Dating : Sexuality Doesn’t Always Need A Label

h2>Dating : Sexuality Doesn’t Always Need A Label

I both am, am not, and know nothing about being straight or gay

Kris Gage

First, two points:

  1. I am not trying to take the overall discourse or labels away from anyone else. YOU DO YOU, BOO BOO.

I don’t care about having a sexuality “label” in the same way my boyfriend doesn’t care what MBTI type he is and most people feign ignorance when you ask their sign.

I am Schrodinger’s sexuality — both gay and straight, but not necessarily bi.

For a period of my career, I worked in “relational databases.”

What this means is records aren’t just stored but relate to each other; data is presented in “tabular” form, i.e. as a collection of tables consisting of a set of rows and columns. Think of not just an x and y and z axis, but an infinite number of “axes” (with each intersection, perhaps not un-confusingly, called a “cube.”)

(Part of my job was describing this to clients’ (non-IT) C-suite. The metaphor I used most was a “car:” every car has a make, model, year, color, etc., and you can sort by these (cue “the used car commercial” visual) to organize them.)

Anyway. The main point here is: relational databases let you manage all kinds of variables in a meaningful way, and help you sort and “fetch” more data, faster. So instead of sorting by one variable, you could sort by 7, 19, 92

And every time we talk about “sorting” partners by sex (or gender, or some combination thereof), it reminds me of relational databases, and I feel a little speechless about everyone’s oversimplification… like:

“Do you like red fish or blue fish?”
“No. Red fish or blue fish? …both fish? NO fish?”

(More realistically, though, they see you chowin’ down on either “red” or “blue” fish and give you a contented thumbs-up like “ah, blue fish!” and all’s okay in their world. Even though the whole time you’re like “well, wild-caught, fresh-water fish, but — ”)

This categorization makes no sense. For me.

Like aligning yourself as either a “vegetable person” or “fruit person” (or maybe “both” or even “neither.”) But that’s not how we eat fruits and veg.

I like: leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. But I also like berries and unripe plums. And I dislike corn, potatoes, carrots — and never eat mangoes.

So. What am I? A vegetable person, or a fruit person? The answer is simple: I am neither, because it doesn’t work. (And when people swear they are absolutely only one or the other, I immediately smile to myself, albeit sadly, like “here’s someone who’s afraid of their own shadow.”)

…for others.

In Balinese culture, children are named by birth order: the firstborn is often named Wayan, Putu or Gede, the second is named Made or Kadek, the third child goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut.

Through our lens, this seems unfair; boring; dehumanizing even, but it’s probably safe to assume that those in this culture are fine with it.

That’s about how the whole concept of labeling sexuality seems to me. Like, I understand why others would want to. I just don’t really care.

I don’t care about my sexuality “label” in the same way my boyfriend doesn’t care what MBTI type he is, or most people feign ignorance when you ask their zodiac sign.

But I understand that, in the same sense people care very deeply about their names, they may also care very deeply about other aspects of their identity. I’m not here to take that away.

I understand why we need commonalities in discourse; we need a common language we can all use.

I also understand the importance of giving labels to things in order to legitimize them, in the same that Dale Carnegie once urged us all to “give a dog a good name.”

But while I understand the value and importance of all of this as it relates to other people’s lives (and sexualities), what I’m also saying is that, when it comes to my own, I don’t care.

When I visited El Salvador about five few years ago, I went to Mercado Central, a massive outdoor market selling everything from consumer goods to food items. While walking, I saw unfamiliar small red fruits with thin, spindly husks. Without knowing what they were (or having any competence with the Spanish language), I bought a small, clear plastic bag of them, a handful and a half nestled down in the bottom as I carried it in the afternoon sun.

I had no idea how to eat them but figured it was a matter of peeling, so I grabbed one and pawed at it with my fingertips, grabbing the leggy spindles and pulling away at the body to reveal flat milky white, almost gelatinous fruit underneath.

I ate several before leaving the rest of the bag with our cab driver. And it wasn’t until I was back home that I did a quick Google search and learned the name of these fruits: rambutan, a fruit native to southeast Asia region and closely related to several other edible tropical fruits such as lychee, longan, and mamoncillo. (The name “rambutan” is derived from the Malay word rambut meaning “hair;” in Vietnam, it is called chôm chôm (“messy hair”))

Anyway. I bought and carried and ate and then gave away this fruit just fine, while never knowing its name. I experienced and enjoyed it without terms.

It only matters if you need to have a conversation about this fruit, if you’re having trouble finding it, or want to buy it again, or want to build a bit of your identity around it. And I’m not saying anything wrong with that — there isn’t. I’m just saying none of that is intrinsic to eating what the hell I want to eat.

And the same can be said for moving through anything else in life.

Let’s play sexuality ad libs: I identify as a [woman] who has a [kinda masculine tbh but still feminine enough i guess so tomboy idk?!] gender expression and a [female] biological sex, but when it comes to my sexual orientation, the available options [heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual] just don’t fit. Even the myriad of “other” options (bi, pan, etc.) seem superfluous and silly for my own.

But that’s not even the real point here. And what makes it okay (or maybe worse?) is that: I don’t care.

Is this privilege? Maybe. Probably. But again? I don’t care.

Are we not entitled to be a little preferential when it comes to the ways in which we view our own sexuality? Isn’t that also what this is all about? Stop trying to make fetch happen. Stop trying to get me to use a word where we don’t need one. I’m doing just fine floatin’ along here without one.

Like sometimes when we talk about “women,” it becomes re-enmeshed with “femininity” (flowers, cuddling) and “biological female-ness” (vaginas, short fingernails), and I become confused all over again about the conversation we’re having. If we’re gonna talk about something, I just want to talk about it without assuming all these all “relational data points” get dragged in, too.

These are separate things and we all know it.

On the one hand, it baffles me how many straight people dislike the opposite sex’s genitals — straight women who are grossed out by penises; straight dudes who apparently hate vaginas? And I guess that’s fine; whatever — we know that “gender” isn’t the same as “biological sex,” so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. But their disgust is more to my point than they realize, just in the opposite way.

And what I’m saying is: I feel zero shame for saying sexuality is fluid while at the same time thinking: “but… dicks are nice.”

As Darcy Reeder beautifully wrote: “I don’t understand straight people.”

Girl, I don’t understand “straight people,” either— and I arguably am one.

She writes,

“I’m sexually attracted to people of all sexes and genders… It’s not that I’m attracted to men and I’m attracted to women. It’s that I’m attracted to people.”

Then adds:

“I’m not saying I’m attracted to all people. In fact, I’m not attracted to most people. But when I am attracted to someone, that someone can be of any sex and any gender.”

And explains:

“I’m pansexual… Sometimes I use the word bisexual… but bisexual implies — duh — a binary. And my sexuality does not feel binary at all…

‘I only date women,’ sounds to me like ‘I only date redheads.’ Like, really, you can’t even imagine being attracted to a brunette?…

It’s hard for me to understand the total surety some people feel that they’ll never, ever be attracted to someone who doesn’t present/identify as a certain gender or doesn’t have specific parts.”

And yes, that’s a lot how I feel. Though I don’t even care to get defensive (as she does when she asks, “does it really matter? If you love someone, who cares?” I already know that it doesn’t, and I don’t.)

And even though there is apparently a term for this, and I guess (?) it might apply to me, I still don’t feel compelled to use it. It seems like an option I don’t want, like the free ketchup packets that came with my fries, and only slightly less shitty than being expected to abide by “woman” signifiers, or define my identify as such, just because I’m one of those, too.

Darcy ends by writing,

“Even if we throw out all the labels, we are who we are. Whether I call myself bi or pan or don’t label my sexuality at all, he knows my desires. And I know his.

He’s my penis. He’s my person. I’m myself.”

And I get that too.

I’m not into “men” and I’m not into “women.” I’m not even into “both,” or “people.” (I’m also not just into “intelligence” — and btw, that’s super cringe-worthy to say.)

I find dudes attractive. I find women attractive. I’m into bois, femboys, gay men, gay women, straight men playing gay men, gay women playing straight women, women playing men, all kinds of gender bends, and everything in between.

I find some lesbians attractive but I feel nothing for some of the culture. Like the subreddit r/actuallesbians (though maybe it is just actual garbage and not a fair reflection of the lesbian community) and the “U-Haul” jokes make me uncomfortable and I don’t want that lifestyle (which is truly bizarre because I moved in with all my boyfriends pretty quickly after we started dating. But I guess what I’m saying is: I want to be the one doing the encroaching and pushing, and not the other way around.)

I’m not hung up on gender norms, but not in the ways you might think. Like, when it comes to shaving our armpits, I think dudes (or, just my partner) should shave theirs too, rather than me not shave mine (and I’ve got 20 years of experience with the benefits to back it.) I dress like a tomboy, I prefer short hair over long, I ride a bike. I paint my dude’s toenails. I’ll order your drink for you, but I also like drinks ordered for me, too. I am adept at both big and little spoon. I own heels; I own flats. I wear mens denim but also dresses.

When I saw Now and Then at age 9, I had a crush on young Rebecca but not Teeny. I was never into Devon Sawa (sorry, bud) but I was definitely into that brief, blurry camera shot up his towel (which, rewatching as an adult makes me… bordeline pedo?) My favorite Disney princess is Mulan, not Cinderella.

I find Grace Dunham —a non-binary, gender non-conforming person who has used both “she/her” and “they/them” pronouns and dresses (in their words) in “a super androgynous way” and sometimes passes as a gay man — to be sexy. Same with Rae Angelo Tutera, who’s transmasculine and “gender-chill.

What does all that say? About me, about them, about sexuality? I don’t know.

Sometimes sexuality is smaller; more granular.

Sometimes, in the same way so many people will pick a person apart physically — “great ass” or tall; “good hair” or “nice tits” — I will do this with characteristics as well (and, in fact, more often.)

When people joke (“joke?”) that their sexuality IS Rachel Maddow” or “Johnny Castle dancing in the last scene of Dirty Dancing” or “dan levy’s eyebrows” or, hell, even “science” or fucking “chocolate oranges,” I GET IT.

My sexuality is a whole slew of shit that hasn’t nothing to do with either gender or sex or whole other people.

And as Melissa Broder wrote in So Sad Today, “my sexuality is me.”

Girl, I get that. If we’re being honest, most everyone’s sexuality is really about them.

This isn’t to say that sex isn’t, or attraction isn’t, but I just can’t imagine spending this much of my day thinking about my own gender, or the gender and sex of those I’m attracted to. There just isn’t even time for this.

But what I find sexiest in all of this is when people don’t make a big deal out of it; they just do it. Like, Mulan didn’t dress up as a dude to talk about dressing up as a dude. Homegirl did it because she had shit to do. And I like that.

I understand that biological sex matters when it comes to procreation, but as our desire for kids wanes… our concern for gender and sex will probably wane as well. (Maybe not literally yours, individual unnerved reader, but in general. In the future.) There’s room for it all.

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