I was thinking about identifying as gay and why that’s weird for me, I guess in the short term because I like a boy right now, but in the long term because I don’t consider this (or any other instances that may occur) to be exceptions to the rule of my orientation, but in fact to be consistent with it.
I wouldn’t correct someone who called me queer, as that also describes me, but gay or homosexual is the label I’d rather use. I see why the word queer is appealing because of its fluidity but it’s precisely that fluidity that causes me not to prefer it, and even caused me to hate and reject it when I was younger. As a teenager, I had experiences that shaped my personality and spirituality which were based in being not “other than straight” but a girl who was attracted to other girls and not attracted to boys. (I guess I should say female-assigned because I didn’t really identify as a girl for some periods of my adolescence.)
In the really lonely times that made me the person I am, being gay felt like the most important aspect of me even as it was the most damning. The fact that I was not attracted to boys was a big part of it because it wasn’t just “I’m different” but “there is actually no way I can fit into the world as the world seems to be.” I remember almost starting to cry at school one day when I was in a room with some girls who started having a conversation about which smells were most attractive on boys.
It also is a wonderful and painful part of my life that I have really close, physically and emotionally affectionate, friendships with straight guys. It’s wonderful for the closeness, but painful for various reasons: feeling outranked in importance by my friends’ girlfriends, feeling like I don’t count because I can’t provide sex, feeling like I’m seen as a threat because I’m a girl who’s close with someone’s boyfriend and I have to distance myself/quit being physically affectionate to show that I’m not a threat, being mistaken for a friend’s girlfriend and getting approval from straight people for our perceived relationship, which is kind of painful, and so on. All these experiences are ones that I have pretty regularly so being not attracted to boys is a big part of my life and I’d like to continue to claim it as part of my identity whether or not I happen to like a boy at the time.
Okay, so what do I mean by saying that I can like a boy without it being an exception, but I’m not attracted to boys?
Well, there are multiple factors that lead to me being strongly attracted to someone. I’m attracted to people who are very translucent about their feelings, who are clever, and who put me in a certain frame of mind sexually. Those are the three most important factors—well four I guess as gender is probably up there with those three as a massively important factor. Then there’s stuff that would trigger me to be attracted to someone, like having blue eyes, but that I don’t really feel the absence of in the strength of my attraction.
Let’s say that I said, “I’m attracted to people who have black hair and I don’t find any other hair color attractive,” and I lived in a society where the hair color that you were attracted to was really important, and I wasn’t raised knowing that I could like people with black hair, and I thought God might be punishing me for liking people with black hair, and it was this huge experience in my life. I mean, I’m giving this backstory to explain why I might say about myself on a regular basis, “I’m attracted to people who have black hair and I don’t find any other hair color attractive.” Because it would be very important, if I lived in that world.
But in the real world, where hair color preference isn’t seen as the most important aspect of your sexuality, if I liked someone who had blond hair—not because they had blond hair, but because everything else about them was one of my triggers for attraction—this really wouldn’t be some big shift in my sexuality where I’d now have to say, “I’m attracted to people with black hair and people with blond hair,” because I wouldn’t be any more attracted to blond-haired people than I was before, and in fact I still wouldn’t be attracted to blond-haired-ness at all. It would just be that it wasn’t the only defining factor in me being attracted to someone.
To make a really long story short, I am gay but although gender’s a hugely strong factor for me, there are other equally strong or stronger ones. But there’s not a word for this, sad times.