How to understand your sexual orientation: 18 questions and answers » LGBT Azerbaijan Gay.Az
How to understand your sexual orientation: 18 questions and answers
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How to understand your sexual orientation: 18 questions and answers

“IF I AM A LESBIAN - DOES IT MEAN THAT I CAN only like women? And if my partner comes out as a non-binary person - what then: should I stop liking her immediately? "," Can I consider myself bisexual if I have never had sex? Or if sex has so far only been with partners of the same gender? ”,“ Do I need to “prove” my orientation with practice? And if so, why is it not required of heterosexual people? " By 2021, many questions have accumulated around what we used to call "sexual orientations." Understanding modern answers.

DISCLAIMER: This story focuses more on aspects of sexual identity associated with preferred gender of partners. At the same time, asexuality and gresexuality, mono- and polyamorousness are also important components of sexual identity that require more detailed disclosure in subsequent materials.

Which is correct: "sexual orientation" or "sexual identity"?

Today, instead of "sexual orientation" you can hear more and more often "sexual identity" - many people find this term more convenient and relevant. Why? Probably due to the fact that many questions have accumulated about the "orientations". "Can lesbians and gays be non-binary?", "What will happen to my identity if my loved one starts a trans-transition?" specific experience? " Behind the term "orientation" is a long history of attempts to "diagnose" bi- or homosexuality from the outside: getting into personal life, private fantasies, or even into the human genome. But if we do not consider non-heterosexuality as a deviation (which needs to be “cured” or, conversely, “justified” through its “innateness”), is it necessary to create strict criteria of conformity?

The term "sexual identity" helps to remove many troubling questions and to recognize that homo, bi, pan or hetero are definitions that are needed primarily to make your life more comfortable and better describe your experience. This may be the experience of our inner experiences, sensations, fantasies, sexual and romantic attractions - or it may be the experience of actual relationships. In any case, all this experience - both manifested and secret - is known for certain only to us, therefore, only we ourselves can evaluate it.

But what about the "homosexuality gene"?

"Scientists have found the gene for homosexuality" - you may have heard something similar. In 1993, geneticist Dean Hamer did publish a scientific paper claiming that the Xq28 DNA region is associated with homosexuality. By the way, the researcher tested his hypothesis only in relation to men, and only homosexuals (without touching, for example, neither women nor bisexuality).

But Hamer's discovery was repeatedly criticized by other scientists, including for statistical unreliability, and the researcher's employee said that he published only sample data. In subsequent years, the question of the ethics of such research was repeatedly raised.

Nevertheless, the largest study of the genetic background of homosexual behavior with 477 thousand participants (almost half a million!) Was carried out in 2019. This time, the researchers included both women and bisexual people. What have you found out now?

Scientists have come to the conclusion that homosexuality or homosexual behavior may have certain genetic prerequisites - but the influence will not be one or several genes, but many. But even these combinations of genes can explain homosexual behavior only by 8–25% - but in fact, our interest in people of a particular gender or a particular gender presentation determines a complex complex of biological, psychological and sociocultural reasons.

And if it's simpler?

Let's compare our romantic and sexual passions with any other interest: for example, with an interest in music, mathematics or team sports. In some cases, such interests may have more pronounced genetic and other biological prerequisites, in some - more pronounced social ones. But as long as the interest in playing the violin, karate or chess is socially acceptable, we are not very worried about its reasons.

Also, if one person has an interest in music since childhood, another develops with age, and a third person becomes actualized in certain periods of life, this does not become a reason for feelings. Conversely, experiences can arise if in a particular society taboos are imposed on music lessons: for example, gender or class. It is clear that in a homophobic environment at a certain historical stage, attempts to find the "reasons" for homosexuality were dictated rather by humanism: "If we reveal that they are simply born like this, then we will recognize them as not guilty and leave them alone." But today the question is no longer simply posed in this way.

What sexual identities are there in general?

You've probably heard of bisexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality and pansexuality - these are the most popular terms. Nevertheless, on the Internet you can find entire mini-encyclopedias of various sexual identities, including, for example, autosexuality or sapiosexuality. Examining such lists helps some people to reflect on their own characteristics and, perhaps, choose the term that best describes their personal experience.

“Can asexuality be called an orientation? And what about polyamory? " - such questions often come up in conversations about sexual self-determination. The term "sexual identity" also helps to answer them, as it can include anything that describes your sexuality.

If a lesbian is heterosexual, will she stop being a lesbian?

Most likely, most lesbians on the planet have had sex with men. “It seems that in my generation of lesbians, almost everyone managed not only to try heterosexual sex, but also to get married. The majority did not have the opportunity to choose a different scenario right away, ”says fifty-seven-year-old Anna. A hundred or two hundred years ago, there were practically no options not to enter hetero-marriage, but this does not mean that gays and lesbians did not exist then. Today, a similar thing is happening in the most patriarchal regions, but even in conventionally "liberal" societies, heterocentric attitudes still apply to us. They can lead to heterosexual experiences even for those who are not particularly interested in them. It can be assumed that the ability to deliberately abandon heteroexperience often correlates with a more privileged position, young age, access to information, and a supportive environment.

The circumstances are clear. Or maybe a homosexual person himself wants heterosexual sex?

All this does not mean that a homosexual has the right to engage in heterosexual sex only when forced and in no case should he want it. Our sexuality is complex, and our needs and choices can be influenced by many different factors.

“When I already identified myself as a lesbian and realized that I wanted relationships only with women, I still had sex with men,” Katya shares. - Firstly, I did not immediately figure out where to meet other lesbians, but I wanted sex: it seemed that it was easier to get it with men. I felt desire and excitement, it was pleasant in my own way, I just understood that I would prefer to do it with a girl, if I had more choice. As soon as personal homosexual life improved, heterosexual sex also left. I experimented a couple of times, but I came to the conclusion that in my case this could be a one-time story at most: it is women who are attracted to me as permanent partners ”

Someone experiments in order to better understand themselves, someone shares identity and practices, someone simply experiences situational desires that they do not consider significant in their experience. The main thing: we should not make excuses for our experience and needs or “prove” our identity. "Why don't you identify yourself as bi if you were heterosexual (homosexual)?" - the answer to this question is simple: "Because I correlate myself and my collective experience with another identity."

If my partner or partner is aware of themselves in a new gender - should my sexual identity change?

It happens that a couple starts a relationship in the format “we are a pair of women”, “we are a pair of men” or “we are a heteropair” - but in the course of their life together, one of the partners realizes their gender in a new way. For example, starts transitioning as a non-binary person, transgender man, or trans woman.

What to do in such cases - each couple decides in its own way. Someone chooses to stop the romantic part of the relationship (for example, because the partner's presentation turns out to be a critical factor), someone finds that she or he is still comfortable in the union, even despite the changes. At the same time, some people choose a new name for their identity: for example, they begin to identify themselves as bi- or pansexual people, while others do not change anything.

In any case, your sexual identity belongs only to you - just as the gender identity of your partner or partner belongs to them.

It is, of course, important to talk to your partner and make sure your decisions are not motivated by transphobia. Again, if the term “sexual orientation” is more often associated with the gender of the partner (“What gender are you attracted to?”), Then people can define “sexual identity” based on past experience or even cultural ties.

“When Zhenya came out as a transgender man, it was not easy for both of us,” Marina recalls. - For me, the myth of the “ideal lesbian family” was crumbling, but it was difficult for him both with all the difficulties of transition and my rejection. We talked a lot, went to couples therapy and as a result came to a decision to be together. In doing so, I maintain my lesbian identity - this is an important part of me. Of course, for some transmen this could be a trigger, but my partner is fine with it. Although I know couples with similar histories, where people start to define themselves as bisexual, it is their choice. "

Can I call myself bisexual if I only had hetero contacts?

Oh sure. Just like you can call yourself bisexual if you only had contact with people of your gender or had no contact at all. You can identify as bisexual even if you spend your entire life with a single partner and never have a relationship at all (the same rule applies to homosexual and heteropoly people). Identity can include a person's meaningful past experience, or a hypothetical future possibility, or present feelings and attractions, or a sense of belonging to a community, or both.

“As a bisexual woman, I often use phrases like 'this is one of my heterosexuals ...' or 'in some of my homosexual relationships ...' - but I'm not very happy with them. Sometimes they help convey what is being discussed in a particular situation, but I am uncomfortable that my bi-identity is not visible behind them. Therefore, whenever possible, I try to say 'my bisexual relationship', 'bisexual sex' and so on - this is more about me, ”says Alla.

Inna also talks about the importance of visibility in language: “Both I and my husband are bisexual people. But from the outside we read as a heteropair. And this is a little offensive, because we both consider ourselves part of the LGBT community and want to maintain this connection at least symbolically. At some point we decided that we can call ourselves a queer couple, and this definition suited us very much. "

Even in relationships that are considered heterosexual by society, bisexuals and bisexuals do not associate themselves with heterosexuality. This means that they are also vulnerable to homophobia and the experience of this vulnerability can also be an important part of their identity. “If I see someone writing on the Internet that it is necessary to destroy gays, or hear homophobic insults on the street, I get scared, although it seems to be not about me. Just like homosexual people, I have to always remember that I am not a “normal” person by the standards of this society. Bisexuals and bisexuals are also subject to minority stress, we are stigmatized in our own way, ”explains Mira.

What is the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality?

Pansexuality and bisexuality are different concepts, although some people use both terms to refer to themselves. “I’m pansexual, but I often tell people that I’m bi - everyone knows this word for sure, and I don’t always want to go into explanations,” says Klara.

The most common definition of bisexuality is a romantic or sexual interest in “more than one gender” or “multiple genders”, and pansexuality is a romantic or sexual interest in people of “all genders” or “regardless of gender”.

It is worth mentioning that the term “pansexuality” is newer: “In fact, I could call myself pan, but I have lived with bisexuality for a long time and have become so close that I see no reason to rename myself,” explains Elena. By the way, although the root "bi" is translated as "two", this does not mean that bi-people see only two genders - this is also emphasized by the famous "Bisexuality Manifesto" of 1990. So this delusion is just one of the myths that exist around bisexuality.

“For some people, the argument about the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality is very meaningful, but to be honest, I myself am a little tired of it,” says Mira. - In recent years, I have been using both terms in relation to myself, and neither of them I feel as ideally suited to me, because I am a trans-binary person. But I celebrate two days of visibility: both bi and pan. I also like the colors of the pansexual flag better, so I use them. "

Can a gay or lesbian be non-binary

Yes, gays and lesbians identify themselves as non-binary people - more and more people are talking about such experiences. For example, someone retains a gay identity after realizing that they are non-binary, someone associates their lesbianism with the experience of female gender socialization. There are also people who use for themselves the definitions "non-binary woman" or "non-binary man" - this is another variant of the combination of homosexuality and non-binary. In any case, many find this combination of gender and sexual identities comfortable for themselves: “After all, gender non-conformity has been an important part of lesbian history,” writes non-binary activist Arlo Carragher.

“When I realized that I was not binary, I wondered if I could continue to define myself as a lesbian. And I came to the conclusion that non-binaryism does not in any way negate my lesbian identity and lesbian experience, and self-determination is needed, first of all, for personal comfort, ”explains Slava-Maria.

Can I consider myself pansexual, homosexual or heterosexual if I have never had a relationship?

Some people think that heterosexuality is the "default" option, but belonging to any other identity must be "proven". Apparently, this approach is associated with homophobic / biphobic attitudes about the "superiority" of heterosexuality over other identities. Of course, we can define our sexual identity as we ourselves feel it at a particular moment in time, maintain or change it.

What if I am sexually attracted to people of certain genders, but I want to have a relationship with others?

There are options. Someone in this case defines himself as a bisexual or pansexual person: "Interest in people of different genders is arranged differently for me, but each interest is significant to me." Someone considers only one of the “lines” to be truly valid - and defines themselves as homo or hetero: “There can be many triggers of sexual arousal, most of them formed irrationally in me - but in fact, as partners, I consider only people of my gender ". Still others distinguish between sexual identity and sexual behavior: "I am pansexual, but for now I choose to build relationships only with men" or "I am a lesbian, but in terms of sex I have different ways."

The fourth share their sexual and romantic identity: "I am heterosexual, but biromantic - I can platonically fall in love with people of different genders." We can also be asexual and at the same time homromantic, aromatic and at the same time pansexual, and so on.

What do my fantasies say about my sexual identity?

How our fantasies work is another story altogether. For example, it may be pleasant for us to fantasize about hard sex - but in practice, we do not want such an intense impact on our body. Just as it is pleasant for us to imagine ourselves as the heroine of an action game that we watched - although in reality we want to spend quiet evenings at home, and not go in search of adventure.

Some may get aroused by representing themselves or their partner in a different gender - but this does not always mean that we want a change in reality. By themselves, fantasies do not say anything about our real needs: for some people "pictures from the head" coincide with practice, for others they exist in parallel. The same applies to dreams about sex. We wrote about how sexual fantasies work here.

Can sexual identity change in the course of life?

Oh sure. First, our preferences may change: at different periods of our life, we may like people with different gender presentation, appearance and character traits. Secondly, we can understand our experience in a new way and understand that another name suits us better: we feel more connected with it, it better describes our intuitive sense of self and supports us more.

How do people know they are asexual?

Asexual people are those who are not sexually attracted (regardless of the gender of the other person). At the same time, asexuality is a spectrum and an umbrella term. For example, this "umbrella" includes greisexual people - those who define themselves "between asexuality and prosexuality" and experience sexual attraction only in certain cases.

People on the asexual spectrum may or may not have a romantic interest in others, have no interest in sex at all, or be interested in and practice it. “I define myself on the gray spectrum because when I have romantic feelings, it doesn't mean that sexual desire is connected to them,” explains Kai. Alex also says that he rarely experiences sexual attraction: “And I’m never attracted to the body or appearance of a person.”

If identities can be freely defined, wouldn't everyone be homosexual?

Most likely not: so far, any non-heterosexual identity brings a lot of social difficulties and people are unlikely to massively want to accept them without a good reason. But when people learn that identity is a voluntary matter, the task of “deciding once and for life” is not worth it and no one will expel them from the “party” for “non-partisan behavior”, it will become easier for them to be honest with themselves and others.

Isn't it dangerous to say that identity is a choice? It turns out that "propaganda" can work?

Is that the promotion of reflection, awareness and awareness. The more we know about the available choices, the more opportunities we have for self-exploration and self-determination. The more we know about different sexual identities and relationship options, the easier it is for us to choose for ourselves those that will make us happy.

It is impossible to "propagandize" to change the sexual identity of a person who is completely satisfied with heterosexuality "by default". That being said, people who define their sexual identity differently obviously need it. It is hardly possible to establish an exact list of reasons for everyone, but whatever these reasons are, they should be considered significant, since the person's decision itself validates them.

And let us recall the classic: it is much more appropriate to talk about “heterosexual” propaganda, because the images of heterosexuality are broadcasted to us everywhere through movies, books, music. Nevertheless, this did not and does not prevent people in homophobic or heterocentric environments from discovering their bi-, homo- or pansexuality.

Why name your sexual identity at all?

In fact, the main task of defining one's identity is to increase personal comfort. The options are different: “When I said to myself: I’m bisexual, everything fell into place”, “The lesbian identity is important to me, for me it is about the connection with the community and the subculture,” “I don’t think too much, I’m just comfortable and familiar, that I am gay ”,“ My personal history, my views and beliefs are behind my pansexuality ”.

People choose to call themselves one way or another in order to support themselves, appropriate their experience, feel like part of a group; to defend their social and political interests; to make it easier to find "friends" or by intuitive need.

But for some, comfort is giving up the choice of identity. “When I realized that I didn’t have to“ define ”and self-name, to hang a label on my entire experience, I felt a great relief,” says Alina. You can also ride a bike, enjoy riding, but not identify yourself as a cyclist. Of course, this is a very conditional and disproportionate analogy: in many cultures, the choice of sexual identity is much more politicized than the love of cycling. But in any case, you are not obliged to anyone "justify" your choice of identity or rejection of such a choice - the main thing is to listen to yourself and proceed from your comfort.

Due to lack of funding, the article was translated by google translator. Gay.Az editors apologize for the inconvenience*


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