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20 October 2008 @ 05:50 pm
I apologize most sincerely if this is, in fact, a big fat pile of insult. It's not the intention.  
OK, so this something that has actually been on my mind for quite some time. While I welcome feedback from everyone, I would especially appreciate a response from gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender since it's a question about how you grew up.

I asked this question of a co-worker several months ago, and he took offense to it (but did not let me know this at the time, but brought it up several months later when he was getting reprimanded for gossiping at work) which really, really surprised me because I had not expected that reaction at all. It just didn't occur to me that the question was a "bad" one. So if this question does offend you, I do apologize.

The question I asked was When did you first realize you were gay?, something I've always wondered about. I mean, when I was a kid my mom would say things like "When you grow up and get married, your husband will blah blah blah" and I would hear about marriage and relationships with 'man and woman' as the norm. I didn't really know about gay people until 5th or 6th grade, which I realize is probably not normal, and I never knew anyone who were openly homosexual until the end of high school or start of college. But my understanding in those years was that homosexuality was in the minority, the 'other' option. To my knowledge, no one is raised from baby on up with the expectation that they will be gay. Many parents will tell their children it's okay to be straight OR gay, like, "When you grow up and marry your husband OR your wife-" but never do they say to a little boy, "When you grow up and marry your husband." (If this is incorrect, again, please let me know.)

So it would be my understanding/assumption that at some point there must be a moment where one looks around and realizes that that no, they are not following the cultural majority and they don't like the opposite sex in that way but prefer their own gender. Does this epiphany happen? If yes, would you mind sharing what it was like? How old you were and that sort of thing. If it doesn't happen, and from the womb you know you're gay as my co-worker implied (Actually he responded to the question with "Well, when did you realize you first liked boys?" and I thought he was joking, because he was very rarely serious and so I laughed and said something like "When I got my first crush in 4th grade!"), then how did you reconcile this knowledge against the cultural standard that boys marry girls and vice versa?

Or did everyone talk about homosexuality a lot more than my family did, and I'm being an ignorant crazy weird person again?


PS - Also, in any other work environment I would not ask this question. But at that store conversations about sex and sexuality were unusually common, and the few gay people I had known up to that point told me their moment-of-realization stories quite casually without my prompting it by asking, so it just hadn't occurred to me that it was a controversial question.
Mel Marshmelsmarsh on October 21st, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Your coworker really needs to chill out because its a perfectly legit question since many people don't realise they are gay or trans until they are older! Most people unless they have an LGBT family member or close friend usually doesn't get information about LGBT stuff!

Did I ever send you my therapist's survey? One of the questions is the same as yours and I will copy and paste part.

When did you first become aware that you were gender variant (different in regard to your gender identity than most people) and how has that awareness developed over time?

I remember being five years old or so and stating I was a boy and having my parents beat me to unconsciousness, a crime that I have still not fully forgiven them for although I understand their fear. Then when I was 10, I found out that other gender variant people existed. Specifically, I learned about the filmmaker Ed Wood who was a cross-dresser. (He also made the movie “Glen or Glenda.”) My parents told me that some boys wanted to be girls and there was something called a “sex change.” Since I had been thinking of myself as more of a boy than a girl for just short of forever, I was hoping Santa (or whatever) would give me one of these “sex changes” for Christmas. I guess he forgot to put the surgeon on his sleigh, so then I asked for my birthday (which is in July) and my parents said girls can’t become boys, only boys can become girls. I figured I was the only one who wanted to go in reverse.

The gender issue stayed with me and I was a bit depressed. I did learn more about these mtf people and learned that that many of these “men” liked men and thus the surgery made them straight (this was back when everyone was seeking to normalize transfolk). Since I did like men (boy crazy at age 5, what can I say?), I was starting to wonder if maybe I was wrong. I figured I was just a tomboy or something then. Throughout high school, I lived as an androgynous female and dated a lot of boys, especially those who were a bit femme. The high school rumours were that I was a lesbian based on how I walked, talked, etc.

I got married and went to college. In my junior year, I was helping this gay male friend with one of his class projects. (It should be noted that this friend and I were having sex even though he was out as gay. He couldn’t figure out why he was suddenly attracted to a girl.) The project was about how gender and sex, etc are different and how they are separate from orientation. So I asked him about it and he said for example there were masculine women who felt they were men as well as the opposite. My ears perked and I whispered “So there are others like me?” He looked very confused, told me to check it out online, and went off to class. When I went home, I googled “boys in girls bodies” and a site came up talking about gender identity disorder, I learned so much and I immediately knew that was my “problem” and after I learned more the rest is history. I really was a femme gay boy and not a butch straight girl. And I have felt so much better ever since. I hate myself a whole lot less now that I know I am not completely crazy.

Does this help? I can send you the rest of the survey if you like.
Suzik00kaburra on October 21st, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
That does help a great deal, thank you! (And I am horrified that your parents thought that beating you would somehow help the problem.) If you don't mind I would love to read the rest of the survey. E-mail is fashion.piranha at gmail.

Also, something else you may be able to help me figure out. In California we have Prop. 8 on the ballot this November, which would change California's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, eliminating same-sex marriage.
If you lived here and this amendment passed, your marriage would be fine since you still have the 'F' on your driver's license, but once you began the medical changes would your marriage become void or would it stay the same because it happened when you were still physically female? Do you know of any legal precedent for this sort of situation, and what the result was?
Mel Marshmelsmarsh on October 21st, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
Before one of my friends transitioned, he asked Lambda Legal to advise him on the state of his marriage. According to them, if the marriage contract was valid at the time of signing it would remain valid once his sex change was completed. That is from the legal standpoint.

However, there are lots of court cases where the court rules on genetics and marriages are annulled or ruled as invalid. Whatever you are for that dictates what sex you can marry. Here is Littleton v. Prange : http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/370 which you might want to read.

I will send you the rest of the survey. It's a bit long.
madame sosostrisshantih on October 21st, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
My first guess is that perhaps he took it as offensive for political/ideological reasons? I have a vague impression that the debate of choice vs genetic destiny is a highly fraught one with respect to the issue of sexual orientation.
fashion_piranhafashion_piranha on October 21st, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
I wonder if that was it, at least in part. I am the token Christian conservative at work.
creatorpunksaturn on October 21st, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
Firstly, I don't understand how someone could take that offensively.. You were just trying to gain some insight..

That being said, I think that his response of "When did you know you liked boys?" is actually a valid and common response when most LGBT people are asked that very question. And, well, it makes sense in some ways.

I think that we are culturally trained from a young age as to what our specific gender and sexual definitions should be. I think most parents go with the assumption that their child is heterosexual, simply because that is more common. So, from a young age, we are conditioned to like the opposite sex. If a little boy befriends another girl at say, a summer camp, their parents will say, "Oh, look, he found a girlfriend!" etc.

However, think about it. When did you first start feeling SEXUALLY attracted to boys? Probably when puberty started, right? All the hormones kicking into overdrive. Straight boys start noticing girls and girls' bodies, and they become little horn dogs.

I think the same is true for LGBT folks. Around puberty, our hormones start kicking in, but, instead of being sexually attracted to the opposite sex, we start lusting after the same-sex. Whereas some may have had an inkling as to their same-sex orientation before puberty, I think that it is at that point that it really becomes apparent.

We have a bit more of a confusing time, though, because all of our lives, culturally and socially, we have been conditioned to impress the opposite sex. So, it takes some reconciliation in our own minds and behaviors. Some people don't have a problem and do it instantly. Others have a bit more of a difficult time, and that is why some people stay "in the closet" for an extended period of time. Although it may take them a while, I firmly believe that the point they 'realized they were gay' was at the same point in time (puberty.) Whether they admit it to themselves and others is a whole 'nother story.

Lengthy response, I know, but hopefully it helps :)
fashion_piranhafashion_piranha on October 21st, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
That was extremely helpful, thank you! I hadn't thought through the puberty connection much and that does make A LOT of sense.
Mel Marshmelsmarsh on October 22nd, 2008 03:04 am (UTC)
I don't know about you, but I started checking out boys and men at the age of 5 years old. There was no doubt in my mind.
blackmage runs with daggers.ruien on October 22nd, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
I'm also pretty sure that in common language, the phrase would have gone "when you grow up and get married", most people assuming their kids are straight...
No, my family didn't talk about it at all, and when I was 19 my mother near well killed me because my brother announced I was a lesbian. This is ironic in 2 ways:
1. he was lying his ass off to drop me in it
2. I was seeing a girl, they just didn't know it.

I think the logical point to be CERTAIN that you're sexually abnormal would be when the hormones come into play and you realise one side or another just doesn't do it for you, but it does vary according to the situation.

Some people are homosexual due to variations in body and brain chemistry and notice their abnormality earlier, as early as age 3 or 4, and some don't until well into their lives, while others go into denial until the day they die. Apparently it's still politically incorrect to say this. Something about if you're gay you've always been gay and it's who you are, not DNA or chemistry *shrug* I've always thought that your chemistry is what makes you who you are. and everything else is just factors that affect your chemistry.

Depending on the environment you grew up in and your social circles, it may or may not be until you're of an age to consider copulation before you realise there is a term for people like you and that it's not a unique affliction. I personally don't remember when that subject first came up for me. I'm under the impression that I slipped easily into accepting homosexuality on my first encounter with yaoi fanfics, so there must have been some point before the disgusting school talks about "gender confusion syndrome" we had where the subject was presented to me.

I do suspect that girls notice their attraction to girls earlier and less easily than boys though, because while it's perfectly within the realms to norm to be a straight girl and still appreciate another girl's beauty and attraction, but not so much to be a guy and realise Brad Pitt's sexual magnetism.

Also, i agree, your co-worker's overreacting. doesn't sound like he's comfortable with the subject.