By Kristen Hammond
Democrat or Republican? Male or female? We find answering those questions to be simple enough. But why does the question of straight or gay throw us off so much? Sexuality seems to cause the most social controversy and more so, confliction and confusion when it is supposed to be the most primitive and natural thing about humans.
What about the people who fall between straight or gay; what about those who don’t even feel like they identify with either? Do we even know what sexuality is?
Sexuality, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the quality of being sexual: a) the condition of having sex b) sexual activity and c) expression of sexual receptivity or interest especially when excessive.”
I find this to be largely inaccurate; this neglects those who do not feel sexual urges and people who do not participate in the act of physical sex. According to this definition, if you don’t fall into those defined categories, you cannot be described as a sexual being which just has to be false.
“Sexuality” first became a recognized concept in 1948, when biologist and sexologist Alfred Kinsey, developed a self-evaluated spectrum that explores sexuality with a range from zero to six, where zero is exclusively heterosexual and six is exclusively homosexual; and a rating of X, for asexual. Kinsey was the first to readily accept that sexuality was not just straight or gay. The spectrum looks like this:
0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6- Exclusively homosexual
Kinsey’s research indicated that the majority of people fall between a one and a five and stated that “everyone is a little bisexual.” (hmm…) But his measure has its limitations. The Kinsey scale only discusses one form of attraction, sexual. It does not address other kinds of sexuality such as demisexual (sexual attraction is experienced only when accompanied by a strong emotional attraction), pansexual (attraction across all gender identities and biological sexes. Think “gender blind”), and the romantics (Homoromantic/heteroromantic/aromantic making attraction experienced romantically rather than sexually) among others.
While Kinsey’s scale made a great advancement in the right direction, it made me wonder if we even need labels at all. While these labels are helpful in identifying and explaining your preference, it could lead to more confusion and even more feelings of isolation.
At an EROS (Equal Respect Of Sexualities) meeting, Co-President Claire Hansen explained “these labels help us realize that we’re not alone in our feelings, but once we feel comfortable with these feelings we want to break free of these labels. They’re binding and people are so much more than a label.”
She continued “just because I’m ____, doesn’t mean I like _____. I am not a product of my stereotype.” For example, just because someone is a gay man, doesn’t mean they automatically like fashion and theater. If they do so happen to enjoy these things, it is because they as a person who enjoys them, not because they are gay. Assuming such things is so old school and honestly offensive.
If I may ask one more question, how on earth is it that in 1948, a time of vast sexual repression, that such a thing as the Kinsey Sexuality Spectrum can be published but in the year 2012, LBGTQ rights is still an argument. I can almost understand if you are religious and it goes against what you believe, but we seem to be forgetting that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I write this, regardless of my personal beliefs, solely for the rights that everyone deserves. On an even more basic level, Betty White says it best “I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your own affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”
So I said all that to say this, sexuality can’t be confined into categories or definitions or reduced to numbers. One word isn’t enough to describe the complexities of sexuality, so don’t let it define you and don’t let anybody else define you with it.