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Bisexuality

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Partly because I have some bisexual friends, I have been seeing posts on Facebook and elsewhere, both from them and with links to others, about “bisexual erasure.” (If you don’t know what it is, please use Google.) This erasure comes, it seems, from both heterosexual and homosexual people.

I just can’t wrap my head around the idea–which seems to be the basis here–that EVERYONE is either gay or straight and that there is no way for a person to be honestly attracted, romantically, sexually, or both, to people of both genders, all genders, no gender, or all of the above. In other words, no way for a person to be attracted to, y’know, other individual humans and not to a specific configuration of genitals.

I have never been romantically or sexually attracted to another woman, even though when I was not monogamously partnered I was open to the possibility. There have been a few women about whom I have thought/felt, yes, she has the characteristics of someone I could have a relationship with–IF I felt a romantic/sexual attraction, but I didn’t. I suspect pheromones, but who knows.

The attraction that I have felt to these women is very much like what I have felt for the men I have had romantic/sexual relationships with, but minus the romantic/sexual attraction. So it’s obvious to me bisexuality is possible.

But–as I think we all know well–a lot of people believe that if they don’t experience something, it doesn’t exist. Others feel that if anyone thinks or feels differently than they do, it’s an implicit criticism of their thoughts or feelings. Add those two groups, and it’s a powerful lot of folks who won’t accept thoughts or feelings outside their personal experience.

Their world is so small.

Autism, thinking, society, gender, Foyle’s War, AHA!, and me

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I am not autistic. As far as I can tell, I am not on the spectrum. Yet often things I read about being autistic resonate strongly with me.

I do not think in words; I think in what I have always called “patterns,” though that isn’t exactly correct, but–how do I describe something that is not-words in words? I had never encountered anyone else who said they thought this way–and had encountered people who denied that anyone could think in other-than-words!–until I read something by Dr. Temple Grandin in which she discussed word thinking, visual thinking (her style), and pattern thinking. It was a huge AHA! moment for me.

What she says in an article here–http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/temple-grandin-on-a-new-approach-for-thinking-about-thinking-130551740/–makes me change my description a bit: I think in patterns with a strong visual component. She says, “Each of the three types of thinking is a continuum,” and I agree, but I think they have, or can have, intersections. I was good at both algebra, which to me is patterns, and geometry, which to me is mainly visual. Yet I am also good with words; that seems strange, but I think it’s because I have to think ABOUT words, rather than think IN words. It’s probably part of what makes me a good editor.

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I recently mentioned that I seem to have more female friends on the spectrum than many neurotypical women do. A couple of my AS women friends agreed that they find a friendship with me easier than with most neurotypical women. Today my spouse showed me this link: http://ownshrink.com/aspergers/female-aspies-explained/. The writer says, “Having Asperger’s Syndrome as a female is to live in a world that is aggressively and consistently assumptive.” Another AHA! moment. I have frequently talked about not having had many of the experiences that some women claim that ALL women have. When I have brought this up in a discussion on some “women’s” issue, I have been told that I am in denial, or that if I haven’t experienced it I have no right to talk about the issue–it has even been implied that I don’t count as a “real” woman if it is true.

“Aggressive and consistently assumptive”? Yeah! Actually we all live in that world, of course, but some people fit the assumptions so well that they never notice them–in either applying them to others or having them applied to themselves. I don’t fit society’s assumptions about “woman” in many ways, however, and I try never to apply society’s assumptions to other women–or men, or other-gendered people, little kids, the elderly, teens, and so on. (“Try” I say; in this as in all my other goals, I am not perfect.)

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I have been watching the series Foyle’s War. In a recently watched episode, Christopher Foyle, who is an extremely reserved English police detective, was forming a friendship with another man. The way it was transpiring pleased me–do you know that feeling when you are watching a show and you just get a kind of “oh, I like this, I like what’s happening, this is nice” feeling? And there it was, another AHA! moment.

I have always had male friends, going back to my earliest years. While I was friendLY with various girls, throughout childhood and teens, I was usually closest friends with a boy. In my adult years, whoever has been my life partner, or in between those, the person I was dating most seriously, has been literally my best friend, but I have had other male friends as well.

I gravitate naturally to the way that some men do friendships. I don’t mean the sports-and-beer, never have a real discussion kind–if those actually exist in real life and not just in stereotypes. But sharing another’s company without having to talk all the time, enjoying activities together, discussing movies or politics or the best contractor or, yes, sports, if you both feel like it. And then at a certain point knowing that you can trust this person, he has your back, you can tell him things and he can tell you things–but you don’t have to, it’s OK to just be. No drama. No judgment. No BFFs one week and not speaking the next. Did I mention, no drama?

I am NOT saying that two women never have this kind of friendship or that all men do. But in my lifetime experience this kind of friendship, the kind I prefer, has been by far easier for me to find with men. The women I have the best friendships with these days are generally (1) friends of very long standing –going back to high school, 50 years and more, so we know pretty much all there is to know about each other; (2) my cousins, again with a long history–and I am fortunate in that both sides of my family generally get along very well with each other; (3) women on the AS spectrum.

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I don’t have a grand conclusion for this. It is what it is, presented for your consideration, should you care to consider it.

Identity

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I admit that I often find it hard to understand the Identity thing. Intellectually, I understand why Identity is empowering when one is in an oppressed group, but beyond that, I don’t quite “get” it. I am a gestalt of all my aspects. Just to name a few aspects, I am a biological woman with some stereotypical male psychological characteristics, I am a white person in a multiracial family, I am Irish and German by birth but have a strong cultural component of Mexican American, I am a Roman Catholic in the sense of having been raised in that religion and culture but am a nontheist, I am a mother who has never been pregnant. I am spouse, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, American, person of high IQ, collector of __ (many things), Iowan (born), Californian (raised), Minnesotan (now), unfaithful Democrat, liberal…  I was born and grew up in the working class, but am now solidly middle class, maybe even upper middle class. I am a professional editor of scholarly books who has no college degree. I am who I am, in my entirety.

Identity is a slippery concept. Everyone has more than one identity. Though most people have their identities more or less integrated, there are usually primary identities and secondary identities, and maybe far more levels than that. Asked, “What are you?” a person usually picks one or two; asked “How do you describe yourself?” a person makes a list, and some items are mentioned immediately.

Think of this situation: A sharply dressed busy white woman executive is on her way to a meeting and pauses at a street corner for directions. She sees these people: a black man dressed in expensive business clothes, a young tattooed Asian woman in punk dress, and a white man in a ball cap and jersey. Imagine that all make similar eye contact with her and have similarly receptive body language. Whom does she ask for directions? If her primary identity is class, she may ask the black executive; if it’s gender, she may ask the Asian punker; if it’s race, she may ask the white sports fan. If you put three different white female executives in that situation, you may well get three different identity-responses.

Members of an organization, attendees at a conference, and people in other life activities, including activists for causes, are not random groups. They are self-selected groups. They have CHOSEN an organization, a conference, an activity based on their own particular identities. Since a person has time/energy/money/”spoons” for only so many organizations and activities, a person generally chooses those that most closely match or support his/her identities. A white person of German heritage who sees herself as a supporter of racial justice may join the NAACP, while another may choose to join the German Club. A Latino counterculture artist may join an artists’ co-op, while another may work for La Raz. An accountant whose career is a perfect fit for her isn’t likely to go to seminars on opening your own franchise restaurant, but another who doesn’t see himself staying in an office forever may pay to go to the seminar. And those for whom one aspect of their identity is completely self-defining or who feel that it has completely defined them for others are likely to see the whole world through that lens.

For some women, being a woman is the central fact of their lives. They identify solely with women, they pick only women as mentors and role models, they join support groups with other women, they read books about “women’s issues,” they major in women’s studies in college, they become psychologists who see exclusively women or directors of shelters for battered women or authors of books on women’s issues or teachers of women’s studies. But that isn’t the way it is for all women–certainly not for me. Some are spending so much time and energy being doctors, wives, teachers, parents, partners, school volunteers, whatever, that they don’t get around to their identities as women, because that’s not a primary identity.

If someone doesn’t immerse him/herself in one particular identity, it doesn’t have to mean that he/she is denying that identity or rejecting that identity. It can mean simply that he/she has other identities that are primary. And I think that no one else has the right to decide for another what her/his hierarchy of identity should be.

Lead characters and identification

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Before I begin: I am not saying that there is no need for more strong, competent female lead characters in any genre, so please do not comment as if I am.

Am I the only female who has never, from childhood on, had any trouble identifying with male lead characters? (Surely not!) I read books, watched TV and movies, with both girls and boys, women and men, as main characters, and whether or not I identified with the character never had anything to do with their gender, but rather with whether the character resonated with me. I was never Tom Sawyer, but neither was I Becky Thatcher; I was, however, Huck Finn. I was Jo in Little Women and the sequels where she is grown up and married to the Professor, but I was never Rose in Eight Cousins; rather, I was kind of a combination of Phebe (the maid) and Cousin Mac. I was Dale in the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Show, but I was never Annie in the Annie Oakley program. I identified with Zorro but never with Wonder Woman. I’m more Mickey than Minnie, and back in the old Mickey Mouse Club, I felt much more part of the boys on “Spin & Marty” than like Annette in her series.

When The Golden Girls came along, I didn’t identify with any of them, but I picked Sophia as my role model for aging–and I think I’m getting there! I felt more like Magnum, too, than like Jessica Fletcher. On NCIS I identify most with Ducky, and also McGee’s grandmother Penelope when she’s around; but on NCIS: LA I’m definitely Hetty. On Bones I identify most with a couple of the male interns, and not at all with any of the female characters.

I don’t experience my gender as nearly as essential to who I am as I do many other characteristics. So it’s the character of the character, so to speak, and not the gender, that I identify with.  Unless it’s a component of the plot, I don’t really think of the characters as “male” or “female” but as themselves. I’m not oblivious to the societal/cultural gender aspects as they show up, but those have nothing to do with my identification.

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