I realize that this isn't exactly a new post (at least conceptually,)
and I realize/hope that this kind of discourse isn't ultimately useful
to anything or anyone; but at the same time, it's an issue/debate that I
find myself caring about a lot. Additionally, I think I've become a lot
more coherent on the issue of late, which might be helpful. This doesn't
mean I have any answers, but my questions are more crystallized (to mix
metaphors a bit,) which I need to learn to become content with. Let us
also not forget the fact that I'm bored out of my mined (mostly,) and
musing about this is one of my favorite things to torture myself with in
fits of boredom.
I suppose these statements/questions, on some level apply to every kind
of group identity, social identities like race, class, education, age,
and of course gender/sexuality for starters. Because gender and
sexuality are my thing, and while I'm perfectly content to go on about
race and class, I'll constrain myself a bit, but I would beg the readers
to not be so constrained.
As I explained briefly in the Why it all Matters post, identity is made
up of: what you actually do, what you see yourself as/claim, and how
other's see you.
I think there's a Vorlon quote from Babylon 5 that says something like:
Truth is a three edged sword: your side, their side, and fact or
something like that. It's an interesting analogy that I don't want to
stray into, so I'm moving on.
I view the trifold aspect of identity as one of the unexplainable facts
of the world. I'm not sure how I feel about the "how others see you"
part, and "what you claim," and while I'm at it strict behavioral
identities don't really fully account for the complexities of
So the questions I've been asking:
- If an effeminate (gay acting, for lack of a better term) guy, says
he's bisexual, but only has relationships with women; then what's up?
- What would the "status" bisexuals in long term monogamous
relationships be, and how does their previous relationship history
affect their identity?
- Are non operative transgender people, who don't take hormones, aren't
seeking surgery, and often live in the gender of their birth, really
- If a women exclusively dates women, and is out as a lesbian, and then
falls in love with a man and gets married and lives in that
relationship happily for 20 years, is she still a lesbian?
- If someone is out as a bisexual, but is only has relationships with
one sex, are they really bisexual?
- If someone claims a particular identity, and then "changes" identity
at some later point, is that identity shift apply retroactively? Does
behavior affect this?
- If someone who is out as a gay man doesn't have relationships with
men at all (or only occasionally), are they still gay?
- If a man, who dates women exclusively, has sex with men occasionally,
is he still straight?
- In cases similar to the one above, would that man's behavior affect
the answer; that is, if he bottomed (took the receptor roll during
anal sex) would that affect the answer?
- An individual whose in the closet, has very little if any
heterosexual attraction, dates heterosexually, but given the proper
contextual situation, would be almost exclusively homosexual, is
Again, the idea of retroactivity plays into this one.
There is of course the obvious "why does it matter" response, but
excluding that, I think there are two ways to answer these questions:
what they are, is guided by what they do, or, regardless of what they
do, they are what they say/feel they are. In my gut, I usually answer
behaviorally, though on an intellectual level, I know that the
'say/feel' option is probably closer to the truth. Something inside me
says, bisexual people need to have relationships with both men and
women, or they're really hetero or homo, and that a self-identified gay
man shouldn't have relationships with women. That a man who had a
relationship with a woman for a number of years, and then only had
relationships with men would be gay. But bisexual people frequently lean
one way or the other, that some homosexuals have hetero relationships
(to varying degree's), and that lots of homo-leaning bisexual people,
identify as gay men (and lesbians). I suppose the thing is, that there's
no one right answer to identity, that it's an individual combination of
those aforementioned three aspects.
Once we've gotten that one mostly squared away, the issue of "Why it
matters anyway?" remains.
Identity is important because it makes it possible, let alone easier to
study sexualities and gender. It separates people into groups that you
can study. It allows people to fit into communities based on their
identities and the intersection of their identities. Having said that,
you could also say, that identity segregates people and enforces
And it does.
Knowing this, is the fact that identity is the source for a great many
things that are wrong, reason enough to abandon it, knowing that there
is a lot of insight to be gained by studying identity?
Having asked that, I don't think that its possible to ever completely
avoid identity. It's as central to the human experience as oxygen,
Swedish Meatballs (Babylon 5 joke, please disregard,) curiosity, and
fear. Therefore, if identity is unavoidable, how on Earth do you study
it (in some form) without releasing (and therefore bathing in) the
unavoidable detriments of identity?
That about covers it for now. Maybe it's enough just to write something
like this, to acknowledge that the issues are out there, and then maybe
it's not. Well I tried. Hopefully I can avoid this for a while now.