Released on July 12, 2019, the kick off to St. John’s Pride week, this is a Reflection I do not think I could have released even a couple of years ago. I went through a period of my life when I questioned my sexuality and it brought with it a whole host of food for thought. After I worked through it, I came to one conclusion: we are all perfect beings who should be celebrating, rather fearing, our differences. If you are reading this, I love you for exactly who you are and you should love yourself for the same thing. We are all in this together.
Have a great Pride week!
I am a millennial, which apparently means born between 1982 and 1995 (though that definition depends on who you ask). I was born in 1985, which would make me 34 now. In my early years, the Internet was in its infancy and I kind of grew up with it. I still have memories of the sound of a dial-up modem and using ICQ instant messenger and playing Duke Nukem 3D with my friend over the web.
When I was a kid, I was into stuff like Adam Sandler albums and Saturday Night Live and other ‘racy’ (at the time) forms of comedy. In those days, the humour tended to be somewhat surreal. But one of the relics of the past that had not quite given up the ghost was the use of homosexuality itself as a punchline.
Sure, it still happens today. But back then, the other ‘f’ word was as common as dirt. It was also the preferred insult between me and my friends. We all identified as straight. Sure, most of us paid lip service to the idea that there was nothing wrong with being gay, but we had no problem calling each other gay as if it were some kind of horrific disease.
As I grew up, I discovered that I liked women. A lot. Thanks to the marvels of the Internet (and my young mind’s facility with computers that allowed me to get around Dad’s Net Nanny software), I had no question about that part of my identity. I was straight and that was it. My biggest issue was the fact that I was fat and had no game, owing to my nerdy nature.
I lost weight. I became more socially adept. And I did end up in relationships with several women. And then, in my mid-twenties, when I was highly intoxicated, a man asked me if I would be interested in going to bed with him. My boundaries eroded, I did not say yes, but I did consider for a moment whether or not I did. After some hesitation, I decided that no, I was not interested.
He was a charming fellow, and though I did make it clear that I was not interested (perhaps I was not at my most adroit), what proceeded to occur after this was what I like to think of as one of the better learning experiences of my life.
The thing is, what I was doing when I was a kid, with my casual homophobia and unexamined actions, was creating a wall of separation between me and other people. I had come face to face with that wall, and what I had othered had come full circle to make itself known in me. I experienced self-doubt, fear, worry – all kinds of things. What if I were gay? When I sobered up, I had some stuff to work through. I spent a few years digging down through all of my experiences and projections and subtle biases.
My answer came down to this: I am not interested, but to be perfectly frank, who gives a fuck? That did not occur until after I went through the layers of my internalized homophobia. And the thing is, when I started opening up to people about my experience, the majority of my ‘straight’ friends told me stuff in private like, ‘I’m pretty sure that everyone goes through something like that,’ or ‘I don’t know what the big deal is, everyone is a bit gay.’
There were other fears, and these were related to society’s own prejudices. Traditional masculinity, as defined by aging mores, has absolutely no time for this. Women seem to be ‘permitted’ to have a few homosexual experiences while still being able to wear the ‘straight’ card. I know a few women with whom this has occurred. With men, if they have one homosexual experience, prejudice generally states that they are a three-dollar-bill in hiding. The Internet tells me that straight women are less likely to maintain a relationship with a man who they see as bisexual. I am not sure why this is, but I suspect it has something to do with the expectations our patriarchal system puts on men not to expose any vulnerability. I also know that gay men sometimes have a gradual move to ‘the other side,’ wherein they might go through bisexuality to full homosexuality and expect that others’ experiences will follow suit. Perhaps this speaks more to fluidity than anything else.
Alfred Kinsey did one hell of a lot of work on sexuality decades ago, and even then, it was known that people were on a spectrum. I was recently listening to a podcast between philosopher Aubrey Marcus and bisexual Australian radio personality Jason Ellis. In that, Marcus said something to the effect, ‘I think everyone is like eight percent gay.’ Ellis responded with (I am paraphrasing all of this), ‘yeah, but it’s not even worth talking about.’ He then went on to exclaim that he suspects that much of the violence against homosexuals is probably done by people who are only very minimally homosexual, who see their shadow in others and are threatened by it.
Well, at least given that fact, I very much think it is worth talking about. I mean, my own reaction to this aspect of my identity was not something I would call an easy thing. For the longest time, I could not accept and love myself in my entirety.
The problem, it seems, is not with attraction per se. Sexuality is an expression of love and there are so many different ways it can be expressed. One might even say that sexuality is something that should be defined by the person themselves. That’s why people ‘identify’ as straight, gay, bi, mostly straight, pan sexual, etcetera. What seems to me to be the issue is the whole labeling game. And then using our labels to separate ourselves from one another, rather than celebrating our differences.
Right now, I identify as straight and I have no reason to deviate from it. Including that period of time when I questioned myself, I cannot say that I have felt any same sex attraction that really even comes close to what I feel for women. It always seemed to be gone by the time the night was over. And yet, I might meet a man who sweeps me off my feet tomorrow and perhaps I would have to change my entire identity as a result. Probably not, but I am done with looking at the world in terms of black and white. Even if it happened, would the ‘straight me’ that came before simply disappear? I mean, really, couldn’t I call myself ‘mostly straight’ or even ‘bisexual’ because of those instances of same-sex attraction in my life? Perhaps so, and you are more than welcome to call me what you like. ‘Andrew’ is probably the easiest one, though.
In my debut novel, The Yoga of Strength, one of the things I bring up is the idea of sexuality being like a hair colour. Some people’s hair is black, some is brown, some is blonde, red, grey, white, etc. And even within those shades, there is variety. Throw in punky dyes and you’ve got a whole nother spectrum of colour to go through.
Some people cleave very tightly to their hair colour – some dye it, to maintain it into their seventies. Some let it change with time. Some people say stuff like, ‘I’m a blonde, that’s why I did that.’ Some people mark it down on their driver’s licence and don’t think twice about it even when they look in the mirror in the morning.
The point is not to judge anyone for any of it. This life is about love, at its core. People love people, and they express that love through sexuality. The only thing that separates us is our prejudice, whether that’s for sexuality, sex, race, income, culture, etcetera. The point of becoming wise, as far as I can see, is to transcend these ideas of separation, of good and evil, to no longer look at it in terms of teams and tribes. To experience the full unity of the world and to love yourself for the perfect being that you are. And see that exact same perfect being in everyone else.
To paraphrase one of my favourite Kabir quotes, beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.