Surely we can all agree that human sexuality is far more complicated than gay vs. straight. Why do we insist on tethering ourselves to these clunky labels?
Sexuality isn’t an either-or dichotomy. Some people have tried to battle this false dichotomy by making the so-called sexuality “spectrum” more inclusive with words like “bisexual” or “queer,” but this isn’t enough.
Sexuality isn’t simply gay or straight, but it also isn’t a spectrum. Referring to sexuality as a spectrum implies that every individual can be plotted somewhere on a line, leaning either more to preferring men or preferring women.
Our sexuality is not so simple.
Sexuality has layers. Physical attraction, for example, differs from emotional attraction, although both are certainly components of sexuality. Sometimes those attractions add up; you could be both physically and emotionally attracted to men, for example.
For many people, however, these attractions do not correlate. You can be primarily attracted to one gender identity in a physical way but more attracted to a different gender identity in an emotional way.
Furthermore, these attractions (and your sexuality) can change over time. You might prefer men today, but prefer women sometime in the future. Sexuality is far from static. It’s fluid.
There are many types of sexuality. In fact, it can be argued that there are 7.125 billion different versions of sexuality, as each person experiences sexuality in his or her (if you’ll pardon my sloppy gender binarism) own unique way. How could any binary label system possibly be sufficient for something so beautifully complicated?
The only reason we use the gay/straight labels is for other people’s sake. Labels make people comfortable, but why do we owe anyone an explanation of the way we experience our own sexualities? And why would anyone else owe us an explanation of their own experience of sexuality?
Asking, “Is he gay?” or “Are you straight?” is a form of micro-aggression. Even with the kindest of intentions, these questions frame someone’s sexuality (and, thus, their identity) in an incredibly restrictive way.
Not everyone fits into a neat little sexuality box, and the terms gay and straight try to shove the entirety of human sexuality into a very small space.
If someone chooses to identify using typical sexuality labels, that’s one’s own prerogative. If people choose to call themselves gay or straight, that’s their own choice. But it should be their choice.
Instead of asking someone if they’re gay or straight, ask them if they’re attracted to men or women. Or don’t ask them at all; just listen. Rather than pre-framing the conversation with restrictive labels, let everyone express themselves in the way that they choose. Don’t be afraid of sexuality’s fluidity; embrace it.