after reading Anti-Gay
I don’t know if I’m bisexual anymore. Sure I like to sleep with girls (would like to, would probably be a more accurate way of putting it, these days), but all of my current sexual partners are male, and if we’re counting numbers of times, as opposed to numbers of partners, well I’m not going to tell you how low my bisexual credibility falls then – lets just say lots.
There are plenty of people on the other end of the sexual spectrum who call themselves gay or lesbian and who have had far more sexual contact with the opposite sex than I have with my own. They justify themselves by saying variously that their gay side is more important, that they want to express an affinity with the gay struggle, and that, perhaps most importantly, straight culture does not draw any distinction between gay and bi.
In this last point they are correct. Just as in racist America anyone with a pinch of Negro blood was “coloured” regardless of colour (it was true elsewhere as well, but where else would invent a special word for someone who had one black great grand parent), so in Heteroland any guy that so much as looks at another guy in the wrong way is a goddamn faggot.
So why do I still want to call myself bisexual? In the past I would have said that bisexual doesn’t have to mean 50/50, that experience doesn’t (and doesn’t have to) reflect preference, and that it would just be plain inaccurate to call myself straight. Well it would, but not just for the reasons I used to give.
When I was at university I once got involved with a conversation over breakfast with about eight people, none of whom were prepared to call themselves English. I got away with it because I was just under half Irish by blood, although I (and both my parents) had lived in England all my life. This may seem like a slim claim, but other people’s were even less substantial – being brought up English in Wales, a Spanish father (never met, because he was adopted and had lived in Hertfordshire most of his life), and even a Welsh grandmother on the mother’s side were wheeled out in our attempts to avoid being tarred with the same brush as lager-swigging, dodgy-shirt-wearing, loud-mouthed tourists and football hooligans.
And this, I think, is the crux of it. My mother was right – I am just doing it to be difficult, because I do want to avoid being identified with the mainstream. And so, it seems, to plenty of other people – otherwise why would we have words like “straight” (meaning heterosexual), “straight” (meaning doesn’t use drugs), “square”, “vanilla”, “breeder”… And why else would the pierced and tattooed community be so keen to invent an equivalent term? (They may have one by now – I’ll readily admit to being behind the times.) Call me straight and I’ll sue.
Which is nuts. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should be for the mainstream either, but I think that the inventors of terms like “vanilla” are doing us as much of a disservice as whoever came up with “octoroon”. After all, while I object to being called ‘straight’, so, quite rightly, do my far from boring heterosexual friends, and I know from sad experience that being into bdsm, or drugs, or being pierced or tattooed doesn’t make anyone a better person. (And running down those who do it “just because it’s fashionable”, rather than for “the right reasons”, doesn’t help, not even a bit).
The problem, I think, is that that the word “straight” as we often use it represents a set of opinions rather than a sexuality, and if we want to oppose the ideal of marriage and mortgages and families with 2.2 children, then we should oppose the ideal of marriage and mortgages and families with 2.2 children, instead of taking it out on people who happen to prefer the opposite sex. And not just because I’m beginning to suspect that I do.