Gay: Identity

This page was one of the reasons for creating this site in the first place, but for a long time it remained essentially empty except for a call for input. Ideas from others are still welcome, and I remain conflicted about what kind of content really belongs here. Please let me know what you think.

Jane, a bisexual bigender LGBT activist, contributed this:

The way I see it, a homosexual loves the same gender and that's pretty much where the differences end. True enough, there are the androgynes and effeminate/masculine males or females, but gender identity is separate to sexual orientation. Transgenders love the opposite gender to their minds (for the most part. There are some homosexual transgenders-like lesbian men) while homosexuals know that they love the same sex.

Really, this is the only difference I have found. What bearing does a person's partner have on their life? I always look at such ideas bearing in mind heterosexuality: would you say heterosexuals act differently depending on their personal tastes?

Being gay implies love.

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
-~James Baldwin

Focus on a single point of conflict can reveal a range of differences in perception regarding what choices are available to people and how these choices are made.

After getting into a particular heated ongoing argument many times, putting ideas on a web page seemed better than direct involvement in what tends to degenerate into an emotional shouting match. Distancing myself from the conflict or taking a side might seem to be the only options, but the more rewarding path for me is to attempt to dismiss the conflict itself as wrong, essentially meaningless, and inherently damaging.

Gay men often hear the term "straight acting". How this term is used and what it is purported to mean might be interesting in some context, or not. What is remarkable are the objections to this and the predictably unresolvable conflict that follows. People become angry and react by insisting that the term "straight acting" should not be used because it means nothing. If it were true that the term lacked meaning then it might be easily enough ignored, but the vitriol in reactions shows that the term is laden with valued, important, even treasured meaning. Both sides in this, the self-annointed "straight acting" and the self-appointed guardians of objective reality who will have none of it, have stories they tell themselves about each other. These stories relate to the term and connect to core beliefs about identity.

We construct for ourselves the world in which we exist using our senses and our sensibilities. When others describe their worlds, how they fit in them, what their roles are we should expect all manner of difference. Where there are dramatic differences in perception it makes sense to accept what is said, ask questions, show empathy, then use the human connection created this way to express other views along with possible bridges between worlds. Another view of the range of human variation may be hurtful and wrenching to hear, but can that be resolved by any means other than empathic conversation?

If someone describes themselves as "straight acting", then why not accept that for what it is? If it is curious and ambiguous, then ask what it means, how they know, why it is important. Trying to break someone out of their perceived place in their world is a kind of violence. Responding to words that hurt with more hardly ever works. Patient teaching through hints and nudges has a much better chance.

This kind of posturing as gay yet at the same time not is common among the closeted and people with baggage. Such people are best seen as burdened, vulnerable, and likely to reconsider their views as their range of gay experiences and contacts expands. The strong responders who take it upon themselves to defend the offended by establishing objective reality often strongly identify as gay, sometimes because of having recently come out or because they have integrated themselves into gay culture. Accepting while questioning is still a good way to reach out to them, but pointing out how sharing their point of view can harm others is different. If they feel they are right, then they can be confident about taking a less defensive stance. If they want others to accept they are right then they may accept the advantages of using a gentle approach.

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