A recent “Gay Voices” article on the Huffington Post attempted to explain ten lesser-known sexual identities that extended beyond the well-known heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. To be clear, when not just saying I am merely a human, I identify as heterosexual. But, I never think much about sexuality in general, except to generally accept that love is incredibly fabulous, beautiful, and an essential aspect of life.
Ralph Ellison, renowned author of the American classic, Invisible Man, told the Paris Review, “the individual is a minority,” summing up what I believe to be the single most important thing to remember about humanity. No two humans love in the same way and we all have individual attractions. The man I find attractive is not always the man that another person, no matter their gender identity, is attracted to.
I fear that the obsession with labeling sexuality is headed in a potentially dangerous direction. Take, for example, the Diane Sawyer interview with Caitlyn Jenner: “So are you gay or straight?” That was the question that Sawyer just couldn’t get past despite Jenner repeating over and over, “I’m me.” If we all love differently, does it need a label? Do labels force people to find a way to fit in? Or do they expand the spectrum and help to destroy stigma?
Possibly it has the ability to do both. While extending the number of labels attempts to expand the possibilities beyond straight, gay, and bi-sexual, we find that the categories continue to need expanding. Just as not all heterosexual women experience attraction in the exact same way, two skoliosexuals don’t either. As the categories become more specific, it becomes harder to fit into one and find a sense of group solidarity.
In light of Asexual Awareness Week, I pause to think that there must be a need to give a name to the differences that the sexual being experiences. But at what point do we stop subdividing and start to recognize the commonalities?
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Laverne Cox stated, “Gender is policed in such a way that it does not just affect transgender people,” she said. “It affects gay-identified men, straight-identified men. And straight-identified men [who are] deeply policed. As I date a lot of straight-identified men, I’ve seen them so deeply internalize these ideas very rigidly about what it means to be a man -– to be a straight man.” Here is where the infinite number of possible sexualities meet gender and remind us that the constant need to group and categorize (to “police”) is harmful rather than helpful. While ‘pan-sexual’ is an effort to encompass those individuals who do not identify within the binary, and asexual is a term that takes sex out of the equation, adding more and more terms just creates mini points along the spectrum.
The infinite number of points along the spectrum would be impossible to fully define and label, especially considering the ways that sexuality is experienced evolves and develops over the life of the individual.
According to Ritch Savin-Williams, a psychologist at Cornell University, “Young adults today do not want their sexuality boxed in. They want alternatives and new ways to describe the complexity of their sexual and romantic selves and the research reinforces this spectral understanding of human sexuality.” If the individual comes to understand the complexity of the self that they are, do they need to provide a term for anyone else? Should they have to explain in a single word, or is love too complex to break down? Is our need to classify causing the greatest problems of all?
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