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ExpandBreaking down GRSIs to the simple stuff )
ExpandWhy do we need all these different labels? )
ExpandIsn't there only one sort of attraction, though? )
ExpandCrushes, squishes, queerplatonic relationships and zucchinis )
ExpandI'm confused about the gender thing. )
ExpandImportant things to keep in mind!!! )

Breaking down GRSIs to the simple stuff

(GRSIs: gender, romantic and sexual identities)

  • -sexual: Sexual attraction/orientation. Such labels would be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, grey-ace, demisexual etc.
  • -romantic: Romantic attraction/orientation. Such labels would be heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, aromantic, greyromantic, demiromantic, lithromantic, etc. (Romantic attraction/orientation is usually only referenced when it differs from sexual attraction/orientation.)
  • -gender: Gender descriptors. Such labels would be cisgender, transgender, agender, bigender, pangender, genderqueer, genderfluid, neutrois, etc. (Obviously not all identities end with -gender.)
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Why do we need all these different labels?

At the simplest, it’s to explain to other people how we interact with the world without having to go into long, complex explanations. Having simple terms help us to communicate with others and to find other people going through similar experiences to ourselves. They also help us to understand our own identities and personalities better, which I feel is a key aspect to finding fulfilment in our lives (but maybe that’s just me).

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Isn't there only one sort of attraction, though?

NO. There are at least four different kinds of attraction (and I like to include a fifth and sixth: emotional attraction and intellectual attraction). These break down into the following:

  • Sexual attraction: This is the attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or interaction with another person. It is not the same thing as a sex drive or libido. It is possible to experience sexual attraction and not romantic attraction.
  • Romantic attraction: This is the attraction that makes people desire a romantic relationship with another person, or to feel emotions typically described as “romantic” towards another person. It is possible to experience romantic attraction and not sexual attraction. (Useful FAQs about aromanticism [those who experience little or no romantic attraction] can be found here and here.)
  • Aesthetic attraction: This is when somebody simply appreciates the appearance of somebody else, disconnected to any romantic or sexual attraction. It’s similar to appreciating a work of art or a beautiful landscape.
  • Sensual attraction: This is the attraction that makes people want to do non-sexual, tactile things with another person, such as hugging or cuddling. In sexual people (i.e. those who experience sexual attraction), it is often difficult to differentiate between sexual and sensual attraction as they can sometimes overlap. People who are described as “tactile” or “cuddly” could be said to experience high levels of sensual attraction.
  • Emotional attraction: This is the attraction that makes people want to get to know others. It's also known as an attraction to somebody's personality rather than physicality. Emotional attraction is present in most relationships, platonic through to romantic, which is why it is rarely listed as a form of attraction. (However, I like to include it because I feel that it is a key part of understanding attraction--it drives almost every relationship except for the purely sexual ones, and helps to explain how "fuck-buddies" can be as emotionally intimate as romantic partners without being "in love".)
  • Intellectual attraction: This is the attraction that makes people want to talk to others, pick their brains and discuss serious matters with them because their way of thinking is interesting. It's not so much to do with the person as much as how they think and what they think about, but is an important part of both romantic and platonic relationships. Sapiosexuality is the term for being attracted to intelligence. (I may be more unusual in feeling it to be the real make-or-break aspect of a relationship, though.)
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Crushes, squishes, queerplatonic relationships and zucchinis

Ever heard somebody say that they've got a "crush" on somebody? Most probably. It's the easiest term to describe attraction to somebody and is the most common one used. However, there comes with the word "crush" certain romantic connotations, which obviously doesn't work for the aromantic community--a lot of whom still experience other forms of attraction. As a result, the term "squish" came into being, meaning to have an intense desire to get to know somebody or to be friends with them (and, like crushes, squishes can range in intensity from a casual flicker of interest to a deep, burning wish to be in a close relationship with them).

What is generally considered to be the closest of platonic relationships is the queerplatonic relationship (commonly abbreviated to QPR), which has been described as "Schrodinger's Dating", "like Watson and Holmes" and "like the very, very best friend you could ever have". It's hard to define a QPR as they vary so much from relationship to relationship, but the general consensus is that it is something more than friendship but isn't romantic like dating. Those in a QPR love each other very deeply, but have no wish to embark on anything romantic. A definition from here is as follows:

Queerplatonic is a word for describing relationships where an intense emotional connection transcending what people usually think of as ‘friendship’ is present, but the relationship is not romantic in nature; people in a queerplatonic relationship may think of themselves as partners, may plan on spending their lives together, etc. The ‘queer’ is a reference to the idea of queering relationships and ideas about relationships, not for describing the orientations or genders of anyone in a queerplatonic relationship. Anyone, sexual or asexual, romantic or aromantic, straight, gay, queer, bi, lesbian, poly, cis, trans, etc etc can be in a queerplatonic relationship, can have more than one such relationship, and there can be more than two people in a queerplatonic relationship; couples, triads, quads, whatever. The key feature is the idea of being deeply connected to someone, without a romantic element (though a queerplatonic relationship can be sexual).

A common term for queerplatonic partners (or QPPs) is "zucchini". [A more in-depth look into the origin of the term here.] It's basically a silly word chosen at random that the aromantic community use as there are no other terms already in usage that fit a QPR. 

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I'm confused about the gender thing. How is gender identity different from gender expression/what is gender presentation/etc?

Here, have a lovely little diagram:

(click on image for a link through to a bigger version)



  • At the simplest, gender identity is how you identify in your mind and doesn't necessarily have any bearing on your expression, presentation or role (e.g. somebody could identify as male, dress like a woman, behave like a woman and be treated like a woman if that what they so desired).
  • Gender expression is the manner in which you "perform" said gender (e.g. a woman may express her femininity in wearing pretty dresses or she may express it in her choice of hair-cut.)
  • Gender presentation is the way you "present" yourself to society and others, such as behaving in a particular way, dressing in a particular way, cutting your hair a particular way, having a certain modulation to your voice etc. (It's closely linked in with gender expression, but gender expression is about expressing yourself whereas gender presentation is about being read in a particular way.)
  • Gender role is the role which a person takes in society. Unfortunately, this usually still conforms to binary expectations as well as heteronormative expectations, meaning that masculine = dominant, career-driven, has a job and earns money for the family, and feminine = submissive, family-driven, stays at home to cook/clean/take care of the kids. (There is a reason that gender role is a much less common facet of gender when it comes to transgender issues, as many people take issue with the normative, binary and stereotypical ideas perpetuated by it.) 
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Important things to keep in mind!!!

Sexual orientation is not the same as gender identity. A gay man is not "like a woman" and a lesbian is not "like a man", even if said gay man is effeminate and said lesbian is masculine. If they identify as a certain gender, then they are that certain gender.  

Anybody of any sexual/romantic orientation can identify as any gender identity.
Some people argue that male lesbians can exist because lesbian relationships are different from heterosexual ones and identifying as a certain gender shouldn't encumber somebody from experiencing a desired style of relationship, and I say more power to them and that that's another debate that I may tackle at another time. 
 An asexual and/or aromantic person is not "broken" or simply waiting for the Right Person™. They do not need fixing and finding the Right Person™ would not magically make them "normal". They are perfectly fine as they are and are just as human as any other human being. 

GRSIs can sometimes be a phase, and can sometimes be for life, and either is okay. Permanence of identity is a harmful concept that often makes people too scared to explore their identity, as well as being incorrect for a lot of people. If somebody identifies as X one month, then Y the next, and then ADJKZ the month after that, then they are not "fickle" or "labouring under a delusion" and dismissing their identity with the phrase "oh, it's just a phase" is denying the legitimacy of their feelings and existence and saying that "phases" are somehow false. People can change. That is natural and completely okay. However, every identity should be treated as legitimate no matter how long it lasts--whether it be for a couple of months or an entire lifetime. 

Trans* people don't have to conform to stereotypical gender roles any more than cis people. [cisgender = non-transgender] A transgender male doesn't necessarily have to be masculine, and a transgender female doesn't necessarily have to be feminine. Regardless of biological sex, anybody can be any gender identity/expression/presentation etc.

You do not get to label anybody else. If somebody says that they identify as a certain way, then that is who they are and it is only right to respect that even if you think it weird or nonsensical. It makes sense to them and it's who they are, so that must be respected. If somebody says that they are bisexual, then don't tell them that they are "really just gay and afraid to properly come out of the closet". If somebody biologically male says that they are female, then don't respond with, "oh, but you're so masculine!" because that? Is complete bullshit. (Remember: a woman can be masculine and a man can be feminine, regardless of their biological sex.) If they say that they think they are pangender, then don't tell them that being pangender doesn't really exist or that they have to choose to be male or female one day. It's common courtesy and it appalls me to see so much label-policing that goes around. 

You don't get to pick and choose what levels of respect you will give somebody. If you respect somebody, then you respect them fully. You don't get to tell a FtM [female-to-male] that you will use their chosen name but that you won't use male pronouns because you will "always think of them as a girl". You don't get to tell a trans* person how to "pass as [gender] better" unless they ask for that advice because you wouldn't say as much to a cis person. You don't get to ask somebody what their "real name" (read: birth name) is, or what genitals they have. You don't get to ask an asexual person if they're a virgin, or if they've ever been kissed. If you're not sure if it's offensive/invasive? Don't say it.

If a person of a non-normative GRSI/LGBTQ+ peson tells you that you're being offensive, then you're being offensive. Don't get offended about being told that you're being offensive; shut up, listen to what they're saying and correct your behaviour.

Understand the concept of "privilege" and don't reference it incorrectly or ignore your own privilege, no matter how under-privileged you consider yourself in other aspects. It would be exceptionally difficult for somebody to not have privilege in some areas of their lives, and it is something that affects us all. Don't claim that it "doesn't affect you personally" so you "don't need to know about it"--shut the hell up, sit down and learn. 

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...and there we have it. Any questions? [NB: Anonymous commenting is enabled for those who don't have dreamwidth/livejournal accounts.]
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Adam

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