Mar. 25th, 2011

[Okay, so this is really rough and I haven't completely felt it out...but I needed to stop sitting on this draft and just post it. If people think I say something off base, I hope they'll say so.]


So I've been doing a good bit of thinking about what sexual orientation even means in the first place.

I think the problem is that the average person sees orientation as a binary: straight, gay.
The slightly more nuanced person sees orientation as a set of discrete states in a progression from straight to gay, encoding various degrees of bisexuality.

I think both are very wrong though, just from my own experience and observation.

The current way I'm thinking about orientation is that it's a kind of multi-dimensional distribution varying over gender presentation, sex, and probably other things that I haven't really thought about. The important point, really, is that I don't think anyone really knows the shape of their distribution a priori, assuming that it even is fixed which I'm not so sure about.

I know that a lot of people figure out the general shape of their distribution early in puberty, just by being exposed to lots of binary identified, gender conforming, cis people. These people are a majority of the population so, sure, that probably gives you a good bit of data about who you are attracted to, shedding light on some of the common cases. I think social pressure keeps people from thinking too hard about who else they could be attracted to or exploring the boundaries a bit.

Not knowing, in and of itself, is totally okay! I'm not saying everyone has some moral obligation to go out and fuck a bunch of different people to get an idea of what their tastes are. It's perfectly fine to have those gaps in your knowledge of your own orientation if you're happy anyway.

The thing that I think is a real problem, though, is that we're supposed to somehow know in advance once and forall who we can love or find attractive. That it's threatening for someone who identified as straight or gay to figure out cases that break the naive model of who they are.

In the end, I feel like words such as "gay", "straight", "bi", "lesbian" are a lossy compression of something much more complicated and that it's unhealthy to cling to those limited words and ideas to define our love and attraction. So, while I just recently wrote about "gay" and "straight" when applied to trans people, I was being a little misleading. If you buy into the simplified model of sexuality, then what I said before is valid, but I don't personally buy into it. I think "gay" and "straight", much like "masculine" or "feminine", are just words we use to label a region in the spectrum of human behavior, distilling it to a few bits of information. As such, I think they can be useful as long as you allow for the range of subtleties mapped down to a single word.
So...I've passed pretty consistently for around four months now. It was this past December when I first noticed a phase-shift in how people treated me, realized that noone blinked when I walked into the women's restroom, and had people who had never met me before use proper pronouns or address me in a female-coded way, e.g. in parts of the country where groups of women are usually addressed as "ladies" K and I were pretty much always addressed that way.

So this is great, right? I've only gotten closer to the unremarkable white cis woman range since then, as I'm now a b-cup, the shape of my face has changed a bit more, and I have basically no facial hair anymore. Yet I'm still fucking terrified when I go out and am around people. I'm so scared pretty much all the time. Why am I so terrified of being read wrongly? I don't really know! I suppose, though, that if I were to take a guess it's because of a bad intersection of my paranoia in groups that comes from the ptsd with some of the bad experiences I had before I passed consistently.

I just apologize to everyone who has to deal with the splash damage from when I freak out over my appearance and whether or not I'm passing.

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April 2012

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