Sex, Sexy, Sex,

The reproductive sex of a human body defines the experience of a person in the world.

This is what feminists separatists want us to know.

They are not wrong.

Every person who went through puberty with a female body remembers moments when, after their body matured, they were challenged by the gaze, the lust and the aggression of male bodied people who saw them as objects of desire.

That shared experience, combined with the shared possibility and call of being a mother, is wrapped in the cultural training and expectations that society has created for being female in the world.

Every transperson has to find a way to engage this truth.   I have heard transwomen claim that they were always female, always women, even though they didn’t share the experience of going through puberty as a woman.   I have heard others dismiss the whole concept of gender, calling the difference in experience irrelevant.

My own assertion is that sex & culturalization counts, but that who we are inside, the shape of our heart, counts more.   It is the content of our character, not the shape of our skin that defines us.    I am male, went through puberty as a male, but that doesn’t mean I am culturally a man.  Gender roles are based in choices, in cultural training, not simply on biological difference.  Showing myself as a woman is a more honest expression of my nature, a reflection of my heart, my vision and my choices.

Biological sex counts, though.   There is a reason that transwomen dream of being femaled, of being seen and understood as female.    We may want to be femaled only for the night, like a crossdresser or drag queen, or femaled forever, like a transsexual woman.

Being sexy is, I have found, rooted in our sex.

The experience of being sexed in the world is at the heart of being sexy for female bodied people, be that experience scary, offputting or lovely.  That sense of being seen as sexed is at the core of being seen as sexy, where we add attitude and accoutrements to the display of our body.

Because sex is an embodied experience, so is sexiness.   Without embodiment, sex is just a hypothetical idea, be that a teeny-bopper’s crush or a crossdresser’s fantasies.    Even romance novels seek to convey the embodied experience of perfected sensuality, from high heels & tight bodices to the eventual crashing of the surf inside our heart.

Our bodies determine much of our experience in the world.   Pretty is embodied.  Sexy is embodied.   When you ask students if they thought their life would be better if their body was better shaped for their sex, they almost always say yes, whatever they perceive that ideal shape to be.

We become typecast by our appearance as we learn what choices work for us.   It may be difficult for a petite blonde to pull off intimidating, impossible for a burly brunette to be effectively cute.    The boundaries on our expression become the bounds of our identity as we learn to work what we have got and hide what we find queers the deal.

Being cast in the sexual fantasies of another person, expected to play the role that they find hot while never surfacing anything that challenges their identity requires walking a narrow line.  The world is full of pushy bottoms wanting to keep control while transferring responsibility onto another person,  demanding that their own ego be fed at any cost.

Yet every truly intimate relationship is built on creating a safe space to get naked, naked physically, emotionally, mentally and creatively.   This is why all transpeople are politically bisexual even if we have well defined desires, because we want, we need our partners to embrace all of us, even the bits where our biology and history cross conventional assumptions.

The fear of failing to meet the expectations of others who desire us when we show another facet of ourselves is common to all women, but especially terrifying for transwomen who lack the basic training that comes from being seen as a girl amongst the boys.   We are constantly reminded of the dire possibilities that exist, even if considered statistics show us to be no more vulnerable to violence than other women. (2006)

Being sexy is far from simple for transpeople.  For we older transpeople, who grew up in a far less understanding and accepting world, one where we had to struggle even to find our own limited awareness, sexy isn’t something we can go back and pick up from out of the ashes.

Without a clear and consistent sex, having the kind of clear and consistent sexuality which gives you the standing to find the power in flirting is almost impossible.   This is why the dream of passing as the sex more associated with our choices will never go away, even if we understand that the cost of that passing is losing the strength of our multi-faceted stories as we struggle to police our choices and conceal our biology & history.

It’s hard to be sexy without standing, but without being sexy we can be denied the shadow of sex: love.

Unless people find us desirable in a way that they want to have physical intimacy with, how can we bond in deep ways?

Even if they find our shimmering titillating on some level, until they identify that intimacy as something they can be proud of, sharing it with friends and family, how will we ever be received as loved and lovable?

Sex is the basis of sexy, yes, but sex is also the flip side of love.

Our bodies shape much of the way that people respond to us, for good and for bad.    In a culture where breeding is paramount — a heterosexist culture — creating a primary and deep rooted division based around reproductive biology serves the economy and the power structure.

It also, though, attempts to deny non-breedstock the power of sexiness, a kind of eugenic force to erase marginal beauty.

That denial, laced in the narrative of deceit and panic, has not only denied us the power of sexy, of public and affirmed sexy beyond being erotic freaks, it has also denied us intimate and loving relationships.

Being sexy without love, starting with the love of your own sexuality, is impossible.

Impossible.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Sex, Sexy, Sex,”

  1. Yes, too true. Break my heart and make my life impossible.

    I have recently been carrying on an extended conversation on sexuality and sex with a friend of mine. I envy her, for being a woman who has grown up female. Break my heart. I have wept and wept, painful and healing tears.

    But I have determined, and this is no lie, that I am trans because I am to walk along this way in order to be a spiritual daughter of the Blessed Virgin Mary: unlikely fruitfulness, suffered for love of God. I must regard the world from this perspective, and do what I can to love. It is not *utterly* impossible. I discover womanhood from a different angle; surely that will count for something.

    "This is why the dream of passing as the sex more associated with our choices will never go away."

    No, it cannot, must not, will not go away. I am not allowed to forget. Not only passing as, but being, fully-thoroughly. I am not allowed to make my peace–though make my peace I must–in a way that will compromise the call that set me on this path to begin with, though the dream-pictured goal be impossible to attain in its imagined completion.

    I won’t deny sexual differentiation or explain it away as meaningless. I am not genderqueer, or a gender deconstructionist, even as my life calls into question received certainties about sex and being. I don’t buy the trans propaganda that denies the *tragedy* of my existence, situating all the difficult aspects *out there* in an oppressive society. (I say that, while rejecting all melodrama and self-pity. But come on: look at the tragedy! It is beautiful: look at the tragedy.)

    I make no apologies for the impossibility I present. I love my dear flesh, I love my body, and I love my whole being altogether too much to pretend that I am fully OK with the way that it is. Part of the way that it is, is that it is *meant* to be wrong, to seem that way to me, and deeply so: to strike me so and make me consider this impossibility from many angles as I move through life. If this is a disability–and the comparison is difficult to resist–I am not “differently abled,” I am disabled. Why mince words? It is woven into prayer, and becomes an offering to God.

    So I lead a celibate life, that is my response. It is my vocation, confirmed by, but not limited to, the fact that I am trans.

    Yes, lately small children have been making me smile, and breaking my heart more than they ever have before. Yes, I see a beautiful and radiant young woman stood next to her strong and luscious man, and some part of me wants that too.

    But it is not for me. This has happened throughout human history, that one could not have it, for one reason or another. I must be allowed the dignity of my sorrow, my tragedy, and my joy, all bound together into a life.

    I can’t stand the shrillness and immaturity of the trans agitators who tear it all open and demand “rights” and “visibility” in the political sphere, trampling over people who are moving too slowly towards their vision of trans acceptance, even when it is only because these people refuse or cannot deracinate themselves from the deep human realities of sex and sexuality and their trans-rational significance in our lives.

    And where, in these agitators’ vision, is there room for the inherent tragedy? I insist, there is no “cotton ceiling,” there is tragedy and impossibility. This pains me. This loud exposure threatens my dignity.

    "The first women of Carmel, as they endeavoured to find their identity, were not 'great souls'. They were, in the main, practical women, barely educated, ready to earn a living in whatever way they could within the enclosure. Often they had not originally chosen this lifestyle. They found themselves in it through circumstances which decreed that their survival as a community depended on their affiliation to an established Order.

    "Growing, searching, dependent on Carmelite priors who followed a different way of life, the nuns' path must often have seemed unclear, winding, suffering. But they carried on silently, digging and harrowing and planting the soil in their small area, recalling their spiritual orientation in the dedication of their houses: Our Lady of Jerusalem, Our Lady of Sion, the Three Maries, Our Lazy of Nazareth, St Mary of the Angels, St Mary of Paradise ... The Mother of God was with them in their hidden self-effacement. That sufficed."

    - Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, Land of Carmel

    1. The church used to take the position that we need to love the sinner and hate the sin, so as long as those who had same-sex desire stayed celibate they could be accepted into the fold. Only the so called “practising homosexuals” were sinning.

      For those called to celibacy it can be a powerful practice, but the notion that some people were just doomed to celibacy always broke my heart.

      I am abstinent, still in touch with my own sexuality, although not seeking or expecting a partner. The touch, gaze and warmth of another only exists in my imagination.

      Facing the real challenges of living a trans life rather than just papering the differences over with polemics has been at the heart of what I am doing with this writing.

      Thank you tenderly for adding your voice to that deep, profound and raw challenge of exposing souls and the hearts that beat to carry them.

  2. “This is my little adventure. I’m having a little adventure after years of nothing.”

    “Do you love him?”

    “Cal? (laughs.) I don’t know. But I love it. I love having someone to look pretty for. I love waking up and having something to look forward to, something fun and sneaky and sexy.”

    “He love you?”

    “He kinda likes me. Kinda hates me. It’s fun. He makes me forget about my invalid husband, my loneliness, the dreadful misplacement of my bosoms.”

    Adrienne Shelly’s “Waitress,” 2007

    “I was addicted, baby. I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

    Adrienne Shelly’s “Waitress,” 2007

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s