Placing Myself on The Kinsey Scale

One of the things that I think causes a barrier with regards to equal treatment of LGBT people is an overly simplistic model of sexual orientation. This is especially true for people who experience attraction to multiple genders–sexualities like bisexual and pansexual, for example. Even among the gay community, people who experience attraction to more than one gender are often assumed to be lying about their sexuality.

A close friend of mine who I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, identifies as pansexual. In high school, he used the label “bi,” and people frequently told him, “No. You’re either gay or straight. You can’t be both.” When he tried to explain to them that he was, in fact, attracted to both genders, people assumed he was just using the label “bi” as a stepping stone to coming out gay. This could not have been farther from the truth. While he had not had any relationships with men at the time, he had actively pursued relationships with both genders, and genuinely had no preference for one over the other.

I recently stumbled upon this video, in which lesbians describe what they think about bisexual women, and even among these members of the LGBT community, I saw the same bias my friend had encountered. As I said earlier, I think this boils down to an overly simplified model of human sexuality. We’ve finally accepted that people can be either straight or gay, but sexuality includes even more variation than that, and that variation hasn’t been accepted yet by everyone.

I’m not the first person to have this thought. Alfred Kinsey, a biologist whose work contributed greatly to the field of sexology, developed his own model of sexual orientation, and while it certainly isn’t perfect (and does not address gender identity), adopting it (or something similar) for the purpose of understanding sexuality may help remove the stigma against people with attraction to multiple genders. Here’s his model of sexuality. I’ll describe it a bit, but it’s pretty self explanatory:

On the left side of the chart is the label “straight.” A person with a score of 0 experiences attraction to the opposite gender only. On the right side of the chart is the label “homosexual.” A person with a score of 6 experiences attraction to the same gender only. In between the two are varying degrees of attraction to both genders. People with a score of 3 are exactly bisexual. They do not favor either gender, and are attracted to both about equally. Yet there are those who are mostly straight but have some attraction to people of the same gender; simultaneously, there are people who are mostly gay, but have some attraction to people of the opposite gender. It isn’t perfect, but it opens up the idea that a person who is mostly one way or the other can have some attraction that does not match their primary label. It also lends itself to the idea of bisexuality, allowing a way for people to visualize how this attraction fits in with other ones.

Here’s where the title of this post comes into play. I’d like to see more people utilizing this idea of continuous sexuality in some way. I’d like to see people, especially people who fall anywhere from a 1 to a 5–those in-between places of sexuality–come out as not completely matching the labels society accepts. I suspect that if more people were to openly admit that sexuality does not necessarily fall into a perfect dichotomy, people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, and so forth, will be understood and accepted.

Maybe I’m crazy, but here goes. I’m definitely not a 0 on the Kinsey scale, but I’m not a 3 either. I use the label straight because it most accurately describes my sexual orientation, but I’m at least a 1, maybe a 1.5 if half points are allowed, though I don’t think I’m quite a 2. I definitely experience some attraction to women, though not as frequently as I do to men, and not enough that I’ve ever been actively interested in pursuing a relationship with a woman, though there have been times when I haven’t been completely opposed to it. There’s a stereotype that all women are at least a bit bisexual, but I don’t think this is true. I also don’t think that all men are either gay or straight, but I suspect that due to the way society views male homosexuality more negatively than female homosexuality, we are less likely to hear about it.

What about you? Where do you place yourself on the Kinsey scale? Do you match the exact labels, or are you somewhere in-between? Why do you think there’s so much misunderstanding concerning bisexuality and other such sexual orientations?

Feel free to leave a comment. As always, all opinions are welcome; just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Coming Out Atheist to Religious Parents

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve told my deconversion story, as well as the story of coming out to my conservative parents elsewhere on this blog. As you may know if you’ve read other posts here, I’ve had pretty good luck with this. (See my About Me and Why Atheist pages for more on that). In summation, I have not been cut off financially, or disowned. My parents still say they love me, even if they don’t understand why I don’t believe. They have yelled at me and argued with me, but they’ve also stopped making me attend mass; that was my biggest victory. However, there have been a few rough patches in the road as far as coming out to my family is concerned, and one in particular has been a problem lately: the fact that I came out at all.

The person bringing this up is the elder of my two little brothers, the same one who asked why I was against prayer in school (see that post here). Over winter break, back in January, he asked me why I came out at all. He said I’d hurt my parents by telling them I was an atheist, and wouldn’t it have been easier for everyone if I’d just waited until I had moved out of the house for good? At the time, I addressed his concern head on. I explained that I had, in fact, weighed the pros and cons of coming out before doing it. On the one hand, I got along with my family better, on the surface, when we seemed to share the same political and religious ideologies. On the other, when I started having doubts, I would frequently have outbursts in front of my parents. I’m generally an open book and very bad at hiding what I really think. If my words don’t give my thoughts away, my face does, and religion–which I had come to strongly dislike at that point–was all around me. Not only did I have to attend mass every Sunday, but I was expected to participate in grace at dinner time each night, to say “God bless you,” when someone sneezed, to avoid “using God’s name in vain,” and to pray the rosary whenever my parents decided it was time we did that “as a family.” Sure, I can mumble the words and not mean them. I can go through the motions of sitting, standing, and kneeling at mass. I absolutely suck at hiding my true thoughts and feelings though. Eventually, the truth would come out, and I wanted it to happen on my own terms.

I thought that answer had settled it for my brother, but when I came home for Easter weekend, the youngest of my brothers said, “He’s mad at you again. He thinks you shouldn’t have told Mom and Dad you’re an atheist.”

I didn’t address it this time, since he did not approach me about it himself, and I didn’t want to start an argument during a holiday. Still, I felt a bit frustrated that he was holding on to this point of contention for so long. It had been months, after all–long enough for him to have contacted me if he wanted to talk again. Maybe I didn’t make my answer clear enough to him originally, though, so I want to expand on why I came out here, for the sake of anybody else who’s considering telling their family they’re atheist, or anything else about them for that matter. Maybe you’re dealing with this, or will someday.

My brother sees me coming out as the selfish thing to do, and I see where he’s coming from to an extent. I definitely upset my parents severely. I know they believe that I’m probably going to go to hell if I don’t start practicing Catholicism again before I die, and it’s probably very stressful to believe your children are doomed to eternal damnation. As I said before, it’s also more challenging to live with someone with different political and religious views. There are topics to avoid, and difficult conversations to navigate. With that being said, I do not regret coming out, and I strongly believe that doing so was the right thing for me and my family, though certainly there may be people in situations where waiting may be beneficial.

I think it’s pretty clear how coming out has benefited me:  I can be myself, I don’t have to practice Catholicism, and I don’t have to lie about what I believe or don’t believe. How has me coming out benefited my family? Well, for one thing, I’m not lying to them every Sunday, and any other day of the week when religion came up (and it came up a lot). That means the relationships I have with them can be more trustworthy. Sure, it stings a little to find out that someone you thought you had a lot in common with actually doesn’t share one of your interests or obsessions, but wouldn’t you rather they tell you the truth about that? I sometimes listen to 90s boy bands out of nostalgia, but if a friend doesn’t like them, I’d rather have him or her tell me so that I don’t drive them crazy whenever they stop by. I realize for my parents, religion is a bigger deal than what bands one listens to, but I strongly feel that honesty is a good thing in all relationships, and that includes family.

Another way in which coming out when I did (as opposed to whenever I move out, when my brother thinks I should have) benefited my family is that I was home during the period when they were adjusting to the news. (It happened over the summer). I was around to answer their questions, and have discussions with them. While I will admit I may not have handled them all as smoothly and calmly as I would have liked, it would have been much worse if I had moved out of the house and suddenly said, “Oh, and by the way, that religion stuff you taught me to believe is bull crap. Bye!” Talk about dropping a bomb! Even if I said that in a more polite way, it would have a pretty profound effect on my family. Moving out is a time for a young person to learn how to be independent, and a time for the family to learn how to stay in touch despite busy schedules and not living in the same house. It’s not a good time for them to also be wrestling with the idea that you’re going to hell. That might make the separation seem like a good thing. It might make us avoid each other. It would certainly make them all quite angry with me–and rightly so. No, I chose a good time to come out. I also had the added bonus of knowing I’d be back at school in a few months, giving us time apart to grow accustomed to the change, but not so much time that we also grow apart.

That’s what I worried about the most when I came out:  not the short term negative feelings, which I knew would happen regardless of when I told my family, but the long term effects of coming out at a given time. I had to prioritize staying a member of my family. Unless they choose to shun me, I see no reason to do anything that might be interpreted as a rejection of them as people. I’m not rejecting them at all; I’m only rejecting religion.

What I want my brother to understand is that I did, in fact think this through very seriously. I know I made the right decision.

My advice to anyone considering to come out is to do the same: think it through. Consider the likely consequences of coming out at any given time. Figure out if it’s safe to come out–and if it is, figure out the best way to do so.

Have any of you experienced anything like this, where someone basically told you you shouldn’t come out? Are any of you considering coming out? Feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

 

A Tough Question

easter eggs

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In honor of Easter, and to make up for the fact that I missed my post last week, here’s a bonus. Easter is one of the holidays (Christmas being the other one) with a made up figure that parents pretend is real. They actively lie to their children in order to do this. Some say it’s all in good fun. Others feel this discourages critical thinking and encourages belief without evidence.

Personally, I lean towards not lying to my (hypothetical) kids because I don’t want to do either of the aforementioned things. I realize that means my kid may ruin it for someone else’s kid, but I also feel like, why lie to a kid if that can be avoided?

I don’t have kids right now though, so for me this is all hypothetical. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment! All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through first.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

The Right Way To Answer

This is a great way to support LGBT people in Indiana.

Cloak Unfurled

Instead of just getting upset and complaining I have decided to be proactive. I recently posted about the Indiana business owners who openly admitted to not wanting to serve gay people and received $500,000 dollars in donations. While such support for hateful attitudes upsets me, I have decided the best way to answer this was to try and match that by raising money in an equal amount and support a local organization in Indiana who is trying to make things better for the LGBQT community. So I started a charity fundraiser page. While a goal of $500,000 may be ambitious, and perhaps other people had the same idea, even if I raise only the money I have donated to start things off, then at least I am doing something positive I figure.

So I’m asking that you please give what you can and share this message on social…

View original post 46 more words

Confused, Abused, Mislead: When Children of LGBT Parents Don’t Get It

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to political issues, it is common for each party to look for a spokesperson. This is often  someone with direct personal experience with the issue who happens to take the party’s side. No where has this been more true in recent weeks than for the LGBT community, and LGBT parenting. Sadly, I’m here to write about the spokespersons for the Republican party, who use their childhoods to argue that LGBT people can’t be good parents.  What are they thinking? How can they argue against their own parents?

The Young Turks did a video covering the story of a girl who did just that. It can be viewed here. It’s a very different situation from the one I’m about to discuss, so I’ll let The Young Turks handle it. Sadly, that girl’s not the only one doing this.

I recently stumbled upon an article in which someone else does the same thing. It comes from the extremely biased Witherspoon Institute. They are based in Princeton, NJ, but are not funded by the Ivy League University at all. They actively oppose gay marriage and stem cell research, among other things. One of the people affiliated with them performed a study (see the heading “Regnerus study”) on LGBT parenting which, if you read the page at the link above, appears to have been poorly structured, making its results unreliable.

Of course, my conservative friends think well, it’s in Princeton, a place known for its Ivy League institution. That must mean these articles are well thought out and provide useful information for a serious discussion of an issue like LGBT parenting! A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook, and it’s a bit painful to read. It is written by someone whose father was a transgender woman. In other words, her father was born a man, but felt that was not who she truly was.

The child is very harsh toward her father from the beginning, and says she experienced a great deal of abuse at the hands of her father. I’m not here to argue that that abuse did not happen. Being LGBT does not make a person immune from bad decisions or wrongful actions. As much as I support their rights, no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be allowed to abuse anyone.

With that being said, the feeling I get from reading this article is that the child has not been able to separate her father’s abuse from the fact that her father was trans. She has not figured out that it is possible that even if he had been a cisgender male, he might have abused her, though the abuse might have taken a different form. To her, she was abused because her father was trans. In reality, she was abused by her father who happened to be trans. There’s a difference.

In the article, she argues that being abused by her father in ways that related to gender made her disgusted with her body. For example, after describing the abuse, and her father’s tendency to steal her clothing and wear it when she was not around, she says,

I began to hate my body. It was a constant reminder of what my father wanted to become. When I began to wear makeup, I had to block out the images I had of him applying makeup or eye shadow or lipstick. He was destroying my desire to become a woman.

I can understand how this might happen, and I don’t think those feelings she experienced were not real. However, again, she is relating them to the fact that her father is trans, when in reality, I suspect they are the result of the abuse. (She says she experienced emotional and sexual abuse.) Had she had a strong relationship with her father in which there was plenty of trust and stability, I don’t think gender would have mattered, and I don’t think she would have written negatively about her childhood at all.

That’s not what she received from her father, though. She explains, for example, that her father followed the revelation of her gender with the announcement that she never wanted kids. That’s hurtful. My own father used to say something similar when he got mad at us. Before he met my mother, he wanted to be a priest. Instead, he fell in love and got married. When we misbehaved as children, he would say, “I should have been a priest!” and “I shouldn’t have had kids” was implied. (Catholic priests don’t marry or have children. It’s not allowed.) So I empathize with her on this point. That’s not something one should ever hear one’s parent say.

What really bothers me about this story is that this girl seems to assume that all trans people are incapable of raising children in a healthy way, simply because she personally was abused by a trans person. What if the gender identities in this story were reversed, and she argued that all straight people are incapable of raising children because she was abused by a straight person? No one in their right mind would find that plausible. The only reason this story makes sense to some conservative people as a valid argument is that trans people are the minority, so there aren’t as many of them raising children. In other words, most people reading the article were raised by straight people, and are more likely to think, “You know what, maybe this is true.”

That’s a huge assumption to make about a group of people, though. This is just one case. It could just be that that particular person was an abuser for a variety of reasons. For example, the daughter mentions that her father was abused as a child, and we know that can lead a person to become an abuser. Instead of making this connection, however, she hints that the abuse might be what led him to be trans–another version of the misconception that abuse leads to homosexuality.

I wanted to berate this girl for using the wrong pronouns for her transgender parent (I used father here because I think it helped keep track of who was who, though I realize mother might have been the parent’s preferred word.) I have to acknowledge that her upbringing by her (biological) mother may have been very conservative (she married young and seems very religious) so to her, this may not seem cruel or disrespectful even though it likely is to her father. Reading the article as a fairly liberal LGBT ally, I felt torn between feeling bad for the girl, angry with the father for abusing her, and also feeling somewhat sorry for the father as well. I can’t know whether or not a more accepting community would have made a difference, but I wonder whether or not the father would have been a better parent if she had been allowed to be herself. Who knows? This does not excuse her for what she did; it merely adds another level to what is already a very complex situation. It’s impossible to answer that kind of what-if question.

I hope society becomes more accepting. I also hope it can eradicate abuse of all kinds. I hope this girl will eventually get to know a kind, caring LGBT person, and change her mind on this issue. In the meantime, as LGBT people come out and become a visible part of everyday life, at least their rights are improving–and so is public opinion about them.

This is a pretty lousy situation, but it’s written from a very conservative perspective. What are your thoughts about it? All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy