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.

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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

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.

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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:


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.

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

Originally Appeared on

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.

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To the Queer Kids of the United States: Amendment One is a Form of Bullying

Originally Appeared on, also appears on

This letter is to all the queer kids, the gay, lesbian, and bi kids, to the young adults who identify as transgender, genderqueer, pansexual, and/or androgynous, to the questioning kids, to the kids who were born intersex, to the high school and college kids in North Carolina and around the country.  This is to the elementary and junior high kids who are gender variant.  This is to all the kids who don’t fall neatly into the categories of “man” or “woman” or whose sexual and/or affectional orientations aren’t exclusively toward someone who falls into the opposite neatly-defined category.

Yesterday, a group of grown-ups voted overwhelmingly to use constitutional powers in the state of North Carolina to define marriage as between “one man and one woman.”  These were no doubt many of the same grown-ups who for much of last year were all riled up about bullying in schools and teen suicide.  As you probably know, the state had already used its constitution to ban “same-sex marriage.”  Apparently it was not enough to stop gay folks from marrying, the voters of NC felt the need to be absolutely sure there would be no way you would share equal rights, through civil unions, or any other measure.  Instead of democracy being utilized to protect minorities against hostile majorities, in this case, it is being used to legalize discrimination.  If this was really about marriage and its meaning, why not stop at a marriage ban?  This is bullying pure and simple.

When I was in high school, there was a rule that in order for a same-sex couple to attend the prom, they had to appear before the principal, “explain the nature of their relationship,” and get permission.  According to wikipedia, bullying is a form of “aggressive behavior,” involving “intimidation or coercion” that is often characterized by an “imbalance of power.”  Our school administration had more power than students, and was coercing same-sex couples not to attend the prom by setting up an intimidating situation.  What high school couple, gay or straight, would feel comfortable having to explain “the nature of their relationship” to the high school principal?  Grown-ups can bully kids as well as other kids.

That was 16 years ago.  I would like to think that if your school principal made rules at your school blatantly intended to bestow certain privileges on straight kids, and outright deny them the queer kids, grown-ups would be up in arms, civil rights lawyers would be on call, petitions would be circulating, and youtube videos would be going viral.  What if the football coach decided to require you to be straight to be on the team?  What if the criteria for being on the honor roll necessitated being cis-gender?  What if the graduation requirements included “gender normative behavior,” clearly identifying you as “male” or “female?”  Adults would never stand for other adults bullying you in this way and stomping on your rights.  And yet… haven’t they?  Denying crucial rights of being able to protect yourself and your future family sets up a series of intimidating situations.  These scenarios, like not being able to come to your partners aide at the hospital, facing loss of rights to your own children, and financial discrimination, are meant to coerce you into gender and hetero-normative behavior.

Amendment one is bullying, pure and simple.  It may not send a kid to the brink of severe depression, or worse, the way daily threats and slurs by other kids could, partly because, as young people, your peer group is so critically important.  However, amending the constitution of a state to make sure you will not have rights that straight people have adds to an atmosphere of coercion and intimidation.  Any grown-up who doesn’t see that is kidding themselves.  Perhaps when they cast their ballots yesterday, North Carolina’s adults weren’t thinking about gay kids sitting in their rooms contemplating whether it’s preferable to live in this world queer or not live in this world.  Perhaps they were picturing other adults who those voters imagined could weather that emotional burden.  Perhaps they were not thinking of human beings at all.  Perhaps they think that by passing this law they will somehow prevent or contain your queerness, but we know that’s as absurd as thinking keeping you ignorant about sex is going to stop you from having it.  Eventually it is going to occur to you that our society is bullying you.  The emotional toll of living in a society that would amend constitutions to deny you rights and the inevitable outcome that will have for some of you will be blood on the hands of those grown-ups in North Carolina.

I know what you’re thinking queer kids.  How are they even going to figure out which relationships will count as “one man and one woman?  Will transmen count as men?  Where will the line be drawn?  Will full gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy be necessary to be considered solidly within one or the other gender?  Or will natal biological gender stand no matter the steps one has taken to change one’s biological sex?  How will a natal woman who identifies as male but doesn’t have a penis determine who he is legally permitted to marry?    Thus, does this law actually also require one must be cis-gender to marry?  What about the almost 2% of North Carolina’s population who were born intersex and thus don’t fit biologically into male/female categories?  Will they be allowed to marry anyone?  No one?  What about the folks who identify as genderqueer, androgynous, neither male nor female, or both male and female?  Will these folks be able to marry?

I don’t need to tell you the answers to these questions, because you already know.  The answer is they don’t know.  The answer is many of those grown-ups who are so enraged about kids being bullied don’t even know these identity categories exist.  Perhaps they’ve never sat and talked with someone who is suffering the torment of feeling her gender identity does not fit with her biological body?  Perhaps they’ve never considered that male and female might not be neatly defined, discrete categories for everyone in society?  Perhaps some of them are themselves transgender, gender variant, or were born intersex, but feel you should live your lives in silence and conform to gender norms as they did.  Perhaps they believe by stopping you from marrying, they can force Pandora’s box closed and never have to wrestle with any of these questions.  But they can’t, because of you.

This is not one of those letters apologizing for the bigotry and ignorance in the world you are about to inherit.  It is a call to action and a recognition of your tremendous power.  The balance of power may lie with the bullies now, but that is going to change.  Many of you voted and advocated against this amendment yesterday, and many more of you will be voting soon.  You young people are overwhelmingly more likely than your parents and their peers to support equal rights.  You are thinking outside the gender binary and questioning traditional notions of identity with language and ways of being that are not even on the voting public’s radar yet.  As more parents demand rights and respect for their gay and gender non-conforming kids, and as you all become increasingly empowered, your voices will become louder.  Through natural demographic shifts your numbers and the numbers of your allies will increase.  As you continue to use the internet and social media, tools you utilize better than any of us, that power imbalance will start to shift, as you become more and more visible.  So if you are feeling bullied today I want to validate that feeling and say that yes, you are being bullied, but it is not forever.  It gets better.  You are going to fix this.

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