Content Warning: This post has some description of agressive, threating behaviour. Also it’s very personal and it got pretty long. If you decide to skip it, I totally understand.

IMG_7988

Oh, peeps, I feel like I owe you many apologies. First because it’s been so long since I’ve made time to blog here. Second because my last post was kind of moody in tone. Third because this one’s about rough times too.

Before I delve into what’s bugging me, I have to tell you that generally speaking life has been good. Things at school are going well. I’ve got a book in the works and other career plans that have me excited about the future. California continues to be a source of fun and family adventure. I want to write about all of those things. Time permitting I will, and soon, but today’s post is about something far less pleasant.

A couple of months ago, I was riding the subway (or BART as it’s known to locals) after school, when a man sat down beside me and proceeded to threaten me. I wrote about the incident on Facebook the night it happened, so I know some of you already know this. It’s difficult for me to recount the entire incident (I’ll explain why shortly), so I hope bullet points are okay for now:

  • I suspect this person was ill. They kept confusing me with other women in his life. They seemed to perceive me as a threat to both him and to “children”. They indicated repeatedly that his plan was to rape and kill me/these women in order to “stop” me from hurting people.
  • It was a rush hour train, very crowded, which made it very difficult for me to get up and move away from him.
  • They had a bag full of random items. I didn’t know if he had a weapon. At the time, I wasn’t very worried about being sexually assaulted but I was very afraid that if I inadvertently said  the wrong thing they would stab me, or pull out a gun on the train
  • I tried, without further agitating my seatmate, to enlist the help of the nearby passengers. I noticed some of them watching what was happening. I managed to make eye contact with a few people, but they turned away. Now it’s possible, even likely they just didn’t know what to do. It’s also possible that someone called for help after they left the train, or that someone I couldn’t see was monitoring the situation. But my perception was that I was left alone to fend for myself.
  • Ultimately, I made it off the train unharmed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this. I was definitely off-kilter for several days following the incident. I figured feeling feelings was productive. After a couple of weeks, I wasn’t exactly over it, but I felt a lot better. Life was good and I felt like I was moving past it.

Last week, I started getting weird. Not weird in my typical adorkable way. Not even weird in the way that my anxiety disorder makes me weird. My brain and my body started behaving in odd ways that I do not like at all. It’s still happening right now, which is why I’m feeling pretty desperate get some of this out of my head and into words.

The good news, is that I’m pretty sure I understand what’s going on with me. The cruddy news is that what’s going on with me is that I’m experiencing psychological trauma. Pbbbblt!

I’ve been given lots of great suggestions for how to cope, while my mind and body sort through the ickyness this experience has churned up for me. What I can’t do is make these feelings magically disappear. I know because when I Googled, “make these feelings magically disappear”, the results were, “No. In order to move past the crap, you must experience the crap.”

So, for the time being, I’m left with coping. I may not be able to change what I’m feeling, but understanding it definitely helps get me through the day. Between work and years of therapy, I had some good go-to resources to help me bone up on the symptoms of trauma. In many ways, what I’m feeling is typical. In some ways it isn’t. Which is also typical, because everyone who feels traumatized gets to experience it in their own way.

I’m gonna talk about some of what I’m feeling. Mostly because writing about this stuff kind of helps to clarify and organize my thoughts so they aren’t so overwhelming. I also thought it might be helpful if any of you are going through something similar. But remember this is totally #NormalNotNormal. If you relate, I hope this helps. But you may have felt or feel traumatized in ways that aren’t anything like what I’m feeling and that’s legit too.

Nightmares

I don’t have a lot of nightmares. Last week when I started having violent, dreams virtually every night, it raised a big, red flag. Interestingly, the dreams almost never have anything to do with what happened in real life. Often times, I’m not even in them – I’m just witnessing scary shit. I’m not quite sure what my subconscious is doing there, but I’m guessing it’s some sort of fear-processing mechanism.

What’s weird about these nightmares, is, as violent as they are, when I wake up, the cognitive part of my brain is completely unphased. I think, ‘That is not a thing I need to be afraid of in real life. I’m going to back to sleep’. Unfortunately, my body does not agree one bit. Physically, I can feel bricks of fear in my chest and stomach. Mentally and physically, I’m totally out of synch, which brings me to the other thing I’ve noticed.

Disconnect

Lately, there is a profound diffence between my thoughts and how my body feels. Mentally, I feel as rational as I ever have. Physically, I’m always afraid. Yesterday I went to an event in the city. I parked my car a block from the venue. I looked around, assessed the situation and I knew that the odds of anything dangerous happening were extremely low. In my mind, I was calm. But my body was frightened. My body had been frightened on the drive over. My body had been frightened when I got in the car. My body was frightened earlier that afternoon when I was sitting at my desk writing a book report. I feel scared even when there’s no reason for me to feel that way. It’s not overwhelming or debilitating. But it’s always there. My brain understands that I’m relatively safe. My body is like, “Whatevs, Brain! The playground at three in the afternoon is a scary-ass place to be and you’re not convincing me otherwise!”

 

Huh? What?

My brain is doing okay with the risk-assessing. Not so good with retaining information, organizing thoughts or concentrating on tasks. I’m a reasonably smart gal, but I am not on the ball. I’m constantly using the wrong words to describe things or calling folks by the wrong name. Reading is a challenge. Writing is a challenge. Getting this post together is slo-o-w-w-w going. Now, I’ve got to be real. I tend to be disorganized and a little distracted even at my best. But this is pretty bad, even for me. By all reports this is also typical of the traumatic process. Good to know, but it’s still the pits.

 

Out Of Order

At some point I will schedule a Skype session with my shrink in Ottawa. I haven’t done it yet, because I don’t want to tell her what happened. It’s really hard for me to talk about the actual incident. Not because of the emotions it triggers, but because the timeline of events is completely mixed up in my head. My memory of what happened, starts with a guy in a green shirt. He was standing in the aisle and we made eye contact, before he turned away. That happened maybe ten minutes after my seatmate started harassing me. It was neither the first, nor the most significant part of that incident. But that’s what I remember first and that’s what I remember most clearly.

The event is like a puzzle. All the pieces are there, but they aren’t cohesive. Talking about what happened in chronological order is remarkably difficult, right now.  I might write the events, as I remember them on cue cards and then try to order the cards in the order I think everything happened. I’m not up for that task right now, but I think it could be helpful down the line.

Stranger Danger

I’ve never cottoned to the “don’t talk to strangers” approach to life. First of all, how am I supposed to make friends if I can’t talk to people I don’t know? Also, my experience of strangers is that most of them are pretty helpful if you’re in a jam. The reason I love urban environments is that there’s always someone around. I normally feel more comfortable surrounded by strangers than I feel being isolated and alone.

Now, I’m uncomfortable around strangers. Again, there’s a brain-body disconnect. I encounter someone new and I think, “Odds are you’re a decent person,” while my body is like, “This person might be dangerous.” I dropped off Twitter for almost a month after the incident. Now I’ll make the occasional appearance, but I don’t linger. There are strangers on Twitter.

Everything I’ve read confirms that this is a normal part of a traumatic process. But I find itdifficult to accept. I identify strongly as a people-person.The most rewarding aspect of my life are my relationships. Being with others is how I derive energy and inspiration. People, for the most part, are kind and interesting and helpful. But right now I’m really struggling to engage with folks. I’m mistrustful and I don’t like it, because I know I’m not being fair.

I’m not trying to beat myself up. I know I’m allowed to feel how I feel, but this just really sucks. I don’t like feeling timid. I don’t like avoiding eye contact with people. I don’t like going into situations with all of my defenses up. And the worst part is, avoiding strangers doesn’t make me feel safer. It makes me feel lonely. I really, really hope this is temporary, because keeping people at arm’s length is not my style.

Where Do I Go From Here?

It sounds weird, but on some level the fact that I’m having all these gross feelings is a good thing. Whether or not my perception of the events on the subway were accurate, I was legitimately afraid that my seatmate might harm me. It would have been nice if that fear had resolved itself as soon as the encounter was over, but that didn’t happen. I’m not enjoying these feelings, but if they’re here, I’m probably processing them, which means they’ll probably(mostly) go away in time.

  • Writing all of this down is helpful. Sharing it and getting support is helpful. The Man of Mans is, as always, doing a phenomenal job of listening, accepting and supporting me.
  • When it feels manageable, I go out and I try to talk to new people. Meeting folks who are nice, is a helpful reminder that people are nice.
  • I’m trying to exercise most days. A lot of times it’s just going for a walk or taking a yoga class, but sometimes I feel a bit better after.
  • I make a lot of jokes. Humour is one of my most trusted coping mechanisms. Plus laughing feels good.
  • I am avoiding some things. I used to love taking BART to get around, but I just can’t handle riding the subway alone right now. I’m driving more, which I don’t love, but it’s what I can handle right now.
  • I’m thinking about how I can get more rest and feed myself well. Obviously my body is pretty stressed. She could probably use some extra sleep and nutrition.
  • Finally, I’m thinking about ways to inject a little fun, relaxation and enjoyment into each day. Processing is important, but it’s probably also important to take a break from all of that and chill out for a bit. I don’t want to spend my last months in California being all tense and miserable. This is a rough time, but if I try, I can still find moments of happiness and pleasure.

 

That’s where I’m at. I’m hoping these feelings will pass by the end of this paragraph, but experience has taught me they may linger past my concluding statement. People have survived much worse and I will survive this. And the writing does help. It has helped. If you made it all the way through, thank you.

This too shall pass.

Trigger Warning: This post is about mental illness and sexuality. Please exercise self-care.

Today is the day that Bell encourages Canadians to talk about mental health. I sat down in front of my trusty laptop feeling calm and clear-headed, eager to write a pithy post about my ongoing struggles with sex and mental illness. Ironically, the challenge of trying create a light-hearted entry has set my heart pounding and brought me to the verge of tears. Seriously, brain? You can’’t even stop being mentally ill long enough to let me write one lousy blog post about being mentally ill? No, of course you can’t. That’s not how this works.

 

That’s what the tears and the anxiety are about. I have a brain that doesn’t work the way that people say brains are supposed to work. And the effects of my malfunctioning brain have traumatized my body. I am never more aware of this fact then when I have sex.

Some people believe that our emotional experiences stay in our physical bodies. I don’t know if there’s any scientific research to support that claim, but I believe there’s something worth considering in that idea.  In order to become sexually aroused and sexually active, I have to allow my body to become vulnerable. Often times when I let that happen, my initial emotional reaction is overwhelming. It’s this kind of amorphous fear, anger, shame, sorrow and general badness that erupts from the pit of my stomach. It moves quickly, but sometimes I catch it right away and shut it down. Unfortunately shutting it down means shutting myself down as well and then no sex for me. Other times, it’s too strong and swift. It powers through me and beyond me. I start crying because the emotions are so big, I literally can’t contain them. When the tears stop, I typically feel relief…but I’m also a puffy-faced, snotty mess. No sex for me.

 

If our physical bodies are haunted by emotional phantoms, my body’s reaction makes sense to me. In some ways, I’m lucky. Most days, I can cope with my illness. Like I know that I’m going to be vaguely panicky for the first hour of every weekday. because getting The Bean ready for school and having the day’s “to-do” list looming in front of me is terrifying. But I also know from experience that tasks in front of me are not as daunting as my brain is telling me and that my heart rate will slow down as the day progresses and I get stuff done. I’m used to the way my heart leaps when I hear an e-mail alert or the phone rings. I’m getting better at ignoring the part of my brain that’s constantly telling me, ‘No one will care if you don’t show up, because no one actually likes you.’

 

Most days I can live my life in a way that probably looks pretty normal. But I can’t stop being mentally ill. So instead I strategize. I use tools and coping mechanisms, many of which involve ignoring my emotional state and dealing with the world on a more cognitive level. I constantly remind myself ‘Just because it feels bad, doesn’t mean it is bad.’  But the flip side is that just because those painful emotions are the by-product of lousy brain chemistry, it doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Even when I’m able to recognize certain feelings/reactions as “that’s the anxiety” or “that’s the depression,” it doesn’t make them go away. I’m not curing, but I’m coping.

 

If I want to have sex, I have to let my guard down. And if all those icky emotions that I normally push through are still living in my body, it makes sense that they kind of explode when I let myself be more physically vulnerable.

 

Like I said, I haven’t looked into any scientific data on this emotions-in-body theory, but I am trying a little experiment of my own. I’m sleeping naked. Back in Canada, it’s either too cold or too air-conditioned for me to sleep nude, but I find it quite comfortable in the Northern California climate. I know nudity is not required for sex, but I find nudity does make me feel very physically vulnerable. It sounds a little farfetched, but I think that maybe if I do that in times when I’m not having sex, it will give my body a chance to process and discharge some negativity, without the pressure of having it tied into a sexual experience.

Also, my grandmother told me it’s good to give my vagina some breathing room.

It’s just hard. For me living with mental illness is an ongoing process of building myself up and breaking myself down. As I build a system to cope with an aspect of my life, some other part of me is broken and I have to find new tools to shore myself up. I’m starting to realize that my sex life is not exempt from this. My sex life is part of my life, as is my illness. I can’t separate it. I can’t fix it That’s not how this works. I will never cure my mental illness, but I can keep learning how to live with it.

Where do I go from here?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past several weeks, as I try to figure out exactly what I want to be doing over here in the Adorkable Realm.

I’ve ventured beyond the boundaries of this space in terms of blogging. I’ve got a regular feature over at the Yummy Mummy Club, where I write about vibrators, representations of sex in the media and relationship stuff. I’m also a monthly contributor for Already Pretty, which is where a lot of my body-image pieces are landing. Meanwhile, in my offline life, I’m honing and refining my sex educator skills through school and my AASECT mentorship. I’m becoming less of a sex-generalist and slowly working my way towards becoming a child and youth sexuality specialist.

Basically a lot of information is coming in and a lot of content is going out but very little of it is landing here. For a long time, Adorkable Undies was the clearing house for every bit of sex and/or gender-related I had churning in my brain. Now that I have other outlets, I’m trying to decide what I want to post here. What do I have to share, that I’m not sharing elsewhere?

I’ve been pondering, considering, musing and doing some plain old thinking and I’ve decided my best options boil down to these two:

Option The First – Keep It Professional.

I can use this blog as space to write about topics related to my studies and eventually, my sexuality education practice. I can ruminate on issues related to child and youth sexuality. There’s so much I could tackle: talking to kids about sex, media influences, gender norms, gender variance, orientation, dating, parenting quandaries, porn on the Internet, porn off the Internet, resources, social influences, etc, etc, etc. Tailoring this blog to fit in with my speciality is a basically a big, meaty potential sandwich, with a side of hot crispy sensible, as the time I spend writing will directly support and promote my professional services.

Option The Second: Get Personal

In the  years since I’ve been blogging here, I’ve noticed that it’s often the personal posts that illicit the most response. As much as it’s fun to be all expert-y expert, something really nice happens when I let it all hang out. I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety and low libido, my misadventures in parenting and my issues with self-image and you’re so kind and supportive. And you talk, to me and to each other, which makes my heart all big and glow-y! I like being open. I like sharing (sometime oversharing) about my life. But I worry. Will a potential client want my educational services after Googling my name and reading about my masturbatory foibles? Not to mention that while y’all are bomb, the Internet At Large is not always a kind place for women with opinions about the things I have opinions on.

What to do? What to do? I’m going to keep thinking about it. And if you have any ideas or input, I could really, really use some outside influence right now. Opinions, options and all thoughts are most welcome in the comments!

I used the term “y’all” twice in one post. Living in America is having an affect.

 

photo by Yersinia

photo by Yersinia

If you’re looking to make your sex life a little kinkier, but you’re daunted by the sometime high cost of the gear, fear not! Here are some BDSM-hacks that you can add to your holiday wish list without compromising your budget!

Instead of nipple clamps…
Nipple clamps are used to exert pressure or pain on the nipples (obvs!) but you can use them on the scrotum, the labia or any other place you might enjoy a little pinch.

Nipple Clamps

Try clothes pins!
Same great clamping action for a fraction of the price…or free if you have them lying around the house. The trade-off here is nipple clamps are adjustable, while clothes pins are a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. But since you can get a pack of 50 pins for under two bucks, you haven’t lost much if they don’t work out.

Clothes pins

 

 

Instead of a paddle…
Spanking paddles are made of various materials including wood, leather and plastic. They’re generally designed to look and sound like serious business, although you can use them to deliver a gentle pat as well as a full-on wallop.

Paddle

Try a fly swatter!
They may not look as tough, but fly swatters are a mad-bargain. They rarely cost more than a dollar and they deliver quick the licking. If you’re looking for a firmer paddling but still want to pinch your pennies, consider a wooden cooking utensil. Slotted spatulas or one of the spoons with the hole in the middle are especially fun if you like making patterns when you spank!

Wooden spoon

 

 

Instead of a cock cage…
Chastity cages are a way of putting a submissive’s penis under someone else’s control. It doesn’t prevent an erections, but it does restrict a hard on, causing what some describe as erotic comfort. It also prevents access to penis, so if you get turned-on you can’t do anything about it until your play partner decides to release you

Chastity cage

Try a pet muzzle.
Chastity cages can be quite pricey. Pet muzzles, by comparison, are not – so if you’re curious about penile restraint but reluctant to make a big investment, this could be the low-cost option for you. Again, getting a precise fit will with a muzzle might be more of a challenge  but most feature adjustable straps, so you can play around and see what works best for your body.

Pet muzzle

 

 

Instead of the sex store…
No dis to the sex store. I’ve worked in one and I still shop at them all the time. When it comes to items like lube, safer-sex gear, books and most toys and good sex shop can’t be beat. And when you’re ready to invest in some good-quality, long-lasting kinky stuff, your friendly neighbourhood sex peddlers can hook you up proper. That having been said you might pay a premium for certain items.

sex-shop

Try the hardware store!
Some bondage basics can  be purchased at your local home improvement store. Rope, chains, hooks and certain types fasteners are all available at the hardware store. The aesthetics may be a bit more utilitarian, but the prices are usually pretty good. Also a trip to Home Depot is a bit more discreet for those that want to keep their kinky activities to themselves.

Home Depot

Instead of 50 Shades
For many readers, the 50 Shades trilogy opened up a whole world of kinky possibilities. Fiction can definitely inspire exciting ideas for sex in real life; however it isn’t necessarily intended to illustrate the “how-to” ness of kink.

50 Shades

Try SM 101!
This isn’t so much a money saving tip, but if you’re interested in BDSM practices, SM 101 will give you a lot of more bang for you book-buying buck. The subtitle of Jay Wiseman’s primer is “a realistic introduction”. And it is. SM 101 takes you through the basics of negotiation, physical and emotional safety, bondage, spanking, finding partners to play with and more. It’s the first book I ever read about kinky play and to this day it remains one of my favourites.

SM 101

 

So what’s on your sexy wish list this holiday? If you’re looking for more even more gift inspiration you can also check out my latest post over at The Yummy Mummy Club. Happy shopping!

Touch. Our bodies loved to be touched. Not only does consensual touching feel great, it does great things for our physical, emotional and psychological well-being.  Unfortunately, our society doesn’t encourage a whole lot of touchy feel-y outside of sex, which is ironic since non-sexual touching can create the sort of intimacy many people need to feel authentically sexual with a partner.

Massage techniques are a great way to expand your tactile repertoire. It’s lovely, generous way to connect with a partner or even explore your own body. Massage may spark something sexual and that’s totally okay. But it’s also good to remember that we can bestow physical pleasure on others or ourselves without it necessarily leading to sex.

A scented massage oil adds another sensual dimension to the experience. You can purchase pre made oils in various locations but I prefer to make my own. My do-it-yourself skills are a step below basic, but this recipe is, as The Bean would say, easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Check out me out in all my just-rolled-out-of-bed glory as I demonstrate below:

 

Technological advancement ain’t just for the fancy-pantsy computer folks. Innovation is happening in the safer sex field as well. Just check out these nifty prophylactic developments!

According to it’s website, the Unique Pull is the thinnest and strongest condom on the market today. It comes in a nifty little three pack that looks like a credit card, which allows you to store them safely and discreetly in your wallet. It also comes with pull tabs, so you don’t have to handle the actual condom when you put it on. You can go to the website to get more information (some of which is weirdly gendered for reasons I don’t get). You can also check out the Unique Pull in action in this promotional video bellow.

Prrrow! Dig that sultry narration.

If putting on a condom is a tedious fumbling drag, check out Pronto condoms. Developed in South Africa, these rubbers come packaged in their own easy to use applicator. Just snap the pack, slide them down and voila! It’s a pretty nifty design, though sadly they don’t seem to be available in North America yet.

 

Being back in school is challenging. Academics are HARD, yo…at least for me! There’s a whole-lot of learnin’ to do and keeping on top of everything isn’t easy. Luckily the part where I love what I’m doing makes the study load feel a little lighter. It’s tough, but kind of in a good way because I feel I’m being pushed in the right direction.

I’m also being stretched emotionally, which is something I didn’t necessarily expect. Our professors don’t just give us factual information, they make us get all introspective and work on ourselves. Seriously! The faculty have this bizzarro philosophy that self-awareness will help us become better, more compassionate professionals. Whazzup with that?

Here’s an example. Sexuality educator and counsellor, Reece Malone (from Winnipeg! Canada represent!) led a seminar on gender variance and diversity. Before his workshop, I’d assumed that I was a super-cool, mega-enlightened kind of gal who didn’t have any trouble embracing the reality that not everyone’s gender is defined their genitals. But then Reece came along with his brilliant teaching that forced me to go beyond the rational, think-y part of my brain. He made me examine my emotions and gut reactions. And it became pretty obvious pretty fast that as much as I want to be the person who’s totally fine if her little boy decides he wants to be girl, I’m not quite there.

Below is an assignment our class was given. In bold are the prompts from Reece, followed by my answers. Doing this exercise forced me to face the reality, that I definitely have some prejudices around gender identity.

(Warning: This gets kind of long. Bear with me, okay?)

When I meet a person on the street whose gender is unclear to me, Iimmediately feel flustered. Despite my intellectual beliefs, I often find myself scrutinizing their face and body, looking for clues about their gender. I have to consciously remind myself that a stranger’s gender is none of my business, has no effect on my life and to stop staring.

If someone I’ve known for a long time told me that they used to be another gender, I…react differently depending on what they look like. If their body or presentation has characteristics of another gender, I might be less startled. I’ve had this experience with a few long-time acquaintances and my first thought was something like “Ohhhh…it all makes sense now.” But someone whose look is completely in line with my concept of what a person of that gender looks like, might surprise me with their confession.

What I do when I am talking to a student/client/person whose gender is unclear to me, isif I don’t need to know, I generally don’t ask and I try to avoid making any gender-specific references in our conversation. If I think gender will be relevant or it becomes relevant in the conversation, I usually share my preferred pronouns in the hopes that it will encourage them to do the same.

When someone says they are neither male nor female, I…become self-conscious about the language I use around gender. I begin to think very hard about certain phrases I tend to use like “opposite sex” or “boys and girls”. I try not express to that person how awkward I feel, because I feel that’s my issue, not theirs (but I worry that they pick on my awkwardness anyway). I also feel guilt. I wish I was as accepting emotionally as I am in my head.

What I think about the statement “people are neither men nor women” is…that isn’t true. I think ignores the identities of people both trans and cisgender who feel very strongly that they are men or they are women. I believe men and women are the genders that are validated and acknowledged in our society and I believe we need to create space for all the other gender identities that exist, but there are people who are men and women.

If a friend wanted to have genital surgery to present more as a woman I…would ask them how I could support them. I love my friends and I want them to be happy. I honestly don’t feel that surgery would bother me. I think I’d be most concerned that they felt loved and accepted and I’d want to make sure they knew that I cared for them.

My reaction to a trans person who does not “pass” as the gender they are presenting is…that it’s fine. I don’t have to prove that I’m a woman. They shouldn’t have to prove their gender either. It is likely I will slip and use the wrong pronouns, so I’ll be apologizing a lot!

If my parent told me they were going to start to present as the opposite gender than I had known, I…would be really surprised. I think my first impulse would be to tell them that I loved them. Knowing my parents, they’d be deeply hurt if they thought I no longer cared for them. I’d be afraid that they would experience rejection from other people in their life, so I certainly wouldn’t want them to feel any from me. That having been said, it’s hard to imagine my mom as a dad or my dad as a mom. I’m fairly certain I’d also be sad. I’ve known them both my whole life, so to watch such a significant part of who they’ve been for me change or disappear would be really tough.

My current thinking about the reasons some people are trans and some are not is…I’ve never thought about it. Being cisgender, I’m rarely challenged to think about why my gender is what it is. Now that I am thinking about it…I still don’t know. I’m not sure that I personally feel a great need to seek out a “reason”. I just feel it’s important that I learn to sincerely accept people as they truly are.

I think the relationship between being trans and mental health is…profound. I can only imagine the emotional pain of living with an identity that many people don’t understand, acknowledge or accept. I also guess that the continual threat of rejection, or worse, violence could cause severe stress. Because many in our society refuse to embrace gender diverse people, I can understand why they are at greater risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression and have a much higher rate of suicide. That is part of the reason I feel so strongly that I need to keep working on my own prejudices and to take part in whatever work needs to be done to create a trans-inclusive society. Everyone has a right to be who they truly are and to thrive with that identity.

The first time I met a trans individual I felt…ashamed. During the first few encounters, I thought they were a man who was coming on to me. I didn’t like the attention and kept my attitude cool and distant. Eventually she confessed that she was biologically male and transitioning to female. She had identified with me as another woman and was trying to reach out. The shame came from knowing that I had pulled away from someone who simply wanted friendship. Once I realize what was happening, I also felt a bit of pride that she wanted me as a friend. Despite my early behaviour we did eventually become pals.

When someone tells me they may be trans, I question…I don’t know that I question, but I’m curious as to what they are feeling. I sometimes ask, “How are you feeling?”

If my child tells me that his/her best friend may be trans, I think…That I need to speak with my son, find out what his understanding of trans is and help explain anything he’s confused or concerned about (assuming I have the answers). I would also tell my son that he should ask his friend what name/pronoun they like, to use that name and model the behaviour by doing the same thing myself.

I think people who…react violently towards transpeople, refuse to use a person’s preferred name/pronoun, who ask questions about a person’s genitals or how they have sex, who claim that gender identity is inappropriate to discuss with children, who ask “are you a girl or a boy?”, who make disparaging comments about trans identities, who refuse to work with or hire trans people, who insist that trans people conceal their true identities…are transphobic

When I was younger I thought trans people were…women who were born men and had penises. The first depiction of a trans person I ever saw was in The Crying Game and for a long time, that was my only point of reference. I assumed there were also men who were born women and had vulvas, though I had never heard of or seen any. I don’t think I knew surgery was an option, beyond maybe breast implants for women.

If my child came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…excited. I love my son and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but before he was born I always dreamed of having a daughter. So I think my very first thought would be, “Yay! I have a little girl!” But I would very quickly start to worry. I would worry about how best to supporting her and helping her navigate her new identity. I’d be terrified about the bigotry she could face and how it would affect her self-worth. And when she was older, I would worry a lot about her facing violence when she was out in the world.

If my partner came out to me as a trans woman/man I would initially feel…concerned. My partner is the most important person in my life. I know how much he loves me and I know how frightening it would be for him to reveal something he thought might end our relationship or worse, drive me away. I know he’d need support. I think my first impulse would be to reach out as his best friend. But with time I would probably be angry. I might feel like I had been cheated out of a husband. And I think I would be profoundly sad. I love my partner the way he is now. If he came out as trans, I’d feel like I’d lost him even though internally she was the same person. Finally, I think I’d feel guilty. Because with any other person in my life, I think sooner or later I’d be able to accept the change and love them all the same…but I’m not sure that I could do that for my partner.

If my brother/sister came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…I don’t have siblings, so I honestly don’t know. I’m thinking about how I would feel if it were my best friend, who’s been in my life for thirty years. I think I’d be surprised but of all the people that are close to me, I suspect that would be the easiest coming out for me to accept. But with time I would…probably feel a lot of responsibility towards them. I might become a little overzealous in my attempts to be supportive. I could totally see us having a conversation where I’d start asking about their transition, their feelings about their transition, what I could do to help their transition and they’d turn to me and say, “Shut up! What Not To Wear is on!”

Yeaaaaah. I doubt I’ll be winning the Nobel Prize for gender acceptance any time soon. But at least now I know where some of my prejudices are and I can think more clearly about how they might affect other people and how I can work to change my attitude. Hopefully that will make me a better educator and maybe a nicer person.

I invite you to consider some of the Reece’s prompts – they’re great food for thought. And if any of you are so inclined, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments.

 

By Summer Skyes 11 (OMG Ikr lolUploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Summer Skyes 11 via Wikimedia Commons

An interesting article  from Daily Mail Online popped up in my Facebook’s stream a while back, called Experiment That Convinced Me That Porn Is The Most Pernicious Threat Facing Children Today. The subject porn and youth, something that illicits strong opinions among caregivers and educators. The idea that porn can have negative effects for younger viewers is a common perspective. It’s also one that I don’t entirely disagree with, although I certainly don’t think it’s the worst thing to ever could ever happen to a kid EVER.

At any rate the title sounded ominous/sensationalist enough that I was curious about the nature of the “experiment”. What was the methodology? Who was conducting the experiment? And what was the outcome that had convinced author, Martin Daubney – a former skin mag editor – about the unequivocal danger posed by pornography? But by the end of the introductory my curiosity was replaced by big time skepticism:

The moment I knew internet pornography had cast its dark shadow over the lives of millions of ordinary British teenagers will live with me for ever….Before me were a group of 20 boys and girls, aged 13-14. Largely white, working class children, they were well turned-out, polite, giggly and shy. 

I had trouble with the way the issue was framed. “Good” kids vs. sex. Goodness in this case being demonstrated by the students’ general whiteness and not-being poor. I guess it’s okay, or at least expected that ethnic kids from low-income families be exposed to pornography?  Only when it infiltrates the sweet ranks of society’s most valuable children should we sound the alarm bells.

Right under this paragraph is a picture of the author, his wife and his very young son who looks three, maybe four years old. The grown-ups look concerned verging on frightened. The kid is nine kinds of adorable, with blond curls and a pursed-lipped smile. And I can’t think it’s a coincidence that the editors chose this photo to lead the article. You have the words “Children” and “Porn” looming over the head of this cutey-cute little person and whoa! Suddenly, porn does seem pretty threatening!

The subjects of the actual experiment are a group of 13 to 14 year-old students. Teenagers. I do think that it’s necessary for adults to be aware that youth today have unprecedented access to sexually explicit material. A kid has with a smartphone they can see porn. And not just the commercially available stuff. Snapchat and other apps have made sending sexy selfies super-easy. I don’t think it’s necessary for us parent-types to panic. But I think we need to be aware that there’s a high likelihood our kids will be exposed to more sexual content at an earlier age than most of us were.

Under instruction from a sex-educator, the youth are asked to write down the terminology they’ve picked up from porn. The lists are pinned on the board and according to the article, there are words that none of the adults know. This shocks the grown-ups. One of the terms is “nugget”. (Full-disclosure: I heard the term for the first time very recently and it did shock me. It’s slang for a porn performer – typically a woman – who doesn’t have arms or legs).

Daubry goes on to report:

But the more mundane answers were just as shocking. For example, the first word every single boy and girl in the group put on their list was ‘anal’.

Daubry explains that he hadn’t heard of sodomy at that young age and he’s deeply troubled by the thought that some of these  youth may have a) seen it, b) may want to try it.

I was still annoyed by the sensationalism, but I can understand the alarm.  It seems to be pretty common for adults to feel thrown when they discover that the kids in their life are more sexually knowledgable than they assumed. I was a pre-teen when my peers and I started flipping through romance novels to find the sex scenes. I heard guys talk about a stash of Playboy or Penthouse they’d unearthed from the basement or their parents bedroom. We started hearing terms like “blow job” and giggled when someone explained what it was. This started when were ten, eleven, twelve. I don’t think any of us were ready to have sex yet  – I certainly wasn’t –  but we were old enough to be curious.

Now that I’m a parent, I look at my son. He seems so very young. It’s hard to fathom that the talks about sex – not just “these are your body parts/this is how babies are made” talks – might start happening in just a few years. I think it’s totally understandable for us grown-ups to have an initial freak-out. THE KIDS ARE WATCHING WHAT?!! But I think the next step is to get it together and figure out what to do next. If my kid does find himself amongst a group like the one in the article, here are some things I hope I remember to bring up:

  • What do you think about the fact that amputees are being referred to here as “nuggets”? How might it make that person feel? What message does that send about people with disabilities? What do you think about the fact that people with different bodies can and do have sex?
  • Do you know the differences between having anal sex in real life and the way it’s shown in porn? Do you know why it’s important to use lubricant? Do you know reducing your risk of infection with barriers? Do you know why communication with your sex partner is super-important here.
  • Let’s talk about why you’re watching this. How did you find it? Airial Clark a.k.a. The Sex Positive Parent had some great advice around kids discovering porn. Ask them if *they* think this is material is appropriate for their age. Remind them that the performers are real people, adults doing adult things. How do they think the people in the movie might feel if they knew kids were watching? How would they feel if a grown-up was naked or tried to have sex in front of them?
  • It’s also an opportunity to find out from kids what they find compelling about the material. Because it may not be what you think. It’s an opportunity to talk about the difference between porn sex and sex-in-real life.

Daubrey does have some follow-up conversation with some of the youth after the class. He finds the ensuing conversation “horrifying”, saddened that these kid’s expectations around sex have been shaped almost entirely by pornography and shocked by some of the content the teens have been consuming.

These kids were balanced, smart and savvy. They were the most academically gifted and sporting in the school. They came from ordinary, hard-working households. This was not ‘Broken Britain’.

Once again, folks – sex is for bad people. Who’s bad? Kids who struggle in school. The one’s who come from weird, poor households. The ones who are “broken”.

Most of us become curious about sex long before we feel ready to engage in partnered sexual activity. Sexuality isn’t something that suddenly kicks in on our 18th birthday. It’s with us all of our lives and it develops over time. When I was a kid, my friends and I didn’t look at novels, or Playboy and unscrambled pay-per-view because we wanted to run out and do those things. We just wanted to know what it was about. We were trying to understand.

Youth today are curious too. They’re seeing more because there’s more material and easier access to explicit content than we had at that age. Unfortunately, that isn’t something that we can change. I knew more about sex at a younger age than my parents had…and they probably knew more than their parents. Depending on our kids’ ages and situations, we can limit their exposure to porn for a time. But at some point they’re going to get on the Internet. And if they want to find porn they will. And I think the best tool we can give them is a whack-ton of real-world information about sex, so that porn isn’t the only influence.

Daubrey does conclude with cursory call for parents to teach their kids that  that real sex “is not about lust, it’s about love.

So, I agree with the spirit but I don’t love the phrasing.Lust and love aren’t mutually exclusive. And personally I’m not interested in judging the rightness or realness of  people’s sex based on how much of either is involved. I want to teach my child to  honour his own ethics when it comes to sex. I want him to understand their options when it comes to safer sex and if it applies, contraception. I want him  to understand why respect, consent and care for our sexual partners is essential. I want them to know that sex isn’t about being normal and doing what everyone else is doing, it’s about doing what feels good, what feels right for the people involved. And yes I will try to teach him about love and lust, just not as an either/or proposition. And finally, I will try my best to teach him to look at media with a critical eye, so hopefully he can distinguish between reality and a carefully crafted performance.

The very last sentence of Daubrey’s article tells us to communicate with our children.  “By talking to them, they stand a chance”.

At least we agree on something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gals, it’s great to rock a sexy costume, if that’s your flavour. But if you’d rather stay modest you have options.

Well, an option 😉

 Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

Intersex

The other day The Bean asked if all boys have penises, which seemed like a good opportunity to start talking about difference between sex and gender.

“Let’s talk about biological sex,” I began, “Can you say that word? Bi-o-logical?”

“Biological,” the Bean repeated carefully.

“Awesome! Biological sex means what kind of body a person is born with. You were born with testicles and penis, so your biological sex is male. I was born with a vulva and a uterus and other parts. My biological sex is female. Some people are born with a mix of male and female parts. They are intersex.”

“I wish I had all the parts,” said The Bean, “I could pee SO MUCH!”

I made a mental note to come back to anatomy at a later date.

“Gender is….” I hesitated, trying to think of the best way to summarize the complexity of personal identity in six-year-old terms.

“I know! It’s like Like Star Trek: The Next Gender-ation,” The Bean offered.

“Uh…no. Gender is who you feel you are inside.  Some people believe they’re girls, some believe they’re boys, some believe they’re a mix of both and some believe they aren’t either. Some people aren’t sure. But it doesn’t always have to do with what kind of body parts you have. So not everyone who has a vulva is a girl. Not everyone who has a penis is a boy.

“Who do you believe you are?” The Bean asked me.

“When I was little I was a girl and now I’m grown up, so I’m a woman. That’s what I feel”  I told him. “What about you?”

“I feel I am…a dog! That’s my gender!”

It’s an ongoing process, people. It’s an ongoing process.

Posted with The Bean’s consent