Monday, May 17, 2010

Being a Bitchy Queer Is Not Innate

Being bitchy, catty, and so forth is not innate. Sure, there may be hormones involved, but it's mostly a learned behavior. In some cases it's even a safety valve on the pressure cooker of other feelings: people are often bitchier when life is fucking them up in other ways.

And sometimes it's a good thing to let out your dark side to play, for an afternoon, or a day. You can't let your dark side take over, or possess you—and it's not about Control, it's about mastery. Frankly, some drama queens I know are so completely unaware of their own feelings that they ARE possessed.

There's a vicious circle around feeling abandoned and zero self-esteem, then being a bitchy queen that drives everyone away because it's a defense mechanism to be bitchy, then feeling abandoned. Being bitchy is a kind of armor, that keeps people from being able to hurt you: you hurt them first, so everybody's armor is up all the time. When's the last time a bitchy drama queen of your acquaintance was genuinely able to express to you feelings that were not corrosive emotions? Bitchiness is armor. People are afraid of getting hurt, of letting themselves be vulnerable, of being soft enough to be vulnerable enough to express real feelings and risk getting hurt. If you think it's all about their hormones, it's because they let it be all about their hormones. All women carry estrogen, but not all of them are bitchy.

It's not innate. It's learned. Defense mechanisms are learned behaviors that start hardening into armor at a very early age. We use those behaviors because we learn that they can protect us—at least in the short term. The problem is, when we grow up, and no longer need such protection, letting go of the learned defense mechanism is often the biggest challenge most adults face, the hardest thing that there is to do. It's a lot easier to keep going with what you already know (inertia, momentum) than it is to learn to do things differently (genuine change). When we're adults, those learned defense mechanisms often no longer serve us well—in fact, they often keep us feeling lonely and abandoned and isolated. Unlearning them is seriously hard work, for most people, and can take a long time.

The saying "You cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you become like little children again" has two meanings: From the mystical direction, it means letting go of ideologies and theologies that block you from experiencing the direct encounter with the Divine—which is everybody's birthright—because the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be Right Here, Right Now, not in some unknown afterlife. From the psychological direction, it means shedding all those learned defense mechanisms so that we can see like little children again, before we started building our defenses, like little children who see the world with wonder, magical vision, and joy in all things. Young children, before we start beating hard lessons into them, already live in the Kingdom of Heaven; our job is to unlearn all out defenses, and get back there. We already know what it feels like—if only we would let ourselves remember.

No one is born hard, bitter, bitchy, and corrosive to those around them. People become what they are through experience, through lessons learned, through armor added on because we got hurt. The hardest thing I know of is taking off the armor and learning to trust again. People say they have faith in God—but most really don't, because they don't really trust God—because when it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven trust, surrender, and faith are all the same thing under different names. I struggle with this myself. I finally reached a point where the lesson sank into me: Trust that which I already know to be trustworthy, and let go of the rest. (And whole books have been written about theodicy, the question of why bad things happen to good people, and why God has a dark side. I won't go into that here, because it's too big a topic and frankly most people let it go right over their heads, and I don't want to get into it right now.)

And sometimes you have to let out your dark side, to play, in small amounts, like a steam release valve on a pressure cooker. You let off a little steam at a time, so that the whole system doesn't self-destruct. That's actually healthy. The best way I know how to do that is to do it as play: make a game of it.

There was one Radical Faerie Beltane Gathering at Short Mountain in TN that I went to—not my frist gathering, not my last at the Mountain till now—when I made good friends with a few guys who'd driven down for Gathering from Montreal. One of them was deaf, who taught us all how to swear in Sign. There was a pack of about four of us, and we hung out a lot during Gathering. On the last day, after the big celebrations and rituals and events and dinners, when everything was winding down, it was a rainy, dull day, and we were all tired. We'd had a great Gathering, and tomorrow we'd pack up and leave.

But that one last afternoon, because it was rainy, because we had all had some very amazing uplifting and powerful experiences, we all decided, as a pack, to spend the afternoon being bitchy. We wandered around camp being completely judgmental, mocking everything and everybody, being the nastiest, cattiest, most evil queens we could be. it was the most fun I had all Gathering, and it was a huge release of pent-up feelings.

We didn't do this in any way that anybody knew what we were doing. It was all remote mockery, from a distance. Telefactored dissing. Robot-probe-on-alien-planet mocekry. Nobody got offended, and we hurt no one. We did it all under our breath to ourself, to our pack, and at least partially in Sign. Often we burst out in guffaws at a particularly rude judgment, and heads turned, but no-one ever knew what we were laughing about.

But it was tremendous fun, and we had a great afternoon. And no one got hurt.

We let out our dark sides, our bitchiest queen sides, and had a ball.

And then we were done, and we hugged and kissed our goodbyes the next day, and drove on. Oh yeah, and we did meet up one last time to have dinner together near Mammoth, KY, on the way north. And there wasn't a queen bitch moment during dinner, not one. We'd gotten it all out of our system. And we laughed really hard, both at everyone else that we had been mocking all day, and at ourselves.

Release valves.

The thing is, we chose to be bitchy all day. It was a conscious choice to have fun being bad. We even talked about it among ourselves.

None of this shit is innate. It's all something we learn, it's all something we still have a choice about—we can choose to do it differently, each time it comes up. No one is condemned or fated to be a bitch. That's a choice. If they can't control their bitchiness, then they need to look into their shadow, because they've been possessed, and aren't in control, at all. But even that can be worked with. Unlearning a bad habit is just like learning a good habit: all it takes is repetition and practice.