I’ve often found that the most constricting labels are those we apply to ourselves. Let me say that again, with quotes. “The most constricting labels are self-applied.” It may seem arrogant to quote myself in my own work, and it probably is, but I feel that this is such an important concept it needed saying twice, with quotes.
The most prevalent viewpoint concerning human sexuality is that everyone’s bisexual. This is what most of the American psychological community espouses anyway and it’s been held up for the last sixty years or so. Basically the idea is this; everyone falls somewhere on a scale that goes from completely heterosexual to completely homosexual with the lines demarcating “heterosexual” and “homosexual” being placed differently according to the beliefs of the person. But, those lines of demarcation vary, a person might be in the center of the scale and still consider themselves “straight” or “homosexual” because of the stigma still attached to the idea of being bisexual.
Yet many Americans believe that a person either is or isn’t gay or straight. As though it were an either/or thing. You either are “gay” or “straight” and screw those bisexuals for not making their minds up. Many heterosexuals and homosexuals in this country think this way. I’m going to hazard a guess here that the scale idea may be hard for some people to accept because there is still a stigma attached to being homosexual. Hell the APA only removed homosexuality from the DSM books in 1986 and up until the late sixties/early seventies it was still illegal to practice homosexuality in many states. It still is in India, you can get a ten year prison sentence for being homosexual in that country if you can manage to survive getting “outed”.
Because homosexuals have had such a rough time of it, often from their own families, they tend to bond new families, proudly calling themselves by the names that have been used to insult or hurt them. So people identify with the group that accepts them, nurtures them and gives them the friendship that we all need to survive. It can be a scary thing to feel as though you are the only person like you, to feel isolated and alone or to be made to feel ashamed of what you are. It’s usually worse when your previous friends and even your family reject you because of something you have no control over.
Understand this: because of that scale there really aren’t any people who are “Lesbians” or “Gay”, they’re just people who fall a little farther to one side of the sexuality scale. Of course this means there aren’t really any “straight” people either. Everyone’s bisexual, everyone. How you identify your own sexuality is based on which sex you are predominately attracted to. The key word there being ‘predominately’. Being attracted to someone of your own sex once or twice in your life doesn’t make you a homosexual it makes you normal.
So, the first three letters in the title “LG&B” don’t really mean anything except as to how these much maligned people have identified themselves or have been identified by others. I always thought it was a little odd that they broke it down that way anyway. Lesbians and Gays are both homosexual but they don’t seem to want to associate with each other or with the bisexuals because screw those wishy-washy bisexuals for not making their minds up already. As though it’s a choice. Bisexuals are no different from anyone else, despite the myths you may have heard about them they tend to have the same kinds of relationships you do, going about them the same way, and they especially understand that labels can be meaningless and separatist. Bisexuals tend to get lumped in with either “straight” or “homosexual” but they are neither. They tend to fall in the middle of the sexuality scale.
Do you see why I quoted myself at the beginning of this chapter? These are self-applied labels which were once considered an insult (and still are in some places). Labels that are being taken back by the people once insulted by them but they are now being used to exclude or control people, “you’re either with us or against us”. The idea that someone either is or isn’t homosexual is nonsense. There are just people. People who’ve been made to feel different, excluded, less than by labels that don’t really mean anything.
Now then, the fourth letter in the title, the “T”, stands for trans, as in transvestite, transsexual, transgendered. That is quite a diverse group to have just the one letter. Let’s start with transvestites. Transvestitism may or may not have anything to do with sexual orientation, desire or a fetish. Basically it means that a person enjoys dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex.
This is going to sound a little odd but many of the clothes which are now worn by women started off being just for men. Don’t believe me? Okay, have you ever seen Robin Hood? There were about fifty movies made based on his story. At the time that Robin of Loxley was supposed to be running around men wore hose. As in pantyhose. Tight leggings that fit snugly. Women wore dresses.
Just a few centuries ago, around the time that France was about to explode in revolution silk undergarments were popular with the wealthy. For men, because silk was considered too arousing for women to wear. Earrings became popular with male sailors long before women took up punching holes in their bodies for jewelry.
Transvestitism is really just a fashion choice and with the explosion of metrosexuals a few years ago it stopped being anything out of the ordinary. There are transvestites who simply enjoy dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex without any sexual overtones. There are transvestites who get a sexual thrill from it and there are transvestites who do it to identify themselves as belonging to the opposite sex. See what I meant about this being a surprisingly diverse group? We’re only one third of the way through the T section and already the definition of transvestite has to be limited to just “dressing as the opposite sex”. Which still doesn’t mean anything since what we deem men’s or women’s clothes changes so much over time.
Okay let’s move on to transsexual because that’s the easy one. A transsexual is a person who transitions from the sex they were born with to the opposite sex through hormone replacement and/or surgery. Easy, right? Generally transsexuals feel as though they were born with the wrong gender and since we can fix that now, they do. Transsexuals aren’t usually homosexual, considering that they self-identify as the opposite sex they tend to fall more toward the hetero end of the scale, they just got born with the wrong genitalia. It’s more about how they see themselves than orientation anyway because, of course, there are homosexual transsexuals as well. There are, for example, men who feel themselves to be women so they transition but they are predominately attracted to women.
Confused? Just think of it this way; how we see ourselves has little or nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Transsexuals literally are the opposite sex to the one they were born with and who they are attracted to is a completely different thing altogether. Got it? I hope so because this next group covers a lot more than just two sexes.
Transgender is a term for people whose sense of their own gender does not conform to the society in which they are born. Does that sound like transsexual? It’s actually not. Gender and sex are two different things. Sex is a thing of the body and gender is a thing of the mind. Gender also has a lot to do with what is recognized by the society you were born or raised into.
So, for example, a transgendered person might feel that they are a person who was born with the wrong sex (getting it changed makes them transsexual) or they might be asexual, or some third sex or any of a number of other things. Transgender is an all encompassing term that has a lot to do with what is acceptable in a given society, which is different in different societies. That makes the term considerably difficult to define easily or in simple terms.
There are as many different definitions of what a transgender is as there are transgendered people because people are different. Trying to put them into a box with a neat, little label attached is pretty absurd and almost always useless. Besides, how would you feed them? We are a species that defies labels and explanations yet we seem to adore labels and explanations. Especially labels that we attach to ourselves. Which constrict us more than being put into a box ever could.
As for the Q, it stands for “queer” or questioning because, apparently, trying to learn new things about yourself requires yet another label that seems somewhat insulting. Do we really need any more labels? For that matter do we need to keep using sexual terms to insult one another? Sex is supposed to be fun, if you do it right it IS fun for both you and your partner or partners or whatever else you’re into. This is why I’m writing this guide; to get people to have more fun. Or at least to put more orgasms into the world.
I am a satyr after all.