Saturday, October 21, 2017

Why I'm Glad I Wasn't A Boy Scout

Note:  This is a cross-posted essay that also appears on my other blog.

Recently with the Boy Scouts' plan to admit girls, there have been a lot of opinions floating around.  The initial stuff I saw was all positive, like this is some great idea, with increasingly more people coming out to talk about why this isn't the progressive thing people think it is.  This is one genderqueer trans man's perspective.

When I was still a girl, like many other girls I was in the Girl Scouts.  I started at Brownie level and then went all the way up through being an adult scout, working for a Girl Scout camp for several years.  I was a fairly dedicated and serious adult scout, too, seeing a lot of shifts in the organization (local, national, and international alike), many of which I didn't like, but there was one thing that I was always happy about as an adult:  We were not the Boy Scouts.  We were not affiliated with them.  We were nothing like them.  I was not the only one with that sentiment... but I'll go into that later.

As a kid I didn't have that perception.  One of the problems with the Girl Scouts is that often the leaders of individual troops don't understand that we aren't the Boy Scouts or weren't whatever they wanted the Girl Scouts to be.  One leader, during a weeklong stay at our camp, complained about all our staff members (including me, over my hair, which she euphemistically criticized for being "short" when what she really meant was "looks like a lesbian").  My mother, when she was a leader, thought that it was a Catholic organization.  So if your childhood experiences do not match my adult experiences... I get it.

And as a former boyish girl, I get the aversion many folks have to the Girl Scouts.  There was a point in my childhood Girl Scout experience when I was very involved in the Boy Scouts... or at least watching them.  My brothers were big time Boy Scouts, and as a little butch girl I was envious of the stuff they got to do, things I would come to understand very differently as an adult.  This was during one of the heydays of anti-queer and anti-atheist sentiment in that organization, and I would later learn that my brothers' leaders were teaching things like that "morally straight" in their Oath literally meant "heterosexual."  So although as a proto-transboy I was predictably envious of a group of people doing "boy things," there's no doubt that were I a Boy Scout as a child I would have been absolutely miserable and traumatized by it in a way that no pinewood derby win was going to heal.  I had a hard enough time fighting with my history teacher over my right to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance.

So where was I... as a young child I was envious, but as a mid to late teen and throughout my adulthood I grew a strong attachment to the Girl Scouts, especially my Girl Scout camp that I went to every year.  It was a good week or two (depending on the program) of being able to experiment safely with expression when I was going to be bullied the rest of the year for it, and it granted me opportunities to do stuff I never would have been able to do otherwise.  Even though it took up very little of my year, most of my major memories from childhood came from the Girl Scouts.

 The Girl Scouts was also where I met people like myself for the first time... when conservatives jaw on about how terrible the organization is, it's because it's loaded with progressive queer people.  I met my first other trans guy "in the wild" (that is, outside of explicitly queer space) through the Girl Scouts, in addition to a seemingly infinite supply of queer women.  It was also where I met my first other Pagan, and I was relieved to learn you weren't bound to a particular type of religion to belong (although the Girl Scout Promise mentions God, and I admittedly wish it didn't, it's now "God*" and you're perfectly entitled to omit or change it).

"Well that's all well and good," you may be saying, "but not everyone has to be a Girl Scout."  And I'd agree wholeheartedly.  I'd even openly state that there are some serious problems with the Girl Scouts.  I remember when they tried piquing interest by creating a bunch of very shallow, girly programs (cue picture of Steve Buscemi holding a skateboard).  They could have made something great and empowering for femme girls but wound up with a shitty limo ride to Claire's.  And I'd certainly love to see a real comparable attempt at a non-gendered scouting organization.

But the Boy Scouts--even one that allows girls--just isn't that.  And that opinion is informed heavily by my teen and adult experiences with the Boy Scouts.

See, again, as a proto-transboy type tomboy I was really envious of the Boy Scouts and hung out with them often, but also as a tomboy I was intent on being, you know, "one of the guys," and that can lead you to ignore a lot of bullshit.  Don't want to be some shrill harpy ruining people's fun, that's not being "one of the guys."  So I didn't interpret the things that were happening at these Boy Scout meeting events as clearly as I would later, when I was on a multi-camp visit as a teen Girl Scout.

I think that, at that age at least, I had never been sexually harassed so much in my goddamn life.  And there were literally no consequences for the boys who were doing it.

So there we were, ages 15-17, I think maybe eight of us?  And we're at this Boy Scout camp all excited to see what Boy Scout camps were like.  One of my experiences with the Girl Scouts is that the troops are very different from the camps.  It's hard to oversee troops because they're so flavored by the local culture, while camps have all these people coming to check in and make sure people aren't doing dipshit things like running them like an anti-queer and/or Catholic organization or singing a bunch of racist or misogynist songs (side note, according to a friend I'd meet at a disability-centered camp years later there's like one person charged with going camp to camp and eradicating their racist and misogynist songs, standards of course changing every year).  I assumed that the Boy Scouts was similar, and that the gross misogynist stuff that happened at my brothers' troop would be muted a bit by this being a particularly large and well organized camp.

And I was just super wrong.  As we walked through our tour, little boy after little boy would come over to feed us dirty pick-up lines, to which staff would just giggle as if it were cute.  We'd see the few women who worked at the camp get harassed coming out of the shower, complete with jokes about drilling holes in the walls, and there was basically no repast from this at all the entire time we were there.

Then we went to go eat in their mess hall, and I shit you not, they sit us all up on this stage with a table on it, like this space of honor up where everyone could gawk at us, as we got to hear these jerkwad boys giggle and be wildly inappropriate, with nobody saying anything about being respectful.  We were introduced with something like "You may notice there's something... huh huh... different about them" by the camp director .  We all just sort of giggled and sunk into our chairs and didn't speak of that aspect of our trip again.

I'm not saying that Boy Scouts environments are necessarily like this, only that the shitty behavior that we normalize in boys that demeans women and girls and treats them like objects was super amplified and treated in such a "boys will be boys" manner that was fully and completely unchecked.  So I'd gone from this space that was very open and affirming of difference--where people could be openly queer and where disrespect wasn't treated as cuteness--to one where we were ogled and treated like objects.  At the very least, my experiences with the Girl Scouts have been immeasurably more positive than my experiences with the Boy Scouts, and it scares me to think that there are people who think taking girls out of the Girl Scouts and planting them in the Boy Scouts is feminist in any way.

Finally, I want to address some things about the whole neutrality argument.  I love the idea of a gender neutral, progressive scouting organization... but you're not going to get that from the Boy Scouts, for a number of reasons, whether by girls joining it en masse or by the patently offensive idea of merging the two organizations that people keep throwing around.

First of all, the Boy Scouts are still anti-queer (even if they are marginally less anti-queer than they were back then) and is still heavily controlled by religious conservatives.  Some people have argued (probably correctly) that allowing girls in is a targeted marketing effort... few churches and conservative groups recommend mass flight from the Boy Scouts, because the Boy Scouts aligns fine with their beliefs already, whereas there is always some boycott or "alternative" to the Girl Scouts proposed whenever they make a progressive change to the organization.  No longer obligated to serve God?  Told that you need to allow trans girls?  Working with Planned Parenthood?  Better join some conservative indoctrination farm like The Heritage Girls instead.

Again, people keep wanting to suggest merging the two organizations.  These people don't understand just how different the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts really are.  Either the Boy Scouts will wind up having to conform to the Girl Scouts' largely pro-queer and often progressive views (which cause them to lose a lot of the support they get from conservatives) or the Girl Scouts will have to conform to the anti-queer, anti-atheist environment of the Boy Scouts (which would quite frankly be a tragedy and would result in the Girl Scouts losing like half their staff).  So while I'd love to see a large, viable, comparable organization that's all gender, it's just not going to happen by merging these two particular organizations.  You'd be much better off starting a chapter of a smaller group, or making one up yourself based on local needs (there have been some great projects doing this, particularly those serving marginalized children).  You're not going to get the national and international structure of the major scouting organizations, but whether this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing will be subject to your children's needs.

Anyway, that's just my own drop into that hat.  I have no desire to treat the Boy Scouts as progressive over something like this, nor do I suggest you encourage girls to join the organization.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 4: Contracts

Today's Loving BDSM question is:

People read the word "negotiation" and imagine some sort of back and forth thing around a table in a formal way.  It can be that, sure, but mostly it's just the conversation you have to figure out what kind of D/s relationship you want for yourself.  Submissives have the right to, and should, ask why a rule/task/ritual is being put in place and both sides should have the freedom to disagree, suggest other things, and make sure their needs are being met.  Negotiations aren't a one time thing, either. You'll come back to this over and over again in your relationship. Will you have a contract? Do you need a checklist?  What exactly does a negotiation sound like?

This came topically because right now there's a Buzzfeed video going around that declared Fifty Shades of Grey's contract "Hollywood bullshit" despite being the exactly one realistic thing about that film series.

I am in a Dom/sub relationship that has a contract.  It took us days to write it, it was all ceremonial and everything, it involved a cute dog holding a collar key, and so on and so forth.  But we were together for like two years before this, so we clearly functioned without an official contract pretty well.  We did that by just talking to each other, either before or while it was happening.  I’ve introduced a lot of toys and activities right in the middle of it, with my sub’s reaction being the negotiation (either showing her typical body language of “I don’t like this, and not in a good way” or just saying “no” when it was brought up).

In fact, the contract itself more bound us to outside activities and some light protocol than it did actual sexual activities.  It codifies things that we already were doing (things like transportation, venue, etc.) as well as relationship stuff we should have been doing but weren't (for instance, we talk to each other over Skype or on the phone because we only see each other once or twice a month and needed to keep better contact with each other; that’s something we didn’t do before the contract).

The contract was also an excuse, in a way, to talk about things we wanted but didn’t have a good way to bring up, since we had sections that were like “Oh, here are toys we’re allowed to use!” and could put things on we maybe wanted to try but which are hard to bring up in a conversation, almost like a brainstorming session.

Contracts are at their most basic just a way of creating boundaries, and I think that's something vanilla relationships often sorely lack.  How many vanilla couples have a "go with the flow" way about them that just assumes that they're so compatible they will never disagree on anything so they don't need to talk about what they're into and definitely not into?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 3: Titles

Today's Loving BDSM question is:

Beyond the basic title of Dominant or submissive, are there other titles you prefer or are interested in exploring?  Are there any that turn you off or don't seem like a good fit for you?  Some titles for Dominants may include Master, Sir, Daddy, Mistress, Lady, etc.  Titles for submissives can be pet, babygirl, little one, boy, girl, etc.

You know, I didn’t think I’d be a fan of titles because in pornography I’ve found them really grating, but that pretty much changed the first time somebody called me "Daddy" and it turned out to be one of the fucking hottest things I'd at that time experienced.  Daddy as a title was actually the worst, grossest thing for me before that moment… I’d already kicked the association of Daddy with incest play after an excellent writing about the subject on FetLife (the gist of this was that it's no grosser than calling your partner "baby"), but didn’t think it’d be something I was into.  On the one hand, I really should have communicated that I thought it was gross terminology before he called me that, but you know, it did turn out well for me.  It’s also opened a whole new world of bad jokes to me, as I am voluntarily choosing never to be a father but am a fan of dad jokes.  I also like being called “Sir.”

Master I’m not a big fan of but nobody’s actually called me that during sex so who knows?  I associate this title with Master/slave relationships, which I have a lot of opinions about that folks in M/s relationships probably will hate.

I’m actually a big fan of being called my name in a sexual or D/s context.  This is kind of a trans thing, because it took a damn long time for me to get people to call me that name and so it makes me feel great to hear it, like it actively turns me on because it brings me right into my body... I tend to relate to my body as if I'm watching myself on a screen sometimes, so it makes me very present to hear my name.

I mostly use pretty typical pet names for submissives, things like “baby” or “honey,” “sweetie,” "pumpkin."  I’m open to other terms that are more specific to kink if I’m with a sub that likes them, but generally am not super into them and I still have a lot of the same discomfort I had with Daddy before I learned it was super hot

Friday, September 8, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 2: Submission

Today's Loving BDSM question is:

Does a submissive have certain behaviors?  Do submissives do specific tasks?  When you think of a submissive and submission, what thoughts come to mind?

The thing about submission and what I think makes a person submissive is that there are really two categories here… things I like in a sub and things that I think make a sub.

What I think makes a sub is a need or at least willingness to be directed.  And here’s where I talk about myself specifically… because I like a lot of things associated with submission, but am generally not a super submissive person, so in many cases I wind up basically directing what is being done, but from the bottom.

So I’m a switch, and have a submissive side that isn't fully explored, but for the most part even when I’m subbing I’m still ultimately Domming because I’m exercising a lot of control and basically directing the whole scene; I'm giving my sub commands that direct her to behave temporarily like a Dom.  It's hard to explain, but you know, it works great for us.

As far as responsibilities, well, subs have the extremely important responsibility of communication.  I remember once reading a work on FetLife that was called something like “Don’t Make Me An Abuser.”  It was poorly titled, but the point was that a non-abusive Dom really hates the idea of having put somebody through something they didn’t ultimately want, which is something that can happen if a sub doesn’t safeword when they want to or doesn’t say “this is triggering me” or “this is hurting too much.”  And a Dom who has worked with a sub for a long time may be able to tell without words when that sub needs them to stop (my own sub’s body language is essentially her safeword), but what if it’s a new relationship or a sub has a history of really enjoying looking like they need you to stop?  That sub has a responsibility to be very clear when things need to stop.