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Being Human Means Being Gay

July 2007


What do we mean when we say that someone is gay or that someone is straight?


The popular model of sexuality contends that sexuality is

· generally binary (either one is straight or gay, with few truly indeterminate “bisexuals”)

· determined early in life (perhaps even genetically coded)

· immutable.


Most modern scientists, jurists, and even philosophers embrace a view of sexuality wherein the population can be divided into heterosexuals and homosexuals (and a very few bisexuals). While the relative sizes of these categories might be debated, the prevailing model holds that individuals end up either gay or straight because of a particular turn at a key fork in the path of their sexual development. And be it a difference in genes or prenatal hormones or some early childhood experiences, the popular conception of sexuality contends that once a person’s sexual “identity” has been established, it cannot be substantially altered.


The trouble is, such a model doesn’t fit the facts.


Consider that the majority of preadolescent boys engage in genital sex play, and most of such sexual activity is with other boys. Such homosexual activity only stops when adolescence’s rabidly homophobic socialization targets “queer stuff” for ridicule and beating. Straight men in the military or prison return to homosexuality with a gusto that often doesn’t even pretend to need the excuse that exclusive heterosexuality on board ship or behind bars would mean celibacy. And gay phonelines and online chatrooms are full of married men discovering that homosexuality fulfills a need unmet by long-cooled marriage beds.


A better model of sexual development understands that homosexuality is the foundation of all sexuality. Infants and young children discovering the pleasures of masturbation do not fantasize about sex with anyone: they are learning to enjoy their own– same-sex, of course– bodies. Masturbation, nearly universally practiced, is intrinsically a homosexual act. And fully enjoying sex with other people means enjoying your own body– again, a decidedly homosexual appreciation.


Furthermore, rigid categories of gay and straight are products of society. Instead of seeing homosexually active men in the military or prison acting gay only because their preferred sex objects are absent (the prevailing view), it is more accurate to observe that once they are not compelled to deny their homosexual desires, men will revert to their essential gayness. Enforcing exclusive heterosexuality requires tauntings, beatings, excommunications, financial bribery, legal punishments, and executions of those expressing homosexuality (when heterosexuality is an option) precisely because homosexuality is so natural and pleasurable. Such elaborate defense of exclusive heterosexuality would not be required unless homosexuality were a potential of many supposedly “immutably” straight people. (And, ironically, the homophobic notion that if a spark of heterosexuality exists within a person, it must be nurtured to the exclusion of one’s gay side leads some gay people to deny any heterosexual interest.)


Once we realize that all sexuality is predicated on a homosexual foundation (since it is with our own bodies we enjoy sex), and that exclusive heterosexuality is a coerced social construct and not a natural kind, we are led to a clearer agenda for gay liberation. Our goal is not to become a separate category of junior straight people wherein we adopt straight institutions and patterns, changing only the sex of of our partners. Nor is it to convert anyone away from heterosexuality. Instead, we must understand that our struggle is to free everyone from the fear that keeps them from expressing and enjoying their true, natural, and fundamental gay selves.


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