12.26.2007

Sex and Romance, pt I

I’m writing about sex because I need to stop ignoring it. The issues that come with sex I can usually ignore until they’re happening, and before I know it, I’m in tears. This is really personal for me, but like I said, I need to figure it out.

Gender was something that I had never actually thought about until two things happened in my life: my close friend came out to me as FTM and I started reading the comic Venus Envy. I had experienced some gender dysphoria previously, but much of it was resolved when I cut my hair at age 16. Come to think of it, this all happened around age 16. Guess it really is a time of coming of age.

I was dating Jim for a while, having come out as bi a year or so before starting to date him, and still very much identifying that way. I guess it bears saying that my identity has been consistently evolving from the moment I first considered it. I suppose that is the trouble with being someone who just doesn’t fit into traditional categories. Anyway, Jim was the first person I had done anything sexual with at all. Being shy, I assumed that my hesitations had to do with that and not any underlying identity problems. Everything went pretty smoothly, from what I remember. I also know I could be blocking out anything that didn’t go smoothly. A good chunk into the relationship, I had developed a crush on a friend, A, that turned out to be mutual, which in turned developed into my first attempt at polyamory. Besides emotional complications involved with dating two people who are not also dating each other, when A and I got into a situation that was a little hot and heavy, I got hit with a brick wall otherwise known as a gender identity crisis. Previously, I remember asking Jim on the phone, “What if I’m transgender?” and him pretty much telling me that it didn’t matter to him and it was only what I made out of it. Well, I suppose this is what I hadn’t expected to run into, that “what if” becoming a top priority.

Although the situation is fuzzy and it doesn’t help that I am ridiculously shy anyway, I remember all the sudden becoming very painfully aware that in this sexual situation, there was something missing. Something that I was supposed to have that wasn’t there. The situation ended awkwardly, nonetheless, not amounting to anything. I am pretty sure that I receded into my head for a bit, ending the relationship and putting a hold on that friendship for a while. I was left with this new realization about myself, though, which I am glad I had while I was still with Jim. With lots of research and little actually talking to people (which was a new thing for me, I used to figure everything out in the public spectrum of blogging…go figure), I figured out that what made things not so apparent with Jim was that there was a lot of projecting going on, at least on my part. With him, there had never been any defined gender roles, and there were exactly one of every part that anyone could want; a flat chest, boobs, a penis, and a vagina. I think that having that situation in an intimate situation is certainly something that I miss, although now I am much better at dealing with myself and my body now than I was back then. Once I realized that I was projecting and that I could, well, I did it a lot more. I finally blogged about it as well as have many conversations with Jim as well as a few with my FTM friend and some other friends as well.

Jim and I broke up eventually and I was left fearing for my romantic future. I was certain that I would never find another that I was physically comfortable with. I had started speaking with A again and a couple months later, was convinced to attend a college drag show. (At this point, I was still a high school senior.) I jumped at the chance to dress up in drag. I had attended a local queer youth dance bound and packing but ended up mostly scared out of my mind of someone finding out. I headed down to the college and A set me up with my next girlfriend, J. J was, well, femme. And hot. And older. And I fell hard and fast. Luckily, she fell for me too. It was a long distance relationship and she shared my ridiculous amount of shyness, so besides our initial make-out, things moved really slow. I was glad of it, but I was really questioning myself. Sometime during the course of dating Jim, I realized that he was the only guy I had ever been attracted to and that I was more likely to like girls, and had changed my outward identification to “lesbian” even though I hate the word and certainly identified at the time as queer and/or genderqueer. I certainly never identified myself as butch, but in dating someone femme, I was suddenly faced with gender roles, something Jim and I had thrown out the window. In the few times that we did things, surprisingly, I initiated them and led the way. I felt like it was my duty, being the masculine one and all.

This brings me to one thing that I have always felt very conflicted about in my identity; I am a bottom. If you look at the way society views dominance, it is considered a masculine trait. If I had to say whether, overall, I felt more masculine or feminine, I definitely feel more masculine although I have trouble relating to both terms for sure. I often wonder how I can be both masculine and submissive. I realize that it is society that has decided that masculine=dominant and that I seem to say “Society says what? Fuck that,” to everything, so why should this be any different?

When thinking about being a top, as I sometimes try (and maybe am getting better at? I don’t know), I always seem to be missing the necessary tools. And aggression. It also doesn’t help that I seem to be the most ridiculously sensitive person ever and it doesn’t take much to overwhelm my sense and turn my muscles into jello. Actually, I don’t think I’ve even figured myself out enough to deal with this particular topic at this time.

I’ve run out of momentum at this time; expect more on this topic. I’ve only scratched the surface and most of this is stuff that I have already talked about before. Why is sex so complicated?

Tell me once again
What's below the surface bleeding
If you've lost your way,
I will take you there

2 comments:

C said...

It is easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that gender identities really don't exist outside individual people. Media companies, churches, parents, governments and fearful people all work really really hard to make people forget that we are all essential out here in the world on our own in a physical world that we really don't understand, with a limited amount of brain power, sensory information and time. And that even as advanced as we are as societies and as much as we have researched and studied and observed, we still have no fucking clue why we are here or how we work.
If you look at the way that gender identity has been constructed across cultures and history, there are so many other forces at work besides self-identity and sexuality. Genders identities have been constructed in the past to establish primary social rules and as a way of moderating the division of labor. Gender historically has been a method of social order - the fact that it is tied to biological sex or the shape of your genitalia is sort of a historical relic - much in the same way that social class has been hung on meaningless biological factors like race. The modern idea of men and women as absolute truths that stretch into time immemorial is a complete and under fabrication. they are no more fixed to ideas of masculinity and femininity than the terms democrat and republican are tied to liberal and conservative.
So going forward to the current era - here we have all of these various symbolic concepts hung on the ideas of man and women in the collective Western culture consciousness. And then you have the industrial revolution and all of the sudden life gets super comfortable and it really doesn't take a man to run the farm and a woman to run the house and 17 children to keep the family buisness afloat and all of the sudden you have all of these social rules that were intended to keep people in line enough to make sure that there was someone to raise kids and someone to cut corn and you try to implement those parameters on people who don't have that kind of life. And furthermore, people have come to internalize these rules as being somehow innately related to your biology - which they are not. that's not to say there hasn't always been a healthy minority of people who have rejected the roles society has put on them - its just an example of where some of the ideas that have been linked with masculine/feminine genders have come from.
Anyway, so then you get a whole bunch of modern armchair psychologists like Freud who come along and stigmatize the fuck out of everybody's sexuality and gender construction and offer up their theories as scientific fact (during a time when the public at large was completely on the nuts of modern science and took everything "scientists" said as fact)and all the sudden, in addition to a social stigma about being "differently" gendered you also have the medical establishment reinforcing the idea that there is such a thing as normal gender and anything outside of the narrow definition is a medical condition. anyway, as i'm sure you probably know, it took until the 1970's for the APA to recommend that homosexuality stop being diagnosed as a psychological disorder and until the 1980's to actually get it removed from the list of known disorders. and yet, still, it is common practice to diagnosis people with gender dysphoria if they step outside the "traditional" blurry-edged boundries - ie, they give upstanding, moral majority citizens the willies. This is the world that we were born into...

Okay. so thats my gender-theory-historical-perspective soapbox. What i actually meant to say is that Gender Identity as a category that one can fit into or as something that you can make assumptions about does not exist. It's not like there are these fixed categories that people can either fit in or fall out of. nor is it even a gradient from one to the other. nor is there some kind of cloud of points hovering around certain concentrated areas that we can call average, or normal or standard. it just doesn't exist. Sure certain social parameters have a hand in shaping identity - just as the kinds of food you eat growing up with shape the way you experience food for the rest of your life. But gender identity in the broad, social sense is an example of a human need to recognize familiar patterns and be able to quantify and distinguish traits in a meaningful way in order to even think about them or communicate them. So, the way that we get lumped into being men, or women, or boy-girls, or dykes or fags or whatever has more to do with the limitations of human language and pattern recognition than it does with what we actually ARE. In order to communicate with others in any kind of cohesive way we have to have a system of symbols that we agree mean certain things. this is the way ideas about personalities, nationalities, ethnicities, genders etc are created. there is really nothing more essential about gender identity to WHO YOU ARE than any of those other dichotomus categories - it just seems that sex is one of the first things that people use to start categorizing you.

I haven't really figured out entirely how sex and romance all fit into this situation except for that sex is really just another form of communication - which of course comes with its own codes and symbols and categories and naturally then, limitations.

So in the scope of this line of thinking - your being a male-leaning, female bodied, uber bottom with jello muscles is just about as shocking and incongruous as saying you like peas but not mushrooms. its just a matter of finding someone else to eat all of the mushrooms and give you all of their peas - nothing more, nothing less.

C said...

one more thing i forgot to mention. Even the most blonde, cute, feminine, acrylic nailed, barbie lady who's never even utter the word gender identity does not really fit the criteria set forth as a woman. first, there is no criteria, and second if you were to really look closely at who she is, you could probably find just as many traits that fall somewhere outside of things that people might list as being 'a woman'. people are people, not venn diagrams. :)