She was the second person I came out to, and a big part of me gaining the courage to do so to my then partner, now wife.
I learned so much from her. She was a genius in all meanings of the word! A Phd under her belt and a promising career as a university lecturer well under way. She was a kind, helpful, intense and funny humans-person.
She is missed terribly by all of us who knew her; I wanted to write something about her that will last and that I can look back on.
Jess was Trans. She wouldn’t mind me telling you, she wanted to talk about it at every opportunity and to educate any one willing to listen about what it meant, what it didn’t mean, how it felt. The ‘how it felt’ bit was often painful as she suffered with horrifying dysphoria, but bore it well amidst the love of many. It couldn’t help but define her in some ways. It is impossible to think of her without also think of this huge aspect of her life that made every day life a struggle but she was so very much more than that.
I first met Jess at a xmas part thrown by my wife’s workplace many years ago. I had gone along despite some misgivings as I am awful at these sort of occasions, especially surrounded by people I have never met. I am sure that I pissed people off as I sat at the huge round table, unable to hear anyone because of the background noise, giving monosyllabic answers and trying to smile politely whilst staring at my plate.
People slowly drifted away to actually enjoy themselves until it was just me at the table. Some time passes and the woman I came to know as Jess sat down next to me and said hello. She had been talking to my other half as Jess was the partner of one of my wife’s best friends from work. At that point we knew of Jess’s existance but had never met her or knew anything about her.
Anyway, it took about 15 seconds for us to start chatting about RPGs (Roleplaying games, not Rocket Propelled Grenades) as it was a shared love and we had played many of the same ones over the years. We spent pretty much the rest of the evening talking and dancing and it really set the tone for our friendship over the coming years.
We played EVE Online together briefly, we played a few RPGs together with other friends. We were both fairly useless at keeping in touch, so we didn’t talk as often as we could have, or even email, something that I now bitterly regret of course.
We did exchange a tone of emails regarding this website when I was setting it up and following some of the posts, especially the “about me” section. She was instrumental in me starting this whole thing up, and through that, in me becoming more comfortable with myself and my feelings. That’s who she was, she made you feel great about YOU.
And now she is gone. A heart attack took her suddenly away from us.
Her family is coping as well as can be expected, her partner and their son are as close as it’s possible to be and are leaning on each other and the many friends they all had.
I miss her. I miss the totally open and no-holds-barred conversations we had. I miss her smile, her hugs and her amazing positivity.
Apart from being *really* hard to spell, what is androgyny and how does it apply to this blog and indeed this blogger?
Note:As with pretty much all my blog posts, this is a “stream of conscientiousness” ramble
As with almost all such questions in this day and age, let’s jump over the the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia! (Certain amount of sarcasm intended….although a lot of this article had it’s jumping off point there)
Androgyny as a noun came into use c.1850, nominalizing the adjective androgynous. The adjective use dates from the early 17th century and is itself derived from the older French (14th Century) and English (c.1550) term androgyne.
So straight away we can see that this is in no way a modern construct. The word itself is a mesh of two ancient Greek words:
Andr – Man
Gyne – Woman
There have been references to androgyny for as long as we have records. The ancient Greeks had the legend of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis who fused to become one androgynous immortal being. Hermaphroditus of course gave it’s name to the term “hermaphrodite”, which in the common parlance is used to mean one living being/animal that expresses both sets of genitalia. I won’t be discussing this as it muddies the water at times and has no impact on androgyny at all.
One of the earliest mentions of androgyny is from Plato. He tells a tale of how humans used to be very different than how they are now, they were like two people joined back to back. A person which was both halves male was from the sun, both halves female was from the earth, and male-female was from the moon.
These people tried to usurp the gods and when they failed Zeus cut them all in half, leaving the navel as a reminder that if they tried it again he would slice them up even further and leave everyone hopping around on one leg!
Plato says that the people who are descended from the “Moon People” are now what we would call androgynous. Another interesting and important snippet from this story is that Plato states categorically that homosexuality is not shameful, thanks Plato! Seriously though, this is just one example of how someone many thousands of years ago, growing up in a completely different era with a completely non-christian set of morals saw what is blatantly obvious but missed by so many today…
Anyway, moving on…
Androgyny has, since the start of the 20th century at least, been closely connected with the gender equality movement. Luisa Capatillo is a great example of this. She was the first woman in Peurto Rico to wear trousers in public and a strong women’s rights campaigner in a very masculine culture during the late 1800’s and early 1900s.
The androgynous look soon got into fashion, most notably Coco Chanel promoted the androgynous look, and Marlene Dietrich took it on and ran with it, being the first female star to wear trousers to a premiere.
Up until the middle of the 20th century, it is primarily women who are identified as choosing to appear androgynous. In the 50s and 60s this started to change though. Something that I found quite surprising (until I actually thought about it and revisited soem early photographs) was that one of the earliest examples of male androgynous appearance was none other than Elvis Presley! As soon as you think about it, it makes sense though!
In his early incarnation and right up until the 70’s, Elvis was a “pretty boy” and enhanced his looks with makeup, one of the very first male pop/rock stars to do so. He was such a success (and I don’t need to say how much the girls loved him!) that the androgynous look was taken up by many other pop/rock artists.
Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, John Travolta and even Jimi Hendrix can all be said to have embraced the androgynous look to a greater or lesser extent, and to great success!
Outside of the music world, it was much more a “women dressing as men thing” than a “men dressing as women” thing. Yes I appreciate that this statement tramples all over modern thinking (thinking that I 100% subscribe to) but it is how it was seen at the time. The majority of people would probably still see it that way today.
The androgynous look continued in the pop world through the 80s with Grace Jones and Nick Rhodes to name just a few.
Skipping forward to the modern world, androgyny is discussed a little less than “gender fluidity”. I blow hot and cold on this term. In one way I like it, but in another I think that gender fluidity encompasses a lot more than androgyny, which tends to be a purely visual statement. Gender is such a hot topic and at the cutting edge of understanding for the world at large that I think any widely used term which includes the word needs to be very careful.
Artists like Lady Gaga, Ruby Rose, Jaden Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are being pointed at with regards “Gender Fluidity”, but for me it’s unfair and impossible to label them (as well as plain wrong) as such because I don’t know what their Gender Identity is. I can see how they are dressing and how they are portraying themselves, but that’s it. Are they doing it for artistic reasons? Are they making a point? Or is this how they actually identify their own gender? I don’t know.
Wikipedia says that:
An androgyne is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Androgynes may also use the term “ambigender” or “polygender” to describe themselves. Many androgynes identify as being mentally between woman and man. They may identify as “non-gender”, “gender-neutral”, “agender”, “between genders”, “genderqueer”, “non-binary”, “multigender”, “intergendered”, “pangender” or “gender fluid”.
Using the above description, I would have to identify myself as androgynous. In a previous post I described how I do not identify with either male or female despite being in appearance an obvious male with a beard and a bit of a podge. My brain simply will not put me into either bracket when I think about my identity.
Out of interest, I recently carried out an online Bem Sex-role Inventory Self Assessment. This is a test designed in the 70s by Sandra Bem and is apparently one of the more widely used gender measures. The possible outcomes are Masculine, Feminine, Androgynous and Undifferentiated. Interestingly, and fitting with my statement above my result was “undifferentiated” since I had Masculine, Feminine and Androgynous scores all under 70/100. I guess this reflects the fact that I really don’t care, and it’s not a “thing” for me.
I guess I am still a little confused about whether androgyny is a look, a lifestyle, a gender-type expression, or all of the above!
I would be really excited and interested to hear your thoughts. Shoot me down, educate me, discuss any of this post, please!
I have talked before about my experience with depression. Thankfully now I am decently medicated and able to engage properly with my wonderful partner I am able to turn my eyes inwards a little more and think about those feelings, even fight them when necessary.
I have also spoken about photography and my love for making photographs. I have recently started using old film cameras rather than digital (Although the results are digitised) and am loving it.
So, I am going to put the two together.
One of the key aspects of depression is the feeling that you are trapped in some way; you feel like there is no way out, no options, no alternatives. Nowhere to go…
I have started planning work on a project to combine my photography with my words on the subject of barriers and depression. This will be the first photography project I have ever undertaken but it feels right. It has been far too long since I wrote prose or poetry; and I have never limited myself in such a way as to have to focus and write on a specific subject. It will be an interesting experience.
I will keep you posted – as a starter here is one of the photographs that I will be including in the project.
Maybe I can have a photo-book created, perhaps to sell and donate the proceeds to a relevant charity, but I am not jumping ahead of myself, rather my aim is to enjoy the process and get my feelings and thoughts through the lens and pen.
Feels a bit funny talking about being self absorbed on a forum that is essentially me saying to the world “read all about me!”, but what the hell. That’s a great dichotomy to start the day! This is a post for me, I need to write this stuff down so that I can process it and understand it. If you want to read it then great, but I am not expecting anyone to.
I guess I am feeling a bit angry, a bit upset/sad, and a bit disappointed. Who at? Well me of course.
I haven’t been a brilliant partner recently. Since coming out to my wonderful girlfriend she has been her trademark supportive amazing self. I on the other hand have become obsessed with my new found “identity” and researching/discovering who and what I am. I am a very obsessive person. When I have something that I am interested in, it’s like the rest of the world stops and I have to focus on that thing entirely.
Of course this leads to burn out and depression.
Sometimes it’s a slow burn, sometimes it’s a bright hot fire. My most recent thing has been one of the fires. It’s my photography, and I only just realised as I am writing this blog post. I got it into my head that because people are always saying how good my photos are that I could make some money from selling prints. This may be true, but I went after it in my standard way i.e. all guns blazing.
I created a facebook page and invited all my friends to follow it. I created the Fine Art America page and of course expected that the world of art would immediately see what a messiah to the monochrome image I am and come beating down the door with battering rams of cash!
There’s nothing wrong with all of this. It’s pretty normal behavior for a new endevour I think? The problem comes when there isn’t a balance between that and day to day life.
When I get focused on something like that, it’s like everyday life kind of fades into the background. I stop looking after myself, I stop interacting with people, I forget to do things and don’t think about those around me.
Well it has to stop. I am drawing a line here, publicly and privately. No more. I am hurting the one person who has stood by me through everything and I can’t let that happen any more. I’m sorry.
Words are all well and good, I am good with words. But words only take you so far. There are only so many times you can say “I’m sorry” without your actions backing that up. That’s where I have been falling down, and I it’s because I am focusing on the wrong things, the important things are blurred, out of focus, and I need to reverse that.
So what can I do? Well one thing I can do is drop the constant thinking about selling my prints. I have set up the mechanism and they will either sell or they wont. If they do then that’s cool, if not, then it hasn’t cost me anything!
What else? Well from now on I need to be here and now. This is real life. The only life we get as far as we know. If I mess this up then I don’t get another chance, I don’t get to start over and learn from my mistakes, I need to learn now and learn fast.
So there we are. I bit of a ramble. I don’t know if anyone can relate and it doesn’t really matter to me. I have made a commitment to myself and to the most important person in my life. I will be better.
I wanted to just say a very quick thank you. I now have 14 followers by Worpress and email. Fourteen people who are interested in reading my self-analytical ramblings 🙂 I have a few post ideas stacked up and am getting more each day so you should see a fairly steady stream of stuff from me although I am not imposing any schedule on myself, that would only lead to a lower quality of post and feelings of guilt if/when I missed deadlines; I want to keep this upbeat and positive!
I am learning so much about myself, partially from writing and partly from reading other bloggers on WordPress. I am following loads of people who are in a similar boat to me, or who are at a much more developed stage in their sexual self awareness. I am making progress, and I will share that with you all as I go along.
Do you want to know anything in particular? Any questions? Any requests?
I am working away and just got back to the hotel after dinner and a few drinks all am perhaps a little emotional but I just wanted to share how lucky I am to have a wonderful partner.
We have been together five years now and had a bit of a fling years ago before going our separate ways. We have an amazing daughter who is no blood relation to me but that doesn’t matter at all.
The point of this is to say how lucky I am to have her. I came out to her a few weeks ago and she basically blinked, held my hands and said she wasn’t surprised. Since then she has shown me again and again what love means and I cant imagine being without her.
Love finds a way and is completely blind to things that don’t matter to it. Trust your feelings and trust your loved ones.
I am having to give myself active permission and encouragement to look at men in ‘that’ way. It’s hard to explain, I look at a picture for example of a well defined topless guy and my initial reaction will probably be a flash of attraction. All good so far!
The problem is that I then hit a brick wall in my mind. It’s as if years of denial have created a sort of defense system in my head to stop me ‘going there’. I have to consciously push through it and tell myself that I am allowed to feel attracted, aroused even.
When looking at a naked woman I have none of the same blocks in place and can enjoy them freely and effortlessly.
It’s something that I am pretty sure will pass eventually but it’s a pain in the rear until then!
Any newly discovered bisexual pure pansexual people out there having the same thing happen?
I saw on someone else’s blog recently that they make a regular post on what they are particularly enjoying at the moment. This seemed like a really good idea and something that I thought I would institute on here.
I have always read a lot, as far back as I can remember I have had books around and have devoured pretty much any reading material that I can get my hands on. I started with The Hobbit at the age of about nine and moved on to The Lord of the Rings a few years later. That pretty much cemented me into loving fantasy. I added sci-fi in my early teens with lots of Arthur C Clarke, Orson Scott Card and Harry Harrison. More recently I have come to love the setting and flavour of “urban fantasy”. My first introduction was the Anita Blake series by Laurel K Hamilton which is great, but gets a bit samey after five or so novels. Much better examples are the Women of the Otherworld novels by Kelley Armstrong; she builds a completely believable world of the supernatural around us and alongside us. It’s one long story too, with characters dipping in and out and a very strong internal narrative.
Best of them all, and what I am currently completely addicted to is Harry Dresden. The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher are, at least to me, the finest example of urban fantasy around. Obviously I haven’t read every single series and book in the genre, but they will have to go some to beat the Dresden Files! The books are each a self contained story with Harry at the centre, but there area also a number of continuing story arcs that carry through a number of books. All manner of supernatural creatures appear both as allies and enemies. We get vampires, werewolves and all manner of Fae from the Nevernever. I won’t go into any more detail since the stories are essentially mysteries and I don’t want to spoil anything, but do give them a go!
I am currently reading Turn Coat, which is the 11th in the series and if anything they are getting more page-turney rather than less.
Another of my great loves throught my life is music. I have touched a little in previous posts about how particular musical tastes intersect with what I now know about my sexuality, but that aside I cannot imagine my life without music. It’s probably the thing I would miss most on that theoretical shipwreck isle (other than obvious things like family…). There are some bands/artists that I have been listening to since the early eighties like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Madonna, Billy Joel, Slayer, Venom, Falco and many others. I did say I have varied tastes right?
Recently I have been on a bit of a voyage of musical discovery. I have always like David Bowie for his looks (See top of the page…) but I have never really explored his music beyond the huge hits that most people will have at least a passing familiarity with. I decided that I was going to listen to some complete albums and see what I thought. I put “Best Bowie albums” into google and found this list which seemed as good a place to start as any.
I started with Low, which is the first of the Berlin trilogy of albums released in the late seventies. It’s an unusual album with quite a heavy electronic flavour to it. It’s also quite dark, having been written at the height of Bowie’s cocaine habit.
After that I moved on to Hunky Dory, a much earlier album from 1971 that has “Changes” on it, one of Bowie’s most recognisable tracks. This album has a completely different feel, as if it is from 20 years apart from Low rather than just six. Station to Station, Aladdin Sane and (The Rise and Fall of ) Ziggy Stardust (and the Spiders from Mars) have been on constant rotation on my Spotify account for the last couple of weeks. David is one hell of a talent, to be able to be so damn good at so many different styles is almost inhuman.
OK so that was a bit longer than expected, and in my trademark rambling style to boot 🙂
I identify as a pansexual cis male. So what does that mean to me?
Well, the cis bit is pretty straightforward; I identify as the gender that I was assigned at birth. It’s something that I have never questioned and one of the few things that I have been certain of my whole life. It’s probably fairer to say that it’s something I have never questioned. I have thought that I was gay and straight at various times over the years but never anything other than male. I have occasionally wondered what life as a woman is like, as the experience is, I am sure, very different, but that’s as far as it has gone.
When I had my “moment of clarity” regarding my orientation my initial reaction was that I was bisexual. It was a term that I understood and could relate to. I enjoy looking at a well built male as much as a curvaceous woman so that’s the term right? Well, not entirely as it turns out.
The thing that got me thinking was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. One of my favourite films and a show I have been to see at the theater several times, one of the most fun evenings you can spend, I heartily recommend it to everyone! The central character is (in the film version) Tim Curry’s Dr Frank N Furter. Frank describes himself as a “Sweet Transvestite” in the song of the same name, which is one of the most famous from the show. I fell in love with Frank immediately. The swagger, the voice, the self-confidence, everything about Frank just oozes sex. He is clearly as interested in Brad as he is in Janet so I understood that he was bisexual (Again with Frank I think that Pansexual is more accurate, but more on that in a bit) especially once the Rocky story line comes in. I remember finding his appearance and behaviour confusing initially. I was about sixteen and pretty confused generally as are a lot of sixteen year olds! I was asking myself – Is he a man wanting to be a women? Is he a man pretending to be a woman? Is “He” actually a woman? Is he a man who just likes fishnets? Bear in mind that this was before the internet and information on sexuality/orientation/alternative lifestyles was rare or impossible to see deliberately or accidentally as a sixteen year old.
The conclusion I came to should have allowed me to self-identify there and then but you know what it’s like being a teenager; everything is wrong, nothing makes sense, you doubt yourself in every way and the world hates you…..
My conclusion was that I didn’t care! I found Frank intensely attractive and that was that.
To me, that is the essence of identifying as pansexual rather than bisexual. The term bisexual includes the term “bi-” coming from the Latin for “doubly” or “having two” and as such only really allows for a binary view of orientation and identification. Fair enough I find men and women attractive and could happily have a loving relationship with either, but that is also true of someone whose gender identity is fluid or androgynous. Essentially it is the PERSON that I am attracted to regardless of any extraneous details like how their body is built and out of what parts. I have settled down with a lovely, beautiful girl who I intend to be with till I die, but there is no reason why that couldn’t have been a man or indeed a genderfluid or androgynous person.
That’s not to say that I don’t care what someone looks like or that I fancy the pants off everyone. Of course I have my own preferences but gender is not one of them, I think that’s probably the simplest way to put it. Gender just isn’t part of the equation. I have a feeling that Frank would understand and probably feel the same.
In many ways it’s a great place to be. I feel unhindered and free to accept my feelings about anyone without any worries about falling in any particular box. It’s also particularly easy to stay “in the closet” in public since I can truthfully join in with the ogling of my fellow males. That’s a subject that I am agonising over at the moment. Part of me really wants to be “out” and honest with everyone, but I can’t bring myself to do it just yet.
As always, please let me know any thoughts. Do you recognise anything I have mentioned? Any questions? Anything you want me to talk about?
I wasn’t planning on posting today. I was planning on putting together an interesting retrospective of my childhood and all of the experiences that I can remember that were relevant to my recent orientation revelation and posting it later in the week. But hey, this is a diary isn’t it? And diaries are for writing whatever pops up and whatever is top of mind. This is a bit of a ramble, but it does have a point, honest!
I have always fancied girls. My earliest memories of anything even vaguely involving sexual attraction are in connection with girls (Debbie and Cheryl, hope you are well and happy!) and are from the age of about nine or so. I was an early developer, which is damn frustrating! As a trailblazer you have no one to follow if I may state the obvious for a second. I was noticing things that none of my friends seemed to see. All these suddenly interesting bumps and curves and I was the only one that could see them!
Of course at that age I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with any of them. That changed with the discovery of a large box in the attic of a neighboring block of flats, full of magazines, but I will come to that in a later post.
I think I have always fancied boys too. By which I mean males, I don’t lust after schoolboys now in my early forties. I hate that I have to point that out, but I feel that I can say “I like girls” as an adult man and people will understand that I mean “women”, but if I as a grown man say “I like boys” it is immediately assumed by a vast majority of the population that I mean “little boys”.
I don’t think any schoolchild enjoys the showers after sport, but they terrified me. As an early developer I was noticeably physically different, and in school different is bad, but that wasn’t all. I was embarrassed by the stares, sure, but I also enjoyed the attention and my biggest fear was that I would react, physically. I have vague memories of being the first to finish showering almost every time, and dashing out to dry off and get dressed as quickly as I could to hide what I couldn’t control my sheer mental will. This would have been a little older, maybe 12 or so.
My bedroom wall was covered in pictures. My parents were cool with it thankfully so the wall that my bed was against was absolutely papered with cuttings from Smash Hits, Metal Hammer and Kerrang. I have always been musically complicated, but at least I have always been able to speak about that!
The biggest poster I had was of Sam Fox. Remember that this was the mid/late eighties and she was one of the most attractive page three models, and had released a single “Touch Me” and an album so was pretty much everywhere for a while. It was a black and white picture, revealing but not topless. I can remember pretty much every detail. The magazine cutouts were a variety. Fuzzbox were blu-tacked next to Slayer and I can distinctly remember a picture of Andy Bell (Lead singer from Erasure) bending suggestively over a kitchen counter that I was always fascinated by. It was from an interview in Smash Hits and I remember the phrase “homoerotic” being in there somewhere. All I knew was that it was “me-erotic”, as much so as Samantha was on the wall beside him.
The funny thing is that at no point in my childhood did I ever think that it was OK to find both of those pictures attractive. Getting aroused by Madonna in “Like a Virgin” was fine in my head, but being stirred by Adam Ant in Prince Charming or Nick Rhodes in Duran Duran was “wrong”. It didn’t stop it happening, or from me enjoying it, but it felt dirty and something that only I was doing, which if I am being completely honest probably added to the enjoyment!
If I could impart one piece of knowledge to a young person having the same sort of experiences it would be that it’s OK! Enjoy it, explore it, revel in it. Sexuality is a complicated thing and it can take a long while to sort out. It took me about thirty years so I know this to be true…. School is a complicated place too, and not a kind one to anyone not following the herd. I think that being honest to yourself and accepting your own feelings and urges and their direction is the main thing. I think that if I had accepted that I was attracted to my friends as well as my girlfriends then my life up to this point would have been a lot smoother and happier.
Have you had any similar experiences? Or are you currently going through something like I describe? Drop me a comment and I will reply as best I can.