Posts Tagged ‘discussion’
I have encountered definitions of human sexuality that embraced the whole person and described life as being lived out of our sexuality and specifically out of an energy of creative love. The definition of sexuality as love energy that contains the “spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological, social, and cultural aspects of relating to one another as embodied male and female persons” is very inclusive. However, when I approached my son, Colin, and engaged him in a discussion of what sexuality is and isn’t, the idea that sexuality is an overarching umbrella or container for our entire being and way of relating the world was rejected. Rejection did not come from a disturbance with the definition of sexuality, but came from attaching the word sexuality to that particular definition. This led to yet another discussion of the words we use around sexuality and gender. Our conclusion was and is that our language has not caught up with our ideas. We have come together here to express some of our ideas and why we think our current language is not working.
Human sexuality is very complex. It seems that a better word might be human relationality. Using the word sexuality, in our society, seems to put the very special love energy in the realm of sexual activity. Recdently, I worked as a Spiritual Director at the Strength for the Journey retreat for people living with HIV. I discussed the inclusive definition of human sexuality and to the last person, it was rejected. It made people feel like they were being defined in terms of sex. That is very difficult. Therefore, the first term up for renewal is what do we call this particular field? Human sexuality among those whose sexuality has been marginalized seems to be hard words to accept. Additionally, sexuality as we have been taught here is much more expansive than the socially understood definition. Is there a better term?
Colin: To me, sexuality is when you want to have a sexual relationship. A sexual relationship is a relationship you have sex or intercourse in. Sexuality for me and some of my peers is strictly related to intercourse. I will never have a sexual relationship because I am asexual.
Within human sexuality, there are many aspects that make up the person and their lived expression of human relatedness / love energy. There is their biology, sexual orientation, sexual expression, gender identity, gender expression, and romantic attraction. All of these things get so tangled up in our social discussions that mainly center on sexual identity. Am I missing anything?
Colin: Not that I can see. It feels like something is missing, but I can’t put my finger on it right now.
I am tempted to call these categories of human relationality or human sexuality. However, borrowing a slang term, I think the word scattegories might be more appropriate. It is nice to think that we are all on a continuum from one polarity to the other (masculine to feminine, for example); however, it carries a richer dimension that a simple continuum would suggest. How we interact with people is situational. We may act differently among different people. Additionally, each component overlaps messily into the other components. Separating out the components that make up human sexuality is nearly impossible. It seems more like buckshot being scattered all over a target—hence, scattegories.
Colin: Generally, I like defining these things separate and like to keep them separate. Though I can experience them together, I generally experience them separately. That is part of the reason I have the romantic attraction identities that I have.
In the video series, “Voices of Witness: Out of the Box,” James Walton, lists the questions that society expects easy answers to. The first question anybody asks of a new parent is, “Is it a boy or a girl?” He then lists biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as the things society are concerned with.
Colin: These are the questions that society expects, but I also think they are really ridiculous questions. The important questions are:
- Will you love this child no matter who or what they are?
- Will you see the goodness in each person around you?
- Will you see that everybody has an important point of view?
- Will you pay more attention to who the person is inside and less to temporary things like money, sex, and looks?
What Dr. Walton describes as biological sex, Colin and I often call primary sex characteristics in our conversations. It has also been described as genitality, I suppose. However, none of these definitions really seem to capture our bodies. Biology seems to be the best word I can think of. Who are we biologically? That becomes bigger than primary sex characteristics and captures our hormonal and genetic selves also. Is there a better word? This embodied being that we are is the container for everything that comes after, so it would seem that getting this word correct would be helpful! Traditionally, this is written on birth certificates as sex. And the answer is girl or boy. It is more complex than that.
Colin: Yes! It is more complex than that. First off, people who are born intersex do not always have the same genitalia that would be categorized as male or female. Secondly, if we want to think of it entirely from biology, biologically, I am male even though I was female assigned at birth (FAAB-female assigned at birth). My brain which is part of my biology says that I am male. Biologically, then I am both male and female. Though, I would put those terms as FAAB and male because I don’t identify with the gender or sex of female. I think you’re missing something here. Biologically though I am both male and female, what of those two is more valid? I don’t identify as female; I don’t even really identify as FAAB. I prefer to be just male or, if anything, a transman. Because I identify with the neurological side of my gender, is that more valid because I identify with it or does it have the same validity as my female genitalia? This is why we need two terms around this and not just our biology. It could be physical sex characteristics vs. neurological sex characteristics.
Gender is generally thought of as a social construct that expresses where someone lies on the scale of masculinity to femininity. However, it is much more complex than that. Colin and I have discussed ad nauseum. Gender identity is different than gender expression.
Colin: Gender identity is not easy to explain. It’s not just identifying this way or that way, it is knowing or being this way or that way or all ways or no ways. That’s why somebody’s gender identity could be tree. It’s not that the person is identifying as a tree or with a tree, that is how their gender feels to them through the language we have to express ourselves with currently. My gender is male, regardless of how I express myself. I could use stereotypically female pronouns one day and my gender would still be male. Gender expression is how you outwardly show your gender to the world. That can be via personality, clothing choice, and other observable factors. Gender identity comes from deep within and does not always match your neurological or physical sex characteristics.
Sexual orientation or sexual identity is who you are attracted to. I am enthralled with the idea of the possibilities of multiple sexual orientations above and beyond homosexuality and heterosexuality. I can think of pansexual, bisexual, and sapiosexual. I would personally think there is a sexual orientation that focuses on humor.
Colin: In my school’s social justice group for gender and sexuality, Action Faction, last year we discussed the lack of orientations for things we thought there should be orientations for. Such as a person who is seeking a Prince Charming or somebody who is attracted to humor. That’s part of the reason I like the term sapiosexual so much. It is defining what you’re attracted to and not specifics about their physical sex characteristics. The terms androsexual and gynosexual refer to the gender identity of the person you are attracted to, not yours or their physical sex characteristics. Sexual orientation is like a compass, it is what you are pointing to and drawn to. You’re drawn to your Prince Charming whether that person happens to be male or female or otherwise.
Sexual expression, on the other hand, is what you do with your body. This has been called genitality. However, there is plenty that is done with our bodies that is an expression of sexuality that does not include what is done with our reproductive organs. Reflecting on the words or idea of expressing ourselves sexually, there seems to be additional categories. I can think of monosexual to polysexual and hypersexual to asexual. I have no idea what the correct terms would be for those two scattergories. I am also given to understand that asexuality is not co-identified with a lack of sexual arousal. It is very complex and very confusing to me.
Colin: I think that the term that needs to be used here is physical expression, not sexual expression. Not everything here is a sexual activity, but it is all physical activity. Hypersexual and asexual are accurate terms and are basically an expression of how easily you get turned on. Monosexual and polysexual are a bit more complicated. Both are terms that are used, however, words that are “something”-sexual are used as an identity like heterosexual. Monosexual and polysexual are ways of explaining how many people you are comfortable having a sexual relationship with. Monosexual comes from monogamous while polysexual comes from polyamorous. Personally, I think that monosexual and polysexual should not be terms. It should simply be monogamous and polyamorous. However, there needs to be something and this is something I don’t currently have words for.
Asexuality is your attraction to other people sexually. It has nothing to do with sexual arousal, though many people who are ace (asexual) don’t experience sexual arousal. It is for this reason that there are people who are identified this way that masturbate even though they never want to have sex with someone else.
Last, there is romantic attraction. It is here that I get very confused. Romantic attraction is not the same as sexual attraction as far as I understand the youth talking to me. Perhaps romantic attraction is related to sexual arousal?
Colin: I adamantly refer to romantic attraction as non-sexual attraction. No, romantic attraction is not related to sexual arousal. I divide non-sexual attraction into four scattergories. They are romantic attraction, romantic desire, aesthetic appeal, and mental appeal. Romantic attraction is like the butterflies you get when you get a crush on someone. Romantic desire is the want to date or be stereotypically romantic with someone. However, you don’t have to feel romantic attraction to feel romantic desire. Aesthetic appeal is what someone has physically appealing to your taste and mental appeal is what someone has mentally appealing to your taste. You can have any of these attractions for anybody mixed in any combination and it is the reason why I have four non-sexual attractions I identify with. I identify as panromantic, platonicromantic, lithromantic, and sapioromantic. Panromantic means I am attracted to people regardless of what their gender is. Platonicromantic means I want to date that person or be stereotypically romantic with them but I don’t have romantic attraction for them. Lithromantic is the opposite. I have a romantic attraction for them but I don’t want to date them. Sapioromantic means that I am attracted to people for their intelligence. Any one of these can be operating at a certain time depending on the person—or none of them!
Sometimes it feels as if I am Alice and have been dropped down the rabbit hole when it comes to talking to my particular child about matters of sexual identity, et al. Together, Colin and I have learned a lot. It is our hope that we can help others learn and that the conversation keeps on going.
And Colin, I want to let you know that I am privileged to be your mom.
A couple of days ago, we drove across the 520 bridge and looked at the construction going on. They are building a new 520 bridge parallel to the old 520 bridge. It made me think of the way this floating bridge is constructed, section by section, and how that is a metaphor for Colin’s coming out. So I started talking to him about it! Our conversation touched on the following…
Colin, hasn’t your coming out process been like the 520 bridge being built? Before you could do away with your old life, you built a support system for your new life. That is kind of like the new bridge being built next to the old bridge. Can you tell me what that was like for you?
Well… I guess it’s been hard in some parts, and easier in other parts? What answer do you want here, woman! 😛
It also occurs to me that as each section goes up, your coming out process has been like that. A step forward in understanding who you are one section at a time. In fact, you first came out as bisexual, yes? So the first section is that first coming out. Maybe something like:
1. Come out as bisexual in 9th grade
2. Decided to go to Camp Ten Trees in August of 2011 (between 9th and 10th grade)
3. Coming out as questioning in January 2011 when we filled out the application for camp
4. Deciding you wanted to live life as male at camp and be called Colin
5. Coming home and letting everyone know you were, in fact, male
6. Discovering you were pan-romantic
7. Figuring out you were asexual
Did I leave any sections out? Can you tell us what it was like for you to go through these steps? Oooh, I think a bridge section might be changing your Facebook gender and then I changed you from daughter to son. What do you think? Maybe more sections would be struggling with anxiety and stuff like that? What about starting therapy? Testosterone? Discovering AVEN? So many questions and such a continuous process of coming out!
I figured out I was trans in sixth grade when somebody called me a dyke and I had no idea what the hell that meant. I looked it up and found the term lgbt, and from there I looked up the meanings of the letters and found the term transgender. My response, as a sixth grader who hardly ever swore, was to go into the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror wearing my most fitted sports bra, a boys t-shirt, and basketball shorts, and said, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.” I then decided, nobody needs to know, and though I referred to myself as male, and called myself Kol – it didn’t turn into Colin until ninth grade – I just didn’t tell anybody.
Ninth grade is when life decided that it did matter. In ninth grade I met a girl who was bisexual, who liked me, and, since I was already aware I liked girls, but had never had a reason to come out since it hadn’t applied before that point. So, I agreed to be in a relationship with this girl. I actually came out for the specific purpose of making it so we could have an out relationship, though only to a specific group of friends and my mom and dad. Three days after I came out – and two and a half weeks into our relationship – she broke up with me. On Facebook. Publicly, on Facebook. So much for just a few friends knowing. Everybody knew, even people I hardly talked to knew because her new boyfriend she had broken up with me for had posted about it on his Facebook as well. My entire school knew. I made new enemies, as well as new friends who were like, “Oh my g’d, she’s out as bi! That’s amazing!” Safe to say, I was not out as trans at this point. The up side of this was the girl I had been crushing on since the beginning of eighth grade talked to me the Monday after the Facebook fiasco and, blushing bright red, told me she had a crush on me and that she was not sure if with the end of my last relationship so soon I would want to do anything if I returned her feelings, but maybe possibly? And I was like, yes! We ended up together for eight months.
That Thursday, at choir, I told one of my friends that I was bisexual and she looked at me and said, “So you want to have sex with girls?” And I was like, “No.”
“So then you’re not bi.”
“But I like girls. I know I like them.”
“But you don’t want to have sex with girls so you’re not bisexual. Bisexual means you want to have sex with boys and girls. So you’re not bisexual because you don’t want to have sex with girls.”
“… I don’t want to have sex with guys either.”
She just kind of looked at me as if I needed to be put in a loony bin. The conversation ended and never got continued. At the time, I just assumed a sex drive would come later. I didn’t think much of it, just thought it was fucking weird that suddenly all of my friends were like, sex. Hormones. Oh my g’d. Yes.
I’m not going to talk about the relationship with my girlfriend much, but she was not out as pansexual, which is how she told me she identified, and I immediately took that up as my identity when she explained what it meant to me. The course of our eight month long relationship was her coming out to her friends, and consequently telling them about me and her.
In January of our relationship I told her I was trans. We were texting before school, and the conversation went somewhat as follows.
Me: Do you ever feel like you’re not in the right body?
Her: As in do I wish I was a guy? No…
Her: Are you telling me that you think you’re trans?
Me: If you’re still alright with us being together, I would really like it if between us you could call me Kol and male…
Her: Of course I’m still going to be with you! That’s what pansexual means, silly. Kol, I love you.
It was at the end of the week I came out to my best friend for forever. It was also around this time I found out about Camp Ten Trees, a camp for LGBTQ teens and allies. I managed to convince my parents to let me go sometime in March. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
In February me and my mom were talking in the car, and I got on a rant about how I didn’t want my girly shit and I was so annoyed with the concept that I had to have long hair and want to show my boobs off and –
“Do you want me to enroll you in Gender Therapy?”
… HOLY FUCKING SHIT. As a transman that wasn’t out yet I was just like, oh my g’d, she knows, fuck, fuck, fuck! I managed to talk her out of the concept, but it terrified me that she knew – how the hell did she know?
In March, after my parents had agreed to let me go to camp but I had still yet to tell them I was trans or fill out the paperwork, I was doing laundry, and as I was folding it, made a pile of all the clothes I no longer wanted. This pile consisted of all of my dresses, skirts, frilly clothes, feminine cut pants and shirts, and anything really remotely feminine. This wasn’t that weird, I didn’t wear any of it that much, so it didn’t really matter. What then happened was my mom decided she could go through my stuff and take what she wanted. It was like, the girly shit was going to haunt me and I didn’t want it to, and so I started to argue with my mom about it and, somewhere through out the argument and me utterly flipping my shit I yelled at her, “Because I’m trans!” That is a really good way to silence a conversation. I pretty much immediately took it back as much as I could, and said something along the lines of I’m genderqueer and I identify as mostly male but still kind of female and blah, blah, blah, and, can I go to camp as Colin – which I think I found that name like three days previous. We filled out the paperwork, and that was pretty much it. See! You can’t fool your mom for long! But you know it was about economics for me. There were clothes I could wear since we were about the same size. Plus you steal my tops all the time. Even now.
At camp I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I was just Colin, I used male pronouns, I was male, and nobody messed it up, and when they did it they apologized, and never got it wrong again. When I got back and my mom asked me what I wanted to do, it hit me really, fucking, hard.
I couldn’t pretend anymore. I physically or mentally could not pretend anymore.
So that day, August 20th 2011, I came out to everybody. I talked to my school district, I made two posts on my Facebook page – one with a picture – and changed my name and gender, talked to the pastor of my mom’s church, and talked to the youth group leader of that church. A bully who tormented me all of eighth and ninth grade just unfriended me and started avoiding me. I was now too weird – or something – for her to bully. I lost some friends. I had an amazing support structure, but I wanted to start over.
So I switched school districts to the Seattle Public Schools district, and enrolled in NOVA – the next best decision in my life.
A month or two into school I found a fanfiction that broke my brain. It was of a pairing I liked, with one explaining to his partner that he didn’t experience sexual attraction, and that he really, really loved him, but when they were having sex it just… didn’t do anything for him and he just kind of felt… empty. In the tags it said ‘asexual’ and I was like… this involves a thorough investigation. What did I do? In that fandom I started reading fanfics that had an asexual character in the relationship. Via one of these fanfics I found out about AVEN and stalked it, but didn’t make an account until just recently because at the time I didn’t want anybody to know. In November I told my best friend squish that I met at NOVA that I was asexual, and then we had a conversation about love that I wrote a paper about and used for an assignment in one of my classes. I came out in my school’s queer group. When over winter break I asked out a girl from school who I then dated for five months, I told her I was asexual and how it would affect our relationship. She said she liked me a lot, and she didn’t care. I started to broach the subject with my mom during the month of December with tons of failure because she kept on cutting me off and not letting me explain. So I sent her this private facebook message.
Hey mom. Because you are impossible to talk to this about in person (in which I will explain why later in this text) I am sending you a message on Facebook. Alright. I’m asexual. Asexual literally means not sexual. And as such, I am not attracted to the idea of sex, other people having sex, me having sex (G’D NO. NEVER.), reading/watching sex, or anything sex related such as wanting to date somebody for more than just their mind, emotions, and actions. The reason this is impossible to talk to you about is because the FIVE TIMES I have attempted to talk to you about this, once I say something along the lines of “I don’t want to do anything with anyone,” you quickly follow it up with something along the lines of, “But there will be somebody.” And I have no response to that. Because there WILL NEVER be somebody in that respect. I am panromantic, which means I am romantically attracted to people, so yes, there will be relationships, and who knows? Possibly somebody I marry or have as a life partner. But every time I address asexuality with you there is a lack of understanding that leaves me feeling awkward and unsure how to proceed. Alright. There. So, if you’d like to continue this conversation, I’d prefer it to be in person. But I’ve gotten the wheel turning, I guess. Cool. So yeah, I’m asexual. Impossible to talk to? Only when you don’t say what you’re talking about! 😉 You never said, “I am…” You’d be like, “What if I have a friend who…” I understand that was your way of softly getting into the topic. HOWEVER, dear, I’d like to say an asexual teenager is every parent’s dream child. Don’t you think? No worries about teen pregnancies, STDs, etc. Only kidding a little. As straight forward as you can be sometimes, there are others when you talk around the topic for days. And as we established, when you do that, you tend to lose me since I can take only so many words before my brain starts farting.
I think the rest of my family just eventually found out when I talked about it random times later in the school year.
Around April I came out as polyamorous, because I don’t define love between two people. I often have multiple crushes at a time, so why can’t I have multiple loves and or relationships at a time? It made sense, and, with consent from all involved party’s and people explaining what they honestly feel, it works.
It’s what got me really thinking about my two major as of now past relationships. Both were remarkably squishy. I discussed it with my ex that I’m on really good terms with and we agreed that our five month long relationship was really squishy. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot. A lot, a lot. I wrote a fanfic with a character that feels this way, and I wrote it before I even had the words to use because nobody understood. And after attempting to have this conversation with four different people on AVEN at a variety of times since I finally made my account on June 12, and finally, my fifth attempt with an AVEN squish friend that I became facebook friends with had the conversation with me and I figured a shit ton out. Or more so, figured out the words behind what I feel.
A squish is a platonic crush.
The key word being, action.
Heh, heh. Talk about still coming out, will you. I haven’t actually told this to my mom yet, though, we did get in a huge discussion about a word that I’m about to use earlier today.
I identify as three types of romantic. Panromantic because I find people attractive not based on gender or lack there of, but on personality. Lithromantic because I am attracted to people, whether it be because they are aesthetically or mentally pleasing, but don’t wish to pursue a relationship with romantic action with them. And platonicromantic because I want somebody I like as a friend, that I’m platonic with, to be in a relationship with romantic action but not romantic feelings or attraction.
Because two of these are new words for people out there, and my mother, I am going to explain.
Lithromantic means you feel attraction but not a desire, need, or want to have a romantic relationship, returned feelings, or romance with.
Platonicromantic means you want somebody you’re just friends with to do romantic things with you such as dates, cuddling, kissing perhaps, and other romantic things with, but isn’t romantic.
So like I said, action is the key word.
So… um… this is actually kind of terrifying. Coming out. In a blog post. Well. Mom? What say you? Answer it by answering this:
How is the bridge today? The bridge is strong and stable while the new bridge is being built, dear.
Terri & Colin
So, there was this brain study about men and women. It is reported on CNN. It says men’s brains and women’s brains are different. And that men obsess over women’s breasts, etc., etc. Every stereotypical thing we’ve heard over the years was repeated. A few points:
- Male and female brains mostly alike, but some profound differences exist
- Men’s sexual pursuit area 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain, she writes
- She says testosterone drives the “Man Trance”– or a glazed-eye stare at breasts
- A wife’s pheromones cause “Daddy Brain.” Later, “Lovable Grandpa” or “Grumpy Old Man”?
So, Colin, since you just started ‘T’*, do you find yourself falling into glazed-eye stares? *’T’ is Testosterone. This is what Colin calls it.
I think this study is ridiculous. What kind of controls did they have around gender? Did they only have heteronormative, gorilla men and heteronormative women? Seriously. Is a gay man’s eyes going to go into a glazed-eye stare over breasts? Ha ha ha!! And you, dear Colin, don’t glaze over at anything! There are three things at play, right? You can explain better than I. Sexuality, Gender Identity, and Romantic Attraction. Will you explain what these three things are and where you fall on the spectrum? And do you think it will change while you transition with Testosterone treatments?
I’d actually say there are four subjects at play. The three aforementioned, and a fourth, being Expression. Sexuality is how you identify whom you’re sexually attracted to. A man might want to have sex with a woman, a woman might want to have sex with another woman, a genderqueer person might only want to have sex with other genderqueer people. It can be anything. Hell, sapiosexual even means you’re only sexually attracted to people who are really smart. Gender Identity is how you identify your gender. Commonly looked at on a spectrum as “this end is girly girl” and “this end is manly man.” You can fall anywhere on that small itsy bitsy spectrum. Uh… no. I like to look at the spectrum as more of a circle floating in space. So you can be female or male, androgynous, both genders, neither genders, all genders, a seperate gender. You can be floating-out-in-the-middle-of-space gendered. Anything you can use to describe your own gender is your Gender Identity. Romantic Attraction is whom you are romantically attracted to. Somebody you’d want to date, but don’t necessarily want to have sex with. And Expression. Often confused with Gender Identity. Your Expression could be femme, butch, masculine, I personally have a friend who says they express as happy. Somebody could be female gendered, and identify as butch, that doesn’t make them male if they don’t identify that way just as a male can be femme and would not be female unless they identified as such.
I, putting all the terms I identify under together, am asexual (very very VERY asexual), male with androgynous roots (I’ll explain that in a minute), panromantic, and butch.
I am asexual. Very asexual. Asexual to the point that sex to me is like, O.o-what-is-that-weird-thing-um-you-go-do-that-in-a-corner-while-I-eat-my-pizza. I am so asexual, that I… ah, just no. I’m pretty sure I get more “turned on” by the idea of eating pizza.
So basically, male, with the pronouns that come with it being he, him, and his. When I say androgynous roots, it’s because in my childhood, I honestly didn’t know what gender was. I grew up just being a kid. I didn’t have a gender, and I didn’t gender other people. That’s totally affected my gender today, and as such I include it with my gender identity. I use the gender pronouns, he, him, and zy.
My romantic attraction is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I say I’m panromantic because I see beauty in everyone and get along with everyone. And sure, I’ve dated people, but my relationships seem to be more just a heightened friendship. Like a bestfriend. The close of my last relationship ended with her pretty much saying I’m one of her best friends. And she is one of mine. One of my best friends was talking to me today and said that me and my now exgirlfriend even in our relationship just seemed like really close friends. And I agree. I don’t know. This is honestly the hardest of these for me to answer.
Expression is fairly simple, but seems to be mis-seen a lot. I identify as butch because I feel more masculine than not in a not related to gender way. I like being the knight in shining armor. I like wearing basketball shorts and T-shirts and blue jeans. I’m not really fond of makeup, I’ll wear occasionally, and when I do, it’s theatrical craziness. Something I can goof off and have fun with. I like to hike and climb trees and be dirty. I love flannel. So much. And this is why I identify as butch. These, I suppose could be the same reason somebody identifies as femme. It all depends on the specific individual.
That is a lot of information! Thank you for sharing so much and being so honest.
The weather on the bridge today was nice and sunny. And our conversation was too!