Questions from the search terms: “I’m attracted to my biological sex only but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?”

It’s time for another question from the search terms! Today I bring you:

I’m attracted to my biological sex only, but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?

Dear searcher,

I’m hoping that you were just being a little sloppy with your words in the relative privacy of your internet search (it’s not like you actually said this to another person, and I know that sometimes using less-than-correct language is the best route to the results you want on the internet, because those are the smae words other people are using!) but before I address your actual question, a quick clarification for other people reading this:

Being a lesbian doesn’t mean being only attracted to ‘biological females’. For the most part, it means being only attracted to women (who may or may not be the same biological sex as you, searcher!) I also realize that lesbian community and culture is in reality messier than that, and I know that there are complicated and delicate questions around trans men and lesbianism – some trans men identify as lesbians, I think? And I know that there are women who date both (cis?) women and trans men, who still identify as lesbians.

I also know that TERFiness and transmisogyny are pretty rampant in many lesbian communities, though, so those community norms may not be things you want to play into or live up to. It is some complicated stuff, and I am not a great authority on the nuances of lesbian communities, but suffice to say that if you actually think that being solely attracted to ‘biological’ females is an unproblematic definition of lesbianism, you have got another thing coming! The group of people who share your biological sex includes a wide variety of genders, from men and women to all kinds of non-binary and genderqueer people, and that’s not what lesbianism is about, as far as I can tell.

But ok, I’m going to pivot to the more generous reading of the question now, so you can get an actual answer!

I’m going to take it that you’re a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and you find yourself exclusively attracted to women. So, are you a lesbian then?

…maybe?

I know there are non-binary people out there who identify as lesbians, and I know there are lesbian communities who are open and welcoming to enbies (afab ones, anyway…) who identify this way.

Ultimately, though, what you’ve actually run into here is a major limitation of the way in which we try to categorize sexual attraction. At its core, the hetero-/homo- binary is very dependent on a binary gender system, both for the people feeling attraction and the objects of that attraction. I’ve written more than once about how these categories aren’t really sufficient to properly contain attraction *to* non-binary people (see here and here), but I’ve somehow missed the aspect where they fail even harder to provide labels for non-binary people’s own experiences of attraction.

This is partially because my bisexuality/queerness does map onto my non-binary identity in the same way that it did onto my birth-assigned gender. I can be attracted to people of any gender, and that remains true regardless of *my* particular gender.

Shit gets complicated when you’re only attracted to one gender, though. If you want to be strict about it, a non-binary person who is only attracted to one gender (other than a non-binary gender) is heterosexual (though possibly not straight).

But that’s not at all helpful. So where do I go from there?

In general, I think it is a terrible idea for non-binary people to define their sexual orientation in terms of their birth-assigned gender. For one thing, doing so would require non-binary people to out themselves about their birth-assigned gender, and how about we just don’t do that?

So, in general, non-binary people who are only attracted to women aren’t lesbians. You still might be, if it’s really what feels right for you? But, since I suspect that you aren’t actually exclusively attracted to women, and that your attractions probably include other non-binary people and possibly trans men as well, I encourage you to consider other identities. Queer is a really good label for people who don’t fit well into the existing models of sexual identity. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use it?

I think the main reason people in your sort of situation sometimes shy away from this, is they don’t like the implication that they’re into men, but if that’s the case, try this: “I’m a queer non-binary person who isn’t attracted to men”. Problem solved, ok?

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: Y is for “you’re too Young”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

Y is for ‘you’re too Young’

A common way that young trans people have their identity invalidated by cis people by being told they’re ‘too young’ to know they’re trans.

Yet somehow, I’ve never heard tell of any cisgender child being told they’re too young to know their gender. Cis children have their gender identities reinforced and supported all the time, every day, but for some reason the second a child’s professed gender is different from what we expected, we decide that it’s too early to tell for sure what their gender is.

I’ve actually written about this before, and one of the things that makes this argument seem particularly disingenuous is the fact that when someone’s no longer ‘too young’ to know they’re trans, they’re very often ‘too old’ to just be coming out now, because they should have known sooner.

Yes, I know that sometimes children identify temporarily with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, before finally settling into a cisgender identity. But you know what? For every cisgender child who goes through a ‘trans phase’, there’s a transgender adult who went through a ‘cis phase’ in their childhood, too.

So if you’re going to use age to invalidate someone’s professed identity, you’d better do so across the board, because some of those apparently cis kids most definitely aren’t (and I suspect they outnumber the kids who are going through a ‘trans phase’). If it’s damaging to let a child explore their gender as they experience it in the moment, lest they wind up identifying differently in the future, then we’d better prevent all children from doing it.

People often suggest that letting a child with a penis wear dresses for a while might embarrass him later if he does, in fact, wind up identifying as a boy. But again, pretty much 100% of all trans people have to deal with this as it is, so if this is something you are genuinely concerned about, you’d better avoid gendering all children all the time.

You can’t have it both ways. Either children can know their gender or not, but all children may be going through a temporary ‘phase’, not just the ones who are telling you that they were assigned the wrong gender. It seems that for the most part, we accept that kids can and do know their genders, so let’s just extend the same autonomy to trans children that cis kids enjoy every day.

Ultimately, no matter how many times any child – cis or trans – changes their mind about what their gender is, the best thing you can do for them is always to respect and support them.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Brief thought/PSA of the day: you’re not helping

A little pet peeve of mine is when parents respond to their child coming out as LGBTQ+ (i.e. gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, etc.), or simply exhibiting non-normative behaviours associated with these identities, by being worried about how their child’s difference will “make the child’s life harder”.

I get that to some extent this is a natural reaction. Of course (or at least, hopefully!) you want what’s best for your child. You want their life to be full of good things and free of badness. And I can’t tell people what to feel. I get that.

But here’s the thing: when you say that you would rather your child not be [X: fill in your own blank here] because people who are [X] have harder lives, your priorities are way off base.

For one thing, when you tell your child you feel that way, whether you want to or not, whether you mean to or not, you are telling them that you wish they were someone else. So no matter how much you may think or feel this way, the kindest thing you could do is not tell them.

Instead, redirect that worry into something productive!

It’s important that you understand that the hardship in your LGBTQ+ child’s life will not be directly because they are LGBTQ+. Or rather, it is not a natural consequence of being LGBTQ+.

It is a consequence of being LGBTQ+ only in the context of a society that harbours anti LGBTQ+ biases. And it’s toward those biases that you should be directing your energy and your worries.

If you don’t want your child’s life to be harder than it needs to be, put action where your worries are and try to make the world a place that is safe for them (instead of wishing that they were the kind of person who is relatively safe in this world). Get involved, speak up.

Actually, do those things regardless of whether you have a child who is LGBTQ+.

Stop wishing for fewer LGBTQ+ people. Start working toward reducing the number of bigots in the world instead.

I tried to write about my father, but…

I don’t know how to write about my father.

I don’t know why I don’t know how to write about my father.

I don’t know where to start in writing about my father.

 

Everything I write about my father comes out wrong.

I don’t know how to write about my father’s wrongs.

Everything I write about my father needs a disclaimer.

I don’t know how to write disclaimers about my father.

Every disclaimer I write about my father needs a disclaimer.

 

Everything I write about my father is true, but

Everything I write about my father leaves everything else out.

Every time I try to write about my father, I stop.

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: X is for “XX or XY”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

X is for “XX or XY”

One of the ways transphobic cis people try to invalidate trans people is by insisting that our gender is determined by our chromosomes, that everyone is either XX or XY, all people with XX chromosomes have vaginas, and are women, and all people with XY chromosomes have penises and are men, and that’s that. Cis folks like to think they’re being rational and scientific by appealing to biology in this way, but the truth is that these claims are incorrect on literally every level – there are other chromosomal arrangements, even the binary XX/XY system doesn’t have a 1-to-1 correspondence with genital development (and of course, genitals don’t have a 1-to-1 correspondence with gender), most people don’t even know their chromosomes in the first place, and that’s definitely not how we gender babies, among other things.

If you’re making a claim to chromosomes to justify your transphobia, I honestly don’t think you’re even trying to understand what you’re talking about, and so my motivation to write rebuttals for this is minimal, and I find myself bored before I even start. So, in lieu of rewriting all the explanations for why ‘but *chromosomes*!!!!’ isn’t a refutation of trans people’s identities, here’s a couple of recommended reads instead:

Transgender People and ‘Biological Sex’ Myths | Julia Serano

Chromosomes: cis expectations vs. trans reality | Zinnia Jones, Gender Analysis

Happy reading!


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Mislabeled: don’t call me picky! November 2017 Carnival of Aces Submission

This month’s Carnival of Aces topic seems like it was deliberately designed to entice me out of my prolonged break from blogging, so here I am!

This post is in response to the November 2017 Carnival of Aces, hosted by WUT on the topic of “Questioning, Exploration, and Mislabeling”

I have… a lot to say about this topic, but I don’t want to retread too much of what I’ve already said, so if you’re interested in the questioning and exploration I went through in the process of coming to a demisexual identity, you can read through the phases (and cycles) I went through as follows:

I came out strong with “Recognizing Demisexuality”

But I clearly wasn’t as sure as I seemed, as the following year I returned with “Demisexuality, confusion, and self-doubt”, and “Demisexuality: debunking a common misconception”

Since then, though, I’ve become much more comfortable in my identity, and have written about how “Embracing my demisexuality has made me more resilient!”

It’s been a journey, to say the least! But today, I also wanted to talk about something else. Because demisexuality does very often get misunderstood or mislabeled (and not just as being ‘normal’, as I debunked in the above link.) Sometimes demisexuality is also mislabeled as simply being ‘picky’.

This… is an unfair assessment. I don’t think that demisexual people are inherently ‘pickier’ than anyone else (although I’m sure some of us are picky, too!) A picky person usually has a list of criteria that causes them to reject things they might otherwise be into. Everyone who experiences attraction to others has *some* criteria by which people’s attractiveness is measured (unless you’re attracted to literally everyone, I guess?), and the ponit at which these criteria tip you over into being ‘picky’ is kind of nebulous, but ultimately if you think about it, demisexual people are likely *less* picky than allosexual people when it comes to sexual attraction.

Think about it: demisexual people experience sexual attraction only after forming a bond with a person. Although this may not be universally true, what this generally means is that demisexual people experience sexual attraction as a result of personality, interpersonal and relational traits in a person. So it’s fair to say that in general, our ‘criteria’ for experiencing attraction run along those lines.

It’s important to always remember that in the general case, allosexual people’s experiences of attraction are also very much affected by these sorts of criteria, and personality traits can very much make-or-break someone’s attractiveness to allosexual and demisexual people alike. The thing that differentiates allosexual and demisexual experience of sexual attraction are physical criteria.

Allosexual can and do sometimes experience sexual attraction (or lack thereof) based solely on physical characteristics. An allosexual person may be able to reject someone as potentially attractive before knowing anything at all about their personality, based solely on the physical criteria governing their attractions. On the other hand, demisexual people are far less likely to have these kinds of criteria for their experiences of attraction (I’ve written before about how I don’t).

In other words, I’d argue that it’s likely, in general, that allosexual people are technically ‘pickier’ than demisexual people. I even used this idea to pep talk myself when my dating prospects were leaving me sad!

A better way of thinking about demisexuality, rather than in terms of pickiness, is in terms of decisiveness – demisexual people often take longer than allosexual people to figure out whether they are or even can be attracted to other people.

So basically, stop calling me ‘picky’ – I’m just indecisive*! :P

*Not actually accurate either, for the record!

Messages to Ace Exclusionists: September 2017 Carnival of Aces Round-up

This is the round-up of posts for the September 2017 Carnival of Aces, hosted by yours truly, with the prompt “What’s one thing you want to tell ace exclusionists?“. Posts are listed in order of submission. Thank you so much to all the contributors; I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your posts!

“Don’t hate anyone” | The Song of the Lonely Whale

Anonymous submission: “I wish you could acknowledge, without its being a source of pain, that all groups whose identities represent benign violations of the dominant narrative about sex and gender and love have common cause, and that more light will come from resisting that narrative than resisting each other. That consent is the best measure of benignity. That we can have our own spaces within a much larger one.”

“If you include, you may be included. If you exclude, you will be excluded.” | Mundo Heterogeneo

“if I can only say one thing to an ace exclusionist, it’s that straight people don’t let us in their club, not even the heteroromantic ones among us.” | From Fandom to Family


In addition to the above submissions, ettinacat commented on the call for submissions highlighting a couple of older posts on Abnormaldiversity. Because there weren’t a whole lot of submissions this month, I’m going to include them in the round-up. The messages from these posts are:
“Being invisible isn’t a privilege.” and
Aroaces are definitely not straight