Friday Philosophy: I am a Lesbian

My partner and I spent an hour on Wednesday with the college’s chaplain, getting a start on the design of our civil union ceremony.  We live in New Jersey and have been domestic partners since this state provided that acknowledgment of our relationship and on October 20th will upgrade that designation to civil union.  Some day, we hope to have that designation changed to “married.” 

You see, regardless of what people have been saying about transfolks, we do have sexual orientations.  Most of us are members of our GLB communities either before or after our transitions…or both.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

I’ve written about it before.  I am so tired of the present discussion that I am going to have to use some of my old words.  I apologize for that.  But words that were true when I first said them are stilltrue. 

The notions of homosexuality and heterosexuality get blurred a lot when considering transsexuals.  I have personally always been oriented towards woman…maybe gynephilic is a better word (as opposed to androphilic).  That didn’t change when I transitioned, nor do I ever expect it to.

About 50% of male to female transsexuals are lesbian and 50% are straight…if one wants to include bisexual as a category, it’s maybe one third of each.

I’m not sure what the percentages are for FtMs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the same.  One does not go through transition because of one’s sexual orientation, but for oneself.  It’s not about who we go to bed with but who we go to bed as.

I think transfolk fall in the category as “queer.” 🙂  One doesn’t get much queerer than this, although some of my friends would flame me for saying it.

Personally I consider myself a lesbian, not just because of my orientation towards women but also because I feel a sense of belonging in the lesbian community that I have never felt in any other community.  I realize that my background will always make me different, but nowhere have I ever found acceptance as much as I have among these women.

I’ve gotten flamed for that last sentence by the transgender community.  I’m Aunt Jemima.  I’m an oreo.  I’ll tell you about it someday.

I worked my butt off to gain acceptance among lesbians.  My only skill is teaching.  All I have are my words.  And I did teach.  I did it as the first openly pre-operative transwoman on the Sappho list.  My daughter’s partner invited me.  She’s a PhD candidate in Literature/Women’s Studies at Santa Cruz.  She and Jen won’t be able to come to our ceremony, since they just got back from a trip to Paris where Julie presented a paper.  School obligations often prevent opportunities.  And truthfully I think I would have chosen Paris as well.

I moved on from Sappho to be with women more my own age as a founding member of the Owls list.  I still consider that list as my home base on the net.  It’s not always been peaceful about us transwomen being there, and some women have left because of it, but we still exist 13 years later.  Those of you who read my biographical work this past summer might be interested to know that it was originally posted to Owls.

And I worked really, really hard to be a contributing member of the Little Rock and Arkansas gay and women’s communities through the Women’s Project, through Little Rock PFLAG, as a board member of the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with the Arkansas Progressive Network, founder and host of Conway Prism and co-founder of P.R.I.S.M. at the University of Central Arkansas.  And I never said “No” when asked to speak or teach at any venue, which was really cool since I got to meet so many wonderful people, like Mel White, Kerry Lobel, and Suzanne Pharr, and talk to them about gender.  I suppose that to people like John Aravosis, I was being pushy.  But it’s what we had to do to get someone speaking our case in the national media, since nobody would take one of us seriously.

People listened.  Some, like Pat Califia, had epiphanies.  I wonder sometimes if it was something I said.

And online I managed to do teaching as well.  On PFLAG-talk, as a co-moderator of tgs-PFLAG, where we got PFLAG to include support for the parents and families of transgender people as well.  I guess that was being pushy. 

Transpeople have community online.  We are experts at building community.  It’s our survival mechanism.  We had to build one since we are so few and generally isolated.  We built many.  They have enabled to discuss and hone our thoughts about gender.  When we tell you that removing gender identity from ENDA will mean that gays and lesbians will not be protected, you should really listen to us.  We have experience in this matter.

I won’t be protected, for sure, but neither will my daughter…or any androgynous or butch lesbian.  Should bosses really be free to fire gays and lesbians by accusing them of being trannies?

Will you blame that on us, too?

You are pushing to protect the “normal looking” gays at the expense of the rest of us.  I have not been working for 15 years as I have to have you not understand that.  If you cannot see how destructive that is, I pity you.

What will be done will be done.  I have only my words.  If they are not sufficient, I am powerless. 

Know this:  “Coming back for me later” will take at least 14.5 years if history matters at all.  And I can’t really promise to still be alive in 2022. 

But I do want you to know this:  when my partner and I have our ceremony in two weeks, it will be a lesbian wedding.

No matter what you think.

Meanwhile I am awaiting the arrival of some liturgical verses about marriage.  I’m taoist, Debbie’s a Quaker, the chaplain is Presbyterian and the guests will include a vast array of belief systems, incuding Islamic, Jewish, Catholic, liberal and conservative protestant, atheist…  Anyway, I decided I had more time to edit than to write the vows from scratch.


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    • Robyn on October 6, 2007 at 12:04 am
    Art Link


    Finding my Way

    Life in shambles
    I took a chance
    spoke my piece
    used my words
    defended myself
    everyone watching
    I tore the fabric
    of their reality
    chipped away
    at the barriers
    with the sharp
    blade of right
    Mighty is the sword
    of revelation
    Relevance grows
    newfound voice
    E-space is a venue
    where we can thrive
    virtual avenues opened wide
    provided a wedge
    to crack open
    the narrow path
    I navigated
    from what was
    to what could be
    I found a way through
    I did not choose to lead
    but some chose to follow
    That frightened me then
    and still does

    –Robyn Elaine Serven
    –January 18, 2006

  1. the societal/legal issues notwithstanding…

    im happy for this next step in the ‘legitimization’ of your union, no matter how ludicrous i think the laws are.  any chance we have to celebrate love should be taken advantage of!!

    • Alma on October 6, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Wishing you two a lifetime of peace, love and (hopefully soon) equality.

  2. although this might not be the full extant of what you should have savor this as we are all making progress here. I hope you are happy and may if not the law, but the real power that of love keep you both happy and protected.

  3. although this might not be the full extant of what you should have savor this as we are all making progress here. I hope you are happy and may if not the law, but the real power that of love keep you both happy and protected.

    • RiaD on October 6, 2007 at 2:03 am

    you give so much, to so many…I’m so glad you have someone to Share with.

    My mom took me to see a movie when I was about 9 or 10…it was about a trans person Chris-tine? Chris-tian? (guy? girl? hell, i dunno…it was a long, long time ago…67 or 68 i think) & they didn’t want to let me into the theatre. I’ll never forget it- my mom stood up to them- called for the manager “I’m her Mother for Gods sakes – I should be able to take her to see this SO SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH & not believe what they whisper in the bathroom.”

    I’ve never wondered about it since, never made a bit of difference to me.
    I must explain tho-Mom explained the difference between boys & girls (I was about 3 or4) as “Well, god made boys on the outside & girls on the inside.” when I asked, after the movie, how come these people were made wrong, why did they have to get operations she said “Well, even god makes mistakes, he’s very busy you know.”
    I hope one day the rest of the world accepts my mom’s simple explanation.

    Congrats to you & your dear one!

    • pfiore8 on October 6, 2007 at 2:03 am

    while talking with jess

    i was confused at first. why would a woman trapped in a man’s body would be a lesbian… until it finally hit me

    one is a gender issue; the other is about sexuality. then it made sense.

    all i know is you, Robyn. there is something about you that makes me feel calm and safe. you have wisdom and courage.

    and i am for you. i am for all of us. all of us… and i’m very content to be able to read your story and know you will be with someone you love… i am excited for you and very very happy

    big hugs and kisses, girl!

    • pfiore8 on October 6, 2007 at 2:03 am

    love it

    • fatdave on October 6, 2007 at 2:04 am

    one finds in good teachers Robyn.

    I wish you both the happiest of days.

    • pfiore8 on October 6, 2007 at 5:41 am

    something strange? when?

    • Temmoku on October 6, 2007 at 6:34 am

    It takes a certain kind of courage to speak out..and yoou have it…Keep it up!

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