Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Friday, May 17, 2019

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia


This portrait from the early ‘90s is a rare capture of my butch lesbian persona. Thank-you Warren Hukill. I would show this side of me more often, but the butch lesbian isn’t given a rightful place in Western (European) society; too challenging to the status quo of male power with such a solid example of female autonomy. It is a persona I mute here in the American suburbs because I can. I am privileged with such flexibility. I mute it so people can better relate to me and offer me a friendly reception that doesn’t have to focus on what they perceive to be my sexual orientation. (Instead they focus on how to handle my racial presentation.)

I also mute it to keep the discomfort of straight and straight passing women in my company to a minimum. And I play with the edge of this acceptance constantly. I believe I have these borders dialed in so I can gauge exactly where they are. You likely do too, but not so consciously. I know this because in the past when I asked the question “How do you feel when you are mistaken for a lesbian?” I got the most revealing responses from an adamant “I’m never mistaken for a lesbian” (from a woman with dyke haircut #1) to “I would be less suspected if you hadn’t just come out in the local newspaper. I am after all the one in this office with short hair who plays sports.”

What to me is annoying homophobia (as opposed to dangerous) is the fear of guilt by association. The internalized homophobia of those who fear being seen with me. That to be seen with a butch lesbian is to cast doubt on one’s own status as straight. I am pleased (no utterly delighted) to report though that I have more recently met straight woman who were proud to be mistaken for lesbians whether in my company or not. Because after all what could be cooler than the autonomy, strength and beauty of two women together?

This entry was greatly informed by my reading of the book Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Ru Paul by Leslie Feinberg which I review on my flickr book review platform here.

After posting my butch picture and the above short entry to FB, Warren tagged me in another image from that era that I'd never seen before or even have any memory of making. Warren preferred his female nudes to display breasts so that's what he printed, but I had chosen to suppress mine with a clasped hands pose that reflects my boy spirit.

The most striking feature about the photo though is that face and those eyes— the beauty of that face cannot be denied. I recognized this beauty at the time to be a gift especially of my Thai heritage. I had in my '20s played it butch with short haircuts but because I lived in the States it just wasn't butch enough in the sense it would have been recognized in Thailand in the Tom world. In the States it just read as American lesbian which was a ghetto that couldn't accommodate my multi-ethnicity at the time so in order to claim the Thai part of me I grew my hair long and lived with a femme presentation.

And attracted bi identified women who were attracted to exotic beauty (as opposed to lesbians searching for someone they could relate to inside the lesbian culture.) I could relate to being bisexual because it shared similar border crossing territory of being bicultural so I could make it work.

But now I am single and intending to remain so which opens up more territory to explore as a person with a visual message to impart rather than as a woman wishing to attract another. I do not have to stay within the boundaries demarcated by someone else's idea of attractive. My territory has become more geographically determined by the local on-the-street vibe and global on social media with our image making tools.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Celebrating This Body Of 61 Years

I posted this story to FaceBook earlier this month and it received more attention than almost any other post to date. Women rarely celebrate their body in quite this way. At least not very often given women's battle with body image. It was my version of Gloria Steinem's "this is what 50 looks like". (Gloria who is now 85. Long may she reign.) I also wanted people to know that I did not come by this body without attention to its maintenance and a fitness regime. My friends often assume I have an Asian genetic advantage for thinness and natural fitness. This has not proven to be true among my own Asian family members. I also hoped that my story would inspire others to take care of their "earth suit" as one of my mud hut sisters put it as well as staking out ground for a non-medicalized body as much as I can which is to say free from pharmaceuticals. And finally it is a post to celebrate a butch presentation and a female persona that does not connect with the male gaze or any other gaze as I look heavenward for my inspiration. A tripod self portrait.
On my birthday I did this photo shoot to celebrate this amazing body of 61 years. I'd show more, but my channel is PG. heh.
Here's my story: When I was in my '20s I hadn't taken up any form of exercise or sport. I was a proud slacker and only cared about getting to the movies on time. When I was late to a movie and had to run for it I would end up in my seat breathing hard and sometimes coughing. I thought I must be seriously out of shape. So me and my movie buddy took up running the Parcourse which was a new thing then. An outdoor running circuit with stations for doing push-ups et al. They were installed in communities all over. We picked the one that went around Lake Lagunita at Stanford. This improved my stamina and I was proud to increase my reps of push-ups and pull-ups.
A few years in I attended a celebration at the International House at Stanford where it was Asian night and the entertainment was a man and woman from China in silk costume doing martial arts. I fell in love and that's when I started looking for a kung fu class. Once there the movements were so similar to Thai dance that I felt at home, plus it brought back all those kung fu movies I had watched as a child and yes the TV series Kung Fu. The horse stance fixed my bum knee that still bothered me from a ski incident and the exercise improved my lung power further.
Fast forward a few decades later and I am late for a train. Now I have the power to run for it, but I still landed in my seat breathing so hard I was coughing for a good few minutes so I asked my family doctor what I should do. She had me breath a full lung full of air into a measuring device and said I only had a third of my lung capacity, did my parents smoke when I was a kid? Yes my father did from the time he was 12 to the time I was 12. Well there you go, she said, that's why I tell parents not to smoke around their kids. I was so mad at my father.
"I could have been a contender," I said. Then I thought what am I complaining about? I'm already up for my black belt. And I am injury free because I couldn't quite push myself hard enough to seriously compete because I'd end up coughing. The doc told me I had exercise induced asthma and gave me an inhaler to use before exercising. Well that's not going to help if I'm late for the train I thought. I tried it a couple of times and refused to use it. What was the point? Why become dependent on this device and whatever chemicals was in it when I already had what lung power I needed? The doc agreed that exercise itself had helped. Ok then. I don't need to go further than what my lungs are capable of. And it is still my lungs that are happiest when out on the mat being stretched to their capacity. I was now too old to be a contender, but I am still kicking.

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