Identification, or, Five Reasons I’m An Arsehole

6a00d83451fdc069e20168ea203a60970cWARNING: This post is offensive. If you are of a politically correct, strongly feminist or otherwise Tumblr-friendly sensibility, please use your browser’s ‘Back’ or ‘Close’ button now. If you’re not, take a free drink, sit down and enjoy the show. Now; let’s take a closer look at what makes me a bastard this week.

A long time ago in a job interview, I was asked what my three best and worst qualities were. “My three best qualities are initiative, intelligence, and thinking for myself,” I said.

“And your three worst ones?”

“Initiative, intelligence, and thinking for myself.”

The interviewer thought this was very deep. Personally, I thought it was bleeding obvious. In the light of that it’s not really so surprising, looking back, that the corporate world and I later parted ways. This week, however, I am annoyed about something else. I’m not going to waste time describing the situation, I’m just going to rant – and as I said in the first paragraph, you have been warned. So here are my five.

  1. If you tell me you’re bisexual, but consistently pick straight relationships over gay ones, I will tell you that you are not bisexual, you are a sad straight wannabe who hasn’t got the balls to be different. Principles be damned; how you walk your talk matters in this shitty and loveless world.
  2. If you reveal this fact to me by turning up at a party with some potato-faced bint on your arm after months of meeting honest courtship with protestations that you’re “not in a place for a relationship”, I will not hesitate to conclude that the woman on your arm is a potato-faced bint and you are a fuckhead. If you’re offended by this snap judgement, consider what I’m actually thinking about the pair of you. I’ll give you a clue: it ends “and the whore you rode in on”.
  3. Furthermore, when Miss Potato Head gets puking drunk, flashes her arse at the entire party and then passes out on a bed intended for a disabled person, I will revel in the happy knowledge that dating this item is going to be its own punishment, and wish you many, many nights as packed with stress and vomit as your current one.
  4. Yes, I will post to Facebook about it. Unlike your new conquest I have far too much class to name names, but also unlike your new conquest I’m passionate, articulate and sharp. Yes, you should feel like shit for being a cunt to me, and no, I am not embarrassed to assist you in that.
  5. No, I am not going to forgive and forget. Forgiveness is occasionally necessary if you don’t want to waste precious energy on hatred. I don’t think I care(d) about you enough to need to do it. Forgetting, on the other hand, is fucking stupid and leads to making the same mistake again. In the unlikely event that you should ever come to your senses and realise what you settled for when you could have been with me, I will make you work your sorry arse off before I even consider you as having potential. I deserve to be loved, treasured and treated with respect; you will give me that or you will get cut out of my life.

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Yes, I’m familiar with the argument that simply having permission to label oneself as X implies a freedom of thought that can be profoundly healing. I don’t disagree – what I do think is that in practise, there’s a point where “identifying” as X has absolutely no fucking meaning. It becomes merely a trivium; a pub quiz bonus point to be stored up against the day when your pathetic existence becomes worth remembering. You can identify as anything you like – but like the saying about dicks and religions, going around shoving that down other people’s throats is antisocial. Thoughts versus behaviour. And in any case, identity is a two-way process – how others perceive you is part of who you are, and has a big influence on how you have to behave to be treated as normal. I spent a long time being perceived as a young teenage boy, and getting extremely funny looks for having mental maturity. More recently I’ve been meeting a number of gay men who are, strictly speaking, bisexual – but who describe themselves as gay because they’re not bisexual enough to spend their lives with women. To my mind that’s both sensible and honest – and a book from which the numbskull I’m imprecating above could stand to take a healthy wodge of leaves.

You see one of the really big things that makes me an arsehole is that I have issues with correctness culture. I think respecting everyone and everything is completely impossible for your average human being, and that the attempt tends to make people dishonest. I’d rather a straightforward person with likes and dislikes than some spineless (or more accurately, passive-aggressive) correctness merchant. I also have a massive, massive problem with the way Internet correctness culture has become a pretext for bullying and public shaming. Public shaming is a vicious tool with which the person who emotionally abused me for more than twenty years used to make free; whenever I see it used to control the thoughts and permitted speech of strangers, my bullshit detector hits the red so hard it breaks the gauge. It often goes off when I hear educated, middle-class feminists bemoaning the fact that young women these days are saying they “don’t need feminism”; I suspect these veterans of university and feminist theory are radically misinterpreting the fact that what the young women mean is that they don’t need indoctrinating into a culture of bullying and hatred. A lot of the spaces in which this correctness culture is at its worst are allegedly feminist; it just doesn’t seem to mean “equality” at all.

Within reason, of course, like most human behaviours shaming has its use. There are few better ways to bring a good friend to their senses when they’re acting like a tit. That, however, is a very different situation with very different boundaries. The public internet it ain’t. And it assumes a certain level of affection and tolerance as well – not things one tends to see around online a lot.

Since I’ve transitioned, I’ve come to understand the interaction between polite and “bad” behaviour in very different ways. Back when I appeared to be female, it was unremarkable for me to bite my tongue rather than tearing a strip off someone; it wasn’t self-discipline, it was simply my unassuming nature. When I got angry about the way I’d been treated, well, I either needed some pretext about how I’d been emotionally mistreated or I simply got told I was “making a fuss about nothing”. As soon as I could paint myself as the victim the white knights came charging in and the world began to listen, but anger in itself wasn’t worth much. I used my male friends where I could to get what I needed; I had to survive.

I can’t say I miss that phenomenon, largely because I don’t like using my friends. These days, though, when I get angry I achieve things. People listen to what I have to say. These days, it’s a good thing to be an arsehole. I prefer not to recall the laundry list of descriptions my family used to like to use about my former self when I started off on a rant such as the above; these days I get people chiming in to tell me I’m a fabulous person and “they” should just shut up and love me the way I am. From bitch on wheels to Oliver Cromwell; only in my life.

wonka-offend_thumbBut given my history I can’t say how much of a relief it is to hear that from other people. Regardless of my own solid moral convictions and the fact I know intellectually I deserve respect, I’m still dealing with the lifetime of conditioning I’ve had. It’s hard to separate the repression that comes from being brought up to be “nice” from the stuff that comes from learning to hide my natural gendered behaviours to fit in; impossible, really. You can’t unpick my history and analyse my female life in a world where I wasn’t going to turn out trans. But it’s academic in a sense since it all adds up to “your feelings aren’t important”. And that’s a large part of what I’m rebelling against by getting angry with people who treat me like this.

Men get a similar sort of gender-separatist treatment, of course. Except that for those of us brought up male what’s “not important” is the kindness, the openness, the gentle interaction with the world. I find now that I’m starting to see how the men around me are forced to express everything in terms of anger. Post transition it’s easy, and healthy, for me to express all those things I never got a chance to say before; but it’s harder now to express vulnerability, tenderness, pain. I’ve learnt a new language of emotional subtlety from my male family and friends – and I’m appalled all over again by how willing women are to pretend that language isn’t there. Another litany of things my family used to say plays quietly in my head; it should be titled “You Know What Men Are Like”. I’m sure you’ve heard it. As a man, however, I’m deeply grateful that I have a female upbringing to fall back on; for a large part of my life most things and people I’ve known have told me there’s no shame in my gentler emotions. I’m OK with them, in a very instinctive way. (And I give about as much of a fuck about being thought girly for expressing them as you might expect from an attitude like mine.)

So when I get in a mood like this, you go right ahead and judge the shit out of me. You can call me a bastard if you want. You can call me angry, arrogant, demanding, even insane. The last one is actually technically correct, in fact. I won’t pretend it washes over me, because I’m not the automaton a Man is supposed to be; but I know it’s your opinion, not hard facts. I know that for everyone out there who thinks I’m a tosser, there’s someone else who’d tell me I’m strong, resilient, and inspirational to them. Why am I an arsehole? The same reasons I’m lovable, amazing and worthwhile.offended

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