What is Switching…

To switch, and the process of engaging in the action of switching, can most broadly be described as dwelling in, and having the intention of, honoring, exploring, and sharing different, switchable aspects of a person: multiple or varied states of being, ideas or concepts, desires, roles, wants etc.. These different aspects could, and very often are, seen or constructed as opposites or incongruous, so by its very nature, the switch is riddled with complexities and uncertainties that can be very individualistic and hence not easily classifiable or conducive to generalization. Honoring each of the different aspects and ways of being as equally authentic and valuable is, at heart, one of the most necessary outcomes of my book and work.

More specifically, a switch is someone who shifts between roles, desires, identities or ways of being in the realms of gender and/or sexuality. Switching has almost exclusively been referred to in a BDSM context (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism): within the loci of sexual roles and play. In my book The Switch: Freedoms in Sexuality, Desire, Gender, and Identity I introduce a new theory which proposes a new definition wherein switching reaches well beyond BDSM and the sexual: it is an identity, which may or may not be a pleasure-centered action that moves into the broadness of a destabilized identity. A switch incorporates and moves between gender and sexual identities; I assert that switching gendered bodies and sexual identities and roles is a profound route by which to re-examine the notion of stable and/or destabilized identities.

Gender Switching…

In the area of gender, switching can be located in shifts of experimenting and playing with gender preference and identity, feminine and masculine clothing, appearance, presentation, naming and/or playing with the performative aspects of expected versus unexpected gender expression(s). Physical features, such as switching between masculine and feminine features, traits, and/or body parts, and gender-bending to and from differing gender locations are all gender-switching moments. Any gender, male or female, including genderqueer, two-spirited, bi-gendered, and/or a trans-identified person, can switch and move betwixt and between the varied ranges of feminine and masculine facets, roles, and/or identities.

Sexual Switching…

In the area of sexuality, switch moments are marked by shifts in the language of sex and orgasm—profanity and language occurring as a key turn to switch— in moving between gentle or loving sex and rough sex, when moving between vulnerability and strength, when adhering to acceptable social conventions versus overturning them, in the locations of sexual taboos, sexual games, pleasure making and giving, pleasing and being pleased, and, of course, in switching between roles: between top and bottom, receiver and giver, dominant and submissive, within an erotic context or in BDSM play. As with gender switching, there are no constraints to sexual switching: one’s sexual preference is irrelevant.

Locations of Shifting…

In the overlap that intersects both sex and gender switching, shifts in roles, fantasy, desire, time, spirituality, language use, concepts of identity, spirituality, points of view, age, playfulness, and a s/witchy magical realism can be locations of switching intersection.   The locations of certainty and uncertainty, time shifts that accompany gender and sexual shifting, and adhering to versus overturning acceptable social conventions are also switch moments that can be sexed or gendered.

Many years ago I coined the term: lostlessness, which speaks to a location that will often present itself, usually early on or at some time, in a narrative or life of switching.  Lostlessness is a space of uncertainty, emptiness, unknowingness, and impermanence where, in occupying the space between and betwixt, something unknown is about to be birthed, occur, exist, and/or hover. This in-between space of unknowing can be one of vacillation or pause; what is key is that there are switch occurrings that bookmark the transformative self.

Surprise, delight, freedom, peace of mind, loneliness, and/or confusion can all occur in these previously unknown spaces. Lostlessness disappears identity even as it might create it; who one thinks one is set aside to create a space where identity is allowed a re-invention. While lostlessness may occur or be experienced initially as uncomfortable, this type of switching actually is a place of excitement and celebration, where adventure exists, rather than loss.

© 2013