Monday, June 27, 2016

Physical Touch

Disclaimer: Don't assume that this post is about raunchy, passionate, sinful lust and sexuality, 'cause it's not. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's more about the innocence of childhood. (and how it can be lost.)

          I recently read the book The Five Love Languages by the renown marriage counselor Gary Chapman. In his writing, he discusses how the ways we love one another are expressed through languages, being Words of Affirmation (i.e. verbal praise, compliments, reassurance, etc.) Quality Time (self explanatory), Receiving Gifts, (not necessarily expensive jewelry, but even cards, flowers, sentimental tokens of affection which might not cost anything), Acts of Service (doing favors for each other, such as making dinner or doing the dishes), and Physical Touch (which is not necessarily sex, but hugging, kissing, holding hands, massages etc.) Chapman elucidates that we all have a primary love language in which we wish to receive love, and it is important that in a relationship, the partners are aware of each others' love language and communicate effectively in order to have a lasting, healthy, and happy commitment. It's a very eye-opening, moving, and insightful read.

A MUST read for anyone in a relationship!
I knew about the subject matter long before reading the book and took the test online to discover my own dominant love languages.

It's not a shocker that "Physical Touch" was my primary result, with "Words of Affirmation" close behind. But I would argue that "Quality Time" is also very important to me, and though I scored a 0 in "Receiving Gifts", I do enjoy receiving a nice, thoughtful, and practical gift every now and then, though it's not necessary for me to love someone. 

I would also argue that our primary love languages in romantic relationships can be very different from our love languages in friendships and between family members. And we might even communicate in a way that doesn't convey our own dominant love language. For instance, with my friends and family, "Quality Time" and "Words of Affirmation" mean a lot to me. And I tend to give many small gifts to whoever I view as a close friend or relative. But either way, the book and the test are very helpful at discerning the primary way in which you accept and express love. 

Gary Chapman also wrote a version of the book that discusses the love languages of children and how parents should use them in nurturing and understanding their child's needs. He touches slightly on this in his initial book. 

Upon learning this, I read:

"Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. To the person whose primary love language is physical touch, the message will be far louder than the words 'I hate you' or 'I love you.' A slap in the face is detrimental to any child, but it is devastating to a child whose primary love language is touch." (Chapman, pgs. 105-106)

This passage resonated with me because it summarized my childhood, or the loss of one. 

My mother struck me in the face so often, for the most minuscule and trivial reasons. I was slapped in the face if I spilled juice on the floor, didn't clean the house fast enough, forgot to put my toys away, refused to wear an outfit I wasn't comfortable in, asking for some candy at the grocery store, playing outside without asking permission, you name it! All I ever wanted was to impress her, make her proud of me. I made small gifts for her often. Cards with drawings, crafts, poems, I might have even saved up my allowance to go to the store an buy her a nice watch or her favorite snack. But nothing ever made a difference. I was repaid day after day with multiple slaps in the face, and now, she wonders why I no longer wish to have a relationship with her. She denies ever laying a finger on me though there are many witnesses who know otherwise. 

I am currently taking a Family Violence class in my Marriage and Family Therapy Master's program, and in the textbook, Family Violence in the United States; Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse, I came across these questions in the chapter dedicated to "Child Maltreatment":

"[...]Must injury occur in order for a behavior to be labelled physically abusive? Is risk of injury enough? What if no physical injury occurs, but the child is slapped on a daily basis for no apparent reason?" (Hines, Malley-Morrison, and Dutton, pg. 34) 

Reading this passage was eerie because it was like my mother ripped the words right off of the page. She used to often say to me, "No one abuses you here on a daily basis." as a way of justifying her actions and brainwashing me into thinking that I had never been slapped by her, her brother, or mother. 

But why would someone feel the need to say that if it were true?

It is highly ironic that someone who claims to be non-threatening also used to say "Do you want me to smack you?" to a defenseless child whenever she felt disgruntled. 

My answers to those above questions: No, physical injury does not have to occur for a behavior to be labelled physically abusive. Yes, risk of injury is enough. I was that child who was slapped on the face, almost daily, for no warranted reason, and let me tell you, it may not leave a noticeable mark, but the psychological scars are enough to last a lifetime. 

I was severely traumatized as a child, she instilled so much fear and hurt in me that left me depressed for years and anxiety ridden, but there were some effects I didn't even recognize until more recently. 

During my Junior year in high school, I remember my boyfriend at the time raised his hand to brush it against my cheek, and I immediately moved away. I flinched. My reflexes caused me to quickly back away. My best friend at the time was in the background and saw what had happened. She reassured me, "He was only trying to embrace you." I was shocked. I apologized. I hadn't even thought of that. I was so used to dodging slaps that I was fearful of my own boyfriend trying to hit me when he was only trying to greet me with a caress upon the cheek. I remember this moment like yesterday even though it was over 5 years ago. 

While dating, I became so vulnerable. Whenever I received non-sexual, "Physical Touch" from men, if there was chemistry and I felt comfortable, I became obsessed. I immediately fell in love with them and became addicted. I craved more and more. And when those brief interactions ended, and I never spoke to them again, I felt abandoned and broken. I went through withdrawals. I was so deprived of proper love and affection that I sought it from strangers who ended up leaving me and damaging me even more.

I had to close myself off to shield myself from the pain of becoming close, getting attached, and losing it all, again and again. Until I found the right person, gained trust, felt safe/secure, and knew it was viable. But of course, that took time.

I'm a big girl, now. I'm a capable and successful adult. But I can't forget where I came from and who it made me. The ramifications of abuse are residual. Even though a child grows into their own person and leaves their abusers behind, the abuse itself stays with them, buries itself in the depth of their psyche and remains a part of them. So I forgive, but I do not forget. I have overcome many obstacles, but I am still healing, with time.

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Gender and Sexuality Spectrum (LGBTQQIAAP+)

June is National Pride Month, in memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which sparked the fight for civil rights within the Queer community.

Much like the beautiful colors of the rainbow, sexuality & gender lie on a spectrum. Do you know what each letter of the LGBTQQIAAP+ acronym stands for? If not, let me break it down for you! 

The "Lipstick Lesbian" Flag
Lesbian – any woman attracted to other women (the term was derived from the history of the Greek island of Lesbos, where a renowned poet named Sappho lived and wrote fondly and erotically about her love of women in 6th century B.C.)

The "Gay Pride" Flag
Gay – refers to any one of a same-sex orientation, but specifically of male gender (men attracted to other men) 

The "Bisexuality" Flag
Bisexual – anyone attracted to more than one gender

The "Transgender" Flag
Transgender – People who identify with a different gender than that assigned to them by society based on their biological sex. Gender is a social construct, not to be confused with “Sex.” Sex is of a physical nature while “Gender” is mental/emotional. Included within this category are people who consider themselves Transsexual (using hormones or surgery to gain physiological attributes of the opposite sex, transgender men & transgender women), Agender, Gender-Non-conforming, and Gender Fluid.

The "Queer Pride" Flag
Queer - People who don’t want to label themselves by their sexual acts but do want ownership in being different. Reclaimed from a hate term, the word “Queer” can still be highly offensive, depending on usage. Queer can also be used as an umbrella term to denote the entire community or an individual within it.  

Questioning – anyone still working out their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The "Intersexuality" Flag
Intersex – anyone born with a body not clearly identifiable as female or male. In some cases, this may be known as a hermaphrodite, though this term is more often used as a scientific description of animals, not suitable for humans. 

The "Asexuality" Flag
Asexual – anyone who does not feel sexually attracted to anyone else. However, the Asexual, or “Ace” community has its own spectrum and may include individuals who are interested in romantic relationships, but not sex. For instance, if you are in the Asexual category, you can be considered “Gray” meaning you are between Asexual or Sexual, or you can be Demisexual, in which you need a strong emotional attachment in order to be sexually attracted to someone. When it comes to romance, you can be Hetero-Romantic, Homo-Romantic, Bi-Romantic, Pan-Romantic, A-Romantic, etc. 

Asexual Romanticism can seem a bit complex. 

The "Straight Ally" Flag
Ally – Any straight or cisgender person who supports the queer community.

The "Pansexuality" Flag
Pansexual – the prefix "pan" meaning "any," a person who can develop attraction to any gender. Often interested in others based on personality and not sexual orientation/identity or gender expression/identity. Often has attraction with an emphasis on androgyny, non-binary folx, or alternative gender identities aside from cisgender men & women primarily. 

The “+” or “Plus sign” in the acronym is used to represent all other sexualities/gender identities not already featured. Those may encompass any of the following:

The "Two Spirit" (2S) Flag
Two Spirit - Two-spirit. The visionaries & healers of aboriginal communities, the gay & lesbian shamans. Known to fulfill a "3rd gender" role within indigenous cultures. (Sometimes added to the acronym, represented by “2S”)

The "Polyamory" Flag
Polyamorous – anyone interested or capable of having multiple relationships at once, ethically. (Opposite of Monogamous.) Not to be confused with Polygamy, which means having many marriages.

Metrosexual - a young, urban, heterosexual male with liberal political views, an interest in fashion, & a refined sense of taste.

The "Bear" Flag
Bear, Otter, Wolf, and Cub – Within the Gay male community, there are classifications based on body type/appearance. For instance, a Bear is considered a man who is husky, thick, and covered in body hair. You can do more research in case you’re interested in learning about the others. (Check out this website: Gay Men, Are you a Jock, Otter, Bear, or Wolf? )

Sapiosexual – anyone interested in or sexually attracted to others’ intelligence

The "Gynephilia" Flag

The "Androphilia Flag"

Gynephilia and Androphilia: behavioral science terms that can be used as an alternative to heterosexuality and homosexuality. Androphilia is the attraction to men or masculine qualities, while Gynephilia signifies being attracted to women or feminine qualities. 

The "Autosexuality" Flag
Autosexual: a person who is not necessarily attracted to others sexually or successful at responding to others sexually, but can satisfy themselves through touch (i.e. masturbation) Term coined by Bernard Apfelbaum in his research on sex therapy.

The "Polysexuality" Flag
Polysexual – being attracted to many sexes. Both Bisexuality and Pansexuality are regarded as forms of Polysexuality.

The "Skoliosexuality" Flag
Skoliosexual – being attracted to someone who does not fit the gender binary. (as in finding someone who is not Cisgender attractive, like falling in love with a person who is Transgender for instance)

The "Androgyny" Flag

Androgynous – someone whose gender or sex is ambiguous or not easily identifiable. I think Jeffree Star is a great example of this.

Jeffree Star being his fierce, fabulous, androgynous self!

The "Lithromantic" Flag
Lithromantic – a person who may theoretically enjoy romantic relationships, but is not necessarily sexual. This identity may also include someone who becomes romantically attached to others but does not want it to be reciprocated. Part of the Ace, Gray-romantics spectrum. 

The "Demiromantic" Flag
Demiromantic – a person who can only develop a romantic (non-sexual) attraction for someone if they have a strong emotional connection. (Like the romantic version of Demisexual, also part of the Ace, Gray-romantics spectrum)

The "Neutrois" Flag
Neutrois – a person who considers themselves genderless. May include Agender/Gender-Nonconforming. (part of the Transgender spectrum)

And there are several other gender identities/sexual orientations that may not be determined or named.

For more information on the LGBTQQIAAP+ spectrum, visit Gay Explained: The LGBTQQIAAP+ Community or your local LGBT Center. 

Thanks for Reading! <3 

Monday, June 13, 2016

I am a Pan-Romantic Demisexual (My Coming Out Story)

The Pan-Romantic Demisexual Flag, courtesy of "Pride Flags for Us" Tumblr Page

When I was a young girl, I truly believed I was straight. My family didn't go to church, nor were they especially religious in any way, but I did do bible study lessons which I received in the mail by an organization called the Child Evangelism Fellowship Mailbox Club (CEF). This was convenient since I didn’t get out of the house much. But it did make me the subject of ridicule by some who knew, who would joke, “You’ve got mail, from Jesus!”

I considered myself an adamant Christian at the age of 8 and was strict about avoiding premarital sex throughout my pre-teen to young adult years. I honestly thought that being gay was a sin. Besides that, it didn't help that my own mother told me, "If you're a lesbian, I will disown you. God forbid you be something despicable like a criminal or a lesbian."

I had my first crush on a boy in first grade. His name was Joseph and he was very cute, but he smelled nasty. During a class autobiographical presentation, he told everyone that he had a pet skunk, which explained why. I worked with him on one project and felt excited, but that was the extent of our association. I had several crushes on other boys throughout elementary school, but in middle school, I completely lost interest. (I mean, boys were gross. They would roll around in the dirt and not wash their hands. I’m a germaphobe, can you tell?!)

In high school, I had what I called a "Cuties List" of 10 guys who I thought were the hottest in the whole school, and it was my mission to talk to all of them and befriend as many as I could so that I could potentially enter into a relationship with one. I got to know more than half of them, learned that many were jerks, was able to have failed relationships with two and got slapped in the face by reality.

I remember during my junior year, there was a beautiful girl in my physics class. I was considered the smartest student in the class, so many of the struggling seniors would come to me during class for help with their assignments. Most only wanted to copy off of me, which I was fine with at the time since I understood they needed to pass in order to graduate. It was a bit annoying, but I shared my answers with them anyway. But one of the seniors was so beautiful. I think she was Latinx, maybe mixed with something else, I don't know what. But she had pale skin, long, silky, wavy, luminescent black hair, and big, dark, brown eyes. (A total Morticia Addams vibe) I would zone out and stare at her during class. I think she noticed, and maybe was a bit weirded out or creeped out by it, but she didn't seem to care, because she knew I was cool since I let her copy off of my homework. I thought at the time that I was just envious of her beautiful features and gorgeous hair. I had always imagined having long, straight, luxurious hair myself, so I convinced myself I was only admiring her appearance, nothing more. But now I realize that this was my first crush on a woman.

I had a best friend in high school who was bisexual, and she constantly asked me out, but I refused. I just wasn't into her like that and I told her I didn't "go that way." We made out once because I was going out on a date with a mutual guy friend and wanted to perfect my kissing skills. I may tell everyone else I know that the date is where I had my first kiss, but the truth is that my first kiss was with her. I just didn't regard it as a true "first kiss" since I had no feelings for her and only did it to gauge my skills.

I dated a few guys during high school, had horrible relationships, and then resorted to dating sites online. I still had no luck and many uncomfortable experiences, all with men. But in New York, I had my biggest crush on a girl ever!

I went to New York for a summer abroad in college. While there, one of my classmates was this beautiful blonde chick, fair skinned, thin frame, with sea blue eyes and a short, perky hair cut that showcased her blonde locks. She looked like a supermodel! I stared at her often, whenever we were out on a tour or in between classes. She had a boyfriend, of course, who looked like a more muscular and rugged version of Ryan Reynolds, so I stayed away. But again, I just thought that I was drawn to her because I adored her looks. It wasn't until I started having dreams and fantasies about marrying her that I realized it was more than that. I was having feelings for this girl, she was super sweet and friendly. I really didn't talk to her much during the trip, but when I did, she was such an amicable person. I even spent my spare time writing a song about her! I told my aunt and grandmother and they laughed it off, thinking I was joking around. I learned later that I wasn't.

After the experience, I went home to my cousins. I simply told them that if a girl asked me out, I wouldn't hesitate to date her and give her a chance. My youngest cousin threatened to punch me. I didn't bring up the subject again.

I pondered it for another year before I finally realized that I was pansexual. The prefix "pan" is Greek for "all" or "any", referring to any human, regardless of their gender identity or expression. Pansexuality falls under the bi umbrella. I know for myself, it’s more so based on personalities and aesthetics. For many of us, there is a bit of an emphasis placed on diverse genders and more androgynous traits or appearances. I started to notice that I was attracted most to cisgender men, cisgender women, femme men, and transgender men and women (MTF & FTM). But I still wasn't sexually active or willing to engage in sexual relations with just anyone. This then made me realize that I am also demisexual. A demisexual is a person who cannot develop sexual attraction unless they have a deep, emotional connection with another person. The prefix "demi" means "halfway", referring to being in the middle of sexual and asexual. (It is a part of the asexual, or “ace” spectrum) This rang especially true for me as I might think a person is good looking, but I will not be truly attracted to them until I get to know them, become intellectually stimulated and develop a strong emotional bond. (You could also consider me a sapiosexual as I am attracted to intelligence as well.) 

So, I now know that I am a pan-romantic demisexual. (Some would call us “pan-demics”, LOL) I have come out to everyone I know and have since received acceptance and support. A majority of my relationships have been with men, but it is no longer because I am conforming to society's standards. I didn't choose to fall in love with them, but I did. I am happy that my sexuality enables me to not discriminate against a person's gender identity or expression and gives me the capability of falling in love with anyone. It wasn't until I understood this and accepted it that I was able to fully achieve self-love. <3

I know that despite how far we’ve come as a society, in the current political climate we’re in, not everyone is able to be out. It isn’t safe for everyone to put their sexual identity on public display. But I try my best to live authentically and unapologetically because I know not everyone can. For those who can’t let their voice be heard, let me be out, loud, and proud for all of us.

Happy Pride! 


 Thanks for Reading. = )