thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)

This is a birthday post for

[personal profile] azdaja_dafema

 on the treatment of Andrew in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Seven especially.

Now I have a shiny new issue of the so far very mixed Season Eight in front of me, and this may remedy the problems I raise in this article, as it has Andrew on the cover.


There are many issues with sexual politics, especially treatment of queer issues, in Buffy. I’m going to shy away from the big one (end of season six, particularly with Willow and Tara) for the moment. First, I’d like to talk about the series a little.


Buffy was hugely important to me in secondary school. The first friend I made I made because I watched Buffy (we later fell out). The lovely

[personal profile] azdaja_dafema

 I talked to more because of it. My mother thought that I thought I was gay because Willow was. Now the slightly more embarrassing admissions: my diary aged 11-14/15 was addressed to Willow. I used to make up conversations with Andrew in my head to let myself go to sleep during season seven (when I was 15).


One thing you might notice is that Willow and Andrew are both queer. Another thing you might notice is that Andrew, possibly the only clearly queer male character in the show, is not a serious character. His sexuality is heavily implied but not stated and is clearly linked to his “camp” persona, which could be fine. Only it’s not, really.


I identified with Andrew. It helped that both the girl in whom I was interested and my family very clearly identified me with him. I identified with the camp squee over comics, the pedantry over Stephen King adaptations, even, earlier in the series, the desire to be a supervillain. That could be fine apart from moments when the character is taken seriously, and the plot around the murder of Jonathan. It was possible to do really good things, like the treatment of Faith after she killed someone, with the character. Instead, with Andrew, it seems to be treated as a) he’s a joke but b) he’s also evil and did really bad things, which are inextricably linked to his queerness.


Cast your mind back now to me, at 15, watching Buffy. The Willow/Tara storyline and treatment of that, showing a functional queer relationship, had been important to me as a positive queer role model. That’s one of the problems I have with season six. Now they get to showing a gay man, and it’s not that he’s shown as being in love/infatuated with/attracted to someone who is evil, because there are amazing things that could be done with that. It’s not even that he’s shown as in awe of Warren, and completely uncritical. It’s when we get to season seven, and even the episode where he’s central (Storyteller) treats him both as a joke and as someone whose point of view is invalid, and reminds us that he’s a murderer. I think there are ways that the writers could have handled it better, while essentially doing the same things. I think they could have treated his sexuality as real, for one thing. After all the Buffy/Angel angst, and Tara being written out before Willow went evil, in the Dead/Evil lesbian trope, I think they could have taken a male queer character seriously. I have straight male friends who complain that Xander is treated as a joke after the wedding episode. I’m not sure I agree.


Because, as I said before, Andrew is the only queer male character in Buffy, and his campness, his sexuality and his crimes are all bundled together, and mainly in the form of comic relief. So I really wonder, considering Buffy’s fling in season eight, whether lesbianism is okay because it’s cute or attractive to male audience members, but male homosexuality is at worst a threat, at best not to be taken seriously. Given Buffy is the show that gave me Willow and Tara when I was thirteen, delayed their first onscreen kiss until a point where it was unsurprising, and emotional, and not the most important thing going on, this really makes me sad.


As does Andrew continuing to be a joke character in the comic, which may be remedied in the issue I have in front of me, but also may not. Anyway, enough of that for the meantime, hope I did actually touch on the sexual politics enough, will try and post more about Buffy and sexual politics (why hallo there, biphobia) soon.
thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)

And further to the theme of Coming Out Day, a loud slam poem about self defining and roles.

“Is it just assuming a role?” she asks

Why yes, but for heaven’s sake

Not just gender but all identity’s performative

And I’m sick of being forced

Into being faux (or assumed) heternormative

Normative at all in fact, I don’t want

Unbroken skin, brown hair, or not

To have my mother in a whirl

Because you say it’s a role,

But all of me is, is many

And always will be, my own silent soliloquy,

For when there are no words,

When a fuck you, or an identity, gives me

Hope, or purpose or just something to be

Something to feel I am, for others

So that I can be there, to be loved

Or hated, or ignored, but without that

All the lies and rumours and hostility

Is true, and not in the way that I want

So this, all this, the style, the actions, the loves

Are all just me, roles, but what I want

And should, and need to be, complete

Imperfect, changing, and essential

thefairymelusine: Knight in Circle (knight circle green)
Today, I think, is Coming Out Day, and the Outer Alliance have asked people to write about their coming out stories. I remember being dragged to a discussion group once which was discussing the fact that in terms of mainstream literature, quite often gay people only seem to exist in terms of coming out, and the emphasis that is put on that as a single action.

I can't speak for everyone, or indeed anyone other than me, but for me coming out has never been cut and dried. Being twelve and confessing to friends and my mother that I might be attracted to girls (and being told that it was a phase) went on for about four years, until I was finally comfortable enough to just be open about my sexual orientation in a way that made me feel I didn't still need to come out, although in certain circumstances I still did. Then, a while later, I started my first serious relationship, which happened to be with a man, and had to negotiate a strange sort of re-coming out, or trying to reinforce my queerness while acknowledging this relationship. And later still various other comings out, as bisexual-queer, as polyamorous which would be irrelevant were it not included in this coming out again as attracted to and having relationships with women

I will probably always have some people to whom I have to come out as queer, and that frustrates me. There are some ways I will probably never come out fully, for example I can't imagine coming out as polyamorous in certain circumstances. And the response has switched slowly from "is it just a phase" to "do you really want to put that label on yourself", and most of the time I do, because of the echoes I have of being sixteen and at summer camp and able to be myself, able to make jokes about my take on the world.

And I am aware I'm privileged. I am aware of all the areas in which I can come out, in which I am safe and unthreatening, in which I am in environments which are at worst unwelcoming, but not threatening, and that possibly my comings out don't matter.

And finally, I should use this day to say something, about my current coming out, and exploration of gender, and I have come over just as coy as I always do in these matters. I am starting to identify as genderqueer, and to present as male some of the time, and realise that I don't really think of myself as female, although I don't have a problem with female presentation, I just don't want it to be the only option. And I don't know whether I think of myself as male either, I just know that throughout my teens I thought of myself as a courtly lover, and still kind of do (which brings it's own bundle of problems with gender roles and sexism) And telling you this is probably self indulgent, and unimportant, but I thought I should. Because coming out is always about being allowed to show an aspect of yourself, to be more yourself, and it is mostly coming out about identifying as me, not a woman or girl or even courtly lover.
thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (knight)
Okay, this is personal and trying to stop projecting/egotism.

In secondary school, from my mid teens onwards, I was very queer. I did what I would term "quasi cross dressing" (wearing masculine womens clothes i.e. shirt, tie, mannish suit- i.e. Annie Hall) or cravats or having mad spinster hair because I had long hair. It wasn't much, but it helped with identity, and was healthier than some of the other ways in which I was lesbian identified (I was for a while a woman hating feminist lesbian. I am still deeply ashamed to say this- i.e. I appropriated a lot of unthinking popular straight male attitudes to women, and was very bitter. All of this got tangled up with mental health issues, and I am over that now.) I never used the female pronoun with reference to myself when writing in the third person, and disliked other people using it, preferring they, and my friends thought this was silly, because apart from the clothes, I looked femme.

Then I started a relationship with a man. I was still queer identified, self-defining as a lesbian-with-a-boyfriend. And over time I stopped dressing in a faux butch way, because of silly comments my parents and boyfriend made, which probably (almost certainly in his case) weren't meant. Over time I dropped the they from blog posts and internet comments, because I was sick of friends telling me it was silly. I became more comfortable with the idea of being/appearing conventionally female, partially because I had bigger things to worry about, partially the teenage misogyny wearing off, and because people thought it was odd. And then people stopped remembering I was queer, which is fair enough really as I was/am in a relationship with a man, and know that I'm priviledged in that respect and that I don't have to deal with prejudice regarding my sexuality every day, or get shouted at in the street for reasons other than having green hair. And because of this it seemed churlish or odd to append to a mention of my boyfriend that I identified as lesbian/queer (given as my identity became more queer) given that the response often was anything from "surely you mean bisexual" to that it was a teenage phase. And these came from many sources, an unaware teenager, my parents, my psychologist, the many doctors I saw over those two years.

And recently, as I got sick of this, and more aware, I started to want to present as queer more, both in being politically out again (or still but being louder) and in terms of playing with presentation, especially gender presentation. I miss the fun I got out of it, the confidence of going out looking like yourself but yourself being able to constantly change. And my partner and I are a lot more open now, and better at discussing things, and it turns out he didn't have a problem with it, and I'm no longer at home and that helps.

But alongside this there is the fact that this came after our relationship was established, and we'd become negotiated poly, and knew each other a lot better and around the time that I had my first successful sexual-romantic relationship with a woman. 

So the question is, and I am genuinely very interested in the answers, how have your sexual-romantic relationships and their presentation and your sexuality affected your gender presentation? Have they at all? And what else has? (n.b. anonymous comments are on, comments are screened unless you ask me to unscreen it)

Major thanks to [personal profile] garlicandsapphires, (amagiclantern over at LJ), and the fine LJ folk james_is_sorry and secondterminal for listening to the draft stages of this when it was much more vague, and secondterminal especially for telling me to post.

And please do reply, this was originally just going to be a survey

EDIT: Widened to include how your mental health/societal pressures have affected gender presentation. This is hideously vague, sorry.
thefairymelusine: line drawing of a knight lying by a bank of flowers (Default)
posted by [personal profile] thefairymelusine at 01:21am on 07/05/2009 under , , ,
This is more directly personal than most of my Queer Knight stuff, in that it's more about me than about an issue. But I have a play on in a rehearsed reading on Sunday. I have booked tickets for my parents. The play is apocalyptic late adolescent lesbian romance. A lot of it is based on me at sixteen or seventeen, and a friendship I had then. I have shown this play to a great many people, I have tried to show it to my parents but I am still worried about them seeing it.

I am out to both my parents. I'm out as gay/lesbian rather than queer or bisexual, because that's generally how I self define, and self definition is important, damn it. (I am moving more towards queer as a definition, because I like what I percieve as the lack of assumptions attached to it) My mother doesn't believe me, and hasn't believed me since I started going out with my boyfriend. My father appears to have forgotten I ever came out. But the play is very much focussed on female relationships and sexuality,  while being quite mild. Given the last time my mother came to see any work of mine we had a somewhat awkward conversation, as I'd quoted her in the play and we ended up pretending I hadn't, I forsee a slightly awkward conversation about it.

I am very annoyed at myself for being worried about this. I'm out, it shouldn't be an issue, and even if I wasn't (either out or queer) there'd be no problem with my writing a play with lesbian romance if it was written with a proper view of the characters as people. My parents, or for that matter my boyfriend's parents, shouldn't have an issue with it and if they do I shouldn't let them. And the play is very very tied up with who I am now, and I would like to be confident about that, and like them to see it, because I would really like them to accept me as various things ( a writer with potential, an adult and just who I am). I'm being stupid and angsty about this for various reasons, and I, as I am with mental illness, am not adopting the "well, fuck that" attitude that I believe I should.

More on the sexuality thing later. The actual parental reactions may be on the Other Blog.


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