Archive for the Orientation Category

Unconscious desires

Posted in Orientation, Romance, Sexuality on March 18, 2009 by alterisego

I’ve been overexamining my desires so much that I don’t have the slightest idea anymore what I’m into or even what my sexual orientation is. But, just now, I was awoken rudely from a sex dream by my alarm clock, so I had the opportunity to find out. And it wasn’t at all what I would have expected: it was a very vanilla, romantic, lesbian love story. It involved a lot of cuddling and slow-dancing with the woman who was the object of my affections, who I don’t think was anyone in real life. It was weird. It’s very much thrown me for a loop, so much was I expecting rough sex to make up the sum of my unconscious desire, and also so much was I doubting both my womanness and at the same time my queerness. I mean, I guess this dream isn’t the sum total of my sexual preferences, but it was a startling indication.

In which California really hits home

Posted in Current Events, Gender, Orientation, Real Life, Sexuality on December 18, 2008 by alterisego

Although I’ve of course been outraged about the passage of California’s Proposition 8 since November 4, Saturday was the first day that I realized the decision could affect me personally. I’m from California originally, and I was home visiting and talking to a friend about how the woman I was sitting next to on a plane for almost five hours thought, even as we landed, that I was male. She had asked me what I do, I said I was in college, she asked me my major, I said I’m undecided but I’m leaning towards sociology, and she said (rather strangely, actually), “That’s great! You can come home every day and tell your wife about all the interesting people you’ve met!”

Of course, this woman had failed to grasp the basic concept of sociology, but many people don’t know what it is; what I told my friend was that it puzzled me that she had sat next to me for five hours and she’d still come out with the oh-so-gendered “your wife.” My friend joked, “Well, you know, maybe she did mean ‘your wife.'” I shook my head. “Not in this state,” I said. “Not in this fucking state.”

And that was the point when I realized that Prop. 8 isn’t just about all the gay moms and dads out there, or even young couples who are still ten years older than me. It became clear to me that when I decided to take this fight seriously, I’m fighting for my own self-preservation just as much as that of a random jumble of letters (L, G, B, T, etc.) that somehow come together to signify a disenfranchised community.

I’m fighting for the right for a woman to say that to me on the plane, see what I am, and still mean “your wife.”

Thoughts on identifying as genderqueer

Posted in Feminism, Gender, Orientation, Sexuality on October 17, 2008 by alterisego

I’ve been toying with this one for a while. I’ve never really felt totally on board with the “genderqueer” label—my Facebook says I’m “gender-nonconforming.” I identify with physical femininity and the submissiveness with which it is stereotypically associated, with having breasts and hips, and often in fantasy-land with the notion of being penetrated. But socially, I cringe at the limitations of this identity. I want the advantages of a penis: to be able to pee standing up, to jerk off like a guy. I want to be able to move with that oh-so-masculine physical assurance, to sit down with my legs spread and selfishly take up a whole couch or car backseat. Every once in a while I’m seized with this burning desire to grab some fantasy woman and fuck her with the aforementioned fantasy penis. And sometimes I think I try to rationalize the two by being a dyke, by socially combining brashness and shyness, by looking at women but not entirely being comfortable in their company, by dressing in androgyny on a daily basis but never bothering to entirely hide the curves of my body.

I wish I could press a button and go back and forth, endlessly flipping: straight woman to gay woman to straight man. I wish that in an instant I could blink my eyes and have a penis I could aim at a urinal, then blink them again and have tits that fill out a low-cut shirt. (Notice that my own innate reproductive anatomy is absent from this discussion. I don’t like vulva, vagina, clit, etc., I don’t like how I’m scared of them and revile them. If they’re present in the hypothetical blinking, it’s only as an unfortunate side effect of the feminine mindset, which is only ever desirable for entirely different reasons.)

Since I’ve been at college, I’ve met people who feel a little like this, or so they tell me. They talk about having different facets of their identities that manifest as masculine or feminine—I know one person who has a masculine and a feminine spelling of eir name, and who asks that we use pronouns like “eir” to refer to, well, eir (apparently the genitive and accusative have the same form in this declension?). It’s led me to think that there might be some rationale, some sanity, to this identity mumbo-jumbo. These people I’ve met identify as genderqueer—maybe I could too.

After all, isn’t “genderqueer” the accepted label for anyone who feels that their gender is fluid, who doesn’t fit into binary, who doesn’t feel like their biology but doesn’t want to transition? But at the same time, I think this is down to some personal fucked-upedness on my part—I don’t feel sane enough about it, reasonable enough, to claim it as an identity. And on a broader level, I can’t decide whether I even want a gender identity, really. I don’t know what I feel like I need to explain or justify. I look and act the way I do; anyone can see that and take from it what they will. All, I think, that anyone needs to know is that I’m open to advances from both men and women (though as you might be able to guess from the tripartite identity discussed above, “bisexual” doesn’t quite cut it). But then I also am inclined to think that all this tripartitude isn’t legit if I can’t classify and explain it. It’s as if in order to be alternately pleased when someone calls me “sir,” fear the women’s restroom, and wear a dress and shave my legs for prom, I need a good reason. And then, on the other hand, I wonder why I need to justify myself to anyone.

College is for this cogitating. I don’t feel like it’s something I can tell my mother, or the psychologist/counselor guy I’m now seeing, or the director of the LGBT Center, or the master of my college (whom I would otherwise confide in). It’s too weird, too experimental—and also too vested in my gender-essentialist D/s desires (assonance/consonance, yes?). In a weird way, it seems like I only want to revolt against gender in order to confirm every stereotype about it, and that’s not PC at all.

I know this will take years, and that even then it’s not going to be easy to describe my entire psychological self-portrait with a single label. But in the interim I need something to put on my Facebook profile.

Quote of the day

Posted in Kink, Orientation, Real Life, Sexuality on April 13, 2008 by alterisego

“And what’s wrong with being a lesbian and still liking a bit of meat on Saturdays?”

I’ve decided that that right there is my sexual orientation.

In other news, I contacted the BDSM discussion group guys at U1 and they told me that their group is very much active and welcomes new members, and also pointed me in the direction of a support group for young BDSMers in U1’s city. It’s going to be very difficult not to make a decision on this basis…

University: my future

Posted in Gender, Kink, Orientation, Real Life, Sexuality on March 31, 2008 by alterisego

Right now, I am in the process of trying to decide what university I will be attending next year. Yeah, I know, like biggest decision of my life so far… and I feel like it’s all coming down in my subjective mindset to sexuality shit.

After sundry rejections and discarding places I just don’t want to go to, I’m faced with a decision between two institutions, both big, academically-prestigious universities in the US. The academics at University II are considered to be better than at University I, but there’s no denying that I’d get an amazing education at either school. In many ways, University II (henceforth “U2”, with apologies to the band) is seen to be more conservative, “old school”, than University I (“U1”), despite its incredibly active and apparently really cool LGBT group. U1’s LGBT group is less active, but they have gender-neutral housing: this year you can only request it if you’re transgender or genderqueer, and I definitely don’t want to get into a thing with my parents about that, and I’m not really sure I’m genderqueer anyway. But next year it will be an option for everyone, and that’s a huge plus for me.

But you know what U1 has which is almost the tipping point in my decision? That’s right: a BDSM discussion group. The only one I’d ever heard of was the one at Columbia, and U1 ain’t Columbia. But there I was reading the list of student organizations at U1, looking for a literary magazine or something to join, and the words “Safe, Sane and Consensual” popped out at me. Yup, it was what I thought it was: really really really truly a BDSM discussion group for students at the school. I was so excited… and then two days later I got my admission to U2.

I’m excited by the idea of being an iconoclastic student at U2, in more ways than sexually. But yeah, I could go ahead and start the BDSM discussion group at U2, and I have no doubts that I could find some people among the undergraduate student body to join it. But I’m just so tantalized by the idea of attending a university where such a thing is active and condoned and all (they even sell funny t-shirts) that I’m willing to discard all trailblazing sentiments, all notions of better academics, and even the great financial aid that U2 gave me (U1 didn’t give me any; all I get are federal grants).

I know this is a terrible reason to make a decision that’s going to impact me for the rest of my life. But oh how wonderful it would be to deal with this shit in real life.

What was that, my coming-out conversation?

Posted in Kink, Orientation, Porn/Erotica, Real Life, Sexuality on March 12, 2008 by alterisego

Originally posted on my private blog on 28 February 2008.

I just had the most terrible conversation I’ve ever had with my mom. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but I think I feel worse right now than I do after the screaming matches, the hysteria, the bleak depression and the exasperation of the two hour-long circular conversations.

Because on the way home in the car tonight, my mom asked me if my Facebook profile is private. She assumed it was public, because she assumed I just like to be as open and exhibitionist and unsafe about myself as possible, and that I wanted to let everyone in the world know what books I read and what movies I see. Sorry, I’m being unfair to my mom with that. I’ll tone down the resentment. She was just concerned that I might be denied a job in the future, or hurt in some other way—not because there are any pictures of me doing anything illegal or irresponsible on my Facebook, but because Story of O and Coming to Power are listed in my favourite books.

So we had to have a conversation. A very, very awkward, beating-around-the-bush conversation, about my “signalling”, her “notions of what constitutes privacy” versus mine, and how people “will put two and two together”. She said she didn’t judge the content, just the openness. But to me the two go hand in hand, and now I feel wrong. Just, wrong. I tried to justify myself, my actions and my identity. Mom said that she didn’t base her identity on sexuality, and it almost seemed like she was criticizing my sense of sexual identity. I tried to defend that, saying how that sense of collective identity is important for any minority. I said that I wasn’t ashamed of anything on my Facebook, that no one but my friends and people in my high school network could see it anyway, that I know how to be safe and responsible online, and keep private what should be private, and what seemed very important to me, that I am theoretical and dispassionate. I tried to imply (of course not in so many words) that this had nothing to do with porn, what turns me on, whatever. This is to do with literature, with cinema. This is to do with the fact that there are certain things I, unusually, see as normal—and so that doesn’t disqualify certain good pieces of writing and film from making it onto my lists.

But now I feel judged. I feel wrong. I feel like I’ve made mistakes. I don’t want to go against my mom’s wishes, against our family values, whatever it is. I feel like the right thing to do is to take all my giveaways off the Facebook, that if my mom says to hide it that’s the right thing to do. I’m trying to tell myself that my belief in not living in secret is wrong, that my desire to share my favourite books is just disgusting exhibitionism, that what I am is inappropriate for public and maybe even inappropriate for private too. I don’t want to disappoint my mom. I don’t want to be inappropriate. I must be wrong in thinking that I have a good handle on my privacy, the difference between theory and TMI, and all that real-world stuff. I should be trying harder at delineating sexual topics as taboo. I should be reinforcing those societal norms. If I have to do it, I should do it in the privacy of my head and offline and in the dark, furtively.

That’s not the way I want to live. That’s not how I think anyone should live. I don’t think it’s healthy, I don’t think it’s right, and fundamentally I don’t see a real problem with me being me. I have the inclinations I have, and I like to analyse myself, understand myself, and be open about this process. I also like to instigate dialogue, teaching moments, and a whole new range of innuendo. I like to open people’s minds. I like to insinuate. I never go round to random strangers and get in their face about sex. I don’t even like to discuss my bisexuality at GSA, for crissakes. I just like to insinuate, drop hints, and not be scared to hide my books. Matter-of-fact. Not embarrassed. And if I want to read a book that’s, um, non-mainstream, why shouldn’t I? It’s not like I have sexual responses. It’s not like I’m jacking off in public. It’s literature. And I know people don’t understand that. But to me, if porn isn’t funny, it’s academic. And the books on my favourite books list aren’t funny and aren’t quite academic. They’re enthralling, psychologically mesmerising. But they’re books. They’re my books. And why should I hide them?

Oh? Then why do I have a backpack filled with verboten books under my bed?

I’m hoping someone is going to reassure me that there is nothing wrong with what I have on my Facebook profile, and nothing wrong with me. I want someone to tell me I’m not a gross pervert or whatever because there are books with omg sex! in them on my Facebook. I want someone to tell me that writing “Story of O” on my Facebook doesn’t constitute describing my fetishes in graphic detail to random strangers.

But I’m scared of what you will say. I’m scared you will tell me I go to far, that I need to be more circumspect, that sex—and especially my “version” of what sex constitutes—isn’t appropriate for high-schoolers and Facebook. I don’t want you to tell me that my mom is right. But I’m scared you will. I’m scared there is something wrong with me, more fundamental than my repression and my body image issues and all that normal stuff. I’m scared to be twisted. I feel like I should be apologizing. But if I think about it, I don’t really quite know why.

Valentine’s Day and college applications

Posted in Current Events, Feminism, Orientation, Real Life, Romance on February 14, 2008 by alterisego

I hate Valentine’s Day. Loathe it. Detest it. Revile it. Abhor it. Et cetera. This vitriol has been born of several years of external pressure to “have a valentine”, I suppose. Even if you aren’t “together” with someone on February 14, it seems like you’re expected to express your affection in other ways. My school ran a “Valentine Gram” thing and we were presented with various opportunities to send messages to our secret crushes. Folks ask other folks out. And of course all the established couples have to do the whole roses/chocolates/dinner ew stereotypical clichéd expensive sexist materialist version of romance thing. And I can’t stand the industry, and I resent the pressure that I need to be with someone or pursuing someone. It’s sort of like how in junior high and early high school, the reason I completely stopped hanging out with girls for a time was because they were always asking me, “Who do you like?” and I usually felt ashamed of my crushes, either because they were other girls or because they were unpopular or conventionally unattractive (male or female) kids, and I hated the invasion of privacy. It’s just the same on Valentine’s Day. We’re asked to publicly declare our love, make a holiday and an occasion out of it — that’s not so much my style.

I mentioned the materialism, and I guess that’s the easiest element of Valentine’s Day to pinpoint as unpleasant. One of my major annoyances in life, that I’m not nearly as vocal about as I’d like to be, is the popular assumption that maintaining a romantic and/or sexual relationship with someone entails buying them off: with dinners, movies and other entertainment, tokens of affection like flowers or jewelry or other presents. I have never been able to understand the way that to so many of my peers, the people who they say “I love you” to become prostitutes: folks date people they don’t even like personally, trying to win them over with these material gifts just because they’re attractive, good in bed, etc. I know that it works this way slightly less in the real world, but in the world of not-quite-adults, this is what I see. This is how Valentine’s Day looks to my eyes: a passing period that’s an unusual sea of red and pink, heart-shaped balloons floating above the seething mass of teenagers and your risk of bumping into someone carrying a tray of cupcakes increased exponentially.

And don’t even get me started on the subjugation, theory terms. Sexism, of course, and heteronormativity. Valentine’s Day promotes everything that is “acceptable” to the mainstream. And I know that loads of “unacceptable” folks are expressing their love on Valentine’s Day — the event was touched on at the lesbian parenting blog Mombian, for example, and Valentine’s Day productions of The Vagina Monologues have happened across the country. But ask the proverbial, er, person on the street, and they’re hardly going to call Valentine’s Day a celebration of sex-positivism and love having no boundaries and all that good stuff. No, it’s candy hearts and pink paper decorations and mainstream, mainstream, mainstream.

So enough of that, and now we’ll transition neatly into another rant, also having to do with heteronormativity. In the process of figuring out what corner of North America I’ll be in come September, I also have to find some funds to get me there. Doing so requires filling out quite a few forms, such as the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board company’s CSS/Profile, in addition to various schools’ individual forms. Now, my family is of the one-mom, one-dad, still-married variety, but I’ve paid close attention to the wordings on the forms asking for copious details on every aspect of yours and your parents’ finances. Of everything I’ve filled out to date, only one form — the CSS/Profile — contains spaces for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”, then asking you to further specify whether each parent is a mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, legal guardian, etc. You could conceivably complete the form with two mothers, two fathers, a mother and a stepmother, etc. However, no other form is so forgiving, restricting your options to just one mother and one father. It’s mind-boggling: I mean, I expect this sort of thing from the government, so wasn’t too surprised to see it on the FAFSA. But then you have these private universities who are supposedly so enlightened as to have gender identity listed in their non-discrimination statements, and can’t manage to account for families with LGBT parents. I wrote an email to one school, since they asked for feedback on their online financial aid application, protesting this set-up. Somewhat predictably, I didn’t receive a reply.

I also have to wonder how parents with any more complicated family configuration deal with the intricacies of the financial aid forms. I have friends whose parents (of the one mother-one father configuration) are divorced, and these require that the non-custodial parent fill out an independent form, in addition to the standard form being filed by the custodial parent and the child. But what about families where the parents live together, but one was unable to secure second-parent adoption? What about families where one parent is not the biological mother or father? There are also, I am sure, even less traditional parenting arrangements, not limited to sets of parents less than or equal to two, that sort of thing, though I don’t suppose anyone can expect them to be accounted for anytime soon.

Anyway. So I know we can pretty much expect discrimination everywhere, but I was honestly surprised by the situation of financial aid.

And that was your set of rants for this evening.