Behind Closed Doors: Leaving labels out of sexual classification

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March 23, 2010

12:58 AM

This being my penultimate column, I thought I would address an issue that is near and dear to many of our hearts and should be if it isn’t. All of this may be beyond my scope, but one more voice can’t hurt.

You may have heard the term LGBTQIA. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer — an all-inclusive term — Intersex and Allies. So what does it mean? LGBTQIA is meant to help people define their sexualities. It is also an active alliance against sexual discrimination.

While I appreciate that this term can be helpful — and I certainly endorse the ideas behind it — I think it misses the mark. You can add as many letters as you want to an acronym, but you’ll never represent everyone. Our language is just not equipped to handle so much.

Sexuality is the ultimate butterfly pinned to the canvas. We’re all desperately trying to hold it down, but it’s just not meant to be. Sexuality, like all elements of identity, is defined every second of every day. It is a continual process. We like to give people names, assign them into categories, and write them off.

I think a better categorization system although — not perfect — is the Kinsey Scale. Alfred Kinsey, a prominent and controversial American sexologist, classified people on a scale of zero to six. Someone who scores a zero is completely heterosexual, while someone who scores a six is completely homosexual. This system was created to display the fluidity and variance in sexual orientation — the fact that someone can be “just a little gay.” But it, too, misses the mark, being that it lacks a spot for transgendered individuals.
In our complicated world, where people are free to express themselves, a system of naming or numbering simply won’t do. We have to learn to transcend labels and appreciate sexuality for what it is — a process.

For personal reasons, it is useful to set down parameters about what type of people interest you, what methods of sex you enjoy, etc. Just don’t get caught up in the title. All you need is a working knowledge of yourself to go out into the sexual jungle.

As for classifying others, I take a bit of a hard line on this. Forget the political issues. Forget how gross you think anal sex is. Forget what the Bible told you. We are all people. LGBTQIABCD. It doesn’t matter what letter you are. What right does anyone have to judge others based on preference? (And, of course, a lot of research has indicated that “preference” is an unsuitable term.)

How we have sex and with whom we have sex is integral to our lives. It’s a messy issue, and there are a million opinions on it. I’m not saying you have to agree with me, but consider this: whether or not that guy in your class used to be a girl, he is still a human being. What he does while alone isn’t your business. If he chooses to tell you that he used to be a she, instead of immediately being appalled, thank him for sharing that information. You don’t know where he’s been or what he’s gone through. Why make his life harder (and your life less rich) by choosing not to be his friend, or, worse, choosing to be his antagonist?

In the end, we’re all people. And not only are we all people, but we all like to do the deed. It’s hardwired into us to want to stick it in or open it up or rub it around. There are different iterations of the concept, but it’s really the same idea. We’re all trying to get our rocks off, so let’s do it in peace and harmony.

I apologize to all my readers who prefer dirty jokes. I know the sex column is meant to be a fun place. But this is a serious issue, and I can’t have it on my conscience that I never addressed it. This is too important and too relevant (as made evident by the controversy over Virginia Attorney-General Ken Cuccinelli’s comments on discrimination) to be ignored.

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