ANDRO/GYNE

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By Cayla Rubin

ANDRO/GYNE is an intimate photo essay that without words and through an alluring, artistic lens, gives voice to a large group of strong individuals that deserve a platform in mainstream discourse. The mysterious black and white, nude photo series juxtaposes a man and a woman who has undergone a mastectomy without reconstruction. This passion project is shining a light onto the taboos surrounding reconstructive surgery through illustrating the power that resides in vulnerability.

Recently, certain silicone breast implants were recalled due to the fact they are known to cause lymphoma. This prismatic photo story explores the fluidity that resides in femininity. The power the results from choosing health, and being confident in that decision, versus feeling the need to transform oneself because of underlying mainstream beauty pressures is effortlessly portrayed.

You are very quick (and correct) to point out that gender and sexuality do not originate in the breasts. Why do you think that society places such a huge importance on breasts?

Breasts instantly communicate to the male gaze the fundamental desirability of the female: her ability to produce children and provide sexual gratification. The degree to which the semiotics of breasts is defined in our culture by the male gaze became glaringly apparent to me when I lost mine due to cancer.

The sexual and nurturing power of the breast is not part of that definition, especially in the US.  Rather, that power, which is the feminine power in the equation, is controversial. Bra-burning, rappers flashing or grabbing their breasts, the rows over public breast-feeding and the bizarre practice of strippers covering their nipples with tassels all attest to this.

Culturally we like breasts to be large and prominent but devoid of active female sexuality, i.e. nipples. It is total objectification. Showing cleavage is sexy. Showing nipples is slutty.

Oftentimes, doctors who prefer breast reconstruction following mastectomies push the narrative of “restoring femininity.” What are better hallmarks of femininity that we should place more value on?

Ultimately femininity is part of sexual identity and drive, regardless of your assigned gender or physical appearance. When women are objectified it serves to negate their sexual agency. So the cultural ideal of a woman, as defined by a male objectifying gaze, is a woman who is a recipient and mirror of male desire but has none of her own.

The hallmark of a feminine woman, to me, is her sexuality, and until we come to terms with that, culturally, nothing will likely change.

What offended me in the discussions with doctors around reconstructive surgery was that it was solely focused on how others experience me sexually and completely left out how I conceive of and experience my sexuality. Having lumps of numb silicone installed in my chest will not do anything for my sexuality. If anything it will detract, because it would destroy the recovered sensitivity of my chest.

The subtext in much of this discussion was that I would not be able to have sex, if I did not have breasts. No doubt many men would pass on a woman with no breasts, but they might also pass for any number of other reasons. In the end, those who pass me up are not relevant to the vitality of my sexuality.

Why is it important to picture both a man and a woman in this photo series, rather than placing the sole focus on the woman?

For a couple of reasons. We wanted to contrast femininity and masculinity to offset my femininity in a way that is readily understandable, posed next to a classically beautiful male. The nude couple is a classic genre, and we wanted to have the series work within that genre and at the same time push the boundaries of the genre. We wanted the scars to be fully visible and yet not be the main focus. We wanted the focus to be on me interacting fully as a woman, in spite of the scars, and age for that matter.

But it also had to do, more generally, with the narratives around cancer survivorship. Especially with breast cancer, it tends to be all about the lone “cancer warrior” overcoming tragedy. I don’t see it that way. I am not a survivor. I am alive in every sense of the word and, to me, being alive is all about my relationships and connections with others. Foivos happens to be a talented actor and performer, so he had the chops to do this, but he is also a good friend. I wanted that human connection and dialogue in the photographs, because that is how I know that I am alive.

What do you believe should be considered the root of female sexuality?

As with any person’s sexuality, the root has to be how you yourself experience and live your sexuality, not how others try to define it. LGBTQ people know this very well, but living a lifetime as a cis woman, I had never fully realized how much social norms interfered with my sexuality. Losing the breasts was enlightening in many ways, because it forced me to engage with my femininity and sexuality in a whole new way, liberated, in a sense, from the objectification that had been part of my life from the time I grew breasts. Rather than detract from my sexuality, the surgery led me to reclaim it as my own.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about breast amputation?

Just one thing? I would have to say that reconstructive surgery is more complicated than most people think. The amputation itself is a relatively simple and easy surgery for most people. The pain and complications start with reconstructive surgery, which, by the way, is typically a minimum of two surgeries and often more than that. Many women are very pleased with their results, but many women are not. The reconstruction will allow you to remain within the normative boundaries for a cis woman, but finding your center as a woman will take work with or without reconstructed breasts.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Modern Monogamous Marriage Is Built on Lies, Not Sex Research

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By Carrie Weisman

With some exceptions, gender constructs have served men well in the modern world. It’s landed them in more high-powered positions. It’s gotten them higher wages. And, yeah, it’s given them license to pursue sex in ways that would lead women to be ostracized or shamed. In her new book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women Lust and Adultery Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, author Wednesday Martin digs into the damage incurred through this “boys will be boys” mentality. And she blows a whistle on the many biases that have boxed their female counterparts into such sexually constrained identities.

Fatherly spoke to Martin about what authentic sexuality looks like in women and how men can help them find their own special shade.

A lot of Untrue is about adultery. Why was it important for you to look into how women function in relationship to non-monogamy?

Infidelity is really a great test case for how we actually feel about gender parity. We have people who believe women should make the same amount men do. We have people who believe that women should hold political office. But how do they feel when women seize a privilege that has historically belonged to men, the privilege of not being monogamous? We don’t have any autonomy if we don’t have the autonomy to do what we want with our bodies.

This book really looks at how science and social science has conspired to put out a narrative that keeps women from attaining sexual autonomy. We think it’s physical violence, coercion, and slut-shaming that keep women in their place within this culture, but it’s also bad science and bad social science. So much of it has been abused to coerce women into monogamy and to discourage us from being sexually autonomous.

How does that message relate to the current cultural climate? How does it relate to the ways in which women are now asserting their sexual autonomy?

In terms of the #MeToo movement, well, I feel like bad science brought us to this moment. There’s been inaccurate science that posits that men are naturally sexually aggressive and that the male sexual coercion of females is natural. There’s a lot of more recent science that tells us that’s not true. I think a lot of that bad, biased science helped bring our culture to a point of crisis.

What are some other misconceptions surrounding female sexual identity and desire?

There is some research to suggest that the institutionalization of a relationship, whether it’s marriage or moving in together, dampens female sexual desire even more than male desire. There are studies that document women talking marriage and long-term partnership as anaphrodisiacs, as something that dampens sexual desire. They talk about familiarity and security killing their libidos. Men need to understand this about the women that they’re with. These women need sexual adventure just as much as men do.

Okay. That’s probably going to unnerve or surprise some guys out there. And maybe that’s indicative of the issue. Why do you think so many women have a hard time coming out about their genuine attitude towards polyamory and other nonconforming sexual behaviors?

You pay a high price for being honest about your sexual desires in this culture. Everything from slut-shaming to lethal violence to someone just thinking that you’re weird. Women who do step out face a lot of danger. In this country, so many mass shootings involve men trying to control women who have left them. And a lot of the triggers don’t even involve infidelity, but the suspicion of infidelity. It’s still really dangerous for women to exercise that really basic form of autonomy within the U.S.

How can men help women feel safe speaking about their desires?

I think men need to educate themselves. They need to understand the female erectile network, the extensiveness of the clitoris, the possibility of multiple orgasms, the fact that we have no refractory period. This all seems to suggest, to me, that women really evolved for sexual pleasure and serial sexual pleasure.

What about guys in monogamous relationships with wives who are not likely to be experiencing serial sexual pleasure any time soon? How can they help their partners enjoy a more diverse sex life?

I wrote the book to be a conversation starter between women and their partners. Men should know that some women really struggle with monogamy. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to go invite a “third” into the bedroom as a way to attain novelty. But it should encourage men to step up their game. Buy her a sex toy. Talk about sexual fantasies. Watch porn together. Go on adventures that have nothing to do with sex. Go on a zip line. Learn to tango. Take a trip. Remember, adrenaline can deliver a similar feeling to what sexual novelty gives us. These are all options if you don’t want to seek out adventure by way of consensual non-monogamy.

What about men with daughters? How can they impart healthier sexual attitudes?

It would be extremely helpful to start educating kids about female sexual pleasure at home. It’s important we teach them that women are more than an extension of male desire. Girls are more than precious little things who have to protect themselves from the boys. They are thinking, feeling people who have an amazingly evolved sexual anatomy with an extremely high capacity for pleasure. This is really basic information that kids aren’t getting in school.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have Sex if You’re Queer

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What to Know About Protection, Consent, and What Queer Sex Means

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Happy Pride!

Rarely does traditional sex education tackle pleasure for pleasure’s sake, how to have sex for non-reproductive purposes, or the wide spectrums of sexualities, bodies, and genders that exist. Instead it tends to cover penis-in-vagina penetration only, pregnancy risks, and STI/STD transmission, leaning heavily on scare tactics that may not even work.

Traditional sex ed is failing us all, but when it comes to standardized sex education in the U.S., the LGBTQ community is especially left out of the conversation. A GLSEN National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBTQ students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBTQ-related topics. Among self-identified “millennials” surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships at all.

The good, and even possibly great news is that not being boxed in by the narrow definitions of sex provided to us via traditional sex ed means that we are free (and perhaps even empowered!) to build our own sex lives that work uniquely for us, our partners, and our relationships. But we still need some info in order to do so.

Let’s talk about what classic sex education might’ve missed about how to have sex if you’re queer, from what sex between queer people means to how to keep it safe and consensual between the rainbow sheets.

What Queer Sex Means and How to Have it

Redefine and self-define sex. Sexual desire exists on a spectrum just like gender, sexuality, and other fluid and fluctuating parts of our identities. From Ace to Gray-Ace to Allosexual and everywhere in between and beyond, check in with yourself and your partners about how they experience sexual desire (if at all).

Similarly, “having sex” can mean a million different things to a million different people from making out, to certain kinds of penetration, orgasmic experiences, etc. You get to decide “what counts as sex” to you which is especially true when it comes to sexual debuts — a necessary and inclusive term for self-determined first times that looks beyond the traditional, heterosexist version of “losing your virginity.”

Honoring the identities and bodies of ourselves and our partners with respect, kindness, compassion, and tenderness is crucial and can feel even more precious and rewarding when you’re queer. Truly pleasurable sex — regardless of your identity — starts with a sense of safety, clear communication, confident boundaries, active listening skills, and self-awareness.

Check in with yourself first. Active consent starts with knowing yourself and what your boundaries are. Though an important piece of practicing consent is asking your partner for permission and for their preferences, it can be easy to forget to ask yourself similar questions. What do you want out of a sexual experience? Where are you confident you don’t want to venture now, yet, or maybe ever? What are you super excited to explore?

This check-in can help you determine what you want from sex and what queer sex means to you. This is when you can think about experimenting with sex toys, whether you’re interested in penetration, and what kind of touch feels good to you.

Sometimes we don’t even know where to start if we’re not sure about what our options even are. Scarleteen.com or Girl Sex 101 (much more gender-spectrum-inclusive than the title suggests) are both great resources that can get some of your questions answered. You can also find more information here.

Name your own bits. Body parts, especially private body parts, can be complicated territory for LGBTQ folks, and understandably so. One of the main goals of sex for many of us is to feel good in our bodies. The first step to this can be feeling good about the terms we use for our body parts. Try on one or a few that might work for you, communicate them to your partners (especially new ones), and ask them how they like their bodies to be talked about or touched.

Gender roles are bendable roles. You don’t have to adopt traditional gender roles in sex unless you want to. Media mediums from PG-13 sex scenes to X-rated porn can create clear splits between what’s considered being “sexually masculine” (being the do-er, taking control, knowing the ropes) and being “sexually feminine” (being the receiver, being passive or reactive, being led rather than initiating the sexual interaction).

Just because you identify with being masculine, feminine, or somewhere in between doesn’t mean you need to act a certain way or do anything in particular in your sex life. You can be a Ferociously Fierce Femme, a Passive Prince of Pillows, a Non-Binary Take-Charge Babe, or any version of your sexual self that follows what feels good, affirming, and right to you and your partners.

Talk about sex outside of a sexual context. Talking about sex with your potential or current partners before the clothes come off can be a great way to keep clear-headed communication and consent thriving. Sexual interactions are vulnerable, exciting, and can get your body and brain functioning in all new ways. So, sometimes it can be easier to talk about your feelings about sex, your enthusiastic Yes-es, your definite No’s, and your curious Maybes over coffee or text first, in addition to in-the-moment communication about consent.

Make an aftercare plan. We know that consent, permission, and pre-sex talks are all important parts of a healthy sex life, but we can forget to think about what happens after we have sex (besides water, a pee break, and snacks, of course). This is aftercare — or, how we like to be interacted with after sex has ended.

Aftercare preferences can include what we want to do immediately after sex (cuddle? watch Netflix? have some alone time?) and can also include what happens in the upcoming days or weeks (check-ins over text? gossip parameters? is there anyone you and your partner definitely do or don’t want to dish to?).

No matter your aftercare preferences, a post-sex check-in conversation about how things went, what you’d love an encore of, and what you might want to avoid next time (if you’d like there to be a next time) is always a good idea.

Always keep it consensual. Consent starts with asking permission before any sexual touch or interaction begins, continues with checking in about how things are going, and ends with talking with each other about how the sexual interaction went overall so that feedback can be exchanged and any mistakes can be repaired.

True, enthusiastic consent thrives in a space where each person feels free, clear-headed, and safe to speak up about what their No’s, Yes-es, and Maybes are.

Safer Sex for Queer Sex

Hormones matter. Even though testosterone hormones can decrease your risk of unwanted pregnancy, folks on T can still become pregnant, so make sure to use condoms if sperm is likely to be in the mix. Estrogen hormones can slow sperm production, but if your body is still producing sperm, an egg-creating partner could still get pregnant, so put your favorite birth control method to work.

Starting or ending hormone therapy, whether it’s testosterone or estrogen, can impact your sexual response, your desire levels, your emotions, and even your sexual orientation — so don’t be surprised if these changes crop up. Find safe people to talk to about any complicated feelings this may trigger rather than keeping them bottled up.

Condoms aren’t a one-trick pony. Though the gym teacher might think that putting a condom on a banana tells students all they need to know about wrapping it up, they’re usually doing little more than wasting a high-potassium snack. Condoms can help reduce pregnancy and STI/STD transmission risk for all kinds of penis-penetrative sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) so they’re important to learn to use correctly. But, they can also be used in other ways. Condoms can be put on sex toys to help with easy clean-up, or if you want to share the toy with a partner without getting up to wash it (just put on a fresh condom instead!), and can even be made into dental dams.

Gloves are another important piece of latex (or non-latex if you’re allergic) to keep…on hand…in your safer-sex kit, as they can prevent transmission of fluids into unnoticed cuts on your hands and can protect delicate orifice tissues from rough nails or your latest catclaw manicure (Pssst: if your nails are extra long and pointy, you can put cotton balls down in the tips of your glove for extra padding).

Lube is your friend. Lube is a great addition to all kinds of sex, but comes highly recommended for certain kinds of sex. A good water-based lube (avoid the ingredient glycerin if you’re prone to yeast infections!) can add pleasurable slip to all kinds of penetration, is latex-compatible, and reduces friction from sex toys or other body parts.

Lube can also be put on the receiver’s end of a dental dam or a small drop can be added to the inside of a condom before you put it on to create more pleasure for the condom-wearer.

Anal sex especially benefits from lube as your booty doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina does, so it can be prone to painful tearing or friction during penetration. Using a thicker water-based lube like Sliquid Sassy for anal sex reduces friction, increases pleasure, and decreases chances of tearing which, also lowers risk of STI/STD transmission.

Sadly, no one is immune to STIs. Though it’s true that certain sex acts come with greater or lesser risk of STI/STD transmission, it doesn’t mean that certain partner pairings are totally risk-free. The Human Rights Campaign’s Safer Sex Guide (available in both Spanish and English) contains a helpful chart that breaks down the health risks associated with specific sex acts, complete with barrier and birth control methods that’ll help lower your risk.

Remember, some STIs/STDs are easily curable with medication, some are permanent-yet-manageable, and some can be lethal (especially if left untreated). So, knowing the difference and knowing and communicating your status are all important pieces of your sexual health. You can continue to lower STI stigma while reducing rates of STI transmission by keeping conversations about sexual health with your partners open and non-judgmental.

Sex toys need baths, too. When choosing sex toys, it’s wise to pay attention to the kind of material your toy is made out of. Medical grade silicone, stainless steel, glass, and treated wooden sex toys are all, for the most part, non-porous, meaning that they can (and should) easily be washed with soap and water between uses, between orifices, and between partners.

Sex toys made out of cyberskin, jelly rubber, elastomer, or other porous materials have small pores in them that can trap dirt and bacteria (kind of like a sponge), even after you wash them! This means that you could reintroduce dirt and bacteria to your own body causing bacterial or yeast infections for yourself, or you could pass bacteria or STIs to a partner via the toy. You could avoid these porous materials entirely (check the packaging to see what your toy is made out of) or you could use a condom on them every time like you would a body part.

For more tips on building a culture of consent in your communities and relationships, head to yanatallonhicks.com/consenthandout.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Many Genders Are There

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— And Why Does Talking About The Spectrum Of Identity Matter So Much?

By Amber Leventry

Lack of representation in the media doesn’t mean you’re not normal.

A person’s identity is so much more than a name scribbled on a ‘Hello My Name Is …’ sticker tag.

We are each complex beings made up of our histories, emotions, desires and values, and defined by our gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression.

Conversations around the spectrum of gender and human sexuality are evolving, as discussions and celebrations during Pride Month 2019 attest.

It’s becoming more common to see the option of “other” or “preferred” as choices when selecting gender and pronouns on registration forms.

To many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community, asking about our preferences — really, asking who we are — feels refreshing, even hopeful. It makes us feel respected and seen.

But for others, it raises some big questions. How can you prefer something other than male or female?

How many genders are there?

There’s only one good answer to the question of how many genders there are: Gender is a spectrum, and there are as many gender definitions as there needs to for every person to have a label that feels true to themselves.

Maybe that’s confusing. Let me explain.

These three distinct and independent pieces of who we are — gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression — depend on each other; they weave in and out, touching and layering on themselves to form a complete identity.

Photo credit: The Trevor Project

How do we proudly display all of our components in safe and meaningful ways to strangers if there isn’t room to include more than a name?

We do it by making room in our society for identities that do not follow the heteronormative assumptions of what is “normal”.

This may mean that we need to get a little uncomfortable while we learn about people and terms that are new or confusing.

Think of the sense of self as a spectrum with unlimited possibilities.

The first thing we either attach to or reject is our gender identity — that sense of being male, female, neither, or both.

When humans are born, they are given a gender assignment based on sexual anatomy. That assignment is usually limited to only two genders: male or female.

Even babies who are born intersex, “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male”, are given a gender assignment with the assumption that one needs a binary label.

But the label is just a suggestion, because sexual anatomy (traditionally used to define “sex” in terms of identification) does not equal gender, and gender is not limited to meaning only one or the other.

Gender is not the binary constraint of being a man or woman, boy or girl.

So while I can’t tell you how many genders there are, there definitely are more than two.

It might help if you understand a little about my personal history.

Based on my anatomy, I was assigned female as my sex at birth. But since I was a kid, I knew I wasn’t just a girl. And as I got older, I knew I wasn’t a boy, either. I am both.

Once I discovered the language for this, I knew the word to describe me is nonbinary.

I can’t be placed into a box of being either male or female, though trust me, it would be easier to do this at times.

The world is not a kind place for those of us who know one of the key components of our identity is a gender many people and organizations do not recognize.

So, how do I know what my gender is?

Well, how do you know you are male? Or female? You just know — I do, too.

On most days I feel like a perfect mix of being both male and female; it’s a grounded feeling of knowing I am a hybrid of two genders.

On other days, I don’t feel overly connected to any gender. I am just me, but male pronouns are not right and female pronouns hurt.

Because of this, I use they/them pronouns.

There are other options for gender neutral and inclusive pronouns, and it’s anyone’s right to use what feels most comfortable.

Photo credit: UWM Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center

While it may seem confusing at first, you don’t have to “get it” to respect it.

In some countries and cultures, the people who know they are neither completely male or female are celebrated. In the United States, it’s hard for people to even get my pronouns correct, so I am not expecting mass celebrations.

Here is a list of some other important gender terms and definitions:

1. Genderfluid or Genderqueer

Some folks who don’t identify as either male or female may call themselves genderfluid or genderqueer.

A genderfluid person is someone who feels male one day, maybe one hour, and female the next. Their gender fluctuates, but what’s consistent is that they are not always one or the other.

Genderqueer folks may identify as neither or both male and female, much like a nonbinary person, and their gender expression may fluctuate, breaking stereotypical gender expressions of what it means to be masculine or feminine.

2. Transgender

If your gender assignment at birth does not match your gender identity, you are transgender, sometimes abbreviated to “trans”.

My gender assignment at birth does not match my gender identity, so this makes me transgender, and my gender identity is nonbinary.

3. Cisgender

If your gender assignment at birth does align with your gender identity, then you are cisgender, sometimes abbreviated to “cis”.

Being referred to by this label is not an insult; it’s simply a way to describe the fact that your assigned gender matches your true identity.

Note that the words transgender and cisgender are adjectives, not good or bad, just descriptors of gender.

Many transgender people still fall into the binary of being male or female. For example, a woman who was assigned male at birth based on anatomy knows she is a woman because of that inner sense of self. Therefore, she is a transgender woman.

4. Gender expression

Our gender expression is how we want to show the world who we are.

As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, we all have the right to do what makes us most comfortable and happy. This includes what we wear, how we style our hair, if we wear makeup or jewelry, the names and pronouns we wanted to be called and how we accessorize any other external aspects of ourselves.

While I am not male, I express myself in a masculine way. I consider myself trans masculine, even androgynous at times. Others express themselves in more feminine or femme ways; all genders can consider themselves masculine, feminine, neither or both.

5. Gender nonconforming

Some expressions, like a man wearing dresses, is considered gender nonconforming.

For example, a person might identify as being a female, but describe her gender expression as masculine.

The important thing to remember is that there isn’t one way or a right way to be a man, woman, or nonbinary person.

It’s a bummer to feel like we are constantly compared to what many think is the “normal” way men and women and male and female-bodied people should present themselves.

Just because I am not represented in the media, movies, or books, that doesn’t mean I am not normal.

I am unique, perhaps. I am part of a minority. But I am normal and want pretty normal things in life and from others.

I want respect, kindness, and happiness. I want to feel safe and loved (because I fall in love, too).

My sexuality is an important part of who I am because it attracts people who see me for who I am. And for me, I want to find intimacy in vulnerable places with people who don’t question my identity.

The world can be pretty lonely for folks like me who are considered outliers.

What makes me feel most at home and sure of myself can make others feel uncomfortable.

My sense of self includes a gender outside of the binary, but my need for acceptance and compassion falls well within the range of deserved human decency.

What I really want is to feel more comfortable, and that can start with you.

Let go of assumptions and trust that the person you are talking to knows themself better than what you think you know about them based on stereotypes and heteronormative thinking.

And when you add your name to that ‘Hello My Name Is …’ sticker, add your pronouns, too.

It shows that you don’t want anyone making assumptions about you and that you are happy to acknowledge any and all pronouns of the people who may be in your presence.

Hi, my name is Amber. I use they/them pronouns. I am a person who deserves kindness and respect.

There’s a lot to who I am.

For instance, I like tacos and books and I want good coffee and great friends.

And when we meet, I want to know what pronouns you use because I want you to feel good, too, while we search for the nearest library or taco truck together.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Guide To Transgender Friendly Clinics by Region

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By Capri Fiello

Hims and Hers were founded with the goal of getting more people to be open and honest about their health. For too long there has been a stigma around talking about fairly common issues.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for marginalized communities to access the health resources and information they specifically need. As an inclusive company, we want to use our platform to help the LGBTQ community. We want to spread awareness and assist people who are having trouble finding professional help.

Researching and searching the web can be exhausting and draining. To make things a bit easier, we researched and compiled our own guide to trans-friendly clinics across the United States by region.

Western United States

In regards to transgender issues, the Western United States is fairly progressive. Though there aren’t any clinics that explicitly advertise as trans-friendly, there are plenty of health clinics that are inclusive and affordable. Throughout the Western U.S., there are LGBTQ welcoming clinics in almost every major metropolitan hub.

San Francisco Community Health Center

Location: San Francisco, California

This health center offers a range of services for transgender people. Every Friday, they host “Trans: Thrive” — a drop-in clinic in which trans individuals can meet with providers.  In addition to offering feminizing hormone therapy, masculinizing hormone therapy, gender-reconstruction surgeries, and electrolysis, this clinic also has a range of other LGBTQ-friendly services like PrEP, HIV treatment, STI/HIV testing, and therapy. Though the services aren’t all free, they do offer free HIV testing.

Lyon Martin

Location: San Francisco, California

Lyon Martin has a plethora of transgender services like trans-affirmative gynecologic care, hormone therapy, mental health counseling, HIV and STI testing and treatment, and referral for gender-affirming surgery. In addition to accepting both public and private insurance, this clinic has a sliding-scale system that considers a patient’s income and insurance status.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center

Location: San Diego, California

This LGBT community center has fantastic transgender services. With Project TRANS, they have group therapy, HIV education services, outreach, referrals, and much more. On top of that, Project TRANS helps with changing one’s gender marker on documents. The San Diego LGBT Community Center is inclusive of people from various financial backgrounds, accepting patients regardless of their insurance status and assisting with costs.

Los Angeles LGBT Center

Location: Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is mindful and inclusive of LA’s transgender population. They offer trans-sensitive exams, hormone therapy and education, surgical care, and more. What’s particularly great about this center is that a lot of the referrals are in-house, making care easier and faster for transgender patients. In regards to payment, the center advertises that it can assist patients set up their own health-care plans and accepts most public and private health plans.

HOPES

Location: Reno, Nevada

HOPES is a community health center with robust services (pharmaceutical, HIV care, behavioral health) for the LGBTQ population of Reno, Nevada. This health center hosts transgender peer groups and a transgender family support group. Despite not having free services, they do offer free HIV and Hepatitis C testing.

Southeast US

In Southeast America, there are a few clinics that offer services to transgender individuals. However, there aren’t any clinics that are free. These clinics have some free services such as HIV and STI testing.

Magic City Wellness

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

This Birmingham clinic is an LGBTQ healthcare that offers primary care, Hormone Replacement Therapy, PrEP counseling, and free STI testing for transgender individuals. In addition, they have support groups for the LGBTQ community. The majority of major insurance plans and cash payments are accepted.

Five Horizons Health Services

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Like most LGBTQ friendly clinics, Five Horizons Health Services has free HIV testing and a robust STI prevention program. Though they don’t have any specific programs for transgender individuals, they do have STI and HIV prevention programs that are inclusive to the LGBTQ community. Five Horizons Health Services also has programs that are directed to African American women and Latinx communities. These tests are available at low-costs or for free.

Medical Advocacy & Outreach

Location: Montgomery, Alabama

Medical Advocacy & Outreach have numerous LGBTQ services. They offer HIV testing and education, special treatments, and mental health counseling for the LGBTQ community.

Thrive Alabama

Location:

Huntsville, Alabama     
Albertville, Alabama
Florence, Alabama

They offer affordable care to the LGBTQ community which includes PrEP prescriptions and free HIV testing. Thrive Alabama also has an Affordable Care Act specialist that assists patients in enrolling and figuring out their healthcare.

Crescent Care Sexual Health Center

Location: New Orleans, Lousiana

Crescent Care was named a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” by the Humans Right Campaign. They provide STI and HIV testing and treatment services. Their testing services are free. In regards to trans-specific healthcare, they offer gynecological screenings, behavioral health services, hormone treatment, primary care, and much more. Crescent Care is also quite inclusive to people from various financial backgrounds — they have a sliding discount and accept a variety of plans.

Northeastern United States

Our research found six trans-friendly clinics in the Northeastern U.S. These clinics are fairly affordable with some being free. On top of offering STI and HIV services, these LGBTQ institutions also provide trans-specific care.

Apicha Community Health Center

Location: New York City, New York

In addition to offering HIV and STI testing and treatment, this clinic offers transgender primary care, hormone therapy, and referrals to necessary surgeries. They also offer transgender group therapy. Apicha also is notable for their pledge of not refusing any patients due to income and their ability to afford care.

Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

Location: Bronx, New York City, New York

Callen-Lorde is a community health center that has a focus on LGBTQ and women issues. They have a transgender healthcare program that includes hormone therapy, HIV/AIDs care, mental health counseling, STI screening,  primary care, and more. Callen-Lorde offers complimentary sexual health clinic and has a sliding-scale payment system while accepting a diversity of insurance plans.

Alder Health

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

As the only LGBTQ health center in a 120-mile radius of Harrisburg, Alder Health offers STI and HIV testing, PrEP education, and a holistic transgender health program. These services include hormone therapy, PAP treatments, behavioral health, and more. They provide free HIV & STI testing and treatment.

Equality Health Center

Location: Concord, New Hampshire

Equality Health Center provides hormone therapy and LGBTQ-specific health services like PrEP, STI testing and treatment, and more. In addition, they also accept a range of insurance options and have a sliding scale option for uninsured patients.  

Penobscot Community Health Care

Location: Multiple cities in Maine

The Humans Rights Campaign has been regarded Penobscot Community Health Care as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” for eight consistent years. They have resources on coming out to your doctor and how to deal with contracting the HIV virus. In addition, they have a sliding fee program that assists people who can’t necessarily afford care.

Whitman-Walker’s Sexual Health & Wellness Clinic

Location: Washington D.C.

There are numerous Whitman-Walker clinics across our nation’s capital. They offer a  range of transgender services like gender affirming services, hormone therapy, and HIV care and testing. This clinic advertises itself as a “safe, respectful and affirming environment” for transgender individuals. Most of their services aren’t free but they do offer free HIV and STI testing and treatment.

Midwestern United States

There are a handful of trans-friendly clinics in the Midwest. These clinics offer a diversity of services ranging from counseling to assisting with hormone therapy and have a variety of payment options.

The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center

Location: Boulder, Colorado

This health center has ensured that transgender and non-binary individuals feel safe and included. They offer hormone therapy, referrals to gender confirmation surgery, and counseling. On top of that, they have STI testing. Though they offer free HIV testing, their services aren’t free but they have a sliding fee scale system and accept a range of insurance plans.

The Chicago Women’s Health Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Women’s Health Center has had a robust trans-focused health program since 2009. They offer gynecological services, counseling, hormone therapy, and primary care. As a community-based center, they welcome feedback from transgender individuals on how to improve their services. They also offer a sliding-scale payment system, ensuring that their services are widely accessible.

The Howard Brown Health Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois

The Howard Brown Health Center offers numerous services for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals such as hormone therapy, HIV & STI testing, pharmacy services, specialized screenings, and more. They also have support groups for Chicago’s transgender population. For people who have no insurance and are low income, they have a sliding-scale payment system.   

The KC Care Clinic

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

The KC Care Clinic helps transgender individuals find “gender-affirming surgical providers.” In addition,  they also offer primary care, behavioral health services, and hormone therapy. On top of that, they provide free HIV testing. They advertise how “you will never be denied healthcare if you are unable pay” on their website and have an easily accessible system for people who both have insurance and lack it.

“It can be hard to know where to start, so I’d recommend looking into the following resources online to help you find trans-friendly medical care near you:

Or, use hims’ guide to search for trans-friendly clinics by region.”

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7 Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex Figures from History

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By Kat Armstrong

A legacy of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination has meant that queer identities are often left out of the history books. But with a modern perspective, we’re able to pick up on hints that flesh out a more inclusive portrayal of gender and sexuality over the ages.

From the ancient world through modern times, gender non-conforming, non-binary, intersex, and transgender folks have existed, but new understandings are helping the rest of us to better comprehend their stories. In recent decades, as we’ve come to develop a more nuanced grasp of the difference between sex and gender, historians have begun recognizing the possibility that certain major figures may have existed outside the gender binary. Here are seven of those people:

1. Casimir Pulaski: Charismatic Polish-American Revolutionary War hero Count Casimir Pulaski fled his homeland as a young adult after being part of a conspiracy to remove a puppet king from the Polish throne. While in exile in Paris, he met American Benjamin Franklin, and a friendship was born.

Pulaski ended up stateside, fighting for revolutionary forces, and is considered by many historians to be one of the key reasons why America was able to free itself from British imperial rule. He remains celebrated for his daring, strong military mind, and, frankly, lack of fear (he was always on the front lines, and eventually formed his own militia after George Washington suggested he stay off the battlefield).

Now, new scientific evidence suggests that Pulaski was either transgender or intersex (displaying both male and female sexual organ characteristics).

“One of the ways that male and female skeletons are different is the pelvis,” Virginia Hutton Estabrook, an assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, told NBC News about her discovery. “In females, the pelvic cavity has a more oval shape. It’s less heart-shaped than in the male pelvis. Pulaski’s looked very female.”

Pulaski’s skull also had telltale signs that he may have been born chromosomally female: a delicate facial bone structure, and a height of no more than 5’4”.

“What we do know about Pulaski is that there were enough androgens (male hormones) happening in the body, so that he had facial hair and male pattern baldness,” Esterbrook explains. “Obviously, there was some genital development because we have his baptismal records and he was baptized as a son.”

2. Michael Dillon: Laurence Michael Dillon may not be a name many are familiar with, but the English mechanic and wartime fireman was actually the first transgender man to undergo phalloplasty, a procedure that creates a penis for those who want to surgically change their genitals to match their gender.

Born in 1915, Dillon studied at all-girls schools and was an award-winning rower. In 1939, while working at a research laboratory, he sought out Dr. George Foss, an English doctor who was experimenting with testosterone to help stop women from having their periods. The testosterone treatment caused Dillon’s outward appearance to change, and by the mid-1940s, he had a chance encounter with a plastic surgeon who would change his life.

Being hypoglycemic, Dillon often suffered from fainting spells. While in the Royal Infirmary, he met with Dr. Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon who had experience reconstructing the genitals of wounded soldiers. Between 1946 and 1949, Dillon underwent 13 surgeries under the guise of a condition called hypospadias; in fact, the procedure was sought to anatomically confirm Dillon’s male gender.

Dillon eventually became a doctor, but his story became tabloid fodder while he was working as a ship doctor. He fled to India to study Buddhism, changing his name to Jivaka after a doctor that tended to the Buddha. Through the publication of his 1946 book, Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics, Dillon became one of the first Western medical professionals to explain that being transgender was not a mental illness.

3. Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax: Born in Houston in 1913, gospel singer Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax got his nickname due to his small stature in comparison to his brother, gospel singer William Broadnax.

The brothers sang in some of the most popular gospel groups and quartets in the 1940s and 1950s. Little did the public know that, years earlier, Little Axe had come out as transgender to a family who simply accepted his gender identity, although he’d been assigned female at birth.

By the time he was a teen, the Broadnax family’s report to the US Census showed two sons instead of a son and a daughter.

In the late 1930s, William and Willmer moved to California, forming their first gospel group, The Golden Echos. Little Axe performed with many leading gospel groups, eventually joining The Spirit of Memphis.

By the mid-1960s, as gospel’s popularity waned, Broadnax retired, although he did show up on recordings with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s. By the early 1990s, the once-renowned gospel singer had faded to relative obscurity, and was tragically stabbed to death by his girlfriend in 1992.

It was only during Broadnax’s autopsy that people learned that the diminutive gospel star was assigned female at birth.

4. Elagabalus: Although there are nearly no reliable accounts on the life of Roman Emperor Elagabalus, much historical writing suggests that the violent emperor was both bisexual and transgender, and became the Roman ruler after much maneuvering by their mother, grandmother, and others at the tender age of 14.

In the ancient Roman world, 14-year-old boys were highly prized and sexualized, and Elagabalus — who by all accounts, was born anatomically male — was able to harness that adoration into power. But while historical texts uniformly refer to the emperor with male pronounce, records indicate that Elagabalus frequently wore women’s clothing and took on female affectations. A document from Cassius Dio recalls Elagabalus returning a greeting from Aurelius: “Call me not Lord, for I am a Lady.”

Although some historians point to statues of Elagabalus dressed in traditionally male fashions, and claim the ruler’s transness was used to smear them after their reign ended, an alternate reading is that those male-gendered depictions could also have been made to legitimize their rule. At any rate, Elagabalus made their grandmother a senator (the first woman ever in the ancient world to hold such a title), and created an entire women’s Senate — which made them seem depraved to many of the men running the Roman Empire at the time.

But beyond their gender non-conformity, Elagabalus’s rule was marred by a series of cultural shifts that caused great discomfort amongst the men of Rome — and Elagabalus’ own reputation for hedonism. After being stabbed to death by some of the schemers who’d gotten Elgabalus into power in the first place, the Empress was dumped into the Tiber River in order to cleanse Rome of their wild rule.

5. Albert D.J. Cashier: Five-foot-tall US Civil War veteran Albert D.J. Cashier told different versions of his life story to different people, possibly to help explain his life’s open secret: that he was assigned female at birth.

At 19, he enlisted in the army to fight with the Union, and accounts state his bravery (and recklessness). In his later years, Cashier worked for Illinois State Senator Ira Lish, who reportedly knew of Cashier’s transness and protected his identity. Lish eventually helped the war veteran secure residency in a home for injured soldiers and sailors after accidentally hurting Cashier with his car. Those who cared for him kept his secret, but eventually, he began suffering from dementia and the home could no longer care for him.

Cashier was moved to an asylum, where his secret was revealed. Nurses forced him to wear dresses and live as a woman, but even though his dementia was worsening, he would gather his skirts and wear them as pants, demanding to be treated as the man he was.

Unfortunately, his attempts to fashion pants out of the skirts the hospital forced on him would lead to his death: He tripped over the skirt he was wearing and broke his hip, eventually dying from a septic infection caused by the fracture.

6. Dr. James Barry: Born Margaret Bulky in around 1789 County Cork, Ireland, James Barry moved with his mother to England to live with her brother, an academic called James Barry, after the Bulky family fell on hard times. The first James died in 1806, but not before he set up his sister and niece with money and educational means.

Margaret eventually took James Barry’s name and headed off to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. But the university worried that young Barry was lying about his age because he was so small, with a high voice. The school was reportedly so convinced he was underage, that the university almost didn’t let Barry sit his exams. But a friend of the late James Barry — David Steuart Erskine, the Earl of Buchan — insisted his young ward be allowed to take his exams.

Once Barry completed school, he enlisted in the military, becoming a renowned military surgeon who ruffled the feathers of some of his colleagues — including, legend goes, Florence Nightingale, after the two argued that she was inappropriately dressed for work in the sun. He was one of the first modern doctors to perform a successful C-section and demanded equal treatment for the rich and the poor, the free and the enslaved.

Very few knew about Barry’s secret while he was alive, and it was only at his death that people found out the truth about the military doctor and public health reformer: Not only was Barry assigned female at birth, but he had, at one point, given birth to a daughter — likely conceived, heartbreakingly, in rape — who his mother would raise as his sister.

7. Anne “Gentleman Jack” Lister: Born in 1791 England to a landed family,Anne “Gentleman Jack” Lister has been called “the first modern lesbian” and is remembered by history as a gender non-conforming powerhouse. Her nickname was one given to her by locals who wanted to mock her masculine outward appearance and her preference for the company of other women, but it did little to obscure that she was way ahead of her time.

In 1826, Lister inherited her family’s properties at Shibden Hall from her uncle after he passed away. Although property management was very much considered a man’s purview in Regency England, Lister didn’t balk. She had long term plans to restore the property, increase its income, and leave the estate in better shape than she received it.

Lister managed rents and income from the property’s various revenue streams, and used some of the profit for her own industrious business ventures. Eventually, Lister and her lover, Ann Walker, were able to obtain a church blessing and lived together at Shibden, while traveling widely. It was with Walker on a trip to Russia where Lister died after an insect bite in 1840.

In extensive diaries written in a secret code of her own making, Lister wrote over four million words through the course of her life. In those volumes, she wrote at length about her women lovers, and her life as the landlord of her family’s properties.

It was years later that a relative found the Lister diaries and had them decoded. They show Lister as a free-willed, proud woman who challenged gender norms not only to be able to openly love who she wanted, but to live as she chose.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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Gender symbols, sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality.

By Logan Metzger,

Sexuality and sexual orientation is one topic not often brought up in the average American household.

It’s a taboo, hush-hush subject left somewhere on the fringe of socially acceptable.

“I think in general, America has a really weird relationship with sex,” said nicci port, project director and LGBTQ+ initiative for the office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Things such as television ads are sexualized but as a society people are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, port said.

Twenty-two states require sex education in their schools, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation within those sex education classes.

Three of those states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students.

“I think at the basis we think we have to be a puritanical society and care about purity by viewing sex as procreation instead of realizing we are sexual beings,” port said.

According to reachout.com, sexuality is about who a person is attracted to sexually and romantically, but “is more complicated than just being gay or straight.”

The Kinsey Scale, developed in 1948 by sexologists Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, organizes sexuality into a gradient scale which demonstrates that sexuality is a spectrum and not everyone fits into one specific definition.

The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories.

Their research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings toward the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time.

Instead of assigning people to three categories of heterosexual, bisex0ual and homosexual the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from zero to six with an additional category of “X.”

A person’s sexuality can manifest in many ways and forms that only the identifier truly understands, but there are quite a few umbrella terms that encompass the currently defined sexual orientations.

The most common and widely recognizable sexual orientation within the United States is heterosexuality, with an estimated over 90 percent of the population not identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to Gallup.

Heterosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attractions to persons of a different sex than themselves. More commonly referred to as “straight” in everyday language,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale is homosexuality, with an estimated 4.5 percent of the United States population identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

Homosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attraction to persons of the same sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The term is often considered outdated and potentially derogatory when referring to LGBQ+ people or communities.

Within the homosexual umbrella lies at least two sexual orientations, these being gay and lesbian. Gay is used to refer to men who have an attraction to other men, but not all men who engage in sexual behavior with other men identify as gay.

Lesbian is used to refer to women who have an attraction to other women, but not all women who engage in sexual behavior with other women identify as lesbian.

Under the homosexual umbrella “about 4 to 6 percent of males have ever had same-sex contact.”

For females, the percentage who have ever had same-sex contact ranges from about 4 percent to 12 percent,” according to the Kinsey Institute.

In between homosexuality and heterosexuality on the Kinsey Scale are at least two sexual orientations. The most heard of and talked about of the two is bisexuality.

Bisexuality is when “a person is emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to both men and women,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The other orientation is pansexuality.

Pansexuality is “a term used to describe a person who can be emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to people of various genders, gender expressions and sexes, including those outside the gender binary,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Though both pansexuality and bisexuality are similar in that identifiers have attractions to those of multiple sexes, they are inherently different — but are often confused and assumed to be the same sexual orientation.

The “X” on the Kinsey Scale refers to either those who have not yet had sexual contact with another person or those who identify as asexual.

“In its broadest sense, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and the lack of interest in and desire for sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website. “However, some asexual people might experience emotional attraction or other non-sexual attractions.”

Asexuality is one of the less-heard of sexual orientations and the smallest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, with the CDC finding in 2014 about one percent of the population identified as asexual.

Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality all fall under the umbrella term of queer, which essentially is anyone who identifies as not heterosexual in the broadest sense.

Queer is “an umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual desires, identities and expressions of the not-exclusively-heterosexual and/or monogamous variety,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why we need a new philosophy of sex

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A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach.

The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic. At the time, I was also in an (increasingly) difficult relationship with a man who was a philosopher. Given all of these complex factors, I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy (that I read and revered) that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality. But this philosophy – whichever way I turned to find it – doesn’t exist.

Ethics is a field of philosophy that seeks out the foundations of how we should live our lives. It seeks to provide a framework for doing the “right” thing. This framework is founded on conventional Western philosophical ideas. For instance, conventional ethical thinking finds homosexuality to be an “issue”, rather than an inherent characteristic of bodies. The ethical theorist John Finnis, for example, recently argued that the ethics of homosexuality are still up for discussion.

Most of these philosophies are heavily influenced by Rene Descartes’s concept of dualism, which separates the substances of body and mind. This idea of dualism is at the roots of the philosophical canon, from Immanuel Kant, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to David Hume. Founded in the primacy of knowledge and rationality, these philosophies culminate in the idea at the heart of the liberal philosophy of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin: that for a debate to be moral, it must be capable of being rational. This is so we can use our minds to judge the actions of ourselves and others.

Some Western philosophers were more radical, such as Baruch Spinoza, a contemporary of Descartes. His major work, Ethics, opposed Cartesian dualism by unifying body and mind, God and substance. This also hugely influenced modern Western philosophy, particularly big, fashionable continental thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, who all have sought to place the body on equal philosophical terms with the mind. Despite being a leap forward, this philosophy still does not place all women’s bodies on equal philosophical footing with the minds of the men who wrote it.

A white male canon

All of the names listed above are white men. There is, of course, the huge body of (usually white) feminist work, but this is described as feminism, not philosophy. This means that we have a philosophy built by men, put on pedestal of genius, who defined and continue to define philosophy through their rational legacy.

This is despite the fact that Kant and Hume were racist and Aristotle (“the Father of Western philosophy”) was sexist. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and as a professor began an affair with his then student, Hannah Arendt. The argument is that these philosophers were not as socially enlightened as us, given their historical specificity, so we should continue to value their ideas, if not their bodies.

This Cartesian insistence that philosophy can be separate from the body that writes it, can be dangerous. Sexist, racist, powerful (and sometimes abusive) men have been endowed with an authority to create the foundations of how we judge sex. We endow this philosophy with authority over all bodies: women of colour, queer women, trans women, women who like to have sex in all types of ways, women whose oppression and assault maintains the authority of these philosophical geniuses. These philosophers are dangerous since their authority can inform our sexual tastes, and what is “acceptable”. These rules encourage us to disregard the ethical complexities of women’s lives.

How could a canon of white men do justice to the complexities of women

The pleasure of women

These philosophies were not helpful for me in my ethical dilemmas, since they were not written for me, my body and my sexuality. Thankfully, in the world outside of philosophy, core assumptions about women’s sexuality are being dismantled.

The academic Omise’eke Tinsley writes to empower the sexuality of black women generally, and against “misogynoir”, a specific sexism against black women. The writer Wednesday Martin, meanwhile, is systematically dismantling the myth that women are the monogamous ones, compared to men’s inherent sexual restlessness.

The movement to “correct” dominant ideas is not only about the sociology of women’s desire, but also the science. The OMGyes project is using research and women’s experiences to redefine a science of women’s pleasure. The Vulva Gallery is doing revolutionary work in sex education and representing women’s vulvas and their owner’s stories.

Sadly, we are not closer to finding a philosophical ethic that fits these growing understandings of women’s sexuality. There is the practical philosophy put forward by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut, but this is geared towards polyamorous people. And such an explicit code could be seen as unsexy, not to mention that some people might think of themselves as monogamous sluts, or something in between. Maybe some of us don’t want to be called sluts. And maybe there are those who prefer to be unethical. In the present philosophical landscape, who can blame them?

Future sexual ethics

So philosophically, we have not moved on. Psychoanalytic philosopher Alenka Zupančič’s What IS Sex aims to tell us what sex is in modern psychoanalytic and philosophical terms. But this does not help us discover a new kind of sexual ethics in light of what we have discovered and continue to discover about women’s practical sexual experiences. To do so, I argue that we need to move beyond the authority of even the male continental “radical” philosophical canon.

In my own ethical dilemmas, conventional ethics did not help me. In fact, they became part of the dilemma, since somehow I valued the perspective and empowered the words of my partner, because he was a philosopher. I also sat on that beach thinking that my desires were wrong, since they did not fit within a particular category, which meant I was not entitled to ethical treatment.

Also, as an academic, not only was I supposed to be objective and non-desiring, I was supposed to value ideas over bodily sensations. I was supposed to be rational and operate ethically while having my sexuality abused. Western ethics was not in favour of the strength of my body, but its destruction.

All this is to say that conventional philosophy and research is not going to develop a new ethics for women’s sexuality. Instead, as I argue in my story of finding my own sexual ethics, we need an ethic of vivid kindness, to ourselves and others. And it needs to be founded on a wholesale, orgasmic attack: on Western philosophy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Not That Kind of Girl

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In her influential 1959 Atlantic article, “Sex and the College Girl,” Nora Johnson predicted that young, educated women pursuing expansive new opportunities would likely end up disappointed. She spent the rest of her life finding out what could happen instead.

High-school students graduate in 1960. Nora Johnson’s articles, novels, and memoirs followed women as they matured from infatuated teenagers to aging lovers.

By

Every few years, new concerns bloom about the changing ways young people are approaching relationships, from the stigmatized early years of online dating in the 1990s and 2000s to the panic over campus hookup culture in the early 2010s to the dawning concern that rather than having too much sex, Millennials aren’t having enough. Many young people are now experiencing a sex recession, my colleague Kate Julian wrote for the cover of this magazine in December.

But long before Tinder or Match.com were founded, and even before most universities went coed, the seeds of these ideas were planted in another Atlantic article: Nora Johnson’s influential “Sex and the College Girl.” Written in 1959, the article captured a snapshot of college romance on the lip of the sexual revolution and the second-wave feminist movement: Young women were pulling back from romantic commitment and domestic life to explore their options; young men were left bewildered and resentful as their relationships shifted in turn.

Johnson framed the moment not as one of ecstatic liberation, but rather as an uncertain and sometimes overwhelming introduction of possibility for female students. She observed educated women navigating a convoluted path of desire, respect, security, and shame in pursuit of the dream of a full life: “a husband, a career, community work, children, and the rest.” Only an exceptional few could achieve that life without sacrificing personal or professional goals along the way, she predicted. For many of the rest of them, this pursuit would end in “an ulcer, a divorce, a psychiatrist, or deep disappointment”; and for some of them, those who were put off by the apparent futility of trying to balance all the expansive possibilities, “the most confining kind of domestic life.” Without the “moral generalizations” of her grandmother’s era, Johnson’s college girl was left to forge ahead toward those difficult choices with more subjective, and personal, judgment—carrying “her belief in herself,” or what she calls the “modern version” of herself, forward into the unknown.
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Johnson wrote “Sex and the College Girl” when she was 26, just five years after graduating from Smith. Though young, she was already beginning to establish herself as an author. She’d grown up as the daughter of a Hollywood filmmaker, surrounded by “an encampment of storytellers,” as she later recalled, and had published her first and ultimately most successful novel, The World of Henry Orient, a year earlier. Like “Sex and the College Girl,” the book drew on her own experiences as a student, fictionalizing the crush she and a friend had nursed for an actor-musician while they were in high school.

As Johnson grew older, the subjects of her writing generally did too, maturing as the decades wore on from students navigating the college dating scene to married couples to divorcées to aging lovers. But though the characters changed, the sense of uncertain possibility she described in “Sex and the College Girl” remained—sometimes joyful, sometimes dutiful, sometimes onerous, but never entirely gone. Johnson’s love stories, told in an era of expanding female choices, were weighted with the consciousness of them.

In “Sex and the College Girl,” the choices were myriad, novel, and full of potentially far-reaching consequences. Female students faced decisions about who to date, what to offer physically and emotionally, and how much to hold in reserve for how long. Beyond that immediate horizon stretched a broader array of opportunities and potential pitfalls: children, careers, and all of the self-betterment and intellectual rigor their educations were preparing them for. Commitment and marriage, in a sense, presented an out—a sense of certainty, a solid support system. “Joe has a future,” Johnson wrote. “He knows exactly what he is going to do after graduation … The decision about [the college girl’s] life keeps her awake at night, but when she is with Joe things make more sense.”

Two years later, in “The Captivity of Marriage,” Johnson described the constrained choices of the women who stuck with their Joes. Now juggling the responsibilities of raising children, keeping a house, and engaging in “community or P.T.A. work of some kind,” married women “feel … like a pie with not enough pieces to go around,” Johnson wrote. But the new responsibilities and family and community ties did not put the “undefined dreams” of their younger years to rest; instead, the wife and mother “vaguely feels that she is frittering away her days and that a half-defined but important part of her ability is lying about unused.” That feeling of dissatisfaction, Johnson observed, was coupled with the lingering “quality of excitement that comes from strangeness and the idealization of still-unknown experience” that made the concept of sex with an unfamiliar partner attractive. But those choices, which would take women away from their husbands and children, were now taboo. In their place were new choices, more limited but still unfamiliar and consequential. “Choosing a house and everything that goes into it, and a school, and a competent doctor are decisions that the young mother makes without adequate knowledge,” Johnson wrote, “and she can ill afford mistakes.”

She described the fallout from one error in judgment a year later in “A Marriage on the Rocks,” an article published in the July 1962 issue of The Atlantic. “The moment when it first becomes apparent that one’s marriage was a mistake,” she opened the piece, “is the beginning of probably the longest, darkest period in the human lifetime.” She chronicled the slow fracturing of a union that, to the college girl, had carried a promise of lifelong certainty in an otherwise unknown future. Unhappiness settled in and grew unbearable as the relationship devolved into “the endless opening of wounds … capitulating one’s beliefs … [and] adjusting oneself to the dismal and baneful workable compromise.” But choosing to break free of  that unhappiness meant exchanging it for a new, unknown one, defined by a sudden and “terrible feeling of having no one around on whom to blame everything.”

Johnson expressed the frustration of seeing a marriage fail while knowing that, with the newly available options for women to marry for love and to define more aspects of their life and work, “all of us … have the potential to become the greatest lovers on earth.” She wondered: “All this freedom and opportunity are breathtaking. Do we deserve them, and can we possibly live up to their obligations?”

Divorce loomed large in Johnson’s life. Her parents’ marriage ended when she was 6 years old, and they moved to separate coasts, leaving Johnson to shuttle back and forth between her mother’s New York home and her father’s star-studded Hollywood life for much of her childhood and adolescence. “My heart begins to tear, a long ragged rent which I have spent my life trying to mend,” she reflected in her 1982 memoir You Can Go Home Again, looking back on the dissolution of her family. She recalled how her mother’s attempts to become “an elegant divorced lady in a lovely house in the most exciting city in the world” transitioned into a second marriage to a possessive man who resented Nora when she returned home for a time as an adult after her own first marriage failed.

By the time she turned 32 in 1965, Johnson had already been married, divorced, and married a second time herself. In The Atlantic’s June 1961 issue, in which “The Captivity of Marriage” was published, she was introduced to readers as “happily married and the mother of two daughters.” When “A Marriage on the Rocks” was printed in the July 1962 issue,those details were omitted from her introduction. By the time she published You Can Go Home Again at the age of 59, her second marriage had also ended in divorce. In that sense, she fulfilled the melancholy predictions of “Sex and the College Girl” twice over.

But she had also built a successful career as a writer of novels, memoirs, articles, and, once, in collaboration her father, a movie based on The World of Henry Orient. Decades later, in an essay for The New York Times, she wrote about something she hadn’t predicted: finding love again. Johnson “was a long-divorced 71”; George was 83 and “recently widowed.” He became her third husband. “What astonished us,” she wrote, “was that the electricity we generated was as strong and compelling as love had been 50 years before, that it scrambled the brain every bit as much. Yet more surprising was that we had a rousing and delightful sex life.”

They still faced daunting choices and disappointments. At first they lived together in Florida, but they grew bored and moved to New York, only to grow bored there too, and be cold, and miss Florida. They dealt with natural disasters and health problems. They had difficult conversations. And then, seven years after they met, George died.

All Johnson’s stories resist the neat closure of the happily ever after. The security that Joe seems to present in “Sex and the College Girl” proves illusory; love degrades, fractures apart, or abruptly ends. “Marriage, entered upon maturely, is the only life for most women,” Johnson wrote in 1961. “But it is a way of life, not a magic bag of goodies at the end of the road.” Even old age, retirement, and George, who she said “brought joy and magic to my life,” don’t put the uncertain possibility of other paths to rest or stave off the sting of disappointment.

But her stories also resist the closure of a final failure. The college girl grows up, gets married, gets divorced, gets married again. She makes the wrong choices and then gets to make new ones. “This, then, is what the result is for a girl who has been brought up in a world where the only real value is self-betterment,” Johnson concluded in 1959. “She has had to create her own right and wrong, by trial and error and endless discussion.”

This is the story that Johnson wrote again and again, for several decades, until she died in 2017: There’s no happily ever after, or any ever after at all, but there’s happiness. Heartbreak. Regret. Magic. Surprise. Her extraordinary work was also a life lived, and recorded in pieces, over decades of love stories.

Complete Article HERE!

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There’s no room for double standards in the bedroom

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Lessening a woman’s value based on her sexuality is degrading — especially in the bedroom

By Payton Saso

Donald Trump is America’s most hated or loved man, depending on what side of the spectrum you’re on, and his deeply rooted misogyny is apparent in all levels of American culture.

While awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Trump praised him for having lots of sex, but not without making a comment to Scalia’s widowed wife — “you were very busy.”

At first glance, this just seems like another one of Trump’s poorly-timed, unnecessary remarks. In reality, this is an example of how the double standard of men and women, especially in the bedroom, is so skewed even as adults.

It’s time for the double standard surrounding sex to end — including the sexual hierarchy that favors males.

Ian Moulton, an ASU professor of English and cultural history, said that this double standard is due to hundreds of years of society seeing a women’s place as in the home. 

“What has happened over time, is that the work that men do is valued more than the work that women do,” Moulton said. “Men go out and do work that is seen as important or responsible or powerful and traditionally that’s been rewarded with some sort of payment. Whereas women’s work has been seen as unpaid work: you take care of the kids.”

A woman’s place is not confined to a household anymore — and society has begun to accept that. 

Research with the Florida Atlantic University found that, “Men are usually allowed more sexual leniency and are evaluated with more acceptance and tolerance relative to sexual behaviors and number of sexual partners when compared to women who engage in the same behaviors.”

Heterosexual sex is often seen strictly as something a man does to a woman. While it may be a consensual, two person act, the woman’s role is diminished because the focus falls on the pleasure of men and less on that of women. 

When sex is seen as something men are in control of, it can have harmful repercussions and even change the way men and women view sexual health. Research in connection with Pennsylvania State University found that women who view men with a traditional gendered role in society were less likely to use condoms. 

“Findings suggest the importance of examining gender’s role in sexual behaviors and beliefs by assessing multiple gendered attitudes, rather than simply considering biological sex,” the research stated.

When men and women act how they are “supposed” to act, then gender roles begin to seep into the bedroom. Just because women need to be viewed as equals when discussing sexuality, it doesn’t mean a woman is always ready or comfortable to have sex — or that they will voice this discomfort.

The stigma around women’s sexual activity and identity should not be diminished. 

Men tend to assume that their needs align to the needs of their sexual partners, and whether it’s a late night ‘booty call’ or at a party, it’s still an assumption. Whether a woman has two, ten or twenty sexual partners, her character or quality of life should not be viewed as less than a man’s.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Having Sex With Women Taught Me About Myself

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By Tanya Compas

Until I was 23, I had only ever slept with cis men and always felt conflicted when it came to sex because on one hand, I love it – like, really love it – but equally I was scared to enjoy it because of the stigma attached to being a sexually active woman. From a young age, a woman’s sexual agency is policed by society and I found myself sleeping with men to validate my femininity – often men who would play upon my insecurities. After some unhealthy relationships with men, at 21 I consciously became celibate to find out what I actually wanted from relationships. At 23, I realised Hey, I think I might like women too.

Soon after, I went on my first date with an androgynous woman I met on Tinder. After a few drinks at a rooftop bar, we hit a club and I ended up in an Uber back to hers. My celibacy came to an end that night. From that moment, the way I viewed myself, my sexuality, my body, my sexual agency and gender changed.

The unwritten rules of dating and sex in the hetero world rob women of their sexual agency; I didn’t realise just how little agency I had over my own sex life until I began dating women. I realised I was either abstaining from sex out of fear of being seen as a ‘hoe’ or having orgasm-less sex because I prioritised a man’s pleasure over my own. I’ve since had to spend a lot of time unpacking and unlearning the toxic behaviour and language I inevitably picked up through my years of heterosexual dating, in order to have healthy relationships with women.

One of the biggest things I have learned since sleeping with women is that there is no shame in being a fluid person. My gender expression is both masculine and feminine. Yet when I was dating men, my femininity became a performance because in my head the man already ‘fulfilled’ the masculine role in the relationship, so I felt like I had to hyper-feminise myself and hide my masculinity. This continued to play out as I dated the first woman I slept with. She was androgynous and masculine presenting, so I found myself once again performing my femininity. Every time I saw her, I’d wear tight dresses and makeup, and during sex I became a ‘pillow princess’ – receiving, never giving pleasure. I’m not going to lie, it was a role I was happy to play because shit, I deserved orgasms after my years of having none

It was weird that having sex with a woman felt natural; it didn’t feel awkward and for once I wasn’t squirming to hide my body. But I was still trying to hide my masculinity. Not because I was told by the girl I was dating that I had to fulfil the feminine role or that she didn’t like to receive pleasure, but I couldn’t shake myself from the heteronormative gender roles or realise that relationships could exist outside of this binary, same sex or otherwise.

Having sex with women has also made me feel comfortable enough to explore sex and the various ways of receiving pleasure, from switching between dominant and submissive roles to different positions and the use of toys. While I’m now a proud owner of a plethora of sex toys, when my ex-girlfriend took me on a surprise date to a sex shop to buy my first toy – a strap – I did a double take, thinking Omg what if somebody sees me? I felt so embarrassed going into the shop; evidently, I still carried so much shame around sex. I was avoiding eye contact with absolutely everybody, while my ex was grabbing dildos, asking me which size and colour I wanted. I was just like, “Fam, I do not know”. She asked a shop assistant for help and I swear at that very moment I wanted the ground to eat me up. Which is ironic because here I am writing a very public article about my sex life. What do we call that? Growth.

As I grew more into my queerness and became more comfortable expressing my fluidity, I began to notice how misogyny, sexism and gendered thinking still exists within the LGBTQ+ community and how the way I presented myself dictated my own experience within the community. Now, as a more masculine presenting person, I have found that some women will assume I am the ‘dominant’ person in bed and adopt the role of the ‘man’. While there are women who are happy to play that role, I’m not one of them. A couple of years ago, a girl I was dating asked me to ‘strap’ her (have sex with a strap-on dildo) the first time we slept together. I had a strap but we’d never spoken about it – I’d only ever used it with my ex-girlfriend and to be honest, she strapped me more than I did her – so this girl must have assumed I had one and that I wanted to take the ‘dominant’ role in bed. Wrong. I like to throw it back, too.

Sex with women has shown me intimacy and reciprocity in ways that I never had with men and has given me levels of body confidence I never knew I could reach. I’ve had my naked body described in ways I’d never imagined; my vulva, which I’ve always been embarrassed about because it doesn’t look like the ‘perfect pussy’ you see in porn, no longer brings me shame.

It sounds really cheesy but I’ve never had my body complimented in the way I have had it complimented by women. My unfiltered naked body, appreciated in ways I didn’t know I deserved. Through seeing the beauty in other women, I was able to see the beauty in myself. Women have shown me compassion, intimacy and acceptance. I am my most vulnerable during sex and have seen my fluidity stripped bare. Without clothes, my fluidity is still valid. I’m now at a point in my life where I’m happily in love with a woman who has both affirmed my fluidity and allowed me to explore what it means to me, without shame.

Through sleeping with women I’ve learned that there is no shame in having sex and we should normalise speaking about it. During sex, you need to communicate. The moment I rid myself of shame, I was able to communicate what I liked in bed, how I liked to be pleasured and importantly, what I wanted from the relationship. Without the need to lie, manipulate or shame. Was it just sex? A one-night stand? A relationship? Communication really is key. The more I communicated what I wanted, the more orgasms I had. Sleeping with women not only gave me my voice; it gave me the orgasms I deserve.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Our Skeletons Say About the Sex Binary

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Society increasingly accepts gender identity as existing along a spectrum. The study of people, and their remains, shows that sex should be viewed the same way.

Stanislawa Walasiewicz won the gold for Poland in the women’s 100-meter dash at the 1932 Olympic Games. Upon her death, an autopsy revealed that she had intersex traits.

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She wasn’t especially tall. Her testosterone levels weren’t unusually high for a woman. She was externally entirely female. But in the mid-1980s, when her chromosome results came back as XY instead of the “normal” XX for a woman, the Spanish national team ousted hurdler María José Martínez-Patiño. She was ejected from the Olympic residence and deserted by her teammates, friends, and boyfriend. She lost her records and medals because of a genetic mutation that wasn’t proven to give her any competitive advantage.

People like Martínez-Patiño have been ill-served by rules that draw a hard line between the sexes. In the U.S., the Trump administration looks set to make things worse. According to a memo leaked to The New York Times in October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to set up a legal binary definition of sex, establishing each person “as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” But our bodies are more complicated than that.

An increasing recognition of this complexity by researchers and the public has affirmed that gender sits on a spectrum: People are more and more willing to acknowledge the reality of nonbinary and transgender identities, and to support those who courageously fight for their rights in everything from all-gender bathrooms to anti-gender-discrimination laws. But underlying all of this is the perception that no matter the gender a person identifies as, they have an underlying sex they were born with. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of biological sex. Science keeps showing us that sex also doesn’t fit in a binary, whether it be determined by genitals, chromosomes, hormones, or bones (which are the subject of my research).

The perception of a hard-and-fast separation between the sexes started to disintegrate during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. In the decades that followed, we learned that about 1.7 percent of babies are born with intersex traits; that behavior, body shape, and size overlap significantly between the sexes, and both men and women have the same circulating hormones; and that there is nothing inherently female about the X chromosome. Biological realities are complicated. People living their lives as women can be found, even late in life, to be XXY or XY.

Skeletal studies, the field that I work in as a doctoral student in anthropology, and the history of this field show how our society’s assumptions about sex can lead to profound mistakes, and how acknowledging that things are not really as binary as they may seem can help to resolve those errors. Trump and his advisers should take note.

If you’ve ever watched the TV series Bones, you’ve heard Temperance “Bones” Brennan, the show’s protagonist and star forensic anthropologist, call out to her colleagues whether the skeleton she’s analyzing is male or female. That’s because sex distinctions are very helpful to know for missing persons and archaeological sites alike. But just how easy is it to make this determination?

In the early 1900s, the U.S.-based anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička helped to found the modern study of human bones. He served as the first curator of physical anthropology at the U.S. National Museum (now the Smithsonian Institution). The skeletons Hrdlička studied were categorized as either male or female, seemingly without exception. He was not the only one who thought sex fell into two distinct categories that did not overlap. Scientists Fred P. Thieme and William J. Schull of the University of Michigan wrote about sexing a skeleton in 1957: “Sex, unlike most phenotypic features in which man varies, is not continuously variable but is expressed in a clear bimodal distribution.” Identifying the sex of a skeleton relies most heavily on the pelvis (for example, females more often have a distinctive bony groove), but it also depends on the general assumption that larger or more marked traits are male, including larger skulls and sizable rough places where muscle attaches to bone. This idea of a distinct binary system for skeletal sex pervaded—and warped—the historical records for decades.

Two pelvises with drastically exaggerated differences—a man’s shown on the left and a woman’s on the right (identified in Lithuanian)—illustrate how sex was estimated skeletally in the early 1900s

In 1972, Kenneth Weiss, now a professor emeritus of anthropology and genetics at Pennsylvania State University, noticed that there were about 12 percent more male skeletons than females reported at archaeological sites. This seemed odd, since the proportion of men to women should have been about half and half. The reason for the bias, Weiss concluded, was an “irresistible temptation in many cases to call doubtful specimens male.” For example, a particularly tall, narrow-hipped woman might be mistakenly cataloged as a man. After Weiss published about this male bias, research practices began to change. In 1993, 21 years later, the aptly named Karen Bone, then a master’s student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, examined a more recent dataset and found that the bias had declined: The ratio of male to female skeletons had balanced out. In part that might be because of better, more accurate ways of sexing skeletons. But also, when I went back through the papers Bone cited, I noticed there were more individuals categorized as “indeterminate” after 1972 and basically none prior.

Allowing skeletons to remain unsexed, or “indeterminate,” reflects an acceptance of the variability and overlap between the sexes. It does not necessarily mean that the skeletons classified this way are, in fact, neither male nor female, but it does mean that there is no clear or easy way to tell the difference. As science and social change in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that sex is complicated, the category of “indeterminate sex” individuals in skeletal research became more common and improved scientific accuracy.

For generations, the false perception that there are two distinct biological sexes has had many negative indirect effects. It has muddied historical archaeological records, and it has caused humiliation for athletes around the globe who are closely scrutinized. In the mid-1940s, female Olympic athletes went through a degrading process of having their genitals inspected to receive “femininity certificates.” This was replaced by chromosome testing in the late 1960s and subsequently, hormone testing. But instead of rooting out imposters, these tests just illustrated the complexity of human sex.

It might be more convenient for the U.S. federal government to have a binary system for determining legal sex; many U.S. laws and customs are built on this assumption. But just because it’s a convenient system of classification doesn’t mean it’s right. Some countries, such as Canada, and some states in the U.S., including Oregon, now allow people to declare a nonbinary gender identity on their driver’s license or other identification documents. In a world where it is apparently debatable whether anti-discrimination laws apply to sex or gender, it is a step in the wrong direction to be writing either one into law as a strictly binary phenomenon.

The famous cases of strong, athletic, and audacious female athletes who have had their careers derailed by the Olympic “gender tests” exemplify how misguided it is to classify sex or gender as binary. These women are, like all of us, part of a sex spectrum, not a sex binary. The more we as a society recognize that, the less we will humiliate and unnecessarily scrutinize people—and the less discriminatory our world will be.

Complete Article HERE!

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How genes and evolution shape gender – and transgender – identity

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There are many genes involved in shaping not just our biological sex, but also our gender identity.

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Mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, culminating in its severest form as gender dysphoria, has been ascribed to mental disease, family dysfunction and childhood trauma.

But accumulating evidence now implies biological factors in establishing gender identity, and a role for particular genes.

Variants – subtly different versions – of genes linked with gender identity might simply be part of a spectrum of gender and sexuality maintained throughout human history.

Transgender and gender dysphoria

Some young boys show an early preference for dressing and behaving as girls; some young girls are convinced they should be boys.

This apparent mismatch of biological sex and gender identity can lead to severe gender dysphoria. Coupled with school bullying and family rejection, it can make lives a torment for young people, and the rate of suicide is frighteningly high.

As they move into adulthood, nearly half of these children (or even more when the studies are closely interrogated), continue to feel strongly that they were born in the wrong body. Many seek treatment – hormones and surgery – to transition into the sex with which they identify.

Although male to female (MtF) and female to male (FtM) transitions are now much more available and accepted, the road to transition is still fraught with uncertainty and opprobrium.

Transwomen (born male) and transmen (born female) have been a part of society in every culture at every time. Their frequency and visibility is a function of societal mores, and in most societies they have suffered discrimination or worse.

This discrimination stems from a persistent attitude that transgender identification is an aberration of normal sexual development, perhaps exacerbated by events such as trauma or illness.

However, over the last decades, growing recognition emerged that transgender feelings start very early and are very consistent – pointing to a biological basis.

This led to many searches for biological signatures of transsexualism, including reports of differences in sex hormones and claims of brain differences.

Sex genes and transgender

In the 1980s I was swayed by the passionate advocacy of Herbert Bower, a psychiatrist who worked with transsexuals in Melbourne. He was revered in the transgender community for his willingness to authorise sex change operations, which were highly controversial at the time. Aged in his 90s, he came to my laboratory in 1988 to explore the possibility that variation in the genes that determine sex could underlie transgender.

Dr Bower wondered if the gene that controls male development might work differently in transgender boys. This gene (called SRY, and which is found on the Y chromosome) triggers the formation of a testis in the embryo; the testis makes hormones and the hormones make the baby male.

There are, indeed, variants of the SRY gene. Some don’t work at all, and babies who have a Y chromosome but a mutant SRY are born female. However, they are not disproportionately transgender. Nor are the many people born with variants of other genes in the sex determining pathway.

After many discussions, Dr Bower agreed that the sex determining gene was probably not directly involved – but the idea of genes affecting sexual identity took root. So are there separate genes that affect gender identity?

Evidence for gene variants in transgender

The search for gene variants that underlie any trait usually starts with twin studies.

There are reports that identical twins are much more likely to be concordant (that is both transgender, or both cisgender) than fraternal twins or siblings. This is probably an underestimation given that one twin may not wish to come out as trans, thus underestimating the concordance. This suggests a substantial genetic component.

More recently, particular genes have been studied in detail in transwomen and transmen. One study looked at associations between being trans and particular variants of some genes in the hormone pathway.

Studies of twins help us learn about the genes involved in determining identity.

A recent and much larger study assembled samples from 380 transwomen who had, or planned, sex change operations. They looked in fine detail at 12 of the “usual suspects” – genes involved in hormone pathways. They found that transwomen had a high frequency of particular DNA variants of four genes that would alter sex hormone signalling while they had been developing in utero.

There may be many other genes that contribute to a feminine or a masculine sexual identity. They are not necessarily all concerned with sex hormone signalling – some may affect brain function and behaviour.

The next step in exploring this further would be to compare whole genome sequences of cis- and transsexual people. Whole genome epigenetic analyses, looking at the molecules that affect how genes function in the body, might also pick up differences in the action of genes.

It’s probable that many – maybe hundreds – of genes work together to produce a great range of sexual identities.

How would “sexual identity genes” work in transgender?

Sexual identity genes don’t have to be on sex chromosomes. So they will not necessarily be “in sync” with having a Y chromosome and an SRY gene. This is in line with observations that gender identity is separable from biological sex.

This means that among both sexes we would expect a spread of more feminine and more masculine identity. That is to say, in the general population of males you would expect to see a range of identities from strongly masculine to more feminine. And among females in the population you would see a range from strongly feminine to more masculine identities. This would be expected to produce transwomen at one end of the distribution, and transmen at the other.

There is a natural range in masculine and feminine identity.

This occurrence of a range of differing identities would be comparable with a trait such as height. Although men are about 14 cm taller than women on average, it’s perfectly normal to see short men and tall women. It’s just part of the normal distribution of a certain human characteristic expressed differently in men and women.

This argument is similar to that which I previously described for so-called “gay genes”. I suggested same–sex attraction can readily be explained by many “male-loving” and “female-loving” variants of mate choice genes that are inherited independently of sex.

Why is transgender so frequent then?

Transgender is not rare (MtF of 1/200, FtM of 1/400). If gender identity is strongly influenced by genes, this leads to questions about why it is maintained in the population if transmen and transwomen have fewer children.

I suggest genes that influence sexual identity are positively selected in the other sex. Feminine women and masculine men may partner earlier and have more kids, to whom they pass on their gender identity gene variants. Looking at whether the female relatives of transwomen, and the male relatives of transmen, have more children than average, would test this hypothesis.

I made much the same argument to explain why homosexuality is so common, although gay men have fewer children than average. I suggested gay men share their “male loving” gene variants with their female relatives, who mate earlier and pass this gene variant on to more children. And it turns out that the female relatives of gay men do have more children.

These variants of sexual identity and behaviour may therefore be considered examples of what we call “sexual antagonism”, in which a gene variant has different selective values in men and women. It makes for the amazing variety of human sexual behaviours that we are beginning to recognise.

Complete Article HERE!

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The new war on gender studies

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Although there is a global war on gender studies, women’s movements around the world continue to resist. Here people shout slogans during a protest at the Sol square during the International Women’s Day in Madrid, March 8, 2018.

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Recently, a bag thought to contain a bomb was left outside the National Secretariat for Gender Research in Gothenburg, Sweden. The dynamite-shaped device inside turned out to be a fake, but the intent to threaten and scare was clear.

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, expressed her grave concerns, saying some scholars are more exposed to hatred and violence than others.

Lately, we have witnessed global story after story of government rollbacks on abortion provision, LGBTQ rights and now the closure of entire programs devoted to women’s and gender studies. It is part of the populist playbook in places like Poland and Hungary.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsinaro put it bluntly in his inaugural address on Jan. 2. He will fight the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy.”

The war on gender studies is a pillar in the authoritarian critique of liberalism. But for many scholars, it is a sign of the times for liberal democracies as well.

Proponents use “gender ideology” and “gender theory” as a catch-all to oppose marriage equality, reproductive rights, sexual liberalism and anti-discrimination policy generally. In their book, Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe researchers Roman Kuhar and David Paternotte note that several parts of Europe are facing new waves of resistance to “gender theory.”

This trend is a global concern, part of a neo-traditionalist turn in how we meet the challenge of sexual rights and gender identity in the 21st century.

Spike in hate crimes

The extreme reaction against gender and sexual equality is indicated by the spike in hate crimes against sexual minorities, in brutal acid attacks and in the countless #metoo testimonies. It has seeped into the policies of traditional conservative parties all over the world who cozy up to right-wing populists to salvage popular support.

In Ontario, the sex education curriculum has come under attack. Such straightforward things as teaching teens sexual consent and LGBTQ family structure have become political.

Social media companies have also engaged in moral panic. Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram have disproportionally limited online spaces of sex positivity and consensual erotic expression in the name of Community Standards.

A continuous battle

Anti-gender studies campaigns have a long history in all parts of the world, and they have long moved outside the borders of increasingly authoritarian regimes.

In this 1979 photo, Bella Abzug, left, and Patsy Mink of Women USA sit next to Gloria Steinem as she speaks in Washington where they warned presidential candidates that promises for women’s rights will not be enough to get their support in the next election.

These new campaigns transcend borders. They unite Catholics with Evangelicals, secularists and the devout. They challenge academic integrity while shoring up government policy limiting reproductive rights, propping up a particular image of the family as natural and universal. Although they take on the appearance of a popular movement, they are often stage-managed and supported by popular politicians. The Vatican’s role has been vital, with Pope Francis going on record at World Youth Day in 2016 saying gender theory is a form of “ideological colonization.”

A product of the social movements of the New Left, women’s and gender studies departments (many are now gender and sexuality studies programs) never shied from the difficult task of exposing structural violence and inequality through systemic studies of sexual violence, harassment, labour and racial inequity, citizenship, war and militarization.

Although not without its own blind spots — feminist researcher Chandra Mohanty famously pointed out the U.S. imperialism and colonialism within western feminist movements — feminist studies have weathered various storms to hold universities, government and corporations accountable for failing to uphold minority rights around access to power, representation and equality.

But the appeal of this illiberal backlash is great. Although chiefly the preserve of right-leaning parties, even Ecuador’s former leftist president Rafael Corrêa trumpeted the claim in 2013 that feminists, LGBTQ activists, and gender warriors were actively mobilizing against traditional values.

The austerity measures in Europe and the U.S. of the mid-2000s put added pressure on gender studies departments in the U.K. but also globally to prove their mettle.

A new wave of violence

The anti-gender studies movement has not been without violence. Professors, like Paula-Irena Villa, chair of Sociology and Gender Studies at the Ludwigs-Maximilian-University of Munich, receive hate mail after speaking about gender equality with the media. Feminists are regularly trolled online. Calls to report teachers have surfaced in the U.S. and Germany.

Last November, prominent queer theorist Judith Butler was attacked by a mob in Brazil to protest her visit as “a threat to the natural order of gender, sexuality and the family.” Anti-Butler demonstrators, mobilized via social media, took to the streets of Sao Paulo. They burned her likeness in effigy, a practice that conjured the inquisitorial history of targeting witches, Jews, heretics and sodomites. Far right groups followed her and her political scientist partner Wendy Brown to the airport where they were targeted with more slurs and well-worn charges that leftists, Jews and sodomites were behind the threat to traditional values.

Newlyweds Thais Lococo Hansen, 32, left, and Catarina Brainer, 28, share a kiss, as their son Pietro, 3, looks on during a group marriage of forty same sex couples in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Dec. 15, 2018. With the election of ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro as president, hundreds of same sex couples began to marry.

This new war on gender studies is not solely targeted at the “threat of cultural Marxism.” It is not the preserve of fledgling democracies. Its reach is comprehensive and broad. It is part of a new kind of culture war that targets research in gender and sexuality.

It is a backlash against sexual liberalism in all its forms. It might seem most obvious in arguments against sex education and universal bathrooms. But it is no less active in the hypocrisy of social media conglomerates in regulating sex positivity in the name of child protection.

At precisely the moment of increased visibility for feminist, sex positive, and LGBTQ-desiring people, even the staunchly egalitarian jargon of the social mediascape has fallen prey to fear mongering and moral panic.

The pessimist in me sees dark times ahead. The historian in me knows that backlash and opposition breeds resilience. Here’s hoping the historian wins out.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk About Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

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Everything you need to know about three distinctly different things.

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When it comes to public understanding and acceptance of various gender identities and orientations, much-needed discussions are finally being had. The future is indeed non-binary, but it’s okay if you are still learning the correct language to use to keep up with the discussion. For instance, what is biological sex, gender identity, and what’s the difference between the two? And to top it all off, what does sexual orientation have to do with any of it? Three sex and gender therapists and experts break it all down here.

How Sex is Defined

Nope, we’re not talking about the physical act of getting it on. “I define sex from a biological standpoint,” explains sex educator and trauma specialist Jimanekia Eborn. “It is something that doctors put on your birth certificate after you come out of the womb, based upon what your genitals look like and the particular set of chromosomes that you are given.”

Generally speaking, if you are born with a penis and XX chromosomes, your sex is labeled as “male” on your birth certificate. If you’re born with a vagina and XY chromosomes, it says “female’ on your birth certificate. As sex therapist Kelly Wise, Ph.D. points out, there are also intersex folks, or those born with a variety of conditions in which their reproductive anatomy and/or chromosomes don’t match the traditional definitions of female or male.

The Difference Between Sex and Gender

Not everyone’s gender identity matches the sex they are assigned at birth. “Gender is a socio-cultural concept of the way that people express themselves,” Dr. Wise says.If you’re cisgender, it means that the gender you identify with matches the sex assigned to you at birth. For trans folks, their gender identity does not match what was assigned at birth. Others use labels like non-binary (an umbrella term for someone who doesn’t identify on the gender binary as either male or female). Gender fluid describes someone whose gender fluctuates and may have different gender identities at different times. Basically, there are as many ways to express gender as there are people in the world.

If you’re wondering about your own gender identity, Dr. Wise, who is trans, reminds that there is no need to hurry to put label on yourself and that it’s okay to take your time, or change the way you describe your gender over time. “There is so much space to be an individual,” he says. “[Gender] ends up being one factor about you and not your whole defining exhibit. There is no rush to figure it out and you don’t have to limit yourself.”

What “Sexual Orientation” Means

One important thing to remember is that gender and sexual orientation are completely different. Gender is about your personal identity and expression, and sexual orientation simply refers to who you are attracted to. “I don’t think anyone would assume that a woman is automatically a lesbian or automatically bi,” says sex therapist Liz Powell, Ph.D. “We wouldn’t assume that a cisgender man is automatically gay—we look at them and don’t think that their gender necessarily determines what their sexuality should be. The same applies to people all across the gender spectrum.”

You may have heard a trans, non-binary, or genderfluid person describe themselves as “queer,” and think, well, doesn’t that mean that you’re gay? While the term “queer” is indeed significant to the LGBTQ community, as Dr. Powell explains, queer can mean anything that isn’t one hundred percent heterosexual and one hundred percent cisgender.

TL; DR: Sex is biological. Gender is a social construct, and each of us gets to decide our gender identity based on what we know to be true for us. And orientation simply means who you’re interested in dating and is entirely separate from biological sex and gender identity.

Complete Article HERE!

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