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“Hey there – so I’ve heard that there’s a thing called Intersex Awareness Day that’s happening. I’ve heard about intersex people so I know what that means, but I didn’t know that Intersex Awareness Day was a thing. What is it and how can I help celebrate it? thx!”

-Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Claudia Astorino as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Claudia Says:

Hey, there, Anonymous! This is a great, timely question, since Intersex Awareness Day (lovingly acronym-ed IAD) is upon us, today on Oct 26th! It’s worth noting that IAD is actually just one of TWO days that 1) celebrate intersex people and 2) raise awareness about intersex human rights issues. Let’s talk about them!

IAD is celebrated on Oct 26th because this marks the day of the first public protest of the medically unnecessary, cosmetic procedures that are still today routinely performed on intersex kids without their consent. The protest took place in Boston, MA, outside a conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and it was led by the now-defunct organization Intersex Society of North America and their supporters from the group Transexual Menace. The protesters wore shirts and carrying signs proudly emblazoned “Hermaphrodites With Attitude.”  Just look at this image below—I mean, #swoon! The power of this image makes me feel huge things in my chest and tears springing into my eyes. This protest is one of several events that clearly marks the beginnings of intersex activism in the United States nearly two decades ago in 1996. This start date is also significant in that it shows how much younger a movement the fight for intersex human rights is than other LGBTQIA and civil rights movements. We might still be the new activists on the block, but we’ve got the attitude to keep on keepin’ on raising awareness!

While North America primarily celebrates IAD, many countries instead or additionally observe International Intersex Solidarity Day (also called International Intersex Day of Remembrance) on Nov 8th, the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a French person with intersex traits. Barbin’s posthumously-published diary is the earliest known record of intersex lived experience written by an intersex person.

So how can you celebrate Intersex Awareness Day & Intersex Solidarity Day? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED—there are so many ways! If you want to see if there are any intersex events being held near you, you can use the “Intersex Day” online hub, created by Morgan Carpenter. You can also participate online with the Intersex Awareness Day Twitterstorm, in which intersex folks will be raising awareness with the hashtag #IntersexStories. Give this campaign, created by Pidgeon Pagonis, an even bigger signal boost by donating to the “Intersex Stories NOT Surgeries” Thunderclap event—if it makes its goal, Thunderclap will help our #IntersexStories reach others further and faster. This campaign has only a few days left, so hop to it if you’re so inclined!

Aside from attending an event and participating in the Twitterstorm, the best thing you can do is simply to TALK ABOUT INTERSEX and SHARE CONTENT BY INTERSEX PEOPLE with others. Have you read or watched a great piece about intersex lately? Then tell a friend, start a convo, and/or post about it on social media! There are so many great resources and activists out there. Check ‘em out and share with others!

Well, Awarenessmous, I hope you feel prepped and PUMPED for all of the fab IAD and ISD events coming up!  See you on the 26th / 8th!  #everyoneisintersex

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“I’m genderqueer, and my friend has been super supportive…up until I came out as asexual as well. She keeps asking me if I’m sure I’m really asexual or if it’s just because I’m genderqueer or ‘confused’ about my gender. What do I say to her?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Kara Kratcha as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Kara Says:

Dear anonymous friend,

How are you? I hope you and your genderqueer ace self are doing well enough and avoiding all of the nonsense that sometimes comes with existing as a genderqueer and/or ace person. I’m sure you’re great and that you’re doing a great job.

Anyway, I have to admit that this kind of reaction to a combination of queer identities in one human frustrates and confuses me. There doesn’t seem to be any reason an ace identity should invalidate a genderqueer (or nonbinary or trans) identity. More broadly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason a sexual identity should invalidate a gender identity or vise versa.

That said, I am a human who has gone to great lengths to educate themselves about queer sexualities and genders and I bet you are too, so maybe your first move should be to explain some terms to your friend. I know you have probably already done some of this. I know you might find this a little more exhausting every time you have to do it (I know I do).

Still, there’s so much confusion in the world about the difference between gender and sexuality that sometimes we have to explain ourselves if we want to be understood. Once I told a coworker that I was doing research about asexuality and narrative. He responded with a monologue about how gender roles are collapsing in the United States and that the difference between men and women is disappearing and isn’t that a shame? I think he thought we were talking about agender people or maybe trans people generally. In any case, we did not share a vocabulary about the topic we were supposedly discussing and therefore could not communicate about it. If you want to be able to talk with your friend about your identity, you may have to establish a common vocabulary.

(You should also remember that you have not failed if you decide that you cannot or do not want to explain yourself until you are understood right now. Both asexuality and genderqueerness are complicated topics, and combining them makes them even more complicated and difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced them. In the situation with my coworker, I decided that making myself understood wasn’t worth it. You may decide differently with your friend, but that’s your call.)

The other reason I am so baffled by your friend’s reaction to your aceness and genderqueerness, dear anon, is because I myself experience my ace identity and my nonbinary identity as intertwined and inseparable. My gender complements and complicates my sexuality in ways I continue to discover. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I find the gender binary in relation to sexual activity a lot like a fruit fly infestation: always buzzing in the background, sometimes hard to see from a distance, and almost impossible to get rid of. Even the concept of “gay sex” relies on the idea that the people involved conform to the same end of a binary gender system.

Even more frustratingly, sometimes perceptions of gay sex fall into “masculine” and “feminine” roles. I recently told someone that I am into girls and thereby implied that I’m gay or maybe bi (this, by the way, is a strategy I use when being read as a straight girl in gay spaces gets to be too much for me but I don’t feel safe explaining how I actually identify) and their first response was to ask if I’m a top or a bottom. Yuck!

By asking this question, this person presumes that all people who have same-sex interactions take on one binary gender role in sex all the time. As you perhaps perceive, my nonbinary trans identity and my ace identity are interacting here in ways that are difficult for me to pick apart. Does that response to my perceived identity squick me out because I don’t want to have to identify as top (coded masculine) or bottom (coded feminine)? Or because I don’t want to be associated with sex acts I’m not performing? Or because the gendering of sex makes it difficult for me to access it as something I want at all? I don’t know, but I’m definitely sure it makes me uncomfortable. If you have had similar experiences, maybe you would like to share them with your friend so that she can think about how the labels you use make up one whole person who experiences the world from multiple standpoints all at once.

Thinking about my gender identity and my sexual identity together often brings up more questions than answers for me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m confused about one or the other or both. My guess is that you feel similarly at least some of the time. If your friend is really your friend, then you should be able to engage in identity uncertainty and exploration with her and leave feeling that your identity is still valid. Alternately, maybe you feel entirely certain about who you are and what that means, in which case I think you should tell your friend who you are and what that means as clearly as you can and hope she takes you at your word. If she doesn’t, then maybe you should reconsider whether this person is capable of supporting and loving you the way a friend should.

All of the best,

Kara

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“I feel a connection to the term butch, but it has a lot of history and specific significance for a lot of people and I’m not sure how well I fit the mold, so I’m hesitant to use it. I know I can identify however I want, but are there many people who identify as butch who aren’t stone and don’t bind?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think you can and I think it’s amazing that you know enough to be hesitant. A lot of people adopt terms and don’t know what they mean or the history and just tout around like they own the thing. You are in a fucking dope position.

It’s really cool that you’re unsure because you have the opportunity to understand the term even more and then figure out exactly why you’re so connected to it.

I feel like what you’re really getting at here is, “I identify with this term, but if people question me and tell me I’m an asshole for using it, I won’t know what to say.” SO HERE IS WHAT I SUGGEST.

Learn.

Learn a lot. Figure out where the term comes from and what it means to the people who originated that term. Learn why and how it has changed over the decades and find pieces of yourself all along the way. You don’t have to be the one perfect example of that term, but you do have to respect the term and know how to talk about it. So that when someone says, “whoa i thought butch was THIS SPECIFIC THINGY,” you have the ability to say “yea!! that is a huge part of why i feel connected to the movement, I’m shedding these blahblah standards, I don’t agree with the way society does yadda, etcetc” – BUT FILL IT IN WITH YOUR REAL FEELINGS.

LEARNING SOLVES SO MANY PROBLEMS.

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“I came out as a lesbian at school last year, but have since realized that I’m actually bisexual. I want to be out as my true self, but part of me feels like I shouldn’t bother coming out as bi because people might not believe me. What should I do?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Red Says:

Many people think of sexuality as something that is entirely unchanging.  Once someone has “discovered” their sexuality, that’s supposed to be the end of the story.  This narrative is often used by other lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well—the “born this way” argument—because on face value it seems to make arguments for civil rights more effective.  But this narrative leaves out people whose experience of sexuality is fluid and constantly shifting, or people whose “discovery of self” did not happen linearly (I’ve always loved this post by Riese at Autostraddle that shares her own experience of identifying as bi/queer/a lesbian).  These experiences of sexuality are not actually uncommon, much as they are underrepresented.  It is not rare for someone who is bi to later come out as gay, and vice versa.  None of that means that a person’s “first” sexual identity is somehow invalid, or was a lie, and it definitely doesn’t mean that all bi people are really gay (or straight).  It means that in a world where we allow people very few options of how to fall in love or experience attraction—and in a society where conversations about sexuality, romance, and attraction rarely occur in any depth—that it can be hard for people to understand an experience of sexuality—especially a changing one—that does not match their own.

I empathize with your struggle, though, and while I definitely understand your desire to be true to yourself, I want to first state that it is absolutely no one’s right to know your sexuality. You are under no obligation or deadline to come out again, or to do so in the same way as you did before.

If you feel hesitant to come out because you are afraid of how people will respond, you might consider running a “hypothetical” scenario past a few friends to gauge how they respond to the idea of someone’s sexual identity changing or shifting. If they respond well to the idea in the abstract, hopefully their response to you will be supportive as well.

Because everyone’s experience of sexuality is so varied, I can’t give you the specific words to have a conversation with your friends about your identity.  But if you do decide to come out to them, thinking about how you would articulate your experience of sexuality for yourself (and whether any of it resonates with what I said above) could help you figure out how and what you want to share out loud.

If, on the other hand, your friends respond negatively to a hypothetically posed question, you can try talking through whatever their reservations or opinions are. If they think that bisexuality isn’t real, and that people only identify as bi to “get attention,” the issue probably isn’t going to be solved with a single conversation (although telling them that any attention bi women receive is rarely positive and that the entire concept is rooted in sexism might be a good place to start). You can challenge them on those opinions, but it might not be safe for you to come out to that person (or people) right now. If someone’s response is something more along the lines of confusion about how or why someone’s identity might change, or if they’re skeptical but not openly hostile, you might have better luck coming out to them. However, it’s never your responsibility to explain your identity, or to ever act as educator to someone regarding sexuality. Especially if you feel uncomfortable or potentially unsafe. How you came to realize you’re bi, what being bi means to you, and why you want to identify as such are all no one’s business but your own.

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“Hi, I’m intersex, but I’ve never met another intersex person before. Where is everyone?! I want to meet another intersex person so much. Where do I find them?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Claudia Astorino as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Claudia Says:

Hi, Anonymous!  This is a great question – I don’t think I’ve ever met another intersex person that didn’t share these sentiments.  I remember dreaming about what it would be like to meet another intersex person as a kid, wondering where they all were, wondering when it would happen. When I finally did meet an out intersex person for the first time, I felt like my heart and my life exploded in the best of all possible ways.    I had been told for years and years by doctors, my family, society at large that I had to keep my body and myself a secret, that other people wouldn’t understand, that I had to try my best to be “normal” at all costs.  To finally meet someone that not only understood but VALIDATED my intersex self? Was nothing less than life-changing. I count that as one of many turning-points in my life.  Meeting other intersex people is important and great, and I hope that you can connect with some fantastic intersex folks soon!

That being said, WE ARE NOT AN EASY BUNCH TO FIND out in the world nowadays.  That shame and secrecy I referenced just a moment ago is still the party line that a lot of intersex kids are given – and what a lot of intersex teens and adults stick to because 1) there aren’t a ton of models out there showing closeted intersex people that you can come out and live a fulfilling life and it will be okay, and 2) the medicalization most of us undergo and the intersexphobia we feel in society is a deterrent to coming out when most of us are still closeted. Intersex people looking to connect have historically had a difficult time doing so.  Furthermore, doctors have not been helpful for putting intersex kids and families in contact with one another, at least in part because of patient confidentiality agreements.

But one giant thing has changed since the dark ages of the 1980’s when I was born, that’s helping intersex people find one another today:  THE POWER OF THE INTERNET.  There has been, like, approx. eleventy billion articles and thinkpieces on how the internet has changed social landscapes, in ways that are argued to be either awesomesauce or awfulsauce #makinwordsup #fakewordfriday #justgowithit  #awfulsauceyum??  In this particular case, the internet has been enormously helpful in enabling intersex people to connect with one another – both online and in real life.  In short:  THE INTERNET IS RIDICULOUSLY HELPFUL, DO YOU KNOW, WHY DON’T YOU LOG ON NOW #dialupnoises #ughlikeyouknowwhatthosearenow #speakingofthe80s #halpimdecrepit

There are multiple ways you can search for awesome, out intersex people to connect with.  You can search the #intersex hashtag on social media, like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook or Google search terms like “intersex organization” or “intersex activist.”  (You may not care if the wonderful intersex people you wanna connect with are activists/affiliates of an intersex organization or not, but these are nevertheless starting points to meet other intersex people!)  Follow some intersex folks and orgs that advocate for intersex human rights and/or provide support for intersex folks.  If you find some people or groups you think you like, check em out online and learn more.  Check out some stuff they’ve written.  Subscribe to a newsletter.  See if they host a chatroom, forum, or closed Facebook group you can join, where intersex people can talk with one another.  (These exist out there, with some that are specific for people with a particular intersex variation.)  See if the intersex folks or orgs you like give talks or workshops, or take part in or host (bi-)annual meetings you’d like to attend, AND THEN GO!  Going to a real-life event is a great way to meet intersex people in person!  You have the opportunity to not only meet awesome intersex folks who live far away but you can keep up with through the wonders of text message, Gchat, and Skype, but you may also find intersex people you like that live near you! And now you’re straight-up hanging out with intersex people, ALL BECAUSE YOU SEARCHED A HASHTAG ON THE INTERNETS, man are you good!

A further note:  if you don’t have a lot of $$$, that’s not necessarily a problem – you can still totally go to an event!  Many talks and workshops are free or donation-based for participants, and big annual meetings – which do cost money, and are hosted in different places that require travel – sometimes offer scholarships to help those in need attend. See what’s in your area or close-by, and what seems worth saving up for, traveling to, and applying for scholarships to attend.

FIRE UP YR SEARCH ENGINES, Anonymous, and go find some friends!  <3

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