Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sexuality and Categories

I am always reluctant to talk about sexuality in public as it is an intensely private matter. Lovers' bedroom is their bedroom, no one else's. We all know the timeless John Donne verses:
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls.
Still, I cannot help but give two cents worth on love and sexuality (allow me to say they are intimitaly related) in contemporary America, given the "in your face" discussions in on these matters on Tee-Vee, the Internet, and "scholarly" journals.)

As a balding 65-year-old of the male persuasion, always considering my attraction to women a (dare I say in these politically correct times, a heavenly gift) not an genetic imposition (I went through four years as a teenager in an all-boys' boarding school, longing for the charm/presence of the opposite sex -- granted, an anachronistic term), I find the current USA sexual categories far too categorical -- "gay" vs. "straight."

People cannot be so easily defined (reduced?).

These thoughts, often in the back of my mind, were rejuvenated by a subtle article in the New York Times on "bisexuality" (granted, in itself another "category"), which sheds much intelligent light on human sexuality, without jargon or buzzwords. A good quote:
In a recent Modern Love essay in The New York Times revealing her relationship with another woman, the actress Maria Bello wrote, “My feelings about attachment and partnership have always been that they are fluid and evolving.” Before marrying Bill de Blasio [New York Mayor], Chirlane McCray identified as a lesbian [see also], which has become part of the progressive credentials of New York’s first family.

I can understand why the sexually "different" would want to organize to obtain respect and rights -- in a country still considered as all-anti-homo puritanical -- by labeling themselves as a persecuted "group" for political/lobbying purposes.

After all, some would say, that's how America works -- and improves itself. Form a grass-roots association of like-minded persons -- and get things done for the better!

We've all read Tocqueville.

Today, in a country where permanent commitments are becoming increasingly fragile, the buzzword (harmless enough) is "community" -- "the intelligence community"; "the gay community"; the "university community." Working in the same "Industry" is also used as a word to describe how Americans "link up."

But in the process of forming these so-called (often ephemeral -- think twitter --) "communities" for political/financial purposes could "like-minded" Americans be risking losing their unique individuality (including sexual), what (I believe) makes every American "exceptional"?

(And is that American individuality not the essence of American "exceptionalism"?).

Also, as an afterthought, there has been a tendency to "throw back" sexual labels endured by its victims to those who have coined then -- hence, I'd say, the term/actions "Queer Studies" and "Gay Parades" -- thereby to condemn, implicitly or explicitly (academically and, far better, often humorously), the marginalization of "deviants" by the putatively "normal" sexual majority, when that majority labels them as "deviants" under various, derogatory terms that are marketed as acceptable.

In this political process, though, the "deviant" victims possibly lend themselves to the de-individualization (pardon the jaw-breaking term) of themselves -- but, granted, with greater societal respect/power of being legally recognized as an oppressed group seeking the recognition they feel, rightly, deserve: that they are human beings like all of us.

Also, the "outing" of person's sexuality by blogs and mass media about a private matter is a political act that seems to me an invasion of a person's choice of individuality, which  -- I would say -- is not a matter of public concern in many (most?) cases.

(In this connection, see the recent report on the French president François Holland: "An Affair? France Shrugs, but Its Leader Calls for Privacy," New York Times).

Well, politics is politics. And if it leads to improvements in people's lives, I'm all for it, up to a certain point.

Still, wouldn't you not agree that, ultimately, the most important thing is love: "For love, all love of other sights controls."

Not categories.

Image from, with caption: White Mayor, Black Wife: NYC Shatters an Image; below image from

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