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Author Topic: gender confusion
Djuna
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I've been trying to work up the courage to post this for several months now, but it's surprisingly difficult to put all this down on paper (to speak figuratively).

For a long time now, I've been unhappy with trying to see myself as a man. Don't get me wrong, there are aspects of masculinity, as a social construct, that I like; when it comes to physical aspects, however, I'm not so comfortable - for instance, body hair (which, I know, affects women too, but men are socially expected not to remove it. The fact that women have a set of arguably more restrictive social expectations associated with their own body hair is moot, of course).

Recently I've fantasised more and more often about having female genitals when I masturbate. I've experimented with anal play to try to replicate the feeling of penetration, but ultimately I haven't found it very satisfying - I only get off on it if I imagine I'm inserting my fingers into a vagina, if that makes sense.

Also, something I think is telling is that when I have sex (and, admittedly, this has only been a couple times, and not in a proper relationship as yet), I don't get an awful lot of enjoyment from activities that involve my (physical) pleasure at all; I feel really quite uncomfortable with someone pleasuring me, especially at moments where I'm lying back not doing anything. I definitely prefer pleasuring someone else more, for instance giving oral sex to a woman. It's strange to me, too, that outside of sex I'd consider myself bisexual, but I don't particularly enjoy anything to do with male genitalia.

I should say that I started taking paroxetine for depression and anxiety a few months ago (although I'd say I've been feeling depressed since at least October 2007), for reasons that I guess include this, but go wider too. As yet I haven't really noticed an improvement while taking them, but then I shouldn't have yet necessarily. I saw a counsellor for a few months up to this January, but never got to a point where I felt even remotely comfortable enough to talk about this. I've mentioned it in general terms to two of my closest friends, but not in any kind of detail.

I think what bothers me, too, is the stigma attached to breaking out of social gender expectations - I've recently quit my medicine degree to accept an offer on an English with Creative Writing degree course (for genuine academic reasons, not this), which happily should mean a little more freedom in this sense should it be something I choose to pursue; even so, I'm very aware that crossdressing would require a sizeable financial commitment, as well as being ostracized from large parts of mainstream society.

I'm not sure what my question is, really. I think something that would be very helpful is if anyone knew of any literature (fiction or non) that really deals with gender - I know that books like Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and A Home At The End Of The World helped me deal with coming out as bisexual, so maybe that would be a good idea. As I say, though, I'm not really sure what I'm asking, but I could use some advice if anyone has any. I'm fresh out of people to talk to, and this place always used to be so friendly back when I used to hang around on here.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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orca
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I'm a little tied up tonight, but one author you might get something from on this is Jan Morris. She had undergone a MTF sex reassignment surgery back in the 1970s, when it was far more controversial and more difficult to do since many doctors were not willing to do the procedure (in fact, she had to go to Morocco finally, after the doctors in Britain refused to unless she divorce her wife first). I believe she wrote about her experiences in one of her books (not sure which one), including talking about the reaction many of the doctors and her friends gave her. She's also a highly accomplished writer, so you might enjoy reading her and seeing her perspective.

(ETA: I realize you were asking more generally for books on gender rather than on sex reassignment, but she was the first person that came to my mind, for some reason.)

[ 06-11-2009, 09:46 PM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Ecofem
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Hey you! Great to see you around. It sounds like you've been up to a lot and I hope you're enjoying the good stuff in your life while you face the challenges. [Smile] In addition to orca's great suggestions, here are some thoughts of mine.

quote:
Originally posted by patrickvienna:
I've been trying to work up the courage to post this for several months now, but it's surprisingly difficult to put all this down on paper (to speak figuratively).

Aww, I'm sorry to hear that it's been so hard to write but I'm glad you did. What you're saying makes complete sense and I feel you for... you're not alone in this situation but I also see how when it's like it is, not so 'cut and dried', it can be hard to know how to classify it or where to start looking. But it sounds like you've got a good start on that path.

quote:
For a long time now, I've been unhappy with trying to see myself as a man. Don't get me wrong, there are aspects of masculinity, as a social construct, that I like; when it comes to physical aspects, however, I'm not so comfortable - for instance, body hair (which, I know, affects women too, but men are socially expected not to remove it. The fact that women have a set of arguably more restrictive social expectations associated with their own body hair is moot, of course).
It's interesting you bring up the body hair bit because I have a female friend who's very pretty inside and out and has had facial hair due to a hormonal imbalance. She'd pluck it or shave it and then got it lasered when it was covered by her insurance. I also think of another friend who felt she had excessive body hair and got it removed; I didn't notice it being even noticeable but I think she had internalized what some unkind, racist boys said growing up.

That said, I also have known a whole bunch of men, queer or straight or what not, who have removed body hair, such as shaving their armpits or pubic hair... and I know that some male athletes, such as some swimmers, for example, will shave their whole bodies.

OK, so I realize this isn't really about hair per say but general gender traits and characteristics... I see where you're coming from but would like to ask you for more details.

For example, could you please tell me what makes someone male, in terms of character traits, etc. and what makes someone female? I'm thinking like a list. [Smile]

quote:
Recently I've fantasised more and more often about having female genitals when I masturbate. I've experimented with anal play to try to replicate the feeling of penetration, but ultimately I haven't found it very satisfying - I only get off on it if I imagine I'm inserting my fingers into a vagina, if that makes sense.
This makes me think of Freud's ideas about penis envy, be it more the opposite. I think it's natural for all people of all genders to fantasize about all types of different things, which can include gentalia. And so many men (and women) enjoy anal stimulation; it makes a lot of sense if you think of the prostate and what not, but many men are scared to try because of fears of it possibly being "gay" or what not. Do you ever think to yourself something along the lines of, "Wow, I was born with the wrong anatomy?"

quote:
Also, something I think is telling is that when I have sex (and, admittedly, this has only been a couple times, and not in a proper relationship as yet), I don't get an awful lot of enjoyment from activities that involve my (physical) pleasure at all; I feel really quite uncomfortable with someone pleasuring me, especially at moments where I'm lying back not doing anything. I definitely prefer pleasuring someone else more, for instance giving oral sex to a woman. It's strange to me, too, that outside of sex I'd consider myself bisexual, but I don't particularly enjoy anything to do with male genitalia.
Hey, there's no "proper" relationship out there, just the proper one for you. [Wink] But you know that, I'm just focusing on wording... I do see how, for example, a relationship where you feel comfortable and safe enough to bring this up and explore and express it more. I've dated men who were not 'gender normative' in many ways and found their perspectives and experiences to be very refreshing and welcome... either to just talk about or in the actual bedroom. [Wink] What I'm trying to say is that our experiences and mindsets are always changing. I know the type of sex I have is going to depend a lot on the other person involved and what we both want/feel comfortable with/the overall dynamic, etc.

Are you familiar with the term "stone butch"? It can be used to describe a woman who is "masculine" in character and who does not like to be touched sexually, instead deriving pleasure from pleasuring her partner. Have you seen this article yet? It's not quite what you're asking but I think it raises some good points: Is intercourse a violence or violation? (We don't think so.) Let me talk to some other volunteers for whom this is really up their alley so they can share their insight. [Smile] I could say more but I'll wait for them to say their thing (and express it better!) first.

quote:
I should say that I started taking paroxetine for depression and anxiety a few months ago (although I'd say I've been feeling depressed since at least October 2007), for reasons that I guess include this, but go wider too. As yet I haven't really noticed an improvement while taking them, but then I shouldn't have yet necessarily. I saw a counsellor for a few months up to this January, but never got to a point where I felt even remotely comfortable enough to talk about this. I've mentioned it in general terms to two of my closest friends, but not in any kind of detail.
I'm glad you're getting treatment for the depression and anxiety and I hope you can find a counselor with whom you feel comfortable discussing this. I'm no counselor but I can say that I feel very comfortable talking about this with you. [Smile] I hope you do, too! Also, depression and anxiety without or especially with medications can really affect you as a whole person. Is there any way to try a new counselor?

quote:
I think what bothers me, too, is the stigma attached to breaking out of social gender expectations - I've recently quit my medicine degree to accept an offer on an English with Creative Writing degree course (for genuine academic reasons, not this), which happily should mean a little more freedom in this sense should it be something I choose to pursue;
I'm glad you switched to something you feel is a better match! I know from Scarleteen that you've an avid writer and wish you good luck in that course! Personally, I find the study of medicine and the study of literature/writing to be totally gender neutral in terms of social gender expectations but I know it can be hard depending on your background and the peopel around you.

quote:
even so, I'm very aware that crossdressing would require a sizeable financial commitment, as well as being ostracized from large parts of mainstream society.
Is this something you want to do? If so, is it because it just feels "right" or is it more something sexual or could it be something totally different? I'd like to talk about this more but I'd like to hear more of your motivation. [Smile]

quote:
I'm not sure what my question is, really. I think something that would be very helpful is if anyone knew of any literature (fiction or non) that really deals with gender - I know that books like Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and A Home At The End Of The World helped me deal with coming out as bisexual, so maybe that would be a good idea. As I say, though, I'm not really sure what I'm asking, but I could use some advice if anyone has any.
Please let me think about this some more, I know there are some great ones out there.

quote:
I'm fresh out of people to talk to, and this place always used to be so friendly back when I used to hang around on here.
As I said, it's good to have you back and I hope find the support to make that next step, whatever it may be. [Smile]
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Djuna
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Thanks very much for making me feel welcome back here. [Smile] I'll keep an eye out for Jan Morris next time I get a chance.

I want to stress that these are my own internalized perceptions, and in no way what I expect other people to conform to - more what I feel pressure to be as male, or would expect to be as female.

I think, for me, things that are make someone female are menstruation, childbirth, to a certain extent sensitivity, having a vulva and breasts, and also, I think personally, enjoyment (and selectivity) of sex is something I would list as a feminine attribute. I feel too that I perceive women's opinions as more worthwhile than men's, and I probably associate intelligence and interest in culture more with women too.

As for men, there is a lot of pressure to conform to an alpha male stereotype in various ways, such as an expectation of physical strength and of egotism. Also, I do associate the social expectation of large amounts of body hair with men. As a gender, we're not expected to be emotional, and it's often seen as unattractive when we are. Furthermore, there is often an expectation of sexual dominance (obviously this can cease to be an issue with long term partners, but on a 'one night stand', my experience is that the assumption is that the man will not be submissive). I also feel that while, for instance, kissing in a bedroom, any one person would take a man's 'No' to sex less seriously than a woman's.

As for 'being born with the wrong anatomy', I do often feel - I guess what I'd imagine phantom sensation in a missing limb is like, as if a vulva is 'missing' rather than simply not something I have. And I don't feel as if my penis is part of my body, more of an attachment; that's quite a persistent feeling. I don't identify with it - I really dislike erections, too, and the visibility of male arousal.

I have heard of stone butch, it's something I've thought about a lot actually, but I don't know an awful lot about it. My initial reaction was that it seems to me like an unhealthy attitude to have towards sex, but on reflection it's the attitude I seem to have.

I could try a new counsellor when I start at my new university in October, but it's nigh impossible until then really. I find it very difficult to use well anyway; I feel counsellors try to say as few words as possible, inviting me to 'fill in the blanks', and I think I would prefer something more constructive, if that makes sense.

When I talked about expectations in medicine, I meant more the fact that I had to be present at a GP surgery once a fortnight, and I certainly get the impression that crossdressing, or even just crosshairdressing, would not be appreciated, and more importantly, would be something the average patient would frown upon.

I have crossdressed once (as Adam Ant, so technically not, but you get the drift). I very much enjoyed it, but that was for a fancy dress party, and I've felt very anxious about crossdressing more on a day-to-day basis. I've never known a transgender person (to my knowledge), so I wouldn't know what the 'process' is, really. 'What step could I take first?', if that makes sense.

It doesn't really help that I'm pretty deeply unhappy for a number of reasons as I write this; something that worries me is that I find it difficult to know if I'm depressed because of gender dysphoria, because I have no frame of reference.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Ecofem
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quote:
Originally posted by patrickvienna:
Thanks very much for making me feel welcome back here.

You're welcome! [Smile]

quote:
I want to stress that these are my own internalized perceptions, and in no way what I expect other people to conform to - more what I feel pressure to be as male, or would expect to be as female.
I think that's very good to have in mind. I'm going to give you my take on your various points; I'm not trying argue against you or say you're wrong in any way other than to give you my perspective and experience.

quote:
I think, for me, things that are make someone female are menstruation, childbirth, to a certain extent sensitivity, having a vulva and breasts, and also, I think personally, enjoyment (and selectivity) of sex is something I would list as a feminine attribute.
Well, I think a lot of men quite enjoy sex or sex would be a lot less popular. [Wink] I also think that most men are actually more selective when it comes to sex than it might appear... same for sensitivity. It may appear to be different due to societal expectations and cultural values but still. I think you make a good point about the biological aspects of being female but what about a woman who does not menstruate (or stops menstruating due to a hysterectomy?) What about someone who cannot have children? Or a transgendered person who is born with female sexual organs but is male or the opposite? Just to throw those out as food for thought...

quote:
I feel too that I perceive women's opinions as more worthwhile than men's, and I probably associate intelligence and interest in culture more with women too.
Interesting! I feel that society as a whole, with men being the majority group in power, that men's opinions are generally preferred and given precedence to women's. However, we can certainly feel differently about our own lives! As for intelligence, I see the concept and measures of IQ as being set by the majority group in power. However you define it, there are certainly many takes and ways of determining and looking at it.

quote:
As for men, there is a lot of pressure to conform to an alpha male stereotype in various ways, such as an expectation of physical strength and of egotism.
Interesting because I find of women as being strong. After all, to use the childbirth example, that takes a great deal of strength!

[quoteAlso, I do associate the social expectation of large amounts of body hair with men.[/quote]Hmm, I'm not sure if that's an expectation as much as just physical reality for many men. I think men can be uncomfortable with their body hair as many women are (due to societal pressure!) Additionally, for example, many Asian men have less body hair than their European peers do.

quote:
As a gender, we're not expected to be emotional, and it's often seen as unattractive when we are.
I think it really depends on the people. I was raised, for example, by a father who was very strong and emotional; in fact, his feelings and caring were considered part of that strength. There are certainly people who are otherwise but I have found in my experience that even the most "masculine" or "tough" men have their sensitive, emotional sides. [Smile]

quote:
Furthermore, there is often an expectation of sexual dominance (obviously this can cease to be an issue with long term partners, but on a 'one night stand', my experience is that the assumption is that the man will not be submissive).
I had not thought of this before and this is a good point to think about! Again, I really think it depends on the people involved...

quote:
I also feel that while, for instance, kissing in a bedroom, any one person would take a man's 'No' to sex less seriously than a woman's.
Hmm, this is a thought-provoking poitn as well. I think someone might be more surprised but not necessarily take it less seriously. If you look at heterosexual penis-in-vagina intercourse, anatomically-speaking it's harder to the male to have unwanted intercourse. If you look, for example, at sexual harassment cases, there are situations with female harassers. However, I'd say that the majority have male harassers because sexual harassment is really about power and men are in power in most societies.

quote:
As for 'being born with the wrong anatomy', I do often feel - I guess what I'd imagine phantom sensation in a missing limb is like, as if a vulva is 'missing' rather than simply not something I have. And I don't feel as if my penis is part of my body, more of an attachment; that's quite a persistent feeling. I don't identify with it - I really dislike erections, too, and the visibility of male arousal.
OK, I know this is something that transgendered people will speak of as being an important thing. I looked up your past posting history and saw you had posted with concerns about masturbating too much and having a too-large penis. How would you relate that to what you're posting now, like do you see a connection?

quote:
I have heard of stone butch, it's something I've thought about a lot actually, but I don't know an awful lot about it. My initial reaction was that it seems to me like an unhealthy attitude to have towards sex, but on reflection it's the attitude I seem to have.
I believe our sexualities are not static but everchanging. If I recall correctly, you did not always feel this way in your tenure at Scarleteen? There have been times where you were interested in (mutally) reciprocal, partnered sex?

quote:
I could try a new counsellor when I start at my new university in October, but it's nigh impossible until then really. I find it very difficult to use well anyway; I feel counsellors try to say as few words as possible, inviting me to 'fill in the blanks', and I think I would prefer something more constructive, if that makes sense.
I hope you could find a counselor who's a better match even if it involves paying privately. I think that you may find more help if you were to talk to the NHS therapy assessment person about your gender questioning... I know that may sound scary but I think it's the right way to be the right help sooner. [Smile]

Something that I see here is that you've going through a *lot* of tough stuff in your life; moving, a new course, dealing with people's reactions and your own, internal feelings. Add depression to that and it's even harder. That's really tough. I also noticed that in times of difficult transition, such as selecting your A-Level subjects, that you also were experiencing such intrapersonal challenges at a volume that is higher-than-average for you?

quote:
When I talked about expectations in medicine, I meant more the fact that I had to be present at a GP surgery once a fortnight, and I certainly get the impression that crossdressing, or even just crosshairdressing, would not be appreciated, and more importantly, would be something the average patient would frown upon.
You're right about society often being less accepting or understanding of LGBT physicians. However, they absolutely do exist and in more liberal/gay-friendly areas, such as the Castro District in San Francisco or Camden in London (?), there's a real niche. I know I'd very much like to have LGBT doctors who were good and open about their identities. However, most people don't expect or want their doctors to share that much personal information about themselves but rather maintain a professional distance. I did find this link that you may be interested in. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/137500.php

quote:
I have crossdressed once (as Adam Ant, so technically not, but you get the drift). I very much enjoyed it, but that was for a fancy dress party, and I've felt very anxious about crossdressing more on a day-to-day basis. I've never known a transgender person (to my knowledge), so I wouldn't know what the 'process' is, really. 'What step could I take first?', if that makes sense.
Well, what about exploring this if you're enjoying it, regardless of the reason? What types of things would you like to wear? Could you borrow something from a friend? (I love clothing and would love to help a friend out there.) What about adding a subtle piece or two to wear under your external clothing or trying out an outfit in private? What about visiting a drag (queen and/or king!) show and talking to the performers about their experiences and advice.

quote:
It doesn't really help that I'm pretty deeply unhappy for a number of reasons as I write this; something that worries me is that I find it difficult to know if I'm depressed because of gender dysphoria, because I have no frame of reference.
I'm sorry to hear how depressed you are right now. As I said earlier, it makes everything harder. I can imagine that *any* sort of identity questioning is really tough and that gender questioning could certainly be part of it but my guess is that it is many things. How's your family been lately?
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Ecofem
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Oh, and I'd also recommend checking out the Sexpert Advice answers (and more) if you haven't seen them already:
http://www.scarleteen.com/tags/transgender
http://www.scarleteen.com/tags/gender

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Ecofem
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Hey Joe,

I was just thinking of you and wondering how you were. I know you'll be soon flying to North America soon. [Wink]

If you're up for talking about it, how have you been feeling about all this lately? I was rereading the section on gender, sexual orientation in the S.E.X. book and what have you and was thinking about the concept of gender norms and what not. Always interesting and thought-provoking...

[ 06-28-2009, 06:14 PM: Message edited by: Ecofem ]

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Djuna
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Actually, I'm in Seattle right now. [Smile]

I went and got a somewhat transgendered haircut while I was in San Francisco - not sure how happy I am about it just yet. The first thing I did was went home and cried; I think I was disappointed to realise that it really wasn't a sex change, if that makes sense. I feel more comfortable at the moment, not surrounded by people I know, I guess, although I'm still pretty uncomfortable with my own genitals, increasingly so actually. While the lack of private space while hosteling has something to do with this, I guess, (and sorry if this is TMI), I've only masturbated once in the last ten days, and I didn't enjoy that an awful lot either.

Eugh.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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If you want a cheerer-upper while you're here, you should check out The Vera Project, our very awesome under 21 music.concert venue.

There's even a show tonight: http://eventful.com/seattle/venues/vera-project-/V0-001-000885861-5

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Actually, going to see Tegan and Sara at the Show Box tonight, but thanks for looking that out for me. [Smile]
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Heather
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Envy! [Razz]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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cool87
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Me too. I love Tegan and Sara and can't wait for their next album to come out.

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Djuna
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Sometimes things work in mysterious ways. Greyhound lost my luggage, which means my travel insurance paid out, which means - transgendered shopping spree. I have $250 to fritter away, dawgs (or 'my friends', if you were a McCain supporter). [Smile]

P.S. One problem - in U.S. women's shoe sizes, I'm a size 12. Any tips for somewhere to buy stylish clown-shoes?

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Heather
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Generally, for women's larger sizes, you'll need to hit specialty shoe stores, either online or on the street.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Ecofem
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Hey Joseph! I saw you've been around and wanted to say hi and ask how your trip (and haircut now that it's been a few days later, Tegan and Sara concert, etc. [Smile] ) was?! I'd love to hear if you'd like to share. (Oh, and, hey!, masturbation is -- or I should say "can be" to be more inclusive -- important so I hope you were able to get some more of that in, too! [Wink] )
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Jill2000Plus
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I just want to thank everyone on this thread for introducing me to Tegan and Sara, they are a wonderful band and I never knew about them until now. I hope you enjoy/ed your shopping spree, patrickvienna (or Joseph if you prefer).

[ 08-02-2009, 08:21 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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HeyLife
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Everything you wrote, I had heard before. One of my best friends a few years back is attempting to "become a woman," as he/she puts it. I still refer to him as he because I knew him well when he was still definitely male, at least physically. He described the same feeling about not feeling right about male genitalia (I think he said he "doesn't like using it") but he was still very much attracted to women. Nowadays I think he's experimenting more with men.

I've decided he's one of those people who just can't be classified as male or female--he's just a wonderful, fun, eccentric person. He wears makeup and I think he's in hormone therapy, receiving estrogen, but hasn't had the surgery because he can't really afford it. He has found several partners in his life so far who accept him how he is and how he feels that he is on the inside, so I know it is possible for someone of this state to live happily and have relationships of all sorts with others.

Any time I meet someone who is either homophobic or has just never been exposed to ideas of different sexual orientations, I tell them that one of my good friends is a male lesbian, and I like to watch the expression on their faces. Anything is possible. All I'm saying is that not everyone can be or needs to be classified into a specific gender. Society makes this difficult, but maybe some people can be both, or neither, or whatever they just are.

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Starfire&Shadows
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Hey, If you want a good book on gender (nonfiction, so maybe not as exciting as fiction) a good book I've red is Whipping Girl by Julia Serano.

Sometimes the style can be "axe to grind" and so a bit distracting. Not that the points aren't *very* valid. But it's overall a very good book.

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We are all made of Star Stuff...
-Carl Sagan

...Their eyes beheld, first of all things, the stars of heaven.
-Silmarillion

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Starfire&Shadows
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*read

*sigh*

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We are all made of Star Stuff...
-Carl Sagan

...Their eyes beheld, first of all things, the stars of heaven.
-Silmarillion

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