Category Archives: queer theory
There are very few people who see me who would think me a slut. I wear tee-shirts and jeans when I go out. I tend to be fairly unassuming.
But people might read what I do and how I behave, without seeing me, without knowing me and perhaps assume that I am a “slut” or one those nasty words that society uses to describe women it doesn’t like or thinks might have “too much sex”. Despite the fact that no one every defines what “too much” is. My guess is that too much is more than the listener has had.
The average American woman has four sexual partners in her lifetime and the average American man has six to eight, according to the Kinsey Institute. Would too much be more than that? I guess I’ve still had more than too much for a woman–I’m looking at eight right now at 23. Now granted, that’s not a lot compared to some people (a friend recounted her total and came up with around 48 and she’s about four years older than I am). But it is more than a few people I know (many of my guy friends). Who’s counting?
Is frequency what counts? Well, geez, I guess I fit into that category too. Only 7.5% of partnered women my age have sex more than four times a week (same source).
Is it when first intercourse occurred? There’s another category in which I look like a slut to the statistics, though not by much: 16.6 compared to the average American female’s 17.4 (same source again).
But who’s counting, really?
The fact that I am a bisexual queer poly woman, with large-ish breasts would be enough for some people to judge me a slut based on stereotypes, even without knowing the numbers. Not that the numbers matter.
What matters is one thing: I do not define myself as a slut, therefore I am not. Period. End of sentence.
I feel like I haven’t written in a long time, so I figured I’d share something I wrote today. I wrote this as a response to someone’s question about what the difference between the terms “cissexual” and “cisgender” is, and I rather like it.
I subscribe to this idea: [www.gendersanity.com] where a lot of descriptors are separated from one another. To use myself as an example: I am biologically female (biological sex–far right); have a gender identity that is close to woman (gender identity–right of center, but not far right); express my gender in a way that on average is sorta androgynous (gender expression–near the center); and have a bisexual orientation slightly favoring women (sexual orientation–slightly left of center). I am both cissexual and cisgender.
Cissexual: my mental and physical sexes are aligned (biological sex and gender identity). I am not transsexual.
Cisgendered: this is a little more complicated. It also means gender normative. By the strictest definition, I am not 100% cisgendered, but I consider myself to be. My gender expression does not exactly line up with society’s expectations of how I should perform my biological sex. Society is conflating bio sex with gender expression in the term gender normative.
From what I’ve read this is a pretty common idea. Some people don’t like the use of the word “queer” because of past negative connotations, so they may use GLBT, LGBT, gay, or some permutation of those to describe the same idea.
The queer umbrella started out with just gay men, then expanded to include gay women. There is some argument about this however, because those people who participated in the events that started opening this umbrella, Stonewall being the most obvious one, were possibly trans as well; a lot of them were “cross-dressed” and that’s part of the reason the cops bust in on their scene. Bisexual people were the next to come in under the umbrella, although it probably wasn’t until after the time that the trans- people were included under the umbrella that people who identified as loving/being attracted to a wider spectrum of people than the term “bisexual” usually encompasses were included. There are, of course, many people who are queer or identify as such that don’t fit under these labels or don’t want to be labeled and arguably these people fit under the umbrella too.
The point of an umbrella is to provide coverage and protection for all people who can fit underneath it, whether from rain, snow, or sun. Any lack of inclusion means that there are people who feel queer who aren’t protected in the way that everyone else is.
There are people who have more privileged spots under the umbrella. First, I would argue that those (arguably straight) people who identify as queer, but have entirely straight relationships partake in straight privilege, but still, because of their identification, which may come from any host of reasons, belong under the umbrella. There is a thin line between these people and bisexual people who never engage in relationship-style behaviors with people of their same-sex. Sometimes people of the first group acknowledge that it may be possible for them to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but they never are. Sometimes people in the second group are the same way. I do not place myself in this category, although others who just look at my recent behaviors, would place me there.
Second, I would argues that gay men have a privileged spot under the umbrella. They were the first to be under the protection of the umbrella and for a long time they controlled who the umbrella protected. They are often still considered the voices of the queer community to the straight community. They also get to partake in male privilege.
Third, I would argue that gender-conforming LGB people have a privileged spot under the umbrella. Femme lesbians are what the media presents as representative of the lesbian population. Most of the time they dress and act like they are expected to as women in this society. Anyone who is not gender-conforming is seen as abnormal or deviating from what is accepted by “society” and are treated in accordance with that. It is also easier for people who are gender-conforming to pass as straight if they are in a society that does not look kindly upon queer people or even passes the death sentence upon them.
The discussion of a federal ENDA brought up the issue of whether trans- people are or should be included. After all, many trans- people identify as straight. Does the state of being outside the sexual orientation part of the queer bubble mean that these trans- people should not be included under the queer umbrella? There are ramifications for not having a trans-inclusive ENDA for LGB people. If a LGB person is not gender-conforming enough in their dress or attitudes for a certain employer they can still be fired for that reason. I have read some people argue that most GLB people are also trans- because they don’t conform to standards of gender-based behavior for “society”, and while I think that this is an intriguing idea, it is one for another post.
It is a common meme that bisexual women are slutty, or need one of each sex to make them happy. Whereas this may be true for some bi women (as it could be for anyone) it is not true of all. Which brings me to an odd point.
Of most women I have talked to, either in person or online, who identify as polyamorous, also identify as bisexual. Is it just a coincidence? I do not think so. It is a matter of choice. We like having lots of choices and see no reason to limit ourselves, to close ourselves off from the possibility that there is more out there. There is debate about whether polyamory is a choice or something inborn in a person, and honestly, I’m not so sure about this, so I’m not going to touch it.
The religious right likes to say that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is a choice–which is bullshit. The gay and lesbian community sadly parrots this to bisexual people–you must make a choice, as if we can decide who we are physically and/or emotionally attracted to. If they can’t, why do they assume we can? The same goes for the poly community–we can’t make a choice as to who we are physically and/or emotionally attracted to–it happens, often out of our control.
The choices we do have regard who we have relationships with. Where it is true that we cannot choose who we are attracted to, we can choose who we want to have relationships with–especially with regards to the poly community. We know that there are some people who we may be attracted to who may be bad relationship partners–who may not be able to respect our identities or existing relationships. And it is our choice whether we want to include these people in our lives.
While it is true that there are poly women who have both male and female partners, it is equally true that there are bi poly women who have only male, or only female partners. A multitude of partners of the “opposite” sex does not make a bi poly person any more straight than having a multitude of partners of the “same” sex makes them more gay. It is also true that having a mix of sexes with partners does not make a person any more bisexual than one who has partners of just one sex.
As for being open and out, I am of two minds. I will and do freely admit to being bisexual–it is part of who I am and a part of my dating history and I think it is important for people, especially those whom I am attracted to and may be interested in forming a relationship with. While I do believe it is important to be honest to all of one’s partners, there’s a certain point where I think poly becomes must know information. So, in summary, bi=freely open, especially to prospective partners and poly=on a need to know basis, but as early as is practical. Maybe the last half is because I am not fully comfortable with this part of myself yet–it took me years of knowing I was bisexual to be this comfortable about it and I have only been dealing with poly for months.
I’m not quite sure how I was intending to structure this when I started, but I think I’ve said all I can say on this subject at this point in time.
Dear Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on making it into office! I voted for you.
Now, here’s my concern. It’s nice that you believe that it’s important to reach across the party line and try to unite people, but honestly, your own party has interests that should be as important or even more important than the other party’s. The Democratic party hasn’t had a president for almost ten years, and those were long years. It was time.
People voted for you for a reason. They like your policies, they like what you stand for. They like that you’re generally more progressive than other Democrats. And a lot of them were pissed off when you catered to the religious right with your choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at your inauguration. Even you have to admit, his speech was pretty lame compared to the rhyming benediction given by Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery. I know you’re a Christian, but I’m not and I even I thought Lowery’s speech was so much more beautiful and spiritual than Warren’s claptrap. You don’t get much better than this as spiritual things go:
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — when yellow will be mellow — when the red man can get ahead, man — and when white will embrace what is right.
You have so many things you can do for those of us who are true blue liberals and have been waiting years for someone like you to come along and do or reverse the doing of. It is our turn and you cannot deny us those things we have long been waiting for, especially in:
- Reproductive health (thanks for the repeal of the gag rule, by the way)
- Environmental protections
- Governmental responsibility/accountability (this is the “government of the people and by the people” after all)
- Corporate responsibility
- LGBT rights (we’re waiting…)
It is time for you to live up to your promises, not to pander to the right, who didn’t vote for you, and would never vote for you. Pander to us, your constituents, the people who put you in office. We know what we wanted and we told you. You promised us liberals (and moderates) that if we voted for you, you would give us the world. Now I’m not stupid, so I know that the number of campaign promises that presidents usually fulfill is negligible. You’ve been doing wonderfully so far. Please don’t flake out on us. But there is so much left to be done and you know it.
P.S. I will be later posting what I personally want from this presidency. I just didn’t think it had any place in this letter.
Today, as many know, was the (inter)national day of protest against Proposition 8 and for marriage equality. The number of people that showed up in my city was incredible for a small to medium-sized city. I happen to live in a city that has a university, so the city is more liberal than surrounding areas, and we enjoyed a massive amount of support in the way of protesters and simply people honking their horns and giving us thumbs up. I forgot to make a sign so I simply used a fairly generic sign they had made already that said “Marriage Equality”, but some people made some very original signs. My favorite was “Canada welcomed us with opened arms. Why won’t my country welcome my wife?” It was so sweet. One of the organizers went around with a megaphone asking people to share their names and why they were there. One man, of indeterminate age (my guess was roughly 45 or 50) gave this very beautiful speech about the progression of marriage rights, and in the end he said “we will win this, history is on our side”. This one old man, a double amputee, was there the whole time, and the only thing I heard him say was “I married my sweetheart, why can’t everyone?” It was so touching to hear someone from a generation less likely to support marriage equality, come out and say something so wonderful in its simplicity.
At noon, after two hours of standing on the same four corners of the intersection, we marched down to our town’s farmer’s market, filling up both sides of the sidewalk and getting even more people honking. When we got to the market we stood at the entrance and chanted for about ten minutes before we had to break up.
I am so glad I got up early this morning, because I really feel like I made an impact.
It was all about love.
This post is long overdue. It has been in the works for quite a long time, I just keep procrastinating and procrastinating on it.
The term queer is near and dear to my heart. It means odd. It has also meant homosexual. The term has been retaken by the LGBTQI movement to mean something more full and inclusive than simply “homosexual”. A queer person may be of any sexual orientation, but they realize that they are not simply defined by that orientation; they know that their sexuality can be fluid and they are accepting of this. They are comfortable in their otherness, their oddness.
I have a friend who identifies as queer. He is pretty much exclusively heterosexual, but there is something else about him, a comfortableness with being, a bond with the idea of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, without necessarily being fully one of the above. Like me, he knows the sex and gender binaries and what can be damaging about them. He is one of the few other people I know who objects to the use of the term “gender” on forms; gender is not male or female, but one’s gender identity as feminine, masculine, androgynous, or any combination of the above. To put it simply, there is no correct answer to the question of “male or female”. But most people do not understand that and I believe, do not care. I always put “female”, simply because I believe that my biological sex mostly matches up with my perception of myself in a sexual way, and that most forms do no not leave space for an explanation of how I believe I differ from that. And my assumption is that they are really asking about that. This is where my friend may be more queer than me. Often if there is an option he will indicate “other” on the form, perhaps at an attempt to address the difference between how he feels about himself as a being and the stereotype of “man” in our culture. I greatly admire him for this and may do this in the future, simply because it is a way that appears to work pretty well without preaching or getting upset at every little form or incident.
There are privilege issues at stake here too. As I have said before, as a bisexual woman, I do not have some of the privileges that heterosexual women take for granted. As a queer (mostly) heterosexual man, my friend can come from a position where he acknowledges that there are privileges he does not wish to partake in that he could claim simply by not also identifying as queer. I think queerness addresses privilege in a way that heterosexuality (or homosexuality) cannot, by coming at the issue from a different perspective
There is so much more I could say, but it is getting late, so I will potentially save that for another day.
P.S. I apologize to my friend if this seems to imply that I am saying something about how you feel that is not true. Feel free to leave me a comment and I will change it if need be.
Am I any less queer because I do like some things that are considered “normal”? That sometimes I like things that are pretty vanilla? That the only sex I’ve been having for the last nine to ten months is heterosexual?
I don’t think so.
I love the fact that queer encompasses everything about me, from the way I like my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (on sourdough bread, creamy peanut butter and homemade raspberry jam), to the people I think are attractive, to the way I like my sex (with occasional hints of dominance/submission). The term bisexual, which is what I normally call myself, encompasses only the people I like, see as attractive, would like to have sex with. Queer is an identity I’m just getting used to. It doesn’t force me into a tiny box labeled “likes men and women”. Yes, I do like men and women, and see both as attractive in their own ways, but what about the people who don’t consider themselves either or simply don’t believe they fit into society’s narrow definitions of gender and sexuality. Just because I have not yet found one that I like/want to have sex with does not eliminate the possibility that I might. I like to keep my options open. Yes, I still do describe myself as bisexual, because that is my sexual orientation, I will not disagree with that, but it does not describe my whole self, like the sex: female does not fully describe me. Yes I am female, in body and mind, but I am not that feminine, nor have I ever been, and I am fully comfortable with that.
To me, trying to fit into a prescribed gender role is restricting and it just feels wrong. I wear a skirt or dress when I want to, not because I have been forced into it. Make-up, nylons, hair-styling make me feel like I’m in drag. Sometimes being in drag is a wonderful thing, messing with people’s perceptions of my gender. I like challenging the assumed norms. That’s what makes me happy and comfortable. There are times that I just want to hide myself and I do, something I learned how to do very well in high school. That ability to hide means that only the people I like and respect get to see the true me, my true colors as they say.
I am working my way into a role I feel comfortable with. I would like to be completely open with everyone about who I truly am, but I know that society will not let me be that. So here at school is the only place I can truly express the full me: my sexuality and my queerness, and the truly great thing is that it doesn’t really matter to that many people. College is full of variations, that’s what makes it so wonderful.