Saturday, October 12, 2013

LGB Books

I've been reading a bit on LGBT lately (admittedly mostly about the LGB and less about the T), and wanted to share my thoughts on two of the books I've looked at recently. There's another one I'm almost through with that I'll probably write about on here soon.

Journey Out book cover

The Journey Out: A Guide for and about Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Teens
by Rachel Pollack and Cheryl Schwartz

This is actually what made me decide to write about these books. It's the book that was the nudge into getting me to accept that I'm bi in early 2012. But I couldn't remember its contents, let alone what about it finally made me come out to myself. So I finally decided to check it out from the library again. And now I'm writing about it for future reference!

First, and obviously, the book is written for teens and young adults. It's meant as an introduction to the topic, and I think it does a pretty good job.

They cover such issues as how it can be difficult to come out to yourself as LGB, how to come out to others, what makes a good relationship, what the signs are of a bad/abusive relationship, safer sex, health, how your orientation doesn't mean that you have to give up your spirituality, and a bit of LGB history...among other things.

I think my favorite thing about the book is that they got input from teens and young adults, and we see what these young people have to say throughout the book. Another good thing is that the authors are optimistic without being unrealistic. They encourage teens to seek help if they need it, but acknowledge that it can be difficult for some to find an adult who won't judge.

My two complaints would both be on how the book handles bisexuality. For one thing, the authors define it as "feeling attraction and affection towards both men and women" (3). On one hand, this is a common definition. But it's problematic in that it overlooks the fact that some people don't identify as either male or female, and/or who are physically in between. (Yes, I've been reading Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner. More on that in another post.) I'd be less bothered by this if the authors acknowledged that gender isn't as binary as is usually believed, and mentioned pansexuality as another possibility as a sexual orientation. Unfortunately, they didn't do this. My other complaint is that they don't address issues specific to bis, although they do mention us throughout the book. Which is not unappreciated, I will say.

Overall though, a good book. And one I would recommend to someone who's trying to figure things out.

I still don't know what it was about this book that nudged me out of the closet. I guess I was ready to step out of it anyways.

Bisexual Option book cover

The Bisexual Option
Second edition
by Fritz Klein, MD

Disclaimer: I only got partway through the second chapter before putting the book down. I'll explain that in a minute. First though, what I took away that's positive.

I already knew that the Kinsey Scale is flawed. (For what it is, click here. As for how it's flawed, that's a topic for another post, probably on my main blog. Or you can just ask Google.) I've heard this quite a few times before, but I've never known anyone to recommend a better system.

And now, I find the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid.

This grid takes into account differences between the past and present, as well as what you consider the ideal. (Why should there be an ideal?) It also differentiates between things such as sexual attraction and emotional attraction. I'd known that if you're putting numbers on these things they can come out a bit different, but I'd never seen anyone else acknowledge it before. Maybe I wasn't looking in the right places, or maybe I wasn't paying attention. Either way, it was nice to find this grid.

The grid isn't without its flaws, but it is more flexible than the Kinsey Scale.

Now, on to what sunk the book for me.

First, the name is problematic, though I was determined to overlook that. I mean, hey. Bisexuality isn't an option. There are people who wouldn't be bi if they had an option about it. I don't know if Klein actually meant to suggest that we have a choice, but the title is certainly misleading.

Second, Klein started discussing gender identity in the second chapter. Which is awesome, except for his ideas on it: "If an infant is brought up as one gender, he or she will develop that gender identity, even if it is opposite of the infant's true chromosomal, gonadal, or hormonal sex" (24). He goes on to say that our gender is programmed in the first 18 months of our lives, and that "Before that 18-month point of no return, any child can be programmed toward male or female self-identity, despite the child's true biological nature" (25). Um...I really don't think so. Just ask anyone who's transgender.

The book is dated. First release was in 1993, second edition being in 2012. I would have expected that bit of transphobia to be edited out by the 2012 edition.

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