This week I think I’ll talk rather seriously about labels, how stupid I think they are and the definition of sexuality. I apologize in advance, dear readers, for the lack of witty one-liners.
I tend to get irritated by the amount of labels that people put on each other; among them, “gay” and “straight” are pretty high up on the list, but the highest on the list? “Bisexual.” But not for the reason you think.
Before we continue, let’s get something straight here (pun intended). I am not in any way trying to bash those who may identify with any of the labels that I am about to unleash a torrent of hate on. I am merely commenting on the absurdity of trying to place the inhabitants of this planet into a few (quite a few, actually) stringently defined categories.
One of the few things I know for certain after having lived my short 20 years on this planet is that nobody is definable; nobody fits into a category, and even if they did, the range of categories certainly wouldn’t consist solely of the three that people commonly associate today with sexuality. If we’re going to continue with our maniacal categorization of people, then we need to create a separate category for every single member of the human race.
Much like every other aspect of human nature, sexuality can be fluid. At any one time somebody might find themselves on a different point on the sexual spectrum than when they checked the day before. Just as there are infinite decimal numbers between zero and one, there are infinite points on the sexual spectrum that can be felt by any one individual, and whatever point you find yourself resting on might not be the point your circumstances leave you standing on when your life ends.
I never thought I’d find an example case in a modern hip-hop artist, but Frank Ocean’s coming out a few months ago yields a perfect one.
NPR published an article on the importance of his letter, in which he details his romance with a man from his young adulthood. In his letter, addressed to the world, Ocean doesn’t label himself as gay or even as bisexual. He instead allows the nature of his sexuality to remain malleable and indefinable as far as the reader is concerned, and that’s exactly the way it should be. The NPR article states, in a way I find appropriately succinct:
“Ocean’s [letter] presented sexuality as something that arises within particular circumstances, defined by shifting desire and individual encounters rather than solidifying as an identity.”
So I guess the next time somebody asks me if I’m gay, I’ll just smile at them and tell them that the nature of my sexuality is in a constant state of flux and I resist the urge to label myself as anything definite. Or maybe I’ll just tell them I’m human. Or maybe I’ll just tell them it doesn’t matter because who I fall in love with or who I take to bed is not my whole identity; it is but a fleeting and indefinable aspect of everything that makes me who I am. So deal with it.
Luc Gendrot: You can call him that if you like, but he prefers ‘human.’ It’s more accurate.