo State Park in Illinois which was put on by a wonderful local group called the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club. As is part and parcel of mountain bike races (at least in Illinois) the organizers were handing out grab bags for racers part of which was a clear or pink bottle. As you can well imagine, being a guy, I was handed a clear bottle. I took it and began to walk away from the registration table.

Then I stopped and began to think better of my decision. You see, ever since I watched the Giro d’Italia, which is a nearly month long bike race around Italy, I fell in love with pink as a color for cycling. In the Giro the leader’s jersey is called the Maglia Rosa and as the name might suggest to you the color is a brilliant rose pink. The pinkish hue is everywhere; on the cars, billboards, podium, bikes built especially for the occasion and on the confetti that falls precipitously at the finish. Yes, by the end of that twenty-some-odd day race I could never see pink again without seeing it for it’s flashy, race worthy badassery that is on display during that event.

The truth of the matter was I became hooked on the pink bottle as soon as I saw them, but until this very moment I had accepted the clear bottle as a matter of social conditioning even though I didn’t want one. I was about to remedy this. I turned around and asked, “Actually, could I get a pink one instead?”

That’s about all I remember. I don’t really remember the event itself. I think there was a little blood, a shitload of sweat from that good ol Midwest humidity and a mid pack finish for me.

At this point in my life, I had firmly accepted that I was pansexual but it seemed a rather academic point rather than a pragmatic one. I was married so exploring this newly realized identity was not exactly a viable option. I was comfortable with this. Plus, I didn’t solely like guys so being married to a woman didn’t undermine my identity.

If I can offer an aside, It’s important to note that I was also living in a conservative part of the country where being different isn’t exactly accepted. People aren’t wrong when they say the Midwesterners are nice. You can have a conversation with almost anyone on a whim. Just make sure to keep things on a superficial level or you may not like the topic once it shifts from the weather.

I always tell people that the Midwest (at least the rural portion) consists of a thin veneer of nicety concealing a seething cauldron of hatred beneath. At least every other day I had to back someone down from making some kind of horrible statement. Whether it was demonstrating xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, transphobia or what have you. It was tiring to say the least.

In fact, right around this time I remember a coworker/neighbor of mine taking a line of joking, that she started, the wrong way. Through the drags of her cigarette and with a good amount of hatred and disgust she called me a faggot as I parted her company. All of this before anyone aside from my wife at the time even knew that my sexual interest deviated from women.

I should say at this point that there are also some quality people in the Midwest and they deserve their credit. It must be admitted though that the small town mind pervades this geographical area more so than other parts of the country, save for the south perhaps.

I’ve lived in my new home state for almost two years now and I’ve been 100 percent out the entire time and have never had to back anyone down from anything racist, homophobic or the like. It feels like an emotional vacation, but I digress.

So now I had this pink water bottle which I loved, but did I dare use it in rural America? At first I began using it just as a way to haul extra water in my cooler on ride days. So when riding laps at my local trail I could stop by and refill my Camelback. I had to take a few friendly jabs about it but it was easy to say it was my Giro pink bottle even though the color didn’t match the Maglia Rosa. Then I started taking it to work daily as my go to bottle for the day. When anyone said something about it I quickly stated my fondness for it, “Are you kidding? I love pink, that’s my favorite bottle!” All of it was true.

What went unspoken was that in a weird way this became a means for me to push a boundary, admittedly a small one, on gender norms. This was literally the only pink thing I owned because as a man I wasn’t supposed to. If this sounds like bullshit, it is, but I swear to you this dynamic exists and is alive and well. Carrying this bottle was a way for me to signify that I was different.

Yes, I loved the color and I would have used it regardless of my sexual orientation. Even though the color pink has nothing definitive to do with being queer, it became a secret symbol of my queerness. It was a way for me to take that part of me out into public even if no one else knew what was going on. This gender-bending symbolism slowly gave me confidence.

Before I left the Midwest I came out to a few people close to me. It was the next step in my evolution and as weird as it may sound that pink bottle played a role.

Recently, I noticed this bottle was missing from my collection. I had long chalked it up as lost and had forgotten about it until my ex-wife walked into my place with it the other night. I had left it in her car and so it had remained for months.

As I washed it and placed it in the dish rack I realized that I still loved the color. A pink bike or team kit? Yes please. However, the bottle itself had lost it’s hold on me. I still like it but it’s no longer my favorite. It’s a bottle now, nothing more than a utilitarian object with a symbolic past.

I’m out! I’m queer, bisexual, and/or pansexual. I’m a faggot, whatever you want to call it I don’t really care. I paint my fingernails and toenails, I cross dress for myself and for my partners. You see, I don’t have to deal in hidden symbolism anymore. I am my own living symbol and that feels better than carrying around that pink bottle ever did.

 

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Men and the Culture We Create

In talking to women I’ve been able to notice a few common threads when it comes to their dealings with men. One in particular has troubled me from the moment I realized the implication.

Usually we’re talking about dating and the horrible behavior that people bring into that sphere of interaction. Too often women tell me things men have said to them or done to them that were truly abysmal and then passed it off as being normal.

While I am appalled by the behavior of the men, I’m equally if not even more horrified by the culture we have created in which this behavior is deemed normal or expected and goes unchallenged. Whether it be guys that feel entitled to grope women or the actual site of women walking with their keys in their hand ready to use it as a weapon against men, we have created a environment where toxic masculinity is just thought of as normal. This social construct disturbs me to my very core.

This article and the author’s experiences brought the horrors of guy culture to the forefront of my mind.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-i-wish-men-knew-about-that-creepy-guy-at-starbucks_us_572b6ddde4b016f37894e05d?

Gender-splaining

I was having a conversation with a woman last week about me identifying as cisgender and it occurred to me that more than a few people still don’t know these new words that have cropped up over the years or the importance of them. For those of you who may have questions about the terms used to identify gender here is a short introduction that will have you up to speed quickly.

http://mic.com/articles/139805/cisgender-v-transgender-v-gender-fluid-here-s-what-these-gender-identity-terms-mean#.fu8X0x7sz

Man Writes Letter to His Cock

As I get a little older I find a lot of wisdom in what this guy is saying. I’ve found that my cock is influenced not only by my biological state but my mind as well. In fact, guys tend to view their dick as a separate entity all together. If you don’t believe me ask yourself what names you, or someone else, has called your cock by over the years. There has to be a healthier way to regard this sensual part of the male anatomy.  Give this a read and tell me what you think.

http://www.jaysongaddis.com/a-letter-to-my-cck/

When I Say Feminism What I Mean Is…

This last month I went to get a haircut, naturally I chitchatted a bit with the stylist. As we were talking, she said she is not a feminist and believes in gender roles. My jaw must have dropped because she started to rationalize this statement, using horrifying example after horrifying example of times in her personal relationship where they used gender roles. I was too stunned to speak and I honestly didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing. I laughed in discomfort, we finished the cut and I left. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. How could anyone, especially a woman, not believe in gender equality? Being me, I decided to comment about it on my Facebook. The majority of my friends have a similar mindset to my own, surely we were all about to have a great conversation on feminism and banishing gender roles.
Oh how wrong I was. Instead I was sent down a deep rabbit hole to redefine my moral conduct and what the sexual revolution looks like to me.

So I posted my post and continued about my day when bing! a notification came through;
“The whole point of the sexual revolution and gender equality is to give people the choice to live how they want. If she wants to live a certain way, then what’s wrong with that?”
Being me, my initial response is usually emotional and all I’m thinking is EVERYTHING IS WRONG WITH THAT. It is my life’s work to change the sexual culture that plagues America so the thought of encouraging people to live as they want, even if it goes against my moral values, threw me for a loop. As an activist and sexual being I have adopted the mentality that all sex is good sex as long as it is safe, sane, and consensual. At this point, I was starting to question this philosophy. If she is aware of her gender roles, wouldn’t that make it consensual? Was she not agreeing to those terms? The idea that someone can not believe in gender equality and still fall into the perimeters that I had been laying out for the sexual revolution kept me deep in my own head space for days. Yes, I believe in people living the way they chose. The idea of me trying to take away that freedom from someone left a bad taste in my mouth. Then again, so did the idea of allowing these ideas to perpetuate.

At this point in my thought process, I began to think about all the sexual activities I am into and have ‘justified’ because they were safe, sane, and consensual. Consensual nonconsent, spanking, choking, and activities like these which many others may view as dangerous, crazy, or weird I find to be ok under the guidelines of safe, sane, and consensual. The more I thought, the more I fell into these mind loops that I wasn’t being supportive, that I was going against all that I stood for till a notion dawned on me. My sexual activities are just that, activities. Others can choose, or not, to take part in them. Gender inequality however, is not an activity we just get to opt out of. We don’t get to tell everyone else if we want to use gender roles or not. When we allow these societal norms of inequality to continue, we are allowing inequality to reign over ALL of us, not just a select few. There is not a way to pick and choose this kind of matter, it is an all or nothing sort of deal. That is one deal I won’t take.

Something I have noticed in my exploration of the American sex culture, is that using the word feminism almost always gets negative comments back… and I work in the adult entertainment industry. Never once have I been put down for doing porn but as soon as I say ‘feminist’, there is an uproar. I wonder why this word causes such strong, negative reactions. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as  the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That’s it. Equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender. Somewhere along the way it seems this has been misconstrued. Feminists these days are made out to be unattractive, men hating woman who scream angrily and while waving cardboard signs in your face. I don’t see anything in the dictionary about that…
When I say feminism what I mean is…
I don’t want to live in a world where a short skirt makes me a whore and a target
I don’t want to live in a world where men are told they have no control over themselves
I don’t want to live in a world where boys can’t play with barbies and girls can’t play with dumptrucks
I don’t want to live in a world where a person’s birth given genitals make them superior or inferior
When I say feminism what I mean is…
As a woman, I should have the same rights and opportunities as men
As a man, I should have the same rights and opportunities as women

That’s it. It really is that simple of a definition.

 

~~Merasmin~~

I Don’t Shit Rainbows

NFb6j

If you were to read my dating profile you would see that it lists a number of progressive ideas about sex positivity and gender self-determinism. Listing that info is a double edged sword. On the plus side, these are views that women don’t encounter much while perusing through men so it definitely sets me apart. Also, listing this allows me to attract quality people. Someone who is homophobic isn’t likely to show interest in me if I list myself as a pansexual feminist. A thinning of the herd that I’m wonderfully happy with by the way.

However, I often feel as if I’m fetishized to a degree. I get the impression that some of those folks expect me to be the most evolved person to walk the face of the Earth. If I show up to a date and I don’t have rainbows shooting out of my ass (a known carcinogen by the way) or pieces of the mountain top I was meditating on still stuck to my clothes people get disappointed. I can appreciate the enthusiasm but the expectation feels unrealistic and oppressive.

What I do is for others in a general sense and I don’t fucking care if it looks like what someone else expects it to. For instance, I identify as cisgender because I agree that failing to do so creates an accepted group (those happy with their assigned gender) and an outcast group (those happy with their non-assigned gender – i.e. transgendered). The same goes for allosexual. I don’t feel like asexual (or demi or graysexual) people should feel like anything other than normal so I categorize the level of my sexual desire. By doing things like this I’m helping to create the kind of world in which I want to live.

Did you catch that last part? The world I want to live in. My actions are for me too. How’s that for enlightened? Even if what I do primarily has a benefit to others, it also helps me to become the person I wish that I (and everyone else) was. It makes me happy to be who I am. It’s that whole, be the change you want to see shtick.

Ever since I was called a racist at 17, all I’ve ever wanted to do is be a better person. That impetus has brought me to where I am now and I’m reaping the benefits. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and for the first time I’m starting to cultivate a group of friends with shared values. My friends, dates and other random people tell me the nicest and most heartfelt things and I know it’s because I have done the same for them and that I’ve created an environment where they trust me. Moments like those bring tears to my eyes when I think about it. I’m finally having the intimate meaningful connections with people that I’ve always wanted to have. It’s such a wonderful place to be.

However, I’m not perfect. I’m still just a clump of electrical and bacterial processes that we call human. As confidant as I am I still have insecurities that can occasionally lead me to be emotionally unhealthy. I’m working on it. Sometimes I get excited about a topic and I realize that I’ve been talking for 5 minutes and unintentionally monopolizing the conversation. I’m working on that too. I’m a radical sometimes to a fault. I’m wondering how to work on that or if I even should. I also use profanity. I’ve no plans to work on that at all because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Okay look, I realize that most of you who read this will never meet me (I mostly blame you), but you can extrapolate this into your own life. Whoever, you’re in the process of idolizing make sure you do a reality check on what it means to be human.

People are wondrous and beautiful creatures and we exist in a myriad of ways, but obviously we’re not perfect. Sometimes our imperfections make us beautiful. Other times, it’s how we deal with those imperfections that make us shine. Either way we all have work to do and that’s okay.

Mal, a character from the television series Firefly, said it best, “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sommbitch or another.”

Hell, I don’t even have a statue made of me unless you count voodoo dolls and burning effigies.

Masculinity As A Crutch

“I think the white-knuckled grip some men keep on what defines a man” is “clinging to an old idea of the world, one they can control, one that isn’t new or different or equal or, let’s just say it, actually happening.”

One of my ideas for writing has been to do something like this article by David Greenwald. Until that is penned (and even after) you should really read this.

https://medium.com/@davidegreenwald/against-masculinity-498339cb8f42#.msue0qrsc

Note: I took a few liberties with the quote above such as splicing two sentences and removing a question mark, but I think it is the essence of the paragraph from which it was pulled. I just thought you should know in the spirit of honesty.