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The Girl in the Tuxedo: Two Variations on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

source: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14388/

by  

Teens struggling with their sexual identity may seem to have more options than they did in the 1980s—but one important option is increasingly denied to them.

I came across a photo the other day of a fifteen-year-old girl dressed in a tuxedo, complete with red bow tie and tails, standing in front of a Christmas tree. She was heading for her high school’s Christmas dance, and her parents had taken pictures beforehand.

Why the tux? She had recently heard of a “gender bending” prom at a nearby school, one where all the girls had worn tuxes along with their dates. She was immediately drawn to the idea. However, at her school, she was the only one in on the twist. In the photo, she is attempting to look cool and smug, but her eyes betray sadness. The sexual identity struggles and confusion that had been quietly welling up within her since middle school were finally emerging for all to see.

The photo is from many years ago. I know because I am the girl in the picture. As I think back to that night, I can’t help but wonder how that girl’s life—my life—would have been different if the dance had taken place in 2015 instead of 1985.

I can’t help imagining the scenario that teenagers struggling with their sexuality face today . . .

2015: The Girl in the Tuxedo Goes to the Dance

After the pictures at home are taken, it’s time to head to the dance. Once she arrives, the girl in the tuxedo attracts attention for her bold choice to subvert gender stereotypes through her choice of attire. Members of her high school’s LGBTQ-Straight Alliance applaud her. Later, when she opens up about the confusion she’s been wrestling with surrounding her feelings toward other girls and her own identity, the “Q” (for “Questioning”) component of such clubs is happy to welcome her and inform her about gay sex and identity.

If she resists embracing a lesbian identity, she is encouraged to come out of denial and accept herself for who she is. If she seeks counseling, her therapist hews to a strict, professionally mandated protocol to affirm and validate her identity as homosexual. The counselor tells her that being lesbian is an unchangeable and good part of who she is, even though the girl is experiencing significant distress over the intense emotional and physical draw she feels toward other girls and women.  read more