“I don’t have time to wake up every morning and ponder my sexuality all day.”
The above is one of a vast array of things said by an old friend to me during one of the last conversations we would ever have, because she was in the process of disowning me. It was certainly the last significant conversation we had, because the one after started as an awkward “how is your health” sort of thing that ended just as badly, but quieter and—given this was (wow) years ago—I can say with confidence it ended things between us for good.
I remember trying to explain that (a) sex is different from gender, (b) sexual orientation is separate from gender identity, and (c) that I didn’t wake up and ponder being a gender fluid person any more than she woke up pondering what it was like being a cis-gendered woman.
I never got to (c). Calling it a “conversation” was possibly too generous.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned something from that day on this blog, and probably won’t be the last. Sometimes I’m embarrassed that I keep going back to it, because really I’m unbelievably lucky. My dad grew up southern Baptist and was a cowboy before joining the Air Force. My mom grew up very traditionally Korean and these days she's a fundamentalist Baptist. I could have been disowned for real, but they were almost anti-climatically cool about me being gender-fluid. They don’t understand some of it and sometimes they backslide a bit, but they still love me and not in a “hate the sin love the sinner” kind of way so it’s definitely a win. None of my other close friends freaked out.
I keep saying I’ll put it out of my mind, but I guess things like that never really leave you. And lately I’ve been dissecting bits and pieces of what she said to me, turning them around in my head, using those little daggers to try and understand myself better.
Today I pondered my sexuality AND my gender, dammit.
A while back the television was on and Oprah was talking to a person who’d written a book about sexual fluidity. I glanced up because I rarely hear the term “gender fluid” unless I’m saying it and this was close enough to have me riveted. Oprah carefully asked the other person a question that I imagine a lot of people probably think and keep to themselves. Paraphrasing, it went something like:
When a woman who’s been straight all her life comes out as lesbian, why is it that you often see them with women that…sort of look like men?
The interviewee, Dr. Lisa Diamond, didn’t miss a beat, explaining that you can be attracted to women, but prefer masculine features.
I remember smiling at that, but didn’t really process it because I was under deadline at the time.
Today I pondered, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Sexuality, gender, biology, et al. are complex things, and at first I skirted along the edges:
And then I just dove right in:
So, okay. A masculine male might like masculine features in men. A feminine woman could go for an equally lacy female. A bisexual woman or man might like masculine traits in both men and women, although my best friend is bisexual and sie needs hir women ULTRA feminine and hir men SUPER masculine, so you can split that down the middle. A friend of mine’s daughter IDs as pansexual and I had to wiki that, but I had to explain demisexual to someone of a similar age so the younger generation doesn’t have a monopoly on terms. Bois like grrls. Bois like birls who like bois. Yes, men who were born with female bodies can be attracted to men. Or women. Or any combination of the two. Androgynes are sometimes attracted to androgynous people, but being “androgynous” applies to physical features and not all androgynes look outwardly androgynous. Similarly, not all androgynous people identify as androgyne. A feminine man might go for feminine women and it doesn’t mean that the man is repressing his homosexuality or is bisexual. He might just know he looks damned good in pink. While polyamorous people can be bisexual and vice versa, the two terms are not interchangeable. It's just possible to stack them in some cases. Like one might stack "straight polyamorous cis-gendered woman." No one has exact numbers on how many intersexed people are out there because doctors and parents tend to make the gender decision for the child at birth and then hide the information to avoid stigma for the child. Often the child won’t find out unless there’s a medical problem later in life. More and more, however, parents of intersexed children are letting their kids choose their own gender when they’re older. Some choose male, some choose female, some don’t choose. Not choosing doesn’t make them indecisive or deformed. It just means they’re intersexed. GLBTQQICA. Sometimes athletic women are straight. Sometimes they’re not. Being an athlete doesn’t have anything to do with that. Bi-gendered, 3rd gendered, multi-gendered, genderqueer, omni-gendered, cis-gendered, gender-fluid, transgendered, non-gendered. Real men wear Stetsons. Real men drive trucks. Real men cry. Real men are afraid of spiders. Confession: I have NO fucking idea what a real man is, but genuine thanks to the kind people who send me mail to let me know that I write them.
Having fun yet? And the great thing is I haven’t even scratched the surface.
On that terrible day I had a fight with someone I’d been sure would be my friend forever, I was offended that she would assume I spent so much time thinking about sexuality/gender. Now I wonder why I don’t think about it MORE. It’s an amazing, mind bending thing to look at, and it makes me happy to see something new every time I do. It’s only when you look at it all that you understand why nearly every variation of a queer symbol has a rainbow on it—a rainbow is a spectrum of light that's only visible when you look up to see the sun through the rain, and it’s bright, and beautiful, and (to borrow a story from my highly biblical upbringing) it’s a miracle.