The way we see sexuality and the language we use to describe it is often so rigid. The reality is sexuality can be surprisingly fluid.
Do words fall short?
Once the language of sexuality fell short, and huge groups of people didn’t have the words to express their sexual feelings. Now we have access to a rich vocabulary about sexual preference. Sexuality is an important part of what makes up a human being. But because of all this focus on individuality we now risk being too prescriptive with our labels.
When I was growing up I didn’t really question my sexuality. I didn’t experience being sexually attracted to a boy until I was about seventeen. Sooner than some and later than others. I plodded along with the assumption that I was probably straight. My friends always talked about having crushes on boys so it seemed reasonable to think that boys were the sole target of crushes for girls. Though I think things happened the way they happened and I don’t regret that, because of my belief that I was straight I missed the crushes I had on other girls. I dismissed them, despite having a gay dad and grandmother. Looking back, I think it was because it seemed harder to be gay.
Our expanding vocabulary: benefits and drawbacks
Some of the main words to talk about a person’s sexuality are: bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual and asexual. It’d be rare that someone wouldn’t understand these terms at least on a basic level.
Some of the less common terms are:
- Demisexual (little to no interest in romance until a powerful emotional/sexual bond is formed).
- Bicurious (curious about a potential attraction to people of the same gender).
- Skoliosexual (when a person is mostly attracted to non-binary people, for example someone who is genderqueer or transsexual).
There are a heap more words like these, each with very specific meaning, and they have helped a lot of people understand more about themselves.
Quantifying the unquantifiable
Unfortunately, one result of the expanding vocabulary of sexuality is that it aims to quantify the unquantifiable. Sexuality is on a spectrum, and that spectrum isn’t static. This is easy to forget because it can be really tempting to grab hold of a word that means something to you and not let go. If we’re not open to the idea of sexual fluidity, however, we might not accept and allow ourselves as we are. There could be missed opportunities to know more about ourselves and the things we value in others.
The other day I jokingly described myself as about 90% lesbian. I’m dating a man and am in no doubt that I love him and am attracted to him. These two positions (of ‘lesbian’ and ‘straight’) exist together in me. So in saying I’m about 90% lesbian isn’t so much a lie as it is inadequate. Even if I searched long and hard, I don’t believe that I’d find one of those words that encapsulated me in my wholeness.
I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow. I hope I can remain open to all the diverse options of the universe.
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