August 31, 2012

Free to Be You and Me vs. Gender Claustrophobia

I've been thinking a lot about gender claustrophobia lately and this week in particular. And not just gender claustrophobia as in me, a woman, feeling choked by stereotypical notions of what it means to be a "man" or a "woman," but in terms of how the multitude of labels for various gender identities out there can feel choking and confining too.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I first came across the term gender claustrophobia in the context not of "straight" people but among queer people who felt constrained by all the limited understandings of "homosexual," even within their own communities. I've always felt freer in queer communities, but the fact that within those too there's gender claustrophobia: well, that really struck me. It hit right home.

August 23, 2012

Clearing Space for Children To Explore Gender {featured resource}

In We Can Give Them Words: Clearing Space for Children To Explore Gender, Anna Cook of The Feminist Librarian offers her own positive advice and an overview over further resources for parents to normalize gender, sex, and sexuality variance for their children. Excerpt: "Don’t conflate gender expression with sexual preference. Our culture does this constantly, whether in the assumption that princess boys will grow up to be gay or that women who are butch sleep exclusively with lipstick lesbians. [...]

Sexuality in the adult sense is something we grow into. It’s a process. And presuming adult sexual preferences for a child — whether it’s teasing them about a playground “boyfriend” or assuming their gender non-conformity will lead to same-sex desire — is unfairly boxing them into predetermined categories. [...]

August 14, 2012

Talking Sexual Fluidity with My Preschooler

I've had an ongoing discussion about her body and sexuality with my daughter before she could verbally talk. Most recently, that conversation has broadened to address the wide range of sexual fluidity among people. The "new" normal is that there is no "normal," as Dr. Peggy Drexler points out. People experience a wide range of gender identity and sexual orientation, and expressions of gender and desire vary.

Yet, people have an urge to label; to fix into neat categories. I get that "labels can be a good way to build community and find yourself, but they can become a problem if someone feels restricted or constrained by them," as the blogger of "monochrome in the 1960s" puts it. I've always felt constricted by them. When I was doing research on gender and sexuality in Norway a few years back, I came across the term gender claustrophobia. And not just among women and men feeling pigeonholed as "cisgender" or "straight" — walking manifestations of a heteronormative culture — but among queer women and men who felt constrained by limited understandings of lesbian and gay, even within their communities.

August 7, 2012

We Are Family: Sex and Developmental Disabilities

This past weekend, I took my four-year-old to a Summer Fun Day Picnic at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA), a local school and home of many children and adults with developmental disabilities where my husband works as the family support services director and volunteer coordinator. This past spring, we offered a workshop to his colleagues on sex and developmental disabilities, and we've been asked to organize another one this fall, specifically to share curriculum and ideas with staff on how to teach clients about their bodies and sexuality.

In fact, I don't have too much experience interacting with people with developmental disabilities, but I believe firmly in their sexual rights. Sadly, all too many stereotypes linger around people with developmental disabilities, denying them ownership of their bodies and a healthy relationship with their sexuality. As is commonly reported in research on this topic, the fact that individuals who have developmental disabilities are also sexual beings is often overlooked by those who care for them, including guardians, support staff and even healthcare professionals.
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