Let’s Bring These Queer Sexual Concerns Into The Light
Do you remember the first time you talked with friends about sex like it’s the most non-awkward thing to talk about, and it felt like those conversations confirmed that they were “the best of the best besties in the whole world!”?
Well, not all people have those confident conversations about sex. I did tell a few friends, when I was younger, that I was having unprotected sex, and I asked a straight male friend about condoms. For these concerns, I never got that weird stare, because they are heterosexual concerns. But when it comes to queer sexual concerns, that’s when things change. Drastically.
Last week, I spent a good amount of time digging through LGBTQ+-friendly online forums and realized how much pop culture is lacking in terms of queer sex-related discussions. We talk about what we don’t know about gender identity so much that we ended up bypassing conversations about one of the most important experiences for people living outside of mainstream sex and gender — sex itself.
Many years back, straight people dealing with sexual traumas were too afraid to talk about it. But because media and mainstream started welcoming discussions about it, more and more straight-identifying folks today feel comfortable opening up about their experiences. Undoubtedly, the power of healthy conversation plays an important role. The lack of open conversation about how queer people’s sexual concerns, then, poses a problem.
I spoke to LGBTQ+ sex therapist and COO of IntraSpectrum Counselling Rena McDaniel, who herself identifies as queer, about the concerns that were mentioned the most by queer people in her practice.
McDaniel told me that in her experience, one of the biggest things noticeable in the sex lives of queer individuals is “shame and lack of embodiment.”
“Queer folks have grown up in a culture that often doesn’t understand or celebrate people who are gender or sexually diverse,” she explained. “Factor that into growing up in a culture that is often very sex-negative and where kids don’t typically get comprehensive, sex-positive sexuality education in schools, and you have a recipe for sex and sexuality being a large source of shame for many folks, but particularly folks who have multiple identities that are culturally shamed and misunderstood.”
I must agree with her: It can feel surprising that in 2016, so many people on LGBTQ+ message boards are approaching the forums with a sense of shame. Once and for all: if people get aroused or horny or sexually attracted or romantically attracted to both male and female, there is nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Disconnection With Our Bodies
Another issue is the fact that “some trans/gender non-conforming folks also struggle with a sense of dysphoria about their biological bodies and may feel disconnected from them. For these folks, experiencing pleasure with their physical bodies may feel very complicated,” McDaniel told me.
She said that her patients have experienced, in general, “a lack of connection with sensory experiences in the body.” That comes from very valid places, and not least of all trauma.
“Many queer individuals, much like the broader majority population, have histories of trauma, specifically sexual trauma or unwanted sexual experiences,” McDaniel said. “The way the brain often reacts to trauma is to create protective mechanisms that shield the individual from further psychological harm related to the trauma. This is a normal and healthy reaction to trauma. However, those protective mechanisms sometimes carry over in areas of life and sexuality where there is no longer a threat and that is where the protective mechanisms no longer serve the individual.”
Something to note: Remember that college student who carried her mattress around university campus? Or that black girl who was told by her rapist she was too ugly to be raped? Perhaps you’ve read one of the latest trauma-related news items about the Uber driver who was sexually assaulted by her passenger. They all involve sex-related traumas, but they also involve heterosexual individuals. That doesn’t lessen the trauma, but unlike traumas experienced by gender non-conforming individuals, talking about these incidents don’t require discussion boards or the Anonymous Mask. Because as long as an incident involves heterosexual people, talking about it isn’t very uncomfortable anymore.
And yet to think, LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to experience sexual violence and harassment.
“The issue of embodiment is complex and always a journey for everyone, but especially folks who feel an inherent disconnect from their bodies and the gender they were assigned at birth, and/or have experienced traumatic events in their life,” McDaniel said. “Without minimizing the impact this disconnect has on folks, a very overly-simplified response would be to find pleasure in the body you have while still striving to find whatever gender or body presentation makes you feel most alive. Because you deserve pleasure.”
“For some people, maybe that means wild, multi-orgasmic, kinky sex and for others it may mean a cup of hot tea and book with a fuzzy blanket,” she added.
Finding A Community
Clearly, queer people cannot stay ashamed or afraid forever. We cannot always let negative commentary from our communities and cultures rule our lives. Breaking stereotypes is never an easy job, but it’s a job that needs to be done. Thus, it’s best to build foundation on McDaniel’s words: “Shame can’t survive in the light.”
She noted how imperative it is to find “a supportive and affirmative community where you can safely be vulnerable is paramount.” After all, “the goal is for you to feel the most pleasure that you can while experiencing the most pleasure that you can in whatever way feels most authentic to you.”
We don’t always have to 100 percent understand why people wind up being how they wind up being, but it’s everyone’s responsibility — including our allies’ — to create a safe place for queer folks to crack open and spill everything heavy within them and not be judged. Cliché as it may sound, the impact of that support is positively immeasurable.
Part-poet, part-writer, and full-blooded human megaphone of the oppressed, Tammy covers heavy topics like civil war and human trafficking. To keep herself sane, she also writes about pop culture, travel, entrepreneurship, and anything gay. She gets by with the vintage smell of typewriter and sound of tattoo machines.