Tag Archives: queer

Concept Introduction: Bisexuality and Beyond

31 Oct

In this blog post, I hope to introduce some terminology to describe sexualities beyond heterosexual and homosexual. If I miss a term you have heard or identify with, or define something slightly differently than how you may view it, please comment with your opinions, and add your voice to the conversation!

Bisexuality: Kinsey was one of the first few researchers to suggest that sexualities beyond homosexual and heterosexual may exist, with his development of the Kinsey Scale. According to this scale, people may be anywhere from entirely attracted to one gender or another, to attracted by certain degrees to different genders. Some people suggest that bisexuality is only true bisexuality if somebody is equally attracted to both genders. Others contest the use of the term bisexual, because the prefix bi- indicates a gender binary, and is only inclusive of male-identified and female-identified persons and attractions.

Pansexual/Omnisexual/Polysexual: These three terms are frequently used interchangeably to mean similar ideas. Pansexuals often reject the gender binary, opening their romantic and sexual attraction to individuals of all gender identities and expressions. A pansexual individual may root their attractions in qualities other than gender and genitals. For example, as a pansexual, I may say, “I am attracted to kindhearted, long haired, nontraditional individuals that enjoy cooking, are curious and adventurous, and are avid communicators.” These qualities exist outside of gender.

PoMosexual: This label is short for Post Modernist Sexuality. It springs from a kind of rebellion against community labels that come with a set of expectations of dress, behavior, or attraction. It is essentially a label that rejects labels, embracing a sexual orientation and identity that is dynamic, fluid, and evolving. This suggests that the qualities and gender identities somebody is attracted to may shift and change throughout life stages, and labels are not inclusive of the diversity of romantic and sexual attraction people may feel throughout their lives.

Heteroflexible/Homoflexible: This term may be used to refer to people who are primarily attracted to one gender, but find a partner or partners of the other gender that they are attracted to romantically, and/or for specific sex acts. This may be a general relationship kind of attraction, or only exist in certain contexts.

Despite over 50 years of social discourse about the possibility of individuals identifying as something other than heterosexual or homosexual, it still remains a contested identity in many circles. Bisexual individuals may be viewed as closet homosexuals reluctant to give up hetero privilege, heterosexuals experimenting for fun or to attract a lover of the opposite sex, confused, greedy, or over-sexed. Media representations of bisexual individuals often feed these stereotypes.

I would like to challenge tendency to develop labels and stereotypes that trap and constrain. I think, especially within the queer community, it is important that we are able to celebrate all experiences of sexual and romantic attraction and affection, and not discount any group for failing to stringently adhere to one definition or another. Individuals should not need to put their identity on trial every time they experience attraction outside of the label society has come to accept for them, nor should ones past attractions dictate the future of their romantic endeavors.

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Stop the butch bashing: Why her gender expression isn’t any of your damn business

13 Oct

Today’s guest post is by a Northwestern University Graduate Student Helen.

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You wouldn’t know it from looking at me now, but I used to be the kind of queer who basically had a big neon sign over her head shouting “GAAAAY.” I had a pixie cut, sported lots of spiky earrings and wore cargo pants and men’s t-shirts or button-downs most days. I stomped around in work boots and wouldn’t touch makeup. It wasn’t really surprising that most people surmised my sexuality before I finally crept out of the closet.

I feel like preferring boxers to lingerie is ingrained in my DNA, just like my hair color or the fluorescent paleness of my skin. I was only three or four when I begged my mom to buy me my first tie (bright red, clip-on) while we were shopping at a department store. Growing up, I ran around clad in my older brother’s hand-me-downs, army vests that reached my knees and t-shirts that swallowed up my small torso. I was all skinned knees and gritty palms, climbing trees and orchestrating Nerf gun wars with the boys who lived in my neighborhood. I was happy. I was myself.

Then I hit puberty, and it suddenly became very clear that I was doing this being a girl thing all wrong. I can’t count how many times people called me ugly. Women and girls mostly whispered it behind my back, but boys and men had no problem saying it clearly within earshot or right to my face. In middle and high school, boys goaded their friends into pretending to ask me out. I was always painfully aware of the set-up and promptly told them to fuck off when they approached me, their friends gathered in a sniggering group behind them. I can’t say it didn’t sting a little, though. “Of course I wouldn’t really ask you out. Ugly dyke.”

I wish I could say that having people label me freakish and repulsive over and over again didn’t have any effect on my self-esteem. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the emotional fortitude at ages 14 through 19 to withstand that barrage of cutting comments unscathed. I’d be lying if I said getting told I was unattractive on a regular basis—and feeling ugly as a result—wasn’t part of the reason I decided to start growing my hair out and wearing eyeliner a couple of years ago. I don’t get called ugly anymore, but I still don’t feel attractive. That damage is done.

Next time you see a butch girl and you’re about to scrunch up your nose and call her gross, stop. It’s not her job to cater to your erotic preferences. Remember, ugly is subjective. Some people (like me) find masculine women sexy. So, don’t be that asshole. Stop the butch bashing.