sexual orientation

All posts tagged sexual orientation

You Don’t Know Me, I’m a Damn Enigma

Published April 25, 2016 by auddity

Please allow me this rant: You don’t know me, so stop misidentifying me.

I have recently been misidentified as a lesbian and as bisexual. The first instance was by a friend of a friend, to whom I’d come out as queer a few weeks before. Her flub was unintentional and well-meaning; we were discussing a coworker of hers and she said, “She’s a fellow lesbian,” and continued with her story. I didn’t think it was worth it to interrupt the flow of conversation to correct her, but it stung a little. I thought, “Well, at least she remembered I wasn’t straight,” but in reality, it just goes to show that lesser-known identities are often erased by the gay-straight dichotomy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain what my sexual orientation means to me, and describe where I fall under the queer umbrella. Now, I don’t dislike talking about this stuff – in most cases I love it! – but it can get old sometimes, especially when the person I’m talking to has literally no idea what I’m talking about.

That was the case with a coworker, my teaching partner, of whom I am not a fan to begin with. She used the word “gay” to mean stupid, and instead of letting it go, I took it as an opportunity to speak up against that kind of usage. I asked her politely, “Could you not use that word in that way?” She asked me why, so I told her I found it offensive (even though me asking her to stop using the word should’ve been sufficient). She quickly insisted that she and her family didn’t have anything against gay people, it was just a word they used. This woman worked with special needs kids for several years before coming to my school, so I tried a different approach; I explained, “You using ‘gay’ in that way is like if you said ‘retarded’ to mean stupid.” I could tell she still wasn’t really understanding what the issue was, so I told her that it was personal to me because I’m queer. She looked blankly at me so I elaborated, “I don’t identify as straight, but I don’t identify as gay either.” Her face lit up, “So you’re bisexual!” I shook my head and realized I was fighting a losing battle. I asked her to please not use that word around me, and just left it at that. Our three year-olds were about to arrive and I didn’t have the time or energy to give her a lesson in gender studies.

What bothers me the most, and it was there in both cases, is that assumption of knowing. It’s like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular straight person, I’m a cool straight person.” No. Don’t assume you know anything about me just because you’ve watched the L Word or you had a gay friend in college or whatever other asinine excuse you want to throw at me. You don’t know me, so stop pretending like you’re in on it, like we’re part of some club, like you’ve got me figured out. Until you put in the work to actually educate yourself, you can shut up about all of this. Just stop.

I can only imagine what genderqueer, genderfluid, and transgender folks go through. They no doubt experience this kind of thing on a regular basis. The same with people of color, especially those who are of mixed ethnicities and/or racially ambiguous. I deal with a small fraction of this and it drives me crazy. If you don’t know, don’t assume! Find an appropriate way to ask or do some goddamn research.

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Let’s Talk About (Unintentional) Homophobia

Published June 9, 2013 by auddity

Let’s talk about ego. Let’s talk about assumptions. Let’s talk about good intentions. Let’s talk about homophobia. Homophobia is homophobia, even if you don’t mean it. But the question is, how can we stop doing it?

One time when I was at work, cashiering, a young couple came through my line. The girl went first and I joked around with her as I rang out her few items (see my post on how I am the perfect cashier). When I turned to the boyfriend his first words to me, before I could ask “How ya doing?” or even look at what he was buying, were “I’m not gay.” Completely baffled, I looked down and saw a couple of skincare products. His girlfriend laughed at him like he was being ridiculous, which he was, as he hurriedly explained he was buying them because they came with a free giftcard when bought together. I chuckled and said, “…Okay…” as I rang out his stuff. He continued rambling in a good-natured way, not trying to be insensitive, but coming off that way in his attempt to preserve his manhood, which to be honest was not in question to begin with. I had the urge to call him out by outing myself to prove a point. But then I thought that could make things even more awkward, so I chose a lighter but still ballsy, “What’s wrong with being gay?” “Nothing!” he insisted quickly, “I’m just not gay.” Gf was still laughing and agreed with me, “So what if you were? She doesn’t care.”

I’m not sure why it was so important to this guy that I was convinced of his heterosexuality; the presence of his girlfriend was enough. And honestly, I’ve had much weirder purchases, guy, and I do my best not to judge or make assumptions. It is perfectly plausible that he was just a man who wanted to take care of his skin, regardless of who he likes to date.

This is the thing though; you never know who you’re talking to in situations like these. What if I had just come out to my parents and it hadn’t gone well and they kicked me out? Imagine that guy’s face if I just broke down sobbing right then and there. Or what if I had taken the outraged I’m-gay-so-what-are-you-getting-at-buddy approach? I could’ve easily just chewed him out right there at the cash register. But I didn’t, because I wanted to keep things friendly and keep my job. I hope that my “What’s wrong with being gay?” was enough to make him think twice before making homophobic remarks the next time he embarrassedly buys skin care products.

As they were leaving, I handed him his free giftcard and he asked me if I knew if what he’d bought was any good. Just because I’m a girl I’m supposed to have an infinite knowledge of these things? I laughed and said, “I have no idea, I don’t use skincare products.” Bam. Take that social stereotypes.

The problem is that homophobia is so deeply rooted into our society that most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. There’s a guy I work with whom I find annoying as hell who also happens to be gay. Am I annoyed by his flamboyancy or is he just an annoying person? And even if it was because he’s flamboyant, is that being homophobic or merely a case of opposing personality types? I don’t know; it is nearly impossible to distinguish. I will say that I have very few gay male friends, and the ones I do have are generally not very flamboyant. But is that because I am generally turned off by femininity in any form, or because I am specifically intolerant of male femininity?

As I have said before, homophobia is intrinsically linked to sexism because it stems from a reverence of “pure” masculinity. When one defines homophobia as hatred or mistrust of male femininity or female masculinity, it becomes clear that while we may approach the issue of homophobia with the best intentions and declare ourselves “open-minded” or “accepting,” in order to truly eradicate homophobia, whether intentional or not, we must dissolve sexism. Which is no easy task as it is still so pervasive in our way of thinking. Until we let go of sexism, we will be incapable of accepting that masculinity and femininity can never be separate entities and that both are present in males and females (and everyone else). Similarly, once we dispense with the hierarchy of masculinity being paramount to femininity, maybe we can break down all the other hierarchies that pop up with in the categories of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

QueerTV: Eff You Ryan Murphy

Published January 24, 2013 by auddity

Okay, I have been a Glee fan since the beginning and have stuck with it despite its ups and downs. But I am beginning to hate Ryan Murphy. No, I loathe Ryan Murphy. Right now I am watching the Sadie Hawkins episode of Glee and the whole premise is to empower women and to make people who feel like no one will say “yes” to them put themselves out there and ask anyway. While the empowered woman in me who frequently puts herself out there is thrilled by this message, the queer in me is not amused. The Glee girls sang their invitations to the Glee men, and the first girl up was Tina. She sang to her gay friend Blaine and he promptly responded no. We come to find out it was because he was crushing on his straight friend Sam. But Sam is dating Brittany and Blaine doesn’t want to mess up their friendship, so he eventually says yes to Tina as friends.

Here’s the thing though, I get Blaine not being open to a date with a girl. Some people are decidedly gay and not open to sexual fluidity. However, Blaine did have a pretty steamy kiss with Rachel earlier in the series. Why not just try it out? See what happens? Because Ryan Murphy is as open-minded as a telephone pole. And as contradictory as Michele Bachman. Murphy can’t conceive of his prim, fashion-forward but still masculine, gay white male ever deigning to explore his sexuality, but he has no problem having his lesbian characters flying all over the sexual orientation spectrum. Brittany, who is now dating Sam, initially identified as straight until she started dating her best friend Santana. She was hesitant about embracing her lesbian identity (I would’ve actually liked to see her strongly identify as bi or pan or queer, but that is too avant garde for Murphy), but once she was comfortably settled into her sexuality and ready to be out and proud, Murphy pulled the same trick and had Brittany once again “switch teams” and date her male best friend. While this may seem like a win for sexual fluidity, I personally feel like Murphy values the sanctity of the gay experience, but doesn’t respect the lesbian experience enough to take it seriously. If Brittany could do it why couldn’t Blaine? Because Brittany’s supposed fluidity is really just for the convenience of the plot, not for the sake of alternative sexual identities.

One only has to watch a couple episodes of Murphy’s new show, The New Normal, to detect his obsession with the Great White Gay. (I only made it through a couple episodes, so don’t ask me for any recaps.) The script is teaming with racism, sexism, and classism, only thinly veiled by the, “It’s okay, we’re gay!” excuse. Just because you’re part of a minority, doesn’t give you the right to make fun of other minorities, Ryan Murphy. And it certainly doesn’t give you an “in” with them. Don’t pretend you understand what it’s like to be a person of color, or an immigrant, or a single mother; as an affluent gay white male, you still have a huge amount of privilege, especially in the current social climate.

Getting back to the Glee episode, the only other girls to sing songs were the pretty skinny girls singing to their pretty boyfriends (Kurt also asked out his hot Great White Gay new show choir director). Unique, the “transgender” character, who is consistently denied a trans storyline, did not get to sing a song or feel empowered or dance with a guy or dance with a girl, even at the end when the other girls stopped being wallflowers and asked the guys to dance. Fuck you Ryan Murphy.

Sexual Disorientation: Warning, May Cause Dizziness, Nausea, And Existential Crises

Published January 18, 2013 by auddity

I identify as pansexual because that’s the word that I think most closely describes my sexual orientation, but I don’t actually think that I am pansexual. Can you even be pansexual without the sex part?? Probably, but sometimes it feels like I can’t really know how I identify until I’ve had sex. “Pan” means “all” or “every,” but I’m not attracted to everyone. I know that’s not what pansexual means – obviously pansexual people aren’t attracted to everyone – but when I am attracted to someone, I am only attracted to that one person. When I am not interested in any one person, it almost feels like I’m attracted to no one. Not in an asexual way (although maybe???), but more like my sexual orientation is a compass. When I am attracted to someone, really attracted – emotionally, physically, sexually, romantically – not just a passing attraction, my internal compass orients itself. But when I don’t have someone in my life it just kind of spins and spins and doesn’t point anywhere. It is disoriented. Is there a word for that? Does there have to be?

Being in a state of disorientation is exactly as it sounds, very disorienting. You don’t realize how heavily we define ourselves by our sexual orientation until you don’t have one. When you picture your future, who are you supposed to picture it with? When you talk crushes with your friends, how can you accurately express that while you may find people attractive, you’re not actually attracted to anyone right now, man or woman, gay or straight, cis or trans, not even in a theoretical way. Not even in a silly, in-your-wildest-dreams celebrity crush kind of way. It is very hard to put into words, because for most people, even if they aren’t seeing anyone, they are attracted to people. At this point in my life I don’t feel that I am.

Does that mean that I am just waiting for the next person to come along who will awaken some kind of sexual attraction in me? I’m not sure I like the idea that my sexual orientation is contingent on someone else. Shouldn’t that be a thing that is uniquely mine? There’s a sense of dependency in that – a sense of powerlessness. I don’t want to be a radio, that every once in a while broadcasts a song clearly as it is tuned back and forth, but otherwise only transmits ever-changing variations of static. Who is tuning the dial in this scenario? I don’t think it’s me.

6 Things People Don’t Want To Hear…

Published November 8, 2012 by auddity

When They’re Coming Out As Gay

  1. I Always Knew You Were Gay
  2. You Don’t Look/Sound/Act Gay
  3. Are You Sure You Just Haven’t Found the Right Person of the Opposite Gender Yet?
  4. Oh Great, Now You Can… Be My Personal Stylist, Fix My Toilet, Be My Sassy Gay Friend, Take Me To Gay Bars, Etc.
  5. I Understand You Because I… Took This Gender Studies Class This One Time, Watched The L Word/Queer As Folk/Will And Grace, Have A Gay Aunt, Etc.
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?

When They’re Coming Out As Bi/Pansexual

  1. You Just Want… Attention, To Sleep Around, To Jump On The Bandwagon, Etc.
  2. Yeah, But Which Are You Really, Gay or Straight?
  3. Your New-found Sexual Orientation Doesn’t Actually Count
  4. Don’t Give In To Societal Pressure To Conform To The Heteronormative!
  5. I Understand You Because I’m Gay
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?

When They’re Coming Out As Transgender

  1. I Always Knew You Were A Boy/Girl
  2. You Look Better As A Boy/Girl
  3. Are You Sure? Because This Decision Will Affect The Rest Of Your Life.
  4. Does That Mean You’re Going To… Have “The Surgery,” Cut Off Your Junk, Dress In Drag, Shoot Up Hormones In Front Of Me, Etc.
  5. I Understand You Because I’m Gay/Bi/Pansexual
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?

Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: What Lies Between

Published June 25, 2012 by auddity

This is an excerpt of a paper I wrote for an intro Gender Studies class last fall. It is particularly resonating with me at such an in-between part of my life:

Farther down the sexual orientation hierarchy is an in-between identity that is sometimes signified by a “Q” tacked onto the end of the acronym. The Q stands for “queer” or “questioning,” yet this can be something of a misnomer. The “questioning” category creates a space for queer individuals who may be contemplating their sexuality and who are temporarily in between sexual orientation identities. But what about those who live in the in-between? There are some people who simply do not wish to identify with any of the existing sexual orientation categories. They are not “questioning” whether they are gay or bisexual; they are simply neither. There is something immensely isolating about not knowing how to identify yourself with in your own head, your own frame of reference. The lack of definition indicates that society has not invented a term for you; you are indefinable. It is the validity of your identity that is questioned, not your sexual orientation.

We must recognize not only that “in-between identities” exist, but that they carry varying levels of privilege. There is privilege in definition.

Some Helpful Diagrams

Published June 4, 2012 by auddity

Here is a flowchart I made of some basic terms. Key word: basic. There is a lot more complexity involved when discussing lgbt labels. My goal here was simply to introduce some new terms and to illustrate that things like sex, gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.

Here is the link to the full sized chart: http://www.gliffy.com/pubdoc/3631165/L.png

Also there is a really cool diagram that I’ve seen called the genderbread person, which illustrates that these “labels” actually all lie on a spectrum of various identities.

This is totally not my image, so I have no claim to its awesomeness. I think these types of illustrations are really helpful in clearing up some common misconceptions that we tend to carry about sex and gender. Hope they helped!

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