emberleo: A circular knotwork phoenix (phoenix)
[personal profile] emberleo
This is slightly edited from a post I made to LiminalNation. All I did was remove the references that made it contextual to LN.

*Deep breath* Okay, here goes, and I hope this isn't oversharing, or stupid, or whatever...

Those of you who have known me for a while have probably picked up that I was raised with a lot of guilt for having privilege - I'm an upper-middle-class, (apparently) heterosexual, cisgendered, white girl in Silicon Valley in a family where higher education is a given and money, while not abundant, was never so lacking as to threaten my needs. My parents were hippies - the kind who were in it to protest abuse of authority. I was raised to be hyper-aware of the politics of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious freedom, and anything else that might warrant a protest, to the point where I ended up kind of shelving it all out of sheer overwhelm.

I was thus strangely blind to gender politics on a personal level. Since I didn't know anyone personally who seemed to think women weren't equal to men, I assumed that anyone who treated me poorly had a reason more personal than just my apparent gender.

So I'm very slow to pick up labels for disadvantaged social identities, not because I'm dodging the disadvantages, but because I'm ashamed to be "appropriating" these important words that other people need so much more than I do, and I find it hard to believe that I belong... well anywhere, really. I don't grok belonging in general, but I particularly don't grok belonging with a group of people I don't actually know personally. Seeing me now, you might be amazed what it took for me to acknowledge that I'm "Pagan", I was so afraid that I'd be hated by the "Real Pagans" if I tried to call myself any such thing. (In retrospect the idea that there are Real Pagans kind of makes me laugh, but that's a whole other kettle of kippers.)

I can't help but think "I can totally get by forever without needing to tell anyone I'm "bisexual" or "genderfluid"" because they're not aspects of my identity that I can't handle having to hide - nor are they the only aspects of my identity I have felt a need to hide. (Don't even get me started as to what the heck terms like "heterosexual" and "bisexual" even mean if I'm genderfluid. I have no idea.)

I hide my sexuality overall, honestly, except where it shows through by reasonable assumption. A person who was one of my closest friends for several years told me I wasn't a real Scorpio because I was "not secretive enough and not sexual enough", to which I replied "How would you know?"

Another friend asked me if I'm ever turned on by working with Fire energy, and then shook his head and declared that he couldn't imagine me all that turned on in any context, and I almost busted up laughing because I was, in fact, turned on at the time, but of course hiding it as always.

You want to know just how habitually I hide my sexuality? My primary partner of 12 years is of the general belief that I'm "just not a very sexual person". That simultaneously makes me laugh that he can't tell, angry that he would say such a thing, and afraid that he might be right, and if so, what the fuck is wrong with me? But I never argue the point with him. And why not?

Because sex is supposed to be private, and showing sexuality of any kind is dangerous.

I recognize that I am ridiculously afraid of rape, and that this is an enculturated fear. I know very, very few people who haven't been sexually assaulted or abused in some way, and I don't just mean women. Yet I've somehow gotten through life generally unscathed, and I have no idea how other than blind luck.

I'm still working on the idea that flirting with somebody when I have no intention of doing anything more is not necessarily cruel, or putting myself in danger, or both. I know I have a right to say "NO", and I'm pretty fuckin' clear when that's what I need to do, because I was emphatically NOT raised with the rules about never complaining or being too "shrill" or other rape culture bullshit about women going along to get along. But I was raised with the idea that men can't help but want sex beyond reason, and may not understand subtle cues that I'm not interested, and maybe that's not their fault. So I, as an empowered woman, should be very clear, and never undermine my own authority by saying "maybe" or "no" when I'm planning to say "yes", or worse, implying "yes", when I mean "no" in any way shape or form. So by default I show only "no", as bluntly as seems necessary, unless I am pretty damned sure I mean "yes".

Yet I don't hide love, no matter how controversial - I'm very open about being poly, in multiple relationships. It's obviously not controversy I'm concerned with. If I'm sure something is part of who I am, I'm willing to fight for it. I'm willing to fight for other people's right to be who they are if it causes no harm to anybody else. I'm just very, very slow to let myself believe I belong with the people I'm willing to fight for - that I'm anything other than a mostly-ignorant, but very sincere "ally".

I've known I'm attracted to more than just cissexual men for over half my life. I only admitted it in private until this year when it finally dawned on me that the word "queer" does, in fact, apply to my sexual orientation, and I wouldn't be appropriating if I used it. And I've still got a bit of a ways to go on that one, which shows in that I didn't say "I realized I am, in fact, queer."

I'm still working on the idea that I would not be imposing on other more "truly" genderqueer, genderfluid, etc. people by claiming my own genderfluidity on a more public scale, that I'm not genderfluid "enough" to warrant telling anyone about it, much less taking on such a social label. And yet I know I've been genderfluid for as long as I can remember. It's just that having been raised in an all-female household for most of my life, I had never had any reason to believe that "woman" was a limiting description. I understood that my obligation was to fight for my right to identify as a "woman" regardless of how I presented.

When I started comparing notes with other people as to what various gender labels meant to them, I realized that my use of language was non-standard even among the liberal, socially progressive end of the political spectrum. But common use is so thoroughly politicized I find the whole thing daunting and terrifying.

So NOW what do I do? Crawl into a hole and hope nobody notices?

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September 2013

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