by La Fée Nue (The Naked Faery)
My sex is undeniably male. In a strictly physical sense, I like being male. My gender, however, is a little more complicated. A year ago I never would have considered the difference between sex and gender, or even between sex and sexuality. Now, perhaps because middle age is acutely real, the gender-sex-sexuality issues that I once considered in purely intellectual terms have assumed an emotional urgency that I never expected. I am, to say the least, elated and frightened. The elation stems from a newfound sense of freedom and self-acceptance. The fear reflects my lingering conservatism and petit-bourgeois fear of nonconformity. This would-be bohemian still worries about offending others.
Still, I have progressed substantially toward claiming my life as a complete human being. Some of my liberation will take the rest of my life. For example, I am not completely out of the nudity closet, but at least the people closest to me know that I’m gay. They don’t know, however, that I view my homosexuality as more than my sexual orientation: it is my gender.
I have always found misogyny tragic. I do not understand how one sex can fear and therefore hate another. Notwithstanding Freudian weirdness about castration and toothy vaginas, this very gay, cock-loving sodomite always found heterosexual couplings very natural and beautiful. My complete lack of desire for sex with a woman never kept me from seeing transcendence in heterosexual love. I weep openly during Madame Butterfly. I applaud Carmen’s chutzpah. I lust after Marie Curie’s brain while finding her romantic marriage to Pierre Curie profoundly moving. Yes, I love women. Not until recently, however, did I understand the source of my empathy, admiration and love.
In another essay I wrote about how I loved being a boy. It was all true. I did love playing army and crafting somewhat functional weapons among other stereotypical male activities. I also loved textiles, beautiful interiors, well-set tables and good grooming. The very stereotypes that many second-wave feminists viewed as patriarchal impositions, I viewed as natural to me. I was not interested in cross-dressing or doing drag, but I did like feeling pretty, and I wanted to dress like Louis XIV. Growing up in the 1960s, I felt very constrained by the gender limits of the day until I realized that the counterculture offered a way toward fulfillment through gender bending: and, yes, the feminists would have disapproved of me because I was in love with the very girlishness of the decade’s best rock stars. I wanted to shoot a gun and be pretty. Eventually I fulfilled my wish by joining the Marine Corps and wearing the most gorgeous uniforms in the American armed forces. I was, without realizing it, what Native Americans called a two-spirit being: totally male in a physical sense, but spiritually female and male. I was what the radical faeries would eventually call queer-gendered.
Even as I was deeply in the closet, my sexual fantasies should have clued me about my true nature. In my sex dreams and masturbation fantasies, I never penetrated my partner. On the contrary, he always entered me, and I received him willingly. My imaginary partner was always tender. The foreplay was extensive and full of gentle touching, kissing and cuddling. Unfortunately, reality turned out to be disappointing. The gay men with whom I first had sex were exactly like the men about whom straight women complained. Their lovemaking skills were worthy of a bad movie about prehistoric relationships. They were rough and completely phallocentric. Ejaculation was the only goal. Everything else was a temporary inconvenience.
To be fair, a good ejaculation is a wondrous, almost mystical experience; but it should be the result of a long, ritualized emotional and physical crescendo that leads the couple toward a state of seemingly transcendent ecstasy. Even during masturbation, the ejaculation should only occur after prolonged, exploratory and very tender self loving. The good self lover knows how to caress his entire body without obsessing over his penis. True lovemaking can be surprisingly satisfying even without ejaculation. Sadly, most gay men rely on adapted heterosexual models from a culture that fears surrender and tenderness. The result is often a bad imitation of straight sex by two frightened and insecure men.
Eventually I met a partner, with whom I enjoyed a ten-year-long relationship, who was an amazing lover. His sensitivity and exquisite touch allowed me to surrender totally. I relinquished all control when he was in me, and I instinctively entered into a blissful rhythm as I let go of all my masculine pretenses. Never did I think that I would write proudly about my lovemaking with that wonderful man; but I need to share that our coupling brought out all the emotions that would have horrified the most ardent second-wave feminists. Yes, I am proud to admit that my partner made me feel like a woman; and as insulting as it may be to homophobes like Betty Friedan, he made me feel complete by granting me a vaginal illusion.
No, I do not wish to be a woman physically. I am, indeed, sexually a man, and I like my penis very much. But in terms of gender, I am increasingly comfortable in admitting, to myself at least, that I have a very powerful feminine side. Of course, I don’t want to live in another closet, and if the larger society will not accept me, then I will seek communities of like-minded or accepting people who let me be me in a social setting. Only now am I beginning to understand why I crave to express my queer spirituality through rituals, through nudity, through letting soft handwoven textiles touch my skin under the glow of candlelight. I surrender to good food and drink, to beautiful colors, to rich textures, to ecstatic sounds, to sexual arousal, to poetry, to ritual, to the vaginal creativity that is art making. My double nature is a healthy manifestation of what ancient traditions have always known. Were are all male and female.