Im among the first of the generation called the
Baby Boomers, I have often found myself watching at the
cusp of social change. As a child, I witnessed the growth
of the suburbs and the effects of television, automobiles,
and the atom bomb. Though I remember some of the more
obvious pre-sixties ways of doing things, such as Blue
Laws and law-enforced segregation, my life has been lived
in the midst of significant social change. That change
continues, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, sometimes
(alas) even backwards.
no question that the expression of human sexuality has
undergone radical and controversial change. Its
probably even more correct to say that it is still undergoing
revolution. The process begun with liberalized divorce,
the invention of penicillin and birth control, and the
decline of the moral power various churches held over
society, has ebbed and flowed but certainly continues
predict it will end up just like hand-writing.
most of my younger readers wont remember it, there
was a time when teachers disciplined children for being
left-handed. The nuns especially made serious efforts
to force children to write with their right hands. It
was the cultural wisdom of the time that writing in that
fashion was more natural. So the ten percent of children
who were born with a propensity to be left-handed were
coerced into being right-handed.
was punished. Left hands were tied so as to be unusable.
It was right to be right-handed.
or left doesnt make much difference any more. Oh
right-handers are in the majority and therefore are at
a certain advantage when it comes to buying scissors or
keyboards, but we no longer discriminate or even try to
change ones manual dexterity.
can see, no doubt, where I am going. Is dexterity genetic?
Or is it cultural? Does ones mother affect it? Do
absentee fathers cause it? Is it (oh, no!) a chosen lifestyle?
Can dexterity be changed by proper re-conditioning? Should
left-handed activists of the forties and fifties have
won their battle. You can buy left-handed scissors and
there are left-handed gadgets in left-handed stores. Teachers
no longer tie childrens hands behind their backs
to coerce right-handed activity.
wonder when, having seen the rise of left-handedness,
we will see the next dexterity fight. Can it be that any
moment the League for Bi-Dexterity will demand equal rights?
of the analogy. Theres no reason to beat this horse
of the conclusion that sexuality isnt much different
than dexterity. In fact, it may be that the ultimate sexual
preference is some kind of ambisexuality. That may not
be PC with either strident homos or militant heteros,
but it just may be that the vast majority of us fall into
the middle of the spectrum.
categorization of human sexuality into two, three, four,
or even five groups (SGLBT) is akin to saying the rainbow
has a certain number of colors. I dont buy it.
I honestly acknowledge that my preference is for sex with
men. Yet there was a time when to have heard that said
of me would have provoked enormous denial. As you know
I was once married and have fathered two children. I didnt
have the vaguest awareness of my homosexuality when I
said "I do."
those days, law, culture, morality, convenience, tradition,
and who knows what else made it seem "natural"
for me to be straight. As my wife and I only later discovered,
that doesnt necessarily make it so. As I entered
my thirties, life experiences made me question the foundations
of my life-views. I began to experiment with sex with
men and found it rewarding. The structures and strictures
of my childhood melted in a whirlwind of conflicting ideas,
feelings, and actions.
here I made choices. I never chose to be gay. Instead,
at a vast number of decision points, I decided to do this
and to do that. In the face of incredible anxiety, under
pressure from hormones and genes, midst depression and
a desire for relief, seeking satisfaction and fulfillment,
sometimes silently, sometimes with tears and/or screams,
I sought to find myself, to know and then to live my real
you, my real identity isnt found on a Kinsey-like
scale of one to six. Like you I dont see myself
as a category, as genetically controlled, as driven by
childhood trauma or a way-ward seducing anyone, be it
uncle, priest, or ex-girl-friend.
day I told my mother I was gay (at her insistent questioning),
she denied it, then blamed it on seminary, then blamed
it on past girl-friends who had jilted me, then blamed
it on herself, and finally admitted that she had known
it all along, but please dont tell your grandmother.
changes across the planet are merely reflected in the
creation of new cultures, new paradigms. Yes, there probably
has never been a society as individualistic as ours. Theres
no doubt that same-sex sexual activity is older than the
human race but there can be lots of discussion as to whether
modern-day homosexuality is merely a social construct
invented by nineteenth century scientists and social writers.
sex isnt just for procreation anymore, though I
doubt seriously that it ever was limited to that one purpose.
For some of us, sex isnt just for love either, though
I hope that love is never left out of the sexual equation.
Why, sex isnt only for falling asleep either, though
many of us will probably always jerk off in order to more
quickly do just that. Even though I strongly espouse sex
for pleasure, sex for communication, and sex for comfort,
its certainly more than any or all of them as well.
am I gay, bi, straight? Are you any of the above?
suspect that past the taboos, past the constructs, past
the analyses, categories, and easy answers, past the moralists,
the biologists, the psychiatrists, and the anthropologists,
sexual activity is multi-purposeful, remarkably fluid,
and highly adaptable. All that only says that sex (among
humans anyway) is human in nature, far more complex, far
more elusive, farther beyond our comprehension than the
regular path of the planets or the functioning of the
activity, after all, is a means of human expression. It
speaks of love, of life, of continuance of the race, of
pleasure, of ecstasy, of the spiritual and transcendent,
of lust and animal passion, of reason. It speaks of self
and selves. It is at the same time intimate and personal,
receptive, inner and inward, even as it is sharing, outward,
so-called problem with sexual orientation is mostly one
of projection. For some reason, too many of us think that
they way we live is the way everyone ought to live. Differences
threaten us. Conformity brings comfort. Not willing to
face our own phobias concerning self, not wanting to own
up to what we perceive as our inadequacies, plagued by
self-doubt and fear of failure, we find a false security
by labeling, ridiculing, persecuting, even outlawing that
which we needlessly fear. Now heres where I get
myself into trouble: My experience is that the most strident
homophobes are those with the greater (and more suppressed)
fear of their own sexuality. Likewise, the most angry
gay activists are projecting anger that they deeply feel
(perhaps unconsciously) towards themselves.
where should we go? We should accept ourselves as vibrant,
complex, multi-faceted, multi-talented individuals. Our
uniqueness ought to be honored and loved, nurtured and
exalted, even as we do the same for everyone else. Be
yourself while allowing every man, woman and child the
same right and benefit.
all, sexual preference changes, grows, diminishes, and
transforms. Who, what, and how we are is important because
being who we are is the only authentic way to be. Who
what and how you are to me is important because its
only when you are authentic that our relationship can
be as real as we perceive it. As long as you respect me,
what, and how you are to me is irrelevant to who, what,
and how I am. For I am who I am and you are you.
us, then, go our respective and respectful ways. Together
we will find the meaning of being human and joy that meaning
is meant to hold.
1997 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied
in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay,
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