What’s Sex Got To Do With… Identity? (Final Reflection)

Throughout the course of the semester, we have learned about and discussed a wide variety of sexual orientations and how western culture has normalized a sex and gender binary. We traversed through the LGBTQI alphabet soup, learning how each identity has to navigate through society and the common dangers they face by merely existing as an unconventional body. Homosexual bodies, particularly gay men, are learned to be feared from a young age through the existence of the “fag discourse” perpetuated in schools. Bisexual individuals are also often viewed as predatory and dangerous because of their refusal to cooperate within the straight/gay binary that society has constructed. Further complicating sexual binaries are transgender individuals, whose by definition identify as a gender different to the one they were assigned at birth. Intersex individuals, who were born with ambiguous genitalia, can fit into any one of these categories, or none at all. Completely removed from the sexuality spectrum in which all of these other identities exist is asexuality, which can be defined as a lack of sexual drive. Since around the 1960’s, when sexuality shifted from a behavior to an identity, heteronormative attitudes have emerged and worked to confirm heterosexuality as the “correct” form of sexual identity while marginalizing all others.

One of the preoccupations with a heteronormative society is to scrutinize the identities of non-hetero people. A clear example of this can be seen among the bisexual population, where the straight (and sometimes gay) populations discredit the “bisexual” identity. Some claim that bisexuals are just “gays in denial” or straight, but “going through a case.” For some, that may be the case. For others, not at all. The bottom line is that it really should not matter what someone identifies as. Everyone has their own definition of their own orientation, and it is ignorant and presumptuous to simply say that one’s identity is “incorrect.”

One identity that has come under considerable scrutiny for lacking a clear definition is asexuality. In the documentary (A)Sexual, we are introduced to a number of people who identify as asexual, but very few of them conduct their romantic and sexual activities in the exact same way. Some maintain a long term romantic partnership devoid of sexual interaction. Some acknowledge that they do engage in some sexual behaviors, but prefer to do so without the presence of a partner. Because asexuality itself seems to be a spectrum, people are very hesitant to accept someone’s identity as an asexual body because it differs from their own prototype of an asexual in their mind.

One of the most important and lasting lessons I have learned this semester is that people will attack and scrutinize the legitimacy of a sexual identity far more than any other personal identifier. Because heteronormative constructions have deemed “straightness” the norm and every other identity as degenerate and ultimately “abnormal”. This dichotomy has allowed those who identify as “straight” to incorrectly assume privilege and marginalize others. The only person who can declare someone’s sexual identity is that individual. We must end our preoccupation with accusing others of having “false” identities if we truly want a just world.

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