Happy Pride Recovery Week!
I happily join millions of Americans this week in celebrating the historic civil rights decision by the Supreme Court that recognizes same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry. This battle has been hard-fought and has taken far too long, causing gay and lesbian individuals and couples to suffer under the pall of bigotry and second-class citizenship. Straight people have suffered as well by living n a divisive legal and cultural environment. Ultimately, no one benefits from discrimination, even those that ostensibly hold privilege.
That being said, and in the same spirit of celebrating diversity, I want to take a moment to examine the impact this decision may have on the larger cultural understanding and discussion of sexual, gender and relationship diversity. Many say that any civil rights advancement furthers the progress of all oppressed peoples. Others – a great many of them in the queer community – say that normalizing gay marriage could actually be bad news for other sexual minorities. How could this be?
Marriage is an old institutions based on traditional norms of gender and monogamous fidelity. Helping the nation expand its awareness of a marital unit to include same sex couples subtly is the crowning victory for what some would say is an “assimilationist” movement in the gay community – an attempt by gay people to become “just like straight people.” Thus, the bright line between what is normal/acceptable and abnormal/unacceptable has been moved, but is no less bright. Who remains on the other side? Bisexual people struggle every day with defying the binary thinking that pervades our culture; polyamorous people face criticism and misunderstanding everywhere; transgender, genderqueer, and nonbinary folks are no closer to being embraced than they were before the SCOTUS decision. That’s not to mention the minorities we never hear about – asexuals, aromantics, sapiosexuals – the list goes on. Does marriage equality slow down or silence the ever-essential cultural conversation about the staggering diversity of sexual, gender and relationship orientations?
Our culture must evolve a stronger value system of non-judgment and acceptance of those whose experiences, identities and preferences differ – even radically – from our own. So while some people roll their eyes at the constantly-expanding LGBT... acronym, I welcome it! Here is a glossary, for your reference, of (just some of) the marvelous creatures (and their descriptive terms) walking around in our midst, starting with a handy visual diagram of just how complex this all is:
Gender non-conforming: Someone whose gender expression is different from societal expectations of perceived gender
Non-Binary: Someone whose does not understand or define their gender identity in binary terms (as a plotted point on a straight line between “male” to “female”)
FTM: Female-To-Male transgendered in some combination of identity, dress, behavior or appearance
MTF: Male-To-Female transgendered in some combination of identity, dress, behavior or appearance
Gender Identity: Internal sense of gender
Genderqueer: Does not identify as entirely male or female
Cissexual (“bio boy” or “bio girl”): Someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Intersex: A state in which a person is born either with indeterminate genitalia and/or reproductive organs, and/or a variant chromosomal make up.
MSM: Men who have sex with men (not necessarily the same as someone who identifies as “gay”)
WSW: Women who have sex with women (not necessarily the same as someone who identifies as “lesbian”)
Outing: Exposing information about someone’s non-normative sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual preferences withoutout consent
Passing: Indicates being perceived as the gender one identifies with
Transition: Described period during which a transgender person begins to express their gender identity
Two-Spirit: A reference to historical multiple- gender traditions in First Nations/Native American cultures
Cross-dresser: Someone who dresses as the opposite gender, usually only some of the time, but does not necessarily identify with that gender
Asexual: someone who does not experience or chooses not to act on sexual desire.
Aromantic: someone who does not have traditional or culturally-normative longing for romantic partnership or companionship
Sapiosexual: Someone who is primarily sexually excited by perceived intelligence in their partners.
Demiromantic and Demisexual: Someone who only experiences romantic/sexual attraction to people with whom they have a close emotional relationship.
Kink: A fetish that brings pleasure, usually but not always sexual in nature.
BDSM: Bondage, Discipline & Sadomasochist sexual or relational dynamics. This involves roleplay and identification with “top”, “bottom” or “switch” roles.
Lithromantic: Someone who experiences sexual or ramantic auttractionw ithout the need for it to be reciprocated, or who does not enjoy sexual and romantic gestures by others.
Polyamorous and Polysexual: Someone who believes in or consensually practices having multiple sexual or romantic partners simultaneously. Nonmonogamous.