Monday, September 25, 2017

Sexuality is complicated, but homophobia is very simple


(content warning: homophobic violence, suicide)

I try not to talk too seriously on this blog -- except on the life-and-death matters of country music or Tom Waits, because some things are just profound spiritual matters about which no joking can be allowed.

But I’ll admit I’ve been taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the homophobic attacks reported as part of the "non-binding postal survey" we are having in Australia on whether to allow marriage equality. Much as been heard of Tony Abbott not being hurt by a headbut unrelated to marriage equality, far less is reported about a trans teen being bashed in the same area of Hobart

I probably shouldn’t be so shocked. It is clearly there, but as a heterosexual man, I guess I have the privilege not to see it. (I sometimes find privilege a strange concept, there is little privilege for most people in this society, just a series of different fucked up shit people are subjected to that gets worse the more intersecting oppressions you are hit with, but if not fearing violence because of who you are is a privilege, I definitely have it).

It has made me think about something I don’t really make a point of talking about -- which I think is in itself a privilege. I simply don't have to and so, as it is very personal and I don't generally talk about personal things, I simply don't.

I don't doubt my sexuality, I know I am straight. I know this clearly not despite, but because, my first ever romantic and (some forgettable fumbling notwithstanding) sexual relationship was with another man.

The first person I ever feel in love with, at about 18 or so, was another young man. And it was an intense relationship, romantically and physically. And I was very physically attracted to him.

And so you can imagine that for an 18 or 19 year old to go through this, it poses some big questions about sexuality that had never really been posed to me until then. I was pretty sure I was attracted to women. And yet I was also in love with a guy.

This young man then proceeded, the fucking prick, to break my heart by breaking up with me after an intense six month or so period. He was right to do so, of course. He was about 17 at that point and really didn't need to be weighed down by the sort of ultra-intense relationship I was determined to offer.

We remained best friends, and our physical relationship continued on and off for years — essentially, as long as neither of us were in serious relationships, it was "on" whenever we saw each other, which became less frequent once we started living in different cities.

This experience obviously caused me to ask serious questions about my sexuality. If I was attracted to this guy, then obviously, why not others?

But it didn’t take too many further experiences to figure out it didn’t translate in general. Other experiences with men just didn’t really leave me feeling anything at all. I just didn’t particularly enjoy them.

The conclusion for me was clear: I am heterosexual with the capacity for exceptions. My subsequent relationships have all been hetersexual. While there is no rule to say this will always be the case, I imagine it is pretty likely to remain so and I say this as result of experiences that make me confident on the question of my own personal “preferences”.

The young man I feel in love with and had such a romantic and physical attraction too, however, was gay.

Like me in reverse, he also had some sexual and even romantic experiences with the opposite sex, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t any more bisexual than I am. He was a gay man who had some experiences with the opposite sex that didn’t really stick.

That young man is also dead. He committed suicide in 2005.

It would be reductionist and wrong to suggest his suicide could be directly connected to his sexuality. It is very hard to prove what role any of the various aspects of his life ultimately led him to his grave at just 24.

What is known is the far higher suicide rate among LGBTI people. LGBTI people, especially youth, are killing themselves at unacceptable levels because of the sort of homophobia this campaign has encouraged to express itself publicly and often violently.

He was my best friend and, whatever role his sexuality directly played in his death, it is true that he was subjected to pressures I have been able to avoid by the pure chance of me being heterosexual and him not. 

So it is hard to take the homophobia rampant right now and not be reminded of him and his fate.

I honestly feel that most people with violently homophobic feelings are either hiding something (from themselves as much as anyone) in regard to their feelings towards the opposite sex or to gender in general, even the simple fact of being capable of finding romantic or physical pleasure in the same sex. I am not even saying they are necessarily gay or bisexual. Just that sexuality is not straightforward and sexual preference means just that -- preference. Not a 100% iron clad rule.

And the sooner our society comes to view sexuality as nothing more than a personal preference, with none more valid than any other -- and therefore all relationships being entirely equal -- the sooner we can end the violence and its consequences on the human psyche.

I hereby promise, and this is a promise you can absolutely trust, I will never, ever refer to my sex life on this blog ever again.

To ensure I keep this promise... for fuck's sake, vote yes and fight to end homophobia.

'So you say it's not ok to be gay, well I think you're just evil...'

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