August 23, 2014

Gender, Sexuality, Sex and Labels

My gender, sex and sexual orientation:

Gender:

Sexual Orientation:

This is a set of descriptive statements about what my sexual orientation & gender identity are. They’re not prescriptive statements. Bits of them might change.

I don’t like prescriptive labels for an obvious reason: I don’t fit neatly into a category. The closest would either be an androgynous trans man or androgynous bisexual man but describing myself that way 1) means that people get shocked or angry or make derogatory noises if I do something like wear a dress or a tie or have sex with a man and 2) it’s a bit like trying to play an FPS with an 8-pad instead of keyboard and mouse, or paint a shade of yellow while being only allowed to use red and green.

I used to use the term queer” to describe myself, as a term signifying non-heterosexual NOS [not otherwise specified]”. Until unfortunately I ran up against some aggressive queer activists with their own bizarre interpretation of queer theory and Judith Butler’s work.

They angrily refused to allow anyone to use terms such as gay”, lesbian”, bisexual”, homophobia”, transphobia” because they are labels. Even when communicating with those who were comfortable defining themselves that way or with the greater heterosexual community who had not done gender studies. They insisted instead that we must use queer” and queerphobia” to refer to all such issues even if we wanted to single out a particular issue such as biphobia within the lesbian community or transphobia within the women’s department.

So labels were not OK, unless the label was queer”. You could be a straight queer”. Some animals were, evidently, more equal than others.

Which brings me to another point of contention. Somehow, despite the historical communist oppression and extermination of sexual minorities, the answer to fighting for queer/sexual/gender/equality rights was a thinly veiled Marxism rebranded as Socialism”. Socioeconomic equity and social justice are important and related struggles for human rights however do not try to tell me that Marxism is the one and only answer to gender & sexual rights and the acceptance and equality of sexual minorities.

Do not tell me that people who refuse to accept the way others wish to identify are interested in genuine fairness or equality.

So I do not feel comfortable calling myself queer. Which is a shame because it would have been a label I would have been comfortable with if it did not have the connotations of aligning oneself with and supporting intellectually lazy pseudo-Marxist wankery.

When I joined the world of online dating profiles at my advanced age of late-20s, it revealed a cultural and intellectual shift that I still find bewildering and confusing.

There is a panoply of prescriptive labels attached to a fractured set of subcommunities, many of which are confusing and ambiguously defined.

For example, what is a boi? I thought a boi was a young twinky gay man. Oh, my bad, according to Wikipedia:

Boi (plural: bois) is a term used within LGBT and butch and femme communities to refer to a person’s sexual and/or gender identities. In lesbian communities, there is an increasing acceptance of variant gender expression, as well as allowing people to identify as a boi. The term may denote a number of possibilities that are not mutually exclusive:

This is extremely confusing! Boi” seems to be a concept that can be used in reference to:

And even with that vast array of possible and incompatible set of definitions, there is no indication of what Avril Lavigne may mean when she sings a song entitled Sk8er Boi”. Is she talking about a young butch woman? A trans-man? A gay man who is a bottom? Someone who is into casual relationships? Oh, no, wait, she is referring to an adolescent male-identified biological male who is attracted to women who she wants to date seriously. I never would have guessed from that Wikipedia definition!

There is transgender versus transsexual. Genderqueer versus transgender versus intergender versus genderfluid. Pansex versus pansexual. Pangender versus pansex versus omnisex versus unisex. Biromantic versus bisexual. Bisexual versus pansexual versus omnisexual versus polysexual. Polyamory versus open relationships. S&M versus BDSM versus DS. Baby butch versus stone butch versus soft butch versus diesel dyke versus bulldyke versus boi. High femme versus lipstick lesbian. Unisex versus bigender versus trigender.

The Lifestyle. Wait, which Lifestyle are you talking about?!

These terms are very confusing and some of them overlap with each other. Others are spelt almost identically but apply to completely different aspects. Some of these are just terms that mean the same thing but are used only in certain subcultures.

Given how many ways there are to describe something, I suggest using sensible, unambiguous, descriptive terminology, which given the Latin & Greek origins of these prefixes and suffixes, should be easy. And if there is already a common word in usage, instead of inventing a new word, just use the old word (e.g. unisex rather than pansex when describing a toilet facility).

Prefixes:

Suffixes:

And:

So if I absolutely had to use a Greek word salad with Latin dressing to describe my gender identity and sexual orientation, I would be a biologically & physically female, feminine/androgynous, transgender man who is a gynephile & gynesexual with occasional androphilia & androsexuality who is definitely omnifriendly. Except I wouldn’t do that, because it’s a confusing word salad that is better described in a paragraph of normal English rather than barbecued ancient languages.

And unless I was within my group of friends/subculture who all used similar language, I would not use confusing or ambiguous or politically loaded language to describe myself. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a homoflexible genderfuck lipstick switch, for example, disregarding for a moment the obvious inaccuracies in that description.

I also use plain, unambiguous language to convey the things that I don’t mind being semi-publicly shown on a dating profile (albeit with a pseudonym) to people I don’t know.

It’s also amazing just how little coverage there is in the media about the great variety of actual literature about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender performance, biological gender (including intersex) and how these things cluster together.

Instead, media coverage tends to be about how many gays/bis/trans/intersex people there are, the gay gene”, brain structure and other stuff that is really fairly tawdry and not very scientifically solid.

Phone surveys or census forms for measuring the number of non-straight people out there is clearly and obviously methodologically flawed! If you’re not openly queer and someone else is in the room or you have identity issues or you are busy or want to get off the phone or you just have no rapport with the interviewer, will you really answer accurately? I’m more inclined to agree with Kinsey’s original statistics which involved in depth and lengthy and varied interviews with very large numbers of people. Has this ever been repeated?

Statistical analysis shows that 1) romantic, 2) sexual and 3) friend preference by sex are somewhat independent factors, at least in men.

Sexual orientation in men overall is a generally one-dimensional continuum similar to the Kinsey scale. In women, it is a two-dimensional space with attraction to men as one dimension and attraction to women as another dimension.

People who identify as asexual have a variety of different reasons for doing so and descriptively have a variety of sexual, romantic, personality and gender characteristics and preferences.

The sexual orientation of intersexed people is often influenced by what their underlying medical diagnosis/classification is.

So far in my reading, then, there are the following factors:

We really need to get away from political, prescriptive and theoretical models of sex, sexuality and gender and move towards meaningful, descriptive, evidence based ideas that actually communicate effectively.

Language seems to be being used to alienate, mislabel, confuse, antagonise and oppress people- both queer/non-straight people as well as their friends, family and allies. Misused tools are often turned against us as weapons- just look at how horribly the antagonistic, jargon-heavy campaign for a pansex” toilet at the University of Melbourne Student Union building backfired. In the end the toilets were redeveloped- with bright pink female toilets, bright blue male toilets and no unisex or pansex” (pangender? omnisex? non-gendered?) option. It was worse than the way it was before. Other than that they got rid of the glory-holes.

And it certainly didn’t help me work out how to think of myself or communicate my feelings or how I was and how to relate to other people.


  1. The English 3rd person gender neutral singular for a person of unknown/unclear/non-traditional gender is not it” or zer” or hizzer” or hie” or ser”. It is they[^2] and has been so for centuries. This usage has been documented even in multiple Shakespearean works and works predating him.


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