Friday, October 7, 2011

Intersex Perspective on dating/sex

As my thousands of readers (yeah, right!) know already, I have failed to keep up with the blog again, even after promising I would.  So no promises, but here is something I wanted to share.

One of my favorite atheist bloggers is Greta Christina and she recently posted a series of blogs asking for comments from people about experience in gender roles and sex.  I thought, hey, I have an alternative viewpoint here!  So you'll find this in the comments (I believe #14) but I decided to paste it here too:  Enjoy!


I'm an intersexed lesbian woman, so my identity and sexual history is a little more complicated.

The brief on intersex (and my case, not the entire umbrella of conditions that fall under), since I imagine not everyone will be aware: I was born with a condition called Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS) which means I have XY chromosomes but my body can not process androgens (the term is the collection of different types of testosterone) correctly.  Therefore I developed a female phenotype for the most part, with no uterus or ovaries (therefore no menstruation) and undescended testes in my abdomen. Testes were removed as an infant, I was lucky enough to go to a hospital that did not alter my genitalia (mostly standard vagina that has a blind ending pouch instead of cervix, but with an enlarged clitoris that developed as a teen) and told me the truth (many intersexed people are lied to about their condition).

Anyway, knowing I was different from everyone was terrifying and isolating and I stayed away from all relationships when they started to get intimate for a long time.  Even when I realized I was attracted to women, I didn't ever act on it because of the fear of being found out to be so different.  Finally driven to the point of suicide from depression and loneliness I luckily stumbled on to a support group which changed my life.  I came out as intersexed and as a lesbian and I was in my 30s when I finally allowed myself some intimacy.  A little more than 10 years later I find myself in a stable long term relationship with a wonderful woman and things are good.

Sorry for all the history (and that was brief!) but I felt it necessary to answer the question here.  While in many parts of my life I am probably seen as an aggressive and direct woman, when it comes to sex and initiating things in relationships, I was usually very passive.  Years of shame made me hesitant to believe someone was interested in me and I would practically need to be hit over the head before I took a clue. 

Because of the physical component of my condition, it is very obvious when I am intimate with anyone - they would quickly know something was different, so I have always felt a need to disclose before I am with anyone.  I read with jealousy Greta's description of casual sex - that has always been denied me because of the need to disclose first - such revelations take a lot out of spontaneity and casualness.  It is possible that all this disclosure and revealing was unnecessary and just in my head, but it always got in the way. Revealing something so personal with someone creates quite a bit of intimacy before you actually get intimate.  I suppose that is great in some ways, but it is burdensome in others.

Anyway, because of it, I have always let the other person initiate at the beginning of a relationship.  It was sometimes very frustrating to wait but that's how it usually went.  Within a relationship, I am not quite so passive.  Although I like to be seduced and be the "bottom", sometimes I like to take charge.  In my best relationships, things have always been equal and variable, where partners take turns in being in charge, directing things, etc., but then sharing that responsibility too and switching it up.  I talk a lot about parity in my relationships - I find it very important.

To look at me most people would not guess at me being intersexed. While not the most feminine of women, I'm not usually mistaken for a guy either.  My partner tells me that sometimes I approach things in life very much like a guy (at those times I might hear her say "Your Y is showing, dear.") but that in other ways I am very "girly".  I guess that's why I embrace the term intersex because I really do often feel in between, but really I see that same free-flow mix of femininity and masculinity, at least in the more "real" people that I know.

To sum up, being intersexed has certainly had an effect on me. I find myself attracted to aggressive women who like to take charge at the beginning of a relationship, but who can share that control within an established relationship.  Gender roles are fluid in my own life and I tend to get with people who are similarly fluid, able and wanting to switch it up and have fun. The shame and secrecy surrounding my condition made dating a double edged sword of excitement and trepidation - I enjoyed getting to know someone and going out and learning about them, but somewhat terrified when it came to sex and intimacy.  I think I do a lot better with that now, but I'm saying that from inside a committed relationship where I know I am safe and loved.

Hope that helps!