This is a long-ass entry. I already cut out a lot and saved it for future entries, but I was still left with all of this, so be forewarned; it's not a quick read:
When we started letting friends know that Delia
identifies as a woman and decided to transition from presenting as a man to living as a woman, one of the first questions was from a friend who sent this to me:
So now the million $ question:
Do you think of yourself as a lesbian?
The short answer? No. I do not think of myself as a lesbian. I never have and I never will.
Sorry to disappoint folks who were looking for a juicy DELIA: MY TRANSSEXUAL GIRLFRIEND AND HOW OUR LIVES ARE NOW A CRAZY LESBIAN FUCK-PARTY! entry, but her transition doesn't change my sexual orientation, nor does it change hers. I didn't grow up feeling "different" (not because of my sexual preferences, anyway; I felt different in other ways, but those are different subjects). I have always been hot for men, starting with Elvis, little boys in the neighborhood, and hot ethnic dudes from seventies television like Erik Estrada on Chips
(wheeee tight black gloves!), Chico (see Chico and the Man
), and Epstein
on Welcome Back Kotter. Real LESBIANS do not grow up feeling "hot for dudes". Seriously, just looking at those images makes me hot in a special way reserved for triggers set early in girlhood. Of course, I'm rather partial to men's mouths when they look suspiciously like hot pussy: full, juicy, blood-infused lips decorated with hair (see also, Isaac on Love Boat
: that kind of mustache always gives me a big fucking clit boner). And I can't deny that I had a very special, tingly interest in Jo/Nancy McKeon
on Facts of Life. And Blair. And titties. And naked girls in magazines. Yes, the "Jo" archetype has been in many of my lesbo masturbation fantasies, only the setting is less boarding school and more prison.
So what IS my sexual preference? For most of my adult life I've been in the "it's all good" category; I identify myself as omnisexual (aka pansexual
). I'm what most people call "bisexual", but have never liked that label: first, because I objected to wearing a special designation that seems to say I'm "different" from the majority of people (when I emphatically believe MOST people are just plain SEXUAL), and later because it assumes we only have two options to choose from. In a pinch, though, I will call myself bisexual because it's the most efficient, accurate way for me to identify my sexuality to lots of people who aren't familiar with all of these nuances and super-cool labels. Whenever time allows and it's possible (during conversations or chat sessions rather than check-marking boxes on forms that never have enough options) I do try to remind people there are alternatives to the limited, oversimplified notions of sexuality and gender most of us were raised to accept.
The first time my sexual preference was called into question was in elementary school in the seventies. My friend, Irene, and I had been playing our special game of "Elvis" with each other since we were four or five and continued through fifth or sixth grade. One night at her house after we got done humping each other, she was overcome with guilt and teared up, confronting me with the weirdest question I'd ever heard in my life:"Trixie . . . you know we're gay, don't you?"
Ummmmm . . . actually, no. No I did not know that. And I told her so.
Let me clarify; I didn't tell her that I wasn't aware we were gay, as in "wow, Irene! So *that's* what we are! Because I've really been wondering; thanks for clearing that up!". I told her we WERE NOT gay.
Even with my very limited idea of what "gay" meant, I knew I wasn't. I knew what we were doing was normal even though I knew it wasn't something we were supposed to tell everybody about. I looked forward to doing it, it was fun, and hey, we were playing Elvis, right? Elvis was a guy that all women wanted to do it with, so how could that be gay?
She reminded me that the big girls at school had called us gay when they saw us holding hands with each other in the hallway and I tried to reassure her that they were just mean. There's nothing WRONG with friends holding hands! I knew intuitively that we were basically just little girls (fourth grade, I think) who loved each other in a way that couldn't possibly be that weird. Again, I wouldn't have wanted the big girls with the feathered hair to SEE us humping each other, but that was none of their business. Their world wasn't my world -- those girls were people to be avoided or stared at because they were pretty but they were in no position to know who we were or call us grown-up names. Also, they were stupid -- the kinds of girls who would never win a spelling bee (they're actually dead now and the little know-it-all in me attributes their early deaths to their own stupidity, but it was really much sadder than being dumb and I didn't know them well enough to gauge that anyway; one of them actually wound up with her severed head stuck up high in a tree, but I digress).
In fact, Irene was pretty stupid too. I think I believed that if it had never occurred to me to worry about this "gay" thing myself, it couldn't possibly be something to concern ourselves with. I was the smart one who tried to spend all of her recesses in the library reading dirty books, so it felt natural to conclude that Irene was just wrong and had a stupid thought in her head. I'd already seen her make a million stupid tear-stained mistakes in our short lives, like the time she wanted to steal candy in the drugstore WHILE WE WERE WITH HER MOM after the guy at the dry goods store failed to bestow his customary free suckers on us. She tried to convince me to steal, then as soon as we were out the door she broke down crying and confessed to her mom. Whaaaaaaaaat a dumb ass! Seriously, I couldn't believe the way she operated sometimes.
I'm only now considering the possibility that maybe I was wrong. Not about my own regular brand of opportunistic sexuality, but about hers. After all, SHE always insisted on being Elvis while I was always in the Ann-Margret role ("woman" astride, though). I never really challenged her too much on that because the action itself along with the thought of Elvis was fulfilling enough for me. I guess I just thought she LOOKED a lot like Elvis (not in a butch way, she just has the same exact mouth as him) so it made sense at the time. As an adult I *have* wondered where she got some of her ideas; we were about five when she told me that "Elvis always pees on his girlfriends."
which now does seem like an advanced concept for one so young; one secret (of perhaps many) Irene DID manage to keep from her mom was how the Bugs Bunny beach towel got completely soaked with piss.
I wonder if Irene knew she was gay all along and I totally dismissed what she might have realized from the beginning. She went on to do all the things straight girls did in rural high schools in the late eighties: drinking, fucking and frosting her hair. Now she's married with kids. I even went to her wedding chock full of those sick Bible verses about the husband submitting to God and the wife submitting to her husband, followed by a reception full of their wasted relatives raging about that dirty fucking Bill Clinton and how he should be impeached . . . or shot! I still love Irene and hope to Christ she's NOT gay and stuck in a straight marriage with me being the only pussy she ever got. That would be tragic. I'm pretty sure I called it right back in elementary school, though, and that she just let what those mean girls said bother her. Sex play with same-sex childhood friends, even if it continues into your teens, is not a good predictor of sexual preference just like GENDER is not a good predictor of sexual preference.
I know I didn't have enough information to really understand what Irene was worried about back then; we grew up with no internet, no same-sex kissing on tv, no real discussion of any of those things. I'd never been exposed to people being called names like "faggot", but of course I realized and accepted that grown-ups "did it" in male/female pairs even if I had no awareness of a group of grown-up people who did it (and were discriminated against for doing it) the same way Irene and I did. I don't know if I'd ever heard my parents talk about gay people and if we knew any, I wasn't aware of it. I totally thought Billy Crystal was cute/sexy on "Soap" and didn't understand ANYTHING about the show other than that I liked watching him. I didn't know he was playing one of the first openly gay characters on television - I had no conscious understanding of that.
In kindergarten there was one kid who was clearly DIFFERENT, but I just thought he was obnoxious and then he moved to another school so I didn't find out until many years later that he was gay; The memory of how he stood out is still so vivid to me, his shiny orange hair contrasted with his green turtleneck, his flair for the dramatic, his isolation . . . he was SO gay from the very beginning. As a teenager I remember when Donahue had some lesbians on his show and they explained that when most girls played with their Barbie dolls, Barbie and Ken wound up getting it on, but they were different because when THEY played Barbies, it was Skipper and Barbie who always wound up pressed against each other. Even with all the humping Irene and I did on each other, it never dawned on me to use Skipper like that when there was a KEN doll around.
It's things like that -- people being obviously queer and having to deal with identifying and coping with that difference their entire childhood -- that make me adamantly opposed to ever calling myself a lesbian. Spending the rest of my life with someone who identifies as a woman -- who I fell in love with because she was NOT exactly a man -- will not make me a lesbian, and it's not because she's trans; I would say the same thing if she were born with a pussy. I will not call myself a lesbian because, aside from not being one, "lesbian" is a political word representing a minority with a set of experiences that I never had -- never could have -- because I have always felt myself part of the majority when it comes to the genders of people I like to have sex with.
Having said that, when I was in college I *did* come out to my friends and family as bisexual. I know, it sounds like no big thing today but things have changed a lot in the past fifteen years, you know? It wasn't super hard or anything, but it was important enough that I thought the people closest to me should know that I might bring a chick home someday. I'd been aware since I was seventeen that women turned me on even when they weren't pretending to be Elvis (did I already tell you about this orgasmic epiphany I had when I went to Girls' State? I feel like I did, but if so, I can't find where I posted it), but it took me awhile longer to even imagine having a "girlfriend". Of course, everyone in college thought I was a lesbian anyway. Everyone EXCEPT for the handful of lesbians, so let's just say college was one big dry spell for me.
Even though I consider myself omnisexual or pansexual, I can't say that I'm AS sexually attracted to women as to men, and up until recently I had almost no concept of the spectrum of transgender beyond cross-dressers or a remote acknowledgment of "bizarre medical cases" totally far removed from my reality so my fantasy life hasn't included trans people (except crossdressers). Transgender is something I've been ignorant and unaware of most of my life, so I definitely can't say that I'm equally attracted to trans people as to bio men who present as men (most of the time, anyway). I did really love watching Bosom Buddies, of course, and found the guys way hotter when they were dressed up than when they were just boring dudes, but I think I always wanted them to ONLY be wearing the glossy lipstick and some girl clothes WITHOUT the wigs and the earrings. And for the both of them to be fucking Donna Dixon while they were in half-drag.
So yeah . . . my preference is more on the straight side of the continuum; I have a primal response to Elvis, Ponch, Chico, and Epstein that's more intensely sexual than the one I have to Jo, Ginger (Gilligan's Island) and Salma Hayak. Lately most of the time when I fantasize about fucking someone new, it's guys or FTM people. That's a shift from before Delia and I got together when I spent more time fantasizing about women than I do now. Why do I think more about hooking up with men or transmen these days? PROBABLY BECAUSE I'VE BEEN FUCKING A TRANSWOMAN FOR SIX YEARS. And back when I spent time longing for women, I was mostly fucking guys.
Even though I'm not a lesbian, I don't think of myself as straight, either. In fact, my feathers were ruffled recently at a GLBT meeting when someone referred to Delia and I as a straight couple. Yes, I have grown up enjoying and feeling entitled to the privileges straight people have in our society, but we are not a straight couple. I'm not straight, she's not straight, our relationship is not straight, and our jobs are not straight. We are not a straight couple. I don't want to be called a lesbian couple (I was totally confused when I heard a transwoman referring to her work with her female partner as "lesbian porn") but not being lesbian doesn't automatically make us straight.
Still, it was pretty wacky last year when we went to a GLBT event right after Delia decided to transition and I felt like an intruder, not because anyone treated me like one, but because I kind of AM an intruder. I know that the "B" in GLBT stands for me and I know that I just said I'm not straight, but the room was small and I felt like I was taking up space someone else might have NEEDED and DESERVED more than I did. As a woman, I feel really strongly that people in minority groups have protected spaces with good energy from people who GET what it's like to be where they're at and where they've been. Like I said before, I didn't grow up feeling "different" (I don't FEEL like bisexuality is a minor preference, even though I know that the political reality is that it's not accepted when it's anything more than two girls dabbling but running straight home to the cock after they "experiment" and "get it out of their systems") so it was weird to be in that room and for the first time automatically qualify on what felt like a technicality -- because my partner's trans. At the time I wasn't sure I had anything to offer or anything I could rightfully gain from throwing myself into the GLBT mix.
Or maybe it was just a wake-up call, that I don't have an excuse to avoid standing in the middle of a group of people that's openly hated, persecuted, and targeted for special kinds of violence reserved especially for special kinds of people. I know what that feels like as a woman, a pornographer, a nerd, and a sex worker, but I exempted myself from feeling it about my sexual preference, or, more accurately my LACK of a strong preference. I could advocate and empathize -- and stand safely out of harm's way. Not anymore.
It gets tiring, too, standing in another group where I feel like a liar because my profile is different and has a bunch of things in it that I know many people would reject if only they know. Like when I go to church and feel like a liar because I don't believe in their church God on an intellectual level the way almost everyone else does who likes going to church. Or when I identify myself as a feminist to women who I *know* plot ways to get rid of the scourge of pornography. When the GLBT group of people sees me out and about with someone who sometimes looks like a boy and uses a boy name, I worry that they'll think I'm a liar even though I never SAID I was a lesbian. I still cringe imagining those people and people at church and feminists all turning to look at me, aghast when they realize how I betrayed them just by walking in their midst, pretending to be one of them. A man-fucker, an atheist with a weakness for ritual and the mystical, an exploiter of women and a user of cunt, a democrat who wants to drown herself in money.
It seems like such a simple question, "are you a lesbian". But like everything else that's attached to someone or something I love, I feel like I need to explain how much more complex it is than yes or no. That if I don't explain, I'll be guilty of some deception.
Just for fun, I'm imagining being offered the chance to pick someone new to be intimate with every week for a year out of everyone in the world. When I think of it that way, men and women would probably come out pretty even with some transgender competition thrown into the mix. I don't know if that means I don't really lean as far towards the straight side as I thought, or if that's just a typical buffet mentality speaking where you pile a lot of different things on your plate that you might not have ordered if you could only pick three or four of them. I'm a sucker for a buffet, though. A good (or even a mediocre) buffet is my idea of heaven. Damn, I'm hungry.
Labels: gender issues, memories, my trans partner, politics, relationships, sexuality