I love hearing other students talk about issues they care about, so this brown bag was a treat for me. Six of the fourteen WMST concentrators in WMST 490 presented on their practicum projects: Andrea Liptack, Kate Thomson, Caroline Prins, Natalie Siedhof, Kelsey Gibb, and Michelle Moon. The topics ranged from body image and fat talk to storytelling and support of private struggles, to virginity, to birth control and abortion. In solidarity with these projects, I shall tell my own stories of body image, virginity, reproductive/hormonal rights, and mental health.
I lost my virginity this semester. I still haven't decided whether or not I'm happy about this, because I think it's very complex. Like I said during the discussion, I question what and why we define virginity. I think I personally see virginity as an identity label that we take on or reject based on our own (dis)satisfaction or perception of our sex lives. So in this way, I think labeling oneself a virgin can be liberatory, and I think part of my unease is that I liked the idea of being a virgin, that no man had come along worthy of my body to that level, that there was a level of self-worth one could tie into that label. Then again, for many people it is a scientific 'fact' about one's sex life that is narrowly defined heteronormatively and is often not associated with pleasure. For that reason I'm happy not to call myself a virgin, because it's not in this sense of 'purity' anything I value. The major struggle I have is that my first time was fairly enjoyable, but as soon as I did it I realized that I had indeed lost something. There was a threshold that I had crossed, a level of intimacy I established with this stranger that I'd never established so explicitly before, and it had me worried, because we aren't in a relationship and I wondered what it said about the experience that I didn't orgasm. So maybe in some sense I am still a virgin: I've never had someone else finish me off. And I think I like that, because it gives me something else to give, another type of possible intimacy not linked to patriarchal ideas of penetrative purity.
A bigger part of my sexual struggle is completely tied in with body image, mental health, and hormones. As a transwoman, my body is a political battleground, like the rest of my sisters fighting for reproductive rights. Insurance doesn't cover my medications, so I have to pay out of pocket, and as a college student who still has no firm plans after graduation, that's really scary. My hormones are my new body. Without them, it's harder and harder for me to pass. Even with them it's a daily battle with people's perceptions, the maintenance required in our culture for legible femininity, and my own self-doubts. Mentally, my view of my self is admittedly pretty low, and it's difficult for me to see myself as attractive. And how do you prove you're attractive in a patriarchal society? You get a man to tell you so, or in my case, to vote with his dick. So far I've got a giant amount of nos, but some very prominent yesses. And maybe that should tell me something (if nothing else I've learned from my four years of feminist thinking): that contrary to what you tell yourself in the mirror, there are guys out there who are just fine being with you as a transwoman. And if you're letting him define you and he says you're beautiful, and you still don't believe it? Then you're probably wrong. It's been getting better. Now that I know that it is indeed possible for me to get some if I want to, I don't really feel the need to. My desire to engage in hooking up has decreased significantly, because I realized that my project was not just seeing if it were possible for me to navigate a sexual relationship with a (presumably) straight male as a male-bodied woman, but it was tied up in self-worth, and that's not healthy. Now that I know that I can get validation from men, I don't really want it. I kinda just wanna diva-stomp my way around campus in my sweatpants. In fact, I think I'll do just that. #donthatemecuzImbeautiful
Xavia Publius '13