Do we need to define our sexual orientation? Are the current labels useful, or are they adding to the confusion? Are we confusing our identities with our labels and becoming overly identified with a narrow avenue of perception, and expression?
For myself, the label of gay has been useful. It helped me define myself as having unique needs, and interests in a world that seem to have no place for me. I had desires, and interests as an adolescent that I sensed were unacceptable. My interests were not the stereotypical guy type of stuff. I was bullied for being too sensitive.
So coming out as gay was a way of saying “yes, I'm not like you, so don't expect that you can change me” It was a way of creating some space for myself, and eventually finding more people like me. However it also at the same time isolated me, and reinforced an idea that I was separate, different, weird. For much of my life I've felt different. But in retrospect, that self concept has really undermined my sense of connection.
I think everyone feels different to some degree. If someone feels a sameness, its usually interpreted as a belonging, a familiarity; it feels good. Feeling different often feels bad, especially when we're young, and trying to find our place in the world.
I thought I found my tribe, but even then, having moved to a big city, with many gay men, I still felt different. Our commonality was our weirdness, our similar stories of rejection, and the fact that we were interested in having sex with men. Sure there was elements of commonality, but there was many differences as well.
Labels, like all words, are innately general. As we string together a sentence, we narrow down an idea, a message, a thought. One word is incredibly general. There is no relativity and no context. So the word GAY, is actually not that useful. Im pretty sure that's why we now have LGBTQQIP2SAA, but seriously that's a bit ridiculous in my mind.
Alfred Kinsey decided that sexuality was a spectrum, and that makes sense to me. Life is more nuanced than we can grasp. We simplify the world to make sense of it, we break it into bite sized pieces. But doing that we lose connection with it; we create others and delineations.
So in calling myself gay, I created a separate world for myself, and some others. Our identity was of otherness, of oppression, of radicalness.
In my desire to be the best me I can be, Im now beginning to deconstruct this, and interestingly, I see this happening around me. Gayness, queerness, othernesses of all sorts are being integrated into society. Also, straight, “normal” people are letting their freak flags fly. There are mixed reviews of this phenomena, but I think its good in this context, that we are coming together, that we are becoming more connected. And I believe that people thrive when they feel connection and belonging. Isn't the label human being enough?
I believe that there are many men that could benefit from intimacy with other men, even if they arent gay, as in their preference is not to regularly have sex with men. Intimacy can look like a variety of things; but perhaps the label of gay has meant that many men have to decide to be one thing or another. It may mean that they feel forced into a categorization and set of behaviours. Its just the same as gender roles that limit men, and ultimately is what caused me to feel the need to find a label that explained me as an outlier of standard masculinity. Man means masculine...unless youre gay it seems. So some men fear demonstrating behaviours that lie outside of standard masculine behaviours for fear of being categorized, by themselves, as gay. 'I don't want to be gay, I'm not gay, therefore I cant cuddle with a guy, even though I want to, I just need to forget about that'. It seems that a lot of the worst cases of homophobia, are often from men that likely are struggling furiously against their own desires of same sex relating.
And I absolutely believe that the vast majority of heterosexual men have had thoughts, desires about intimacy with other men, but have shut that down. I think thats really unfortunate, because I believe men who have experienced love for other men, will be a lot more compassionate, will feel a kind of nourishment that they do not get from their intimacy with women. Perhaps men have been conditioned away from loving each other, to make us more aggressive, more willing to kill each other. Labels are at work in all wars. Labels are the same as borders. Labels are ideologies. Labels insulate us from understanding, responsibility and compassion.
If we could let go of our tight grip on labels, I believe that we could begin to regain a deep sense of connectedness and security with all of life. We could feel a bond of love with others that meant only that we were human being doing what is natural. We are meant to love each other.
Me defining myself has gay, has also meant that I've ruled out sexual intimacy with women and I believe that this has actually stunted me, deprived me of learning something valuable from women.
Men, whatever your self definition, I challenge you to loosen your grip on the labels that you use to define yourselves. For a minute even let go of the concept of man. Think of yourself as merely a penis owner. Observe yourself not as your role in the world, but your experience as a sensory creature. What would it be like to follow your body's impulses for a day?
I don't believe that we are going to find satisfaction in forever subdividing and labelling infinitum so as to represent every minority. In fact we create more minorities with every label. We are all minorities in our uniqueness. We are all unique and that doesn't need affirming with a label. The discussion should be directed in a different way so as to include variety as nature does, to create an environment conducive to unique expression while still maintaining connection to the whole. We should not have to shout “IM DIFFERENT” to express our preferences. Because in doing so we often isolate ourselves from the resources that can and do support us.
Perhaps we can de emphasize labels, and remind ourselves that our infinite uniqueness is what makes us all so human.