Saturday, July 7, 2012

Question: Andy, are you a card-holding homosexual?

Because I have a legitimate question for someone with a better grasp on how homosexuals classify or define homosexuality...and this is after I was (no kidding) in "the gay dorm" in college. It was in a themed college in Northern California - and the dorms were all themed too...and our dorm was the "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, Jewish" dorm.
So, how do homosexuals account for or classify people that have the urge to experiment and *like* it, but are "primarily straight"? There's no great way to ask this question - and believe me, I'm one of the most LGBTQIA-friendly folk, but I still don't know if all homosexuals are literally "born that way", but I'm curious to know what someone of that orientation feels. Also, and slightly related, Is there any talk about (or truth to) the idea of a kid's sexuality being "rewired" after some form of abuse? I don't know if that's still something people say, or if that was one of those things conservatives said to dismiss homosexuality as a "problem to be fixed."
Anyway Andy, I appreciate you answering any of that - and if it didn't make sense, I'm typing from my iPhone, so I literally don't know how to scroll up and re-read what I wrote without losing it.
The classification of people into identity groups based on their sexual orientations is a recent development in human history as a necessary step toward political organization for rights. It isn't, however, necessarily based on what's most useful for people to relate to themselves. The "lifestyle choice vs born this way" debate, then, is also based from that perspective.

What we know about human behavior in all areas is that it's far more complicated than that. It is useful in certain circumstances to help someone understand "I am not choosing to go to hell, I'm a normal healthy part of the human experience" as a way for them to come to terms with being themselves in a world that hates them. But I will point out that the problem is entirely external - if people would stop being haters, nobody would need to find a "justification" in genetic determinism.

But if someone were born one way, and then experienced a traumatic event (abuse or brain injury or whatever) and became a different way, how then would we come to the conclusion that there is even a problem to be fixed? Because its origins are something distasteful to us? That doesn't lead us to want to cure Spiderman. Of course not, Spiderman is cool, and even a traumatic origin story doesn't mean the end result isn't amazing. That's how it is with being queer. I'm baffled that people out there would suggest I waste countless hours trying to undo a part of myself that to me is a good thing.

Then we come to the heart of your question: what if we could chose? Granted, that's still looking at it too simply. There are no such things as "free choices", because every choice comes with a baggage of all sorts of good or bad consequences. We tend to focus on physical responses in our society: the physical response of being sexually attracted, sexually indifferent, or sexually repulsed by a particular body. But that's not the only aspect of human sexuality that is significant in defining our choices and experiences. Personality is another: you know those people you just love being around, who make any activity more fun than if you had done it alone. Why not sex? Why not experimentation?

Well, it could be awkward. And there lies the heart of the matter. Awkward because society has wired us to feel that way. And sometimes people hear social training as something that you can just "choose" to undo. And maybe you can, and maybe you can't. Again, that depends on the baggage of that choice's consequences. (Go ahead, try to "choose" to walk down the street stark naked in front of an elementary school building, see what sorts of psychological and social trauma you might manage to escape.) It's what is known philosophically as "compulsory heterosexuality" (this is where you have fun Googling, hint hint).

I'm pansexual. That means I don't experience attraction along the linear scale ranging from homosexual-bisexual-heterosexual. It's more like wibbly wobbly sexy wexy feelings all around. That means, I absolutely can have a choice in who I am attracted to and who I am not. Granted, my choice isn't always the final say in the matter, there are some things I'm genuinely repulsed by (independent of gender or genitalia). I might have difficulty getting it on with someone who is a real jerk, or who thinks they're a psychic vampire, or who is covered in weird pimples, for example. I am definitely into people who are smart and funny in a pleasant disarming way, and who care about me as a person. But damn, 7 billion people on the planet? Of course I'm making some choices.

tl;dr - You might be labeled "bicurious" or "heteroflexible". If that sort of thing even matters.

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