Interesting question this – What does it mean to be “Gay” or “Straight”?
Are we using these terms right?
Can Human Sexuality really be compartmentalized in this manner?
I don’t blog here often, but a HEATED debate last night with a close friend has prompted me to write this post. Since I could barely get a word in there last evening, I figured I would be better off writing my thoughts down which can be read with a calm mind when you don’t have 6 pegs of old monk in you!
My comment of “All men are bisexual at some level” seems to have lit a forest-fire! I dunno – perhaps I touched a nerve somewhere – Pun unintended! But I can explain! My point was, that terms like gay, straight & bisexual are man-made constructs which have little resonance in nature and is different from sexual activity. People often get mixed up in this binary compartmentalization and fail to see the difference between sexual activity and identity. There is also a reluctance to admit that sexuality is not as compartmentalized as we like to think! Back when I was in my coming-out phase, I used to think much like this! THIS is gay, and THIS is straight! Its the way society has taught us – to think in terms of binaries!
One of the first things I learned when I started coming out, was that men I thought were straight would often make a pass! I have written about that before here. At first, I assumed they must be closeted. Or maybe it is just harmless flirting, which sometimes it is! Or perhaps it is a form of phobic-bullying – a very good explanation too! But was there another explanation for this behavior? Could it just be about seeking an avenue for release when other options are closed, limited or otherwise restricted?
Lets not forget that there are powerful physiological forces at work here. The desire to mate is driven by some very powerful hormones! In much of the natural world, the mating cycles are closely tied to procreation as the objective. Some species, like Bonobo’s and Human Beings have evolved somewhat in that sex hasn’t remained purely about procreation but is equally if not more recreational. But the primary driver of sexual desire is still the same and still just as powerful! We have seen in the natural world how animals even stop eating when the hormones kick in! Is the drive less powerful in Human’s than it is in the rest of the natural world? Human Society has built these little fences to rein in and control desire! But do these work? Its not like Human Beings have allowed their desire to be fenced in by these social constructs! What is Adultery otherwise?
The fact is that Men (and Women) seek avenues for release of these energies without being restricted by these artificial barriers that society has erected. They may not acknowledge it – indeed there is no reason to! But is it right to assign an identity for this expression of desire? Its not fair, but equally, its not accurate!
A while back, I was talking to a journalist on a story she is currently working on. She had previously done another unrelated story on the life of inmates in one of India’s jails stuck for years without trial. Among her findings when working on that story, not published then, was that 70% of the inmates had acknowledged to sexual activity in the premises and the resulting spread of STD’s. With the concept of conjugal visit still alien in India, it goes without saying that any sexual activity that takes place within the jail would be of the MSM variety. She drew the totally erroneous conclusion that 70% of the inmates were “gay” which is a statistical impossibility!
Somebody can be perfectly straight – in that he would prefer a woman. But in ecosystems where such access is difficult, same sex contact WILL take place. Whether its jails, or the military or indeed in conservative societies where women are in purdah! In a more urban context, the restrictions are often self-imposed but they are nevertheless real to the individual! I have heard from one straight guy, that it is “easier” to pursue an affair with a gay man than with a woman. Less questions from home or from the neighbors! I am not saying I agree with him, just voicing out the thought process!
So here is the deal – Being gay is an identity driven by preference, but it is not about the sex! And here is the part that men are unwilling to accept – Men can and do have sex with other Men, and Women can and do have sex with other Women without necessarily being gay!
To put it another way – All Gay men are MSM, but not all MSM are gay!