Can’t speak for anyone else on this matter – but, for me, it is abundantly clear: I am attracted to, or repelled by (as the case may be!), PEOPLE. I have never felt that the gender of the individual defined my sexual orientation since I am capable – as so many of us are – of falling for men, women, those in between and, I daresay, those who do not wish to be neatly slotted in to any conventional gender role.
At my all girls’ grammar school, I had huge crushes on – and, I can see now, embryonic sexual feelings towards – a series of older girls and younger teachers; in fact, my first falling in love experience was with a woman. I can recall my mother’s panicked conviction that she had given birth to a lesbian! But, even then, and naive as I was, I did not feel it was that simple, obvious or binding.
Yes, I had passionate feelings for girls/women – but, once I got to university, those feelings attached themselves, with no effort on my behalf, to men. I continued to be attracted to both, however – and felt very uneasy, and slightly guilty, about being, in my own eyes, an anomaly, a freak of nature.
For years, i worried that I was gay and in denial; that I was having sexual relationships with blokes as a way of keeping part of myself hidden in the closet.
Silly: I can see that now. I can see how much we are formed by this conviction that there are only two genders (black and white, as it were) and only one acceptable way of expressing our sexuality (with the opposite sex, basically). But this kind of thinking – encouraged by the major religions – is terribly simplistic and, frankly, unrepresentative of mankind’s true nature. Few of us are fully one or the other. Most are, I suspect, a blend of both male and female characteristics, and that includes the capacity (whether acknowledged and acted upon or not) for intense feelings towards both men and women.
I am not quite sure why this thought threatens and horrifies us so much, never have been. Surely the most important thing is the depth and commitment, the quality of love, in the relationship and not the specific gender of those involved.
I also find it very hard to understand – let alone tolerate – the rampant dislike, and fear, some people express towards those who, feeling they were born into the wrong body, seek to redress matters by transitioning to (or just living as) the gender they feel convinced they are at heart. As a tom boy from my earliest years, I have often wondered if, in fact, my basic identity were more male than female – and, if I felt it sufficiently strongly and deeply, I would have no hesitation in coming out as a transgender man.
What does it matter? I would still be me!
It makes me suspect that prejudice of this nature stems from the terror many have about their own hidden desires and needs – and the religion-inspired guilt concerning the Biblical notion of sin. But being brought up with certain precepts does not mean a) that they are true or b) that we have to abide by them for the rest of our lives.
Gender is not, in my view, a rigid male/female, Yin and Yang deal. It is far more ambiguous and fluid than that. The male and female elements operate, in various combinations, within our own bodies, minds and spirits. We are Yin and Yang. We are stirred by complex reactions and responses to the fruity combination of colours and scents and erotic charges within another. We bond, at the wave-length level, with a soul, irrespective of the bodily host it happens to be inhabiting this time around!
Repulsion is equally ambiguous in the gender sense – which is why I have always struggled with women who claim they hate all men, and men who loathe all women. We are repelled by something we sense inside another human. Our instincts tell us that this person is, in a way we cannot always rationalise, toxic. It is more like an allergic reaction than a thought – and it cuts right across the artificial notions of gender identity and orientation!
Perhaps in the end it comes down to capacity for love – and that, at its best, is constantly self-replenishing and infinite in its scope and reach. The meanness of only loving a certain type has always made me feel very sad and, in an odd way, spiritually impoverished by the contact.
I think we label ourselves far too easily and rigidly when it comes to partnership and attraction. Thus you get those whose sexual feelings are mainly (but not exclusively) heterosexual feeling profound guilt because they also occasionally fancy someone their own gender.
We are, I suspect, multi-sexual, and ambiguous in our gender (just as we were when we started growing in our mothers’ wombs). Attraction is about far more than the genitals!
I call myself sexual! That sexuality can be expressed in a variety of different ways – and I refuse to be pinned down in a neat box just so that the rigid purists feel comfortable and non-threatened in my presence.
Yup! I’d go along with that!