So we have arrived to a time when being gay or lesbian, while certainly not 100% approved, has become at the very least, recognized. The existence of same sex attraction has at least been acknowledged as real.
Now we face the next step of accepting the alternatives. Gay, lesbian, or straight are not the only options. Many people who consider themselves accepting of varying sexualities say we know this, yet often we don’t really have a complete understanding of the meaning of these alternate labels.
This weeks readings introduced me to the concept of asexuality. While I had heard the term before, I really had no idea what it encompassed before now. It’s sort of a broad term and I will admit to still being relatively ignorant of all that it could be applied to, but the strongest point that struck me was the idea that some people simply aren’t attracted to anyone.
We put children in a bubble excluding them from exposure to sexual references and experiences for years, but we eventually expect them all to find their sexuality. Some people mature faster than others, but it’s an unspoken expectation that eventually they will have their first crush and at some point, (hopefully) slowly explore the sexual desires they experience. I think it was common when I was in high school to joke about being asexual when you felt awkward or ugly, but I never thought there was a state of being that lacked the desire to be intimate. And obviously that’s not everyone, but I think it’s important to spread the knowledge of this possibility. There are not many asexual people in the public eye to reference but if we had a model to promote (perhaps singer/song writer Emily Autumn), maybe we wouldn’t be pushing (by expectation) young people into the sexualities in which they will some day chose to identify.
We were also learned more about bisexuality this week. There were a few things I thought were interesting that I had never thought of before. I had no idea that bisexual people were thought of so differently even within the gay/lesbian population. As Ellen Ruthstrom of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston stated, “We’re [bisexual people] told all the time by the gay community, ‘Come out and be gay,’ as if we’re not out.” That’s interesting to me because that is exactly what I thought when a friend told me in high school that she was bisexual. I thought she was keeping her boyfriend around to hide her attraction to women from her parents. I realize my ignorance now, but it has to be frustrating for individuals who get that kind of response even from people they expect to support them.
It’s become much more accepted to be bisexual in recent years in the entertainment industry. Artists like Lady Gaga, Fergie, and Billy Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) have lead the way by coming out as “bi.”
Unfortunately, it’s still not considered a positive by most of the community. When former governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey’s wife came on the Oprah Winfrey show and told the world her husband was bisexual, he publicly proclaimed that he was not, and that he was a “proud GAY AMERICAN.”
The backlash of his divorce and resignation from office could have influenced his desire to argue against anything his ex-wife was reporting, but he was accused at the time of having ‘biphobia.’
There is still plenty of work to do to promote acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals, but I think it’s important to recognize that even as individual differences become more accepted, promoting universal tolerance should be our goal. The LGBTQ community and everyone who identifies outside of it should be given the same respect and acceptance.