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Embrace fluidity

04/16/2012

 Or, beware of fixed ideas about who’s gay and who’s not.

Labels can be comforting, especially when you are unsure of yourself, a fairly typical state for late bloomers. Labels make the world more certain, more predictable. But they can also be confining.

Lately several friends – interesting friends who enjoy discussing life and how it works – have asked, in light of the fact that I was married twice, if I am certain I am gay. They wonder if maybe I’m really bi, as opposed to gay. That’s not a totally off-the-wall question. Nor does it hurt my feelings.

And it has caused me to do some thinking. What does the label “gay” really mean?

Now that I’ve been out to myself for five years, I’ve had a chance to unwind and relax into it. It’s been interesting to look back and reevaluate my path and where I’ve come to.

And, I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of gay people – male and female – about how they view themselves and their gayness.

None of these individuals has taken precisely the same path, of course, and a surprising – to me, at least ­– number of them have played on both sides of the fence. And not just in an “experimental” adolescent or early adulthood phase, either. For some, this “bi” behavior has continued well into adulthood, despite their identifying themselves as gay.

On the other hand there are plenty of folks who have sex with others of the same gender and identify themselves as straight. Married folks who get a little same-gender sex on the side. Porn stars who do “gay for pay”. Straight men who do same-sex porn frequently cite money as a motivator. Men earn much more in gay porn than in straight porn, so if they can perform with a guy, why not? Does this make them gay? Or bi? Well, according to some of them, no. And who am I to say?

I can only speak for myself. And this much I know: I’m gay.

For me, this means I’m a man who loves men at the most fundamental level, a level that is much deeper than mere sexual desire. And I have always been this way.

As I’ve said before in this blog, gayness isn’t a matter of who you sleep with, but who you are. The fact that I slept with women exclusively when I was young, and that I got married twice doesn’t define my sexual orientation. It only means I was hiding it. True, I hid it from myself for a very long time, but it was there all along.

So, here’s the question: If I believed myself to be bi, and I identified myself that way, would it make any difference? Would I be a different person? Of course not. I’ve been “me” all along. Finally, later than most people do, I developed a clear understanding of who I am, and I put the clearest label on myself that I could: gay.

Again, I’m speaking for myself here. I have no right to speak for or about anyone else. As long as you’re honest with yourself and with everyone else, label yourself any way you want to. Call yourself gay. Call yourself straight. Or bi. Call yourself Shirley. I don’t care. And neither should anyone else.

Define yourself honestly. Yes, these are only words, labels, but words spoken in truth can be powerful. So, unfortunately, can lies.

And while you are being honest with and about yourself, embrace everyone else’s right to do the same. Don’t put too much stock in labels. Embrace the gray areas and fuzzy edges. Embrace the fluid nature of humanness.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick permalink
    04/16/2012 8:02 AM

    You are so right. People do like the world to be tidy and simple, black and white–when grey is the obvious order of the day. Our friend Libby used to have a poster that I’ve always remembered with the legend: “In affairs of the heart, there are no rules”

  2. aviatrixkim permalink
    04/27/2012 8:15 AM

    Well said.

    • 04/27/2012 8:52 AM

      Thank you. Good to meet you last night.

      • aviatrixkim permalink
        04/27/2012 9:07 AM

        Same to you!

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