Beyond Homo And Hetero
I have a confession to make: I have been a very bad gay boy.
It's not just that I have been, and still frequently am, attracted to women. It's not even that in the past I have actually acted on these heterosexual urges, or that I can’t rule out the possibility of doing so again. Nor is it my inability to participate in the apparently requisite vaginophobic banter. (Whenever I hear some other fag holding forth on how he hasn’t even seen pussy since the day he was born, the best I can muster is usually “So what?”)
No, gentle reader, I fear it is worse, even, than all that. The truth is, I have begun to question my faith.
Once I believed in something. I believed that “gay” was a word that had meaning for me. I believed I knew what it meant, and, furthermore, that it was something I could be proud to stand for.
And now… I’m not so sure.
Don’t be alarmed. This isn’t some reactionary, Born-Again conversion, “ex-gay” thing. (Although, technically, I suppose you could call me “ex-gay” at that.) And this isn’t about judging the language which other people use to self-identify. And it sure as hell isn’t just about the concept of homosexuality. It’s about heterosexuality, too, and bisexuality, and, really, just about any sexuality that tries to define itself in terms of the genders involved.
Though it might surprise some to hear it, as a trans guy, my gender actually fits pretty neatly into a world divided into “men” and “women.” Confronted with a choice between “male” and “female,” I have no hesitation whatsoever about ticking the “m” check box. I have come to understand that I am what is referred to as a binary gendered trans person; in a society that demands we be one thing or the other, I have no problem complying. It's merely that I’ve ended up on the opposite side of where I’m “supposed” to be.
For many people who I love, things are not so simple.
What’s a fag to do when he finds himself attracted to somebody who is neither male nor female—socially, emotionally, mentally, or in any other of the ways that really count? I was having a hard enough time coming to terms with thinking girls are pretty (but rarely wanting to do more than look) while falling madly in lust and love with other men. Now I am turned on primarily by men and by those whose genders defy categorization. What does that make someone like me?
I have too much respect for the identities of my partners to cling to a label like “gay.” Even as a trans guy with a relatively simple gender, I have watched gay men panic at the threat which I supposedly present to their homosexuality. It's irritating and a bit pathetic, like watching a straight closet case try to defend his heterosexuality and his desire to receive blow-jobs from men in the same breath. I have no desire to turn around and do the same thing to my more queerly-gendered partner, ignoring their identity by treating them as a gay man or a gay male relationship.
I’m sure as hell not bisexual. Bi is a word which implies the existence of only two genders. As such, it does not apply to me and is arguably dated. And declaring myself “pansexual” seems a trifle ambitious, as well as untrue, since I am hardly attracted to all genders. There are some people whose identity and presentation I simply do not find attractive or compatible with my own. I am the last person in the world who would claim to be gender-blind.
I firmly believe that coming up with a new specific word which means “attracted to gender queer people” is not the solution. Why not? Because “gender queer” does not describe just one gender. It describes any gender other than male or female—in other words, infinite individual variations. To claim to be attracted to all queer genders would be naïve, and could only be justified with a fetishist’s logic. Only someone who wrongly lumped all gender queerness together, romanticizing all of it as exotic and bizarre, would claim such an orientation.
I am not a fetishist. I love the gender queer people I love because of who they are, not because I think they are categorically subversively sexy. A big part of being gender queer is often the desire to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis rather than lumped into some larger, ill-fitting classification.
My final refuge to describe my orientation is the word “queer,” a word as non-gendered as it is emphatically non-heterosexual. It is a word that implies being unconventional, unconstrained, and bent in some unspecified way. It’s a word that gay boys, lesbian women, and pretty much anyone else who is not straight can share comfortably. It is also a term I resisted for a time. It seemed too politicized and maybe even a bit trendy. And it was far too vague. But, in time, I came to see that its lack of definition is part of its beauty. Like the identity “gender queer,” it is a term that can mean billions of different things, depending on the individual. Like “gender queer,” it challenges: ask me if you really want to know more.
This column could be considered a coming out of sorts. I need to cut my last ties with the word “gay” and the idea of myself as homosexual. I need to quiet that little voice in my head that chides “bad fag!” once and for all. I need to stop talking about who I love using words that erase my lovers.
Encounters with individuals who do not have so much self-worth wrapped up in words like “gay” or “straight” have left me humbled. I am done with gold stars, with “gayer-than-thou” pissing contests. I am done excluding gender queer people from my sexual radar.
I might have been a bad gay boy, but I hope to be a better queer.