2009-07-21 08:36 pm

Identity vs. Objective Reality - Updated (2)

(Well, you've all waited long enough and finally had an evening free to write. I've decided to come from the "questioning" angle on this because offense is usually incurred when you start making claims about how things ought to be. So instead, I'll ask why the current system works the way it does and how we expect to deal with the problems caused by it.)

Update 2: After a lot of discussion I came to agreement with the idea that if someone's well being is at stake, concerns about communication and definition are completely secondary to that. So in the end, if you're faced with situations where communicating clearly or applying the definition is going to hurt you, then don't do so. In no way should linguistics come above the lives of people

Update - Fun times. I guess I wasn't clear enough in how I put this across (which sucks because I spent days agonizing over how to put it.) To make it unnecessary to wade through the sea of comments generated by a simple misunderstanding I'm going to put up a point of clarification right here at the top.

I am not in any way or form saying that male or female should retain their same definitions. Just because I dislike the self referential definition doesn't mean that the current state of affairs is perfect, great or even acceptable. What would be a good solution that takes identity into account is a redefining like this:

Female: one who either possesses (and is content with) or wishes to attain (for whatever reason) or self conceptualizes more closely with the bodily structure commonly created by the XX triggered developmental path.

And there you go. A simple and easy way to create a definition of the word that is not self referential and doesn't nonsensically destroy its own capacity to communicate any meaning. While still protecting us from cissexist abuses of the biological classification system from which female and male originally came. I hope this makes it abundantly clear that I'm not a linguistic purist trying to enforce the current definitions of male and female as perfect while also making it clear that self referential definitions are not necessary to safeguard ourselves.


I think we're all pretty aware of the nastiness of identity politics and elitist hierarchies built into the sub communities of GLBT. Especially how they're used to elevate some and detriment others in an attempt to break associations that some might consider damning to them (when in reality the hate is going to spill on us all, whether we look "normal" or not). And of course, identity crises are pretty awful in and of themselves. Even when not induced by attacks by a bunch of community shredding jackals, they can still shatter self image and leave a person feeling completely lost. There are also situations wherein one using a given label, despite its base conceptual accuracy, is woefully impractical. A good example would be an individual who is well aware of their bisexuality but is attracted to so few women (and so rarely) that mentioning that bisexuality is at best irrelevant and at worst seriously misleading to interested women.

All three of these things are really good reasons to put some protections into place for people's identities and to allow some leeway in self description. Support groups (good ones anyways) tend to frown very fiercely on questioning someone's identity, pronouns, self image and etcetera. Outsiders are usually regarded as a bad judge of what someone's identity is and the common wisdom that a person knows oneself best is usually expected to be followed. None of these things are a problem. It is certainly positive to prevent the identity attack infighting that is so very endemic in the trans community (but is also a problem in the gay, lesbian and bi community as well, most noteably directed very nastily at bisexual folk). It is also benign and ultimately positive to allow simplification of the social interactions that depend on labels, because I know that (were I in the situation mentioned above) I wouldn't want people I'm not attracted to trying to get in my pants just because I'm attracted to one or maybe two members of that particular sex.

This all being said, I have to say I'm a bit confused by what seems like serious overcompensation in response to these problems.

You see, all of the responses above are perfectly reasonable. They still account for objective reality, they just prevent infighting, personal attacks and social complication. None of them outright contradict reality or counsel one that it is fine for them to do so. They might let a few people through who don't have a firm grasp of reality, but that's ultimately not a serious problem for an individual in the GLBT community. It isn't like in the pagan community where misusing words and allowing identity to contradict reality actually decontextualizes and delegitimizes cultures and tends to come from entitlement and ethnocentrism.

But when the self image a person has contradicts reality, that still is a problem. At the very least for them.

So we hit the actual issue. There is a trend in the GLBT community wherein individuals may take on any term describing themselves, even if they do not even remotely resemble the objective definition of said label. This is... troubling. For one, it makes communication unbelievably confusing and it also creates a level of social complication out of that confusion that kills any simplification excuse immediately. You aren't simplifying things if you're a single bisexual individual but you call yourself heterosexual and then get upset when lesbians don't show interest in you.

The basis behind this is what bothers me the most. I get the impression (and have been outright told by some people) that the terms lesbian, bisexual, gay, homosexual, heterosexual, straight, woman, man, male, and female quite simply all mean "one who identifies as x" wherein x is the term that we are defining. Example: bisexual is one who identifies as bisexual. Not everyone uses this basis, this is just the most common one I confront.

Why is this troubling? After all, this does mean no one can question another person's identity anymore. There's no identity crisis because if you feel like you aren't a lesbian then you aren't. If you feel like you are, then you are. Sure it makes things complex socially, but since when has social life ever been simple?

Well the reason is because the definition "one who identifies as x" (wherein x is the term being defined) is a self referential definition that yields absolutely no more information than every single other one of the words. The whole reason why I can summate the preferred definitions of those words into just one line with a variable for the term is because the definition is virtually the same among each of the words.

Now, if the only thing you feel like communicating to someone is that you personally feel like you are "term x" and absolutely nothing else, this works just fine for you. But if you actually feel like communicating your sexual attractions to someone, or whom you are more likely to date, or your body structure, or the social group you are a part of or really any other information than your own self image, then you've just utterly destroyed the usefulness of those words. And the worst part is, you've already expressed that you think you are term x if you apply term x to yourself. The definition is utterly redundant. If you say, "I am term x" then we already know that you see yourself as x. We don't need the word to mean, "one who thinks one is term x".

When I tell someone I'm a lesbian, I'm telling them that I am interested in female folk. There's a certain amount of leeway as lesbian can be stretched between principally dating a given group (women or female folk) and just being attracted to that same given group. The split between woman and female also arises from the complication that trans folk throw into the mix. I'm not trying to tell people that I think I'm a lesbian. I've already expressed this just by the context of the self application of that word. So it just strikes me as sort of... well... silly.

Of course, trans folk have trouble with this too. I can get pre op, pre hormones folk using the words woman or man because those words stretch to fit the sociological groups too. It works just fine. But when we start using the term female (or male) for ourselves when our bodies are still physically our birth sex, that's when things start failing to meet with reality. This is especially a bad idea for trans folk (at least those who require physical transition) because we need to be able to articulate to our health providers and doctors that we require a physical transition. If I were to call myself female before hormones and surgery, how am I supposed to tell the doctor that I need a female body?

Me: "Sorry doc, I'm already female but I need boobs and a vagina."

Doc: "Wait... what? o_O"

I get that the terminology is especially painful for us trans folk. I have dysphoria triggers from the word male simply because it is a firm reminder of the genitals I have. But you don't have to use painful terms either. There is nothing saying we have to apply labels in a social setting. You don't have to say that you're male or female or think about it at all. The situation certainly doesn't require something so drastic as to strip virtually all meaning from the words male/female. (Note that this applies to nonbinary as well, but usually with the medical condition word; intersexed.)

It has honestly reached the point where I've literally had to avoid the terminology in certain situations just to avoid the debates that come from GLBT folk on just my word choice. Instead of discussing my sexuality as lesbian, I've had to talk instead in terms of being a male to female transsexual who is physically attracted to the female form because I've had people who thought lesbian meant one who identifies as a lesbian and told me I automatically was one, even if I was into guys. (There's someone here who might think this is directed at her, but really hun, you were very respectful and reasonable when you brought it up. You even asked permission first, so please don't think this particular example is directed at you. I've had these conversations with a lot of people and you were the absolute best about your view.)

I don't know about anyone else, but I see it as a problem when a word loses its meaning almost completely. I also don't see the point of using labels if all their meaning is already expressed by you applying the word to yourself in conversation. That's my view on it.

I wouldn't mind alternate explanations, clarifications and corrections if I have the wrong impression about this. It's very possible I've misunderstood the justifications or even misunderstood the attitudes on identity labels. I will mind getting a shitstorm of asinine screaming at me for "attacking identities" though. Let's be mature people. That's pretty much all I'm asking here.
2009-06-22 08:54 pm
Entry tags:

The twisted warrens of sexuality

Sexuality can be a bit of a bitch sometimes.

It's a twisty labyrinth of confusion and difficulty, often with nasty little dead ends, circular paths and irritating pitfalls.

I'm not going to get into the topic of identity because that's going to need an entire post all its own, a post that will likely cause some horrible maelstrom of angry death in the form of enraged people, because identity is always a bitchy topic. So no. I'm not talking identity here. I am talking plain old, red blooded, fire in the loins arousal. Who makes me hot. The kind of form I find sexy. That is the concern I am dealing with.

I'm using the terms in just that context for this post only, not in the context of identity, not in the context of anything but "who makes you hot and who doesn't". If this bothers you, well that sucks, but I need to articulate my situation without postmodernist interference in the meaning of words. So, I guess, "get over it" is in order? Yes. Get over it.

Onward!

Sexuality gets worse when you throw transfolk into the mix. You hear all this stuff about hormones changing sexuality which the scientist in me says, "bullshit" to, primarily because there's nothing but poorly documented and poorly verified anecdotal evidence in favor of it. In opposition to the pretty consistent lack of sexuality changes in the folks the scientists are actually watching over. But that's also not the subject of this post and before the shitstorm descends, allow me to point out that I will be blogging on this exact subject at a later date. So save your enraged comments for me then when they won't be wasted on me not caring about off topic stuff right now.

Right, me, stop digressing.

The fact is, there have been a few folks I've talked to who have noticed a change in who they're turned on by and they've all theorized that it has something to do with dysphoria. Because as the dysphoria faded so did their revulsion for guy bodies. And with the fading of that revulsion, came the appearance of sexual attraction. Which means to me that there's some sort of mental block involved. After all, if your dysphoria is nasty enough to make you utterly hate penis simply because its on you, well then that would make it a bit rough to feel attracted to guys wouldn't it?

So let's cut to the chase, shall we? I'd much rather be bisexual then homosexual or heterosexual. I've joked that I regard bisexuality as a superpower, the ability to be attracted to both the primary sexes (pansexuality would actually be a better superpower since it includes the wonderful nonbinary folk, but baby steps first!)

This isn't entirely an issue of wanting a larger dating field (especially since bisexuals get screwed over by both the gay and straight communities so really, the field doesn't get much bigger.) This is more of an issue of me being polyamorous *GASP* and disliking the idea that a partner can't bring a guy into a closed circle relationship without sexuality issues.

This is also an issue of one of my partners being transmasculine *DOUBLE GASP* (okay that one isn't so unusual). You see, I know for a fact I'm omniromantic, in that I can love any compatible (emotionally and such) person romantically, guy, girl, nonbinary, whatever. I just can't seem to muster a sexual attraction to anyone who isn't female bodied. This transmasculine boyfriend of mine (he goes by the guy pronouns, has a pretty androgynous name and seems to be more agendered then anything) nevertheless still may transition down the guy path at some point, if only to get closer to the middle. This faces me with a rough situation. I'm attracted to his female body. I know this, he knows this. We met before he or I even planned to transition or we really understood the whole trans thing. Love happened and so now, we are together. He doesn't have a problem with it. As long as I don't make it obvious and trigger dysphoria, he's good. Same way I'd be if someone liked my penis. Just don't remind me its there during the fun bed time and I'm golden.

Anyways. I dislike the idea that there's a possibility I could lose some of my sexual intimacy with one of the people I love. So now, I'm seeing if there's some sort of dysphoria caused mental block and I actually have pansexuality or bisexuality right away so I can stop stressing about this and have the fairy tale happy ending. (This mayhaps is a bit of a silly venture of mine, but humor me. Self discovery is important for a lot of reasons and mine aren't bad as far as reasons go.)

To be completely thorough, a huge reason will always be this: I want to know myself. And I can really just leave it at that can't I? *grin* But I like giving people an idea of what my crazy life is like, so oh well. Long post means I love you more!

So on this sexuality topic, I'm attempting to figure out the best way to test this. Unfortunately my boy isn't the best option because he's very much un-transitioned.

So far I've looked at a variety of erotic pictures, animated to real, mostly het (as I am a young woman after all), all reasonably lowkey and semi realistic. Some pictures from guy friends online who were glad to help me discover myself etc etc (apparently I'm in hot demand or something. o_O) None of the erotica has really done anything for me. Even the ridiculously girly guys don't really turn me on. I find them aesthetically pretty but... no action in the arousal zone.

So I've eliminated bisexuality as a possibility. It's pretty clear that I find female bodies in general arousing and male bodies in general boring (or hilarious, hehehe penis). So now, I'm attempting to test for the possibility of an odd form of pansexuality, wherein I have the general attraction to women but for men, only a visibly expressed sexual interest in me and a compatible personality (+trust and caring) will actually fire up my interest in their body.

This one is... tough to test, unfortunately. For one, I need to find a guy who I trust, like, and am compatible with (emotionally and intellectually), who also trusts, likes me back and is sexually attracted to me. This includes being okay with me being trans. And this guy needs to be okay with a relationship not arising out of this based on logistics and he has to be able to stop having sex with me immediately if I need him to stop (in case the lack of interest remains and the sexual attention becomes unwanted or violating).

I'm trying to work within the bounds of my aesthetic preferences, so girly guys basically, because I figure, that's the best chance I've got to track an attraction.

So that's my quest of self discovery and experimentation. There's a prospective guy who seems to like me a lot (he's not terribly femmy though, unfortunately) but I still need to tell him I'm trans and then find out if he's even interested in having sex with me or at the very least, acting sexually interested towards me. This is sort of a tough and sensitive road to walk because I'm not sure if anything will come of this and a lot of guys see this kind of thing as cock teasing in disguise. x_x

I will keep my loyal readership (all 5~7 of you XD) in the know as I look around and figure this out.

And coming up, my shitstorm inducing posts of doom about identity and about sexuality changes in transfolk! Drama will likely descend on me like a storm of very perturbed mutant zombie hornets in these next two bloggages, so try to wear some hazmat gear and bring some first aid kits. No matter what you view you have in those two topics you are going to piss off at least 20% of the population, so I have steeled myself for the worst.


(I did my best to explain the words in base concepts that I used, in case people not well versed in GLBT issues read this. If any of the terminology in there is confusing, even with the additional explanation, please leave a comment asking for a definition. I do not mind it at all and I'm always pleased to help folks out with understanding a bit better.)