Thursday, December 5, 2013

Labels (a conversation starter)



This week young Tom Daley (Olympic diver) told the whole world, via Youtube, that he was in a relationship with a man, whom we believe to be Dustin Lance Black, the movie writer. In his Youtube video, Tom didn't say that he was Bisexual or Gay. He just said he was in a relationship with another guy. And in a yet-to-be-released interview, Tom has explicitly said he doesn't want to be labeled, which is why he came out in a self filmed Youtube vid, so that he could control the content. He says that he "still fancies girls" but he doesn't want to be labeled.
 
In the last two days, I have now publicly argued with THREE different notable internet people about this subject (on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube), and I wanted to use this space to open a dialogue about the issue of labels, specifically gay, straight and bisexual.
 
In my 38 years of life I have come up against the argument many times that, "We're all just people. We're all a little bit bisexual (or gay or straight) aren't we? We shouldn't have labels, we should all just be people and LOVE." And do you know who it is, each time, who has said this to me? People who like both men and women. In other words, bisexuals. I count nine times I have heard this argument in social situations, and I have to say I'm a little tired of it. I am gay and proud of it. Period. End of story. I like guys. If you were to ask most straight people I guarantee you they would say, "Yes, I'm straight. And proud of it." It's a no brainer. But the bisexuals? They like the idea of "no labels". And what I question is the motivation for this.
 
IF the motivation is that bisexuality is too limited a term, and doesn't even begin to describe the full reality of liking both men and women, then I suggest we change the labeling system and make it work. The Kinsey scale might work much better, and be more accurate. People could point to whatever number on the Kinsey scale they are and say, "That's me, I'm a number 5". End of discussion. Done. And people could accurately assess where they fell along the spectrum of fully straight to fully gay. The three labels of gay, straight and bisexual may simple be too narrow a set of terms to describe the panoply of human sexuality.
 
But IF the issue is that bisexual people just don't want to come out, or because they don't want to open themselves up to the same potential danger that coming out as gay has, then I say this whole "no labels" thing is about fear and internalized homophobia. AND it does a disservice to people who do come out as bi, because it makes them seem like fools for buying into this whole "labeling thing".
 
Labels, themselves, are merely points of reference, and in the LGBT community they're important because it sets expectations. If you come out as gay to your family you're really telling them, "Don't expect me to bring an opposite sex partner to Christmas dinner. Don't expect for me to necessarily have 2.3 children and 3.2 dogs, and a house with a white picket fence, or want to watch football with you every Sunday." You're giving your loved ones realistic expectations, in a general sense, about what and who you are. Similarly, if you're straight, people probably expect certain things from you, which you may or may not be comfortable with, but which never the less apply. You'll have opposite sexed partners, you might get married, you might have kids, and you might actually like to watch guys in teams hurt each other while they throw a ball around a field.
 
But the consensus with bisexuals *appears to be that they don't even like to be called that. They don't want any labels to apply to them. They're above and beyond such crude tools of discernment. And I'm just not buying it. Is there something wrong with being bisexual? Is it bad? Is it inherently evil or something? I'm gay and proud of it, why can't bisexuals be bi and proud? I just don't get it.
 
So what do you all think? Do you buy into the idea that we're ALL a little bi and therefore shouldn't have any kind of way of identifying with certain groups? Do you think we should just all be sexual and leave it at that? I'd welcome your views and opinions.
 
thanks,
 
n.

12 comments:

  1. I don't believe that everyone is bi; I know I for one am 100% gay. As for terms, I'm fine with identifying with the term "gay", since I feel being gay isn't a negligible part of who I am (of course that's not the case with everyone, what I mean is that being gay shaped my personal emotional development and mindset about things in ways that I don't think would've happened if I were straight). So I wouldn't prefer people saying that calling myself "gay" is a bad move. But I also believe that there's no need to have a 'labeling' system (or avoidance of one) across the board for everyone.

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    1. Well put, Alan, and thank you for commenting.

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  2. This is a really fascinating topic, one that I think is trickier than a lot of people realize. I don't think everyone is bi, but neither do I believe everyone is 100% what they think they are. Take me for instance: I am only sexually attracted to women, in as much as I only want to have sexual intercourse with women. However, I can find men attractive. Hell, I can even enjoy making out with men, and have done so in the past. I know gay men personally - who identify as completely gay and would never have sex with women - but have enjoyed making out with them, and still find them attractive. Add to that the fact that I know more than one gay identified BB author who enjoy writing stories with male and female characters because they find the scenario sexually interesting. Our sexualities and all the crap that comes with them are very complicated and I don't know that single labels like gay straight or bi can really encompass every nuanced facet. Now, this is a world of words and we need quick, easy words to discuss some of the more complex concepts we face on a daily basis. To that end, I think it's perfectly acceptable to say you're straight, gay or bi, and let people accept all that implies, since it's easier and we don't necessarily have time to say: "I'm straight when it comes to penetration but I am bi for kissing, straight for BB, bi for dominance and roleplay, gay for wrestling..." the list goes on and on. And I don think that bi people should be happy with themselves and the label, because it's simple and easy to use to cover at least some of what they're all about. Labels are excerpts. Getting to know somebody is the full novel :)
    That's my take at least.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hahaha. I knew someone would bring up my fatal fascination with fictional femme fatales. Yes it's true, I prefer to write f/m stories, But to be fair, I write these stories for you guys, not for myself, so I plead the fifth on that. (You know I always thought I'd get bonus kudos from you straight guys for my two Overboard stories where I feature lesbian sex. But so far, nadda.)

      Well, I can certainly accept that emotionally one can be attached to and to love many people. I know I've loved some close female friends in my time. And I've met some women whose emotional beauty was simply stunning. But remember that sexuality is not necessarily the same as emotionality. I mean I love my father, but I wouldn't want to shag him.

      But to your last assertion, that Bi should be at least somewhat pleased with that label, is how I feel too. Bisexuality maybe isn't as accurate as other labeling systems, but it gives people a general idea of what you're into.

      In researching this issue, I've come up against a lot of stereotypes that Bi people have that they're: untrustworthy (more likely to cheat on their partner) and that it's a stepping stone to homosexuality and that people "turn" bi because of trauma and molestation and such. And because so many people believe in these stereotypes that it might make people who are bisexual reticent to come out at all, and to not be proud of their label

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  3. I am pansexuial I don't identify with any one of your three groups.I think that's where these people are coming from they think they are bi but actually fall into this catagorie. I think it's mostly just ignorance to the true scope of human sexuality. There is not just being gay straight or bi there are so manny other groups that people just don't know about. Personally I fall in love with a person before I even think about having sex I don't care if they are a guy girl or something ells if I fall in love with them as a person I will have sex with them. No offense but it seems a little slutty for people to just have sex for the pleasure of it waite and make sure there might be something and if there is not then toys and or a hand should satisfy your desire for instant sexual gratifcation

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    1. So what, exactly, does pansexual mean, and what does it mean to you? Does it have a definition? And how is it different than being *potentially interesting in both men and women?

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    2. Pansexual is looking past gender race etc and wanting to be intimate with a person because of who they are. It's more like a love kind of thing reuther then a sex thing. At least it is to me. there are definitions for it you can find them in a dictionary or online.

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  4. Well, I'm a late contributer, but I stumbled over this on I night I was feeling opinionated, so, why not.

    The way I see it, you shouldn't feel the need to label anything, or measure anything. I can tell you I'm straight. I also happen to be a furry. Now, I could just describe to you that I'm sexually attracted to women, or I really like anthropomorphic representations of animals (both the classic Disney style ones, and the smutty ones), and I'd think it fair to say that most people would pretty quickly think of those 'labels' anyway. And, the reason for that is basically because they're just the social norm that has been etched into people.

    Basically, what I mean is, that's just what people go to as a meaning for all those descriptions and associations. It's a word that represents a meaning for something.

    If I said the word, dog... what do you think of? If you're english speaking, or have some understanding of the language, it could mean, "man's best friend." "My pet, Milo." "That little bastard next door that never shuts up." What I'm saying is, it's one word that could mean lots of things to people, but all represent the one thing. The word that a bunch of dudes started throwin' around, and everyone else went; "Steve, I think we like your suggestion. We'll call it that." And that's just for the english language. Say dog to someone who doesn't understand english, that word means nothing.

    Now, apply that concept to terms defining sexual preference.

    They're not words that would be easily changed because they're ingrained, and they're the words that people associate with the traits and 'many words' behind them (imagine trying to make everyone call dogs something else). And a number system for something like this is something people would likely find far too much of an over simplifycation, and something that, for something that is as compiled as who we as a person are, just doesn't do. There's too many factors that can contribute to attraction. I don't find real, human men SEXUALLY attractive (I'll admit I can admire alright looking dudes. Just never in a way that makes me want to actively do anything sexual). As a furry, I do feel turned on by both genders, and I don't at all mind looking at anything to do with any orientation.

    Now, the thing is, I'd be reluctant to tell many people that in person. And the reason is, with the environment I was is, and how I grew up, I know that could get an instant 'gay' tag, and the people I'd been around in my youth had used labels like that, 'cripple' (well, walks like a penguin, but, one word for everything and all) 'stupid', 'weird' and even 'fat' (when I was real young) as negative. So labels tend to be associated with bad to me. And I'd dare to say, people that aren't fond of labels, associate them as being bad.

    So, what's all that jazz mean in a much less long winded, simplified version?

    Shit means different stuff for different people.

    It's not necessary the reasons you think. You could be right, but you could just as likely be wrong.

    So, my big block of opinion, up for your most intrepid interpretation.

    And for practice for my immediate future involving the act of answering single sentence questions in a few thousand words, that is commonly referred to as; essay writing.

    On what's essentially a porn blog.

    Go me! :p

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    1. Go you! Thanx for the thorough reply, and the well thought out thesis.

      And good luck with the furry thing! I new someone who was a furry. Nice gal, Loved her hand made fox tail. Very fashionable.

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  5. I am bisexual and I have to say, it sucks. It's not that we don't want to identify as bi, it's that we are overwritten constantly. If we're bi we're actually just gay, or straight with a gay phase or any number of other bullshit arguments. Our ability to label ourselves is constantly eroded and belittled. Besides, if an individual doesn't want to be labeled, that's their choice. You can be proud to be gay. But someone doesn't have to be proud of that. They don't have to be proud of anything except what they choose. That's what makes us individuals. And part of being good neighbors and members of society, is respecting others choices, especially when that groups choices are constantly being ridiculed.

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    1. I agree. It's a free country. You're perfectly free to be happy to be labeled or not, as you so desire. But I will never, personally, support the end of the sexuality labeling system, despite the attempts by other people to end it. And I gave my reasons why - it standardizes expectations, and prevents confusion and surprises.

      I'm sorry you feel that bisexuality is a label that is belittled and you have to fight for. I don't know what kind of action would be required to ameliorate your suffering. Perhaps simply more education for the general public on what it means to be bisexual? Do YOU have a solution?

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