Sunday, 10 May 2009

Late Night Ramblings on Sexuality

Once again, a post in reply to the esteemed Dr S.('the Sloz' doesn't cut it, apparently) over at Excretera who, predictably, has called me on a high handed throwaway comment I made in my last post, stating that the coming out process was 'far more complex' than most people think. It would have been so easy to just nod sagely when you read that, Michael, but Ohhhh no."What did you have in mind?" he says. Damn' university professors making me THINK about stuff. Jeez.
Here goes then. Don't come crying to me for footnotes or a bibliography, though.
In the LGBT community, the received wisdom is that one is encouraged/indoctrinated into a heterosexual/heterosexist lifestyle and that it takes a certain amount of willpower to challenge this assumptions and come out. The main problem with this view for me is that it tends to negate/belittle the bi community, as in this paradigm, bisexuals are viewed as people who have unsuccessfully shaken off the "shackles" of heterosexuality, hence the reputation of those people for being 'confused' or 'undecided' which, in my opinion is a load of shit.
Here is the problem. When Stonewall happened, 'Gay' referred to what is now referred to as the LGBT or Queer community. i.e. anyone not 'straight'. Over the years, however the meaning of gay changed to refer only to gay men or to gay men ad lesbians depending on preference. The Bi and Trans communities were shouldered out. I guess it's easier to gain acceptance if you define an 'other' to hate. I have witnessed the gay (male) community be lesbophobic, and the lesbian community fight it and overcome it (to some extent), then the lesbian and gay community was biphobic and the bisexual community challenged and partly overcame THAT. Now the LGB community is pretty transphobic, and those full on transsexuals who have been accepted 'into the fold' can be pretty prejudiced about genderqueer people. So the original writings about being gay and coming out were actually more inclusive than current writings using the same terminology are.
Also, coming out as 'not straight' represent leaving the in crowd, the tribe, the mainstream. Doing so to self-identify as having a fluid sexuality (that sounds dirty...) is frightening because there is no cohesive group to run 'to'. Therefore, if you are questioning your sexualtiy it is much easier to identify as gay/lesbian and repress your opposite-sex attraction and have the inclusivity of the gay community, rather than be left to flail around being hated by both extremes. Because that's what they are. They are not the two choices you have, they are the safety-in-numbers ends of the continuum.
Personally speaking, I self identify as lesbian, not bisexual. But I like the iDEA of heterosexuality. It's just that the practice doesn't do much for me. This leads me to another complicating factor, which is that, in our society, a lot of our sense of worth is based on the approbation of the opposite sex. As a lesbian I don't want men to hit on me but as a woman in this society, there's a part of me that's offended when they don't. Many, MANY gay men I have known enjoy 'joke' flirting with lesbians and 'fag hags'. They like the female attention because they have been socialised to need that attention to tell them that they are successful/'real men'.
Those people I know who have come out into nontraditional sexuality/gender roles have generally done so something like this. "I'm straight! No, I'm gay! No, bi! wait... am I definitely male? Please refer to me as she...some of the time... (headfuck commences) know what? I hate labels." It takes guts to come out as gay. It takes incredible self assuredness and assertiveness which I can barely even DREAM of to come out as something that doesn't have a solid definition in our society. Because then, the only label people can find to stick on you is 'other', making you everyone's favourite hate-object.


  1. But I like the iDEA of heterosexuality. It's just that the practice doesn't do much for me.

    *Hahaha! That is a great couple of sentences.* I am just waiting for the day when we can all just BE - all of us nonviolent, progressive peoples :)

  2. What RK said. Plus, defining ones self based solely on sexual preferences if pretty limiting, I think, and I like that idea that it's one of many things about the people I love. 'Cause we're complicated!

  3. pg - absolutely. I couldn't agree more. When I say that I self define as lesbian, I don't mean I walk around with my internal monologue going "lesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbianlesbian". I just mean that if my sexuality comes up as a concept, that's how I think of it. However, I would say that the less ones sexuality is accepted and represented by society, the bigger a part of ones life it becomes, which in turn feeds the stereotype that lgbt people are 'obsessed' with sex and gender.

  4. We all have the exact same rights whether you are homo or hetro.

  5. this is a fun post (for academic values of fun) and made me think again about something that's been perking in the back of my head all day. i got to explain the kinsey scale to my massage therapist today; my very queer-positive and affirming masseuse with her history of friends & family of the LGBT persuasions didn't know what it was. i was amazed. i also "came out" as bi. i'm in a monogamous lesbian relationship, so i get counted as lez most of the time. i think of myself as lez most of the time, really. heterosex does it for me, but het relationships don't. heh. that was a LONG COMPLICATED process of figuring out.

    anyway, i wandered over here from QueersUnited. thanks for getting my brain working today.