9.02.2010

Bear Bergman Sprained my Brain

The last time I was in a city that had a big bookstore, well actually eight or nine of them, I tracked down a book I had been wanting to pick up for a while now: The Nearest Exit may be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman, a trans guy who is a gender theorist and outlaw with a wicked sense of humor. I have laughed out loud a number of times reading his latest collection of essays. While his prose is lighthearted for the most part, there are a few times when the questions he's posed have really got me thinking about the way people think and the challenges trans people face when dealing with a culture that tends to prefer binary thought process.

When you think about the way our culture interprets information there always seems to be a binary. Politics, sexual orientation, health, race, economics, and of course gender are all separated into two categorical majorities and the leftovers, because they are minority, are swept aside as unimportant and/or complicated. There are two major political parties in Canada and the US. Sexual orientation is usually considered binary, straight or gay, bisexuals may just indecisive and possibly insatiable? Top or Bottom, Butch or Femme, Smoker or non smoker, Black or White, Hero or Villain, Rich or Poor (who are you kidding there is no middle class), Employed or Unemployed, Believer or Non-believer, Cat-Lover or Dog-Lover, Mr or Mrs, Man or Woman, Penis or Vagina? We have divided nearly everything into one of two categories and then subdivided those categories into two more categories and so on. Then a grey area comes along and people freak, and don't know what to do with something they might have to carry around in their pocket for a while because there is no slot, no drawer, no hole, no shelf, no jar, no box to definitively check, or name to place upon this thing that you can then label with absolute certainty.

I exist in the place where these boxes overlap. I am where the  black and white intersect where you are almost positive you know I am one thing only to find a little something to doubt. I am not what you think you know. Bear Bergman asks hard questions that make me think more theoretically about gender, passing, responsibility, socialization, psychology, and sexuality. As if I don't have enough to think about without my bedtime reading making me feel like I need to pull an all-nighter doing research. I haven't finished the book yet but I will be posting a few of my ideas about what he has written. I am always surprised to find another person who understands me, when I read his essays I can see many of my own thoughts and experiences and for a little while at least I feel a little less alone.

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