01 November 2012

Sexual Taxonomy

I'm so glad you asked these questions. They're not just questions about sexuality, but questions about semantics and taxonomy-- all of which are some of my favorite subjects! Let's parse them.

First, let me say that the "G" in my ad, describing myself as "GWM," stands for "generous" and doesn't speak to my sexuality at all. It is a natural assumption that the "G" would mean gay, for a number of reasons:

  1. The ad, although posted in the Gigs category of Craigslist, is clothed in the form of a personals ad and so, based on this taxonomy, we apply a set of assumptions particular to personals ads in determining meaning.
  2. The presence of the word "straight" in the headline of the ad influences how we read the rest of the ad. Would one really feel the need to use that word unless one needed to set it apart from "the other." The same might also be said for the "W."
  3. The letters "GWM" appear in the same sentence as the letters "SWM," another convention of personals ads, and seem to be set in opposition to them.
  4. The project draws attention to the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, which is another cue that would lead one to read "G" as gay.
  5. Subsequent information might be used to assign meaning retrospectively to this statement. I recently denied that the project was about gay marriage but said that it was, instead, about opposite-sexual-orientation marriage.
We make assumptions based on categories of convenience, applying the characteristics of the category to those individuals who appear, to us, to fit the category. It's a form of shorthand for knowledge, and, while labeling is a natural inclination for humans, not always accurate or fair.

So the question about my sexual orientation still stands.  My question, in response, is: "Who gets to determine it and how?" Is the label based on what someone else says (or speculates without saying) I am?  If so, I might be gay in the sense of "homosexual" or in the sense of "weird, bad, stupid" in the eyes of those who wield the word in that way. 

If the intended sense is "homosexual," is the label based on some particular social/medical/psychological definition? Am I gay if I have sexual contact exclusively with members of the same sex? 

If not exclusively, then does the label gay still stand? Or would I then be deposited into the category, bisexual?

If the social/medical/psychological definition is the one given the most weight, would it still apply to me even though I have been celibate for almost three years? Can someone be both nonsexual and gay? If not, then is someone gay only when engaged in a sexual act, and then not gay when not having sex?

Or, is the definition based on attraction, rather than sexual activity? Then, again, the question of exclusivity comes into play. Does the attraction have to be sexual, lead to a sexual feeling? Or can the attraction just be an appreciation of beauty?

Is the label based on self-identification. If I were to exclusively have sexual contact with members of the same sex, but call myself straight, does that make me straight or is that just lying? What if it isn't so much a lie as just something I say without meaning it? What if it's just bullshit, as so much that is said turns out to be?

Could marriage be a similarly clouded concept? Clouded by some people claiming the authority to define something that is not theirs to label. Is there a legal definition of sexual orientation? Is there a legal definition of attraction? Is there a legal definition of love

Even so, are these definitions the same as religious definitions? And, if so, which religion's definition is the one that stands? Is it the religion of the majority? The religion of the state? Isn't it strange that America was colonized by the Puritans, a people seeking to free themselves from a religion that attempted to define the limits of marriage? Doesn't freedom of religion also include freedom from the religious definitions of others?

There is no question as to my sexual orientation because my sexual orientation is not yours to question. You do not have the authority to do so. At most, you can speculate, accuse, condemn.

Now please don't get me started on how you have quantified sexual orientation, dividing it into degrees of gayness and straightness.

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