The “Marriage will fix it!” Presidential Platform

Dear Mr. Romney,

I am concerned that despite being a presidential candidate, you seem a bit perplexed by our world.  When you suggested a causal link between folks shooting each other up with automatic weapons and… single parents, I became highly disruptive to the small gathering of progressive viewers I was hosting at my home (not that that’s your fault, of course).  My high pitches shrieks of “NO, no, oh HELL no, whhaaat?” brought me back to a time when Dan Quayle tried to blame societal ills on sitcom character Murphy Brown.  In addition to single moms, you Republicans also seem to put quite a lot of blame on teachers for everything from the recession to colon polyps.  Remarkably, It always seems to be some almost entirely female group that is to blame for societal ills.  Why do Republicans do this?

“We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.”

It seems to me the last few horrific gun crime incidents were perpetrated by highly educated males.  The Aurora shooter had a PhD.  Another recent shooter was a psychiatrist.  Just heard today the Aurora and Giffords shooters both came from two-parents households.  Oops.  Not hanging together so far, Mitt.  I’m thinking if we want people to stop using mass murder weapons we have to stop people from getting them – smart people, uneducated people, people with single and married parents, almost entirely male people.  I don’t think blaming female people is going to get us anywhere.

But okay, the other points you make about marriage are valid, sort of.  Married folks do enjoy a higher quality of life, do better financially, are healthier, better educated, (oh, and have more sex, but you wouldn’t care about that, now would you Mr. Governor, sir?).

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Friday’s Discussion of Why Have Kids by Jessica Valenti

Thanks to all who have followed the discussion this week.

Valenti makes an interesting defense mechanism argument, that part of the reason we moms buy into over-parenting and obsessing about minutiae is to shield ourselves from 1)the frightening reality that we don’t have control over whether our kids will be okay, and 2)we aren’t getting the support from society and sometimes from men that we should.
Valenti writes:

“We focus on the absurd, rather than the everyday, because the mundane is too real-too out of control – to face.”

“And the terrifying reality is that from the moment our children are born thers’a wlays a chance they could be taken away from us.  I don’t know about you, but worrying about BPA-free pacifies seems a hell of a lot more sanity saving.”
Final Discussion Question:  Do you buy the defense mechanism argument as a way for women to deny either the frightening reality of lack of control or to deny the lack of support and not face the unfair cultural expectations on us.
I actually have a difficult time answering this one.  I’m not big on denial, it’s not my nature.  I spend plenty of time worrying about actual big things that could happen to my kids and I feel like that actually makes it hard for me to obsess over things like which sippy cup is best and whether a certain pre-school will get my kids into Harvard.  Also, as my readers know all too well, I’m not particularly in denial about the martyr mommy culture I rant about on frequent occasion.  I guess it’s hard for me to say if other moms are helicopter parenting as a defense mechanism, but it certainly makes sense as an argument.
I do think it’s also important to look not just as the woman’s perspective, but who is perpetuating this type of obsessing.  There are massive industry’s profiting of women (and some men) obsessing about children’s well-being, what they should eat, what toys and products will best stimulate them, what educational tools they need, classes to enrich them, consultants and self-help gurus to help with everything and anything, the right clothes, car seats, formula, etc.  I think it’s important rather too look at how the bombardment of cultural messages that we SHOULD be obsessing interplays with our own psychology.
Additionally, if we are obsessing over our kids in order to not face how isolated we are and unsupported, that is also being perpetuated by culture.  Everyone in society who is not supporting us, not paying into state-sponsored childcare and paternal leave, not stepping us, not doing their share of parenting their own kids, not making workplaces more parent friendly, etc. is benefiting from moms being too focused on being perfect to stand up and demand better.  This problem isn’t located in our psyches, but in society.
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Texas Representative is First Out Pansexual Politician – Why do I Care?

Pansexual Pride!

This week I had an experience I’ve never had before.  I guess I’ve always taken for granted that folks in political office or in the public eye represented me as a white, feminist, progressive, Italian-American, queer-(ish, before coming out) woman.  I’ve certainly never sat down and thought about the fact that there’s no one out there who really represents my identity, as I’m sure many other folks have.  I live in a privileged space where I can be fairly assured most aspects of my identity will be visible in culture and politics.

Thus, I would never have predicted how visceral and powerful my reaction would be when I saw this.   As reported here on feministing.com, Mary Gonzalez will be the first out pansexual legistlator in the country.  After her election to the Texas House of Representatives (Texas!  Of all places!), Gonzalez, who had presented herself as a lesbian, explained her choice to wait until after the election to reveal her true identity.

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Women, It’s Time for Us to Take Away Men’s Guns

Although details about the identities of the Aurora shooting victims are slow to emerge, it is safe to say a male perpetrated unspeakable violence against a number of women, as well as other men.  Sadly, male violence toward either sex is not an unusual occurrence.  When it comes to guns, women are astronomically more likely to be on the receiving end of a bullet than the one pulling the trigger.   While men are both more likely to murder, and to be murdered, women’s likelihood of being killed is way out of proportion with our likelihood of killing.

From 1976 to 2005, women were 23.5% of all homicide victims and 11.2% of perpetrators.    In short, women are significantly more likely to be murdered than to murder, and that’s not to mention the suffering women experience as a result of male on male violence.  No doubt losing a son to gun violence, incarceration or a death sentence for murder can feel like death to a mother.  Why are we putting up with this?

Let’s take a closer look at Aurora for a moment.  I’ve heard a lot of male voices over the past few days stating that if only one or more of the civilians had been armed, this tragedy could have been prevented or curtailed.   One acquaintance argued he’s been training to use his firearm for 30 years and he would have, “taken that asshole down before he killed anyone.”   These voices may be chivalrous, heroic, hot-headed, macho, coming out of fear, denial, posturing, etc.  But there is one thing they are not.  They are not based in fact.  You don’t have to be special ops or have weapons training to know that.

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Making Safe Space – Transgender Youth Support Groups

Folks in drag at Pride - Not everyone feel this comfortable being gender variant, especially gender variant youth.

Recently, three colleagues and I ran the first sessions of two new supports group we are running for transgender teens/young adults and their parents.  We had been advertising for weeks, but had no idea what to expect.  I think we were all a bit nervous.  I’ve learned the anxiety of wondering if anyone’s really going to show up to things doesn’t go away in adulthood.  As young people and parents began to pour in, it was clear before we even got started that this was going to be something special.

The intense feelings in the room were palpable.  For almost all these parents, and many of the young people, this was their first time being around others who identified as transgender.  In those first few minutes, I was quickly reminded of the power of creating space.  We hadn’t done any therapy yet, hadn’t provided any information or even introduced ourselves.  There was fear, sure.  For the youth, will others like me, will they accept me, will they understand me?  For the parents, what will others think of me and my child, will they see me as a good parent, will they believe I’ve handled this “right?”  But there was also real, tangible, relief – the kind that can change one’s perspective in an instant.  I’m not alone.  You could almost reach out and touch it.

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What Do All Those Letters Stand for Anyway? The Case for LGBTQIAPK.

New York City Pride 2012

People often ask me “what do all those letters stand for, anyway?”  I’m not quite sure why they ask me, since most don’t know I belong in that alphabet soup somewhere.  But they ask, and I’m glad, because I think they should know.  However, there is definitely a part of me that’s annoyed by the question, and thinks, ‘come on people, keep up, it’s not rocket science.’  Of course, there are those who don’t know “what all those letters stand for” because they don’t want to, due to ignorance or hatred.  But there are also well-meaning allies who are having a hard time keeping up.

Hell, there are a whole bunch of folks who fit within that list of letters, or a longer one we haven’t come up with yet, who don’t even know it.  It is confusing.  It should be.  That list of letters keeps growing and growing because the variations in human sexuality and gender identity are infinite.  We probably need the whole alphabet to cover them.  I have this fantasy that one day when there are more of us who fit under the “queer” umbrella than don’t, it will finally be clear that we are all “sexual minorities.”

This is not at all to diminish the experience of people who have to live, openly or not, as sexual minorities in our culture right now.  But perhaps the reason they are in the “minority” is because of how many others are still closeted in various ways.  How many people must be out there who have never spent much time considering their sexual orientations or gender identities due to compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory gender-normativity, and/or compulsory sexual vanilla-ism in our culture?  And how many simply don’t fit labels our culture has yet produced?

I mean, honestly, how many of us have “normal,” monogamous sex, one man, one woman, in missionary position, nothing “dirty,” no bondage-discipline-dominance-submission-sado-masochism-kinky stuff, no outside partners, no shared partners, only clean, run-of-the-mill fantasies, barely any foreplay necessary, easy “normal” orgasms, vaginal for the women, no clitoral stimulation needed, male gets hard easily, cums at just the right moment, no props, no toys, no porn, male in the dominant-but-not-too-aggressive role, woman in the submissive or seductive-but-still-respectable role, only “normal” masturbation in between, like our televisions tell us to?

And how many of us fit neatly and comfortably into one of two biological sexes, as well as the gender identity and gender role identity that our culture would dictate?

Folks in drag at 2012 Pride.

One of the main reasons the acronym that formed around sexual orientations (LGB) has become murky is that the categories those letters cover keeps expanding.  When the gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgender movements merged, a gender identity category was added to a list of sexual orientations.  I believe this was a pivotal point at which our society began to wrestle with how gender variance can interplay and overlap with sexual orientation.  This also opened the door for new identities such as “genderqueer” to emerge.  The term “queer” also became the label of choice for those who sought a more inclusive category, in some cases to avoid having to choose either a sexual orientation or gender identity label.  Queer has also been utilized by many who gravitate toward labels that haven’t gained status in the official acronym yet, like genderqueer and pansexual.  Finally, queer can be a political stance for allies or others who don’t necessarily ascribe to specific “queer” identities, but take on a “queer” stance or perspective.

Transgender calls into question the assumed match between biological sex and gender identity.  Intersex, also typically one of the commonly accepted “sexual minorities,” represents the almost 2% of the population who don’t fit neatly into existing biological categories of male and female according to Arlene Lev, author of Transgender Emergence.  If genderqueer and androgynous became part of the sexual minority acronym, it would represent yet another identity category, this time for those whose gender identities do not fit neatly into male/female gender categories.  Transgender, genderqueer, androgynous, and intersex are all identities which call into question the gender binary.

For me, pansexual is a label that defies labels.  It pulls the rug out from under the gender binary as well as earlier concepts of sexual orientation, by separating sexual/affectional orientation from binary notions of gender.  It is essentially a refusal to define sexual orientation based on gender.  For some, it even calls into question the boundaries between sex/love relationships and non-romantic relationships.  To me it is an identity category which expands, rather than narrows who people can be and how.  As someone seeking to choose partners and set up my relationships and lifestyle based on criteria other than gender, I wasn’t sure how I fit into the queer spectrum until I discovered pansexuality.  I think I always identified with being queer, but I never felt entitled to identify as queer until I heard this term.  I am only identified as queer now because our culture was creative enough to produce such a concept.  How many other queer folks are out there for whom we don’t yet have labels?

Despite the relative mainstreaming of gay identity, there was only one Bisexual group in NYC's gigantic Pride Parade, and no one representing Pansexuals, Asexuals, etc.

Asexual, an identity which is often included within the sexual minority acronym, represents yet another identity type, this time regarding one’s level of interest in sex or identification as a sexual being.

“Questioning” doesn’t necessarily imply what one is questioning, further muddying the waters, but potentially drawing in more folks who are either unsure how they fit under the queer umbrella, or again, may ascribe to identities not yet defined.

Other potential categories relate to those sexual minorities who do not structure relationships around monogamy.  Polyamorists are candidates for inclusion in our acronym, in addition those who are “sexual minorities” by virtue of the less common sexual practices and/or sexual roles they take on, particularly those within the kink community.  K would cover those who practice bondage and discipline, dominance-submission and/or sado-masochism, as well as those with an incredibly diverse set of fetishes and preferences.  According to survey data around 15% of adults engage in some form of consensual sexual activity along the “kink” spectrum.  This is a higher percentage than identify as gay or lesbian.

This is my official petition to add the letters P and K to the more widely accepted LGBTQIA acronym, and to emphasize other “A” and “G” identities.  This would make room not only for myself, but for all those who already identify as genderqueer, androgynous, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous, and those who are part of the kink community.   Perhaps seeing those additional letters will help some of the folks out there who haven’t been exposed to these identities understand themselves a bit better and feel they too have a place in the queer community.

LGGBTQQIAAPPK?  The categories of human sex and gender expression and identities they could represent is likely infinite.  If that acronym looks a bit absurd, it speaks to the absurdity of thinking there are a few isolated “sexual minorities” while the rest of the human race is “normal” and fairly similar.  The truth is the level of diversity in our sexual lives as human beings means we are all sexual minorities.  As accepted and culturally understood identity categories continue to arise, this will become more and more apparent.  Perhaps the “queer” community, is, in fact, becoming more accurately described as the community of people who acknowledge the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and seek to be open to exploring that diversity within themselves and the culture at large.

Copyright 2012, UndercoverintheSuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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I DO Want to “Have it All,” Starting with What Women in 178 Other Countries Have

Featured on RoleReboot.org.

Iceland, Germany, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Latvia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Czhech Republic, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ecuador, and a total of 178 countries have federally mandated paid maternity leave.  Fifty of these countries offer leave to fathers.  (Yes, they all should!).  The United States has no federally mandated paid parental leave.  ZERO.  See here for specific parental leave policies.

I have read so many reactions this week to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have it All (which discussed societal barriers to women achieving the work-life balance the feminist movement has been striving for).  So many of these responses have disregarded and negated an important feminist policy agenda by blaming women and feminists for the inability to “have-it-all,” and drumming up in-fighting among groups who should be banding together to advocate for the policies Slaughter calls for.  They have crticized the idea of wanting to “have it all” as a privileged, selfish pursuit, bemoaned women expecting too much and having too high expectations, and discussed the fact that men, too, struggle to “have it all.”  They painted an overall picture of neurotic, perfectionistic modern mothers driving themselves crazy and needing to take it down a notch.

Ok, maybe no one “has it all,” as this Jezebel article argues, but women in Malta have 14 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Women in Sweden enjoy 16 months of 100% paid parental leave which they can use or share with the child’s father until age 8.  In France, every child has access to free daycare, early childhood education, and healthcare.  Clearly the women in these countries need to stop buying into some fantastical feminist line about a work-life balance no human being can attain!

Continue reading at http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2012-06-i-do-want-to-have-it-all-starting-with-what-women-in

 

 

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How as a Gay-Affirmative, Self-Aware Feminist I Still Missed the Fact that I’m Queer for 30+ Years

Finding oneself is an ongoing process...

Senior year in college I fell in love with a boy.  We’ll call him Jack.  Jack and I proceeded to spend the entire year in an ill-defined, heart-wrenching non-“relationship” in which we were “best friends,” (obviously dating) but not having sex or admitting we were more than platonic.

We told each other we loved each other.  We made every excuse to touch each other.  We even slept in the same bed, staying up late having deep conversations.  We made our lives dependent on each other’s as partners do, taking on each others’ struggles and challenges as our own.

Senior year in high school, I had had the same relationship.  Well, ok, I was four years younger, less mature, but everything I stated above was true of this one as well.  There’s one catch, this time it was a girl… let’s say, Jane.

Looking back, the fact that I was in love with my best friend Jane, that we slept in the same bed, snuggled, held hands, were romantically involved in every way one can be, aside from sex, should have tipped me off that I’m not straight.  Amazingly, despite my openness to being gay, despite at times in college wishing I was gay, feeling like I should be, and hanging out with all the gay kids, I still managed to continue to believe I was straight.

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that all this time and emotional energy was spent on these non-“relationships,” and I never even got to have sex!  That is for another post.  How could I, feminist and gender-nonconformist since before puberty, gay rights activist, flaming liberal, and eventually trained in psychology have made such a grave error that only now, in my mid 30s am I realizing I’m not straight?

After fully analyzing the question, I have come up with the following reasons:

1)  INVISIBILITY OF SAME-SEX ATTRACTION:

When this “thing” was happening with Jack, everyone saw it.  My friends referred to him as my “boyfriend.”  People were constantly asking what was going on, were we sleeping together, were we dating?

All the feedback I was getting was that you are in love with this boy… romantic love.  With Jane, on the other hand, I barely got any of that feedback.  One very close friend mentioned how physically affectionate we were with each other, and asked me about it.  That’s it.

And let me tell you, thinking back, it was just as obvious.  But girls acting romantic with each other just doesn’t stand out to us the way hetero match-ups do.  When we see a man and a woman, our minds automatically go to are they, have they, will they?

I got no feedback about this girl to make me pause and think hmmm, maybe I should take this seriously, as in I DO LIKE GIRLS.

Of course there is a gender aspect here too.  Physical affection between women stands out way less than in any relationship in which a man is involved, because the male role precludes such affection unless with a romantic partner.

2)      PANSEXUALITY, IN ITS WONDERFUL LACK OF RIGID BOUNDARIES CAN MAKE THINGS TOUGH TO DEFINE:

To me this goes to an aspect of pansexuality that has to do with how one defines relationships.  Not only did I not really see gender as a major defining point in who I was attracted to… I didn’t really see that clear a boundary between romantic and platonic relationships the way others seemed to.

For me, everything bled together, gender was never rigid, sexual attraction was always just somewhere along a range.  There were sensual and erotic aspects to many relationships.  So when I did find myself “attracted” to women on various levels, it didn’t stand out that much to me.  I just didn’t view gender as that big a deal.  And yet, I think I was waiting for some kind of sign, like lightening bolts, telling me YOU DO like girls.

Thing is, there were never any lightening bolts with guys either.  In fact, that boy senior year was the first one I was even strongly attracted to, where I really felt like wow, I want to have sex with this person!

In a way, my experience was very pansexual, in that I didn’t draw such distinct lines between sexual and non-sexual relationships, and even between men and women.  But I think as a result, I was very susceptible to viewing my relationships the way others did, i.e. high school girls just being girls, vs. in love with a man.

Because the boundaries and labels I was aware of didn’t fit, I just accepted the default position… heterosexuality.

3)    “YOU CAN’T BE WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE” – PAN-INVISIBILITY

Being pan is not visible anywhere in our culture, and it certainly wasn’t when I was growing up.  I think if I had even been able to really relate to or feel I was bisexual, things would have been a lot clearer.  In retrospect, I was really searching for a non-straight identity, but there just wasn’t one that fit.

It was like the outfit you see on the rack and you think that’s it, it’s perfect, but when you put it on, it doesn’t fit quite right, and you’re not really sure why.

The first time I even heard the term omni-sexual was a few years ago at a conference of women at my university whose dissertations focused on issues of gender.  I immediately thought, “that’s what I am,” but even then, being I’d never MET anyone who identified this way, I guess I took it as more of an intellectual exercise than an actual sexual orientation.

They say “you can’t be what you can’t see.”  I spent so much time around LGBT etc. folk, I felt comfortable around them, I liked being around them, but I never had a “that’s what I am” moment.  Definitely did not have that feeling around straight people either!

4)    CURSE OF BEING PSYCHOLOGICALLY MINDED

In so many ways other positives in my life ended up clouding my sexual orientation, like my tendency to view everything through a psychological lens.  In the years of college, I came to understand my relationship with Jane as more about family issues I was avoiding dealing with.

Coming from a family with a misogynist father, I had a very difficult time trusting men, so all my closest and most powerful relationships were with women, yes, until Jack – ugh!  Ironically, this ended up actually CLOUDING my attraction to women because I interpreted it as oh men are just scarier for me, so I’m more focused on women.

Turns out, I think, I was scared of men, and it was developmentally important for me to get past that, but I also was actually, really attracted to women. 

The fact that I always “felt different” as other LGBTetc folk often claim, I also (mis)-interpreted as related to my parents problematic parenting style and relationship, and my resulting intimacy issues.  This combined with the invisibility of same-sex relationships, and no pan folks in sight, left me totally missing the fact that I felt different because I really was different.  Ha!  I mean after all, who doesn’t have intimacy issues?

And a note on my attraction to men…  I also used to think I was attracted to more gender flexible men because my father was so sexist.  Yet another way daddy fucked me up… he caused me to miss the fact that I’m actually just attracted to gender flexible folks.  It wasn’t about him, but how was I supposed to know that!

5)HARD TO ADMIT

Ok, so obviously there must have been a part of me that while believing I was open to being gay, was hesitant to take on a minority sexual orientation.  I think if I had been full-out gay, I would have come out, but the fact that things felt very fluid, and I didn’t prefer women over men, there was never that much motivation to admit to myself I was not straight.

After all, it’s hard to plunge into a minority status, giving up one’s privilege as a heterosexual, to take on a seemingly non-existent sexual orientation that doesn’t quite fit with any concept people readily understand because one likes, but doesn’t necessarily prefer women.

And yet, here I am trying to do so.  Props to me.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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“10 Things a Guy Should Do on a First Date” and Other Stupidness

This is my response to this post entitled 10 Things Guys Should do on a 1st Date that my brother brought to my attention.  I want to publicly say that this post and the millions of posts like it on the internet, written by both men and women, are stupid.

By “stupid,” in this case I mean stereotypical, sexist, heterosexist, cis-gender biased, minimizing of individual differences among those of the “same gender,” diversity squelching, and generally ignorant.  Let’s forget for a minute those folks who don’t even neatly fit into a male/female category, for whom the rules of how to act on a date based on gender are probably most dramatically absurd.

Let’s just think about the number of men and women there are from all different races, classes, ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, with differing political persuasions, from different professions, some who grew up on farms or suburbs, others in cities, some who were born on other continents or studied overseas, who belong to as many religions as you can imagine.  REALLY?  You are going to make a list of rules of how people should act on dates with one of the 150 million females (and that’s just the U.S.) as if there is ANY one thing these women would have in common.

Admittedly, lists like this for women are equally absurd, but I think there are less of those these days as people are somewhat aware of the political incorrectness.  As my brother points out, it’s still okay to make absurd generalizations about women to “help” men, but not as okay to tell women how to please men.  So for all the straight men who have argued to me that there are now “rules” men have to follow that women don’t “because of feminism,” I am here to tell you that if these are the rules you are referring to, they are stupid.

Let’s start here.

Take Charge. We do not want to decide where to go. We will never tell you this, but it is true. Ask us what kind of place and/or food we like; then, pick a place like that. Do not leave it up to us to choose. You are the man. Act like one.

Brilliance!!  Guys, if you want to date someone who’s been in some kind of coma and missed second wave feminism, go ahead and take this advice.  Who wants to date someone who would state they don’t want to have to make decisions?  If “acting like a man” means telling women what to do because it takes too much exertion for us to figure out what we want, that is offensive to everyone.  Seriously??

Mind Your Body Language. If your legs are crossed and your hand is over your mouth, we will unconsciously think you are hiding something. If you are sprawled out all over with your legs spread wide and your hands behind your head, we will think you are a slob or generally loose. Sit up straight, lean in closer, and keep your hands where we can see them.

This makes men sounds like monkeys in a cage under observation by some very suspicious observer.  I don’t know about other women, but I would never be observant enough to notice and or take the time to read that much into a man’s gestures.  “Keep your hands where we can see them?”  Really?  Because all men are predatory and not to be trusted to even move their hands out of sight?  I don’t think so.

No Pawing Allowed. If you’re going to score with us at some point, we will let you know. Trust. Occasional physical contact is OK — a hand to the small of the back, a touch of the thigh, a brief holding of the arm while making a point. Do not grab anywhere in the red light zones. If we want your hands there, we will put them there.

Pawing?  Now the men have been demoted from monkeys to dogs.  Sensational!  I know some readers may be stunned by this, but some women like things to move quickly in the physical department… yes, I’m talking about S.E.X.  There are also men who want to wait… long… take it from me.  We all need to be aware of others’ boundaries.  I have had many female friends complain that a man is never making a move, and others complain that one is too forward.  If you want someone to know your boundaries you have to tell them.  This is true for persons of all genders.

Pay. Feminism, shmeminism. Take care of the bill without comment. That is what we want. Wave off any offer to go dutch. We lied. We don’t want to pay half.

UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  Ladies, are you as pained by this as I am??  WTF.  SERIOUSLY??  I would like to state for the record that while I am biologically female and also identify with a female gender identity, I do not consider myself part of any “we” that wants to put up a sham of wanting equality only to have a man refuse to treat me as an equal.  THAT is NOT sexy.  Women should pay half!  If you don’t agree, date women like the one who wrote this post.  If you do, date women who will pay half.  Please do not read shit like this and then go around whining about how women are only interested in money, dating is “so expensive.”  BUNK.

When I hear my single male and female heterosexual friends complaining that “all men… ” or “all women…” I want to say where are you looking, and how hard?  What would you be willing to compromise to meet someone who doesn’t expect you to follow a gendered script?  Would you be willing to accept someone who doesn’t follow other culturally prescribed scripts?  Someone who doesn’t have money?  Someone short (mostly for women)?  Someone of a different race or religion?  Someone who identifies as GLBTQIAPK?  Someone who doesn’t meet your friends and families expectations?  Someone divorced?  Someone who demands equality in other areas in addition to splitting the bill?

Most of the rest of these are not so bad, but I  can be put under the category of good advice for ANYONE:

Listen…  Ask Questions…

Everyone needs to ask questions and listen.  EVERYONE.  People who ask questions and listen are more successful in most aspects of life, including dating.  These social skills predict success better than IQ, education, etc.

We really do not care if you are secretly neurotic, deeply insecure, or mildly nuts. We are interested in how you portray yourself. Act confident, interested, engaged, self-assured, ambitious, and happy. We like that. Thanks.

We’ve all been on those dates where people reveal way too much too fast.  If you’re a shrink like me, you are probably married to that person.  Yes, there are those of us who are impressed by someone who will speak openly about his/her emotional life and past struggles.  Of course that depends on the way it is presented.  Everyone has a different level of tolerance for airing one’s baggage.  But in general, it’s probably best to be yourself, without talking like you would in my office.  That goes for men and women.

Bottom line… if you don’t like “the rules” don’t follow them, and demand partners who don’t either.  I often here from men and women that they get better results with internet dating when they present themselves in a very gendered way, or in ways that don’t suit them.  Remember high school?  I probably would have been more popular if I had done a lot of things that didn’t suit me too, but I didn’t do all those things.  Hell, I’d probably have more people reading my blog if it was called “Naked and Horny in the Suburbs” and included photos of me in in compromising positions.  Quantity is not everything.  You are better off with 10 dates with quality people you might actually like than 100 sheep who are blindly following cultural norms.  Quantity is for conformists.

If you don’t follow “the rules” that will make it more likely your peers and future generations will not have to either.  If you don’t like the expectations of the people you are dating, date other people.  Here’s a tip – TALK to people.  When the bill comes, start a conversation.  Even if it turns out you’re totally incompatible, that’s good information that could save you a lot of hassle. You get to have a genuine exchange instead of being fake and following some script that’s going to lead you nowhere anyway.  And who knows… somebody might just learn something.

 Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com.  All Rights Reserved.

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“If Only You Were Born Now” – Up-and-Coming Identities

Originally Appeared on RoleReboot.org.

I frequently find myself thinking ‘If only you were born now,’ while working with middle-aged gender variant people.  The few times I actually say it out loud, it’s painfully clear how unhelpful it is.   A few days ago I found myself trying to explain the concept “genderqueer” to a married, middle-aged natal male who currently identifies as transgender.  He was saying he feels part male and part female, not female enough to start hormones or have re-assignment surgery and transition, but not male enough to continue to pass as male.  I recall saying something along the lines of “all the college kids are doing it.”

To at least a certain subset of 20 year-olds, this man’s problem wouldn’t be perceived as a problem at all.  Identities including ‘both male and female,’ ‘neither male nor female,’ ‘third gender,’ ‘non-gendered,’ and ‘androgynous’ have become increasingly easy for young people to conceptualize.   “Oh, you’re just genderqueer,” I can imagine them saying.   But how does one come out as genderqueer at fifty?  How does one explain to spouses, colleagues, children and other relatives who have never considered identities outside the gender binary?    There would be very real and potentially serious social consequences to coming out for this person.

Even if I could bring him on a fieldtrip down to a local gender studies department or campus LGBT alliance to see first-hand what a genderqueer identity might look like, his peers would still lack any exposure to this concept.  Many adults are still struggling with the idea homosexuality, and most would have a difficult time really understanding transgender identity.  But at least the ‘one-gender-trapped-in-the-body-of-the-other’ idea fits into the gender binary most people are used do, as does attraction to the opposite gender.  Genderqueer is an identity which demands thinking way outside the box, calling into question the very concept of gender as we know it.

Even for those transgender folks who have transitioned, there is sometimes a level of generational envy.  I have often heard transgender individuals fantasizing about how things might have been different if they were born now, with the availability of hormones, surgical advancements, and the increased awareness of transgender children and teens.  Kids now have the option of intervening early enough that puberty never steals their chances of passing as their identified gender.

College is, after all, the perfect time to formulate one’s identity.  Had this middle-aged man experimented with transgender and genderqueer identities in college and chosen/begun his career and long-term partnership already identifying as such, his life would be very different.  College is a safe place and time in which one’s peers are also, in their own ways, testing out different identities.  But, as a wise supervisor of mine frequently says, “one can only choose from among the culturally available identities.”  For most of the middle-aged people I work with, transgender and genderqueer were not a part of the cultural landscape yet when they were adolescents.

A few months ago I attended an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City.  A beautiful, confidant young woman took her place at the “human microphone” in order to speak.  She began by saying, “I am a black, pansexual woman.”  I remember distinctly the pang of envy I felt.  Fifteen years ago I was a gender studies major (back when it was still called women’s studies).  I lived in the gay dorm and hung out with the least gender conforming kids on campus.  But I had never heard of “pansexual” until a few years ago.  It might not have taken me until my 30s to solidify my queer identity if I had.

For me, the labels that existed when I was in college didn’t quite fit.  In retrospect, this was because they all fit into that traditional gender binary.  Lucky for me, dating men and passing as straight fit my identity well enough.  I had the privilege of putting the knowledge I was queer on the back burner until an identity that fit me better was imagined by our culture.

For others, the feelings of being gender variant are so profound and all-encompassing that life simply cannot go on, at least not without suffering and struggle.  I believe this is why so many parents are working to open up space for their children to explore minority sexual and gender identities.  Once that stage in life when our identities are naturally in flux has passed, there is no way to get that time back.

I often wonder what my life would look like right now if I had had pansexual Identity on my radar in college.  It might look exactly the same, but have simply feel more authentic for longer.  Despite my envy, I am deeply encouraged by and utterly respectful of the kids that are coming up now.  They are fundamentally re-thinking gender and opening up space for fuller and richer lives for those who don’t fit easily within the gender binary (and really, for everyone).

That said, we always need to be looking forward, making more space, thinking further outside the box.  There are children growing up right now who will live their whole lives in silent desperation because they fit identity categories the culture has yet to offer.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero