Notes on Sexuality
In the beginning of the GAY LIBERATION BOOK, there is a picture of a man in NYC protesting a TIME article on homosexuality (three decades ago). He is carrying a placard that reads, "I AM A HUMAN-SEXUAL." I think this statement serves as a good replacement to "heterosexual" and "homosexual," as well as making a good case for social acceptance. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that we are all human-sexuals.
The more cultural conditioning you dissolve the more of yourself you uncover until you reach true, pure sexuality: omnisexuality. I consider omnisexuality to be an attraction to, besides humans, any living thing or inanimate object. However, for practical purposes, it is my belief that human sexuality is bisexual. Unfortunately, many people do not allow themselves to be practicing human-sexuals, or bisexuals, because of their conditioning. Allen Ginsberg knows well the implications of heterosexism (rejection of any nonheterosexual identity or behavior):
Unless there is an infusion of feeling, of tenderness, of fearlessness, of spirituality, of natural sexuality, of natural delight in each other's bodies, into the hardened, materialistic, cynical, life-denying, clearly competitive, afraid, scared, armored bodies, there would be no chance for spiritual democracy to take place in America.1
I am not suggesting that it is impossible to be attracted to just one sex. I am suggesting that it is possible to find attraction in anyone or anything, and that everyone will at one time in their life experience an attraction to both genders. It is just as likely that tomorrow I will be attracted to a woman as it is a man. Maybe I will dig my cat. It's okay to label yourself gay or lesbian but don't let that label prevent you from recognizing your attraction to both genders. Any attempt to deny attraction to men because you're lesbian, deny attraction to women because you're gay, or deny attraction to the same gender because you're straight is a life lived through a filter; a life devoid of the full experience of sexual desire. You are a human-sexual, and it is natural to find attraction in many people and places.
I don't believe that sexual orientation is predetermined, or set for life. Our feelings toward the world around us are part of our cultural software. As we modify different areas of this software, our feelings change. There are no set boundaries or rules with sexual orientation and gender identity, which queers, transgenders, hermaphrodites, and people with Klinefelter's syndrome (ambiguous genitalia) clearly illustrate. These people just represent different software (and hardware).
I have read the opinion that bisexuals are confused, and that they will eventually find that their attraction lies with one sex only. There is great and mysterious beauty found in both genders. What could be more mysterious than the opposite sex, homo? Why should I make a choice and pick one of the two? It is bad enough that I have succumbed to the "tyranny of the label" by identifying myself as bisexual.
I am troubled when gay males proclaim themselves "straight acting" and when they express hatred or discomfort toward "queens" or "effeminate" guys. I have seen qualities like caring, compassion, and nonviolence described as ideally resident in both sexes. In Western cultures these qualities have been labeled as effeminate. Well then, I consider myself effeminate, and I sincerely hope you do also.
We all know of gay men with drag-wearing tendencies, high-pitched voices, and fashion-conscious minds. I showed contempt for these "effeminate" men not so long ago. Even as I thought I was proclaiming my masculinity, a small voice inside was asking, "hey, is there any real reason to dislike their behavior?" As I have become comfortable with "queens," I also have begun displaying some of these behaviors. Do you turn your head in disgust every time you see a woman getting dressed or speaking in a high-pitched voice? Perhaps there is some deeper reason for your dislike of the "queens."
When we react intensely to a quality in an individual or group-such as laziness or stupidity, sensuality, or spirituality-and our reaction overtakes us with great loathing or admiration, this may be our own shadow showing. We project by attributing this quality to the other person in an unconscious effort to banish it from ourselves, to keep ourselves from seeing it within.2
Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us. We could add that it may move to a distant place and begin a revolt against us as well.3
Many people feel that anything but heterosexuality is not acceptable. Why do these people not find great joy in the ideas of equality and toleration for activities between consenting humans? Perhaps it deals with the comfort found in fear and ignorance, and the comfort found in the majority. These people may find gay sex offensive. It is true that the anus is not designed for penetration. It is also true that teeth were not designed for Snickers bars and the body was not designed to swim or climb trees.
In my youth (when was it ... 1986?) I once dressed up as a girl, painted all my nails red, and danced with life-sized Annie dolls. I didn't indulge in anything like that again until recently, when I painted my thumbnail red. It was the most uplifting and joyous thing I have done this year. I recently started crossing my legs all the way over, as women do, because it is more comfortable than the male version. No, I have not wrestled myself into drag yet, but I can assure you that when Philly Pride comes around I will be there in my best dress with makeup on. I will do this because I enjoy the ritual of preparation; it brings me much joy. Because I want to dissolve gender identity to help those around me gain a better understanding of themselves. Because I will have a damn good time.
At this point, I want to tell you about my own experiences with acceptance. I came out to myself four months ago. I have dug men since at least the age of 11 or 12, but I was a heterosexist at the time. I certainly could not think of myself as gay. I remember my mother having a talk with me about homosexuality when I was 14. She said, "You know, I would still love you if you were gay." I was disgusted she had even said that to me, and was slightly embarrassed because some part of me knew I was gay.
Earlier this summer, I was sitting in the house of my friend's girlfriend. She looked me in the eyes and said, "you are in denial about so many things." I just stared at her. How does one respond to that, especially when it is true? I never asked her what she meant and she never offered this information, but her statement put the various gears in motion that would, a week or two later, make me face my sexuality. It is a process that turns one inside out.
I could not fully face my sexuality and told myself I was bisexual at first, because I thought bisexuality would be easier for people to accept. Someone in response then told me, "Do you think if you went and told someone you were bi and that someone was fine with it, they would not accept you if you were gay?" He put some more gears in motion. Soon, I fully came out to myself. I accepted the fact that for the first 17 years of my life, I had been attracted to men. My current out status is one good friend and my mom. I am also out to anyone I meet online.
I came out to my friend a month ago. I intended to come out to her that day, no matter what. Before I left for her house, I was turning everything over in my mind. I had to work out my come-out phrase. I had to prepare for any questions she might ask. I was nervous, although I had no doubt in my mind that she would accept me. I felt I needed to tell someone nevertheless. So, later in that day, I found myself sitting in her kitchen trying to make the words come out of my mouth. I would tell myself, "okay, at 1:00, you'll tell her." Then I'd watch the clock tick past one. . .then two. . .two thirty comes 'round. I realized I would have to tell her and not even think about it. Putting my ego aside for a moment, I finally came out. I said, "You probably already know this but I'm gay." She had the tap on, so I wasn't sure if she had heard me at first; my words seemed to hang in the air. She turned around to look at me, gave me a big smile, and laughed. She thought it funny I had decided to come out this way; she said, "It is so like you to just say it like that." It never occurred to me to strike up a conversation about sexuality, then pop the question, "would you care if one of your friends was gay?" I blurted it out in the middle of a conversation about eggplant parmesan. She had no problem with me at all. I really wanted to talk to her about all my feelings and confusion, but I was still uncomfortable with myself, and did not like the thought of a conversation beginning with, "that guy is hot!"
Deciding that I was bisexual was not a smooth transition from my previous gay identity. Gay is a much stronger word; bisexual seemed to diffuse the impact of my sexuality. Bisexuality left me feeling especially queer; now I did not fit in either side of the fence. Realizing that all people have at one time been attracted to both genders made me feel much better.
Now I have some decisions to make about my other friends. Every other friend I have has demonstrated ignorance and heterosexism. Three choices confront me. I could:
I have, for the time being, chosen the last option. I really do think that they would be unprepared to have a queer friend, so I don't want to be the one to change their minds. That is their obligation. This brings me to more recent weeks, when I have been, quite surprisingly, more attracted to women than I ever have in my life.
Sexuality is a complicated subject with many considerations. This column cannot be and is not the final or complete word on the issue. There are a lot of choices to make concerning your sexuality. There are many different labels you can attach to yourself. Labels describe so little, and yet can mean so much. I realized it doesn't matter whether I'm gay, straight, bi, or whatever. I am secure in my sexuality, my humanness. I try to keep in touch with myself. I am an individual; that is all that matters. Keep all your options open, all the time. Don't close the door on yourself. You may end up in a closet of more than one design.
2 Jeremiah Abrams and Connie Zweig. From the introduction to MEETING THE SHADOW.
3 Robert Bly. From "The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us," also in MEETING THE SHADOW.