The New York Times this weekend ran a story about an interesting way to divine, as the article’s headline puts it, “How many American men are gay?” The state-by-state social acceptance of homosexuals was cross-referenced against the number of men on Facebook who say they’re interested in men and that was compared to the percentage of Google searches for male gay porn.
First of all, this is fascinating stuff. And it probably does demonstrate the very sad issue of those living in areas where they’re unwelcome due to shallow and outdated ideas of what’s right and wrong. But I do have a fundamental issue with how author of this work perpetuated the myth that human sexuality is a choice between zero and six on the Kinsey scale.
Checking, I see that I haven’t told Facebook what gender I’m interested in. Of course, I’m married and was before Facebook came along and have never had to use it as a facet of my dating life, so why would I? But, were I not married, I wonder what I’d say to it. I’m an ostensibly straight-identified person who has found long-term contentment in a relationship with a woman but am very much interested in men from a sexual perspective. That means my Google history contains some evidence of searches for “gay” porn which would classify me, in the terms of this article, as a closeted gay man. But I’m not. Not even close.
If I’m closeted, it’s as…whatever it is I am. I don’t tell people about my sexual stimulants. It’s just not something that comes up and I’m not the kind of guy to wear such a thing on my sleeve (multi-year explicit sex blog to the contrary). Plus, as I’ve said before, I hate the term “bisexual” and abhor using it as a descriptor for who I am. I am totally open to both genders from a sexual perspective but could never really see myself being able to “settle down” with a man. It always had to be a woman for me. Is that what bisexual means? I don’t think so (and even if I did, I bet I could find a hundred people who disagreed with me). There are a lot of other words out there that try to capture the flexibility of what I am (what I strongly believe all people are to some extent), but I don’t care for any of them. Human sexuality just doesn’t lend itself to tidy classification. The best thing I can think of is still the Kinsey scale. I’m a three with vacillations towards two and four. But even that is only a piece of my sexuality.
As annoying as the Times article is, one from Slate makes me optimistic for the future. In “Does Coming Out Count If You Reject Labels” (yes), we learn that ridiculously scrumptious British Olympic diver Tom Daley recently said he had a boyfriend. Lived with the guy. Felt “so safe” with him but also still found women attractive. Not that he was gay or bi or anything. Just fucking yummy little Tom. Likewise, actress Maria Bello told the world she was in a relationship with a woman after having previously only been with men. Bello dared to say she “would like to consider [herself] a ‘whatever,'” rather than a lesbian or bisexual.
And I’m like…YES. Of course. I totally get that. Before I found Belle, I had been serious with guys from time to time (mostly with one) and that didn’t change who I really was. The biggest issue with me then (and, by extension, my boyfriend) was I had bought into the bullshit paradigm regarding Kinsey zeros and sixes. And it tore me up. It’s remarkably refreshing to see us moving in this post-label direction. When people fuck who they want and reject the adjectives invented by others to categorize and reduce. But, the author in Slate says:
[D]espite the rapid progress on limited issues like marriage, it bears asking whether we are at a point in history where we are advanced enough to dispense with gay solidarity entirely. For better or for worse, the very much unfinished LGBTQ civil rights project involves a certain amount of PR, and every PR campaign needs some buzzwords. Naively imagining that you can remove yourself from that paradigm because gay or bi doesn’t quite fit is a highly privileged act—especially when, as far as I can tell, the only worthwhile thing that can come from a celebrity’s coming out is some small contribution to queer visibility in communities where queer people may not be easily seen beyond the page or screen.
And I say, fuck “gay solidarity.” Why should anyone feel compelled to force themselves into ill-fitting stereotypes? If you’re not fucking gay, don’t call yourself that. If you don’t feel like a bisexual, don’t tell them you are. If that’s not good enough for those at the forefront of the “LGBTQ civil rights project” (holy shit, the “LGBTQ” nonsense shows how stupid all these words are), then screw ’em. Some of us don’t see our sexualities as political statements. Some of us don’t want anything more than the same basic rights and privileges enjoyed by everyone else. Some of us think there is no better way to advocate for that than to show through the living of our lives that we’re no different. And maybe if we’d stop trying to put the multiverse of the human sexual continuum into five or six buckets, we’d be able to see that better.
I’m not a word. I’m a person. Just like Bello and Daley. And just like you.
8 thoughts on “Words aren’t helping”
I think the difficulty is having to “choose” or identify one’s sexuality or preferences. I am convinced we are all somewhere on a sliding scale between sub/dom, gay/straight, kinky/non-kinky, etc And, depending upon circumstances, people, and situations we will find ourselves somewhere on that continuum and it will be different in different contexts.
Rather than having to identify, label, or put ourselves in a box, we should have the opportunity to just be who we are.
Sorry dude but the civil rights groups are the ones who have helped changed the world enough for you to be able to be flexible. Complaining about being boxed is understandable but we all have a duty to help those coming after us. If that means occasionally letting ourselves be labelled it’s a small price to pay! We aren’t post labels yet, and won’t be till there is much fuller acceptance from society.
My being “able to be flexible” has nothing to do with any movement. I would have been flexible anyway. And someone’s right to label me is a *large* price when, at the time I was figuring all this out about myself, those labels meant the girls I liked distrusted me and the gays I associated with rolled their eyes at me and said I was going through a phase. That left me spending the better part of my twenties in the gray space between straight and gay. No relationships, no intimacy. I was waiting to “get through my phase” but never did. Had the internet been around then, things would have been different for me. But the world was much smaller and I was living in a new city and it wasn’t until I met Belle that I felt strongly enough to start moving forward again. That’s the power words have and how stupid labels are.
What point is there trying to affix labels to something that has what seems to be an infinite number of variations? I prefer not to be “rounded off” to anything, thanks.
Finally, the way to get full acceptance isn’t through names and labels and words that divide us. It’s through living a free and open life and demonstrating through actions that all people are fundamentally the same.
This, I get. Your personal story. I get how hard that is. I have it a bit easier, I am happy in a gay monogamous relationship, though still interested sexually in women. Because it’s not something I need to act on, I “fit”. But man, do I get how even a slight shift in my sexuality towards more ambiguity would make this infinitely more difficult.
I’ll respond to your article at large as well.
I look forward to reading that.
> Human sexuality just doesn’t lend itself to tidy classification
True, it does not. I had straight acquaintances say, with some annoyance “okay you’re gay, why not just say so”, and I’d wince a bit. Because I really don’t like labels. Sure, I’m gay, because I am married, happily, to a man, and I have sex exclusively with a man. And I search for porn images of women. Does that make me a “closeted heterosexual”? Hardly. 🙂
Tom Daley, in that regard, pushes all my “hell yes” buttons. Because all he will say is “I’m in a relationship with a man, and I feel great and happy; and yes, women are very attractive to me as well.” That, I think, is going to be the future, if not our present, showing itself in the upcoming generation, Anecdotaly, and understanding that the plural of “anecdote” is never “data”, my daughter had girl friends and called herself bi-sexual although, to an adult view, she is clearly way over there on the Kinsey scale towards heterosexual. I’m actually quite happy she doesn’t feel constrained by the fact that, by and large, she really really prefers men.
Now that I’ve acknowledged you, I am going to disagree with you in some, I feel, key parts.
> I hate the term “bisexual”
Awww, man, dude. For some people, that term is so very important. It doesn’t apply to you. You don’t want to feel to be forced in that cubby hole. I get it. But to others, that label is important.
And the same is true for “gay”. And for “LGBTQ”. You scoff, coming from your own history, at ” how stupid all these words are”. They’re not. The need to belong is real, and all-too-human. For some people, having a label (and a community) to belong to is really, really important. Yes, I can understand the desire to roll one’s eyes at the discussion of whether and why the “L” should come first in LGBTQ. And I joke with friends about “LGBTQXYZ”.
And, I get why these labels are important to people. You feel pigeon-holed by labels – and others just feel they finally found a home. Both are valid experiences.
I have no issues with someone applying whatever label/identity they want as long as it’s *they* who do it. The underlying point of my post is that others feel the need to apply labels and, for me, they’re unhelpful and were actually harmful. That’s why married men who look for gay porn are closeted gays and yummy Tom gets grief for not saying what he *really* is even though a guy “in a relationship with a man, and I feel great and happy; and yes, women are very attractive to me as well” *is* what he is, period. *He* gets to decide, not me or the Slate author or anyone else.
I’m lucky because I ended up with a woman who knew my proclivities going into it and loved me anyway. I’d rather we live in a world where we’re judged by the content of our character (to steal a line) and not the genders represented in our fantasies.
Regarding the younger generation, I think you’re spot on. They don’t get hung up in the words as much. They’re way out in front on this stuff and that’s something I’m very optimistic about.