As young people navigate adolescence, they ask questions about their sexual attractions and how they understand gender. If they are fortunate, they have access to sex and relationship educators or mentors and support networks. But my research with young people who identify as LGBT+ and disabled shows that they are often treated as though their gender or sexuality is just a phase.
In my research looking at the experiences of young people aged between 16 and 25, we’ve seen how harmful this approach can be. Not recognising that young disabled people can be LGBT+ can reduce their ability to have fulfilling sexual lives. It also reduces the chance that they will receive appropriate help and support in relation to their sexuality or gender throughout their lives.
Seeing sexuality or gender as a phase is not new. But for the young people we work with, it comes as a result of misconceptions about their disability, sexuality and their age. As one young person put it, with regards to their disability:
I do sometimes think that my mum thinks my whole mental health issues and my autism…I think she hopes it’ll go away, she goes on about me getting a job which makes me feel even worse. It makes me feel panicky. It makes me feel like she wants a better child than I am, like I am not good enough because I don’t want work.
These ideas about disability often work alongside misconceptions about sexuality. One young person explained how being gay was “blamed” on their disability. They felt that people think you are LGBT+ “because you are ill or have autism”.
In addition to confusion about disability and sexuality, young people reported challenges due to their age. One interviewee was told to hold off on identifying in one way until they’re older and more mature; “so that you know for sure, so it gives you time”.
These reactions suggest that there is resistance to young disabled people identifying as LGBT+. There seems to be a perception that young disabled people cannot understand LGBT+ sexuality. But the stories the young people told me show a long process of working to understand sexuality and gender. Such decisions were not trivial or a result of trends.
It’s not a phase
Labelling sexuality as a phase suggests that it is something through which one will pass, emerging on other side as heterosexual. This frames anything other than heterosexuality as being flawed and suggests that there is something undesirable about being LGBT+. One young person said that they thought being “LGBT in the heterosexual world is a bad thing”. As a society, we appear to be more accepting of LGBT+ identities. Yet not for young disabled LGBT+ people who are seen as non-sexual and unable to understand what LGBT+ means.
We need to think about sexuality and gender as part of life and not a passing moment. This is important because young disabled LGBT+ people need appropriate support. Labelling their sexuality as a phase denies them access to information and support as their sexuality is not seen as being valid. They may suffer physical and mental violence and discrimination because of who they are, and are left to fight on their own because no one recognises them for who they are.
In order to work against societal attitudes and misconceptions, we need to listen to the experiences of young disabled LGBT+ people and understand that they are experts in their own lives. Dismissing sexuality as a phase says a lot about societal attitudes towards what it means to be young, disabled and LGBT+. Yet most importantly, such reactions have a direct impact upon the intimate lives of young disabled people as they work against such challenges to make sense of who they are.
The study, published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that lesbians report experiencing orgasm during sex 75% of the time with a familiar partner – up from 62% for straight women.
Bisexual women are the least likely to experience orgasm, with just 58% experiencing regular orgasm.
Despite the variations among women, a similar percentage of gay, bisexual and straight men experienced orgasm during sex, with 85.1% doing so.
The study’s authors wrote: “One possible explanation is that lesbian women are more comfortable and familiar with the female body and thus, on average, are better able to induce orgasm in their female partner.
“Findings from this large dataset of US singles suggest that women, regardless of sexual orientation, have less predictable, more varied orgasm experiences than do men and that for women, but not men, the likelihood of orgasm varies with sexual orientation.
“These findings demonstrate the need for further investigations into the comparative sexual experiences and sexual health outcomes of sexual minorities.”
More than 6,500 people between the ages of 21 and 65 took part in the study, conducted by Indiana University.
[H]ousework is often understood as a gendered negotiation based on the traditional roles of homemaker (feminine) and breadwinner (masculine). While gender norms have shifted dramatically in the past few decades, theories of housework are still stuck on this 1950s model.
Shifting family structures, including the rising number of same-sex marriages in recent years, mean our understanding of housework needs updating. In our recent study, we highlight that current theories of housework do not adequately address dynamics in same-sex couples.
We present our own approach, arguing that all couples adopt different roles at different life points, and some reject traditional gender identities altogether.
Simply, there is no single way to explain the role of gender in housework. Our theories and data analysis need updating to account for the more diverse ways people behave as men and women in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.
Housework in theory
Existing theories of housework argue that domestic labour is one way to perform gender for oneself and one’s partner within heterosexual couples. The basic assumption is that individuals are socialised from birth into gender roles that dictate appropriate feminine and masculine behaviours.
Traditional gender roles teach young girls that women are responsible for the physical and mental work of ensuring household chores are completed. By contrast, breadwinner roles teach young boys that masculinity is tied to providing for the family economically.
Research shows that same-sex couples have more equitable divisions of housework than heterosexual couples, but the partner who engages in more childcare also does more “feminine” housework tasks. However, the question of how to explain these divisions remains.
Existing theories assume same-sex couples either behave just as heterosexual couples, with one specialising in the home and one in the workforce, or do not divide housework by gender at all.
One argument is that same-sex couples are able to negotiate housework in the “absence” of gender. As the argument goes, one partner does the washing, dishes and vacuuming not because they are male or female but because they prefer these chores, have less money or spend less time at work.
However, we argue that same-sex couples’ housework divisions and relationship dynamics may function in more complicated ways, rather than simply doing or undoing heterosexual gender dynamics.
Women, regardless of sexual orientation, may view a clean and well-dressed table as one way to be a “good” woman. But, for others, housework may tap into more nuanced gender relations. For example, resisting the urge to constantly tidy up after children and partners may, for some women, be a form of feminist rebellion, a challenge to patriarchal norms.
Same-sex couples may have more scope to engage in a greater diversity of housework tasks, without the boundaries of heterosexual norms of “feminine” and “masculine” chores. But their performance of these chores is often interpreted through traditional gender norms (for example, gay men clean, cook and decorate as a sign of femininity) that have homophobic connotations.
Applying heterosexual norms to same-sex couples housework negotiations is fraught with false gendered assumptions and homophobia.
Cultural narratives of gender
To fully explain the way same-sex couples might negotiate housework, we need to leave our old theories of gender behind.
Take two examples. The idea that men using power tools to feel a rush of masculinity is evident in our cultural narratives. Similarly, the notion that women bake cupcakes to shower their families with feminine love is also ingrained in our traditional gender norms.
If we switch the genders here – have women use power tools to be feminine and men bake cupcakes to be masculine – we can see that the logic of these theories falls flat. Of course, men bake and women use tools, but how these tap into gender identities is lacking from existing research.
Men may bake to show care for their partners and this action may tap into other dimensions of masculinity (such as caring and nurturing). Gay men may engage in baking and lesbian women in using power tools as a way to tap into different dimensions of their masculinity and femininity (such as care or empowerment), not to demonstrate their rejection of either gender identity.
Or, housework may have less to do with gender among modern heterosexual and same-sex couples and more to do with preferences, leisure and relaxation.
As ideas of gender as a simple binary (masculinity and femininity) are increasingly challenged, the question of how gender affects couples’ housework divisions is important. Existing studies on gender and housework ask standard questions about gender (male/female/other) but fail to ask detailed questions about gender identities and gender expressions on a continuum.
Within same-sex couples, housework is less likely to be a source of patriarchal domination, but that doesn’t mean gender is absent from negotiations. Today’s adults were raised in the context of our society’s gender norms, and being in a non-heterosexual relationship requires a re-evaluation of these norms.
This can create flexibility in how gender is expressed to the outside world, to people’s partners, and to themselves. And identifying to what extent gender remains coupled to inequality is important, especially given that housework inequality jeopardises relationship quality regardless of sexuality.
So if we assume straight couples both climax 65% of the time – and that orgasms are a decent barometer of how good sex is – these results are excellent for gay and lesbian partners.
They come out 24 and 21 percentage points ahead of their straight counterparts, which equates to a hell of a lot more joint fun.
The study also found that “women who orgasmed more frequently were more likely to: receive more oral sex and have [a] longer duration of last sex”.
They are also “more satisfied with their relationship, ask for what they want in bed, praise their partner for something they did in bed, call/email to tease about doing something sexual and wear sexy lingerie”.
I wanted, desperately, to know if the sex I was having “counted.”
[A]fter I hooked up with someone, I snuck out of bed and into the darkness of my balcony, alone. A nervous wreck, I texted my friend, practically hyperventilating because of something I’d never expected to worry about at all.
Hoping for an answer, I texted: Am I still a virgin if I had sex with a girl?
My friend asked what I thought, but I really didn’t know. The woman I’d slept with defined sex as penetration, so by her definition, we hadn’t had sex. She, as the older, long-time queer in the hookup, had the upper hand. I didn’t think it was up to me. After all, what did I know about the rules of girl-on-girl sex, let alone what counts as losing your virginity? Could it be sex if only half of the people involved thought it was?
To me, it felt like it had to be sex, because if not sex, what was it?
It was a panic I never expected to feel. I was super open-minded. I was super feminist. I should have been beyond thrilled and empowered by the fact that I’d had a positive sexual encounter. But instead of cuddling the girl I was sleeping with and basking in our post-sex glow, or even vocalizing my worry over whether or not we’d just had sex, I was panicking in solitude.
My identity has always been a blur—I’m biracial, bisexual, and queer—and it’s something that makes me feel murky, unsure of who I am. Virginity was just the newest thing to freak out about. I stood in the dark alone and tried to figure out, once again, how to define myself.
I wanted, desperately, to know if the sex I was having “counted.” And I’m not the only one.
While many people have a strained relationship with the concept of virginity (and whether or not it exists to begin with), for queer women, the role of virginity is especially complicated.
“Virginity is a socially constructed idea that is fairly exclusive to the heterosexual population,” Kristen Mark, Ph.D. an associate professor of health promotion at University of Kentucky and director of the sexual health promotion lab, told SELF. “There is very little language in determining how virginity is ‘lost’ in non-heterosexual populations. Given the relatively large population of non-heterosexual populations, the validity of virginity is poor.”
As a result, many of us are stressed out by the concept, and left wondering if there’s just something other queer women know that we aren’t quite in on.
For Sam Roberts*, the lack of clarity surrounding expectations of queer women made them hesitant to come out in the first place. “I didn’t come out as queer until I was 25,” they tell SELF. “I felt vulnerable because of the lack of understanding around queer sexuality. Certainly it has gotten better, but not having a model for what queer sex ([specifically] for [cisgender]-women) looks like via health class, media, or pop culture can make it hard to know how to navigate that space.”
Alaina Leary, 24, expressed similar frustrations the first time they had sex. “My first sex partner and I had a lot of conversations around sex and sexuality,” Leary tells SELF. “We were essentially figuring it out on our own. Health class, for me, never taught me much about LGBTQ sex.”
When you’ve been socialized to view penetration as the hallmark of sexual intercourse, it’s hard to know what counts as losing your virginity—or having sex, for that matter.
“For many queer women, what they consider sex is not considered sex from a heteronormative perspective,” Karen Blair, Ph.D., professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University and director of the KLB Research Lab, tells SELF. “So this can complicate the question of when one lost their virginity, if ever.”
“Even if one expands the definition of having lost one’s virginity to some form of vaginal penetration, many queer women may never actually ‘lose’ their virginity—to the extent that it is something that can be considered ‘lost’ in the first place.”
To be clear, relying on penetration as a defining aspect of sex only serves to exclude all those who aren’t interested in or physically capable of engaging in penetrative sexual acts—regardless of their sexual orientation. Ultimately, requiring sex to be any one thing is inherently difficult because of the limitless differences among bodies and genitals, and the simple fact that what feels pleasurable to one body can be boring at best, and traumatizing at worst, to another.
The lack of a clear moment when one became sexually active can make us feel like the sex we have doesn’t count.
We live in a culture that overwhelmingly values virginity, with “losing your v-card” still seen as a step into adulthood. It’s something that, as a former straight girl, I’d never even thought about, but, as a queer girl, I became obsessive over: When was I really, truly, having sex?
It was especially frustrating considering that my straight friends seemed instantly thrust into this status of adults in real, legitimate sexual relationships, while my relationships were being thought of as “foreplay” by the mainstream, rather than valid sex acts.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. “We had straight friends who were having sex and doing sexual things in very defined ways,” Leary says. “One of my friends was obsessed with the ‘bases’ and insisted that her oral sex with her boyfriend didn’t count as sex because it was ‘only third base.’”
So what does that mean for those of us who will only ever engage in “foreplay?”
Considering the larger structures and cultural expectations that make queer women feel invalid, virginity is just another way that we’re left feeling somehow less than our straight and cisgender counterparts.
“The primary impact of the concept of virginity on queer women is an—even if unconscious—feeling of inferiority or oppression,” Dr. Mark explains. “We as a society place so much emphasis on virginity loss, yet it is a concept that is only relevant to a portion of the population. Women in general, regardless of sexual orientation, know they are sexual objects before they are sexually active due to the existence of the concept of virginity.”
Consider the fact that most young women first learn about sex in the context of virginity, which often exists under the scope of “purity.” This, Dr. Mark says, can make women feel “defined by virginity status.”
As a result, when queer women do have sex, and it doesn’t “count” as their virginity being “taken,” they can be left confused about the encounter and unsure of how valid their sexual relationships are to begin with.
At the end of the day, it’s up to queer women to define what virginity—and sex—mean for ourselves.
“I would encourage queer women to define their sexual lives in ways that make sense for them,” Dr. Mark explains. “If they have created an idea around virginity that makes it important to them, I encourage them to think about alternate ways to define it that fits with their experience. But I also encourage the rejection of virginity for women who feel like it doesn’t fit for them.”
This lack of an expectation (beyond consent, of course) when it comes to how you have sex can actually be freeing, in a way, Dr. Blair says.
“One of the best things that queer women have going for them in their relationships is the freedom to write their own sexual scripts in a way that suits them and their partners best.”
[I]n 1880, on the first anniversary of her marriage, author Sarah Orne Jewett penned a romantic poem to her partner. “Do you remember, darling, a year ago today, when we gave ourselves to each other?” she wrote. “We will not take back the promises we made a year ago.”
Jewett wasn’t addressing her husband—she was writing to her future wife, Annie Adams Fields. Over a century before same-sex marriage became the law of the land, Jewett and Adams lived together in a “Boston marriage,” a committed partnership between women.
They weren’t the only ones: For several years near the turn of the 20th century, same-sex marriage was relatively common and even socially acceptable. These women shared kisses, hugs and their lives—but today, few remember these pioneers of same-sex relationships.
Though homosexuality was taboo during the 19th century, intense and romantic friendships among women were common. At the time, women were encouraged to exist in a sphere separate from that of men. Public life, work and earning money were seen as the purview of men.
This ideology isolated women from the outside world, but it also brought them into close contact with one another. As women were viewed as devoted, asexual and gentle, it was acceptable for them to do things like kiss, hold hands or link arms, and openly express their affection for one another. At newly founded women’s colleges, for example, students gave one another bouquets of flowers, love poems and trinkets and openly declared their love. Having a crush on another woman wasn’t blinked at—it was expected and considered part of women’s college culture.
A group of New England women took this concept one step further by “getting married.” Though they didn’t commit to one another legally, they combined households, lived together and supported one another for the long term. These independent women pushed the boundaries of what society deemed acceptable for women by attending college, finding careers and living outside their parents’ home. But since they did so with other women, their activities were deemed socially acceptable.
In 1885, novelist Henry James explored the phenomenon in his bookThe Bostonians. The novel, which pokes fun at independent women, features a relationship between Verena Tarrant, an outspoken feminist, and Olive Chancellor, who becomes fascinated with the fiery speaker. They form a partnership and move in with one another, but when Verena decides to marry Olive’s cousin the relationship falls apart. The popular novel is thought to have contributed to the use of the term “Boston marriage,” though James never used the phrase in his book.
Boston marriages offered equality, support and independence to wealthy women who were determined to push outside of the domestic sphere. They also offered romantic love: Though each relationship was different, women often referred to one another as husband or wife, kissed and hugged, wrote passionate letters when they were apart and shared beds. However, this was not necessarily seen as sexual in the 19th century since women were assumed not to have the physical desires of men.
Were these women lesbians in the contemporary sense of the word? Though we can’t glimpse into the bedroom behaviors of people of the past, it’s certain that many of the women in romantic friendships and Boston marriages did share sexual contact.
For some women, Boston marriages were used as a front for relationships we’d see as lesbian in the 21st century. As historian Stephanie Coontz tells NPR, “a pair of women who actually had a sexual relationship could easily manage to be together without arousing suspicion that it was anything more than feminine affection.” But for others, sex didn’t appear to be part of the equation. Rather, Boston marriages offered something even more appealing—independence.
Ironically, the practice faded as people became aware of lesbianism. At the turn of the century, the concept of “sexual inversion” made it possible to categorize relationships that had once been considered socially acceptable as sexually deviant.
Though Jewett and Fields lived together for over two decades, Jewett’s publishers seem to have edited out telling details from her letters to Fields, a society chronicler, to prevent readers from assuming they were lesbians.
It would take 100 more years for same-sex marriage to be legally accepted in the United States. But even in death, the commitment and love of same-sex partners from the 19th century lives on, like that of American novelist Willa Cather and her longtime companion, Edith Lewis. The pair lived together as committed partners for almost 40 years—and now they’re buried together in a New Hampshire cemetery. If that isn’t love, what is?
[I]n 2017, the trends surrounding sex were focused on having an open mind. What does a “normal” sex life look like? And can we redefine virginity for ourselves? There was also a decent amount of science surrounding gender equality in the bedroom (yes, we are talking about the complex nature of the female orgasm here).
While there was more than enough sex advice to go around this year, here are the most valuable bits from 2017.
Thanks to an uptick in social media use and a decrease in face-to-face interactions, new research finds that teenagers are now having sex later than ever. As a result, more people than ever are dealing with anxiety surrounding “late-in-life virginity.” And if you ask sex and relationship experts about it, they’ll tell you “virginity” as a concept is outdated.
“We really must speak more broadly about sex as a whole range of intimate possibilities, not just penetrative sex,” says Debra Campbell, couples therapist and author of Lovelands. “The idea of being a ‘virgin’ is really a bit outdated. It’s something that used to be important for the same socio-economic and religious reasons as marriage, but times have changed.”
How much sex should you actually be having? Studies show that having sex once a week is the “magic” number if you want to get all the benefits (overall well-being and relationship satisfaction), but if the real women we polled are any indication, “normal” doesn’t actually exist.
“Usually the frequency with which we do it comes in ‘spells,'” said one 29-year-old woman. “We’ll do it a bunch for a few weeks and then not as much for a few weeks. I’d say it’s changed since we first started dating. Truthfully, it took a while to actually get to the sex part, so we’d get more creative with what we did. That was really fun, actually. Now that we’re married, we try to find new ways to be adventurous.”
You can sleep in a separate bedroom from your partner—or have different sleep schedules—and still have a great relationship and sex life. Because let’s face it: There’s no bigger turnoff than losing a night of sleep because your partner was snoring or making a lot of noise when they came into your bedroom at 2 a.m.
“This is a fascinating dilemma because the research on sleep and couples clearly shows that we think we sleep better when we’re with our partner, but we actually sleep better when we sleep alone,” says David Niven, Ph.D. and author of 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships. “So there’s a very natural tension between the person who feels deprived when their partner stays up four hours later and the person who feels deprived when they are expected to come to bed four hours before they feel ready.”
The female orgasm has long been a mystery, and for years scientists didn’t care to spend time or resources trying to understand it. But the tides have changed in 2017, and a study on over 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 94 shed some interesting light on what works and what doesn’t.
We learned a lot from that study, but here are some highlights: When it comes to manual and oral sex, about 64 percent of women said they enjoy an up-and-down motion on the vulva, and 52 percent also enjoyed circular movements. Just under a third of women said they liked “side-to-side movements.”
As for the clitoris, three-fourths of women were big fans of a circling motion, switching between different types of motions, and varying the intensity of touch.
[T]oday the Government launched a public consultation on what relationships and sex education should look like in England’s schools. While that might not be the first thing on your Christmas list, it’s been hanging around at the top of ours for a while, and is a vitally important step forward for all young people.
So why is it something we should all care about? Earlier this year, the Government committed to making age-appropriate relationships and sex education compulsory in all of England’s schools in 2019.
Currently, only certain secondary schools are required to teach this subject, and the guidance for teachers has sat untouched since 2000. To say that plenty has changed in those 17 years would be an understatement. Back then, Bob the Builder was Christmas number one, Facebook was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, and Section 28 – the law which banned the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality – was still in force.
It was a different world – and the guidance reads that way. It makes little mention of online safety, and no mention at all of LGBT young people and their needs. We have, however, made progress. At primary level we work with hundreds of schools to help them celebrate difference. This includes talking about different families, including LGBT parents and relatives.
Teaching about the diversity that exists in the world means that children from all families feel included and helps all young people understand that LGBT people are part of everyday life. Lots of schools, including faith schools, have been doing this work for years. Different families, same love. Simple.
At secondary level, a growing number of schools are meeting the needs of their LGBT pupils. But Stonewall’s research shows that these schools are in the minority: just one in six LGBT young people have been taught about healthy same-sex relationships, and many teachers still aren’t sure whether they are allowed to talk about LGBT issues in the classroom.
Too many LGBT pupils still tell us that relationships and sex education simply doesn’t include them. As LGBT young people are left unequipped to make safe, informed decisions, most go online to find information instead. It will come as no surprise that information online can be unreliable, and sometimes unsafe.
In schools that teach about LGBT issues, LGBT young people are more likely to feel welcomed, included and accepted. When young people see themselves reflected in what they learn, it doesn’t just equip them to make safe, informed decisions, it helps them feel like they belong and that who they are isn’t wrong or defective. Providing all young people with inclusive relationships and sex education as part of PSHE is a key way to do this.
Every young person needs to feel accepted, understood and included. The Government has recognised that, and is clear that future relationships and sex education will be LGBT-inclusive. Now is our chance to have a say on what that should look like. Now is our chance to give all young people the information and support they need to be safe, happy and healthy, now and in the future.
[W]here society once only recognized homosexuality and heterosexuality, there’s a growing awareness of — and terms for — a much larger, ever-expanding galaxy of sexual orientations. The same can be said for genders: While many only recognized male and female, and masculinity and femininity, we are witnessing an explosion of terms and identities, often coined by those who find “LGBT” too narrow. Many of these other labels have been around for decades or longer, but are only gaining broader attention now. Here’s a short guide to our fabulous new world.
Beyond gay, lesbian, or straight.
Androsexual: Someone attracted to masculinity, whether in men, women, or others.
Asexuality: An orientation characterized by an absence of sexual attraction or desire for partnered sex. Asexuality is different from celibacy. Some asexual people do have sex and/or masturbate. There are many ways of being asexual.
Bisexual: Someone attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one sex or gender. Their identity remains bisexual no matter who they are in a relationship with — their orientation does not vacillate from gay to straight based on the gender of their current partner.
Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional bond.
Graysexual: Someone whose sexuality is between absolute asexual and sexual.
Gynesexual: An attraction to females or femininity, the latter in women, men, or others.
Heteromantic: A person with a romantic, but not necessarily sexual, attraction to members of another sex or gender.
Panromantic: A person who has romantic, but not necessarily sexual, attractions to people of all genders and sexes.
Pansexual/Omnisexual: Those who have or are open to having romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes, including those who are trans or intersex. (Many bi people identify with this definition as well.)
Polyamory (or Poly): Being in or being open to having romantic relationships with more than one person at a time, generally with the knowledge and consent of their partners.
Polysexual: Attraction to multiple genders or forms of gender expression, but not all.
Queer: Nonconforming sexual attraction, may include to those who are trans or gender variant.
Beyond male/female and masculine/feminine.
Agender: Having no gender identity, or having a gender identity that is neutral.
Androgynous or androgyne: Having a gender identity or expression that includes both masculine and feminine elements, often to the point where one’s gender isn’t readily apparent to others.
Bigender: Having two gender identities, which may be experienced simultaneously or at separate times. According to the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which runs an “Identity a Day” online education series, “The two genders may be male and female, but they might also include other nonbinary gender identities.”
Gender Fluid: When one’s gender identification or presentation shifts between two or more genders.
Gender Nonconforming: Gender expressions or roles that are outside those expected by society. They’re not confined by conventional definitions of male and female, and can include people who identify as trans or genderqueer.
Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal expectation for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.
Gender Variant: Varying from the expected characteristics of one’s assigned gender or sex.
Intersex: Those who have a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit medical definitions of female or male. This happens in around one in every 1,500 to 2,000 births, according to the Intersex Society of North America, making it about as common as red hair. An intersex person might be born appearing female but with male chromosomes or internal anatomy, or born with genitals that seem outside defined male and female types. Many who are intersex have been forced, as children, to undergo surgeries that attempt to make their sexual organs conform to medical expectations. They may identify as intersex, male or female, or any of the other gender IDs here.
Neutrois: Similar to agender — a neutral or even genderless identity.
Trans or Transgender: This has become somewhat of an umbrella term for anyone with any type of gender variance. But for some it is more specific, representing those who identify or express a gender at opposition with the gender they were assigned at birth. While some trans people merely alter their identification or external expression, others pursue medical interventions like hormone treatment and gender affirmation surgeries. People who are trans often identify as either male or female, but may not do so.
Transsexual: A gender identity that is generally specific to those who are trans and undergo medical intervention to transition from the sex (male or female) they were assigned at birth to the sex they identify as being authentically. Transsexuals often view gender as binary, identify as male or female, and may accept more traditional gender roles.
Two-Spirit: A person of Native American descent whose body simultaneously houses both a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. As an umbrella term, it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described as queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, genderqueer, or having multiple gender identities.
Of course there are also dozens of micro-identities too, like subcategories of gay men (bears, twinks) or lesbians (AGGs, femmes — and others detailed at bit.ly/20LezIDs).
[I]f you’ve ever watched even one ‘lesbian’ adult film on a mainstream porn site, you’ll know the content isn’t exactly… representative of any real life lesbian women. That crap pretty much just exists to turn on horny straight guys. So if you’re looking for lesbian porn that doesn’t fetishise the actors, and features diverse folk with varying gender identities and sexualities, these are 6 of the best.
1. Crash Pad
The awesome team behind Crash Pad (Pink and White Productions) are all about making adult entertainment that “exposes the complexities of queer sexual desire”. The sexy and exciting content they produce actually reflects queer folk, blurred gender lines and fluid sexualities. The founder and director is a queer woman (thank F!) and is all for providing an alternative to the mainstream lesbian porn (you know, the stuff that’s basically made just to turn dudes on). As well as representing all sexualities, Crash Pad’s stars are a pretty diverse bunch celebrating people of colour, trans folk and people of differing abilities.
2. Girls Out West
Girls Out West is pretty solid amateur lesbian porn (and the actors are all Australian). You can check out their films on Redtube and Pornhub, as they have their own channel. What’s great about it, is the women you see in GOW’s videos aren’t the typical waxed, preened, mainstream porn stars. They’re quirky, individual and all have totally different looks and body types.
3. Queer Porn TV
If you don’t mind a DIY vibe, Queer Porn is a solid lesbian porn site (and it even won an award at the Feminist Porn Awards in 2011). It hosts exclusive content made by contributors who are all queer and experienced sex workers. For a monthly fee (from £15 a month depending on which package you go for), you can get access to videos of everything from “prolonged clothed make-outs, to sweaty marathon sex, to loving BDSM play”. This work breaks the machine and comes from the hearts of the people on camera, and is uniquely shot within it’s own community – never a studio.
4. Pink Label TV
For around £20 a month, Pink Label TV offers the same kind of awesome content as Crash Pad (it was set up by the same woman), but is actually more inclusive with new categories like ‘black and white’ and ‘trans women directed porn’. All of the content is made by emerging or independent filmmakers.
5. No Fauxxx
Also known as Indie Porn Revolution, No Fauxxx is one of the old trusties when it comes to queer porn. Set up by the same person as Queer Porn TV (Courtney Trouble), their mission is to bring us “submersive smut made by ladies, queers, and artists.” You can take free tour of the site to figure out if their stuff is your jam, and if so, it costs around £15 a month.
6. Whipped Ass
This channel on Kink.com is super cool if you’re into into both girl-on-girl action and kink. Their content is awesome and involves dominant women engaging in BDSM play, bondage and electrostim with their submissive partners.
It’s time, once again, to post my annual pride posting.
In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a most remarkable change in societal attitudes toward those of us on the sexual fringe. One only needs to go back 50 years in time. I was 17 years old then and I knew I was queer. When I looked out on the world around me this is what I saw. Homosexuality was deemed a mental disorder by the nation’s psychiatric authorities, and gay sex was a crime in every state but Illinois. Federal workers could be fired merely for being gay.
Today, gays serve openly in the military, work as TV news anchors and federal judges, win elections as big-city mayors and members of Congress. Popular TV shows have gay protagonists.
Two years ago this month, a Supreme Court ruling lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the whole country.
The transition over five decades has been far from smooth — replete with bitter protests, anti-gay violence, backlashes that inflicted many political setbacks, and AIDS. Unlike the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement, the campaign for gay rights unfolded without household-name leaders.
And yet, now in Trump’s America, we are experiencing a backlash in the dominant culture. I don’t relish the idea, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. And while we endure this be reminded that it won’t smart nearly as much if we know our history. And we should also remember the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”
In honor of gay pride month, a little sex history lesson — The Stonewall Riots
The confrontations between demonstrators and police at The Stonewall Inn, a mafia owned bar in Greenwich Village NYC over the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 are usually cited as the beginning of the modern Lesbian/Gay liberation Movement. What might have been just another routine police raid on a bar patronized by homosexuals became the pivotal event that sparked the entire modern gay rights movement.
The Stonewall riots are now the stuff of myth. Many of the most commonly held beliefs are probably untrue. But here’s what we know for sure.
In 1969, it was illegal to operate any business catering to homosexuals in New York City — as it still is today in many places in the world. The standard procedure was for New York City’s finest to raid these establishments on a regular basis. They’d arrest a few of the most obvious ‘types’ harass the others and shake down the owners for money, then they’d let the bar open as usual by the next day.
Myth has it that the majority of the patrons at the Stonewall Inn were black and Hispanic drag queens. Actually, most of the patrons were probably young, college-age white guys lookin for a thrill and an evening out of the closet, along with the usual cadre of drag queens and hustlers. It was reasonably safe to socialize at the Stonewall Inn for them, because when it was raided the drag queens and bull-dykes were far more likely to be arrested then they were.
After midnight June 27-28, 1969, the New York Tactical Police Force called a raid on The Stonewall Inn at 55 Christopher Street in NYC. Many of the patrons who escaped the raid stood around to witness the police herding the “usual suspects” into the waiting paddywagons. There had recently been several scuffles where similar groups of people resisted arrest in both Los Angeles and New York.
Stonewall was unique because it was the first time gay people, as a group, realized that what threatened drag queens and bull-dykes threatened them all.
Many of the onlookers who took on the police that night weren’t even homosexual. Greenwich Village was home to many left-leaning young people who had cut their political teeth in the civil rights, anti-war and women’s lib movements.
As people tied to stop the arrests, the mêlée erupted. The police barricaded themselves inside the bar. The crowd outside attempted to burn it down. Eventually, police reinforcements arrived to disperse the crowd. But this just shattered the protesters into smaller groups that continued to mill around the streets of the village.
A larger crowd assembled outside the Stonewall the following night. This time young gay men and women came to protest the raids that were commonplace in the city. They held hands, kissed and formed a mock chorus line singing; “We are the Stonewall Girls/We wear our hair in curls/We have no underwear/We show our pubic hair.” Don’t ‘cha just love it?
Police successfully dispersed this group without incident. But the print media picked up the story. Articles appeared in the NY Post, Daily News and The Village Voice. Theses helped galvanize the community to rally and fight back.
Within a few days, representatives of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis (two of the country’s first homophile rights groups) organized the city’s first ever “Gay Power” rally in Washington Square. Some give hundred protesters showed up; many of them gay and lesbians.
The riots led to calls for homosexual liberation. Fliers appeared with the message: “Do you think homosexuals are revolting? You bet your sweet ass we are!” And the rest, boys and girls, is as they say is history.
During the first year after Stonewall, a whole new generation of organizations emerged, many identifying themselves for the first time as “Gay.” This not only denoted sexual orientation, but a radical way to self-identify with a growing sense of open political activism. Older, more staid homophile groups soon began to make way for the more militant groups like the Gay Liberation Front.
The vast majority of these new activists were under thirty; dr dick’s generation, don’t cha know. We were new to political organizing and didn’t know that this was as ground-breaking as it was. Many groups formed on colleges campuses and in big cities around the world.
By the following summer, 1970, groups in at least eight American cities staged simultaneous events commemorating the Stonewall riots on the last Sunday in June. The events varied from a highly political march of three to five thousand in New York to a parade with floats for 1200 in Los Angeles. Seven thousand showed up in San Francisco.
Lately I’ve been noticing I am attracted to both males and females. So I don’t know if I am a lesbian or not? Is that normal?
[P]erhaps you are unclear on the concept. If you’re attracted to both women and men, you could hardly be a lesbian, right? I mean think it through, darlin’! A lesbian, by definition, is a woman who is ONLY sexually interested in other woman. Apparently, that rules you out…unless you are simply fooling yourself about being attracted to men.
You are more likely bisexual — a rather common phenomenon in the female of the species, don’t cha know!
But, truth be told, all human sexuality is on a continuum. Probably it’s time to haul out my Handy Dandy Kinsey Scale for a look-see.
Wait, are you familiar with the Kinsey Scale? The dean of American sex research, Alfred Kinsey, and his associates developed this 0 to 6 scale as a way of classifying a person’s sexuality in terms of both behavior and fantasy.
This is what they developed.
0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual behavior or fantasy.
1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual — most likely in fantasy only.
2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual — fantasy for sure and possibly behavior too.
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual in both behavior and fantasy.
4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual — fantasy for sure and possibly behavior too.
5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual — most likely in fantasy only.
6- Exclusively homosexual with no heterosexual behavior or fantasy.
These pioneering sexologists also discovered that an individual could occupy a different position on this scale, at different periods in his/her life. It’s conceivable that one could go from Kinsey 0 to 6 in a lifetime, or just a afternoon at the Lilith Fair, if ya know what I’m gettin at. This seven-point scale comes close to showing the many gradations that actually exist in human sexual expression. Amazing, huh?
[S]ix years ago, Cassie and I met and began dating as lesbians. At the time, I didn’t know I was transgender. Then about two years ago, just nine months after we were married, I told her I thought I might want to transition and live as a man. It’s hard to overstate how difficult this was for us at first, but we stuck with one another and managed to preserve our marriage. I spoke with Cassie about staying together, and about being a lesbian (or maybe not) in a relationship with a trans man.
Think back to when I first told you I thought I might want to transition. What was your initial reaction?
When you first told me, I was surprised by how angry I was. I mean, you weren’t my first experience with a trans person. I’ve had a number of friends come out, and it’s never been hard to adjust. Plus, I was in the queer dorm at UMass, and many of the kids I lived with were trans. I always figured I was well prepared for the possibility of a romantic partner coming out. I didn’t know what I’d do, exactly, but I didn’t think I’d be angry. But when you told me, I don’t know … We were trying to get me pregnant at the time, and all I could think was that you were fucking up my adorable little lesbian life.
I know. It just felt like you were. I know that’s unfair, but it’s true. I was also angry at myself, because I wasn’t actually that surprised by the news. There was no way I could convince myself that it was just a passing thought. I knew it wasn’t. We’d talked about your gender in the past, and I told you I thought you had some issues to work out. We had so many conversations about how you thought every woman would want to be a man if they could, and I would tell you, no, I wouldn’t want that, and you wouldn’t believe me. It was frustrating, but I forgave it, because I sensed you had some internal issues to work out. But I guess what I thought (or maybe hoped) was that one day you’d recognize a sort of queerness in yourself and stop arguing with me about my own gender, not that you would go full-on with testosterone, surgery, changing your name, everything. Now I tell people I have a husband.
It’s been really tough. How do you think we’ve managed to stay together?
A lot of things. I think I was scared at first because I didn’t think I’d end up breaking up with you. We’re so compatible in so many ways. Part of me was afraid that your personality would change so much I’d not want to be with you, but I didn’t really think that I would leave.
You felt trapped?
Marriage is a trap. That’s a weird question.
Argh. My nonjudgmental leading questions don’t work on you—you’re on to me. What eventually made it OK, when at first it didn’t feel OK?
We talked a lot, all the time, about everything. Even when it was hard, we hashed things out rather than ignoring them. And should I talk about the open relationship? We opened things up, as we’d done before, but I think it was especially important in this case.
The release valve. Not feeling like you’d never be with a woman again. Being able to explore other relationships with other people without ending everything we had to do it.
Something like that.
Do you still consider yourself a lesbian?
Oh, geez. We’re jumping to that question now?
It seemed relevant.
Sometimes I see myself as a lesbian, and sometimes I don’t. Part of me thinks it’s wrong to consider myself a lesbian because if I do, and I remain in a relationship with a trans guy, or even admit attraction, on a certain level, to any other trans guys, I’m effectively invalidating their gender. That said, coming out to myself was such an important thing for me. It made so much about myself make sense, not just who I was attracted to but my personality and how I interacted with the world. It made me so much happier. I don’t want to let that go.
I always said I didn’t have the power to unilaterally change your orientation.
Right, but your transition did make me think about my sexuality in a different way. A number of different people that I’ve been attracted to, whether I dated them or not, were people I thought at the time were cis women who came out later as trans men. If it was really just you, well, you could be the exception. You could be grandfathered in. But I feel like it might say something about me—about the sort of people I like—that you’re not the only one.
I’ve always butted heads a little with the lesbian community, anyway. But at the same time I feel like that’s part of what it means to be a lesbian, to butt heads with the lesbian community. I once got into a fight with a girl who said I wasn’t a real lesbian because of what I was wearing. I got kicked off a lesbian forum for saying I thought you could still be a lesbian if you had enjoyed sex with a penis, even once. God forbid.
This reminds me, we’ve been talking about trans men, but what about trans women? Are you attracted to trans women? Have you ever been with a trans woman? Do you think you can be with trans women and still be a “real lesbian”?
Yeah, I’ve been attracted to and been with trans women. I know it’s a point of contention for some people, but I think that’s silly. At least for me, if I’m hanging out, flirting, feeling attraction and chemistry with someone, then there’s a good chance I’m going to enjoy having sex with that person if I get the chance. I guess if you’re only attracted to genitals, that could be more limiting, depending on the specifics, but I feel like you’re probably having pretty boring sex. Maybe I’m wrong, and to each their own, but it’s not an issue for me. And I kind of suspect it would be less of an issue for other people than they think, but they just don’t want to think about it.
So, my being a trans man was more of a threat to your sexuality than your being attracted to a trans woman was.
Yeah. I’m really not worried at all about sometimes being attracted to trans women.
Talk about my physical changes, and how you feel about them.
Well, it’s better now that you’ve come out of the weird little hole you were in. You were spending all your time on Reddit or in the other room, alone, doing God knows what. You acted so weird at first, so totally in your head about things. You never wanted to have sex, and having a conversation with you was like pulling teeth. I was more annoyed with that than anything. The actual changes didn’t bother me as much as I’d feared. I guess they’ve been gradual enough it’s been easy to get used to. But then you’d do things like repeat the same phrase three times in a slightly deeper voice, and I just had no patience for it. I was finishing a master’s degree and dealing with infertility, and I didn’t have time for your issues.
And I’ve settled down now?
Definitely. We’re about back to normal, I’d say. I’ve settled, too. At this point I’m just kind of embarrassed by how I reacted early on. I think that once I just chilled out and accepted your transition as what was happening, and as a good thing for you, our relationship could just be what it was. No pressure. We started getting closer again, and you started relaxing. Plus, we had a friend at the time, a trans girl, who helped a lot.
Because she was very political.
She was very no-nonsense. She handed you a trans pride flag at the pride parade when you were still only partially out. I’ll never forget the look on your face when that happened. She also started using male pronouns for you and calling you Evan and told me to just get over it. And I did. Probably in part because I liked her, and I didn’t want her to think I was mean. But still, it helped.
So, how are things now for our relationship?
They’re really good. I mean, there are no guarantees. Changes are still happening, and I’m sure we’ll have some ups and downs in the future. I don’t want to jinx anything. But we’re connecting again, we’re having sex again, and sometimes when someone from your family forgets and uses your old name, I have a moment where I’m not even sure who they’re talking about. You’re just my Evan. It works.
And, how do you feel about your sexuality?
I think I still see myself as a lesbian in a lot of ways, and I don’t know if I’ll ever completely change that, but I’ve been referring to myself as queer more often, and I like that as a compromise. I feel like that word fits me pretty well, and maybe I’ll ease into using it completely in the future. But right now I’m not completely over thinking of myself as a lesbian, especially since I’m still generally more attracted to women.
Same-sex couples are more likely to have a happy sex life in long-term relationships compared to straight couples.
And not only are gay people more likely to work on and try new things in their sex life, they are also less likely to believe they are ‘destined’ to be with a perfect partner.
According to new research by the University of Toronto, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples were happier when they were willing to work on their sex life and did not believe in a ‘perfect mate’.
Jessica Maxwell, a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science, used research involving 1,900 participants of both gay and straight couples.
‘Gay and lesbians have higher levels of sexual growth beliefs than heterosexuals, and have lower levels of sexual destiny beliefs than heterosexuals,’ she told Gay Star News.
‘This is encouraging because those with higher sexual growth beliefs had the best outcomes in our studies!’
The better outcome meant higher relationship and sexual satisfaction.
‘We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,’ Maxwell added. ‘Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.’
Maxwell scored gay and lesbian couples on average of 6.02 versus straight couples of 5.68 on the question of whether couples believed in working on sex in a relationship.
And on whether people believed in ‘sexual destiny’, opposite-sex couples were far more likely with a score of 3.17 compared to 2.69.
‘The fact that same-sex couples are higher in sexual growth beliefs does suggest they have a healthier view of sexual relationships which should in turn foster greater relationship and sexual satisfaction over time,’ Maxwell added to GSN.
The way Maxwell worded the question on sexual orientation, it did not allow her to easily differentiate if there was a difference between gay male couples and lesbian couples.
However, while she did see women were more likely to believe in soulmates and romantic destinies, the researcher found they are more likely than men to believe sex takes work in a long-term relationship.
Maxwell hoped to show that problems in the bedroom are normal, and it does not automatically mean the relationship is in trouble.
The study, How Implicit Theories of Sexuality Shape Sexual and Relationship Well-Being, was published in the November issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The research builds on the work of other researchers (Bohns, Scholer and Rehman, 2015) who examined the belief sexual attraction can be malleable.