Since sexuality is fluid, I must admit something. I’m bi-curious.
I have announced myself to the world as a gay man for years now, but as a wise friend of mine once said: labels are tools, not cages.
What does that mean? That means that the label you use — “gay,” “bi,” “genderqueer” — is a tool you use for a variety of reasons. It is not a box you are required to fit in.
We use these words/tools for dating, community building and organizing, to find others for friendship and sex, and to help us define ourselves (perhaps the most important job they do).
In the journey to self-understanding, we may try on many labels, which do different work at different times. This is okay. You will never stop searching — we never really figure ourselves out — but at some point you may feel content with the word you use for the indefinite future.
For sheer convenience, I call myself gay. I like other gay men. But I’ve been known to use the word “homo” a lot, and I admittedly like calling myself a “fag” in certain contexts and situations. I like how the slur has been reclaimed as an antagonistic, give-no-fucks power label for guys who own their sexuality.
“Homo” sings sweetly of medical jargon. It’s also historically the word that conservative, breathless, churchy women use to describe gay men, which is funny. No matter what I call myself, in some textbook on human behavior I will still be a “homosexual,” or someone exhibiting “homosexual behavior,” so “homo” is my preferred label.
Take away the label — take away all labels — and I’m just a sex-hungry guy looking for sex with people, and most of those people are male.
Most. 95 percent even.
I will give a healthy 5 percent to the possibility that I will at some point be sexually drawn to a female-identified person.
I don’t know the straight dating world because I’m not familiar with it, so I can only confess my infrequent, rare attraction to women and, in the same breath, concede that I have no idea how I would approach heterosexual sex. I’ve never had sex with a woman, but I’m not closed off to the idea.
A lesbian couple explained to me what, exactly, a clitoris is at IHOP one night during my freshman year of college. One of them drew an illustration on a white paper napkin. She said it looked like a bean.
There, on that little napkin, drawn in black ink, was the little folds of something like a rose blossom with a glistening black insect perched in it. It was a total mystery to me then and still is now.
And as we all should know by now, genitalia has nothing to do with identity. Women aren’t just people with clitorises. Queer theory teaches us that women are people who identify as women. I have had sex with trans men before, so I have technically been with someone with a clitoris, but all my sex partners have been male.
Men make sense to me. I don’t have any other way to say it. But I can’t say I don’t understand women, because I don’t think a whole populace of people can be understood or misunderstood or put into a box. But I am more nervous sexually around women than I am around men, because I have no history with them and no experience. I am nervous for the same reason a whittling test would make me nervous. I could read about whittling techniques for a week, but without experience — without feeling the wood beneath my hands and the tug of the blade — I would surely fail.
What does one do with bi-curiosity? Does it sit here like a neutral fact, occasionally popping its head up to remind me of its existence every couple years? Do I approach a woman and say, “Hey, look, I’m gay. I know how to take a cock in my ass. I don’t know how to have sex with you. Can you teach me?”
Actually, well, yes. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
Why do you use the label you like? Do you see it as a hard parameter you cannot cross or a social device you employ as means to an end? Let yourself see the fluidity of language and identity.
And if there’s any dominant women out there willing to teach a submissive queer newbie, inbox me.