This week I attended a conference to present a workshop on navigating online dating. So many connections are made online today, dating sites, websites, social media, apps like Tinder, Grinder, or Brenda. How do we navigate the profiles, are people real and how do I sell myself?
The workshop will look at creating your profile, and working out what you want from a partner and a relationship. Many of us have gone into relationships without really knowing the other person or what we want, we all have expectations but we often do not make these clear in the beginning and a few weeks, months and sometimes years in we realise that this person or relationship is not what we want or need.
So how do we write a profile? It is hard to talk about ourselves without sounding wanky, we rarely talk about our positive qualities, when asked about ourselves we are quick to talk about the negative.
So the first step in the workshop will be to write a product description about ourselves, our qualities, values, interests, likes, dislikes, looks, feelings and thoughts. Sell yourself.
Step two….write a selection criteria for your ideal partner, their looks, thoughts, feelings, values, interests and qualities. Now let’s do a traffic light process, look at the ones that are vital (green), the ones that would be nice to have but not vital (yellow), and the things that you don’t want at all in a partner (red).
Step three…..go through the same process as step two but this time write a selection criteria for your ideal relationship, how much time would you spend together would you have shared interests or friends, what things would you do together, will you live together, have a ceremony or make some kind of commitment (and what would that look like), would you be monogamous or non-monogamous (and what would that look like). And once again go through the traffic light process.
And don’t forget to consider sex throughout this, what do you like, not like, will never do, what is ok and not ok.
Having done this you are then quite sure about what you want and need in your life and less likely to, fall into a relationship with someone who is not right for you or settle for less than you deserve.
When we know who we are and what we want and need, then the world is our oyster….online and in real time…..put yourself out there and have a blast.
As my student placement comes to a close and I write my placement report for uni, I have had time to reflect on my time with a local sex therapist.
I have had the opportunity over the past few months to sit in on a few sessions and observe, to discuss a variety of cases and even to provide psychosexual education. I have also had the opportunity since promoting myself and my studies more broadly to answer questions, provide information and support to a range of people online.
So why would someone come along and see a sex therapist or even reach out for support around their sexual wellbeing? I recently came across this list of reasons and I will add some of the ones I discovered recently
1. Seeking help with confidence and low self-esteem/self doubt2. Self-exploration/personal “journey”
3. Coping with past abuse/trauma (sexual, emotional, physical, etc.)
4. Coping with sexual shame and/or guilt related to sexuality
5. Learning sexual communication skills
6. Help with unsatisfactory sexual response (lack of sex drive, trouble achieving orgasm, etc.)
I would also add:
And I am sure over the years I will be able to add many more.
One of the important things to remember is that we do not come to sex knowing what to do, it is a learned skill. If we have not been provided with good information in a sex and body positive way then we may have a whole range of issues stem from lack of or misinformation.
Difficulties with sex or relationships cross all sexes, genders, sexualities, cultures, ages and socio-economic groups. So there is no need to be embarrassed, feel fear, shame or guilt.....we often don't know what we don't know....so do not be scared to reach out.....you are not alone.
As a sexuality educator I have understood for years the impact of hormones on our bodies during puberty, pregnancy and menopause and over the past few years working in an LGBTI organisation I have also learned from my transgender friends the positive impact of hormones on transitioning to be your true self.
The past few weeks has shown me the impact, in not such a positive way, hormones can change your mental health and the person you are. Menopause has been part of my life for the past 3 years and really I have done pretty well compared to most women. Hot flushes were the start and they were easily controlled with low dose hormones, tho it took a bit of juggling to get the levels right and in the mean time weight gain was sudden and unexpected, this levelled out once the right level of hormones was achieved. Over the next 2 years these hormones were decreased slowly, but the fatigue and lack of libido continued. This meant more research into what are the options to feel like me again, androgens seem to be the answer. A trial of HRT that included androgens with oestrogen and progesterone saw a slight improvement, but it was then suggested to go off all HRT (as I was barely on any) and let my natural androgens rise.....6 months later ....no difference.
So after doing more research I discovered an androgen cream for women, other women I spoke to had great things to say but it was hard to fins someone to prescribe it. Off to the gyno and this is when things went awry....."lets try hormone patches" was the answer, you absorb more hormones from them than tablets and no testosterone for women until you try this.....ok....
Well 24 hrs after the first patch and a stranger appeared, a woman who cried all the time, not just silent tears but heaving sobs, over any little thing. Any comment ever so simple or even caring would elicit tears, yes I had become more sensitive and even cried at movies over the years but this was ridiculous.
It took a couple of patches before I saw the pattern, my poor partner was not sure of who this person was...and it brought back memories of 15 years ago when I was prescribed an oestrogen cream and I did not need it...mood swings, tears and wondering who was this person I had become. Off to the GP and told to remove the patch and get back to the gyno....it took about 4 days to start to feel like myself again....now to go back and insist on the androgen cream and see how we go.
The moral of this story?
Hormones can have an amazing effect on us, both positive and in some cases negative....anyone who remembers puberty, pregnancy or PMS will understand....if you are suddenly feeling a bit like some other person....get them checked.
Hormones effect our skin, our bodies, our libido, our minds, our emotions....they can support our journey to our truth, as they do for transgender people or they can bring us to the depths of despair......do not underestimate their power to make us feel terrible or wonderful.
This hormonal journey continues..............
What is misgendering you may ask…..it is when a person is spoken about as ‘he’ or ‘she’ and that is not the gender the person identifies with. Last week’s blog was about the opportunity that celebrities who played with gender gave us to learn and celebrate diversity of gender expression, this week will be about the issues that arise and the damage done when a person is misgendered. The reason I am following on with this topic is due to something that happened this week, and happens every day around the world, to someone I know.
Let me tell you a story….a cis woman with short hair and wearing their regular work Hi Vis uniform enters the women’s toilet (let’s call her woman 1)…..enter stage right another woman (woman 2), confronts woman 1 and tells her the men’s toilet is around the corner.
Woman 1 is a little surprised and lets woman 2 know that she is also a woman, she has a feminine voice and noticeable breasts. This does not seem to register with woman 2 who then calls security.
There were other women also present in the toilets at this time……woman 3 and 4…..who defend woman 1 and suggest that woman 2 is mistaken.
Security arrive and supports woman 1, with the backup of woman 3 and 4, and eventually asks woman 2 to leave, apologising to woman 1.
So this leads to the questions of:
What was woman 2 so scared of that she had to call security?
Why did woman 2 not back down after being told that woman 1 was indeed a woman?
Why did woman 2 still not back down after woman 1 was supported by woman 3 and 4 and security?
And why did woman 2 not apologise and insist against all evidence that woman 1 was indeed a man?
Now this story was about a cis woman who had a masculine presentation, she did not fit what woman 2 perceived to be her ideal of how a woman should look, this was disturbing enough now imagine how difficult this must be for a trans person.
Some people have unrealistic ideals of how men and women should look, some trans people meet these other people’s ideals and others do not, why should anyone be called out for not being ‘male’ or ‘female’ enough, who writes the rules and who enforces them?
Misgendering a person, cis or trans, is rude, it shows the person who is doing the misgendering narrow view on gender and expression and says so much more about them than it does about the person they are misgendering.
So if you see a person who does not fit your ideal of masculine or feminine, man or woman, male or female…..move along….it is none of your business
With the passing of Prince last week and David Bowie a few weeks earlier, I pondered their gender presentations and how they championed a diversity of expression that can be a gift to us all.
Our society presents an overarching paradigm that tells us the following:
Assigned female at birth will identify as girl then woman, will present in a feminine way, and will pair bond for life with a male/man to procreate in a monogamous, long term relationship.
Assigned male at birth will identify as boy then man, will present in a masculine way, and will pair bond for life with a female/woman to procreate in a monogamous, long term relationship.
Now I am not judging if this is right or wrong….it just is….
Now those people who do not align with these messages are considered suspect….people who choose not to have children, to pair bond, masculine presenting women, feminine presenting men and LGBTIQ people. There have been people who do not conform for thousands of years, some societies celebrate differences while others societies condemn.
The people who buck the system and do so in public are a great example for those people who do not conform in their own way. We have been blessed to have public figures lead the way in expressing their gender in non-conforming ways, the 70s and 80s spawned an amazing array of such bands and people: Queen, Kiss, Prince, David Bowie, Freddy Mercury just to name a few. Many have left this mortal earth but they leave behind a legacy for those who follow…thank you.
Richelle has had a passion for sexuality and sexual health since 2001. She has worked in the field since 2006, providing sexuality education in schools, and adult education in the topics of diverse sexualities and gender identities, LGBT health issues, sexual health and LGBT relationships.
This is a space for me to share with you my journey as a Sexologist, the things I learn and the people I meet and what I think and feel along the way.