Thursday, December 8, 2011

Understanding + Resistant Aesthetics

Here's an interesting essay: Dress to Kill, Fight to Win, by Dean Spade. Somehow he manages to tie together both fashion and trans surgery in a fairly short piece. It ends with a question:

"Why would we want to do things that don’t require explanation, that are obvious, impervious to critique because no one even notices we’re doing them?"

Well, to fit in, of course. I've always had such a strong desire to be understood and to avoid misunderstanding. Confusing people on purpose is something that hasn't really occurred to me. Although...I like the idea of it. Don't get me wrong, understanding is an incredible thing. But it isn't always going to happen, and it's heartening to know that there might be some value in the alternative.

Spade also talks about "resistant aesthetics", which I think is a helpful term. I do want to resist, through my appearance, the sexual and gender norms of our culture. But I don't think anyone is going to figure this out just by looking at me. For women and those read as such, dressing "entirely outside of the sexual dimension" is virtually impossible. (Either we're sexy...or the absence of sexy.) I recently read a post called "Femme Visibility". The writer says that "femme presentations are often done to queer the idea of women as objects of men’s desire. It can be done to parody traditional ideas of women’s gender roles and dress." While these femmes are coming from a place of aesthetic resistance, they're often not perceived as queer or transgressive by society at large. I can relate to that dissonance, because I keep trying to dress outside of sexuality and gender. Spade seems to maintain that there's importance to these efforts, as imperfect as they may be. In some ways, my style does require explanation, even though it isn't unusual enough to draw much questioning.


litatrix said...

Hi Ily,
So I tried to come out of the closet to some of my clos friends over about the past week. I've gotten mixed reactions. The most positive reaction I've had is...
"That's awesome! Now you can cut off your arm and babies will spring forth!"

And pretty much all of the others have just laughed in my face, because they don't realize how serious I'm being.

I have discovered that the reason they don't take it seriously is because there I a huge information deficit about asexuality among the general population. Most just think that it means I have no sexual preference and will take anyone of any sex.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you!

Ily said...

@litatrix: Yay for coming out! But those are frustrating reactions. You might try to say something like, "So, remember when I told you that I'm asexual? It sounded like you thought I was joking. It's something really important to me, though. This is my sexual orientation, like being gay or straight, so it's an important part of my life. You're a good friend and I want to feel like I can be myself with you."

Okay, that might not sound like you at all (I'm not sure it sounds like me, either), but you're right: asexuality is not well known, and a lot of people won't even know it's a sexual orientation unless we tell them. If you feel like it, you can direct people to information online, like the Wikipedia page about asexuality, or the FAQs from AVEN or Asexual Awareness Week. If someone's willing to go look stuff up and educate themselves, that's a good sign.

Personally I feel like coming out is sort of continual. It can take some people a while to get it, although that doesn't necessarily mean that they never will. If someone's a close friend, it's worth trying to educate them more, not just about asexuality, but what it means to you, and why you're telling them. But it can be kind of draining, so please don't feel obligated to do more than you're comfortable with.

Anyway, you could play it lots of different ways, these are only a few. I hope your friends start to catch on!