Sexual Orientation, Cissexism, Binarism and You


Mild Clarification: Some people were a bit confused and thought that conceptual sexuality and physical sexuality are invariably separate. Actually, it’s quite possible to have both. So say if you were attracted to breasts and vagina only, but also could only find folks who are women attractive (so say, you’d not find a pre op/pre hormones trans guy attractive, despite his body structure), your sexuality would be a mixture of concept and body. This is fairly common, so don’t worry if that’s how your attractions work. Hope this helped with any confusion.

This is probably going to be a long post. I’ll probably also piss a lot of people off. But that does tend to be my modus operandi, bringing the unpleasant messages to the populace. Sit down, put up your feet, relax a bit.

Let’s talk sexuality.

Whoa! Sit back down! Relax. Have an iced tea.

Okay, little less skittish now? Good. Writing a For The Uninformed post on what sexuality is seems sort of silly. So let’s just do a nice primer. Sexual orientation is, at its most basic, a measure of what types of people you love, are attracted to, or primarily involve yourself with (depending on context). It’s also an identity which subjects it to the postmodernist complications that identity always loves to put into play. Sexual orientation started out quite simply as who you were attracted to (and if you weren’t attracted to anyone you were asexual, although back then people prolly just labeled you as broken. Go fucked up society, right?). Attraction being primarily the sexual attractions that one possesses to a certain grouping of body parts commonly placed under the categorizations of “male” and “female” (oh look, another link to my dissertation on how broken m/f terminology is). This was back when the terms were heterosexual and homosexual. Note the word structure. The terms were also based on your own placement in the categories of “male” and “female”. Troublesome, no? That hasn’t really changed much. Now we have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, Straight and the umbrella term Queer (which mostly seems to only include the first 4.) And now the definitions are a great deal more expansive.

Quick run down for the uninformed folks:
Lesbian (Gay Woman): Woman (or “female”) aligned with woman (or “female”)
Gay Man: Man (or “male”) aligned with man (or “male”)
Bisexual: Anyone aligned with both men (or “males”) and women (or “females”)
Asexual: Anyone aligned nowhere.
Pansexual: Anyone aligned everywhere.

(You’ll notice that bisexuality, asexuality and pansexuality lack self references. The individual who is attracted (or not attracted as the case may be) is irrelevant to the label. This is not true for the two primary single alignments, lesbian and gay.)

For instance, sexual attraction is now not the determiner (unless you’re using the term to mean so for yourself only), love and romantic interest are instead. Even though the GLB community has moved away from the sexual elements of sexuality (Yes, I could see how that would be a confusing sentence) there doesn’t seem to be much effort to drop the explicit (but ultimately shitty) categories of male and female to determine what the alignments are. Or at the very least, even if they are using the conceptual elements (woman, man, etc) that often doesn’t change the inclination to default back to the m/f dichotomy of poorly categorized physicality.

For that reason, cissexism is alive and thriving in the very terminology of sexuality. This is somewhat unhelpful (oh look, intense understatement) to those of us trying to stop the shit storms of cissexism and transphobia in the cisGLB zone.

But wait, it gets worse! You see, there are trans folk referred to as nonbinary/genderqueer people (NOT GENDERQUEERS. Genderqueer as a term is only applicable when it is requested as an identity marker. Calling all nonbinaries “genderqueers” is asinine, erasing to other types of nonbinaries and seriously binary privileged) [edited for evolution of language ~KH]. It’s a fairly simple concept, there isn’t only guys and girls. There are other types of folk too. Agendered/neutrois (without gender and/or without sexual characteristics for physical transitioners), sublevel genderqueer (this one’s tough to sum up, research it, basically it’s sort of a more specific GQ than the umbrella term), fluid gendered (person’s self conceptualization changes gears, causing intermittent dysphoria), bigendered (feeling like both at the same time, alternately a type of plural system), plural systems that have individuals in them that have genders that don’t fit the body (or systems with DID who have such) although technically a given individual in a plural would be considered a binary trans person if they were binary, as each individual should be taken individually (not doing so is intensely dehumanizing to the individuals in a system). Much of this terminology might be confusing. I would suggest heading to WiG to learn more, because I’m not the best to ask (being pretty much binary myself).

Well you’ll notice that nonbinaries don’t fit the specific zones of woman or man. At all. Guess what sexuality is based on? Well shit. There is not a single term that accounts for nonbinaries except for pansexual. Lesbian and gay and bi especially are based on a binary gender system and these phrases completely erase nonbinaries in every way and form. And you’ll notice that if a nonbinary is attracted to women only or attracted to men only, the word lesbian or gay isn’t applicable. Because nonbinaries are not men nor are they women.

So a lot of complications come out of the very terminology we use to describe our sexual and romantic interactions as human beings. And by complications, I mean cissexist and binarist bullshit.

There have been attempts to fix at least some of these problems, far be it for me to ignore the tiny, minuscule progress (and various useless lateral moves) made by a community that largely pretends to care but doesn’t. Efforts have been made to devise words that don’t reference the attracted or loving party’s gender or sex. Gynephilic, androphilic both respectively replace straight guys/lesbians and straight women/gay guys. They also provide a functional word for nonbinaries that can’t articulate that they’re attracted to women or men with a specific word as lesbian, gay and straight are all based on “attracted to the same as you or opposite as you”. The amusing part of it all is that under this paradigm of terminology, an nonbinary that’s attracted to men or women is actually heterosexual or straight, because that’s an attraction to a different gender. And nonbinaries that are attracted to nonbinaries are gay. Obviously the system doesn’t take this into account and folk have actually complained to me (and others) about this statement. These complaints usually come down to the “there’s only two genders!” bullshit though, so really, who gives a fuck what they think?

There’s also not a -philic word for nonbinary types. I suppose one could be “neutroiphilic” for agendered folk, androgynephilic for androgynes, and etc. But largely such orientations are not recognized as anything other than fetish, effectively cutting nonbinary people down pretty hard. And of course, changing the words to non self referential terms doesn’t really change the inclination to default to body type for conceptual sexuality (yanno, the one based on who you love, not on sex or body parts. Huuuuuuurrrrrr WAT?) Seriously, if you’re attracted to women, then that means you’re attracted to women. Not vaginas. Not tits. Being attracted to individuals with vaginas and tits is fine (I don’t find penis the least bit sexy on anyone), that’s just not conceptual sexuality. That’s physical based sexual orientation and a huge component of the cisGLB zone has moved away from that to break the public association with sex (which is a whole other convo about being anti sex positive assimilationist douches). Furthermore one can easily make the argument that one’s personal tastes simply don’t match certain things. I don’t like a lot of body hair on someone, really big feet or significantly different height. I find goth styles absolutely enthralling on a girl but if I see a cheerleader type getup, yeah, my interest goes *piff* and disappears. Personal taste does not denote what makes a woman. When you deal with conceptual sexuality, body hair levels, foot size, scent of a girl (I dunno why the scent matters so much to me, I am odd), the style of clothing they wear have no bearing on whether they’re a woman and whether you’re more of a lesbian for not wanting them or less of one. So when it comes to conceptual sexuality, a penis being there being a turn off is a matter of personal taste and need. And really physical sexuality in and of itself is so heavily based on the poorly structured terminology of male and female that the whole set of terms are likely a giant clusterfuck of cissexism and binarism and fuckery.

I’m not going to pretend to have the solutions. I really like what folk have done with the word Queer, which retains identity, can still be used to gauge oppression applied to GLB folk (cis or trans) for specifically sexuality related things (like say mistreatment for dating certain people, not wearing a fucking tux. That would be gender based mistreatment.) but largely queer may not necessarily adequately explain one’s sexuality.

And the solid fact is, sexuality is so intensely complicated and affected by so many things that summarizing it based on the most shallow level of categorization (the grand set of people you’d give the time of day to vs. the ones you wouldn’t give a chance to) seems flimsy at best. But that’s more of a personal quibble and part of the reason that I refer to my sexuality as “complex”. Cuz well, it is. Everyone’s is.

In any case, while we find solutions to this issue, some things you can do in the meantime:

1: Avoid the terms that depend on M/F: Try to avoid using physical sexuality terminology because of how it depends on the nonfunctional and largely problematic arbitrary classifications within sex terminology (i.e. male and female have arbitrary as fuck lines that make no sense). So not only are you yielding fairly confusing and nonsensical information by depending on that broken system (“XX chromosomes are soooo sexy, seeing someone who has them makes me sooo wet! Because you know, I have an innate chromosome detection system. I can sense them”) you’re also acting in erasure of women and men (trans or cis) who don’t fit those arbitrary lines and acting transphobic towards nonbinaries and trans folk who fit the set of arbitrary lines that they don’t belong in or want to be in.

2: Avoid cissexist usage of the terms: When using conceptual sexuality terms (based on the concept of a person; i.e. woman, man, androgyne, and love not sex) like gynephilic and lesbian, don’t default to the male/female as your base for the concept. Include trans folk. Don’t be cissexist. And if you’re with a nonbinary or binary trans person, don’t degender them just to protect your image as a lesbian or gay man.

3: Avoid erasure of Nonbinaries: Don’t refer to a nonbinary as a lesbian or gay person unless they themselves give the okay. The terms don’t apply. Only use bisexual in the context of identity if you’re with or attracted to nonbinaries. Claiming the objective use of it degenders them and erases their identity by claiming that they are one of the two genders that bi encompasses.

4: Work towards using neutral, non erasing words:
Gynephilic, androphilic, queer, pan (or omnisexual) etc. These words all operate better than the terminology currently in place and they have less chance of erasing or harming trans folk, binary or nonbinary. Using them consistently will help you incorporate them into your identity, which in turn will make it easy to avoid identity clashes wherein one person’s identity is erased and stripped away for another’s.

5: Operate on concepts for orientation, default all other concerns to personal sexuality
: I don’t find penis attractive. On anyone. And that’s fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you’re operating on conceptual sexuality, that lack of interest in penis is no longer a deciding factor in what your orientation is. And using it as such is cissexist. There’s nothing wrong with simply saying to someone, “you’re not my type”. You’re not obligated to explain why and I know that I wouldn’t hold it against you for not finding my genitals physically attractive. Anyone that does is being fairly fucking unreasonable. But don’t couch it as “well, I’m a lesbian, I don’t like people with penises”. Yeah, that’s fucking cissexist as hell. If you really feel the need to explain, simply say, “you don’t fit my type for sexual needs” and everyone moves on. Simple.

These will largely make the situation a lot more livable for the folks fucked over by this system while it slowly, painfully changes in short choppy bursts (like many major elements of our society that are a problem and deeply ingrained). I’ve spoken out against self referential terminology in the past (self referential as in recursive, it refers to itself and has no base case. I.e. identity term A means: One who identifies as identity term A. Well what’s identity term A? One who identifies as it. But… what is it? One who… *repeat ad nauseum*) but that doesn’t mean that one can’t have a functional word with a self referential definition that refers to the other definitions. My favorite example is: lesbian (n): A woman who is principally attracted to, loves, and/or dates women or one who self conceptualizes with the previous aspects and seeks to match them. Terminology being restructured in this way does allow one to retain their identity in the face of a lot. One has to be careful to make sure that it is known that they’re using the identity version though, when they’re dealing with trans folk. Or you’re likely to degender someone.

It’s complex and I can understand how a lot of folk don’t want to deal with it. But situations like this do need to be dealt with. They are major components of trans oppression and some of them are major components of sexuality policing, an issue still very prominent in the GLB zone (cis and trans, although it seems to happen more with cis. We’re too busy gender policing…). Someday things will change in this area, but for now, we all have to make efforts to fix this and negate the effects of it on marginalized people.

33 Responses to “Sexual Orientation, Cissexism, Binarism and You”

  1. Yeah, I started identifying as queer rather than gay a while ago, and this was mostly because gay just…felt off, somehow. When I started thinking about my own gender and realizing I did not fit all that neatly into the little “male” box, the reasons for my discomfort became a lot more clear.

    I’m still not sure where I fit on any gendered spectrum. Bigendered might be the best term, so thank you for bringing it up (I hadn’t actually heard it before!).

    And this post was all kinds of awesome just in the general sense, as a final note. Well worth the wait.

  2. 2 msruthmoss

    Great post – I find myself using queer a lot of the time, but I must admit, sometimes I default to “bisexual” because it’s a lot easier to explain to friends and colleagues in real life who can barely get their heads around the idea that not everyone in the universe is straight. I get “have you become a lesbian now” a lot actually.

    Sometimes I use “in a lesbian relationship”.

    But at the same time – I do find different things attractive on different people; I mean, what I find attractive on a man (for example, say, cropped messy hair) I wouldn’t necessarily find attractive on a woman (where I would be more likely to find long, groomed hair attractive, as an example) and vice versa – so I guess, does that mean I’m still thinking in terms of a binary system?

    You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  3. Like Dorian, I use the identity ‘queer’ because in my case, ‘bisexual’ doesn’t cover it – it implies there are only two sexes to be attracted to, which we know is not true.

  4. 4 notthemarimba

    This is really, really interesting and is forcing me to think about a lot of things I haven’t before. In short, great post.

  5. 5 Marja

    Okay, so I am wondering where that leaves me. I usually identify as lesbian. First of all, I could not truly love anyone else until I could love myself. I tend to develop emotional attractions to other womyn. I developed a strong crush on one womon who was presenting male, and who, years later, would transition to become herself; when I started transitioning I found this crush developed further on my part but she did not feel the same way. I only develop physical attractions to people who have some female characteristics, and embrace their female characteristics. I can see myself developing a relationship with someone non-binary-identified, but never someone male-identified. So, for me, the binary orientation-label tells most of the story in one word.

  6. The problem with the word lesbian is that it erases the nonbinaries you’re attracted to.

    You’re also defaulting to male/female terminology here a lot and that’s problematic as well.

  7. 7 nome

    Ya, that’s why I could never date a lesbian or straight man, because I feel as though they would be seeing me as “female” and “woman” more than genderqueer.

  8. 8 nome

    This is a really beautiful post. It’s great that you are thinking about these things, even though you work within the binary rather well.

    For asexuals, I’ve heard them using terms like “panamorous” (as I use) to mean able to love anyone, but not necessarily be sexual.

    Bi I see as acceptable when someone is attracted to (cis or trans) men and women but not non-binary folks but I hate when it is used when they are also attracted to non-binaried types.

  9. I’ve spent some time thinking about related things to this. (Mostly based on the premise “Well, what *would* the terms be like for full hermaphrodites?” And then it got more complicated from there.) You’ve mentioned some ones that are new to me though. (And by the way, your link to WiG is broken.)

    I have kind of an aesthetic appreciation for having simple words for common cases, but with people not being aware that the uncommon cases even exist…

    I almost feel like that definition of “lesbian” is giving me an idea, but I think I’m too tired to get further than basic bewilderment. Recursion’s bad enough in programming, I don’t know if I can handle it in word problems.

  10. Crap, lemme go fix that link.

  11. I really like a lot of this post, but am really put off by your assertion that using “genderqueer” as an umbrella term for non-binary gender IDs is asinine, erasing, and binary-privileged. In many ways, I’d say the opposite is true–people with binary-gender privilege don’t always appreciate how valuable it is to have a word for your gendered reality that sounds even vaguely familiar without a lengthy explanation. People often disrespect and ignore trans people’s binary identities, but at least the general public usually knows what someone’s getting at when they say they’re a man or a woman. On days when I don’t feel like having my identity sliced and diced to more easily fit people’s binary preconceptions but also don’t want to give an epic speech just to cover the basics of what it means to identify the way I do… well, usually I’m SOL, but the few times when I can say “I’m genderqueer” and the person I’m talking to has even an inkling what I mean are a huge fucking breath of fresh air. Is my identity more nuanced than that? Of course it is. The reason “genderqueer” is so hard to sum up and define is that it’s always been an umbrella term, and as an umbrella term it has the same problems all umbrella terms do. Yes, it simplifies things more than I’d like to in an ideal world and is far from perfect. It’s still an incredibly useful tool to have. By proposing “nonbinaries” as an alternate umbrella term, you don’t avoid any of the inherent downsides of an umbrella, and you don’t create more space for a range of identities–instead, you risk setbacks in inclusive terminology becoming more widely understood, and you fall into the trap of defining us only in terms of the binary.

    How is it less of an erasure to describe a range of identities only by what they’re not? One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered in teaching people about nonbinary/genderqueer genders is trying to get them to understand that genderqueer people can exist as their own thing, separate from our concepts of manhood and womanhood and not necessarily defined in terms of how they relate to the binary. Some genderqueers may define themselves in terms of concepts of manhood and womanhood, whether as both/and or neither/nor, but that’s only a subset. We perpetuate binary centrism if we try to define identities outside the binary only in terms of the binary, and to my ear your use of “nonbinary” does that.

  12. I was only pointing out that a lot of nonbinaries are deeply enraged when they’re called genderqueers.

    It’s perfectly fine for you to use it as a nonbinary, but binary folk ought to not be applying terms without knowing what’s what first. I’m not the one who proposed the term, that’s the term that was given to me by the nonbinary community. Androgyne is also fairly common. I guess there’s some debate on what term y’all want as your umbrella term, but that’s a discussion you’ll have to take up with other nonbinaries/androgynes/genderqueers cuz I’m not the one to make that call.

  13. This, I think, is where I start seeing a problem. Hypothetical situation time, for lack of a better way to explain it.

    So, binary-type person B asks around as to what they should use when they need an umbrella term.

    N, who identifies as nonbinary, says “Use nonbinary, genderqueer is asinine.”

    G, who identifies as genderqueer, says “Use genderqueer, nonbinary is erasing.”

    winter_lights, who identifies as complicated, says “Use whatever you feel is appropriate.”

    So what is B to do? After all, no matter what term they use, I’m the only person their chosen term covers who is guaranteed not to be mad at them over it.

  14. Good question. I guess the best call is to call each person whatever they’ve requested.

    It would be somewhat policing for them to get offended at that. Like, I know a trans girl who’s fine with the word tranny. I’m not. I won’t begrudge her that if I was around but no one should call me that word and I would become upset if someone did to me.

    Does that make sense?

  15. 15 nome

    I wouldn’t say nonbinary is erasing. And every nonbinary feels differently. To me, nonbinary is an umbrella term. I mean, ya, I want to be identified specifically but that’s because you’re talking about me specifically. But nonbinary is good when talking about genders outside the binary. To just use genderqueer leaves out a whole bunch of people, which isn’t cool. When talking about specific (non)genders, the specific should be used. It’s the difference between calling GB a transsexual and a trans girl. (Dunno if you ID as TS but I’m pretty sure you do..? I’m just always nervous to label people if I don’t know 100% so sorry if it’s off). G seems to be trying to put G’s gender out there more-so than other often-erased genders. I’ve been guilty of that but.. it happens.

    GB: I would say it’s policing if the person is telling you how you identify others but not if the person is trying to be identified in the way they feel fits best.

  16. 16 Unidentified

    “Androgyne” and “genderqueer” carry specific associations beyond “nonbinary”. Androgyny refers specifically to a mix of masculinity and femininity. Genderqueer, obviously, assumes that the person/population you’re referring to accepts that their gender is queer. I agree that nonbinary makes the best umbrella term – it carries the least extra baggage any of the current terminology and it’s the least ambiguous.

    Also, as a neutrois person, I count myself lucky that I am pansexual – if I weren’t, I’d have no good word which describes my sexuality without erasing my own gender in the process. This article is a good reminder that not everyone has that.

    X-“philic” seems to assume that one’s attraction to X is fetishistic off the bat, but the point that they don’t make assumptions about the speakers’ gender is a good one. It seems to me that the terms would work just as well with a “-sexual”/”-romantic”, though.

    Language is hard. It tries to be concise, but people are (wonderfully) convoluted.

  17. Yeah, I’ve known a few neutrois who absolutely abhor the word genderqueer.

    -sexual/-romantic seems like a slightly easier to use version of -philic. You’re right about that feeling like it’s a fetish word, as that’s the common usage in a lot of circles.

  18. 18 nome

    So would that, then, be androsexual/andro-romantic and gynosexual/gyno-romantic?

  19. 19 nome

    or, rather, gynesexual/gyneromantic

    And, I agree, -sexual and -romantic sound better than -philliac.

  20. Wow, loads and loads to think about here. I tend to describe my orientation as “gynephile”/”gynosexual”*, but now i see that that is probably wrong, because it’s not women per se, but people with “female” (or oestrogen-marked) bodies, that i am attracted to (as a fairly high percentge of those i have been attracted to would identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, etc… although some of those people would also describe themselves as “women”, although i get the impression that that’s more shorthand for “people-who-are-percieved-as-and-therefore-oppressed-as-women”…)

    The thing is i find it extremely hard to wrap my head round what you call “conceptual orientation”, because i have no comprehensible concept of what a “man” or a “woman” is; as a non-binary with no discernible “gender identity” myself (i think, but am not 100% sure, that “agender” is about the closest to accurate term for me, since i have been led to believe that “neutroi”** refers only to those who desire to physically transition to a state with no (or as few as possible) sexually dimorphic characteristics; i’d appreciate correction if wrong on that), i’ve never been satisfactorily able to understand what having an “innate” gender identity (binary or otherwise) actually constitutes – so the idea of “being sexually attracted to people who identify as [men/women], regardless of what their bodies are like” is very confusing to me. Does it mean that, if you are (say) lesbian on a conceptual level, you would instantly stop being attracted to a person when you found out they were a man or a nonbinary rather than a woman (which i have a hard time even seeing as possible, given that i don’t feel i have conscious control over who i am and am not attracted to)? Or is it more like you would still find that person attractive, but due to their identification would no longer regard them as a viable person to have a relationship with?

    I am never sure whether i should or should not use the term “genderqueer” to describe myself or not. I like it and sort of feel like i want to use it as a self-descriptor, largely because of the political aspect to the component “queer” (and also the Q word’s wider connotations of “atypical”, “odd”, etc), but i’m not sure how precisely defined it is: are “genderqueer” and “agender” mutually exclusive categories? can anyone call hirself genderqueer who wants to, or is it appropriative to use it if you don’t have a visibly binary-defying gender presentation (i have no intentional gender presentation, but due to my physical appearance and the type of clothes i feel physically comfortable wearing, i get percieved as a cisgendered male)?

    Anyway, if you don’t mind, i’d like to refer to this in a longer post on my own blog. (I also really appreciate what you say about self-referential terminology, and need to write about that myself…)

    *I’m never quite sure if the correct spelling is “gyne-“, “gyno-” or “gyna-” for that prefix…

    **again, i’m not sure whether there should be an “s” on the end of that, or whether it’s singular or plural (or how it should be pronounced: like the French for 3, or “troy”, or “tro-ee”)…

  21. 22 nome

    It is my understanding that gynephilia is attraction to the female form regardless of the gender the person identifies with so you’re using it right. What I get caught on is when a person identifies a certain part of their body as one of the sex they identify with. For instance, with my transboyfriend, it would be a complete disrespect for me to identify as that and think it meshes with our relationship.

    And I think the idea of being a lesbian is that a high majority of the time you are attracted to women. That doesn’t mean there can’t be exceptions, but that is the general trend. Sometimes people box themselves into their labels rather than use the labels as a grounding point, unfortunately, but that’s not what they’re there for.

    And about the gq vs agendered stuff? I feel that you can identify as either or both, however you are comfortable. They do not, in my book cancel each other out. And I like the idea of using multiple labels to describe oneself if that is helpful. Do whatever makes you feel best. :) And not all genderqueers are visibly queer. If I go out in a bra and tank top do I suddenly stop being a gq? Nah. I’m just showing something that is read more as feminine vs normal when I am read more as neutral or masculine. (being read as something does not equal being that. I am neither masc nor femme nor male nor female.)

    And the spelling is “neutrois.” I would define it as someone who wants to have little to no physical secondary sex markers. But many either can’t or just don’t want surgeries/hormones/etc.

    I hope that helped. Those are my 2 cents, at least.

  22. Nome: thanks for that reply (and sorry for not seeing it until now), but your definition of “gynephilia” seems to be the opposite of Genderbitch/Recursive Paradox’s, at least as i understand from hir saying “conceptual sexuality terms (based on the concept of a person; i.e. woman, man, androgyne, and love not sex) like gynephilic and lesbian”.

    The rest of what you say makes sense though, so i’ll keep on using “genderqueer” in the contexts where it feels like it makes most sense to do so, unless someone specifically says that they think that’s appropriative.

  23. 24 nome

    Umm… ya. I agree that their definitions are way better and am not sure what I was smokin when I wrote that first bit but am glad everything else came out right. :) I hope that helps.

  24. Hey folks, just letting you know that my pronouns are “her” and “she”.

  25. 26 nome

    Hrm. I seem to have confused myself. I read shiva’s comment as referring to 2 people, which is why I did “their” instead of “her” if shiva had only been referring to you. But maybe I’m confused? I haven’t looked at this post in forever and am frankly rather braindead at the moment. That was meant to be a plural “their” and not a gendering one.

  26. 27 chelonioidea

    Kinsey, I don’t even have the words to thank you for the conceptual work you do, your courage and self-reflexiveness, your finesse, your incredible grace and generosity and I could go on and on. I read your tumblr and twitter, frequently link to your articles on my facebook (only with credit) and try to modify my behavior, in and out of the virtual world, to be less complicit with oppression. /endcomplimentfest/
    (for now :)

    I’m female-assigned-at-birth, mixed-race but white-privileged (learned that identifier from margitte at, US-born and raised, economically privileged but not wealthy, able-bodied, thin-privileged but large-breasted (with dismorphia), possibly neuroatypical (not clinically diagnosed though) and figuring out my gender and sexual identities right now. I know many people always are, but I used to prioritize my activism over self-discovery, and so would go along with the assumptions made about my gender and sexual orientation.

    I thought I was asexual until I fell in love with a person who identifies as a woman, and even though nothing happened between us physically, I discovered within me a capacity to love that took my breath away. I still think I might be ace, because touch is iffy for me and I haven’t felt comfortable experimenting with anybody, even myself. I started calling myself “samegenderloving” because
    a) I associate the terms gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer with white, cis, rich US-ians
    b) I like that it talks about loving (see possible asexuality)
    c) I’ve been exotified enough that I don’t enjoy being loved for my differences. I want somebody who has lived through some of what I lived through, to whom I don’t have to explain so much, who understands without speaking.
    d) I feel a great deal of fear and distaste for phalluses, and maybe I was just using “samegenderloving” to mean (the standard cissexist definition of) “lesbian” so I could avoid them.

    BUT. it’s a self-referential term, and from reading your words I’m learning that’s problematic (though I don’t fully understand how; I trust you). it looks like I was mixing up conceptual sexuality with physical sexuality? I want to have a word to express that I’m not straight, because it’s safe for me to be out and I want to be. instead I’m considering the term panamorous, which I just found in these comments, but I don’t actually think I have the capacity to be romantic towards someone who identifies or presents as a man, and/or has a phallus. but I like that the term includes nonbinaries. gyneromantic fits better then, but it still makes me think of vulvas, which are alright but not my priority. maybe I have a physical “no” reaction to phalluses, but not a “yes” to vulvas?

    I’ll mosey over to for more info about gender identity, but the language discussion here about orientation is more relevant to my needs right now. thank you for providing the safe space for me to write a short personal statement on your wall, and I’d appreciate any corrections or recommendations.
    Peace be with you,

  27. @chelonioidea: I actually stepped away from the idea of self referential language being a problem. I can’t personally use it due to neuroatypicality issues with words, but it’s not an issue over all.

  28. 29 chelonioidea

    many thanks. I know you’re no vending machine to answer my identity questions for me, and best wishes on your self-care!

  29. 30 Catherine


    I just wanted to say thank you for an interesting and well written post exploring complex ideas with generosity of spirit.

    Good luck in all you do.


  1. 1 Twitter Trackbacks for Sexual Orientation, Cissexism, Binarism and You « Genderbitch: An Angry Trans Girl's Blog [] on
  2. 2 The Ballad of Xavin and Karolina « Emma Houxbois: Une Femme Sous Construction
  3. 3 In Which I Have Fucked Up « Listen to Meeeee!

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