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I am Not Sex-Favorable: Identifying as a Sex-Indifferent Asexual, and What That Actually Means.

So, when I first heard the term sex-favorable, I thought it was great – I knew of a couple people who had long felt that they were something other than just indifferent, but that never had a good way to describe that. It seemed like a nice way to round out our terminology – sex averse/repulsed for the folks who can’t stand the idea, sex-indifferent for the types who are kinda “meh” about it, and…

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i.e. things like average age of first date, # of relationship partners by a certain age (or lifetime), etc. It’s pretty easy to find statistics on things like age of first sexual experience, # of sexual partners, etc., but I don’t know of any for things like dating or relationship histories.

I’m wondering because I had someone freak out the other day when they found out that I (at 22) had never dated anyone, and I was wondering how unusual that is - For example, I know that not having had sex by my age is uncommon, but not that unusual - around 5-15% of women my age have also never had sex. So what I’m wondering is whether the percent who have not dated or had [romantic?] relationships is similar, or if it’s much much lower (which I suspect it may be).

There’s a lot of research on things like young adult sexual behavior because it ties into public health concerns, but I’m not finding much on dating/relationships so far.

Just thought I’d jot down a couple thoughts on this because it’s been popping up in the tags recently.

First, I’m not going to argue against the idea that the types of discrimination targeted at LGBT people can be much more severe - it’s a simple fact that while many queer people live with the danger of being attacked or killed, that’s not usually the case for asexuals (ignoring for now cases of identity confusion and intersectionality, which are no little thing).

On the other hand, whether or not you get killed is not the end all be all of discrimination. Because while anti-LGBT discrimination may be widespread, so is pro-LGBT support and education. But that’s not the case for asexuality, at least not yet.

See, I was lucky enough to be raised in a very liberal, pretty pro-LGBT community, and to go to university in an even more queer-friendly area. I’ve lived a lot of my life in environments where being anti-gay-marriage gets you dirty looks at least and no one would dare openly discriminate against LGBT or claim that they need to be fixed or cured. So even though I’ve had periods of time where I was basically taken for queer by people who didn’t know that I was asexual I’ve never had to worry that much about the disapproval of or mistreatment by any of the people I respect and interact with a lot - there was too much of a strong social imperative against the mistreatment of LGBT people.

But on the other hand, I have no such guarantees that people will respect my asexuality in such a way. Many of the same people who are so into supporting the LGBT community see no problem with mocking asexuality, or making jokes about how we must be socially inept virgins or mentally ill sociopaths. They see no problems with telling us we can’t be real, that we should go back in the closet or go to a doctor to “fix” our problems. When we try to discuss out own experiences we get accused of being special snowflakes - or worse, we are told that our experiences are “problematic” and a promotion of homophobia and rape-culture - we are attacked simply for existing.

I have many spaces where I know I can be safe and respected as a queer-identified person. Yet I have almost none where I can feel fully safe and secure coming out as an asexual. 

See, discrimination against asexuals may be less severe in terms of magnitude. But unlike homophobia (at least in many areas), anti-ace discrimination is seen as totally acceptable. Laudable, even. Too many otherwise educated and decent people see nothing wrong with dismissing and degrading asexual people. And so long as people keep dismissing anything short of being murdered in the street, that problem will persist.

(plus, if severity of discrimination were the only thing that mattered, we should be shortening the acronym to the T and not caring about the rest…yet funnily enough, that’s the exact opposite of what usually happens.)

From a more practical viewpoint, for me it depends a lot on the context of how the phrase is being used. In general there are two main situations that I tend to see:

1. When describing to what kind of people are welcome or represented in *specific* organizations or spaces: Somewhat OK

One of the places I often see “ally” enumerated as part of LGBTQIA is in descriptions of organizations or events. For example:

"The Xavier School GSA is an LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and ally) organization devoted to education and fun" 

or

"AwesomeCon is an event open to LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and ally) individuals for the discussion of gender and sexuality and other awesome things”.

In this case, since these are examples referring explicitly to populations of both queer* people AND non-queer allies, it’s fine for A to be included - especially in things like GSAs/QSAs which are explicitly about both queer people AND allies together.

However, that isn’t always true - for groups that are meant to be closed, queer*-only groups, for example. Which leads to the following.

2. When referring to the segment of the general population which is nonheterosexual and noncis: No

When referring to things like “LGBTQIA persons are more likely to face discrimination than heterosexual and cisgendered individuals”, in which the focus is on contrasting between queer and non-queer individuals it makes no sense to have “allies” suddenly be in both categories, so no, then it is not appropriate. (and it well screw up all your statistics to boot).

Also, as far as “A is for Asexual” vs. “A is for Ally”: well, first, there’s nothing to keep it from standing for both; though I do think that if “ally” is included then at the very least “Asexual” should be as well. (though not necessarily the other way around). Also, “Ally” has been used in acronyms long before asexuality was on many groups’ radars so it isn’t in any way supplanting asexuality by being there. (And it can even have the unintended benefit of making many groups more open to including mentions of asexuality since they have that A already sitting there…)

*(I’m using “queer” as shorthand here here to refer to LGBTetc. but not straight-cis-ally individuals for now, to avoid too much ambiguity, but it’s good to remember that “queer” and “LGBT” are not necessarily interchangeable)

Anyway, that’s a bit of a messy explanation but since I’ve seen a lot of talk about it recently I thought I’d share my two cents.

EDIT: For a more relevent nonhypothetical examples, I think things  like this one that was being criticized earlier are actually totally fine (though I would like to asexuality added eventually as well). It makes no claims that allies face the same oppressions, it’s simply indicating that a student group is open to both queer people and allies.

…I almost want to punch someone in the face.

I am an aromantic asexual, and I would one day be interested in marriage. I may not be interested in “traditional” romanti-sexual relationships, but I am interested in some kind of long term, committed, intimate relationship. And the fact is that in this country, the only way to obtain legal recognition of that commitment - and access to financial, legal, and childcare benefits thereof - is marriage.

But in the state and time I live in, there is only a 50% chance of that being a possibility. If my partner happens to be of the “wrong” gender - which is just as likely, if not more, as having one of the “right” gender, we will be denied those rights just as much as any other queer couple. The groups that fight so hard to prevent marriage equality will not make an exception for me simply because I happen not to feel traditional romantic/sexual attraction. And if I do end up in a same gender partnership, people who take offense to that will not see a difference.

You see, for those of you who can’t conceptualize romantic orientations other than as watered down versions of other orientations - if we’re going to make comparisons, aromantics will probably always be closer to bisexuals than heterosexuals. I mean, for me, when questioning my identity, the first real thing I managed to establish was that I did not prefer men over women. It didn’t take long to figure out that the reverse wasn’t true either, and so for the period before I found out about asexuality, “apathetic bisexual” was the best mental descriptor I could find. On forced choice surveys that exclude asexuality, “bisexual” will always be the next best choice for me.

 Why do people still seem to want to insist so much that we must be straight?

Excerpt:

For a confusing metaphor to try and further explain the difference: Imagine life as a ladder that we try to climb. Advantage would be people giving you a hand up. Active disadvantage would be when someone kicks you down. Passive disadvantage would be when the ladder is covered in grease and you can’t pull yourself up.

And I think by separating it like this, it may be a little easier to understand how asexuality fits in. As asexuals, we tend to have fewer problems in terms of active disadvantages, but we do often have more passive disadvantages.

In addition, while we have fewer people kicking us down, we also have fewer people helping us back up as well. - this is what things like “the sexual advantage” and “sexual privilege” have usually been trying to articulate, even if occasionally in a problematic way. It’s important to remember though that acknowledging that a group has some advantages that others don’t doesn’t mean negating the fact that they may also have much more active disadvantages as well.

It is nuances like that that I believe “oppressed vs. privileged” fails to capture. 

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Well, seeing as “gay” meant “being happy” long before it meant “attracted to the same gender”, we better stop using that word. People might get confused.

Also, did you know that “bisexual” was first used in biology to describe organisms with both male and female sexual characteristics? I guess we have to invalidate that term too.

We also have to stop calling the heterosexuals “straight” - that term is already taken to describe line segments. Mathemeticians might get confused!

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the word “lesbian” - you’re just going to confuse everyone by making them think all these women are just from Greece!

Outside the romantic paradigm, some people form what they’re calling “queerplatonic” relationships. The word indicates nothing about the gender of the participants, but speaks to the desire to “queer” our understandings of platonic friendships. These are relationships of care ­— “life partnerships” that go quite beyond what most of us consider ordinary friendship. Many sexually ambiguous literary or onscreen relationships — think Frodo and Sam, Holmes and Watson, Thelma and Louise — can also be read as queerplatonic.

squidinklings:

jadelyn:

Okay. First of all, calm the fuck down. Have a cup of tea and take some deep breaths here. Second. let’s have a little chat about this fun and fancy little thing called root words.

Bi means “two”.

Poly means “many”.

Pan means “all”.

Are you still with me? I certainly hope so, because this is really, really basic.

Bisexual, going by root words, is the sexual attraction to two genders, ie Male and Female. Polysexual covers sexual attraction to many, but not all, genders. Pansexuality refers to the sexual attraction to all genders, hence its root word being “pan”.

Do you still follow me with root words here?

You see, the problem here is that you (general you) are trying to cram yourself into a label (for lack of a better term) that you do not necessarily fit into. There’s absolutely no need to try and redefine the word “bisexuality” to fit whatever you see your super special snowflake version of bisexuality being. Because bisexual already has a concrete definition based upon root words.

So you can be attracted to whatever the fuck gender you want, but don’t be labeling yourself as a bisexual if you’re not really a bisexual. Know why? Because there are other sexualities that you can refer to yourself as. There’s nothing wrong with changing your label (I really hate using that word). It’s why I, upon learning about more sexualities, nestled rather nicely in the niche known as pansexuality. It’s only a war if you choose to make it one, which you seem absolutely intent on doing.

Also, OP is a super nice person and responds better to people directly addressing her with their concerns rather than some social justice crusader bitching about something completely unrelated to the articles.

Ok let’s stop here for a second. As a linguistics student, I like words. I like seeing the words people use to talk about words. But here’s the thing about words: words derive their meanings from USAGE, not by whatever their distant roots may have meant. While roots can be helpful for guessing at the meaning of unknown words (SATs anyone?) they are by and far not the only deciding factor. 

For a perhaps morbid example, consider the word decimate - originally derived from a roman military practice, a strict root interpretation means something like “to kill one in ten”, (from latin decem=”ten”); but in it’s usage now, it has expanded to mean any large loss(of life, or of a sports game, or whatever else), even if it’s more than 10% - because the meaning has broadened. Similarly, although “bisexual” originates from a word for “two”, it since has broadened to mean more like “at least two”

(Also, before some pulls out “but my dictionary says!”, it should be noted that reliable dictionaries are generally several years behind the current state of language, and their definitions will of necessesity always be oversimplified and out of date - they are incredibly good references, but not an absolute authority on how a word is used.)

So let me repeat: When it comes to determining the proper definition of things, root words don’t count for shit. The only factor that actually matters in defining words? Is how they are actually used. 

Also, as the example earlier shows, words can change over timeresulting in different meanings than they once had - and also different meanings than their original roots may imply. This isn’t “fitting yourself into a special snowflake** definition”, it’s a natural part of the evolution of language! Yes, bisexuality once referred to like two genders - at a time when nobody even thought that there could be any more than two. As people became more aware that there could be more than two genders, the meaning of the word “bisexual” gradually shifted to accommodate that change, gaining the meaning of  ”attraction to more than one gender.” Do some people still go by a stricter definition of “only two because ROOTS!”? yes, of course some do. But that does not invalidate other definitions. 

Because, fun fact: words can have multiple different definitions at the same time! And so, for example,  pansexual can refer to someone attracted regardless of gender, or someone who happens to be attracted to many genders, or all genders - it’s all up to the person! And in the same vein, a bisexual could like all genders. Or maybe just two genders. Or maybe more than two but less than all!

There’s a long and complicated history behind the terms bisexuality and pansexuality, and there will probably never be a clear division between the two. Instead, they’re a sort of twisted up venn diagram with a lot of overlap and a lot of variance in definitions. The upshot of all this is that there is no single “correct” definition for bisexuality and pansexuality. Trying to pin down one and only one will just make people miserable.

And in the end, it’s not out place to police someone else’s identity, to say “no your sexuality is wrong call it this instead”.

And as both a linguistics fan and an asexual, I’m kinda done to death with BS etymological arguments being used to invalidate my identity - “but you can’t be asexual! That word is only for amoebas! And anyway a- means no and sex means sex so it means you have no genitals!” (Pro-tip: that’s not even how the word was derived.). Words mean more than just their roots, and identities are more than just their dictionary definitions. And in the end, people’s sexualities are their own to define, not for others to police. 

**Can I just say that I hate the term “special snowflake”? It never bodes well.

some musings inspired from a private conversation I was having a while ago, about the difference between sex and gender:

In the usual usage, as I understand it: “sex” refers to more “biological” characteristics; it refers to the m/f designation assigned to someone at birth based on chromosomes/hormones/genitalia or some combination thereof. “gender” refers to a persons personal ID as male/female/nonbinary/whatever other label. “gender identity” is usually conceived as separate from “gender roles” (traits that society associates with certain genders(or sexes, depending on who you ask)), “gender presentation” - whether a person has a stereotypically “masculine” or “feminine” visual presentation, clothes, etc. 

(However, the ways that “gender” is defined can vary from context - gender in trans identity conversations may differ from gender in gender-discrimination based conversations, etc. The only real constant is that gender is not supposed to be dependent on biology.)

Everything after is my own musings:

However, as to what “gender” is once biological and social attributions are removed is something I’m not clear on, as it appears to just be a word with no given connotations. My personal theory is that in practice, “gender” is an identity comprised of and/or informed by both biological and social considerations such as physical sex and cultural expectations of those sex/genders. 

In particular, I think of it as something like this: there are certain physical attributes (such as genitals, hormones, secondary sex characteristics, etc; general “male” and “female” characteristics.), which map to certain gender identities(woman, man, etc.), which in turn map to certain social characteristics (such as behaviors, appearances, roles, etc); exact mappings are determined by social context. A person’s gender is a result of them mapping themselves into this based on their physical and cultural traits, and gender dysphoria can occur when an individuals personal mappings don’t match up with the generally accepted mappings. 

I also think that “gender” as a concept of it’s own can’t really ever exist without being a factor of physical sex and or cultural roles; although it may not match up with all of those, without them there is nothing to give it substance. So the differences come from which factors are strongest in a given instance. 

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and what I wonder is this: since it seems to be a commonly accepted opinion that gender identity should not be determined by either physical characteristics or social characteristics, what is left once you strip those away?

Like, if saying “I am a woman” shouldn’t entail having a typically female physiological makeup, or taking on certain social roles, or certain clothing or behaviors or anything…then what does it mean?

This is something that I’ve been sort of musing about recently with regards to my own gender issues. Because for me, when it comes down to it, the only factor really informing my choice of gender label is my physical sex characteristics. I identify as female because that is the body I have; that is how other people perceive and react to me. Other than that, I don’t have any attachment to the label - I don’t feel like a “woman” or anything. If I were to wake one day with typically male genitalia, I would probably consider my gender male.

If anything, if I were asked what my gender is without regard to social or physical aspects, I’d probably just say “gender apathetic”; although I currently label myself as a “female”, that doesn’t mean anything to me other than that that is how other people perceive me. And because of this, I’ve spent some a lot of time questioning my gender -I’ve wondered in the past if maybe that means that I am trans or nonbinary or something - because there was never any kind of innate sense of “I am a woman”. It was just an identity based on how others saw me.

But even with all that…other identities didn’t make any sense either. Sure, I sometimes have discomfort with my chest and prefer to bind, and I often feel alienated in all female spaces, but…for me that had nothing to do with gender identity. It had to do with either purely physical body image issues or with objections to social stereotypes. Calling myself by another label or changing pronouns wouldn’t make a difference in that (which is the main reason I’ve never really pursued the idea of whether I might be trans - transitioning to another gender identity wouldn’t change anything, and the physical transitions are not really worth the side effects for me, so it’s just not a useful identity. )

So I guess what I’m wondering is…for other people, is there some kind of innate sense of gender other than just physical characteristics and socially attributed roles? I can’t tell whether this is really an issue with the way gender/sex are defined (which is my first impression), or if i just shows that maybe there’s something different about the way I experience gender.

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(Cross-posted from my Wordpress)

So in one of my classes recently, we had a guest speaker come in to talk about wikipedia, and one of the points he made that really hit home was that Wikipedia has a huge gender gap problem. For the majority of articles, around 90% are all edits made by men. It’s bad to the point where a 70/30 male/female gender split among editors of a certain page is considered extremely good. When asked of any pages with a majority female editorship, the presenter couldn’t actually think of any examples. And this is kind of a huge problem. Wikipedia is one of the biggest resources for information in the world, and having that be so utterly and completely male-dominated is a little unnerving. However, talking about this made me curious: are there any subjects where women actually dominate? I tried looking for pages that I though might  be likely to be majority female: Patriarchy, childbirth, Audre Lorde, tampons…..but all still have a majority of male editors.

Now, to get to point of all this:

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to attempt to find articles with at least 300 registered edits, in which the number of edits by women outnumbers the men. (Pages with a majority of women that are under 300 total edits are still of interest, but they are more a side bonus than the main goal. )

A useful tool for searching editor stats is the Wikitrip site: http://sonetlab.fbk.eu/wikitrip/

This is no mean feat. After I showed him the wikitrip tools, fellow ace blogger Andrew went on a hunt for pages of >500 edits with majority female editorship  - and found only two. I have been poking around and so far have found only a few pages with female majority, and all of those were very small pages with few edits.

The list so far of >300 pages with majority female editorship include:

-Maya Angelou

-Transsexualism

-(send me more if you find any!)

Other smaller pages with majority female include:

Diva Cup, Pleats, Vagina Monologues, etc.

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reposting for the day crowd. Seriously, check it out!

pearlsfromthewest:

In case you’ve missed the original things on this:

Original video: http://video.foxnews.com/v/1797282177001/asexuality-a-sexual-orientation/

Solid response from the community: http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/29956029857/oh-dear-fox-news-has-found-out-about-us-tw

Please please send this far and wide and repost it — every time someone signs the petition, the show’s host and executive producer, as well as several of the commentators, get an email saying there’s another signature. So let’s fill their inboxes today!

It’s about what I would expect from then.

TW: sexism, heterosexism, ignorance about asexuality - the works

http://video.foxnews.com/v/1797282177001/asexuality-a-sexual-orientation/

Transcript Below (let me know if you find errors.): 

Host: Some feel a tug, others just shrug: I’m speaking of those who feel no sexual attraction to others. A new book argues that asexuals, an estimated one percent of the population, should be recognized as a fourth sexual orientation, or FSO for short. With the author calling them an understudied group who could feel very excluded from our quote “very sexualized culture” and indeed it is. Said one fan of neither woman or man quote: “we want asexuality to be recognized as a valid sexual orientation rather than a disorder or something people have to hide.” -(Michael Dore, World Pride Conference)

So let’s discuss this in the - shall we - Lighting Rooooooooooouuuuuuuund (they say it exactly like that)

Brooks, do you buy this orientation? Asexuals? Are they an under-

Brooke Goldfiend (Lawfare Project Director): Oh, I buy it. 

Host: Oh you do?

Brooke: Asexuality has been around for a very long time, it’s called being a woman every three and a half weeks. (laughter) It’s a wonderful excuse to get out of obligations. (more laughter) I feel really bad for this poor 23-year-old who actually went and did the interview who admitted that he doesn’t objectify women, so they classified him as being asexual. I mean that’s the whole problem with the study, it went around to a bunch of men, and they didn’t want to, you know, have sex ten times a day, and suddenly they’re asexual.

Host: so you think that actually these people were just normal, or they were undereporting it - 

Brooke: absolutely I think they were normal in an uber-sexualized society, so we’ve had to invent this asexuality

Someone: Wow!

???: (jokingly) I just can’t believe the interview thought that I was 23

(laughter)

Host: Jamie, could it be they’re exaggerating asexuality, the numbers, like everybody does, remember we were told that this population was this big and then it wasn;t really this big, I’m talking about pixies.

(laughter)

Jamie Weinstein (Dailycalle): (sarcastically) I don’t think academics ever exaggerate anything . no, there was, I think there was a show about asexuality, or at least a segment on Saturday Night Live, it’s called Pat, uh, so I think they’ve been represented to some degree. But I think it’s kind of something, if you’ve ever been to-when I was on a college campus I remember, there was the lesbian bisexual gay and transgender, and then uh, questioning, they keep adding different letters, it does seem like we’re gonna be keep adding different letters for this.

Host: But I think they won’t be long on that one because they have a lack of a sexual - a sort - a sexuality, so they’ll be kinda like, treated as lepers, asexual lepers, if you will, uh dan. Fact is though you knew someone in high school like this didn’t you, or if you didn’t know someone then it was you

Dan Soder, (Comedian): wow, I don’t know, why are you cornering me like that?

(laughter)

I don’t know, I think when they say they want to be represented what do they want, just like the most boring beer commercials ever, just like a guy that’s like “beer”. (laughter). That’s it. No chicks in bikinis.

Host: But that’s the point. If this is the beginning, bill, of asexual rights, how - look what kind of discrimination will they be fighting against?

Bill: How where they discriminated against to begin with? they can focus on more things, get more done, not have to worry about a myriad of things that you sexual people have to worry about. I think that the problem with this is that it’s one percent. And can we just like, after a while stop recognizing things? Like if it’s that small a portion of the population, do I have to recognize you? Like, woo recognize me because I wear sock monkey hats! Ok, there’s a couple people that wear sock monkey hats, I don’t need to recognize you. yes, you exist. Move on. 

Host: What do you have against sock monkeys?

Bill?: I’ve been to Williamsburg way to many times this weekend, I’m done with it.

Host: Well when somebody wants to be recognized you gotta wonder what do they want? And then you have to ask yourself what are they not getting?

Dan: Well we know they don’t want sex (laughter) so that’s what we know they’re not after

Host: exactly! so they want something else. I don’t trustem, I don’t trust em a bit

Dan: I don’t trust them at all (laughter)

-end-