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What straight couples can learn from gay couples

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When I embarked on the seven-year journey that would result in a trilogy of comedy shows and my first book, I had no idea what a huge part sexual orientation would play.

Yes, I’m a lesbian and that has influenced much of how I’ve socialised and dated for the 20 years or so since I came out. Yet, as I talked to more and more LGBT people – particularly those a little older than me who had experienced way more discrimination – I realised that being forced to think ‘outside the box’ around the concepts of love and family had resulted in some very self-aware, savvy and compassionate strategies for coping with the complexities of human relationships.

While I welcome the progressive legal changes that have seen a huge rise in acceptance for LGBT people, I worry that a blanket assumption that we all aspire to marry, have children and be ‘normal’ means that we might lose sight of some of the very best of these pioneering ideas.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used the term ‘consciously uncoupling’

Open relationships can be incredibly successful. Gay men fairly typically negotiate sexually open partnerships and have done for many decades. However, what is less widely-reported is just how good they are at remaining emotionally faithful to a primary partner. Their separation rates are the lowest of any section of society. Figures from 2013, from the Office of National Statistics, showed that civil partnership dissolution rates were twice as high for female couples as they were for male. While early divorce statistics in the UK evidence that ratio increasing further still.

So what are the relationships lessons straight couples can learn from the gay community?

1. An ex can be a best friend

Long before American author and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas devised the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ and Gwyneth Paltrow made it famous, lesbians were the godmothers of the concept of compassionate endings.

Recently, Dr Jane Traies conducted the first comprehensive study of older lesbians in the UK. She told me, “It’s not uncommon for a lesbian’s ex-partner to be her best friend.” She described one couple, now in their seventies, one of who had previously been in a straight marriage. The other had always been openly gay and had many more significant exes, who they would regularly spend time with. The central relationship seemed to be richly rewarded by having this framework of other ongoing connections supporting it.

2. ‘Living Apart Together’ can be great

Although the idea of ‘LAT’ couples is now more widely discussed, it was the LGBT community who originally piloted this idea. As my friend, the gay poet Dominic Berry, points out, “Perhaps if people are doing something widely viewed as deviant, making another deviance from the norm isn’t too big a jump.”

A lot of the automatic assumptions that are made about relationships – that you must get married, be monogamous, have children, move in together – have been cheerfully dispensed with. In many cases, an alternative romantic framework suited the individuals in the relationship much better.

Some straight couples can be reluctant to talk openly about sexuality

3. Talking about love, desire and sex is good

When I conducted a survey for my comedy show, I asked respondents if they actually  discussed sex and fidelity with a partner. One straight woman wrote, ‘Good lord no! It’s one thing to do the deed but we’re too uptight to actually talk about it. Thank goodness.’

My gay friends, by contrast, tend to have spent so many years agonising about their sexual identity that discussion of it with friends and families has been essential as part of the ‘coming out’ process. In many cases, this had lead to a readiness to air other really important questions around desires, boundaries and consent once they were in an adult relationship.

4. ‘Family’ doesn’t have to mean blood

When I arrived in London as a young student in the Nineties, the LGBT community provided me with the strongest sense of belonging I have ever experienced.

In the face of prejudice and discrimination, gay people historically partied hard together and took more care of one another within the bubble of separatism. They cultivated a concept of ‘friends as family’, something the writer Armistead Maupin refers to as ‘logical family’.

5. Love isn’t like it is in the movies

Because films depicting same-sex relationships have generally been far-removed from the sugary rom-com ideal, gay people are more pragmatic and realistic about the extreme challenges of falling in and out of love and staying together.

In 2017, we may not be facing quite as much adversity as the characters depicted in Carol or Brokeback Mountain, but we know that the ‘fairy tale’ romance is a load of old hokum.

6. Rules are made to be broken

When the activism group Gay Liberation Front formed in the early Seventies, they gleefully celebrated their difference from the oppressive, beige ‘norms’ that most of society were having to follow. This resulted in an inclusive, embracing atmosphere and a sense of fun and freedom for anyone who wanted to reinvent and rethink traditional relationships and try out different models of being together.

Complete Article HERE!

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Personal Inventory

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By Susan Deitz

Relax your body before you start this questionnaire. It’s important you start this with shoulders loose and mind clear. Don’t rush through the following questions, because chances are they’ll lead to still more probing. (For now, jot down those additional questions on a separate sheet of paper for future reference.) The best way to do these justice is to read them through in one sitting, let them “marinate” awhile and then reread them and give your answers. Some of them may trigger an immediate response; others take more thought. Please don’t give a fast pat answer; the whole point of this exercise is to search deeper for your real belief.

—How do you feel about sex outside marriage? Does your religion, upbringing or personal morality make it out of bounds? Would denying those controls upset you so much that you wouldn’t enjoy yourself if you did become sexually active?

—If you can enjoy sex outside marriage, how do you feel about sex outside caring?

—Can you imagine having sex on the first date? If you can, what sort of “ingredients” would have to be present? If not, when do you feel is a reasonable time to begin sexual involvement?

—Would you get involved with someone even if you knew it was to be for a very short time — perhaps only for one night? Under what circumstances?

—Can you imagine having a married lover? Why or why not?

—Would you consider having a sexual relationship with more than one person at the same time? (This question deals with plural ongoing relationships, not with group sex.)

—Ideally, how often would you like to have sex? How long can you go without sex?

—Do you enjoy periods of celibacy? For how long can you remain celibate? Are you ever concerned about losing your sex drive?

—What are your thoughts about giving yourself pleasure? Masturbation is still a taboo issue, but your own thoughts on the subject should be very clear because of the episodic nature of sex as a single person.

—If you are sexually active, have you settled on a safe and effective method of contraception? If you answered “no” or are unsure of your answer, are you clear about the range of options open to you and which one is best for you?

—Do you know enough about sexually transmitted diseases — such as AIDS and herpes — to protect yourself? If not, do you know how to get information about them?

—Do you/would you ask a new partner about his or her history of sexually transmitted disease before becoming intimate, even though it might be awkward?

—How do you plan to handle pressure from a date or partner to have sex when you’d rather not?

—If you’re a single parent, are you clear about having sleepover lovers when your children are home? Are you clear about separating your personal needs from your parental role? How honestly do you speak with your children about your sexual relationships?

—What do you appreciate most about sex? What makes it wonderful for you?

—Do you feel comfortable speaking with your partner about your likes and dislikes in lovemaking? Is your partner comfortable talking with you about them?

—How strongly do you feel about the answers you’ve given here?

—What, if anything, would make you change your mind about them?

—Do you have an idea about handling your sex life if you were to be unmarried for a lifetime?

—Do you feel you could adapt your sexual attitudes to make yourself, as a single person, more comfortable? If yes, how would you accomplish this?

What other questions can you ask yourself now that you’re thinking along these lines? If you’ve come up with more of them, write and answer them. Remember, please, there are no rights or wrongs here — only clear thinking on some murky issues. Best to clarify them now rather than be faced with that murkiness totally unprepared and therefore most vulnerable.

Complete Article HERE!

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Furries aren’t fetish freaks, they want to fit in with fun fuzzy friends, study finds

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More than a decade of research by social psychologists suggests that members of the furries community are just looking for a place to belong, be accepted and to have fun.

If you’ve ever given a second thought to furries – largely known to the public as people who dress up in giant animal costumes – you might have thought of them as freaks or wondered whether their costumes are some kind of kinky, freaky, fetish thing.

Perhaps the media put those thoughts in your head.

But after spending more than a decade studying the furry subculture, an international team of social scientists has concluded furries are not so different from the rest of us.

Researchers found that members of this “geeky, nerdy subculture” aren’t simply indulging in fantasy. They’re forging lifelong friendships and building a social support system in a community where they are not judged for having an unconventional interest, researchers found.

Furries are passionate, like sports fans, but with get-ups a lot more elaborate than jerseys and face paint. They find one another primarily online through furry forums or message groups where they talk and exchange information like other fan groups do.

Many know what it’s like to be made to feel like an outsider. Furries are about 50 percent more likely than the average person to report having been bullied during childhood, this research discovered.

“Perhaps the most fascinating thing that a decade of research on furries can tell us is that, in the end, furries are no different than anyone else — they have the same need to belong, need to have a positive and distinct sense of self, and need for self-expression,” social psychologist Courtney Plante, the project’s co-founder and lead analyst, writes this week in Psychology Today.

“Furries, in other words, are just like you — but with fake fur!”

Plante does not assume that everyone is familiar with the world of furries, or that they’ve heard accurate information about them.

“Depending on the media you consume, you may also know them as ‘the people who think they’re animals and have a weird fetish for fur,’” writes Plante, also the author of “FurScience!,” which features the findings of these studies.

“Or, just as likely, you have never heard the term ‘furry’ before outside the context of your pet dog or the neighbor with the back hair who mows his lawn without a shirt on every Saturday.”

Put simply, he writes, furries are fans like Trekkies or sports nerds. They’re “fans of media that features anthropomorphic animals — that is, animals who walk, talk, and do otherwise human things,” he writes.

“At first glance, it seems like anthropomorphic animals are a bizarre thing to be a fan of. That is, until you realize that most North Americans today grew up watching Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny cartoons and reading books like ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ and continue this proud tradition by taking our children to see the films like ‘Zootopia.’”

The characters in “Zootopia,” Disney’s “Robin Hood,” the books “Watership Down” and “Redfall,” and video games “Night in the Woods” and “Pokemon” have lots of fans in furry circles, Plante and his fellow researchers found.

The community is predominately young, male and white, largely dudes in their teens to mid-20s. Nearly half of them are college students.

They get above-average grades, are interested in computers and science, and are passionate about video games, science fiction, fantasy and anime, researchers found.

The community is very inclusive – furries are seven times more likely than the general public to identify as transgender and about five times more likely to identify as non-heterosexual.

“This fandom embraces norms of being welcoming and non-judgmental to all,” Plante writes.

He takes aim at misconceptions spread largely by the media, which, researchers charge, routinely mischaracterize furries as fetishists or, though unproven by data, somehow psychologically dysfunctional. (Not surprisingly, then, furries are often shy about speaking to the media.)

Take the idea that furries get sexual gratification out of dressing in mascot furs.

“About 15 to 20 percent of furries wear elaborate costumes called ‘fursuits’ in much the same way anime fans cosplay as their favorite characters,” Plante writes.

“However, unlike anime, furries are often assumed to engage in fursuiting for sexual reasons, despite the fact that this is very rarely the case.”

Many furries interviewed by Plante and his colleagues described the fandom “as one of the first places where they felt like they could belong,” he writes.

“So while most of us would look at a person who watches cartoons or costumes as an anthropomorphic dog and ask ‘what’s wrong with that person?’, the data suggest that these very same fantasy-themed activities are a fundamental part of that person’s psychological well-being.”

Complete Article HERE!

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New Film Explores Wonder Woman’s Origins In BDSM And Feminist Kink

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Wonder Woman is one of DC Comic’s most iconic heroes. She’s more popular than ever after the record-smashing success of this year’s Wonder Woman movie. But not many people know about the character’s origins in BDSM and kink.

A new film by director Angela Robinson, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, hopes to change that.

The sex-positive origins of Wonder Woman

If you’ve ever picked up any of the early edition comics, their raunchiness might come as a surprise. There’s spanking, sadomasochism, bondage and double entendres galore.

The origins of these unorthodox comics can be traced to their creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, who combined an interest in bondage and submission with feminist principles. In addition to his sex-positive ideals, he believed that women were superior to men and should rule the world.

The comics were created with the help of his wife, Elizabeth Holloway (who came up with the iconic quip, “Suffering Saffo”) and his former student Olive Bryne. The three were in a polyamorous relationship and had four children together.

Robinson’s new film aims to explore the dynamics between the Marstons and Olive Byrne, and shed light on the enormous influence the women in William Marston’s life had on his work. In exploring the sex-positive origins of the Wonder Woman comics, Robinson will touch on the topics of polyamory, bisexuality and feminism, as they were viewed in 1940s America.

The film has a stellar cast and team behind it. Angela Robinson, the film’s director, was behind one of the top queer cult classics of the noughties, D.E.B.S. She’s also been a writer on The L Word and True BloodTransparent creator, Jill Soloway, is producing the film, which will star Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, and Luke Evans.

Watch the trailer for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women below:

Complete Article HERE!

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There’s power in pronouns

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By Kathi Wolfe

“I assessed the toys/and took my pick/a brand new bike,” poet Grace Cavalieri writes in her poem “Language Lesson.” “My new playmate ran crying/…Me wants the bike.”

“I felt the sweet pleasure of/superiority, the first ache/of it, age three,” Cavalieri continues. “There would be no contest/I/could play as long as I liked./I had him by the pronoun.”

I’ve been thinking lately of Cavalieri’s lovely poem of childhood joy and empowerment. Why is “Language Lesson” on my radar screen? Because, even in this age of Instagram and selfies, few things are more powerful than language. No matter how we identify by gender or sexually, we desire the pronouns and terms used to describe us to reflect our true identifies. Even as toddlers, we know: there’s power in pronouns.

As a writer, like most wordsmiths, I want to use language that most accurately and clearly reflects the people who I write about – especially the LGBTQ community. This is an interesting challenge. Language evolves every nano-sec, and there’s often disagreement within a community about what language should be used. Recently, the Associated Press addressed the evolving language around LGBTQ people and gender. On May 31, AP released its 2017 Stylebook. The new Stylebook contains changes on the language used around gender, LGBTQ people and “they,” as a “singular, gender-neutral pronoun.”

Things are changing. Yet for far too long, much of the mainstream media, and even some of the gay press, have used misleading and demeaning terms to identify transgender and gender nonconforming people. Some of this is due to confusion. As a cisgender lesbian scribe, it took me eons to get that gender and sexuality aren’t the same: to understand that, as You Tuber Brendan Jordan, who identifies as gender fluid told CBS News, “Sexuality is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as.”

The new AP Stylebook explains the meaning of cisgender, transgender and intersex, and clearly states that sex and gender are different. “Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations,” the Stylebook says, “so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”

For a while, folks in our community have referred to themselves as not only LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), but LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/and/or queer). AP’s new Stylebook says that LGBT and LGBTQ are acceptable. It adds that LGBTQIA “and other variations” are permitted if used in quotes or as names as organizations. “I generally stands for intersex,” the entry says. A can stand for ally, asexual or both, it says.

Adapting to evolving language is frequently difficult. The new AP Stylebook entry on “they” as a singular pronoun brings this home. “I learned in third grade that ‘they’ refers to more than one, not a single, person,” a 69-year-old friend told me, “I love what I learned! But I guess it’ll have to change.”

Many of us know people who don’t want to be referred to as he or she – him or her. They want to be identified by a gender-neutral pronoun. The AP Stylebook is catching up with this reality. It says using “they” as a “gender neutral, singular pronoun” is acceptable if it’s essential. It doesn’t permit the use of “ze” or other gender neutral pronouns.

“The singular ‘they’ [has] been in consistent use since the 1300s and the language hasn’t fallen apart yet,” Kory Stamper, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster and author of the fascinating book “Word by Word,” emailed the Blade.

Language is so personal to us, Stamper said, “it’s the primary way that we communicate who we are and what is important to us.”

Kudos to the AP for helping us communicate who we are and what’s important to us.

Complete Article HERE!

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