Cynthia Nixon, Joseph Massad, and Not Being an American Gigolo

FoucaultScott Long in A Paper Bird:

In the politics of identity, bisexuals are hated because they stand for choice. The game is set up so as to exclude the middle; bisexuals get squeezed out. in the “LGBT” word, the “B” is silent. John Aravosis, for instance, says that if you’re into both genders, “that’s fine” — great! — but “most people” aren’t. First off, that rather defies Freud and the theory of universal infantile bisexuality. But never mind that. The business of “outing,” of which Aravosis has been an eloquent proponent, also revolves around the excluded middle. It’s not a matter of what you think of outing’s ethics, on which there’s plenty of debate. It’s that the underlying presumption is that one gay sex act makes you “gay” — not errant, not bisexual, not confused or questioning: gay, gay, gay. I saw you in that bathroom, for God’s sake! You’re named for life! It’s also that the stigma goes one way only: a lifetime of heterosexual sex acts can’t make up for that one, illicit, overpowering pleasure. As I’ve argued, this both corresponds to our own buried sense, as gays, that it is a stigma, and gives us perverse power. In the scissors, paper, rock game of sexuality, gay is a hand grenade. It beats them all.

And this fundamentalism infects other ways of thinking about sexuality, too. Salon today carries an article about multiple sex-and-love partners: “The right wants to use the ‘slippery slope’ of polyamory to discredit gay marriage. Here’s how to stop them.” I’ll leave you to study the author’s solution. He doesn’t want to disrespect the polyamorists:

I reject the tactic of distinguishing the good gays from the “bad” poly people. Further marginalizing the marginalized is just the wrong trajectory for any liberation movement to take.

That’s true — although whether we’re still really a liberation movement, when we deny the liberty of self-description, is a bit doubtful. But he goes on, contemplating how polyamory might in future be added to the roster of rights:

Really, there are a host of questions that arise in the case of polyamory to which we just don’t know the answer. Is polyamory like sexual orientation, a deep trait felt to be at the core of one’s being? Would a polyamorous person feel as incomplete without multiple partners as a lesbian or gay person might feel without one? How many “truly polyamorous” people are there?

Well, what if it’s not? What if you just choose to be polyamorous? God, how horrible! You beast! What can be done for the poor things? Should some researcher start looking for a gene for polyamory, so it can finally become respectable, not as a practice, but as an inescapable doom? (I shudder to think there’s one gene I might share with Newt Gingrich.)

What, moreover, if sexual orientation itself is not “a deep trait felt to be at the core of one’s being,” one that people miraculously started feeling in 1869, when the word “homosexual” was coined? What if it’s sometimes that, sometimes a transient desire, sometimes a segment of growth or adolescent exploration, sometimes a recourse from the isolations of middle age, sometimes a Saturday night lark, sometimes a years-long passion? What if some people really do experience it as … a choice?

What if our model for defending LGBT people’s rights were not race, but religion? What if we claimed our identities were not something impossible to change, but a decision so profoundly a part of one’s elected and constructed selfhood that one should never be forced to change it?

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