The human animal is not a binary being. The concept of ‘either, or’ is something that makes computers work, and is the reason why they epically fail. A programmer can devise an if, then statement for his code, and it will run exactly as programmed. If a situation shows up that the computer wasn’t prepared (programmed) for, it simply breaks.
The human mind is more elegant than this. In an unfamiliar situation, a person immediately begins drawing data from whatever sources they can, to try to invent a solution that fits. While not always successful, we can make a best guess.
How we make our best guess is still a matter of much debate. There are arguments for genetic predisposition, and there are arguments for cultural upbringing. We’ve all heard it. Nature vs. nurture. And seeing that you can’t extract either factor from any person, it may be that we never know. Not to mention the people who overcome all odds to make their lives the way they believe they want them to be.
This leads me to the community of alternative sexualities. Alternative because by society’s view, humans assume that a person’s preferences dictate a predictable course of action. In truth, alternative is a catch-all phrase that suggests that there is one ‘default’ choice that is right, and then any other choice, which is inherently wrong for not being the first choice. However, human beings don’t tend towards predictable paths.
Predicting behavior is a human predilection, and an important societal trait. We like knowing what other people are going to do. It enhances our ability to create strategies. It helps us gain favor with people we like. It allows us to identify people we don’t want to associate with.
Prediction is simply an estimate of how something could turn out. While we could be right, we could also be wrong. We understand the greater motivations of people, but we never know the background story that shapes them. The idea that a person will always behave a certain way is a small view. For example, last Saturday I ordered a glass of white Bordeaux. I am far more inclined to drink red wine, and almost drink it exclusively. For dinner, I ordered a ribeye steak that had to be air lifted in from Nebraska as my entree. I’m sure my husband, who is diligent about knowing my preferences, would have put money that I would have gotten a Cabernet for my drink. But I felt like something different, and I did something unpredictable. Like we all do.
We like the comfort of predictability. When we discover a person is gay, we make certain decisions about them, based on our understanding of what we think ‘gay’ means. Certainly if a person is said to be gay, we can draw from the information around us that they prefer to have sexual relationships with their own gender. Anything further is our brain drawing from whatever sources we have to make a best guess about that person’s behaviors.
I would like to put forth that human experience is made up of little anecdotes. It always depends on the circumstances. You can say, “I prefer something,” and mean it.. and still find yourself desiring something different from time to time. I drink tea, but every now and then, I want coffee. I love steak, but my budget relegates me to eating far more chicken and fish than beef. Binary statements work with computers, but rarely is a human set to ‘1’ or ‘0’. There are extenuating circumstances that help us make our decisions.
This label of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ is nothing but a label, a simple way to boil down a person into one set of traits. When you label someone as ‘straight,’ ‘gay’, or the ever less popular, ‘bi,’ what is being said is, “I don’t care that you’re brilliant at your job, or that you paint beautiful flowers, or that all of your friends see you as the person to call when they need help. I just care about who you fuck.”
Kinsey had the right idea with his scale. It is more accurate to say that humans tend towards sexual preferences. Look at how often two women scenarios come up in men’s porn. If they found homosexuality truly abhorrent, it wouldn’t matter if the two same-sex participants were men or women, but often times this is overlooked. If all women were straight, then the threesome would be nothing more than a fairy tale for grown men. And if these women were truly ‘gay,’ they wouldn’t want to have the man in the room while they were having fun, either. Sexuality is messy, and does not confine to expectations, no matter how much people wish that were true.
For example, Christopher Eccleson is married, and yet on the world premiere to Thor 2, he was asked a question about Tom Hiddleston and responded with, “You wouldn’t kick him out of bed.” Now, this is just an offhanded comment, but it gives you an insight into the way human minds work. We notice, even if we don’t act.
Sometimes our lack of action is from simple fear of rejection. It doesn’t matter who the object of our desire is, male, female, or a less distinct notion, when we want a person, we find ourselves terrified as to whether or not the other person might reject us. Certainly there are those who are bolder, and strike out with confidence, but they don’t want to be shot down either.
My father told me a joke when I was thirteen. He liked telling me ribald jokes, because I was finally old enough to get them. He said, “I’m trisexual – I’ll try anything once.”
That is what happens in life – we try things. Everyone has tried something sexually that worked for them, and things that didn’t. Each time, it was a discovery. And our ‘preferences’ never really prepare us for the reality of the person standing before us. Certainly we all want our lovers to be flawless in every way – perfect hair, perfect teeth, rock hard abs, a pert ass, a great laugh. The details we never fill in are the lopsidedness of their smile, or the way they screw up their face when they concentrate, or the fact that, just like you, they’re carrying 10 extra pounds. Perfection exists only in the human imagination.
I have had the unfortunate interaction with a relative who, when confronted with the idea that a man might sleep with another man, held up his fist and threatened violence to this poor, hypothetical individual. I’d never been confronted with homophobia before. I was startled by his vehemence. It was obvious that for him, whatever it meant to be gay to him, was a fear-inducing state. And I do understand that we fear what we don’t understand, and that is why we try to force ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ into tight-fitting strictures that make sense to us. It’s very difficult to say, “I’m straight except that one time when my boyfriend talked me into a threesome with my best friend when we were nineteen and drunk.” No one needs to know you that intimately, unless they’re going to know you that intimately in the near future.
I hope that there will come a time when society will stop trying to put everyone on ‘teams,’ and just accept an individual as an individual, for their personal preferences and wants. In our attempt to simplify even the most basic of questions about our fellow man, we are putting them into boxes, and we make assumptions based on those boxes, or what we think those boxes represent. What follows is a world that hates people for not conforming. This despite our inborn desire to been seen as individuals. This conflict will only end when people can find the strength to say, “Just because I don’t agree with [a given behavior], doesn’t mean it is wrong for everyone else.”
In the end, trying to define love with simple terms will never work, because love and attraction never follow the rules.