Friday, May 2, 2014

The issue with my sexuality

Whew! I spent some hours this afternoon landscaping the little D.C. yard of the home I share with my fiancĂ©. I don’t like to kill plants – even weeds and grass patches – but sprays and shovels tend to do that… A piece of advice: white, leather gardening gloves only look good before you use them. Spring is here, the house is getting spruced up, we are in love, and we are both male.

While gardening, I was thinking of a conversation I had last night with my friend Scotty (and via speakerphone, his fiancĂ© Maggie). I don’t recall how we arrived on the topic, but afterwards it was one of those I-am-so-glad-we-had-this-conversation conversations. Scotty was my college roommate, then became one of my closest friends, and is now someone for whom I am to be a groomsman at his upcoming wedding (for which I still need to buy a proper suit). We always chat well. When I met him, I was dating my high school sweetheart, to whom I lost my virginity, and who was also a woman.

I’ve never identified as gay. I’ve never ‘come out’ in any commonly understood sense of what it is to do that. I do not mind being identified by others as gay, being that I am in a relationship with a man. When I began dating a guy for the first time, back in college, my parents had a party and suggested I bring someone from school (the intonation was that, since my girlfriend and I had broken up, I should bring someone if there was someone to bring…). I showed up with who would later be my boyfriend and introduced him to my parents and their friends. It was obvious that we were seeing one another romantically. It did feel a little uncomfortable at first, and the relationship didn’t last, but I’ve never had a sit-down conversation with my family (or anyone really) about my sexuality. I’ve also never concealed the romantic side of my life from anyone. And now I am to be my future husband’s husband.

I was explaining to Scotty the issues I felt with categories of sexuality. He said “you know, it never seemed like an issue…it wasn’t something I ever thought too much about…you didn’t change after you started dating men”. If I’m being reflective, I have (since my early teens anyway) always dressed ambiguously. I’ve never attempted to exemplify masculinity. Part of that may be my long-term enrollment in a ballet academy during my childhood and teenage years and being around creative and artistic people, but even in the world of classical ballet (at least then), the reinforced archetype of a male dancer was a heterosexual one. My parents were always very supportive and loving, but not overtly encouraging of experimentation.

I guess being myself has always been more important than being part of a group – even a minority group that embraces me. When I was 8, I remember this mean kid coming up to me in the cafeteria, pushing me to make his friends laugh, and asking “Why are you so weird Jameson?”, and I replied “Because I choose to be”. It did not feel like the right response at the time since “I’m Jameson. I’m weird because I chooooose to be!” became a favorite phrase of theirs for a while. But looking back – and remembering that seemingly minor exchange so clearly for whatever reason – it was the correct answer. Often, I just couldn’t figure out how to fit in with others (I did try sometimes). So I would resort to just ‘doing my thing’ – be it dance, or drawing or putting on makeup. As I became an adult, one of the most marvelous things was the discovery of being able to choose who you spend time with – a luxury not afforded to most school-aged children. Fitting in becomes such a lesser concern because when you seek out or connect with the right people, they seem to realize that you give the most when you are you. I am blessed to have a community where the idea of ‘normal’ is as terrifying as any disease.

So back to Scotty and sexuality. He made the point that I am lucky. Lucky to live where I live, lucky to be around loving and open-minded people, lucky to feel safe. Ultimately, he is right. Although it drives me a little crazy sometimes to think of being ‘thankful’ for the ‘acceptance’ of others (yuck). One of my least favorite types of conversations:

Nice to meet you!
And you also!
So is that your partner?
Yes it is.
Oh cool…yeah, you know, I totally support gay marriage.

And then I get another drink. Or more often, smile and continue trying to have a relevant and pleasant conversation. I am never quite at ease about the position I feel put in or the response I am supposed to give. ‘Thank you’, I guess. Obviously the intention is a nice one. But as progressive as many people may be, I am uber-progressive, and I don’t even want to be. I think sexual categories in general are unproductive. I think some people tend to prefer women, some tend to prefer men, some are more evenly split, and some have very specific preferences for other – completely non-traditional – ‘types’ be them alternative-gender or otherwise. As long as there are two consenting adults seeking to enrich the other, a label seems reductive. And it’s always amazing at how offended my HRC-involved and other LGBTQ-identifying friends can be when I have expressed similar feelings to them.

I am going to marry a man. More often than not, I am identified as gay. But are we not entitled to self-identify however we choose? Of course we are. I’ve never liked any label, and I have tried on a few. I don’t protest at labels being applied to me, but I also don’t self-apply. I understand the importance of banning together to fight inequality and prejudice. I understand that history is full of incredible and important instances where if ‘gay’ was not in our vernacular, if a community did not feel connected based on a shared characteristic, the power of rising against violence and oppression would not have been doable…certainly not cohesively and as strong as we have seen it done. I would like to think of myself as a strong and uncompromising advocate for equality. I have known prejudice and ignorance, and I reject them as sad but temporary side effects to a humanity moving towards enlightenment. Categories have made sense, and perhaps we are not yet at a place in our collective evolution to move past them. I just would be excited to see the day when we are.

I am so thankful for those who I love and love me. I am thankful to be part of a generation where my ideas are not radical, and where decades (or centuries) of struggle have allowed for a present that affords me safety and the embrace of those in my community. I am lucky. 

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