Tag Archives: sexual orientation

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman

31 May

walt-whitman1Today, Walt Whitman would be 196 years old. While he may not be present with us physically, he lives in perpetuity with his poetry. Whitman, the father of free verse, is one of my heroes.

In my darkest times, I read parts of Leaves of Grass to help ground me.  While there are still some who debate Whitman’s sexual orientation, it seems likely that he did have an affair with Peter Doyle.  Edward Carpenter recounted his intimate interlude with Whitman to his friend Gavin Arthur, who then recorded the affair in his journal. I suspect Whitman today would have worn the moniker of Queer quite proudly.

Whitman’s poetry fills me with optimism about humanity; his words often pull me out of my misanthropic woes.  When I read:

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,

I feel enveloped in a part of humanity that is flawed, but connected.  The connectedness is the rich good stuff–the stuff that gives me hope and optimism.

I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue.

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

For me, this is my religion. Whitman’s words here seem sacred and his sharing of how connected we are, for me, seems to show how natural and fluid sexual orientation is, and the softness of the lines of gender identity–how natural.  In some respects, Whitman is responsible for this blog.  If you have not read two of my favorites, Leaves of Grass or Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, I strongly encourage you to read these works.

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Free From Gender Stereotypes (?)

23 May

As a prepubescent boy, I remember watching a PBS special about gender and how from the moment we are born people force gender stereotypes upon us.  The special I watched back in the 1970s even reported that assigning a blue or pink blanket to a newborn is already fraught with expectations for that respective gender.  Somehow I knew in my heart this to be true and thus the PBS special really resonated with me.

Now as a middle aged man who focuses on gender identity/conformity and issues around sexual orientation I am even more concerned with how children grow up and the expectations adults thrust upon them.  I came across an article about a couple with a precious, beautiful baby named Storm.  The couple, David and Witterick, have decided to keep Storm’s gender a secret for now.  Storm will be raised without gender expectations or stereotypes.  Witterick, Storm’s mothers says:

When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?…If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.

I applaud David and Witterick and can only imagine how liberating it must be for Storm to grow up as a human being and blossom into the gender that is appropriate for Storm.  Here I think it is appropriate to underscore the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.  While there is some overlap between gender identity and sexual orientation, the two are quite different. I am cisgendered, which means that my brain and emotions match my physical gender.  Someone who is transgendered the physical does not match up with the brain and emotions.  Storm will grow up with out any pressure from the family as to gender identity.  When one looks at the statistics of how many transgendered people endure bullying, the correlation between bullying and suicide, depression and contracting STDs, the need to grow up without expectations around gender is imperative for the health and safety of our youth. I’m hopeful and happy for Storm.  Click here to see the full story.

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