Aug 292011
 

This week, my intern SexualErudite (their screename) is sharing a bit about their identity as being pansexual, and some of the reasoning and history surrounding this identity.

I identify as pansexual (and also in certain contexts as bisexual or queer), and I work in LGBTQ education and awareness, so I am going to try and explain why I refer to myself as a pansexual more than anything else. Most of you will probably assume this is pretentious anyway, but I’ll give it the old college try.

I am going to use cisgender and cissexual within this context because it is the most inclusive way to do so. While it seems like many people are content to lump people into “trans folks and normals” and “trans folks and people who feel okay with their bodies” and “men, women and trans folk” I am not comfortable with this, as it places trans folk into some weird other category that I feel is pretty offensive. Cisgender/sexual exist as a way of subcategorizing larger categories, such as “women.” Within “women” exist two sub categories: cis women and trans women. The same exists for sex, so within “female” there exists cis females and trans females.

There are more than two genders. Rather, there exists men (both cis and trans), women (both cis and trans) and those who fall outside the gender binary. There are many different categorizations of this non-binary gender, one of the most common is genderqueer, although it is far from being the only one. Some people who fall within this “outside the binary” gender consider themselves trans, others do not.

There are more than two sexes. We have male (cis and trans), female (cis and trans) and intersexed. Hermaphrodite is not used within a medical construct, but rather, pseudohermaphrodite is, because humans are not capable of being “true” hermaphrodites, as while they may have a mixture of sexual characteristics, they do not possess both full sets of fully functioning reproductive organs. In any case, the intersex community prefers intersex, and we should honor their right to define what terms they prefer.

Whatever social scientists may have decided, in terms of identifying bisexuals as people who engage in homosexual and hetereosexual sex, most people interpret this as having to do with genitalia, regardless of whatever the scientists were really thinking, and I cannot speak to that.

Identifying it based on behaviors based on that becomes tricky – what if I, a cissexual female, engage in sex with a pre-op trans man? Is it heterosexual because I identify as a woman and he identifies as a man? Is it homosexual because we both have boobs and vaginas? I would say the former, but if we are defining it based on sexual acts, to most people we are defining it based on genitalia.

When we discuss “gay, straight, bi” we’re not just talking about what genitalia we are attracted to – we’re talking about how they present themselves, and how they identify themselves as well. Many straight men would balk at the idea of having sex with a trans man, even though he may have a vagina, meaning cock/vaginasexual would be problematic as a term describing many people. So when we talk about our sexual orientations, we’re really discussing what genders we are attracted to.

So, if we have more than two genders, bisexual can be problematic in terms of not being specific enough. Most people assume that bisexual people are referring to being attracted to men and women, and that’s it, and generally, that’s a problem on the listener’s behalf, not the bisexual person themselves. But, because bi is a prefix meaning two, it can mean that someone is attracted to men and women, men and people outside the binary or women and people outside the binary.

As someone who is attracted to men, women and people outside the gender binary, I find that pansexual is more apt, because pan is a prefix meaning all. It doesn’t mean that bisexuals are prejudicial individuals that just need to open their hearts – people are attracted to who they are attracted to. I’m not going to rail against a gay man because he fails to find women the object of his sexual desires. It’d be ludicrous.

Yes, there are pretentious pansexual people out there who sneer about being attracted to “people,” or not seeing gender, but there are a ton of pretentious people in any other gender or sexuality category, so it seems really ridiculous that we’ve decided it’s totally fine to complain about it like it’s a new and speshul thing only inherent in people who use words that fall outside straight, gay, bi and trans*. I’m sure there were plenty of homosexual men who sneered at people who preferred the word “gay” back in the day.

Everyone deserves to have a space to occupy, and having a word that accurately describes you to a point that you feel comfortable with it is part of having that space. It doesn’t mean you should automatically assume everyone should know what obscure sexualities are (which is why I have made it part of my life to educate others), but it doesn’t mean that we should immediately stomp on anything new. Just because you are fine with common words to describe your sexuality does not mean everyone is. Demanding that I justify my right to a name that fits makes you no different than any other common bigot.

May 232011
 

I think this article about the raising of a child without sharing its’ sex with all those who ask is incredibly interesting.  It’s always been of interest to me that the first question people ask when they find out someone is pregnant, or right after they’ve given birth is “is it a boy or a girl?” Not “how are you feeling?” or “is everyone doing ok?” but rather, what is the sex that the doctor will be assigning it based on external genitalia and possibly chromosomes. Let me point out again that when a baby is born, we assign its SEX (biological markers), not its GENDER, which is socially constructed.

When I was in graduate school, I remember reading the story about Baby X, who grew into Child X, who grew into Teenage X, who ended up as Adult X, a very happy person who did what they wanted to do, regardless of what gender society usually assigned that activity to…all because they had been raised without a sex and gender placed on them by their parents. This was written in the 70s, showing that this is not a new concept. I have no plans to have children, but when I read that story, I could help but want to try and raise any offspring in such a manner. It seemed like such a healthy, accepting way.

It’s interesting to see what the psychologists have to say about these parents raising Baby Storm without telling others its sex. One was adamantly against it, saying that they were setting up the baby for a hard life, while the other was willing to wait to see all the wrong things that might happen from this situation. Honestly, it was a little gross to me to read their “expert opinions” because years ago, similar experts were giving similar opinions about letting girls play with trucks and boys play with dolls, and about letting your kid identify as gay, etc. Funny how expert opinions so often tend to capitulate to social norms. As long as you and your family are supportive of allowing your children to figure out their genders and presentations for themselves, and as long as you are willing to support them if they wind up deciding to be hyper masculine or hyper feminine (rather than a more blended mix, or something completely unique), then I see no issue.

These parents, instead of form fitting their children to the limits society wants to place upon them, are making society have to adapt. And honestly, I think that is great. If we all always capitulated to what society said, we’d be even farther behind in women’s rights, sex worker’s right, people of color’s rights, trans folk’s rights, queer rights, etc. If none of us ever challenged the status quo, I wouldn’t be allowed to vote, I wouldn’t be allowed to have a Master’s degree, I wouldn’t be allowed to walked down the street holding hands with my queer partners, and I’d be making even less to the dollar than I already am. So hats off and glasses raised to these parents, willing to take a stance for the diversity of gender, rather than biologically assigned sex.

Dec 132010
 

A cohort of mine from Widener University is behind this study, and I’m hoping to get lots of women and gender diverse people (who are/have been sexually intimate with women identified people) to participate. There is very little research done on queer sexuality, especially by people who recognize the difference between women, trans (men), gender queer and gender diverse. I’d love it if you’d support this great research by taking the survey if it applies to you, or at the very least (or if it doesn’t apply), passing it on, re-posting, etc. Thanks for doing your part in helping to create queer visibility and awareness.

-Shanna

This is a groundbreaking study about the lives of women and gender diverse people who are sexually intimate with women.  Please participate and forward on to others who you think might be interested.  Also, after you complete the survey, you can enter to win one of three $100 gift cards.

Are you a woman who is or has been sexually intimate with another woman?

—–OR—–

Are you gender diverse or trans and sexually intimate with women?

If you answered yes to either question, please take this survey

web.me.com/sexuality/

Who Can Participate?

You qualify if you identify as a woman who is sexually intimate with another woman OR a gender diverse person who is female-bodied, assigned female at birth and/or woman-identified and is sexually intimate with a woman. You must also be 18 years of age or older.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research study is to better understand the sexuality of women who are sexually intimate with women, gender diverse people who are sexually intimate with women, and those who may not identify their sexual orientation and/or gender so narrowly. In this study, sexual behavior and sexual identity will be measured to better understand women, including gender diverse people who are female-bodied, assigned female at birth and/or woman-identified, who are sexually intimate with women and those with whom they partner.

Description of the Study

This study is about sexuality and identity of women and gender diverse people who sexually partner with women.  The survey will take about 25 minutes to complete.  The study is completely anonymous, meaning there will be no way to trace any questions or data back to you or your computer, and it is completely free to participate.

Win a $100 Gift Card

After you finish the survey, you will be invited to enter to win one of three $100 gift certificates to say thank you for participating.

Additional Important Information

The Widener University Internal Review Board (Protocol #38-11)  has approved solicitation of participants. The Primary Investigator is Debbie Bazarsky, M.S., M.Ed.  If you have any questions, you may email her at sexuality@me.com.

Nov 202010
 

Today, November 20th, is National (and International) Transgender Day of Remembrance. In the last few years (and this video is from last year, so there are more names and faces to be sadly added), over 100 people have been murdered for their gender identity/presentation. This doesn’t even take into account the hundreds and possibly THOUSANDS of people who are assaulted based on their gender, and tens of thousands more who are harassed each and every day.

Please watch this video. Again, it’s a year old, so many people are missing, but if you cannot take nine minutes out of your life to remember those who we have lost due to violence against the transgender community, what does that say? After you watch it, please think for a moment, or two, or ten, what YOU can do to create change in your community, in our community. How can we make it stop? This is completely unacceptable and heartbreaking. No one should have to be scare to leave their home due to their gender, and they should certainly not be scared of being killed. This is flat out wrong, and regardless of your politics, or religion, or moral views, is is NEVER ok to hurt and/or murder someone because of who they are. Ever.

If we don’t stand up and create this change, no one will. Stand up for people who are being harmed and whose voices are being heard. Create change, NOW. And always, always remember those we have lost.

-Shanna

Nov 072010
 

I want to talk about this. Why? Because some people don’t know, and others who I assume would know either are unaware or have forgotten.

Sex and gender are NOT the same thing.

Sex is usually defined as female, male and occasionally intersex. It is assigned to you at birth by your doctor, usually based on your genitalia, sometimes chromosomes if testing has been done. It’s is often said that “sex is between your legs.”

Gender can often be defined as woman, man, transgender, genderqueer. However, the number of genders out there is unmeasurable. Femme is a gender. Butch is a gender. Femme queen. AG/Aggressive. Boi. Genderfucker. Andro. All of these are gender identities and/or gender presentations. Gender identity is how you identify to yourself (and sometimes others) and gender presentation is how you present said gender identity to the rest of the world. It is often said that “gender is what is between your ears” in that gender is not a physical identifier, but rather, your identity, feelings, presentation, etc.

Cisgender is someone whose assigned sex at birth matches their gender identity. A person assigned male who identifies as a man, a person assigned female who identifies as a woman.

Transgender, while a huge umbrella term for gender discussions and identities as a whole, can be said to be someone whose gender identity does NOT match their assigned sex; a person assigned male at birth who identifies as female, a person assigned female at birth who identifies as genderqueer, etc.

Recently, at a professional conference in the field of sexuality, I was saddened to see many sexual professionals talk about “the two genders” or do studies that said “Gender? Male or Female.” I think as we continue to grow this field and be more inclusive of all people, it is incredibly important to be aware of whether we’re talking about sex or gender, and do our research and presentations accordingly. I’m not even going to start with the way “homosexual” was used to identify people, or the fact that I (as a queer kinky disabled femme) was often offended at the use of language throughout the conference….but really, I’d liketo make sure EVERYONE, regardless of whether you’re a sex educator/therapist, a middle school teacher, a personal trainer or a homemaker, knows the basic difference between sex and gender, as it is SO incredibly important to being inclusive in our society.

Shanna

Aug 232010
 

A lot of people have been posting and re-posting and discussing this Newsweek article, which talks about a person in Australia, who was the first person in that country, if not in the world, to be issues a certificate without either an F or M for their sex (sometimes referred to as gender, which is usually an incorrect statement, as sex often does not line up with gender). Of course, as in many things surrounding queer issues in government, this huge milestone was then taken back a few days later, as the government decided that this was just not ok.

Why does the M or F on our birth certificates, IDs, etc matter so much? Presentation of gender is a huge spectrum, an explosion of gender even, and when we require that M or F, not only are we stifling people who do not identify in such a binary, but what are we achieving?

For example, I know many people with an F on the ID who present in a gender queer, or even stereotypical masculine way. Now not only does this F hurt them as they have to get their ID checked every damn time they use a credit card, and get heckled at the airport or when they get pulled over, but what purpose does the F serve? I mean, let’s say we’re looking for a criminal, and all we have to go on is that they have an F on their ID. What does that even mean? Given the diversity of gender presentation, how does that help us to find someone?

Now, I don’t think we should get rid of gender as a society. Many people have done much exploration of their gender identity; find someone who identifies as a faggy boi, or a stone butch, or a high femme, and get in a conversation with them about their gender. Talk about how they discovered it, why it is important to them, how it fits in with their other identities. Gender can be an important part of who we are.

However, the M or F on our IDs and certificates is not our gender. It has only to do with the genitals we had at birth, and the SEX (not gender) that the doctor assigned us given what we had. It doesn’t take into account our identities, our presentations, etc.

So I don’t propose life without gender. I LOVE my gender and its complexities. I love my partner’s gender. I love reading about gender, and talking about gender. I love gender. But I do suggest the removal of sex from IDs, as I see no reason for it to exist, and so many reasons for it not to.

-Shanna

Jul 202010
 

Do you have a child that identifies as trans? Or have a family friend who may be looking to learn more about their trans (or transitioning, or gender-queer, etc) family member?

My partner and I have come up with some good starter links for you (or your friend) to check out. If you happen to have more awesome resources for parents/family/relatives/friends/teachers/etc of trans youth, I’d love for you to post it here so we can create even more resources for our community.

-Shanna

Trans Active: http://www.transactiveonline.org/families_new.html

Parents, Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (also trans inclusive) http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=209

Trans Youth and Family Allies: http://www.imatyfa.org/

Colorado specific: http://www.tyes-colorado.org/index.html

News article: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3088298&page=1

True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism–For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals (book)

The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals (book)

Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not (book)

Jun 052010
 

This is win. It is so much win.

That said, I really prefer the term marriage equality over same sex marriage or gay marriage. Why? Because not everyone who wants the ability to marry identifies as gay (lesbian, queer, bi, or a couple with a trans person who now identifies as straight), and unless you’re checking chromosomes, you don’t really know if people are the same sex.

All of this said, I love love love this picture, and think it makes a brilliant point, both for marriage equality, and hopefully eventual gender/sex equality, that our country has still yet to practice.

Plus, I love me some animal macros in the morning.

-Shanna

May 082010
 

I’ve seen this posting/call for workshops/etc around on a few blogs, and I thought I’d pass it on to anyone who might be interested. Enjoy!

-Shanna

Next year we’ll have the second full sized Butch Voices conference to participate in, this year we have four regional conferences.

Subject: Butch Voices 2010 Regional Conferences: Call for Submissions

BUTCH Voices is a national organization composed of social justice activists who share a commitment to building inclusive community for self-identified Butches, Studs, Tombois, Machas, Aggressives, our partners and allies.

This year we will be holding BUTCH Voices Regional Conferences in Dallas, New York, Los Angeles & Portland. We invite you to join us for workshops, panels, and performances intended to celebrate our diverse identities.

BUTCH Voices Dallas – June 5, 2010 – contact – bvdallas2010@gmail.com

BUTCH Voices NYC – September 25, 2010 – contact – bvnyc2010@gmail.com

BUTCH Voices Portland – October 2, 2010 – contact – bvportland2010@gmail.com

BUTCH Voices LA – October 9, 2010 – contact – bvla2010@gmail.com

These regional conferences will be an amazing opportunity to create local and regional community awareness, to share butch voices, and critical thinking about who we are. BUTCH Voices Regional Conferences are a place to: talk about why we identify in the ways we do, learn how to tell our stories, address femininity, masculinity, discuss areas of overlap and intersection that are none of the above. We will talk about sex, embodiment, community building, our physical and mental health, and issues that stand in the way of Butch-identified solidarity and justice. Most importantly, BUTCH Voices is the place where we can be ourselves with one another.

This is our Call for Submissions. We welcome workshop ideas of all kinds, films, performances, skill shares, especially on topics which speak to the cultural, sexual, emotional, physical, and psychological relationships that arise in the lives of Butches, Studs, Tombois, Aggressives, Machas, etc. We are open to all perspectives–queer, feminist, womanist, neither or beyond! We particularly encourage proposals by and for people-over sixty, under twenty-one, working-class, and people of color or persons with disabilities.

Deadline for Submissions for BUTCH Voices Dallas is May 15, 2010 and for the other three Regional Conferences is August 1, 2010. Please submit your proposal or abstract to the corresponding Regional Conference (email addresses listed above) in which you wish to present along with a short bio of yourself and any other presenter.

Please forward this widely to all who may be interested in participating.
Thank you,
BUTCH Voices

Please forward this widely to all who may be interested in participating.Thank you,BUTCH Voices

Apr 212010
 

I’ve been seeing this video pop up on various blogs and social networking sites all week, but I just now had the time to watch it.

And I cried. A lot. It hit so close to home, to my experiences, to my partners (past and present), to my invisibility, to my having to repeatedly out myself, to everything that I have been, am and will be as a Femme (minus the 5 inch heels, thanks to the arthritis and surgeries). I cried because everything he had to say is so true, so real, and because no one has ever said that out loud where I could hear it.

So thank you Ivan Coyote, who I don’t know, for warming the cockles of this little Femme’s heart, for loving my gender, and for supporting all of us. Thank you.