Note: This post was originally published as an article in the TALGBTIC newsletter, written as a response to questions from peers and allies within the mental health community after the Orlando shooting. It continues to apply in our day to day actions.
How many times have you seen someone profess allyship with no follow-through in their day to day interactions? Prayers and thoughts are always welcome, but love for others lies in our day to day behavior.
And I get it, I do, it can feel awkward to be supportive if you aren’t sure how. Do you attend the vigil you see posted on Facebook? Show up at a rally or meeting? Do you worry that you are gate crashing where you don’t belong? But I promise you this…professing your allyship with no follow-through is far more hurtful then bumbling a bit in your allyship response. Here are some ideas to get started and get involved:
Just wanted to say thanks to Amy at THE LOVE SHACK in San Antonio, Texas, for hosting my book signing on Saturday! It was a fun event for my new book, THE REVOLUTION WILL INCLUDE COOKIES. If you would like a signed copy, they are available here.
One question I always get when I am training and I pull out my favorite zines is “What’s a zine?” Excellent question! Zines are essentially pamphlets. Small-Circulation, self-published, long form essays or collections of other writings or media. They are born of the punk rock movement…a way of reclaiming media and voice at a grassroots level. You can read a more in-depth analysis on them here. I love zines. They are inexpensive, pocket-sized, easy to read, and often say things that mainstream media won’t say. I use them in my teaching and in my private practice. I also write them:
Dr. Faith’s 5 Minute Therapy Series
My zines are put out by Microcosm Publishing and are available through their website. If you saw one that isn’t listed, it’s likely because it sold out (they sell out quickly!) and is being awaited from the print shop. Holler at me, I may have a copy or can at least ask when they are back in stock. I cover a range of topics and produce new ones whenever I have time to sit down and be a typewriter monkey. The most popular topics are anxiety, anger, and adulting.
Then the second question I get is where did you order all the zines you are showing us? Can’t you put all the links online? Totally, and fair enough. I’ve pulled out and sorted a bunch of my zines and I’m dedicating my newt few blog posts to this topic. Let’s start with the mental health and wellness zines! By the way, these are in no particular order other than the order in which I pulled them out of the pile.
If you have a zine that you think belongs on this list, and you want to send it to me to read, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org for my snail mail address!
Touring With Mental Illness
An accessible DIY guide for self care strategies while on the road - including depressive/manic episodes in van, food difficulties when not at home, packing lists, tips n tricks, & *so important* tools bandmates & pals can use to support someone with mental illness. You don’t have to be a musician to benefit from functional ideas to support recovery!
In a time when sexual assault and abuse are an increasing problem; even in so-called radical and punk communities, and when most women have been sexually abused in one way or another, Cindy Crabb (Doris Zine) brings us a document showing ways to prevent sexual violence and support survivors of sexual abuse.
I Don’t Know How To Help You
This is a compilation of writing exploring the difficulties in supporting loved ones with depression, and not knowing how to ask for help when you are the one suffering. This is a resource of assistance and compassion, of true ache and optimism in the face of crushing blues.
How Not To Kill Yourself
Are you inclined to escape the crumminess of everyday life into fantasy worlds? Are you smart and imaginative in a way that isn't really suited to your surroundings? Are you definitely misunderstood, likely angry, and almost certainly depressed? Set Sytes, hailing from the UK, would prefer you stay alive and sort things out rather than the alternative, thanks. He figures there are better opportunities for you out there and lays it all out in a way that's compelling, funny, sharp, and useful.
How To Not Give A Fuck About A Thing That Is Not Worth Your Precious Time
A mini guide on making your life better by not giving fucks about things you shouldn't be worrying about. Which seems like a simple idea but, as says this zine, "the reality of not giving a fuck is pretty hard for most of us."
Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care
In activist circles and elsewhere, it has become commonplace to speak of self-care, taking for granted that the meaning of this expression is self-evident. But “self” and “care” are not static or monolithic; nor is “health.” How has this discourse been colonized by capitalist values? How could we expand our notion of care to encompass a transformative practice?
The Do It Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad
Self-described as an "anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life." Gnade's book looks at the root causes of sadness, anxiety, and general malaise/boredom and offers helpful point-by-point suggestions (in list form) and short essay pep-talks on how to move beyond your demons for a better, smarter, happier life. Like a letter from a trusted friend in the trenches, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad will work with you through all phases of your life, thick and thin.
Simple Steps To A Life Less Shitty
A continuation of the work started with his Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad, Adam Gnade's new pamphlet is a series of peptalks and how-to's on dealing with the overwhelming bullshit of modern life. From list-keeping as a survival skill to battling sleep anxiety, finding the wild heart inside you to kicking your life-long depression in half like a cheap ceramic statue, these tips, lists, and essays show a path toward a better, smarter, freer life.
Shit's Fucked: A Positivity Guide is a very small self-help pamphlet by Gina Sarti, who is perhaps the punk rock Sark. It’s fun, concise, and full of little reminders we need all the time.
Stressed and Overwhelmed
If you're the sort of person who takes on every project and responsibility until suddenly it's one thing too many and you get completely burnt out and drop everything and start the cycle again from scratch ... this zine is for you. Includes hard-won pointers on how to train yourself to have more sustainable work habits (using tricks from dog training!), shore up your professional boundaries, and get more organized so you can have a better handle on all the things you are very likely to continue taking on.
That’s Not OK: Boundaries For The Conflict Avoidant
“What’s a boundary?” you might be wondering. But even if you understand emotional boundaries, reflecting more on them can help you live a less confused and happier life. In short, a boundary is telling someone what you are and are not comfortable with, telling people no and setting safe, comfortable limits in your daily life. As the author puts it, having boundaries is the difference between a restaurant having a menu or not—your friends, family, and lovers know what is on the table or not.
Open In Case of Emergency
A personal look into living with a mental illness. Issue one focuses on the need for help and the battle for self identity after receiving a diagnosis.
I’ve essentially been radio silent on social media regarding political issues. Cuz I’m just so tired, y’all. I’m tired of being told that I SHOULD be afraid of sharing the restroom with a woman who happens to be trans but I SHOULDN’T be afraid of men like Brock Turner.
I’m so tired of everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
I am so tired of my family, friends, and clients being scared into silence and hiding when they were just starting to gain voice in the world.
I didn’t enter this weekend feeling good about the world we live in right now. But then I woke up this morning, and it was far worse. I was ready to drink my coconut milk decaf coffee and have my gluten-free breakfast treat with my morning paper before I headed into the office. Instead I was immediately flooded with news about what happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. Details are still emerging, but we do know for sure that this is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 lives lost and at least that many more wounded.
My phone was blowing up with texts from friends all over the country, begging me to be safe. To bring security when I attend and/or host fundraisers for the LGBT community. Or to not go at all. Then I got a text from my best friend, telling me it was time for me to write about all that is going on. To talk about what intimacy means in times like this. When we need intimacy the most. As always (and this is why he is my very best friend), he was right.
Because we talk about intimacy as if it were synonymous with sex. And sex is the fun part of it, for sure. And I have so much fun writing about that topic. But where the world is now? On the precipice of enormous change or doubtless self-destruction? The importance of intimacy takes on a far broader meaning.
Intimacy is connection. The shared strength of relationship. That we are ten-fold more powerful together than we are alone. And this kind of intimacy is the only way we can face our fears. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted a biblical verse this morning, hours after the news of the shooting, that was as follows:
Do not be deceived:
The tweet was subsequently removed (likely by the sole staff member at the governor’s office with some semblance of intellect and self-preservation), but you know what, y’all? I happen to be in agreement with Mr. Patrick. In the reality of his message, if not the ideology and intent implied in his post. I agree that pulling away from each other is a mockery of God’s love and that it causes us far more pain in the long run.
And if instead, we connect with each other? If we choose intimacy over fear? Then we are sowing the peace we so desperately need.
Please don’t think I don’t know how fucking hard this is, what I am suggesting to do. I know. I know because as of late, I have been seriously debating moving to Costa Rica. I’m scared too. So ridiculously scared. But instead? I’m doing the following things the very best ways I can. And I see people around me doing the same. Please join us in:
1) Creating safe spaces. If being out in the community feels threatening for you, or the people you love, look at new ways of creating places where you can be in community. I saw comments on social media today, calling for the organization of house parties for people who didn’t feel safe at clubs. The idea being, we won’t be isolated in our fear. We simply change the locale to protect ourselves as need be.
2) Helping others. We make pots of soup and bake loaves of bread. We volunteer to bring our neighbors to their polling station on election day. We speak up for each other in public spaces. We guard the fucking bathroom doors when someone needs to pee. We make sure, with everything we say and do, that those around us knows they are not alone. We are connected and will prevail.
3) Asking for help. Do you know what is harder than helping others? Letting others help you. It is the best gift we can give someone, letting them care for us. Being cared for builds far more intimacy than taking care of. Ask for the help you need. Accept it with the gratitude it deserves.
Ask a friend to meet you for coffee, to come watch Netflix with you, to sit with you on the phone and tell you the world will make sense again.
When I finally did get to my office today, I found my private practice partner had left me a Starbucks gift card and a note telling me how much she appreciated me. Her love made me feel like I could see clients again feeling hopeful about the world, so I could support them feeling the same. That I could, at least for one more day, back burner any thoughts of moving to Costa Rica.
This Thursday, I am attending the Candlelight Vigil hosted by the Pride Center of San Antonio. I will be there with my husband and best friend. And you, if you want to join us. We will stand with you in community.
And then next week, I will host a fundraising event with The Love Shack Boutique, a sex trivia night at Bar Louie, benefiting the same Pride Center of San Antonio that I will stand with in mourning this week. We will laugh and have fun and raise money for our community, within our community. Again with you, too, if you want to join us.
Thank you, Dan Patrick, for the reminder. I have no doubt of the goodness we will reap.
Audre Lorde was a Carribean born feminist, activist, poet, writer, and lesbian who died of cancer in 1992, at the same time I was just discovering her work. She is perhaps best known for saying “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” The original essay that quote came from can be found in her collection of essays and speeches, Sister Outsider (or online). The essential idea behind that quote, often heard but not as often understood, was that we cannot affect change playing by the rules that we had no voice in creating. These structures that surround us are designed to maintain oppression, not give us voice to rise up. The questions, then, become: How do we begin to get our voice back? and How do we learn to speak our truth with safety?
1. What are the words you do not have yet?
What experiences have you had for which there is no words to properly describe what has happened?
2.What do you need to say?
What are the things you have not yet shared? Maybe not even to yourself. Maybe because the words have not been available. List as many things as you need to list.
3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?
What do you take on that is not yours, no matter how often you are told that it is? What is imposed upon you that you suffer through in order to put food on the table? To remain connected to others? To survive? This list is ever growing and ever changing. Change the list as often as need be.
4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?”
What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best? What is the most likely? Is it worth speaking up right now? If not, what would need to change to make it worth it?
You probably have never heard of a dude named Pierre Janet. He was a French philosopher and psychologist who lectured at the Sorbonne and created the first model of treating trauma in the 1800s. He was also created the terms “subconscious” and “disassociation.”
The idea that our brains work at more than one level, and process and give feedback at all of these levels was not anything anyone had considered before. And what later became known as “hysteria” was what he rightly termed disassociation…the idea that the brain is going to protect itself from trauma and perceived trauma. It wasn’t crazy, it was adaptive.
The people in psychology you have heard of credit this dude for their work.
Freud and Adler both built their theories on Janet’s work. Jung studied with him outright then did the same. Janet was a straight-up brilliant bad ass. He wrote a ton of epic stuff, but his best known work is likely Psychological Healing, published in 1919.
Janet’s work informed the seminal work of current trauma treatment movement, Judith Hermann’s Trauma and Recovery, which was considered groundbreaking in 1992. Lisa Najavit’s Seeking Safety treatment protocol honors this book specifically. All other sequential trauma treatment modalities come from Herman, as well, whether credited or no.
And it all comes from Janet. Fucking ALL of it. Before we understood what was going on with the brain in a scientific way. Before even Freud asked what was up with yo’ mama. It was all Janet.
So many of his ideas are bearing out as truth as we use new technology to learn more about how the brain works. Other than the specific ideas of subconscious and disassociation, Janet was the first to posit that:
We are far into 2016 now. Shit, when did that happen?
All those other resolutions flew out the window weeks ago. Ok, let’s be honest…MONTHS ago. The sneaks are back in the closet and the tacos are back on the table. Because seriously, fuck Pilates and kale.
So it’s a good time to give your intimate relationships a little boost. Just as good for you in the long run, and goes a long way to soothe your guilt over that gym membership you never use. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
This doesn’t mean bitching at Boo more. It means bitching at Boo differently. Do you remember the Pythagorean theorem? You totally just recited “a squared plus be squared equals c squared” in your head, didn’t you? Did you ever use that out of school? Yeah, me neither.
You know what would have been way more helpful to learn? How to communicate with I statements. Try this on with your partner when you are all kinds of hacked off (or all kinds of thrilled, for that matter):
What I want is:
You know what this is? Being a grown-ass person who takes responsibility for their own feelings and actions and clearly communicates their needs. Rather than blaming Boo (You made me mad!) or doing the freeze out no talking thing (If you really loved me you would read my mind!)
That’s awesome shit right there.
And bonus points on this…Boo can’t tell you how to feel if you are taking ownership of it. It’s not right or wrong…it’s just what you feel. Adulting FTW.
And I don’t mean collapsed on the sofa, streaming Gilmore Girls on Netflix and eating ice cream in your stained sweats with Boo by your side, but real planned couples time. Your mate deserves to be wooed. And so do you.
This doesn’t mean fancy, it just means intentional. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk in the park, or ice cream cones at Lick, it means respecting your relationship enough to make time for it. The way you do everything else of importance in your life. Do you make an appointment when you go see your dentist? Plan in your schedule to run to Trader Joe’s for groceries? Isn’t Boo worth at least as much consideration?
Make a plan. To do something. Together. Once a week. It can even be home if that is how life is rolling right now. But make a plan. Not a Gilmore Girls default setting. Whether it be date night at Hot Joy, coffee at Rosella before hitting the latest SAMA exhibit, or Netflix and chill, do it in an organized way.
“Hey Boo. Tuesday’s are a pretty light day for us. I’m gonna get a bottle of wine and some take-out Pho. Let’s stream that movie we missed in the theatre that you were wanting to see on Tuesday.”
Date night. Not just for dating anymore.
This is stupid important if you and Boo share a living space. And ESPECIALLY if you have kids. Once a week you should each have a chance to escape the house alone and once a week you should have a chance to have the house to yourself alone. I know how hard this is to do, but if you make effort you will do way better than you are doing right now, I imagine.
It doesn’t have to be complicated time. Doesn’t matter if you want to go wander Target with a Starbucks in hand for an hour alone, we all need time that is just ours. Same with time alone in the house. Doesn’t matter if you do laundry and watch Mozart in the Jungle with the cat. The house. Alone. No judgments on how you spend that time. It’s all yours.
Mr. Intimacy Dr (the infamous Dan/Joe) is a writer. He’s good about putting on headphones and writing away while sitting on his bouncy ball (the one I replaced his favorite desk chair with to better support his back) while I am streaming Adele, arguing with the teenager, and banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Never mind my incessant phone ringing and booping through all this. Once a week I take the bratty teenager out with me to run errands, turn off the Google Audio Chrome and let him have the house in peace. He may actually write. He may take a bath, watch a movie, nap with the cat. But the time is all his with no judgments on how he uses that. We all need that time to reboot, recharge, and be good partners.
Keep Your Relationship In Your Relationship
I’ve talked about this before. Clearly this makes me nuts. But seriously, do the thing. I wrote that article in response to a few people I saw publically trashing their partner on a regular basis. Of course they didn’t read the article or think it applied to them, and that’s to be expected. But these same people? Increasingly miserable. Broken up with the aforementioned partner or quite nearly there. Always unhappy. Always complaining. Spending more time than necessary with their own therapists. Physically unwell, accident prone. Just…ugh.
Is this a magic cure for not tripping over sidewalk cracks? Of course not. But if you are connected to your authentic self, aware of what is important in your life, and intentionally making good decisions about you’re relationships? Life will be easier.
Life is already difficult enough, cupcake. For reals. Stop making it worse. And if Boo sucks that bad? GTFO.
Stop being happy only when you’re miserable. And stop bringing the people who care about you along for the ride.
Being A More Excellent You
When I asked on social media this week what relational resolutions people had, it was mostly my single friends that answered in detail.
(My partnered peeps said they had resolutions but to keep my nosy self outta their bidness…they must have thought it was a trick question about keeping your relationship in your relationship!)
Common theme in their answers: Being the best person they could be in order to be open to an excellent potential partner. Fuck yeah, rock star! Do you know what rocks? You not expecting a mate to fix everything wrong in your life. You doing that shit yourself. You know what happens when you are a jacked-up mess? Your bat signal attracts the same.
This is excellent advice whether you are single or already partnered. Actively work on your shit. That’s the theoretical point of New Year’s resolutions, amirite?
No one says you have to be perfect.
Dan/Joe loves me for my flabby belly and scrawny butt. Not because he finds them empirically sexy (but to each their own if that’s your thang). But because they are attached to someone who has worked hard to build a life they are excited about. We are both people with goals we go after with full force. We take responsibility for our fuck-ups and help each other be better people. This may mean never trusting him to take the trash out in the morning no matter how much he swears he won’t forget. But hey, healthy doesn’t mean flawless.
I have had clients come see me after being so fucking tired of ruining relationship after relationship because they hadn’t worked on their own shit. And it’s so cool to see them do that work and then, at some point, tell me with enormous surprise that they met someone amazing and are building a great relationship. “I told them about my history and they stuck around.” Of course they did. Because your history stopped defining you. And they know they are dating a human being working on their own shit.
And you deserve someone great. And they deserve someone as great as you.
So hit the Pilates and the kale if that makes you feel better connected to your body. Take a cooking class. Go to therapy. Learn French. Sign up for OKCupid. Go on a date that’s just a date.
Yes you have baggage. Your job is to carry your own rather than expect someone else to show up with a trolley.
I know, I know. That kale thing keeps rearing its ugly head. But other than that? What are your goals for your relationships? Any resolutions you want to share?
Shout out below or email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear what you are up to!
I am a little late to be writing this, sorry about that. I’ve been doing adult-y things like a grown person the past few weeks and this has been lagging unfinished on my desktop even though multiple people have asked me to write about Deadpool and disbelieving me when I keep saying “I swear I am!”
Did you love Deadpool? If you are reading my blog your likely did. It is hilarious, self-deprecating, feminist, sex positive, and pretty much everything I have always missed in an action movie. Deadpool doesn’t just break the 4th wall, it shatters it to smithereens and pees on the rubble.
And then flirts with whatever is left.
The big question I’ve been getting about the movie is …”So, Deadpool? He’s pansexual? What’s that?”
I train on gender and sexuality on a regular basis. I’ve been doing this for years. But thanks to the recent amazing advocacy of individuals like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, coupled with the brave public transition of Cait Jenner (and yes, no matter what you think of her politics, her transition process has still been hella brave), I have been asked to speak to this issues more and more frequently, especially in relation to working with children and youth.
I love that so many people are so passionate about learning new things in order to better support children and youth. Despite any thoughts, feelings, spiritual, or cultural beliefs and practices that are an important part of people’s lives I have found one constant in our community.
We need to better support children, youth, and adults in pain. The rates of suicide are horrifying.
My daughter has only recently been publically out as a queer youth. She told me that despite having an amazingly supportive family, and amazingly supportive friends, that the cultural and political negativity she felt from the world in general frightened her. It made her question her safety. Her ability to be authentic in the world she lived in. It terrified her.
And that’s why we are losing our youth.
And no matter what…no matter WHAT…we think of differing identities, our task as adults is to affirm healthy development and identity formation.
We help people safety be who they are and who they are becoming.
And one of the biggest parts of that is acknowledging the labels individuals ascribe to their identity.
Their names, their preferred pronouns, the ways they describe their existence and experience.
So much of what I teach is how to navigate language, how to ask questions about language, how to correct the mis-use of language.
So thank you Deadpool, for starting a conversation that those of us who are older and un-cooler need to be having.
Because WTF is pansexual anyway? And how is it different from bisexual?
In a nutshell? Individuals who are bisexual are attracted to both men and women. That’s it, nothing more fancy than that.
Bisexual individuals still have their “type”, generally speaking, among the men and women they are attracted to. The difference, subtle it may seem, is that individuals who identify as pansexual find their attraction about the person themselves, rather than certain characteristics that person may have.
They are generally more comfortable with being attracted to individuals who may not conform to gender norms of male or female. Not specifically trans or genderqueer amorous, they are open to connecting their sexual attraction to individuals they find emotionally and intellectually attractive.
Confused? It’s tough for those of us from older generations who like to understand our labels and create categories for the world we live in. Those labels and categories are coming crashing down.
And there is intense backlash when people stop fitting in the boxes we create for them. And backlash about the identities they create for themselves.
There has been significant backlash over the years against individuals who are bisexual, from jokes about how they are trying to “double their odds” to degrading comments that they should just “come out all the way already.” It is intensely discouraging to find those comments in our own LGBT community. Individuals who are bisexual are MORE likely to stay in the closet, experience harrassment in the workplace, struggle with emotional and physical health issues, and live in poverty.
Members of the LGBT community are more likely to marginalize and dismiss their bisexual brothers and sisters than heterosexual individuals are.
The call is coming from inside the house, y’all.
So bisexuality is already a hot button issue. And there here comes Deadpool, our epic antihero. He’s funny, raunchy, sex positive, dark…and identifies as pansexual. If the bisexual backlash is bad, how is pansexuality going to be treated once it hits mainstream lexicography? Yeah, not to well.
Nathanial Rogers states the following:
But the sex talk is just that, talk. I’m not the first to ask why the character is defined as pansexual when his sex life is solely heterosexual. Deadpool isn’t remotely a pansexual or omnisexual character. He isn’t even halfway there via bisexuality. He’s just a guy who likes joking about sex and masturbating.
Ryan Gilby, at The Guardian, quotes Deadpool’s creator (Fabian Nicieza) and the movie’s director (Tim Miller) unequivocal support of the character’s sexual identity. Pansexual. Yes, he has a girlfriend. No that doesn’t make him straight. Ryan Reynolds, who played the character in question stated he was totally down with having a boyfriend in future storylines. He’s pansexual. His creators and keepers said so.
Gilby disagrees in his piece, making the same tired argument that Deadpool only has a girlfriend therefore is hetero. If you google “Deadpool” with “pansexual” you will find many such pieces.
I chose this article specifically, because it goes even further in it’s argument that Deadpool is not who he says he is. Gilby suggests that Deadpool riding the cartoon unicorn during the credits of the movie, while stroking the unicorn’s horn until it spurts rainbows is evidence of bestiality. Beastiality, of course, automatically negates the concept of pansexuality because lack of consent is an immediate disqualifier. Animals can’t consent. Even mythical cartoon animals being ridden by fictional cartoon superheroes.
Gilby, I suppose, is trying to throw out anything he can find in his argument about Deadpool’s identity. Including some batshit treatise on cartoon unicorn bestiality.
Here’s the fucking problem right here.
Deadpool doesn’t actually exist, of course (sorry to break it to you, if you didn’t already know). So Deadpool can’t speak for himself as such. But the creator of and guardians of the character are of one voice about his identity. He is pansexual.
And the rest of the world is determined to call him something else.
The APA defines sexual orientation thus:
Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to members of one's own sex) and bisexual (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to both men and women). This range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world. Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. In the United States the most frequent labels are lesbians (women attracted to women), gay men (men attracted to men), and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes). However, some people may use different labels or none at all.
Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female)* and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior).
Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one's sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people.
This is a beautiful definition that captures so much of the nebulous qualities of identity as part of our bigger culture and engagement with others. Sexual orientation can be about our identity, behavior, and/or our attractions. There is not a test with specific margins that you have to pass in order to qualify for one label or the other. There is no sexuality identity equivalent of A1Cs. Sexual orientation is your unique experience of determining your place in the world and honoring that place.
And I have to say, the response of individuals now asking me about pansexuality has been encouraging and affirming. I explain the difference and people have been saying “Oh! I get it! Ok, cool!”
Thank you people who say that.
But, alas, they continue to be the rare exception. If they are asking me the question or coming to one of my trainings they are the people who have already in the place of accepting others for who they are, who are seeking knowledge about the experience of others so they can understand that experience to the best of their abilities and affirm their identities. These are the people who say: You are telling me this is your place in the world? That’s awesome, I’m down with that.
But as we have seen, most people want to argue the point. Any identity that doesn’t clearly align with the specific behaviors that we have assigned to them are called into question. Bisexuality, pansexuality, and genderfluid identities are attacked and picked apart on a regular basis. Even in the communities to purport to accept difference.
And when we don’t let people safety identify themselves and affirm that identity we cause lasting problems. They don’t find their place in the world. They feel consistently unsafe. They experience far reaching physical, emotional, and economic consequences.
So picking apart a fictional character may just seem an exercise in word play or intellectual masturbation, but the effects are way more far reaching. People like my daughter who are hyper-aware of what the world thinks of her and lives in fear of the potential consequences.
The people writing these articles? Probably lovely people who would be deeply kind to any of their friends and family who claimed a more fluid identity. They consider these articles merely a form of cultural criticism. It’s a fucking movie review, nothing more.
Except it’s way more than that for the people being criticized. It isn’t just an intellectual exercise to anyone reading these pieces, especially those individuals with those fluid identities. These articles are shaping our awareness and responses to how people claim identity, and how we reinforce their choices.
We are saying, over and over again, that you don’t get to choose your identity, we will choose it for you. We define you, you don’t define yourself. Because, clearly, you are doing it wrong.
There was so much about this movie that I loved. Things I originally intended to write about. (Pegging scene, anyone?) But when I sat down, this is what came out. Because I think the most important thing this series is going to do is say over and over again “Fuck you, you don’t define who I am.”
Deadpool may be the ultimate antihero. But honestly, that is way more heroic than anything else I’ve seen in popular culture in a long-ass time.
San Antonio has some fantastic sex toy stores, but since we are a town that generally goes to bed early, lots of cool places were automatically disqualified from this list. My local favorite is The Love Shack (to be fair, I teach classes there, so I'm partial). So I was curious, would the late-date stores hold up to my local gold standard of clean, friendly, helpful and shame-free adults-only shopping?
A friend had told me years ago that he knew his marriage was over when his wife wouldn’t let him touch her anymore. That story stuck with me because he was by no means the first person to tell me that, and unfortunately won’t be the last.
The sense of touch is, when you think about it, an exercise in paradox. Jennifer Kennerk (2014) discusses how the sense of touch is how we first learn to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world. If we touch something, we develop awareness of where we end and the other person (or object) begins. Touch is the sense that demonstrates the boundaries between our individual bodies and the rest of the universe. She states that touch “allows us to understand our own individual place in the world, and also to understand that others have their own individuality as well. The sense of touch provides human beings with the ability to understand their own uniqueness and therefore the uniqueness of others.” (p. 51).
The paradox arises because touch is also our primary means of experiencing intimacy with others. Human beings are hardwired to connect, and the primary mechanism for doing so is through touch. We express closeness through touch. We experience other human beings, gain awareness of their presence, and invite them into our own. We need touch to survive.
In the thirteenth century, King Frederick II of Germany wanted to study language acquisition. He was curious as to whether children are born with knowledge of language or if it is something they learn from caregivers over time. He set up a true experiment to determine if children would speak, spontaneously, if they never heard language to begin with. He took 50 babies within his kingdom and assigned them each to foster mothers. The babies had their basic needs met. They were bathed and nursed, but they were not held or cuddled or talked to.
The experiment failed because all fifty infants died.
In more recent years, the world has learned about the horrific overcrowding and miserable conditions in many orphanages in the world. Harvard Medical School researcher Mary Carlson observed the conditions in a Romanian orphanage, where due to understaffing and overcrowding, babies lay neglected in their cribs and were rarely touched, even during meal times. She observed no engagement, no crying, no babbling, and no whimpering. While their physical needs were being met, in theory, Carlson found that by age two the babies had unusually high amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone known to cause brain damage. Growth was stunted; the children acted half their age.
What conclusions can be drawn from King Frederick’s failed experiment and the Romanian orphanage scandal? Lack of touch impedes the human ability to thrive. In some cases it leads to death. Caring for basic physical needs is not enough; we need touch to survive.
Those of us who did not get a lot of touching before age 12, struggle with touch as adults. Snuggling, cuddling, hugging, and holding hands often makes us uncomfortable. And we lose opportunities for connection.
We express closeness through touch. We experience other human beings, gain awareness of their presence, and invite them into our own. We need touch to survive.
No matter what your primary love language, touch is a universal one. Touch, both sexual and non-sexual, is essential for intimacy. Non-sexual touch is an essential building block for physical touch. Many times we look to assuage our craving for touch through sex, rather than engaging in other acts of touch throughout the day, which may or may not culminate in sexual intimacy. For those of us who identify touch as our primary love language, it becomes not just a physiological need; it is an expressive one as well. We communicate best through touch, as many of our ancestors did throughout the ages.
Touch also builds up the immunity system by recharging the libidinal system (Dworkin-McDaniel, 2011). Touch is ultimately good for the libido!
Oxycontin is released through touch. We know it as the “love” drug, but more importantly it’s the “trust” drug. We feel safer and more secure with others when we experience them through touch.
Touch makes us more relationally honest. Klienke’s (1977) study of compliance in field settings showed amazing results when touch was involved. In the study, researchers put money in the change box of a public telephone (a dime). People would go in, make a call, and then would put their hand in the little coin receiver to see if there was any extra change. As they exited the booth, they would be approached and asked “Did you find any money in the change box in the telephone booth?” 97% of the people would lie and say no. But in the same experiment, if the researcher reached out and touched the individual on the shoulder while asking the question, 95% of the people would tell the truth. They would say they found money there and would offer it to the person who asked.
The famous family therapist Virginia Satir said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth.
Do you get the amount of touch that you need in a day?
If you are partnered, I always highly recommend using sensate touch exercises. Email me and I’d be happy to send you the PDF of my sensate focus worksheet, which will be part of my intimacy workbook (slated for publication by the amazing Microcosm Publishing in 2018). And no, I’m not going to sell your email or add you to a mailing list. I just don’t want to have it all out over the internetz when it is something slated for publication. But ask me for it, it’s the same one I use in my practice.
If you aren’t partnered, don’t have regular access to your romantic partner (long distance relationships can be such a PITA), or just aren’t getting enough touch from them for any reason…here are some other ways to get more touch in your day.
Any other ideas? I’d love to hear them!