Friday, April 4, 2014

Gender vs. Sexuality: Which is more difficult to explore within the queer community?

When it comes to gender and sexuality, I've always went back and forth on which was more difficult for me to talk about. When I was in high school, sexuality wasn't something difficult for me to grasp. I had multiple boyfriends based off of who was aesthetically pleasing (or how high they could play on the trumpet). When I started to feel attraction, it was obvious to me I was attracted to girls. It felt like I was checking a box inside my head, it felt right, and it was a painless self-acceptance of an identity.

Up until recently, gender had been much more difficult for me to talk about. It wasn't until I was about to start college that I had even heard of terms such as "non-binary", "agender", "bigender", "genderqueer", etc. I hadn't even begun to unpack the difference between sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality. Because I had never been exposed to this language, I was ignorant to so many identities. Not only that, but through learning new language surrounding identity, I was able to explore gender in a way that made sense to me. But with exploring gender and gender expression and straying away from "the binary", gender became a very difficult thing for me to talk about.

When I came into college, I felt like I had found my niche in the lesbian community here. Being a lesbian is comfortable. It's like there's a community waiting for you wherever you go as long as you like other women, and there's bonus points involved if you're interested in The L Word, Tegan and Sara, or Flannel Shirts. In my experience, whatever "kind" of lesbian you are (butch, femme, stem, non-label) is accepted. And I could find those lesbians whose company I really enjoyed because, for once in my life, there were so many lesbians in one city.

So yes. Up until now, gender was a difficult topic for me. Don't get me wrong, it still is. But I've also come to terms with the language surrounding it and I've found community and like-minded folks who are wonderful and accepting. However, despite my journey with gender, I've realized that the UT queer community fosters a space that allows for a level of gender exploration. Whether it's gender exploration workshops, dialogues surrounding trans identities, drag shows or organizations, etc., there's a space for people to get involved to see whether they might be happier identifying or expressing their gender in a different way.

However, when it comes to exploring sexuality, I don't see the same supportive community. I'm sure this lack of support to explore sexuality stems from biphobia. Maybe it's just my personal experience, but I find that further exploring your sexuality as a lesbian or a gay man is more "taboo" than if you're a straight man or woman. As queer people, we're already clinging to the communities that we have. If we stray away from those communities to explore interests or attractions, are we supposed to feel ashamed? Are we supposed to give up those sub-communities within the queer community or switch to another specific identity subgroup? Is this a super high school style of thinking?

Bottom line: As a queer community, we should support everybody's desires to explore their identities in whatever way they see fit. However, we can't ignore that biphobia is so rampant in society as a whole. How we combat it is a daily battle, but it's so important for so many people of all genders to reach their full happiness and potential as human begins.

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