To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{March 17, 2011}   Gender and Sexual Orientation

In my various wanderings across the web and through various gender books, one of the things I continuously run across is the argument that your biological sex should not define your gender. I think pretty much everyone reading this blog is going to agree with this.

What I think is interesting is the other argument that I hear on a frequent basis, though: that your sexual orientation DOES define which genders you’re allowed to be.

The argument here is that, for instance, only lesbians can be butch or femme. (For the sake of brevity, and because it seems more hotly contested, I’m going to shorten this to just femme. The arguments for butch actually change slightly, anyway.) Of course, this is a very black and white argument: it doesn’t take into account bi women, or only takes them into account when they’re dating other women. If it does take them into account, it then identifies them as ‘queer,’ so only queer women can be femme, but even then queer in this use seems to silently mean ‘attracted to other women,’ even among the people who would argue in other circumstances that queer can mean almost anything.

While I understand the desire to say, “Hey! I’m femme, and I’m already a minority, damn it, you hetro people get your hands off my gender!”, I still don’t think it’s actually right. I don’t see the difference between using biological sex to constrain gender or using sexual attraction to constrain gender. Either way, we’re saying certain genders can only be used by certain people. Wasn’t the whole point of breaking out of gender boxes so that genders were no long constrained by biology? Which, according to most, is what drives sexual orientation.

If I’m going to say that my biology does not dictate my gender, then I must accept that there are fabulous gay men out there who are also femme, and in fact that there are even hetero cis women who are also femme — whether or not I like it.

Am I wrong? Is my logic flawed somewhere?


{July 24, 2010}   Women: Gender and Sex

I was responding to G‘s comment, talking about how I felt that who I’m attracted to isn’t the same as who I am, and I was thinking (again, ad naseum) about being uncomfortable saying I was attracted to women, when something hit me.

I think my struggle isn’t with the sex. Someone asks about my sexual orientation, and I assume that they want to know what biological sex I’m attracted to. So I say “women,” because technically that’s correct. I think the problem lies in the fact that I’m not attracted to sex, so much as gender, transgender, and masculinity. But “woman” is also a gender orientation. I’m not attracted to women as a gender; I’m attracted to butch. But if someone asks what sex I’m attracted to, and the name for the correct sex is the same as the name for a gender I’m not attracted to… you see my dilemma? (I spelled that word so poorly the first few times that spellcheck couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say. *laughs*)

If someone asks me who I’m interested in, I say “Women” and I am both telling the truth (it is the biological sex), and lying (it is the wrong gender). I therefore really don’t feel like I can say I like women, because it’s a lie; I don’t like woman-as-gender particularly. (As a friend, sure, but — you know what I mean.)

It’s a linguistics problem, and it’s reinforced every time I try short cuts. I mean, if I’m talking to someone and I reference anyone I’m dating, it’s usually as, “The woman I’m dating…” which reinforces my own dysphoria. I don’t like the gender ‘woman.’ I am telling people I’m dating a woman. They assume I mean the gender as well as the sex, and while I can’t control their assumptions, knowing that I am feeding into those assumptions creates a discomfort within me that exacerbates the whole problem.

I don’t see easy solutions. When I can, I say, “The butch I’m dating…” but if I’m not talking to someone in the gay culture, especially if it’s not an appropriate time or place to get into a gender discussion, ‘woman’ is easier. I could say, “The butch woman I’m dating,” which would at least give people some clue as to what I mean when I say ‘butch,’ but it’s unwieldy. I could just not talk about it, but… A) ick, and B) I use anecdotes from my daily life ALL THE TIME to make a point or tell a story, usually with my clients, so that’s not going to happen.

Which leaves me… at least understanding why I don’t feel like ‘lesbian’ is the right term to describe my sexual orientation, even if it’s technically correct. Interestingly, if I think of the definition of lesbian as “women (the sex) who are interested in same-sex partners,” I’m more okay with it. If I think of the definition as, “Women who love other women,” I have that instant dysphoria again.  I think it really is the same-word-for-gender-and-sex conundrum.  Hmmm. I’ll keep you posted on my search for a solution. ;-D


*Edit: I just read Jolie‘s response to a comment G made here — G’s just gettin’ all around this week! *grins* — and I think it’s also accurate, and further adds to my discomfort. She mentioned that saying she likes women (or is lesbian) feminizes the partners she’s with. THAT IS TOTALLY TRUE. And, again, it makes me uncomfortable, both for misrepresenting myself and my likes, and for misrepresenting the person I’m with. Oh, language. It’s time for you to grow.

{February 9, 2010}   Help! I’ve lost my gender!

A phrase I keep hearing lately is one that I find very, very odd. It’s “genderless.”

The first time I heard this I completely lost the thread of the conversation, because I was sitting there trying to figure out what that was supposed to mean. Without a gender identity? Due to context, I was pretty sure we were talking about sexual orientation. Did it mean I didn’t have a gender preference, I would date any man with any gender? Or did they mean I didn’t have a biological sex preference? I finally decided they probably meant they were bisexual, and didn’t discriminate between male and female.

Still. What an odd term, given gender doesn’t mean sex. Really, the phrase genderless makes me thing of someone who considers themselves without gender. I imagine there are people like that out there, and yet, this isn’t what was meant at all.

Part of the problem was that in the place I heard it — that sexuality class I’m in — not everyone understands the difference between sex and gender, that they don’t necessarily go together. I mean, we discussed it and they passed around a handout, but I’ve noticed ‘gender’ often gets used when the speaker really means ‘sex.’ It makes me very aware of how important it is to have a clear definition of the words you’re using. It also makes me aware of how the word is used in every day life. I almost want to go apply for jobs now, so that I can mark the ‘male’ ticky box under gender, just to mess with people.

I know, I know, I’m a bad person.

Language is all important, and yet we have such different ideas of what means what. It makes communication tricky, sometimes. 😉


{February 7, 2010}   Cake has layers!

So, a while back Bond had a post on sexual fluidity, and how, in her opinion, sexuality isn’t fluid. I’ve been thinking about it since.

I both agree and disagree with what she was saying, because while I don’t think sexuality changes like water splashing around in a dish, I do think sexuality changes over time and there isn’t a specific barrier. In that it’s a steady forward change with no boundaries, I think it can be called fluid. I left a comment describing what I’d always imagined fluid gender to mean, which was more like a river or stream; always moving forward, often changing, but without an obvious stop and start. “Here we’re whitewater, and across this line we’re deep!” No no no.

Ephraim pointed out that the flowing river metaphor also implied people don’t have agency over their sexuality, that it gets buffered all around by outside forces, changed without their knowledge or acceptance. I don’t think that’s the case, but Ephraim was right; I just couldn’t think of a better metaphor.

Then the other day I was in a class on sexuality other than gay and straight (mostly bisexuality, though I’d hoped they would discuss other sexualities), and people were tossing around that fluid metaphor, and I kept thinking about Bond’s assertion that sexuality doesn’t change moment to moment like water does, and Ephraim’s comment about agency, and I finally realized something.

My sexuality has been constantly changing since I was born, that’s true. At the same point, I feel like I was born with a specific sexuality; like I don’t really have a choice over whether I’m gay or straight or bi (or queer!) — I just am. I was born that way. And yet, it’s taken a lot of time, and a lot of changing, for me to get where I am now (and I have no idea that I’m done figuring this out, yet).

It was that last part that caught my attention. The ‘figuring it out.’ When people ask me things about my sexuality, I often will finish up with, “But I don’t think I’ve figured it out, yet.” Which implies that there is a truth there to figure out. That it isn’t changing, so much as… becoming unburied.

Imagine for a moment that I’m born already queer-sexual. I’m hardwired to like queer people. Now, as I’m growing up, things are going to influence me — society is going to layer on expectations and bury any kind of non-normal wants, desires, and behaviors. It’s my job as I reach teenage and adulthood, then, to start shoveling off those layers.

First I was attracted to men, but not always. Not often. But that’s what was expected. Then I realized I didn’t have to do the expected, and I shoveled off that layer that society had put on me, getting a level closer to what my actual sexuality is.

Then I liked men and women, because that was bisexual. But that wasn’t quite right, either. I shoveled off another layer to get a little closer to my sexuality.

Then I liked butch women; closer to my sexuality. Now it’s queer people. Closer still.

Maybe I’m there, now. Maybe I’m not. I have a hunch I’m still shoveling, though I’m closer now. It’s been a gradual process, though layers implies clean breaks. Still, if you try and remove the layers on an onion, other layers peel up too and the top layers only peel partially, so that at no point is there a clear cut, perfectly removed layer. (I would rather not be compared to an onion. Cake has layers! *grins*)

In class the other day, I finally made the comment that I didn’t feel like my sexuality was fluid. I felt like it was one specific thing, something I was born with, and that the outward expression of my sexuality had changed over the years because I was trying to find what it was and it took some exploring.

There isn’t a clear path. You wander a little this way, a little that way, have to stop and find the trail again. It changes, but it doesn’t evolve or… or randomly flip. It was always there. It’s only changing because I’m finding my way, finally, through everything I’ve been taught to the truth that’s, at the moment, a little bit hard to find. Maybe for some people the path is more obvious. I dunno about you guys, but my path has been quite sneaky. 😉 Maybe, if I were aware of my sexuality as a little kid, I’d be able to find it easier now. But I had better things to worry about then — like My Little Ponies. *grins*


It’s been a fucktard of a week. Okay, actually, it’s only been fucktardian for the last few days; the early week was fine. But the last few days have kind of killed me.


Over the last few months, more than a couple of people have asked me if I’m identifying as lesbian now, rather than bi. I keep telling them that I don’t know; ask me in six months when the shiny of butch has worn off. But recently, I was trying to fill out a personal ad (that’s a whole other story that involves the desire to kneecap someone) , and I realized that the traits I like in butch women are the same traits I like in men. I mean, sure, there are some differences, but if a guy with all the butch traits I listed came up to me, I’d be just as happy. Difference is, when I see them in guys it’s often accompanied by sexist domineering.

Something to think about.

So I guess that means I really am bi, because both turn my heads. I’m also in this class on sexuality right now. “Class” isn’t the right word; it’s more like a discussion group. It’s looking specifically at sexuality that falls in between gay and straight. Bisexuality and polyamory.

Technically, I’m bi. But… it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t sit comfortably. I’m not attracted to both men and women. Or rather, I don’t care what their sex is. I’m attracted to masculine people, and the bits are, imo, secondary. The men I’m attracted to feel queer to me. Not gay, per se, but queer. Odd. Not Like Normal. A little bit dominant, a little bit edgy, a fair dash of knighthood, interested in exploring gender and sexuality, even if only from the sidelines. I often find men in eyeliner REALLY HOT, and metrosexual men in general make me weak at the knees.

When I imagine The Perfect Person, biology doesn’t factor into it. There’s some sex-specific traits: if it’s a man, I want someone actively interested in equality, and if it’s a woman that’s not as important as long as they aren’t sexist. If it’s a woman… well, she’s already subversive if she hits my other ideals, so she’s got a leg up. OTOH, men are more likely to have broad, muscular shoulders. (Mmmm. Shoulders.)

BUT, before I distract myself with shoulders (mmmm. Shoulders) the point I was making is that I don’t feel bisexual. To say I’m attracted to both sexes feels like a technicality. I feel like… I’m attracted to masculinity. Male or female doesn’t matter — and so bisexuality, while technically correct, is only a bi-product (ha ha) of what I AM attracted to. Does any of this make sense?

OTOH, looking back at what I’ve written just now, maybe it’s not masculinity, even. Maybe K was right and I’m attracted to transgendered people. I mean, the more I think about the guy I would be attracted to, the more I realize there are some differences in what I like between a guy and a girl — but in both cases I’m pulled by breaking gender rules. Is there a word for that? For being attracted to transgender folks? I was starting to identify as masculine sexual, if that’s possible, but… well, I don’t know what this would be. I wonder if there are other people who hit this.

Or maybe there isn’t a “this” at all. Maybe it’s just a quirk, like some people like brunettes. They don’t call themselves brunette-sexual, and if someone came along who wasn’t transgendered but was perfect in every other way… if that person were male, I might date them. As long as they were also feminist and interested in gender and things like that, which, to my eye, seems a bit queer anyway. Guys who are interested in things like that are often also more willing to experiment. So, uh, I guess I just talked myself out of thinking I’d date someone non-queer/transgendered. If that’s a priority, then, if I don’t find myself attracted to other people, is it considered a sexual orientation?

Hm. My head hurts.


et cetera