Last night I sat on a panel. The audience was psychology students. The topic was Sexuality and Gender Identity. I was the token bi.*
There was also a gay male intersexual, a gay male, a lesbian, a trans male to female (also bi) and a trans female to male.
I must be honest. I spent a long long time trying to decide what to wear. I didn’t want to be too butch, I didn’t want to be too fem… I also figured that with such a diverse group of people up there, I wasn’t going to be doing much in the way of talking.
Well, I did get to talk. I got to share and wax poetic. I got to say profound things. I saw people taking notes while I spoke. My story wasn’t a tear jerker, but I know I made ‘em laugh a few times… and most importantly I know I contributed. I talked… but I also listened. I learned.
And I wanted to share a few highlights from the discussion.
First Off: The Alphabet Soup.
No more simply the GLBT community… it is now the GLBT(+). The (+) is sometimes used to represent all the other (newish) letters added to the community designation. So, last night it was the GLBTIPPQQAAS,
Holy crap right? Don’t be ashamed if you don’t know what some of those letters mean…. I had to ask about a few of them.
Now, I understand that people want representation and to see their letter up there, but I think that the practice of continuing to par down and to divide is actually detrimental to the whole point of Community Inclusion. One panel member said that Gay used to be Inclusive. It used to be an all encompassing thing, one rainbow umbrella for everyone. Plus, most of the letters past the T are subsets of things found in the first four letters. There was a bit of debate on whether or not we need all of them. This is a discussion that I know will continue. (My two cents is that we should be working to bring our somewhat scattered community closer together and that the extra letters might be more harmful than good.)
Next… but related. The Hierarchy of the Letters.
The acronym goes: G (Gay), L (Lesbian) B (Bisexual) and T (Transgendered).
The inter-community hierarchy goes pretty much the same way although there was discussion about the issue of respect and that many times Transgendered individuals get more respect than the Bi people. (Bis are all flakey slutty spies who can’t be trusted, don’t you know.)
Okay, moving on past the labels. (Although we talked about the fact that most people work on discovering who they are before they actually have a label by which to define themselves. I knew I liked kissing girls before I knew that there was anything “abnormal” about that or that I would have to label myself accordingly, etc)
The panel talked about bullying, about social pressures, about family alienation, about violence, hate crimes, marriage inequality, and depression.
We warned the future psychologists of the world that society wants to figure out WHAT people are rather than WHO people are… and it should be the other way around.
We discussed the cycle of self loathing and how almost every persecuted group will persecute another group to keep from being on the bottom. (This was discussed in terms of the inter-community hierarchy as well as in-group out-group behavior.)
We talked about Passing and about the Backlash of Passing… the idea that if you pass you are turning your back on your community.
We talked about coming out… how you never stop coming out. How if you are “lucky” enough to be able to fall into society’s default position, do you have a responsibility to come out, to not pass simply by default? (The panel was sort of split on this, but the discussion was very informative.)
We talked about Preferred Gender Pronouns. I learned about Ze (a gender neutral pronoun).
We talked about how gender is fluid. How sexuality is fluid. How if a person is experimenting, no one should be quick to label him her, ze.
We talked about stereotypes and the spectrum of “too gay” to “not gay enough.”
We talked about not wanting our sexual identity to be determined by who’s bed we happen to be in.
We talked about how “I” and “You” don’t have gender…. It is only when an other, an outsider points and references that gender even enters into our language.
We talked about how when a person comes out, they have already processed the anger, the fear, the depression, the acceptance, but whoever the audience is for the coming out speech might be totally clueless and thus needs time and patience so that they too can process through the anger, the fear, the depression, the acceptance.
We talked about community activism.
We talked… we talked… but perhaps most important, we listened.
It was a great panel, thank you so much Scotti and Stephanie for allowing me to be part of it! I learned, I bonded, I networked, I got inspired!
And ultimately I wore jeans and a layered top. Ultimately, as is usual, I have a feeling I will be remembered for my words and my passion and not my clothes.
Which is exactly right.
*Did I just out myself on my blog? Why yes, Yes I did. It might have come up before… honestly I can’t remember. But… if this is the first time you are hearing/reading about my sexual orientation, well… umm… Hi!