Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Identity Revisited

I wrote Identity almost 4 years ago. After 4 years much has changed. I discovered what my sexual identity truly was after over 30 years of struggles. I discovered I had severe depression and anxiety disorders. I have come up with a label to describe how I do not fit in with the traditional gender roles. I am not as involved with the geek/nerd culture as I thought I would be, and I am fine with that. I have created a wonderful circle of friends that have become a great support to me. That circle keeps expanding. I left a job, was unemployed for 2 and a half years, and I am now reemployed in a rewarding field I am rediscovering. I am working to move into a new place with a more positive atmosphere.  

I am still an Uber-nerd/geek, but my attachment to superheroes in comic book form has lessened to a great degree. I still love them in merchandise, movies, TV and so on. I have worked hard to trim down my Television watching. I felt it got too out of hand. I thought I could plug myself into existing Portland Nerd/Geek community circles and no problem. It did not happen that way and I am glad. I have created a couple of circles of my own. Some are close and some are casual. I have made lifelong friends in so many people.

Even though, I have non-White and non-Christian heritages, and I have various disabilities, due to my Caucasian appearance I have had White privilege. That realization was hard to swallow with my experiences growing up in a Blue Collar family and living in a lower economic neighborhood. I have experienced sizeism, ableism, and classism. However, I can do things that my friends of color cannot. I do not have to worry about certain behaviors in public and how to conduct myself with the authorities. Is this right? No, it is not. It is however how things are. It is my duty as a human being to fight for equality and equal opportunity for all human beings.

I have come to embrace the rich multicultural, multiethnic, and multifaith upbringing I had. I come from a very diverse gene pool. The heritages I know I belong to are English, Ulster Scots (Scots Irish), German, French, Dutch, Swede, Norwegian, Italian, Dane, Middle Eastern Jew, European Jew, Chiricahua Apache, Choctaw, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Chippewa. Plus through cousins, aunts, and uncles there is Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican, Welsh, and Puerto Rican. Knowing my family history there could be Irish, Scots, Spanish, Mexican, African-American, Welsh, Eastern European, and who knows what else. I also grew up near Mexican-American and Japanese-American communities in Southern California. I try to honor the cultures I do not come from, but not to misappropriate anything.

I learned I have severe depression and anxiety disorder. The depression has lessened to a great degree since I became employed again. The anxiety it seems stems from the various traumatic experiences I encountered as a child.   Between the many surgeries for 0 to 16, the physical and sexual child abuse, and more recently the domestic abused I suffered, it is no surprise that my fight or flight responses are on the wonky side. I am seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist to get these issues under control.

I left the USPS after nine years. I was not happy and had not been from the beginning. It was the last vestige of my old life with Barbara. After two and a half years, I found employment again. I had balked previously at this position. I was my Ex’s live-in in-home caregiver. I now work as an in-home caregiver at an adult foster home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had. It works well with my nurturing side. I get to cook for the residents, and lately that has been a good deal of improvised dishes. I get along with the residents; I have had some issues with a few co-workers. That happens from time to time.

One of the things, I learned in the last 4 years was about my sexuality. I always felt like I never fit in. My whole adult life I felt like an outsider, someone who just does not get things in the wider society. I chalked it up to my social ineptitude, my lack of peer interaction at a young age, my difficulty with social interaction due to my disabilities, my anxiety, my being different when it came to gender roles, and my traumas. Those may be contributing factors, but there was one I did not know. I have a very close friend who is Asexual. In order to understand and not make too many social faux pas with them, I did some serious research. Among the Asexual spectrum is Demi-sexual, someone who only feels sexual attraction with someone they are emotionally connected to.

That sounded like how I was and am. I never understood when guys would talk about celebrities or even random ladies they would like to have sex with. I thought, “They were pretty and I would like to get to know them, but not necessarily in the biblical sense.” Casual sex, one night stands, swinging and so on freaks me out. I am a very physically affectionate person, but there has only been sexual overtones with my significant others. I had people get the wrong idea with me. They would think that I was coming on to them when I was not. I am horrible at flirting, that has had disastrous results. When people have flirted with me I have been oblivious. I am not Aromantic; I am a hetero-romantic. When I am attracted, it has always been with women.

Discovering this was scary and exhilarating. It explained so much of my experiences. It was why I felt confused, even though it appeared I was cis-gendered hetero-normative. I came out to both my parents. Mom gets it kind of and Dad is trying. He does not really understand. In anticipation of this article, I came out en masse to my Facebook friends. There has been no negative backlash. Dad was a little afraid for me, publically labeling myself. Growing up in the McCarthy era means he is afraid of labels. It also does not help he was raised by two people who were half white Christian and half something else (one Jewish and one Native American) and taught not to present any outward differences. He is accepting of me, but worries for my safety.

Due to my not fitting in the typical binary gender roles dichotomy of the Western world, I began to look what the term Queer. Usually it means someone who does not fit into the binary gender appearance or identity dichotomy that pervades Western society. Nowhere does it include those who do not fit into gender roles. I identify as male and prefer for my personal style to use typical Western male gender specific apparel. It fits my personal esthetic. On the other hand, I do not fit the typical male in terms of gender roles. I am not all about competition and conquest. I am a sensitive, emotional, nurturing type. Most of those fit the more feminine ideal, not the masculine. I am artistic, feeling, and inquisitive. I am put off by impersonal types.

My idea is to put another identifier for those of us who identify with our gender of birth and its esthetic, but eschew the gender roles traditions with our particular gender. I propose the term Gender Role Queer. Part of the reason for this is it has become much more acceptable for women to follow the more masculine gender roles and still be feminine. However the opposite is still not true. Men who follow more feminine gender roles are typically ridiculed. The House Husband and Stay at Home Dad are gaining momentum. Any man who wants to take care of children other than his own is viewed with suspicion. Part of this is the false assumption that male sexuality is inherently predatory. Male nurses are also gaining momentum. Male nannies, male nursery school/ preschool to kindergarten teachers, and some male caregivers are greeted with suspicion by many folks of all genders.

Part of this suspicion is based on two fallacies: one, that male sexuality is inherently predatory, and two that women are inherently incapable of being sexually predatory. According to the statistics only 4% of all sexual offenders are non-male. Here is the problem. That is only including those caught. How many are not caught? How many victims believe female on male rape is not possible? How many Police Departments do the same? Male rape victims of both male and female perpetrators have an even less rate of reporting the crime than their female counterparts. It is the same with female on male child sex abuse. Any statistic is not going to reflect the true extent unless there is 100% reporting and conviction. With the recent news, how many male perpetrators get away scot free? Imagine then how many female perpetrators getaway if they are even worse at being reported, let alone convicted.

I am not trying to attack women, I am pointing out how the present gender dichotomy is broken. I am saying women are as much capable of heinous crimes that many in our society assume are only male based. Stereotypes, both seemingly positive and the obviously negative, harm society. They seem to protect those we should not. I believe in equality is every sense of the world. That means that no double standards period. We should never assume one group is inherently bad or good. Those kinds of ideas create so many problems. I have always identified as a male feminist, which involves seeing how institutionalized sexism harms all members of society. 

These two fallacies also feed into a very dangerous dichotomy, in which male equals aggressor and predator and female equals passive and prey. The truth is a predator can be anything from anywhere, so is the same with their targets. No group should be completely demonized or canonized. In many states sexual assault only occurs when the victim is penetrated. Therefore female on male or female on female assault not involving in penetration by a foreign object is not considered rape in those states.

As someone whose abusers were all female, I understand this social issue intimately. I suffered childhood physical and sexual abuse from females. I suffered at the hand of a female domestic abuser. I am proof that women are capable of these things. We need to stop this unhealthy suspicion of males who are nurturers. Until this suspicious is gone and people do not see something untoward when there is no such thing, the Gender Role Queer concept will be needed. Yes, I have been talking about the darker sides of humanity. I strive for equity of treatment for all. I have hope in our better natures, so we need to stop being suspicious based on gender, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, race, ethnicity or any other factor. This has been my journey and my not so humble opinion.