Sexual labels: useful & limiting

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Where I meant to go when I wrote Are you gay or bisexual? Charles came home so I quit that without a second glance.

In conversations about sexuality I've often found myself on the side of labels. While nobody wants to feel they've been stereotyped or unfairly typecast it be hell to live without some of those invisible boundaries.

Whether it spares wasting time or your supreme sexual thrill is seducing a heterosexual man isn't it best to know that he is straight. If you are a lesbian don't you want those pretty women to know that the two of you might be able to form a more than platonic friendship.

Less obviously, if you are a guy who takes joy in wearing women's clothes it is best to discover if the guy you met has an inflexible prejudice against you. Even if he's gay and you are just wanting to do no more than hang out.

Some transvestites are defined by their crossdressing, for others it is a significant but not defining part of their lives. Simple confession in the pleasure labels you in the minds of the uncomplicated majority.

Labels have varying degrees of specificity. Transgendered is exemplary: crossdressers and transsexuals in differing conditions with differing goals. And a few people we haven't reduced to handy clichés yet.

Some of us like our labels: when I discovered that I liked guys I was stunned with joy. Stuffily you could say I was celebrating the transgressive. Really a kid in Savannah Georgia who couldn't identify with the people around him was happy with another proof that he was different. (That his conscious mind belatedly connected with sex was pretty exciting as well.)

Even living with a woman I never lost the sense of myself as a gay man. Finding and coming out after the worst days but before becoming a topic of soap operas and sitcoms I've never felt less than thrilled by my faggot-hood.

Only once did I feel connected with the word bisexual. The market research company in San Francisco that I worked for was doing a political poll. We asked respondents if they were straight or gay. I successfully lobbied the client to add bisexual as an option.

After the woman had left I never thought of myself as bisexual. An odd double standard was going on in my mind: a few women I became addicted to watching on TV. In flesh life it was the guys I usually noticed.

I spent years without thinking of either a sexual or romantic partner. When - through the miracle of Levothyroid - love and lust stirred again and I started using the web to meet people I did list myself as bisexual. That didn't last long.

Silly me, I used the label to let both men and women that I was open to them. Little did I suspect that many married men would think that made me a member of a secret fraternity. Married hetero men took it as an invitation to adultery as though I'd accept dishonoring their marriage as just something we 'bi guys' do. It was like biting into an apple only to see the leftover fragment of a worm wiggling at you.

Women's response shocked me more. Unanticipated emails from women told me that I was probably and AIDS carrier and couldn't be trusted to be faithful. (I got the latter from gay men as well. Some naïve gay men have been hurt by bisexual men who feel women are more real, important or something unkind.) Never occurred to me that openness was a sign of innate infidelity.

Stumbling across images of transsexuals and transvestites and learning of intersexuals left me feeling that my sexuality wasn't binary. It could be framed in two ways: there is a continuous spectrum of people who are desirable and lovable. Or that any decent person regardless of gender quality is lovable.

I adopted the label pansexual.

Some sexual labels are little more than funny. Metrosexual denotes a straight man who cares about his looks, enjoys good food, selects his clothes with care. Nothing new. Before the 19th century most powerful and wealthy people enjoyed finery and nice things. Fop was coined to ease castigation of men who cared about their appearance than the majority thought seemly. Depends on your perspective if a metrosexual male is a fop or simply a traditional affluent urban male.

Other labels proclaim their perniciousness: the fauxmosexual wants women to think he's gay so he can worm his way into her pants. Maybe she'll think she's saving him (from what?).

With heteroflexible we are back to bisexuality. He can enjoy sex with a guy but either can only love a woman or I think more likely wants a traditional life with children born the conventional way. There are homoflexible guys who can enjoy sex with women but want to spend their life with another man.

Bisexuality, unlike many labels, has degrees and variations. Some men engage in sex with another man because there is no other option. Others because any source of an orgasm is fine. Or they liked to be fucked but don't know a woman willing to use a strap-on. But their heart is always drawn to women. There are polyamorous relationships maintained by bisexual people who can't feel satisfied without loving partners of both sexes. And there are the bisexuals who really do enjoy both sexes, emotionally and physically.

Some men aren't comfortable with their bisexuality because they are weaklings in the face of the cramped ideas of sexuality held by their monosexual friends. I don't have much sympathy for them. They need better friends. If the last century let us be honest about anything letting others constrain your sexuality is a direct route to personal damnation.

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Comments

I beleive in truth in labeling. If people could be plainly and accurately labeled like a City Of Commerce Municipal Bus, things would be much nicer. The buses were labeled on both ends as well as above the windows and later buses have it in foot-high lettering on each side of the bus. As for Metrosexual, that’s just another term for a heterosexual fop. I heard someone say “He’s a metro” and I wondered does he drive an International Harvester walk-in delivery truck or is he some sort of a ‘sexual.

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Richard

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