I Don’t Think It’s Simple As ‘Want’

Bruce Jenner, stepfather of the Kardashians, has spoken to American reporter, Dianne Sawyer and has confirmed that he’s transgender. Now, before I continue, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer here:I’m cis – gender and have a lack of genuine knowledge of transgender identities and what it’s like for transgender people. So, just to be clear, I’m not an expert by any means.

One thing that has struck me is the constant use of the word ‘want’. ‘If he wants to be a woman, then that’s fine’. The thing is, I don’t think it’s just a matter of want. I could want to be a few inches taller, but it’s really not that big of deal. I could want to have toast for breakfast. No big deal. From what I can understand, gender is a lot more complicated than that.

In the interview, Jenner opened up about how he played with his sister’s clothes and wanted to wear them as a child. I’ve heard a story of Chaz Bono (born Chastity) saying that he felt profoundly different growing up, from both gay (he did identify as gay before he realised he was transgender) and straight peers. People feel it when they realise they’re different. They don’t choose ‘hey, I’m going to be a male today’. It’s something they know deep down inside, often from an early age.

Identity, I feel is largely about what is, rather than what we can choose to be. That is, I feel, particularly true with gender and sexuality. To put it bluntly, people can choose to be true to themselves, or choose to live a lie. That seems to be what it boils down to for a lot of people.

Please send your thoughts. For those who do identify as transgender, what have your experiences been like?

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Invisible Orientation: An Introductoin To Asexuality Review – Part 2 ctd

Today, I’ll be talking about the section of the book “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker, continuing with Part 2.

After discussing the LGBT communities and discrimination, Decker talks about the asexual community and the diversity of ages in the group. Unfortunately, most data and forums that are available about asexuality are skewed to young people, probably mostly under 30. Some of these reasons might be obvious, like most of the discussion surrounding asexuality tends to happen online, something that many older people may not be involved in.

As Decker pointed out, young people have become somewhat more open about their sexuality than in the past, which in turn, has had younger people admitting or at the very least, realising that they may not experience any sexual attraction at all.

There is data to suggest that people are “coming out”, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, a lot younger than in the past. In the past, gay people didn’t come out until they left home and gained independence, around the age of 16. Today, teens and even preteens are identifying as LGBT and coming out much earlier. (I want to talk more about younger people coming out as asexual later).

The fact that asexual people who are more likely to be open about asexuality has its drawbacks; that people mistaken asexuality as a phase, something that people will “grow out of”, or will “change their mind on” once they have had sex. This is contrary to much research that indicates that many people experience  and start to work out their orientation in early to mid teens,either with or without sexual experience. http://www.case.edu/lgbt/resources/safe-zone-resources/truth/

Asexual teens and young adults can experience alienation from most of mainstream media and their peers, where sex and sexuality are often main talking points. I can relate to this personally, especially before I identified as asexual. I actually tried to avoid all conversations about sexuality at this time. That got frustrating and lonely. To be perfectly honest, Personal Development (or as it’s called in Australia, Personal Development/ Health and Physical Education or PDHPE) classes didn’t really help in Year 10 because of a no real talk about sexuality outside the gay/ straight binary, the assumption that everyone knew whether they were gay or straight by the age of fifteen (I didn’t) and no distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction. I didn’t get any real dismissive comments about my age, although some did say that I was still young. On the other hand, a lot of it was the opposite. Because I was sixteen at the time, I was expected to have worked out who I was and the fact that I hadn’t identified as gay by then (or before), some people just assumed I was straight. So, I was straight… and felt no attraction to men… yeah, it made perfect sense… not. Just to be clear, I don’t begrudge anyone about this. I come from a small town and went to high school in a small town (not the same one) and, as I’ve written before, the discussion about LGBT and the complexities of sexuality can be limited.

Just another point about teens. It can be particularly for adolescent boys to acknowledge their own lack of sexual attraction. Society bombards young men with the idea that men are supposed to be “full of testosterone” and “getting laid”. The stigma surrounding lack of sexual attraction can be stigmatised by both people who are straight and the gay community. So much of how masculinity is viewed is largely based on sexual performance or the desire to make sexual conquests. I can’t help but think that this can only lead to low self – esteem in young asexual men, and other problems.

There is a tragic paradox when it comes to older asexual people. On one hand, society likes to desexualise older people, yet older people who are asexual are often ignored. Children get “grossed out” if an older couple visibly displays affection or talk about sex. Conversely, older asexual people, especially women, are often looked down upon if they are not partnered by a certain age. Now, this is according to Decker. I know a few older people (who aren’t asexual to my knowledge), but they are single. I haven’t heard any negative comments about them. What does plague women though, especially over thirty, is the “ticking” of the biological clock. Women are told to hurry up and seek a partner/ spouse before it’s too late to have children. I find that annoying, to be honest. I get that it can be harder for older women (especially over 35) to fall pregnant, but just telling women to “hurry up” isn’t necessary going to help. And, what about men? Just saying. It takes two to tango, right? Then again, there are IVF, fostering, etc that is open to single women and same – sex couples in some States (I think NSW is one of them). Just putting it out there. I get that it’s often controversial. I’ve talked about both sides of the gay parenting/ adoption debate before.

Funnily enough, according to Decker, women in their 30’s who identify as asexual are often referred as “late bloomers”. No kidding? That’s late… except of course that as I pointed out before that sexual orientation is often (not always) discovered in the teenage years, including asexuality.

I just want ot talk about the desexualisation of older people. In aged care, it’s now expected that workers acknowledge the sexuality of their clients, including those who are LGBT. All community service workers are expected to acknowledge and respect the fact that elderly people are (often) sexual beings. It’s actually unlawful under anti – discrimination legislation to prevent couples to express affection to each other in aged care facilities. This includes same – sex couples. I hope that this doesn’t put undue pressure on people who don’t want to seek or engage in sexual activity or be partnered, regardless of whether they identify as asexual or not. I’m hoping that it’ll be discussed more in the future and, ultimately, respected.

 

There are asexual people who don’t, or didn’t realise they were asexual until after they married or entered long – term relationships. For these people, their lack of sexual attraction is pushed aside and there is a lot of compromise in the relationship; more than what would’ve happened if the asexual partner would’ve known or acknoweledged their asexuality. This has lead many people in long – term relationships to be frustraed and the asexual partner internalising harmful beliefs about them and the relationship. There does seem to be a very damaging perception that people “owe” sex to their partners (or anyone).

I get sex can be seen as an important part of a relationship to most people, but I think it’s gotten to the point where dangerous attitudes have been accepted by society, such as if a partner/ spouse doesn’t get sex, then the other partner deserves to be cheated on. I get that deliberately withholding sex in a relationship, especially out of spite is not the best idea, but the load shouldn’t all be on the asexual person either. Both parties should take part in voicing their needs and desires and work out individually what compromises can be made (if any). If a compromise can’t be met, then they may make the decision to break up. But it’s not up to everyone else to decide who should do what.

 

Asexual visibility is relatively new. It’s clear that the lack of visibilty and acceptance of asexual people has affected people across all age groups. Overtime, I hope this will improve (I’m quietly optimistic).

 

 

Sexual Orientation vs Gender Identity

I’m baaaack! And I did have a great week.

i was scrolling a blog before and couldn’t help but think that some people don’t understand the difference and the link between gender identity and sexual identity and orientation. In context, the comment I read (I have a habit of scrolling through comments when I read blogs) and when this particular com entire mentioned the term ‘asexual’, I couldn’t work out if this person actually understood what being asexual was or whether the person thought it was something to do with gender. So here goes.

Physical sex is essentially ‘what’s between the legs’ and/ or what one is assigned at birth.

Gender identity is how one identifies, either male (cis), female (cis), transgender, etc. Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t identify as cis gender. These include: male to female (MTF), female to male (FTM), a gender, gender neautral (nutrois), gender queer, gender fluid and bi – gender.

Sexual orientation: pattern of sexual attraction which usually starts at puberty. This is not the same as behaviour (even though most people do act on their attractions). It isn’t the same as romantic orientation, although for most people, itdoes go hand – in – hand with one’s sexual orientation.

For those who are new to the concept of asexuality, it’s a SEXUAL ORIENTATION (or lack of one, if you prefer). It is NOT a gender identity. People who identify as asexual are cis gender (like myself), or can fit under the Trans umbrella. One necessarily anything to do with the other. Sure, if someone who is Trans, they could ‘turn’ asexual after transition, but there area lot that don’t.

Now, your sexual and romantic orientation is going to be affected by how you identify gender wise. For example a straight man is generally a cis male who is sexually (and usually romantically) attracted to cis women. From what I can understand, if a Trans woman is attracted to women, then, she’ll identify as a lesbian like a cis – woman would.

Now, I admit that what I’ve just written is overly simplistic. I just wanted to point out that there is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, and I’ll repeat, asexuality is a sexual orientation (or non orientation). It is not a gender.

Two Personal Sides to the Gay Marriage/ Parenting Debate: Both Should Be Heard

are on all sides of the debate about gay marriage/ adoption/ IVF/ surrogacy. Recently I’ve heard and read about 2 very personal sides to the debate.

On the “pro” side is Labor Senator Penny Wong’s quite emotional response to Coalition Treasurer Joe Hockey in 2012.

 

Of course, the other side is the vote AGAINST gay marriage and adoption/ surrogacy, etc. Ironically, this article comes from a young American woman who was raised by lesbian parents for the majority of her childhood and speaks out against gay marriage.

Both of these really affected me. Why? Because it showed to me that both sides of the gay marriage/ parenting debate does have a very human side. Now, for the article, I don’t exactly know how common this feeling is among children being raised by same – sex parents, but it’s there and, to be honest, they should be able to be heard.

Commenting on the video from Q and A in 2012, I was actually taken aback by Penny Wong’s response to Joe Hockey’s view on parenting. She was, from the look of the video, genuinely hurt by the remarks. Most Australians would be aware that Wong and her partner, Sophie have two girls through IVF (I think. I looked at a photo of the two girls on Twitter last night and their absolutely gorgeous).

I just want to finish off by saying this. Regardless of what your view on gay marriage and parenting are, don’t create a World War III over it. People genuinely feel strongly about this on both sides and I think we should also be willing to listen to people (on both sides) who are directly affected by this issue.

 

When Empathy Is Limited

There has been a Twitter backlash against US Cosmo after holding a ‘Hello Gorgeous/ ‘RIP beauty comparison as one of their features. Problem? The models on the ‘Hello Gorgeous’ side were all Caucasian while models who were African American were featured in the ‘RIP’ side of the feature, sparking accusations of racism, an accusations staff at the women’s magazine vehemently deny.

This got me thinking about how diversity is preached about in the media, but, frankly rarely presented.  In Australis, for example. Most media personalities are: white, able – bodied, cisgender and, frankly, straight. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not calling for anyone to be sacked because of who they are. What I’m pointing at is that most people, particularly in the media, try to advocate for minorities without having any real idea of what it’s like to be in the situation themselves. I think sometimes that can lead to a misrepresentation of people and, to kind of quote Andrew Bolt, a lot of ‘seeming rather than doing’.

 

I’ll bad perfectly honest, the reason why I’m so vocal about discrimination and prejudices toward the LGBT+ community is because I can partly ( I emphasise partly) because of my own struggles in the past about my own sexuality, the self – hatred and, for a time, a fear of a homophobic backlash from people I cared about (that was more before I identified as asexual). For a brief while in my mid high school years, it did lead to some nastiness from certain peers in my year. That lead to some years on my part of confusion, fear of losing friends (family not so much) and self – hatred. Now I know that what I’ve listed is quite tame than what a lot of  LGBT+ people go through. These are just my experiences that I believe have lead me to believe in certain things the way I do.

Can everybody empathise with a marginalised group? Yes. But I think we all have to be aware of when our genuine understanding of another person’s experiences are limited, or, frankly don’t exist at all. That’s why I find it so refreshing when I hear stories of asexual people actually being able to tell their own stories rather than have someone else telling the story, and frankly, sometimes, I believe, misrepresenting asexual people one way or another.

What are you passionate about? What life events have made you driven to that passion? ( you don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want to)