Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Bisexual, Binary and Proud Young Man
interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
“I didn’t come into the world repressed in any way,” said Parker Jaques, one of the six panelists at the Bisexual Forum of San Diego’s event at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center May 12. “I had a very open family. I didn’t have it in my mind that being Bisexual or being Gay was anything abnormal, and it was kind of a shell-shock to realize that not only is this considered abnormal, but you’re just running from normal.”
Jaques wears a knit rainbow-flag scarf and a leather jacket over camouflage pants — the jacket because he rides a motorcycle and the pants because he likes the idea of having pockets on the sides of his legs. It’s hard to believe a man of his generation uses such seemingly antique bits of slang as “dudes” and “chicks” to describe men and women, respectively. He’s active in the First Unitarian-Universalist Church and describes himself as “an unemployed child-care provider” — and as you’ll read below, he’s typically blunt about why he thinks he’s unemployed.
As a Bisexual he sees little or no difference in sexual expression between the genders — with his penchant for salty language, he says, “You rub it, it works” — but a great deal of difference between male and female partners in terms of the overall emotional dynamic of a relationship. “With a relationship with different people, it brings out different parts of me,” Jaques told the Bisexual Forum event. “It’s really not about the physical attraction so much, but it’s about the traits in people and the qualities you can love them for. And truth be told, I’ve been accused of being straight, because I tend to date more women.”
I wanted to interview Parker Jaques because he’s a refreshing change not only from the breast-beating, guilt-ridden coming-out stories I’ve heard too many of over the years — including from previous Zenger’s interviewees — and also because he says what he thinks, without regard to anyone’s notions of political, sexual or gender correctness. He’s particularly withering in his scorn towards anybody who calls themselves “non-binary,” neither male nor female — like our last Zenger’s cover person, Red — and indeed, once we started talking about that it was hard to get him to talk about anything else. So here’s Parker Jaques, unvarnished and compelling.
Zenger’s: The reason I wanted to do an interview with you, why I thought you’d make a good Zenger’s feature, is I’ve done so many interviews with people who had these long, involved breast-beating stories of how they came to accept themselves as Gay, Bi, Trans or whatever, and after I heard you at the Bisexual Forum event, I thought, “Gee, it would be really nice to do a story with someone who didn’t go through all that.”
Parker Jaques: I wondered why you were interviewing me! I came out of the closet, and everyone went, “Hi, Parker.” The reaction was completely counter to what people are led to believe, at least in movies and in what people hear. You always hear about, “My dad beat me up,” “My parents disowned me,” “My friends all threw me out,” “My church threw me out.”
Zenger’s: So why don’t you just start at the beginning, with your family background and how you grew up.
Jaques: My mom has been married twice, but never to my father. My parents were never married. I have this really complicated immediate family, involving divorces, marriages to other people, and then more kids. I have four half-sisters and a half-brother, and then some of my step-parents have had subsequent children, or had children even before. There’s something to the tune of 25 people in my quote-unquote “immediate family,” if you include my mom and the people she was married to, and then the people they’ve been married to, and whatever.
Zenger’s: People use the phrase “blended family,” and yours sounds like a Mixmastered family.
Jaques: And I don’t even live with half these people! Most of them are in other states. I haven’t seen my dad in almost a decade, and I don’t really care to. My first stepmom lives in Louisiana and has had another kid. I like both my stepdads. My first stepdad lives in Las Vegas with his wife and children. The only one of my siblings who actually lives here is my half-sister, and she lives here, there, like I do. We bounce between my grandma’s house and my mom’s house, because my mom’s house is out in the country. We live with my mom and our stepdad, and they’ve been married for 10 years now. They just celebrated their tenth anniversary.
In the beginning I lived with my mom, and at my grandma’s house, initially. Then I tried to make it work out with my father, and it didn’t really go. There was a lot of bouncing around in the early years, and then my mom married my first stepdad and we moved to Las Vegas, and then they got divorced. We moved back, my mom went to college in New Mexico to study ferrier science and became a ferrier — a horseshoer. Now she’s back and she’s been doing fairly well ever since. She got married, we got a new house, and that all came to a head when I moved from elementary school to middle school. So I started middle school with a new stepdad, and then a different house and a different place. We moved to Spring Valley, which is still San Diego, but it’s a very different part of the world.
We had no religion in the house. My first stepdad was Jewish and we did some of the Jewish holiday things, but even at that age, though I knew what we doing and why we were doing it, I never really made the connection that anyone believed in the divine. When I found out in second grade that people really believed that Noah crammed two of every creature into a boat and that the whole world flooded, and all of those other things — up until that point I just thought they were tales. I thought they were stories, just like Mother Goose or anything else, and I didn’t put any stock in them.
I knew Gay couples, and in my mind it was, “Some guys date dudes, some chicks date chicks, a lot of people tend to date the other. It’s just how the world is.” I only understood “gay” as a synonym for “stupid” until I was about 12. I didn’t actually put the word to what homosexuality meant, because it was just a thing that was there. There wasn’t anything good, bad or anything about it. It was just a thing that existed.
I wasn’t like a lot of other Queer kids in school. I didn’t get beaten up. I broke a lot of people up. I hurt a lot of bullies, and it was my mom being a very staunch supporter of self-defense, and the school generally being scared crapless of her, that allowed me to get away with a lot. A kid would take a swing at me and call me a “faggot,” and I’d put him on the ground. I wasn’t ostracized and stepped on or beaten up or anything like that.
I’m Bisexual, and I frequently get accused of being straight! At least in the world as I’ve seen it — it’s functionally far easier to date the opposite sex, because the conventions are already there. What society expects of us, what we as people tend to expect of each other, due to the fact that we’re in the same society, it’s all kind of spelled out for you. But in homosexual dating, it’s a lot more personal, at least from where I’m standing.
But it’s also a lot more furtive, cloak-and-dagger, sneaking around the issue. You’ve got to figure out not only is this guy going to be someone I like, but are we going to be compatible in the bedroom later on. And unless you really put in the time to figure that out — which I obviously haven’t — the issues aren’t very clear.
Zenger’s: That’s interesting, because my own reaction has been precisely the opposite. I gravitated towards men at least in part because the rules and codes for approaching women seemed so intimidating, and I felt like I could “read” much better from my own gender the signals of, “Is he attracted to me? Would he be interested? Would we get along, sexually and otherwise?”
Jaques: It’s also because, from the time I was about 7, when we moved back in with my grandma — my grandfather died when I was about 9 —that left me in a house with my mom, my grandma and my sister. I was in the estrogen ocean for most of my developing years. I’ve always been a bit effeminate. But I’m effeminate in the way that a tomboy is effeminate, you know? If I was a chick, I’d make a lot more sense to people, but that’s a different story.
I’ve always been kind of the effeminate tough guy, which is funny. Around my Gay friends, I’m the scary one in the room. I’m the intimidating one, the one nobody wants to mess with. When I go hang out with my straight friends, I’m the effeminate one. I’m the wuss in the room. I’m the same way, but it’s read differently. It’s the same set of behaviors, but they’re interpreted very differently by the communities I’m among. Which probably explains why I understand women so well, especially with the Internet and the liberation of young women to a more egalitarian setting.
The conventions around women also seem a lot more mutable. I know I’m probably going to like a girl if I just walk straight through all the lines of decorum and actually talk to her. I’m going to skip all of the movie crap and just going to walk in, guns blazing. I think it also has to do with my age somewhat, because a lot of Gay men I know who are in my age bracket have literally just figured this out. You get a lot of them who are still in such a tormented mental place that they don’t really understand themselves as people, and they’re only coming to an understanding of themselves as sexual beings. I’ve already read that book and put that away. They’re still trying to figure out what page they’re on!
Honestly, it’s also easier to date women, at least for me, because I can walk down a street walking my girlfriend’s hand and nobody’s going to give me shit about it. It doesn’t matter where I am, I can walk that way anywhere. If I’m dating a guy, now I’ve got to look out not only for myself but for him, and we have to be paying attention to what’s going on around us and where we are, and how affectionate we can be to each other based solely on what part of the map we’re on. If we’re walking down the streets of Hillcrest, go right ahead. If we’re walking downtown at night, it’s probably a bad plan.
And even in Hillcrest it’s sometimes a bad plan, although I think we’re on a downswing with the white supremacists. It’s like every five or six years they crop up and start attacking people, and then a few people get arrested and the rest of them duck back.
Zenger’s: There’s been a lot of talk about how young people relate to their sexuality differently than people of my generation or the ones between you and me age-wise. There’s a belief that young people are much less likely to categorize their sexuality and make a decision, “I’m straight,” “I’m Gay,” “I’m Bi.” Do you think that’s true?
Jaques: Honestly, I think it’s a lot of hipster crap. I know a lot of these people who say, “Oh, I’m pansexual,” and the grammar Nazi in me jumps in, with my annoyance at people who do things because they’re popular, and I say, “Look, if you’re pansexual, it means you like everything. Everything.” I know that in some ways they’re saying it to be respectful to the Transgender community, at least after a fashion, and saying they’re “pansexual” means, “I like dudes, I like chicks, I like chicks who were dudes, and I like dudes who were chicks.” But I think “Bisexual” really covers it because there are only two genders, kids. There are only two options on the plate, unless you’re going to go outside, right?
“Pan” is a Greek root. “Pansexuals” — because I get a lot of those — pansexual means everything. So stay away from my goat. And they get mad at me when I tell them that! I say, “You’re the one who’s saying you’re an everything-sexual. I’m just treating you like an everything-sexual.”
Zenger’s: I think what they mean in practice by that is they just want to keep all possibilities open.
Jaques: Honestly, “Bisexual” pretty much covers that. “Bisexual” does not say, “and not Trans people.” A straight man can love a Transsexual woman just in the same way he loves a non-Transsexual woman. Making a specific sexuality for Trans people, to be attracted to or not attracted to Trans people, I think serves only to highlight them further, which is completely counter to what the Transgender community truly wants to do, which is blend in to what they were not born as. So I think it’s counterproductive.
Zenger’s: This will make a very interesting contrast to my last cover story with Red, who said, “I am non-binary.” In Red’s world, there are not two genders; there are all these different genders, and they are neither male nor female, they are in a —
Jaques: Pretentious bullshit. That’s what it is. It’s because people are trying so hard to break away from the gender binary, or the idea of male and female gender roles, instead of accepting that there are two kinds of genitalia, kids. You’ve either got an innie or an outie, and what you do with that is your deal. That’s it. If you have to be so pretentious that you have to have your non-standard gender recognized to feel validated, then you’re doing it wrong. You’re making what your “gender” is more important than the actual function of yourself as a person.
I’m a guy. I take care of kids. I’m a child-care provider. Really, if I wanted to throw my lot in with them, I could say some of that stuff, but it wouldn’t help me. It wouldn’t change the fact that child care is a very sexist field, and it’s sexist against dudes, which means if I call the ACLU and say, “Hey, they gave my job to a woman,” they’ll hang up on me. No, there are two basic genders. You might slide up and down on the Kinsey scale somewhat with your sexuality, or even how you behave in contrast to gender rules. But those multiple-gender things are really trying to turn two opposite ends into a scale, when it’s really not there and it doesn’t need to be.
If you’re a girl who works construction and likes Tonka trucks, that doesn’t change your gender. It doesn’t change your internal gender. Unless you really feel the need to be a man and to be seen as a man, you really don’t need anything more specific than that. And these people who are clamoring for it, it’s like they’re asking for special treatment for a disease that doesn’t exist. They’re trying to be, “I’m unique,” when everyone’s unique. “I’m different, I’m counter.” But it’s not really different. They’re just trying to put a special name on it.
Zenger’s: When I wrote the introduction to my interview with Red, I said they’re a minority within a minority within a minority. Being Queer is a minority, being Transgender is a minority within Queerdom, and being non-binary is a minority within the Trans community.
Jaques: The thing is there are two kinds of philias among humans. There’s gynophilia and androphilia. Androphilia: you like male-looking things. Gynophilia: you like female-looking things. Now, if I point out a very lovely-looking woman who has transitioned from male to female, looking at her I see a woman. My gynophilic impulses are turned on and are addressing her as a woman. The fact that she’s got a dick under there doesn’t change what I’m seeing. It might change how I handle it later, but that’s a purely sexual thing. It doesn’t have anything to do with attraction.
I don’t know why people even need to have these things, why they need to have it be different. Because there isn’t any need. They’re asking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. “I am a 60/40 guy/girl, but I’m not, because gender isn’t binary. There’s all sorts of genders along this binary line that we clearly understand as people.” It’s so pretentious, it makes me sick. And the thing is, as soon as you tell them they’re wrong or mistaken or just not doing it properly, they start crying about how you’re not respecting them. It irritates me.
No, I’m not letting you try to pull shit. I’m not letting you try to redefine things that don’t need to be redefined, and by trying to redefine them you’re creating a problem that didn’t exist before. Because these people who are, “Oh, I’m not one gender, I’m multiple genders,” I behave differently depending on whether or not I’m in drag. I pull off drag pretty well, though not when I haven’t shaven and I’m all messed up. But I can do that, and I do it from time to time. I go, “I’m going to dress like a woman. I’m going to look like a chick. I’ll do it at this party, and it’s going to be fun.” And I do that.
There are times in relationships, depending on the nature of my partner, when I as a person will kind of gravitate to one more stereotypical gender norm or understanding, at least in the context of relationships, than I normally would. But I think that’s just me being a flexible person, not a gender thing. It’s not about my gender; it’s just about me. I don’t need some special attention or some special thing. I don’t need this special classification. That just is what it is, and that’s all it is.
Zenger’s: You said some interesting things at the Bi Forum meeting, including the role of the Internet in relationships today and how it touches people’s lives. Once again, as someone who’s grown up with it rather than someone who got dragged kicking and screaming into it as a mature adult, how do you feel the Internet has affected the way people interact?
Jaques: In a lot of ways, it’s really killing interpersonal conversation and relations. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to be personal, how to relate to other people in person. People know how to write up a good page, know how to describe themselves wonderfully, know how to have deep intellectual conversations over a keyboard. But they don’t know how to emote as a person unless they can put on some smiley-faces.
I think that it is changing certain things. It is making it so that people who are not necessarily as attractive as their partner have a fair chance of meeting that person and having a relationship with them based solely on the fact that you only see a couple of pictures on a dating site or on Facebook. Then you get to know that person through the content of their posts, through their statements, through what they write, and your correspondence with that person. However, there’s also the down side, where people might look worse than they really are, because they like to put on a certain face on the Internet.
I don’t think it’s really broken anything, but I think it’s changing the paradigm. That, and then there’s trolling. Almost everyone does it at some point. People forget about things they’ve done in the past, and somehow get connected to them later, and then they get questioned about it and they have no recollection. “Oh, I was probably just trolling.” So it’s the way the Internet works that’s crazy.
Zenger’s: You also said a moment ago that the Internet emancipated women. What did you mean by that?
Jaques: I’ll try to remember what I was talking about when I said that!
Zenger’s: It was in the context of why you find it easier to date women than men.
Jaques: Yes, because women now, because they’re on the Internet, because there’s not the face-to-face societal thing about women not being able to be sexual in any way without looking bad, a woman on the Internet can talk about porn, can talk about what really turns her on, what gets her off, what she’s into as a person, because of the Internet. Because we’re not seeing her, we’re just reading what she says, it allows both genders to be honest with themselves in a lot of ways.
Because women are allowed to be honest in a lot of ways, it’s taken away the hot-chick thing, where a really obnoxiously attractive woman winds up the center of everyone’s attention. On the Internet, how attractive you are hardly matters. A lot of women who were quiet and scared in social situations are able to step up and show themselves as the people they truly are on the inside, by showing it on the Internet.
Of course, Facebook is serving to bring all of that back and change that around, because now everyone is on Facebook and everyone has to hide what they do on Facebook. You can only talk about going to bars so many times before everyone labels you an alcoholic. But the rest of the Internet — the non-Facebook internet — continues its inevitable march of causing gender equality to happen spontaneously.
Which I think is a good thing, because if there’s one thing that hurts gender equality in the entire world, it’s the feminists. Not because they’re doing anything wrong ¬— not because I disagree with what they’re doing — but sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense. I love pointing that out to them, and it pisses them off beyond all belief and reason, and it’s hilarious.
Zenger’s: I actually remember saying at a Bisexual Forum meeting that the second-wave feminist movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, in a lot of ways, was really a reaction to the sexual revolution. Along with all the good things it had done, the sexual revolution had also given men a very powerful new tool to persuade women to have sex with them, whether they wanted to or not.
Zenger’s: “Oh, you’re unhip, you’re uncool, you’re hung up,” you’re this, you’re that. And a large part of this anti-sex streak in that era of feminism seemed to be a reaction to that, an attempt to create a space where women could defend themselves against unwanted advances without risking that “unhip,” “uncool” label.
Jaques: And then at some point in the mid-1980’s we taught an entire generation of girls not to fight rapists. We taught them, “Let it happen, he’s not going to hurt you.” It’s completely not true, but we’ve raised an entire generation of girls who don’t know how to tell a guy to screw off. For example, at Comic-Con this year, the Masquerade Ball, which is the dance after the Masquerade, my friend, who’s a model — and she is very, very attractive — and she was on the dance floor, but she really didn’t want to be because there were guys trying to get all over her.
She’s been raised to be too nice to tell them to just bug off. She’s been raised to be too nice to hit a guy for grinding up on her ass. She’s been raised to be nice, and so she had me act as her foil — which I had to admit was kind of enabling: “Yeah, yeah, this is my girlfriend, go away.” But we’ve raised an entire generation of women to be powerless to men, and we’ve created even more of an animosity dynamic in male-female dating. Which is a problem, but it’s something that the world is working on, slowly but surely.
I think it was Martin Luther King who said that the world is moving towards justice. One way or the other, it’s going to happen.
Zenger’s: Something that is kind of hard to believe now that the Tea Party has totally taken American politics hostage.
Jaques: Oh, my God. I like the fact that John McCain called them out the other day. He actually called them out and said, “Why are you lying to your constituents? You know we cannot force this through. We can’t get this to work. This is dumb.” I gained some respect for him. I lost it, though, when he waffled on the torture bill. A man who’d been tortured as a prisoner of war stopped fighting the torture bill back when Bush was President, mostly because of political stuff, and I lost a whole lot of respect for the man that day.
You know, as bad as it will sound, I respected Strom Thurmond, not because I agreed with anything he did, but because when the chips were down, and he believed something different from what a lot of other people believed, he stood on the Senate floor for 24 straight hours, just to filibuster. And that was a very dangerous political move, because just about everyone else in the house was going, “We need to push this through. This whole civil rights amendment needs to happen.” And he disagreed, he disagreed strongly, and he stuck to it. And if nothing else, I’ll give the man credit. When the chips were down, he stuck to his guns. More power to him. But I might disagree with him strongly.
Zenger’s: I was always impressed by the fact that over his lifetime Barry Goldwater turned around from voting against the Civil Rights Bill to urging that it be amended to include Gays.
Jaques: That’s the thing that quote-unquote “honest” politicians do over time. The problem with conservatism is it’s trying to “conserve” a view of the world that isn’t true. The problem with liberals is they’re trying to push a world-view forward that isn’t what’s actually going on either. It’s like the abortion debate. They’re not really arguing about the same thing. The pro-lifers, the anti-choicers, are saying, “It’s alive. It’s a live thing. You can’t kill it, you murderer.” And the pro-choicers are saying, “But it’s not your choice,” which isn’t even the same argument. They’re not arguing with each other. They’re arguing different points.
It’s the same thing with politics in America these days. They’re not really meeting in the middle. They’re just passing by, like ships in the night, with their statements. Which is why the Presidential debates are always hilarious, because they’re not really arguing. I think Futurama had it best when they had two clones of the same guy running for President, on opposite parties, and that’s what we’re getting down to sooner or later.
Zenger’s: Why are people of your generation not as politically active as their elders, especially their elders when we were your age?
Jaques: The things we have to fight over aren’t as at home as they were in those days. What most of the politically active kids in my age group are interested in is starving children in Africa, or starving kids in China, or workers in China. Almost all of our issues that politically active kids in my age group really latch on to and really want to deal with aren’t domestic. So there really isn’t the same kind of draw.
In the 1960’s, there was a whole civil rights movement. That was a palpable movement, and that was a thing that people were doing. That was big, that was important, and that was at home. We have the Gay rights movement, but it’s been going on for so long now that it doesn’t need us, almost. At least that’s what the perception, the kind of Gestalt perception of my generation, is. You guys are already on it. You’ve already done it. We don’t have a thing to fight.
And Viet Nam was a huge war where there were tons of people dying every day. Even in this total-bullshit “War on Terrorism,” we’ve lost about 5,000 troops, the last I counted. That’s really not that many.
Zenger’s: And, as a lot of people have pointed out, there isn’t a draft.
Jaques: And, as a lot of people have pointed out, there isn’t a draft. So there’s no real point that we as a generation can really latch on to and fight over. It’s become so rounded. There’s really no edge for us to get. There’s no true issue for us to get angry about. There’s the Gay marriage thing, but slowly but surely we’re winning that battle — and it’s really not that big of one. My generation took the homosexuality battle to the trenches of the forums of the Internet, which mean absolutely nothing. It kind of scares me that eventually my generation will start treating the Internet as more important than real life, and what you say on the Internet may one day be more damning to you than what you could say in person.
Zenger’s: Oh, that’s already happened. I’ve had at least two instances where people have e-mailed me saying, “Please take the interview I did with you off your Web site. It is getting in the way of me finding a job.”
Jaques: You know what the biggest thing getting in the way of me finding a job is? Having a penis. Like I said, I’m one of maybe five child-care providers in the known universe who’s also a dude. It’s not like I can call up the ACLU and tell them, “They hired this girl who has a high-school diploma.” I really can’t claim anything, especially because I’m a white male and my whole ancestry is white. I’ve got no one in my corner about anything. I’ve allegedly got the “Establishment” in my corner, so I guess that’s something. Yeah.
It’s not like I’m saying anything to you I wouldn’t say to anyone who actually asked me, anyway. Most people are smart enough not to ask me for my opinion because, damnit, they’ll get it.