Our sexuality landscape is shifting. For millennials self-identifying is key. For many of us the idea is perplexing so I thought I’d explore it and shed some light on the advantages it can, eventually, bring us.
It’s eventually because we’re not there yet. Trump’s America is likely to be proof of that. For now, coming out is still a very important gesture in many circles, sports for instance. One day it will no longer be necessary. I feel a twinge of sadness at that thought. But, wouldn’t it be wonderful if sexuality wasn’t an issue?
Sexual identity is a person’s sexual essence. The concept does away with labels like straight, and gay. It views that kind of dualistic thinking as outdated. The more we look at human sexuality, the more sense that makes.
Sexuality is not a simple life-long choice. It is more complex, more fluid, and more unconscious than that. For many people sexuality is situational. In the right context things might happen that are entirely outside someone’s usual behaviour.
With our love of labels these exceptional moments can create unnecessary crises. In my late teens I had a crush on a friend’s boyfriend. Shortly after they broke up we ended up sleeping together. Just after it happened getting “the best blowjob I’ve ever had in my life” wasn’t a problem for him. What followed were weeks of curiosity, discomfort, and sexual confusion.
Did liking that blowjob make him gay, or bi? Many thought he was bi at least. Most thought he was a closeted gay guy. So did he. But why? I experimented with some women in my teens. I even had a threesome with a “straight” couple in my thirties. Does that mean that I’m really bisexual? Do those one off experiences require me to reassess my sexual identity? Absolutely not.
I’m gay, that’s it. That is my self-identification. I could just as easily say that I am bisexual because that door is not completely closed. The whole point is that I get to define who I am, and how to wish to be known. For the most part that’s great.
But it’s only good for someone who is comfortable in their own skin. Self-identification can too easily be used as a closet, undermining the fight for true equality. If a guy can have sex mainly with other guys but still be “straight” isn’t he just a closet case? Doesn’t he bolster our oppression?
If he is comfortable with his man on man experiences, and with gay men, no problem. If he uses his self-identification as a smoke screen for internalized homophobia it’s an issue. There’s a big difference between saying “I enjoy sex with the occasional guy but I’m straight”, versus, “I’ll let a dude blow me but I’m not a fag”.
Self-identification is a great concept. It gives us the latitude we need to define our sexuality in broader terms. Whether you identify as straight, gay, bi, pan or whatever, if you do it with pride, and respect for yourself and others, you’re moving all of us in the right direction.