I’ve always had a problem defining my sexuality. I dated men until I was 23, and then only women since then. Newly single and enjoying this solitude of being, I find myself holding onto “queer” as a sexual identity tighter then ever. Especially since we live in a world that loves dichotomy, where lines are constantly drawn and people are hell-bent on labeling/defining gender and sexuality with a fury. And even though it’s 2009, a new year doesn’t always bring about a new attitude, especially when it concerns sex.
The LGBTQ community has always gotten shit for being themselves, loving who they do, and wanting the rights every human undeniably should have. Proposition 8, among other things, is the prime example right now of how our community is continuously denied legal rights because of our sexual orientation. After all the oppression we have faced and continue to on a daily basis, why does the LGBTQ community join forces with homophobic, heterosexist America in ostracizing queer folks who refuse to label/define their sexuality?
MTV’s The Real World Brooklyn premiered Wednesday, January 7 and introduced us to Sarah Rice, a queer woman from San Francisco. Sarah has only dated women in the past, but is now in a committed relationship with a man. In a recent interview with a gay website Sarah explains how her lack of a sexual orientation (for lack of better words) has many in a tizzy. She goes on to explain how she is constantly questioned on how she identifies-gay, straight, or bi- and how she chooses to not acknowledge either three identities but instead define herself simply by who she loves.
These folks Sarah speaks of- which include members of the LGBTQ community- criticize, hassle, and are dumbfounded by her refusal to define her sexuality. In the premiere episode where Sarah’s coming out and current relationship came up, Ryan (Sarah’s straight male housemate) asked her “I’m just wondering how you converted”.
Converted? I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at his choice of words! The idea that Sarah could be bi/queer seemed so out of this world to him that his only reasoning for it was that she decided to switch sides. The notion that there could only be one gender Sarah is interested in screwing and that she had to choose is one that Ryan shares with many people- gay and straight. Well, Ryan (and everyone likeminded), sexuality is not a religion! The experience of intercourse can be a holy, sacred thing, but there are no rules and regulations when it comes to who your heart wants to hump.
Besides Sarah Rice, Lindsey Lohan, Aubrey O’Day and Jess Origliasso (from The Veronicas) have all gotten flack for not confirming or declaring their bi/queer sexuality. Not that I want any of these particular chicks playing for our team, but whether they do or don’t should not be my- or anyone else’s- main concern regarding their character. The fact that Sarah works as an educator and advocate for survivors of (sexual) abuse using art and creative therapy does not catch as much attention as the fact that she is sleeping with a dude.
Indeed, many queer folk I know and have come across (young lesbians, particularly) harshly criticize people like Sarah for being a sexual fence-sitter. In fact, many gays and lesbians refuse to date someone who is bi/questioning/queer because these people refuse to check off a box labeling their love for a.) Penis or b.) vagina. They use terms such as “traitor”, “faux-homo”, and “hasbian” to label women and men who are bisexual/queer and in a relationship with the opposite sex. This kind of ideology is an attack on bisexuality as an authentic part of the LGBTQ community as well as a call to question what exactly “queer” stands for and who it includes. This attitude also serves as a reflection of the gay and lesbian community’s own internalized homophobia.
So why are some (queer) people so scared to accept another person’s queerness? Why is bisexuality still not considered a valid sexual orientation by society and the LGBTQ community? And doesn’t “queer” -as we know it now through LGBTQ/gender studies and popular definition- encompass all sexualities, all desires, all forms of fetishes and lusts?
Seems like we have a long way to go in terms of tolerance and acceptance of all members of our great rainbow community. But what it breaks down to is simple: Love is love. It sees no color, no creed, and definitely no gender. That’s an adage I’ve had since I can remember, and it makes total sense to this day.
In this real queer world of ours, it is hard enough finding someone we can connect with on a deeper level, much less fuss over what genitalia they are carrying. Just like no one has the right to out someone, no one has the right to hate on someone who won’t pick a team to play for. Especially if they are members of your own community. I give props to people like Sarah who know labels are for cans, who don’t let society push them into defining their sexual identity but instead claim and create their own.
The Real World Brooklyn is on MTV Wednesday nights at 10pm.