Reading Halperin's paper did make me think. Why do we view sexuality as a core part of our identities? When I meet someone, I almost immediately tell them "I'm gay". Why is it so important that it is one of the first things I tell them?
For instance, I frequently feel very out of touch with the with the gay community. Maybe it's my introverted and ruminative nature, but I feel distant from others I've met who are very active in uniting the queer community and countering homophobia and prejudice. (That is not to say that I feel like their work is unimportant—of course not!)
Moreover, I don't think "I am gay" even fully describes my sexual desires and practices, nor does it fully define my idea of love or romance. In fact when I first discovered that I was gay, I didn't even use that word. I told my friend "I think I don't like girls". But maybe over time, I have chosen to take on the gay identity when it is necessary. After all, it would be very frustrating to have had to tell my parents "I partially identify as gay, though I think of myself as gay basically I want to make a political statement". Besides, saying "I'm gay" is basically the most energy-efficient way of telling people and that 1) I'm looking for a male partner and that 2) I like to subvert the norm.
But is being gay really an important part of my identity? In the past I've sometimes thought that coming out to myself was the defining moment in my life—that it made me see things that I was unable to see before, that I was finally "becoming my true self" somehow. But maybe it's not the gay identity that helped me to do this; maybe at that moment I simply realized the cultural constraints that were embedded inside me, and subsequently I resolved to subvert these society norms and that helped form my identity. After all, as an aspiring writer, I really want to create something new and challenge people's perceptions of different forms and ideas. So I think having my own way of thinking and doing things is more important to me than being gay and that in a way, I identify as gay because it helps identity of being contrary to the norm.
Recently there have been a few things going on that just makes me feel not exactly depressed, but... a bit blue. It's the same feeling as the one I was feeling before; so many things are going on that I cannot change and have no control of. For instance, at the end of my sexuality classes, I start thinking about how there are so many other ways of viewing ourselves, but many of us are stuck in thinking with just one way. I really do wish that more people could view gender and sexuality as being more fluid, and perhaps as something that might not even be a fundamental part of us.
I sometimes think about all the guys on craigslist claiming that they're straight, yet seek a guy to fool around with... (there are MANY. If you don't believe me, go to the "men for men" section on Craigslist.) Somehow it hurts, to see them vehemently declaring that they are straight, to imagine them locking up their truest feelings in favour of living a "normal life". If only we could just totally strip away this notion of being "straight" or "gay".
I've been listening to LeAnn Rimes' CD, Family, lately. In one of the songs, she sings
"I will learn to let go of what I cannot change.
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change.
I will learn to love what I cannot change,
but I will change, I will change
whatever I, whatever I can."
And so I will learn to let go of what I can't change. I tell myself that when they—those guys—grow older, they will discover that they don't need to label themselves and don't need to conform to what they perceive the norm to be.
After all, when they stand at the altar in a tuxedo with hundreds of people looking up to them, maybe they'll feel that there's some discrepancy between what they're expected to live up to and what they can do. Maybe they will discover that they cannot keep hurting themselves and the people around them, and that something is missing from their lives. I can only hope.