Monday, February 16, 2009

An Accidental Pragmasexual

Maybe it's a peculiar admission to make on the eve of my 56th year on this Earth; however, it's true...

I've never quite sorted out the question of my sexual orientation.

And it's such a minefield that I'm beginning to wonder whether I ever will at this rate.

Unless I'm hugely mistaken then I believe that the default assumption everyone makes is that I'm heterosexual. That is, that I fancy (and occasionally sleep with) men.

I say "occasionally" because the last intimate relationship I had with anyone of either persuasion was perfunctorily terminated by me in the first week of 2005. HE (a mature businessman, slightly older than myself) committed the cardinal sin of becoming a bore, and was starting to take me for granted. Frankly, since then, I've either been too busy, or not concerned enough, to seek any kind of replacement.

Being Out

Of course, when it comes to these things, the fact that I go around telling audiences quite matter-of-factly that I have a transsexual history never really helps much.

It's not me. It's everyone else. That simple fact about my personal history seems to bring the best-adjusted of people out in a sweat.

I'm not sure if they're worried most about the uncertainties I induce regarding their understanding of their own orientation, or whether they're more worried about what their friends may think.

Six years ago I wrote about the complex minefield which this opens up in an essay, "When Sally Met Harry".

Being Gentle

It may come as little surprise that I was inspired to write that detailed introduction to this dangerous minefield because of the practical necessity of needing to introduce the aforementioned lover to my sexual past.

It was the gentlest way I could think of telling him all that I needed to say, after several months of sleeping together and sharing just about everything else.

I'd tried every other approach on previous lovers. On that occasion I thought I'd resort to writing my man a manual.

As it happens, in spite of his long list of faults, the gentleman in question took it rather well. (Once he'd picked himself off the floor). Our relationship continued very nicely for another eighteen months until I ended it myself.

Yet, in spite of a long history of dating men and working out how to navigate around this issue... and in spite of openly allowing bystanders to just assume the rest of the time that I'm quite simply heterosexual... it's really not that simple.

Being Honest

You see, my eyes tell me otherwise. Whilst I may have spent a whole lifetime laying a false trail, the fact is that I fancy other women.

There. I've said it.

But what's the big deal, you may ask? So what if you're Lesbian (or, God forbid) Bisexual? Isn't that OK these days?

Maybe things could best be summed up by an experience I had in the very early 1990's.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A very "out" Lesbian friend wanted to take me to an all night party in the depths of Tonbridge run by the Lesbian social group, Kenrick. She thought it would be educational. Besides, she needed someone to take.

Before we set off for this party, and began to pick up my friend's friends in the car along the way, I was solemnly drilled in the catastrophic consequences of telling anyone at all about my past.

It wasn't just the predictions that I would find myself summarily kicked out into the night. It was the genuine fear that my friend had about her own future relationship with the group – for the heinous sin of introducing me.

Actually, it was quite a nice evening. I had no trouble fitting in, and really enjoyed the experience of drinking and dancing in a safe space devoid of men.

Yet my friend's paranoia had rubbed off. And the mark was permanent.

Don't Go There

Over the succeeding years I absorbed a great deal about the politics of having a trans history in gatherings of those other women who are privileged to never have their status questioned. None of it was nice.

And whilst there are doubtless many trans women who would see that as a challenge to take on – and best of luck to them – that's simply not my way. I never try to force myself into places where I'm evidently not welcome.

There are plenty of causes which I'll champion. None of those are personal. Winning and losing arguments about those things can be a detached, analytical, exercise.

But seeking a place among lesbian women would be about stepping into a minefield, where I could never be sure of being challenged – called to account for myself at any time – now, or in the future.

I guess that in many eyes that could make me a coward. Yes, probably so. The older I get, the more I tend to seek out a quiet life. A safe one, in congenial company.

And the Irony...

The strange irony is that none of those men I've dated over the years turned out to be all that phased about what I might once have been. They could settle for the here and now. They fancied me, even when I wasn't sure if I fancied them.

And society quite likes it that way too. I've never been challenged by straight people for going with the heterosexual flow. I vividly recall coming out to an elderly Conservative lady many years ago. She wasn't in the least concerned that I had a transsexual history. Yet she looked very serious when she added, "... so long as you're not a Lesbian too".

But to follow my eyes and my instincts... To explore my Lesbian self... That would be to invite finger-pointing identity politics into my most vulnerable place. My heart.

I guess that means I'll have to carry on as before. Putting pragmatism before instinct if I'm to continue sharing my life with anyone.

So, I guess that makes me a sort of "Pragmasexual".


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you've not been flooded with offers of dates from the moderate lesbisterhood.
Here's mine! :-)
J x

Mercia said...

I suggest you read the prize-winning letter from this month's Diva.

Mercia whose sexuality is more L Plate than L Word

Anonymous said...

Good luck with it all, and thanks for posting about it. I'm bi, you might find bi people/spaces good to spend time in - we're not perfect, but I think you'd be welcome.