Don’t Fence Me In: thoughts on autonomy and freedom in sexuality and gender

Sinclair Sexsmith challenged me and some others to write on the topic of sexual/gender autonomy and freedom as part of the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy, edition #15.   This is a topic near and dear to my heart and something I have almost endless energy and fascination about.  Not only do I welcome the opportunity to write on this topic, I’m really looking forward to reading what others have to say.  Though I have strong opinions about sexuality and gender as they apply to me, I always learn something from the experiences and opinions of others.

Autonomy: personal independence; the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision; a person’s ability to make independent choices.

Freedom: the quality or state of being free: as a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

For me sexual/gender autonomy and freedom are ultimately about self-determination.  We should each have the freedom to not only choose our identity labels at any given time, but change them as we wish.  I don’t know about you, but my notion of who I am has changed a helluva lot since I came out as a lesbian at seventeen.

For the first part of my sexual life, that label and the expected behaviors associated with being a lesbian fit me.  I had no desire or need for men in a sexual way.  At the same time, I also didn’t relate much to ‘butch’ because of what I saw as a restrictive set of behaviors associated with that label: being less open sexually and emotionally, and taking on what I saw as mostly negative masculine behaviors.

My perception of myself with regard to sex, gender and associated labels has changed a lot in the almost 30 years since I came out.  I left the black and white viewpoints of my youth and entered a realm of grey shades and colors.  I’ve learned from others, and applied that learning to myself, over and over again.  I’ve found that not only is the world truly not rendered in a black/white, right/wrong, male/female binary, but I’m not either.  I think that’s true of a lot of people, maybe all of us.  I believe if we were less afraid of what other people think, we’d be much more open to seeing ourselves in less binary terms.  Insecurity is the root of so much negative feeling and action.  At this point in my life, I recognize in myself a blending of genders and sexualities, and have rejected the either/or mentality that I find unnecessarily limiting.  I am happy and at peace with my dual-gendered self.  I’m happy with the body I’m contained in but recognize and respect that other’s don’t have that comfort level.  I’m in awe of the lengths people will go to bring their physical selves in line with their identities.

The labels I choose for myself now are butch, queer and genderqueer.  Sexually, I suppose I’m predominantly lesbian and potentially bisexual but I don’t feel a lot of affinity for those labels.  I prefer to use queer to describe my sexual preference and behavior because I think it does a fairly good job holding my lesbian, bisexual, kinky and perverted inclinations in one place.  Because, believe me, even if I had sex with a man, it would be queer sex. 

I don’t want to limit potential sexual partners on the basis of a gender binary that I no longer feel is valid.  I am attracted to people because of their attitudes, mannerisms and interests and don’t want to start with gender as an initial filter. 

There are people who want to cry foul over using labels in ways that don’t seem to agree with expectations around those labels.  I get caught up in that myself sometimes, so I know how easy it is.  We all want it to be easy, to know what to expect and to know what kind of behavior is acceptable without much work.  That’s perfectly human.   However, it’s not my responsibility to make things easier for you to deal with, anymore than it’s your responsibility to make yourself easier for me to understand.  I know that if I want to get to know someone, or have them know me, we both need to invest some time into exploring each other, listening and understanding how we each define ourselves.  But ultimately, I can’t make anyone understand or accept me, so I have to let that go and not let it control how I live.

With that in mind, I am butch. I am a masculine woman.  I am a guy wrapped in a woman’s body.  I am always working toward understanding and integrating my gender-selves into the individual that is me.  I enjoy and appreciate more and more the different expressions that my feminine and masculine selves present.  I love being the gentleman and rogue, opening doors and sweeping women off their feet.  I also love opening up to my partners emotionally and physically, letting myself be taken in the way I enjoy taking them.  I’m very happy to have a woman’s body and to radiate masculinity through it.  I am happy to be the butch who got pregnant, the guy who can hold his own at baby showers, the woman who can hang with the guys and ogle the pretty girls.  I love queering gender with my body and manner and attitude.  I don’t ask that anyone accept me as I am, I demand it.  And if you can’t or won’t, frankly, you’re missing out.  From my experience, interesting people are complex, and complex doesn’t fit into simple, tidy boxes.

My real wish is that we eventually come to a place where gender is truly recognized as a potentially fluid identity, not restricted by our physical bodies or our chromosomes.  I also hope that someday society accepts that sexuality should not be tied to notions of gender or identity labels.  I want us all to be able to choose partners on the basis of attraction, without guilt or reservation.

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9 Responses to Don’t Fence Me In: thoughts on autonomy and freedom in sexuality and gender

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