Dear Dan: My husband and I were at a kink event that required pronouns under scene names. My husband is a cross-dresser and wants “he/him” pronouns used when he is presenting as a boy and “she/her” pronouns to be used when he’s presenting as a girl. He does not want to use “they/them.” I suggested he go with “he/she,” but he doesn’t think “he/she” is an appropriate option because he wants people to use the pronouns assigned to what he is presenting as. He doesn’t want to be insensitive to those whose presentation isn’t obviously binary but feels it is obvious when he’s presenting as either masculine or feminine and that it should be easy for people to use the pronouns he would prefer without having to specify them. How do you opt out and ask people to read your current “presenting gender” and apply traditional pronouns in the moment?
—Helping Everyone Seeking Help Everywhere
Dear HESHE: Are we talking nametags here? Because if we’re talking nametags, HESHE, then your husband can wear a “he/him” nametag when he’s presenting as a man and “she/her” nametag when he’s presenting as a woman. But if this is a kink event run by anal weirdos who require attendees to preregister their scenes and list the names of all players involved in those scenes and itemize the pronouns those players intend to use during their scenes and stick to those pronouns under threat of expulsion… then your husband will just have to pick a team, i.e., pick the gender he will present as that night and the pronouns that go with it.
Dear Dan: I am a white American cis-gendered paramilitary-looking heterosexual-seeming guy who happens to be in a polyamorous relationship. In the kink community, I am considered a “service top.” I enjoy group sex with my partner and in a group sex setting I will sometimes play with other men. But I am not interested in playing with men outside of those hyper-sexual situations. How am I supposed to identify? I ask because for those of us who grew up in the 1990s, a person was considered gay if he performed even a single gay act. I am comfortable/confident in myself, and if a guy wants to mess around with me during group sex, I figure it doesn’t hurt me any to make him feel good. I would rate these experiences on the positive side of neutral. I worry that using terms like “heteroflexible” or “mostly straight” contributes to bisexual erasure but calling myself bisexual seems appropriative because I can walk through life with all this heterosexual privilege. I would like to identify as bi because I think it helps normalize it, but somehow don’t feel like I make the cut. If you could help me out, I would really appreciate it.
—Just Oppressed Enough
Dear JOE: I think you’re perfectly entitled to identify as bisexual, JOE. But just to be sure, I got a second opinion from Zachary Zane, the bisexual sex-advice columnist for Men’s Health.
“I often receive questions from bi folks who don’t feel ‘queer’ enough to claim a bisexual label,” said Zane. “Typically, I hear this from cisgender women married to straight cis men who haven’t experienced the same level of oppression as, say, femme gay men in relationships with nonbinary individuals.”
But your own personal experience with oppression—or your lack thereof—doesn’t invalidate your queerness or disqualify you from identifying as bisexual.
“How sad is it that our understanding of queer identity is inextricably linked and dependent on having experienced oppression,” said Zane. “That is so wildly fucked up. Being queer and/or bisexual is about your attraction to genders,” and not about being or feeling oppressed.
“So I would say yes, JOE can identify as bisexual because he enjoys, in certain situations, playing sexually with men,” said Zane. “At the same time, I think JOE can and should also acknowledge his privilege from how he presents—which he’s already doing, and should continue doing—and hopefully, he will use that privilege to support other bisexuals who don’t experience the same hetero-presenting privileges he does.”
Zachary Zane is the co-author of Men’s Health Best. Sex. Ever. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyZane.
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