Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sexuality and politics

I'm having a good time flipping around in The Radical Reader, which is essentially the "best American political writing since ever," from the Revolution to slavery to feminism to civil rights to anarchism/communism/socialism to queer liberation to environmentalism... you get the idea. Anyway, one part of Carl Whittman's Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto (which I've never seen before) stood out to me as interesting. In discussing orientation, Whittman writes:
Bisexuality: Bisexuality is good; it is the capacity to love people of either sex. The reason so few of us are bisexual is because society made such a big deal about homosexuality that we got forced into seeing ourselves as either straight or non-straight. Also, many gays got turned off to the ways men are supposed to act with women and vice-versa, which is pretty fucked up. Gays will begin to turn on to women when 1) it's something that we do because we want to, not because we should, and 2) when women's liberation changes the nature of heterosexual relationships.

We continue to call ourselves homosexual, not bisexual, even if we do make it with the opposite sex also, because saying "Oh, I'm Bi" is a copout for a gay. We get told it's OK to sleep with guys as long as we sleep with women too, and that's still putting homosexuality down. We'll be gay until everyone has forgotten it is an issue. Then we'll begin to be complete.
I thought that was a rather remarkable statement for someone to be writing, particularly for someone to be writing in 1970. It's consistent with my own belief, or philosophy, that everyone is queer. While there are undoubtedly biological factors in sexuality, the recent obsession with "the gay gene(s)" has turned the issue into one of black and white, where it should be a spectrum not only of gray, but of all colors. Who one finds attractive, and who one loves, are issues that are influenced by everything from biology to experience to social expectation to choice. While it is important politically that we don't pretend that one can literally choose to be gay or straight (which is absurd), it is also important that we don't also pretend that sexuality is an on-off switch that is set to one extreme or the other.

I am one of those people who thinks everyone is bisexual to some extent. While I think most people may well be straight-leaning, I think that even in the most rigidly heterosexual mind there is room for growth and change if one admits it as a possibility. And I say this as someone who, personally, has never been anything other than straight himself. It's not that I care whether or not anyone identifies and acts in any particular way; I just think that the only honest and healthy view of sexuality is one of endless opportunity rather than one of limits, whether those limits are imposed personally or socially. I want to live in the world where, as Whittman put it, everyone has forgotten it is an issue, and we can all be complete.


  1. i agree. i would elaborate, but, uh, public forum. talk to you later.

  2. That comment was kind of appropriate in 1970 - although I don't know that it was ever considered to be OK to have sex with men if you had sex with women too - because "homosexuality" was more all-encompassing then. Now it means (for men) "only having sex with men". If we who are bisexual only call ourselves gay, then we are invisible.

  3. I see what you mean. I was more interested in the idea that someone who identified strongly as gay would plainly say that they were theoretically bi, not so much the idea that bi people should identify as gay.