Gypsy's Musings

The Paradox of Identity Labels

Labels are for packages and moving boxes... not for people.

Labels are for packages and moving boxes… not for people.

NOTE: Contains mature content (sex/sexuality).

I’m starting to feel like I’m doing a “post of the month” club here. While I’d like to say it’s a lack of inspiration that keeps me away, in fact, it’s my attempting to monetize other areas of my life. I have great difficulty balancing the need to make money with my desire to live a good life. In other words, I like what I’m doing, but I don’t make enough to pay for it.

But this is hardly something new for those who have been reading along these past few years. I have lived a very eclectic life, with too many interests and a personality that is not neatly compartmentalized. And then, this morning, a friend from my college days posted something on her Facebook wall about a gay man who is coming to terms with his trans partner coming out as a woman. He is now struggling with his own sexual identity as a “gay” man, because he plans on staying with his (now female) partner as she transitions to a body that fits her gender.

I actually think this article speaks to a huge issue in the LGBTQ community, one that I’ve faced my entire adult sexual life, which is the “who you are” v. “who you fuck” identity crisis. The author asks a simple question, “If my partner is female, am I still gay?” Of course he can totally identify as gay. I’m pretty sure the mayor’s wife, Mrs. DeBlasio, still identifies as lesbian. Identity may be fixed or fluid, but the point is that who you are and who you fuck do not necessarily dovetail. I mean, John Lennon was probably as straight a man who ever walked the earth, but he slept with Brian Epstein (maybe it was a pity fuck, maybe it was love, doesn’t change JL’s orientation).

But I digress…

I would never insult the gay (or straight) community by saying, “Everyone’s bisexual,” but I do think you can fall in love (or even lust) with someone who doesn’t necessarily fit the strictures of your identity or even your “likes”. This happens all the time when maybe you find yourself attracted to someone who doesn’t share your values or has a different religion or ethnicity than what your “ideal” might have. (For possibly the best breakdown on human sexuality ever, check out Hank Green’s vlog.)

Why is it so unimaginable that a person could love someone who doesn’t synch up sexually? And who knows what happens after transition surgery? Let’s face it: People change throughout their lives and grow apart and divorce and get back together and so forth. What’s more, as we age we sometimes get sick, become ambulatory, lose our libido/desire… If you are in a relationship for more than just sex, then it’s about the person who is your partner: the person behind the fat, beyond the wheelchair, beneath the burn marks, under the wrinkles. We generally think it very shallow when a sleazy politician cheats on his wife who’s battling cancer, but that happens (and not just with politicians and not just on the husband side of the equation). Any transition is difficult in a relationship; the HuffPo author’s relationship change is more difficult than some and less than others (e.g. I think there is a lot less guilt in leaving a partner who drives her/his own change than leaving a partner who becomes disabled/impaired and now requires constant looking after). And, in defense of those who behave badly during times of stress, each of us has a different threshold for weathering change.

On a personal level, I have had partners of both genders (and identify as bi) but have only had long term relationships with men (and I generally prefer men as sexual partners… which may also have to do with being a submissive: there aren’t many gay/bi dommes out there, certainly I haven’t found many non-professional dommes that are into women and—ha ha, believe it or not—I’m looking for love, not a sexual experience I must pay for).

I really hate this binary way of thinking about pair bonding, when it denies so much of who we are as humans and—while I have no empirical data to support this, just as Hank Green mentions in the video—I truly believe binary thinking and compartmentalization add to the hate culture that stems from fear of one’s own sexuality.

I’ve often ranted about the difficulties of raising kids in NYC, but I am relieved that my son is growing up in a queer-friendly space; it’s one of the things I do love about NYC: its diversity. I honestly think my son is heterosexual, but I also think he’s not going to box himself into a “definition” that proscribes relationships with men or trans partners if that’s something he wants to explore as an adult.

And while labels help both us and others make sense of the world, when it comes to sex and sexuality, fewer boxes and more open spaces are needed so that when change comes (and it always does) we aren’t doing mental gymnastics to justify to others the choices each of us has to make just to get through the game of life.

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