sexuality

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?

Gender Perspectives Vol. 20

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

It’s been far too long since our last installation of Gender Perspectives, and I’ve been accidentally sitting on this draft for a while, so let’s get right to what I have for you today:

My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility | Wandering Aloud

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’

 

What I Want | THEMAGICSPACESHIP

I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

 

Self-Expression After Coming Out | Queerly Texan 

My self-expression changed when I became comfortable with myself [as a lesbian], and I think that’s true for a lot of people. When you spend months, years, or even decades being uncomfortable the second you stop feeling even a tiny percentage of that awkwardness, you never want to go back.

 

Gender? I Don’t Know A Gender! | Sofhoney

What are you?

I’m me! I’m Sof. I change frequently – that goes for mood, attraction, appearance, & a whole lot of other things, too. It’s something I beat myself up over – a LOT. It’s something I’ve come to realize doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway – some people identify very strongly with a gender or sexuality & that is great & amazing & I support & uplift those who identify that way…it’s just that I personally don’t!

 

Asex Ed? – Carnival of Aces Submission June 2017

[This post as a part of the Carnival of Aces, a monthly blog carnival centring around topics relating to asexuality. This month’s  carnival is hosted by Writing Ace on the topic of Asexual Education.]

For this topic, I am focusing on one of the specific suggested prompts: “How should asexuality be taught to children? Where and when should asexuality be taught to children?”

I have a lot of thoughts about the ways in which we teach (or don’t teach, as the case often is) children about sexuality. Sexuality really can be much simpler than we make it most of the time, if we manage to look past the strange moral filters and anxieties so many of us carry around these topics.

For instance, lots of parents have a dread of the day their children first ask where babies come from, because that means they need to tell their kid about the s-e-x word now. Except it doesn’t mean that at all, as it turns out!

My favourite book about baby-making for children is  Cory Silverberg’s What Makes a Baby? In the book, you learn that babies are made when you put together sperm with an ovum (some bodies make sperm, and some don’t; some bodies make ova and some don’t), and give the blastocyst this creates somewhere to live (a uterus! Some bodies have ’em, and some don’t!)

Ta-da! Simple as that, and sex doesn’t enter the conversation. I mean, for the record, it’s not that I think we need to avoid taking to kids about sex, it’s just that not all babies are made from people having sex anymore, and honestly, when children innocently ask about where babies come from, they don’t really want to know about what a man and woman do when they fall in love. In some cases, they’re probably more worried about whether their body might start growing a baby inside of it than anything else. It’s ok.

So, when do we talk to kids about sex? This is something we do need to talk to children about implicitly from a very young age – as young as possible really, simply because of the shockingly high rate of childhood sexual abuse. We need to teach children about their bodies and the ways it is and isn’t ok for other people to touch them. But the explicit conversation is less important, really.

And, if it were up to me, that standard birds-and-bees talk would be massively different as well. And yes, it would include asexuality, at least implicitly!

Something along the lines of this:

Sometimes grownups like to touch each other in special ways! [Talk about touching genitals, what genital arousal and orgrasm (generally) look like, various kinds of intercourse etc.]  We usually refer too all of these things as “having sex”. Sometimes people just touch themselves in ways that feel this way, too – we usually call that masturbation, but it’s a part of our sexuality too!

Having sex is normal, and can be really great if all the people involved want to do it, but this kind of touching can also carry some risks [talk about stis, pregnancy, and what acts do and don’t carry those risks. Note that pregnancy is only a risk for certain combinations of genitals etc].

Most people like to have sex because it feels really good to them (and some people have sex for other reasons, like if they want to get pregnant, or to make someone else feel good), but just like not everyone loves chocolate, not everyone likes sex either, and that’s ok! And some people only like certain kinds of sex, and not others, or only like to masturbate, and that’s all ok too.

Sometimes having sex can also make people feel more emotionally close to each other. In fact, lots of people have strong emotional reactions to having sex in different, but some don’t. Sometimes being in love with someone is what makes a person want to have sex with another person, but sometimes people have sex with each other just because they like how each other looks, or because they enjoy spending time together!

Not everyone falls in love or wants to have romantic relationships, but they can still have sex if they want to and if someone else wants to have it with them! And not everyone likes to have sex with anyone ever! All of these things are ok, and only you can decide how or when or who you want to have sex with, or if you even want to have sex ever at all!

If you really wanted to, you could mention that some people only ever want to have sex with people who are of a specific gender (some women only want to have sex with women, and some women only want to have sex with men, while others might want to have sex with people of different genders), but I think that if you manage to talk about sex in a gender-inclusive way and if children actually internalize the idea that it’s ok to want to have sex with people of whatever gender, no matter what gender you happen to be, then it kind of doesn’t matter if they are only attracted to one gender or another?

Anyway, yes, that’s my ideal way of framing what sex is, (with the existence of asexuality built right into the discussion!) not just to kids, but to literally anyone!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: H is for “how do you have sex?”

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

H is for “how do you have sex?”

This question? It’s not even just relevant to trans people – it’s a common question  directed at LGBQ+ folks as well. The clearest answer in most cases (unless you’re planning on having sex with the person asking it, I guess?) is ‘um, none of your darn business.’ It is kind of amazing how simply being trans can open a person up to the kinds of invasive questions that they would never dream of asking in any other context. Suddenly we’re not people; we’re research subjects, or more often merely objects of fleeting curiosity.

But, even setting that aside, this question? It just depresses me, on so many levels. I do want to acknowledge upfront that for some trans people (as for some cis people) the answer is always simply going to be “I don’t have sex.” Because not everyone wants to , and not everyone has sex even if they do want to. But again, even setting that aside, I don’t understand how this is even confusing to people.

Because you know how I have sex with other people? [This is not going not be explicit, it’s ok!]

Me and the people I have sex with, we touch each other in whatever ways feel good to us. Or we try to, though it doesn’t always work out that way, I guess. But really, that’s it. And I really hope that’s how most people do it.

Just, like, if you seriously can’t think of ways that people with, I guess, different genital combinations than the ones you’re used to in your own sex life might be able to touch each pleasurably? You are seriously lacking in imagination, at best.

Because the thing is, genitals are somewhat important to sex, for most people, of course. But, so are so many other body parts that people possess regardless of gender or sexual orientation or whether they are trans. Most of us have hands, with fingers on them, or other appendages that can probably be used to do things.

Like, seriously? You can’t think of *any* sex acts you might participate in that the trans person in front of you is also capable of? Really?

Or are you just actually hoping for the dirty details, because you’re just that much of a creep? Which is it?


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

Embracing my demisexuality has made me more resilient: June 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces, on the theme of resiliency. The call for submissions is here.]

I am so, so grateful to have found asexual community, and to have found models of sexuality and sexual attraction that reflected my experiences in a very real way. In the (almost) two years since and first embracing demisexuality as a useful model for describing my sexuality, I’ve grown a lot.

It hasn’t always been easy, and I have had periodic doubts, but I’ve also learned to think my way through them, and sometimes come to strong conclusions that helped solidify my sense of identity.

This shift in how I think about myself and my sexuality has made me rethink and recontextualize my romantic and sexual history, my approaches to dating, and my expectations of myself when I do date. I used to beat myself up about not being able to have the kinds of sexual adventures other people have, that I kind of also wanted. I understand now why the ways in which I approach sexual adventure simply have to be different than how many others do it.

And more importantly, I have come to accept that this is really, really ok.

Being able to reconsider what I want from dating, what my expectations are when meeting someone new, and equally importantly, being able to communicate clearly to others around these issues, has saved me a lot of the unnecessary grief, discomfort, self-doubt, and self-denial that I used to continually put myself through. I used to waste to much energy trying to figure out what was *wrong* with me, and now I am free to simply seek out the things hat work for me and not worry about what doesn’t.

It is a huge relief. And it leaves me in a stronger, more stable place, where I am more ready to take on whatever else life throws at me.

I am, without a doubt, more resilient.

“What’s wrong with heteronormativity anyway?”

This question recently came up in a conversation I was involved in on facebook. What’s wrong with heteronormativity anyway?

The context was a straight cis dude expressing some typical straight cis dude sexual fantasies, and some people being eyeroll-y about it, thus prompting his question.

At the time, and given the context, I simply pointed out that no one was saying anything was wrong with heteronormative desires, just that, well, we are all inundated with them all day long, and for those of us who aren’t into those particular fantasies, it can be a bit much, y’know?

But then I thought about it some more. And the thing is, while there really was nothing inherently wrong with this particular dude’s particular desire on this given day, (or more generally, there is nothing inherently wrong with many fantasies that happen to be heteronormative), there’s hella problems with heteronormativity.

[Edited to add: For starters, (and as genderroling pointed out in the comments) pretty much all hetero norms are actually cis hetero norms – heteronormativity is almost always part and parcel of cisheteronormativity.]

And the thing is, most normative models of [cis] hetero sex are incredibly misogynistic. It is, very often, entirely focused on men’s pleasure, often to the point of forgetting that women have sexual desires and drives of their own. [Cis]heteronormative sex is so focused on penile-vaginal penetration that it is still common to have people genuinely confused about how it is possible for two people who don’t have penises to even have sex at all.

Heteronormativity as we know it today grew out of a culture where men literally owned their wives, where being married to a man was considered legal consent to sex whenever he wanted, where any kind of non-penetrative sexual contact is considered foreplay and not really sex at all, where having sex reduces a woman’s value to other men, etc etc etc. It has a lot of cultural baggage, is what I’m saying, and all of these values have contributed to hetero norms of sex today.

So while specific instances of heteronormative desires and behaviours could very well be benign, heteronormativity [and especially cisheteronormativity] itself is fucked, mmkay?

“An unpopular or unsure opinion about the GSM community”: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 8

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: An unpopular or unsure opinion about the GSM community

For those that don’t know, the GSM in ‘GSM community’ stands for ‘Gender and Sexual Minorities’. It’s an alternate name sometimes used for LGBTQ+ communities to avoid alphabet soup problems while still being broadly inclusive.

…And you may not have caught my little linguistic trick in that last paragraph, but it points to a potentially unpopular opinion I have about ‘the GSM community’: I don’t believe such a thing exists.

There are GSM communities. There are lots of them, with varying levels of inclusivity of varying kinds of people who experience marginalization because of their gender (or lack thereof) and/or sexual orientation (or lack thereof). Many of them are wonderful. But there is no GSM Community, I don’t believe there can be one, and I don’t believe there should be, really.

For one thing, talking about ‘the community’ tends to send the message that gender and sexual minorities are a monolith, and we obviously aren’t. For every trans person I see insisting that ‘transgendered’ isn’t a word, I see a another trans person actively describing themself as ‘transgendered’, for instance.

But the other problem with broadly inclusive communities is that pretty much without fail, the voices that rise to the top, the ones that get heard, are the voices of the most privileged within those communities. And so the changes that get made are the ones that benefit those who are already most privileged. And this very often actually makes things harder for those less privileged.

Even something as simple and obviously right as extending marriage rights to all couples regardless of gender make-up has the real-life side effect of helping middle and upper class white gay people consolidate their wealth more effectively, thus contributing to continued income inequality. For reals.

In order for more marginalized voices to be heard, we need something more than ‘the GSM community’. We need a multiplicity of communities with a multiplicity of voices, representing as many different perspectives as possible. I am far, far more interested in hearing from communities of black trans folk, or autistic queer people, or fat femmes, than in listening to anything that can be credited to ‘the GSM community’ at large.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!