written by me Kai – Bodysex therapist and sex educator.
YOU might have a difference of opinion when reading this article. I may also not agree with you. That my friend is perfectly ok. I will still love and respect you for it. this is about the art of conversation.
I personally and professionally do not like boxing, stereotyping, categorising any form of human sexual behaviour. Or our erotic attractions. My view is that we are all erotic by nature and have varying degrees of likes and dislikes. I don’t feel the need to attach meaning or put myself into a sexuality box. I recall my early twenties studying at University. I was peer pressured to identify with a sexuality label and out myself. “If you’re attracted to a man, you must be gay. Once you’re gay, there’s no vagabond”. It was shameful to feel anything else and definitely frowned upon by many in the “community”!
My sexuality has gone through a variety of evolutions. During each growth, I found labels and the communities attached to them stifling. I have always felt labels are a self-limiting description of my sexuality, full of stereotype and detrimental to living sexually free. Primitive maybe! For me, labelling my degrees of attractions is not helpful. It’s my professional opinion that this goes against every grain of our sexual psyche. I regard myself as a sexual human, a person capable of loving and enjoying sexual experiences with various minds, bodies and genitals. But aren’t we all?
I am open-minded and accept that humans are polysexual souls (more on this later). I have often been outcast by the same people who promote LGBTQIA+ equality and various labels. In my personal experience, I have found ‘some’ LGBTQIA+persons to be the harshest of discriminates when it comes to sexuality. They hide under the same prejudice that was inflicted upon them by the so-called “straights”. If you don’t fit with their worldview on sexuality, you are excommunicated. Definitely not an inclusive environment or community. Bisexuality and asexuality, for example, have also been heavily stigmatised by people in alternative communities. Again that’s my real-world experience – it might not be yours. Everyone has different life experiences.
We are moving away from fixed sexuality and its labels towards sexual fluidity and individualisation.
Ask yourself, what would happen if society stopped categorising “gender” and “sexual attraction”? It’s already happening. The younger generation and others are doing this. They are moving away from fixed sexuality and its labels towards sexual fluidity and individualisation. This is the next evolution of sexual liberation and its happening quicker than we think. These people are challenging past constructs of sexuality and the use of labels. They are acknowledging the many forms of sexual attractions they can experience. Labels are becoming a thing of the past. Traditional LGBTQIA+ language is being seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant. Personal sexuality is associated with the sexuality of self-expression. For example, demisexual – attracted to emotional connection, pansexual – gender blind sexual attraction, sapiosexual – sexually attracted to intelligence and many others. Don’t we all seek lovers with some form of emotional and intellectual connection though!
Overtime LGBTQIA+ labels have been involved with highly politicised movements. I am not against this, I am an activist. I fight for sexual equality. However, the meaning and use of such words are losing traction. More so when it comes to identifying our individual sexuality. For example, the terms lesbian and gay have many clichés attached to them and don’t necessarily reflect true particular sexual attraction of an individual.
Much of society, media and governments around the world have only just started to accept and use LGBTQIA+ terminology. Communities have fought hard for equality and the language attached to it (rightly so). Those who have become comfortable with this language might find new fluidity constructs challenging to acknowledge. Some people might feel internal resistance and a threat to their sexuality label. LGBTQIA+ labels have created much meaning for people, a sense of belonging, safety and culture. For people coming out or exploring their sexuality, it gives them something to align to. For others, these labels have been attached to something they clearly don’t identify with. Language can box you in. It can make you feel as though you don’t have control over your own sexuality. Humans have this thing whereby we need to label behaviour in the form of language – it’s rife.
Psychotherapist Joe Kort would disagree with me on this. His latest article reflects the need to use appropriate words in the LGBTQIA+ community. When Joe introduces himself in a professional capacity, he tells people that he is “white, spiritual, cis-gender, gay male”. Joe feels these define who he is as a person. He suggests “words matter and reflects being inclusive, accepting and affirming about someone”. My response to this: shouldn’t society be accepting and inclusive of everyone’s sexuality, skin colour, religion or spirituality, and gender! Did Joe’s introduction help you understand who is as a person or sexual being? I think there are more stereotypes attached to these words (white, spiritual and gay male) that don’t illustrate much about him.
Which brings me to the next label Joe used – “cis-gender”. I wasn’t originally going to address this, because gender identity is incredibly complex individually, socially and culturally. But here I go. Cis or cisgender was originally explored by Volkmar Sigusch a sexologist. Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender in their article (Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity, “Gender Normals,” Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality) as a label for: “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity”.
There are many other definitions of cisgender. I am not going to bog you down with them. But suffice to say gender has multiple identities and descriptive languages. For example, its only in the last few years thanks to a strong movement of people that most of society now know what trans, transgender is. Now let me add other gender dynamics to the mix, bigender, genderfluid, trigender, neutrosis, agender, androgyne, demigirl, demiguy, genderqueer, non-binary. Have I lost you? Writing this I asked a friend if they knew what these words meant. The answer was no! Now for me, I have an appreciation and understanding of this terminology. It is not ignorance nor disrespect to any person when I say this. But societies attempt at being all out inclusive has become too bureaucratic, and politically correct. For some people, it’s a form of cognitive identity overload. Are we losing the ability just to be ourselves?
Moving away from gender and back to sexuality. Do we need to define our sexual attractions and attach labels? Maybe when it comes to dating and looking for someone with similar sexual interests yes. I bring you back to this – we are all sexual by nature with varying degrees of attractions. At what point do we end up with LGBTIQIA+ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? Where does it end? It’s my belief our connections and pleasures with partners, lovers and casual friends create a sense of meaningful sexual identity. Think about it this way, the only person who needs to accept themselves and their sexuality is you. You are in charge of your erotic desires and pleasures. Regardless of your attractions, everyone is different. What’s so crucial about sexuality is knowing and accepting that we all can be “fluid” not “fixed” and that’s what matters most. Baranby Barrett a psychoanalyst has theorised that we are all inherently polysexual – that is we are born fluid. Throughout life our sexuality is influenced by caregivers, culture, society, education etc. Its not fixed. If we want equality, this has to be the take-home message in society. Equality is about freedom. I think labels hold us against this notion.
In the words of a sagacious person, “whatever I am, I just am, and from inside that allows me to be at home in the universe” Ram Dass
Just like myself, Ram Dass has also questioned labels. He talks openly about this in his article on the implications of labelling our sexual orientations part one, part two here. In this article he writes, “I began to see that every one of these roles and labels was about a way of having a feeling of comfort in group identity, while also being a defining concept in my own mind. I see people who have labels in their mind of who I am. I found it a little too complicated to have any labels at all”. Ram Dass suggests that people need labels in their heads to make the world more efficient. I couldn’t agree more.
“I think that it’s interesting that as your psycho-dynamics change, you will see that a label you needed at one time, you no longer need, and it can fall away”. Ram Dass
For many people, their sexuality is evolving. People are moving away from the status quo of LGBTQIA+. Respecting each other, and our differences are essential. This new movement is about appreciation, and acceptance for sexual fluidity. For a long time, human sexuality has been controlled by the state, church, societal bureaucracy and the sex Police. Sexual fluidity was seen as a threat. It was pushed aside, treated with contempt and shame. Fluidity went against the ideals of sexual reproduction, traditional heteronormative relationships, and sexuality models such as the Kinsey scale, and even the LGBTQIA+ movement itself.
Being comfortable to freely move in any direction without putting a label on it is in fact healthy. At the same time if you want to use a tag to describe your gender or sexuality that’s ok. We should always feel into our varying degrees of attractions. Don’t push them aside. Be with them. If you find them confronting be curious and explore them safely. We need to remind ourselves that past LGBTQIA+ history has allowed us to move in this direction. Let us give thanks to the many labels of sexuality. But hey maybe its time to leave the labels behind.