Q: A big congrats to Caitlyn Jenner on her big reveal and lovely Vanity Fair cover! But I am having a crisis of conscience. On one hand, I support a person's right to be whoever the heck they want to be. You want to wear women's clothing and use makeup and style your hair? You look fabulous! You want to carry a pillow around with an anime character on it and get married to it, like a guy in South Korea did? Congrats! You want to collect creepy lifelike dolls and push them around in a stroller, like a woman on Staten Island does? Great! But I'm confused where we draw the line. When a thin person believes they're "fat" and then dangerously restricts their food intake, we can have that person committed. Most doctors won't amputate your arm simply because you feel you were meant to be an amputee. But when a man decides that he should be a woman (or vice versa), we will surgically remove healthy body parts to suit that particular desire. Of course, we modify/enhance/surgically alter other body parts all the time. I guess I'm confused. Could you shine some light on this for me? I want to be less conflicted about sex-reassignment surgery. —No Surgery For Me
A: Gender identity, unlike marrying a pillow or pushing a doll around in a stroller, is not an affectation or an eccentricity or plain ol' batshittery. Gender identity goes to the core of who we are and how we wish to be — how we fundamentally need to be — perceived by others. Take it away, Human Rights Campaign:
"The term 'gender identity,' distinct from the term 'sexual orientation,' refers to a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery, and other medical procedures."
Unlike people who have healthy limbs amputated (which some doctors will do, if only to prevent people with "body integrity identity disorder" from amputating their own limbs) or thin people starving themselves to death because they think they're fat, transgender people who embrace their gender identities and take steps toward transitioning are almost always happier and healthier as a result. That said, transitioning is not a panacea. Just as coming out of the closet isn't the end of a gay person's struggles or troubles, transitioning — which may or may not involve surgery and/or hormones — won't protect a trans person from discrimination or violence, or resolve other personal or mental-health issues that may exist.
You seem pretty concerned about the surgical removal of healthy body parts. To which I would say: Other people's bodies — and other people's body parts — are theirs, not yours. And if an individual wants or needs to change or even remove some part(s) of their body to be who they are or to be happy or healthy, I'm sure you would agree that they should have that right. Again, not all trans people get surgery, top or bottom, and many trans people change everything else (they take hormones, they get top surgery) but opt to stick with the genitals they were born with. (The ones they were born with tend to work better than the ones that can currently be constructed for them.) But unless you're trans yourself, currently sleeping with a trans person, or about to sleep with a trans person, NSFM, it's really none of your business what any individual trans person elects to change.
For me, it boils down to letting people be who they are and do what they want. Sometimes people do things for what can seem like silly and/or mystifying reasons (marry pillows, grow beards, vote Republican), while sometimes people — sometimes even the same people — do things for very sound and serious reasons (come out, alter their bodies, vote Democrat). Unless someone else's choices impact you in a real, immediate, and material way — unless someone wants to marry your pillow or wants to surgically alter your body or wants to persecute you politically or economically — there's no conflict for you to resolve.
Accept that you won't always understand all of the choices that other people make about their sexualities or gender identities — or their partners or their hobbies or their whatevers — and try to strike the right balance between minding your own business and embracing/celebrating the infinite diversity of the human experience.
Q: I'm a 23-year-old man. I left an abusive relationship a year ago, and I'm currently in therapy dealing with the fallout. This abusive relationship really affected me negatively. On the one hand, she was the first person I was ever really intimate with. And when I say intimate, I mean pretty much everything you can think of — holding hands to kissing to intercourse to kinky sex. I identify very strongly as a submissive man, but she coerced me to be way more dominant than I actually am, among other shitty things she did to me. This has made me even more desirous of expressing myself submissively in bed, because I never really got to be who I actually am. How can I explore my submissive desires in a place that doesn't really have much in the way of BDSM-related meet-ups, munches, clubs, etc.? How do I meet a Dominant who is respectful and kind? I may need more time away from relationships to recover and get my life in order, but being a submissive is more and more on the forefront of my mind. —Seeking A Dominant
A: If you don't live someplace with kinky clubs and social organizations — no classes, no munches, no dungeons — you have three options.
1. Look for kinky people in your area on kinky dating sites. Mention that you're looking for kinky friends too, not just dates or lovers, because a kinky friend could invite you to private party in your area.
2. Date women you've met on non-kinky sites or in non-kinky venues and roll out your kinks in good time. I've been to lots of kink events, SAD, and I've met two kinds of people there: people who were always kinky and people who fell in love with someone kinky and then fell in love with kink. You know from personal experience that being coerced into playing a certain role is no fun — it can even tip over into abuse — so your mission is to find one of those women who loves being Dominant but won't realize it until she falls in love with a submissive guy.
3. Move someplace that has kinky clubs, social organizations, and BDSM-related events and play parties.
Q: Your advice to FACTS, the guy who cheated on his wife, was spot-on as usual. He should not tell a woman on a first date about the number of women he cheated on his ex-wife with before his divorce. You might also let him know to not mention the "crying myself to sleep every night" bit, either. But then, I am just a middle-aged gay man — so what do I know? —Just Saying
A: Middle-aged gay men — what do we know about anything?
On the Lovecast, Dan and Ophira Eisenberg discuss the wisdom of face tattoos: savagelovecast.com.