Am I Queer Enough? Who Decides?

Since I began coming out to people as both queer and pansexual almost two years ago, I have only gotten two negative reactions.  (Sadly this was true a few months ago when I wrote this post, gotten a bunch more since)  One of these followed a very expected format – the ‘prove to me you’re bisexual’  reaction.  The person wasn’t mean or hostile, but simply looked at me as if to say “Come on… you’re not serious?”

He then proceeded to inform me that he “has a test for this.”  He asked me if I would “co-habitate with, and/or have my primary romantic relationship with a woman.”   I said I would.  It was the truth.  But I didn’t feel good about having passed his test.

I politely explained to him that it’s offensive to make yourself the authority on someone else’s identity.  “Has anyone asked you to pass a test to prove you’re straight?” I asked him.  He chuckled as if caught in the act.

If you haven’t check out Shiri Eisner’s phenomenal monosexual privilege checklist you will definitely want to do so.  I have privilege.  We all do.  But this list helped me tremendously to recognize some of the ways in which, as a bi/pan sexual, I do not have the privilege mono-sexuals do.

Privilege #2 from Shiri’s list:

Monosexual Privilege #2 – When disclosing my sexual identity to others, they believe me, without my having to prove it.

Folks who are gay or straight can mostly take for granted that if they reveal their sexual orientation, others will believe them.

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Help! There’s a 16 Year-Old Lesbian Trapped Inside My Body, and She Wants Out!

Also appeared in elephantjournal – check it out!  This post is dedicated to MF.

The following is an internal dialogue between me, Lyla (“grown-up,” married, mother of two), and my gay, teenage alter-ego. We’ll call her “Eve since,” as you will see, she spends a lot of time focused on, shall we say, forbidden fruit.

Lyla: There has to be a way to keep up with the laundry without doing some every single day!

Eve: Girls.

Lyla: Aw, my little boy asked a question, that must be a developmental milestone.

Eve: Girls.

Lyla: Seth is my soul mate, best friend, and life-long companion.

Eve: Girls.

Lyla: How do I know if my kids are adjusting well to pre-school?

Eve: Girls… and sex.

Lyla: Dental Insurance?

Eve: How do you pick out a strap-on?

Lyla: I can’t believe this, I didn’t think we had dental insurance, but we do! What a relief!

Eve: Dates… we should be going on them. With girls!

Lyla: I should probably talk to my therapist about this.

Eve: OMG.

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Out and Pansexual in the Suburbs

If only everyone believed in "NO LIMITS!"

During the past few weeks I have had the exquisite pleasure of:

-aggravating a group of middle-aged lesbians.

-confusing gay and straight people alike with my mystifying pansexual/married lifestyle.

-having a close friend refer to me as transgender (I guess she thinks that’s what I came out as?)

-Going to my first several events as an “out” queer woman.


-being told by both my husband therapist to essentially “tone it down.”

They say well-behaved women seldom make history.  I’m guessing women who fit neatly into existing movements and social categories probably rarely do either.  Having said that, not fitting neatly, or at all, can be lonely.

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In Defense of Labels

Please check out this post on Elephant Journal where your clicks here will help my rating during their “sweeps.”

In my feminist, sex-positive, queer-positive travels, I constantly hear folks complaining about labels.  Let’s just stop with all these labels.  If we could just get away from labels.  It’s the labels that are the problem.  When I hear this, I often wonder how any of the progress that’s been made to expand notions of gender identity beyond the binary and make space for non-heteronormative and queer forms of identity could have been made without labels.  How could we fight for gay marriage without the word “gay?”  How could we raise awareness that not everyone fits neatly into male/female categories without labels like transgender, intersex, and genderqueer?  I can understand the frustration with labels when it feels like they narrow who we can be and pigeon-hole us into existing categories, like male and female, for example.  But ironically, I believe the way to expand notions of identity and free ourselves from those limits is also through more labels.

I recently heard the phrase “Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Minorities” for the first time.  As someone who focuses my career in the mental health field on those very groups, I was so pleased to finally have found a quick and dirty label not only for the folks I work with but for myself, as a queer-identified pansexual.  However, after my initial excitement, I started to feel a bit sad.  Would this mean I would have to stop using the acronym I coined on my blog and have been using for over a year… LGBTQIAPK?

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My “It Gets Better” To America

Marriage Equality is on the move!

Too many times throughout history, people in economic distress, feeling hopeless and scared, have chosen hate over love, broken the bonds that should have held them together, and turned backward instead of moving forward.  Too often under stress, human nature propels us to choose the false promise of a quick fix, rather than slogging through the difficult work of true progress.

This week, Americans made a different choice.  Ironically, despite all our disappointment in Obama for not delivering the hope and change he promised, after our collective reckoning with how hard and slow change truly is, we chose hope anyway.  We chose the vision of a society we create together, where freedom is truly shared, rather than lies and false promises based on sketchy math and reactionary social positions.  Rather than returning to historical practices limiting reproductive freedoms, to the view that men are the most capable of making choices about women’s bodies, we said no to moving backwards, and yes to equality.

We said no to Minnesota’s attempt to limit the definition of marriage to one man, one woman.  For the first time in our country’s history, citizens went to the poles and affirmed the rights of gay couples to marry.  In Maryland, Maine, and probably Washington (in every state, in fact, that posed the question) citizens voted for civil rights. The same country that after September 11 passed laws based in hate, to ascribe second class status to queer citizens, and that allowed irrational, self-destructive foreign policies to prevail, said no to war-mongering and yes to common sense.  We said yes to love, yes to fairness, and one vote at a time, brought gay people closer to full participation in our democracy, with the rights and privileges those of us perceived as heterosexual enjoy.

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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, 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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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,, All Rights Reserved.

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Secret Agent – Why Queer Invisibility Matters

This weekend I was at a lesbian bar in New York City with a lesbian friend of mine. At one point, she went to the bathroom, leaving me in that awkward position of being in a bar alone, desperately trying to act like I’m not feeling awkward that I’m in a bar alone. A few moments later, a woman approached me. “Is that your girlfriend?” she asked, gesturing toward the bathroom. “Nope, best friend,” I said. “She’s beautiful,” the woman continued. I was thrilled! So my best friend was getting more attention in the bar than I, I was used to that. Besides, I was more than a little ambivalent about how to handle potential interest from other patrons. I knew it would mean having to navigate explaining that I was married (to a man) with children, and be accountable to my husband for whatever happened next.

I was, in fact, thrilled by the woman’s comment simply because I had been seen! Even though she wasn’t expressing interest in me, her question necessarily implied that I she saw me as queer. I was believable to her as somebody’s girlfriend. In that moment, I was suddenly aware of what I’d been missing for so many years.

In college, I used to hang out at a place called Girlbar in Chicago. I loved Girlbar because I could dance and have fun and never had to deal with predatory men approaching me or even in some cases touching me. I’d had enough of the supposedly unintentional hand drifting up my side, moving toward my breast, as men walked by in a too-crowded bar. Never a problem at Girlbar! Ironically, though, I had a different problem at Girlbar. No one ever seemed to notice me. No one flirted with me or approached me at all. Even at school, where I lived in the gay dorm, hung out with gay friends, never had sexual relationships with men, and had plenty of ambiguous, overly touchy-feely friendships with women – even there, no one ever seemed to wonder if I wasn’t straight.

At the time, I thought my frustration with not being notice was about not feeling attractive. I wanted women to notice me because I wanted to feel like I was an attractive person. I would think to myself, ‘I’m not gay, but I could be… I easily could be… what’s wrong with me?’ I realize now that even though I wasn’t sure of it in my own mind, I was indeed queer, and I wanted to feel visible. Is it asking a lot to expect others to see what even you can’t? Sure. But even for those who are beyond certain about their own identities, queer people can be horrendously invisible in our culture. And there are many others like me who don’t realize they are queer, or even consider whether they are, because of queer invisibility.

If even when all the signs around me pointed to my being potentially gay, my gay-affirmative social group and gender studies peers were oblivious to my orientation, imagine how invisible I am now as a Pansexual woman married to a man. Even a trusted professional supervisor of mine who identifies as bisexual herself and is an expert on queer identity assumed I was straight. This one was particularly painful, because I knew that if she couldn’t see me no one would. I know I could cut my hair off and dress really butch and be more visible as queer, but that’s not me. If I did it, it would only be to make myself more visible, and not a true expression of who I am. That seems lame.

My long "straight girl" hair.

People need to know there are queer girls who don’t look obviously queer or have obviously queer lifestyles. I feel like queer identities should be more in our consciousness – we should be looking for them – we need to stop the hetero-until-proven-otherwise default. If I myself had been more aware of queer identities, I probably would have found a way to understand my own sooner. I didn’t even hear the term Pansexual until a couple years ago. Had I heard it in college, I may have been sure enough about who or what I was to say to all those queer folks, “Hey, I’m one of you!”

Sometimes I feel like the Melissa Etheridge song Secret Agent should be playing in the background of my life. Wherever I am, I am undercover, a spy from the other side, with a secret identity I can hide… or not. As I straddle the world of suburban married motherhood and the west village gay scene, I realize just how limiting the available identities in our culture still are. While I can be seen as queer now if I’m in the right context (one in which the assumption might be queer-until-proven-not), how many of the patrons at Cubbyhole will wonder if I’m married to a male? In order to get noticed and make a cultural imprint gay folks have had to draw a hard line, positioning themselves as not straight, or even, in some ways, the opposite of straight. Pansexuality (and bisexuality), however, require people to consider very different identity constructs at once.

What will it take for us to imagine as a culture all the gray areas of sexual and gender identity? That mom at the mall wrangling her kids in the food court may, in fact, prefer pussy. That woman making out with a woman at Cubbyhole may at another time in her life have passed as straight when out with her boyfriend. That Dad on the soccer field could have carried his son himself in the uterus he possesses as a natal female.

The truth is most of us are secret agents in some way. It is, in fact, the minority who fit neatly into the identity categories the culture has already processed and the narrow ways they are conceptualized. So ask yourself next time if the person in front of you in line at the supermarket was born with the genitalia you might think, if that mommy at your play group needs a babysitter Friday night so she and her husband can go to a kink club where they can engage in bondage and discipline, and if that ordinary looking heterosexual couple might both indentify as queer.

The problem with queer invisibility is that it limits the possibilities for everyone’s identity. The more ways of living and being we can see, the more gray areas we live in, the more choices we all have for our lives. We can either remain hidden from each other, or worse, never even understand who we within ourselves are because we haven’t seen anything we can relate to modeled in the culture. Or, we can work to truly see each other, and in turn, ourselves. Indeed, we are all Secret Agents… you can believe it or not!

 Copyright 2012,  All Rights Reserved.