Sexuality and Gender in Modern Times
I was reading an amazingly fantastic and thought provoking article in New York Magazine on the growing number of parents who are accepting and assisting their children — sometimes very young children — with gender dysphoria issues. The article can be found here and is worth every minute it takes to read. As I was reading these deeply touching stories of families who’s children know they’re in the wrong gender bodies and fear the results of the onset of adolescence, I started wondering how I would react if any of my children began expressing these similar fears and concerns and assertions.
I know the struggles I faced growing up trying to match my desires and urges with what family and society expected of me. In a way I still struggle, albeit it less every day, because the act of unlearning fear and shame and anxiety is not completed overnight. My dynamic dance between pride and embarrassment, however well choreographed, still leaves my improvising the next step more often than not. I know I have no reason to feel shame, or to cow to the perceived expectations of a nameless and faceless Society, yet the underpinnings are still there awaiting the day I finally remove the cracked foundation and pour a fresh, solid slab.
So I wonder, with a great deal of empathy, how much of a struggle it must be for children to have to not only face the conflict of desiring a romantic relationship counter to the accepted societal norm but also face the daily, inescapable reminder that the physical gender identity does not match that with which the brain associates. I could sneak surreptitious appreciative glances at other guys and not get caught, or focus on erotica in the privacy of my own room. For the child experiencing gender dysphoria there is no escape; s/he is reminded during every bladder movement, every changing of clothes, every bath or shower or trip to the beach or swim in the pool that the body parts are wrong.
I am glad that the direction of acceptance for non-standard gender and sexuality expressions is more positive now than it was even 5 years ago, much less during the 1980s and 1990s when I was a child. Shows like Will & Grace helped crack the barrier wall that encompassed talking about non-heterosexual relationships in a positive light. More recently, Rupaul’s Drag Race has helped showcase how positive and empowering it can be for someone to embrace the internal sexual and gender identity and showcase that externally. Further support for the non-normative has come from the Againt Me! frontman Tom Gabel announcing that he is Transgender and will begin the process of full Male-to-Female procedures while taking on her true name of Laura Jane Grace. And of course, the coup de grace came when President Obama publicly announced what many had known for a long time; that he is in favor of same-sex marriage. His standing on this position has led even the NAACP to enact in their bylaws that they will not tolerate any discrimination against people of the same sex wishing to marry.
But the issue of being transgender, an indeed of gender and sexuality as a whole, is that the system simply is not as binary as man and woman, gay and straight. My favorite Kink Networking site, FetLife, offers 12 options in both the gender and sexuality selection boxes, and many on the site argue that even those options are not diverse and inclusive enough to encompass the wide variety of sexual and gender identities. In this field, at least, the Kink, Fetish, and BDSM community seems more progressive and accepting than mainstream society. This comes as no major surprise, though; the fringe groups almost always seem to be the ones who foretell the progress the rest of the country and world will eventually embrace.
As I read the stories of the young boys and girls, some of whom are now young men and women, who struggled with their gender identity and sought to change that perception and understanding of every person around them, I related to the constant struggle to want other people to understand. The puritanical views of so many people with this country we call the United States of America makes it, in fact, more divided than ever when it comes to stances on gender and sexual identities. The general view in California differs from that of New York which differs from that of Alabama which is similar to that of North Carolina which in turns differs from that of Washington D.C., and so forth. There is nothing united about the unfair, prejudiced, and segregated treatment those of non-normative identities must face in this country. I’m lucky on the one hand in that I can appear normative; after all, I have a fiancee and we have a family together, so that by all appearances we are a “normal” couple. On the other hand, I’m a bi/queer male with poly-open-swing tendencies who likes a bit of bondage and power exchange and is learning to unleash, explore, and understand the full depth of the human sexual experience. I am not normal.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog/journal here in my own little corner of the internet. I know, as non-normative as I am, that there are others out there like me, or similar to me, who need reassurance that they’re not alone in these feelings. Hopefully, as my circulation grows, these people will find me in their quests for answers and find solace or camaraderie or feel a sense of kinship or hope. I struggled mostly alone in my understanding of myself until Mrs. AP and I found each other, and the help she has provided me has been life-alteringly positive.
I only hope I can pay that forward.
Stay SINful, friends.