Monday, October 29, 2007

Bi-Curious and other Labels has an interesting article about the different categories of sexual attraction. The author, a clinical psychologist, argues that a man who has sex with a man isn't always "gay", and the justification is "that sexual behavior and sexual identity can be two different things."

In a politically charged world that we live in, some lesbian and gay folks feel that you're either one or the other, gay or straight. And if you're gay, you need to embrace it entirely. But if you're straight, you can always experiment with us. At one level, this is an argument of the need to be validated. And yet, in spite of our political need for acceptance, we forget that life is much more complicated than that. Larry Craig, the toilet bandit, must be gay, some reason, because he taps his feet in public restrooms; he couldn't possibly enjoy a heterosexual marriage completely, or else why would he be in the restroom looking for a different encounter: ergo, he must be gay and delusional about his sexual tastes.

Life as well as sex is more complicated than that. The psychologist in this story recognizes a significant point that behavior and identity can be different for some. And more so, enjoying one aspect of sexual play doesn't guarantee that the same person is willing to accept or enjoy all other areas. As a whole, we (the gay community) ought to recognize and accept that there are those who don't always "fit" into our niches and categories of entirely gay. There are gray areas and areas where, as various circles fit onto one another but in different ways, a person may be emotionally attracted to members of the same sex but that doesn't mean they want to get down and sweaty. Likewise, a person who enjoys getting sweaty with another man may not enjoy the emotional attachments in the same way he enjoys those attachments with women.

Unfortunately such an acceptance is challenging to gay rights laws and perception. Being a supporter of gay marriage myself, admitting that there are men who enjoy sex with men but don't enjoy the same identity identification might cause an unintended backfire politically as we seek an opportunity for those who want to identify as gay politically for the sake of making a family, creating their own opportunities of their betterment. That backfiring would not make the issue as clear-cut as needed to pass the laws for marriage. That backfiring could validate what many men who have sex with men would think that sex and identity are very different and to push for gay marriage would somehow threaten their situation.

Personally I think gay marriage wouldn't threatened by such an understanding but I also realize that for those gay and lesbians who are learning to live their identities, the validation they need to find their own place is a bit threatening by allowing other men and women to dabble in sexuality while enjoying the benefits of a culture that condones and supports a heterosexual identity.

Wouldn't it be cool to experience a culture that validated AND supported all sexual identities? Such sexual confusion would be far less traumatizing for all who are learning to navigate their behaviors and identities.

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