Tag Archives: difference between sexual orientation and gender identity

Time Enough at Last: The Liebster Awards

The last man on Earth

How do I define and elicit passion? A Q & A for the Liebster Awards.

Thank you, Sexually Fluid Frolicker, for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Your thoughtful blog has enriched the internet.

Here are the questions you posted, and my answers. Rules and my nominees follow.

  1. What wants & needs do you possess, as an individual, that you find difficult to satisfy without outside assistance? Every single one of them. As introverted as I am, I am still a social animal. I might think I’d be like that guy in the “Twilight Zone” episode who is so happy to be the last man on Earth, with a full library in front of him… until my glasses broke. Even for the pleasure of solitude and reading, I need a world full of people, past and present, to have written all those books, printed and distributed them, and built the library to put them in. Going further, I need people because I couldn’t have invented a language with which to code my thoughts, and without all of you, there wouldn’t be much to think about.
  2. How would you define gender & sexuality? Are they distinct concepts in your head, or do they coalesce into something else? Our genders intersect with our sexual desires in discrete categories like “bisexual man” that form parts of our identities. They’re still separate: being a man is still different from being a woman, even if we share tastes in sexual partners. In my imagination of the sexual encounter, there is still the “me” half of it to consider: who I am, what my body looks like, and how I want it to be touched. So how I embody bisexuality will be different from how someone of another gender does, just on that basis. And then we’re still different people….
  3. How would you define intimacy and sexual intimacy? How do these definitions relate to your gender & sexuality, as defined above? Intimacy is about sharing personal information that makes me vulnerable to the person I’m sharing it with. I take the risk for the chance of developing a rewarding connection with another person. Sexual intimacy is a subset. The people I want to be intimate with is a personal choice, with so many factors, that I would say it’s a part of my personality, who I choose to be intimate with and in what ways. I’m also married and polyamorous, so who I’m intimate with is in some ways proscribed or defined by these identities.
  4. How do you most like to begin and end significant and/or meaningful experiences and relationships? Any dominating themes? To start, my actions are guided by questions like, “Am I being open?”, “What is this person sharing with me?”, and “What else would I like to elicit from this person?” When considering the end, I will ask myself, “Are we still being open?”, “Am I getting intimate feedback?”, and “Does what I’m getting from this relationship please me?” That might just be a readjustment point, or it may signal the end of a relationship/experience. As a theme, I’m more hesitant to go to the party—to initiate intimacy—than to leave it when I’m no longer having fun.
  5. Where do you go when you are full of feeling? Have you ever let others join you in those spaces? It could be a physical space, or otherwise. Ideally, this is a time when I ground myself in my body. I want to be there for it. And when that is the case, then I’m able to share the experience with others. Its opposite is dissociation, which is an isolated place.
  6. What does time mean to you in relation to your life? Which do you prefer to put the most and/or least emphasis on: the past, present, or future? It’s about now.
  7. Define fun. Within the human experience, what would you identify as it’s opposite? Define that too. Fun is effort with a reward built into it. Drudgery is like Sisyphus without the cardio benefits or the Nietzschean contemplation.
  8. Define passion. Within the human experience, what would you identify as it’s opposite? Define that too. Passion equals engagement, having a personal stake in the outcome. Its opposite is disconnection: when it genuinely doesn’t matter what you do, because you can’t affect the outcome, or the outcome doesn’t affect you.
  9. Do you enjoy searching for connections between thoughts and ideas? Why/how or why not? Yes, I’m a very curious person.
  10. What qualifies as sexual contact for you? More specifically, when does contact, physical or otherwise, cease to be sexual for you? Sexual contact is intended to elicit sexual arousal, and pleasure. When action doesn’t carry that intent, then it’s not. I’m taking “sexual contact” to be a kind of action verb, but of course it’s reciprocal, and so two people might be in contact, but one might intend it to be sexual, and the other not share that intent, or not even register what they’re doing as “contact.” Also, the one intending to give pleasure through their actions may not be succeeding (though this does not negate its sexuality, IMHO).
  11. Do you prefer to “go with the flow” or “stick to your guns”? In other words, which takes precedence in your life: your perceptions or your judgments (respectively)? Perceptions are more important and more durable. It’s harder to reverse engineer my own judgments later, when I realize I was wrong. I make an effort to record my perceptions, but also my judgments, so I have both to refer to when I come back to them.

Other blogs that I believe deserve Liebster Award recognition:

https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com
https://standup2p.wordpress.com
http://afroculinaria.com

Dear nominees: Here are my eleven questions for you.

  1. Pretend you’re at a conference where the usual identity labels are strongly discouraged, and instead, people are encouraged to find community based on labels that do not make reference to gender, race, religion, or any other social or political labels. Everyone gets a badge on which they can put some other kind of label that describes themselves. The idea is that, you will meet people you want to talk to, based on what they’ve written on their labels. What’s on yours?
  2. You’ve invited the one person from all of history you’d most like to have to dinner, and you’ve both just sat down and introduced yourself. Now a waiter has brought you one small tart (which is equally acceptable to both you) to split as an amuse bouche. Script the ensuing interaction between you and your guest in a way that demonstrates what you admire most about this person or why you want to meet them.
  3. What is your quest?
  4. What technology has become available in your lifetime that has most changed the course of your life?
  5. What institution of everyday life do you admire most, and why?
  6. Do you clean up as you cook, or clean everything up afterward?
  7. What was your favorite book when you were twenty, and how has your opinion of this book changed?
  8. How does concern for search engine rankings affect the way you write for your blog?
  9. If you could purchase and install deep knowledge of a subject into your brain (it’s perfectly safe!), what would it be and why?
  10. In what way would you say you are most privileged in relation to other people you know?
  11. Does the life of a “Doctor Who” companion appeal to you, and why or why not?

**Here are the Liebster Award rules for this round **

  1. Thank the person who nominated you by tagging their original post to yours.
  2. Answer 11 questions.
  3. Nominate other bloggers who deserve this award.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Put these rules in your post.
  6. Inform the bloggers you have nominated.

Image credit: Hollywoodaholic.com

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Sasha Blue

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The streets were dark and Sasha remarked that he’d always found the electric blue of a car’s dashboard “brights” indicator to be an especially beautiful one.

A friend died this year, too far away for me to get to the funeral. He had a chronic condition that I knew would contribute to his early death, but I was still taken by surprise to hear he’d been found unconscious in his home. Sasha never recovered. He died in the hospital about a week later.

When I was in my early twenties, Sasha was my closest friend. He was there when I was figuring out so many things about myself. Sasha was clever, sarcastic, smart, and graceful, making him welcome wherever he went. And because I was his trusted friend, he let me cross some of the boundaries in his life: between the straight world of Tampa and the semi-secret world of gay bars and dance parties, between the youthful university culture where we met, and the eighty and ninety year old ballroom dance students Sasha taught. Perhaps most importantly, he told me once that it is necessary to sort out what one desires from what one wants to be. It wasn’t more than a few months later that I began to transition from female to male.

Sasha was color blind. Color blindness of the most common sorts, like Sasha’s red-green version, mean that some colors are difficult to distinguish, not that there is no color at all. One night, I was riding home in Sasha’s car with two of our friends in the back seat. The streets were dark and Sasha remarked that he’d always found the electric blue of a car’s dashboard “brights” indicator to be an especially beautiful one. He wondered if we saw the same shade of blue he did. He might have also wondered if it stood out for him more than it did for us, because he had fewer beautiful colors in his visible spectrum.

Sasha had a way of being “on,” entertaining but not permeable. This was a different kind of remark, one that invited us in. We all craned our necks to see the shade of blue that Sasha found so captivating. And we agreed that it was, indeed, a beautiful shade of blue. I’ve wondered at times why this moment stuck with me, what it said about Sasha or about me. It is the one that came back to me most clearly, in the days after his death.

For the years that we were friends and roommates, Sasha let me tag along with him to the ballrooms where he gave dance lessons, to Denny’s to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while we studied, and to the bars where he sang karaoke and danced and tried to score. I’d roam the dark rooms as if searching for someone. In the small country western bar where we threw darts with Sasha’s straight friends, drank Budweiser, and sang, I relearned how to be on stage, close enough to make eye contact, so near to the speakers that I couldn’t hear the sound of my unamplified voice and had to trust my experience in hitting the notes and what it felt like to vibrate at that frequency. Sometimes I failed to polite applause. But sometimes, it was like flying.

My transition put a wall between Sasha and me. Sasha, who studied gender performance and whose books were the first I read on the subject of transgenderism, thought I was making the wrong choice: that I was confusing what I wanted with what I wanted to be. My new identity felt fragile but real and worth protecting, so I pulled away from my closest friend, began making new friends who understood and respected my identity. I dressed more conservatively as a man than I had as a woman. My voice began to change and the songs didn’t come as easily, dropped out of my repertoire as the highest notes escaped my range.

It’s been years, now, since I’ve sang in public. After Sasha died I thought about going out again and giving it a try, to remember him, but it isn’t the same. I’m out of practice and too self conscious to sing anywhere except when I’m in the car alone. I haven’t had my own automobile in more than ten years. When I need to go somewhere, I borrow my husband’s car, and if I’m driving home late at night from wherever I’ve been, sometimes I will sing to keep myself awake. And sometimes, if I’m on winding country roads and put on my brights, the periwinkle glow of the icon on the dash will transport me to my twenties, the streets of Tampa, riding in the passenger seat of Sasha’s car.

Image credit: johnthoward1961/Flickr

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Like a Deer in Headlights

the hot seat

Preparing to be interviewed can only take you so far. Then, you have to be there for it.

Last week in an interview, I was asked about the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation—the difference between who we are and who we’re into. In response, I paraphrased the end of an essay I’ve written about my marriage to another transgender man: “We transitioned to match our bodies to our feelings of already being men. Our sexual orientation is who we are attracted to.”

“But don’t people find that confusing?” she asked. Startled, I responded, “I don’t see what’s so confusing about that.” My interviewer flinched. I knew then that I’d screwed up, but felt powerless to fix it. My response to her first question had taken me years to formulate. But for the rest of the interview, she seemed rushed and not quite engaged in my answers.

After a human interaction in which I think I’ve said something wrong, I get acutely anxious. I call it “the posties,” as in, “post-event anxiety.” The first time I meet someone, or after a party, meeting, or training, I will inevitably go over anything I said that seemed to provoke a negative or surprising response. Even if the rest of the encounter goes all right, I’ll review the situation in my mind for days (even years) afterward, until I figure out what I’ll do next time, if there ever is one.

I’d made a pedagogical mistake in my defensiveness, one I learned back in my college days: don’t ever say that the solution to someone’s question is simple. It makes them feel stupid for not having figured it out, themselves, when you start off your explanation dismissively, by saying things like “simply do this” or “it’s easy to….” It’s not “easy” or “simple” to the person asking the question.

I kept thinking about that interview. I know I’ll be asked this question again, in some form or another. This interviewer was extremely polite; sometimes it comes out in a far more combative way, like “Why become a man just so you can date men?” Because it isn’t the same as being a woman who dates men. Isn’t that obvious? Evidently not.

When I panic, I’m not there: I’ve dissociated and one of my fear responses has been activated. I’m fighting, running away, shutting down. When I’m being interviewed by a woman who is halfway around the world, fighting doesn’t happen with fists or yelling, but with stonewalling and shaming. I’d panicked, and evidently panicked her, as well.

I need to prepare better answers to the questions that inevitably come up, but more than this, I need to be there for the people who are asking them. No amount of preparation can substitute for awareness in the moment.

Image credit:Pete Prodoehl/Flickr

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