Lyla Cicero… Feminist, Sexpert, Divorcee

All questions, no answers...

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”  George Bernard Shaw

I used to think life was about accumulating answers.  The more you learn about yourself and the world, the fewer questions you have and the more answers, right?  There have been stretches of my life (albeit short stretches) were I felt like I was racking up the answers – like I was closing off certain paths and possibilities and narrowing my focus to others.  For a few brief moments, I had this moderately stable, fairly typical identity.  Mother, wife, professional.  I was a happy, content, straight person.  I had answered enough questions that the big decisions were made, and it was time to settle in and “live.”

Lately, it feels like the opposite, however.  Lately, it feels like I’m accumulating questions instead of answers.  The answers I had before seem less and less relevant, and the questions are piling on with a vengeance.  I’m drowning in them.  I find myself re-opening old questions I thought were laid to rest, and wondering what I was thinking with the conclusions I drew in the past.  All this soul-searching leads me back to my faithful friend Q.  Q as in LGBTQ.  All this questioning makes me feel awfully queer.  When I try to put my finger on what happened since that brief moment of heteronormative stability, those are the words that come to mind.  Was I just too queer, is that why it didn’t take?

Then I revisit my other old friend Q – the “Questioning” Q.  I used to think of that label in very black and white terms.  Someone who was not sure of their sexual orientation or gender identity was “questioning.”   Now I wonder if questioning can be an orientation in and of itself.  Other people seem to get to that point where the major questions are answered and stay there.  Was I really too queer for contentment in my former life, or is it more that I’m just a questioner?   Perhaps I wasn’t so much queerer than other people, but just asked more questions.  Too many questions?

Am I the person who picks at a scab just because it’s there when others would just let it heal?   The truth is, Pandora’s Box is always there just outside our comfort zone, ready to render all our answers meaningless and dizzy us in a whirlwind of question-demons.  That box of questions is always there, straight, queer, heteronormative or otherwise.  It seems like most humans manage to ignore that thing, while I’ve just got to repeatedly fling it open just to see what comes out!

What happened to that relatively content straight person?  Was she ever really straight?  Was she ever really content?  Was she in some kind of denial?   Were all her answers woefully inadequate, or was she asking the wrong questions?  Was she choosing the path of least resistance, or was she following her truth at the time?  Why does a woman who had strongly considered, even desired a homosexual existence at twenty conclude she is irrevocably straight, then proceed to marry a closeted homosexual, only to open up the marriage  in order to date women, causing that closeted homosexual to realize he is gay and leave her?  So many questions.  Not an answer to be had.

So what was at the root of the anguish and rage of the last few months – of finding out I am going to lose my life partner because he is gay?  Was it the queer, or was it the questioning?   What it something I set in motion years ago or very recently, or was it an utterly random set of events that was always beyond my control?  Since Seth has come out and decided to leave our marriage, several people have suggested that if I had just left well enough alone, not had to pick at that scab, I’d still have a marriage, and a happy one at that.  There are probably plenty of blissfully ignorant women married to gay men who just left well enough alone, they suggest.  But what kind of existence would that be?  I don’t know, but it doesn’t so bad right about now, as I prepare for my kids’ dad to move out.

More questions – cause that’s the thing – we were happy.  At least I was.  And yet there’s this part of me that just can’t get on board with thinking there wouldn’t be something insidious about staying ignorantly content and never finding this version of ourselves.  It’s the part of me that just can’t leave that damned Pandora’s Box closed – that will probably go to my grave flinging it open letting all kinds of demons and fairies on the loose… letting myself loose… demons, fairies and all.  I may not know much about who I am, but I know this.  I am “Questioning,” and I probably always will be.  The things that feel settled and stable to other people just don’t to me.  The questions that feel long answered are always up for debate somewhere within my psyche.

Does my questioning nature make me happier, more self-aware, more authentic, or just miserable?  Perhaps all of the above.  Who can say.  That’s yet another question whose answer will never fully satisfy me.

Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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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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Can you be Sexually Gay and Romantically Straight?

Why do we keep expecting limits? There are no limits!

Also Appears on elephantjournal.com.

A few months back it came out that actor John Travolta may have had sex with men.  Whatever the facts of the case, the blogosphere and my sex therapist circles were a-flutter with speculation.  What did this mean?  Was John Travolta gay?  Does sex with men necessarily mean gay?

This fascinating Good Men Project post Mostly Straight Most of the Time talks about men who identify as “mostly straight,” including men who feel politically or personally limited by the heterosexual male role, men who find other men attractive but primarily enjoy sex with women, and men who have romantic feelings or enjoy cuddling or going “beyond platonic” with other men but not having sex.  It also talks about men who have sex with other men but still identify as “mostly straight.”  For example, the article quotes a man named Dillon who explains that “he resides in the ‘Sexual Netherlands,’ a place that exists between heterosexuality and bisexuality.”

So what is going on with these men?  Are they gay, straight, or bisexual?  My answer to that question is that it is the wrong question.  Rather than trying to squeeze people  into existing labels, perhaps we should be making new labels.  Can you be sexually gay and romantically straight, or as some of my colleagues described it, “homo-sexual and hetero-emotional?” Of course!  You can be ANYTHING.  That is what we keep missing.  No matter how many categories we make, people will keep inhabiting “the netherlands in between.”

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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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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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