I know it’s time to write when I’m in lying in bed, in between that sleep and wakeful state; and words, sentences and paragraphs begin to form and fly through my mind. Sometimes I just let them be, trusting they will return to me later. More often, I jot down a few key words as writing prompts for later. Or sometimes, like now, I hoist my ass out of bed and come to the computer, inspired to seize the moment and not let them get away.
It’s always entertaining to me, though; that wherever I start out in my writing, it invariably leads in a direction and to a place I hadn’t quite intended or seen coming. And I love that, I love surrendering to the process itself and trusting that wherever it wants to go, I’m coming along for the ride.
We’ll see where I end up in this session, but for now, the words that pulled me out of bed at this 6 o’clock hour are these: “Don’t Assume I’m Straight”.
No, James R., not in that “oh, make up your mind already” bisexual category you teased me about the other day. That very one that bisexual people really do have to unlovingly contend with often; most absurdly from their gay brothers and sisters. No, not necessarily that one.
And definitely not in the “bisensual” category – that annoying-to me new age drivel reserved, in my intolerant mind, for those too scared to use the other bi word, lest someone get the wrong idea.
And definitely not in the lesbian category either – while I’ve had my share of female dalliances; I like men and I like sleeping with them. In fact, all of my long-term partnerships have been with them; which could and does lead most all people to conclude that indeed I am straight. But I’m not.
So where does that leave me?
The most recent term I fancy (“Fancy”? I must be hanging out with the Brits!) is hetero-flexible, but that’s mostly because of the cuteness factor of the term, not necessarily because of its accuracy. And gender fluid? Yeah, well, I like that one, too; but somehow it doesn’t quite fit for me either. The truth is that none of them really ‘work’ for me. I read a book a few years ago called “The End of Gay and the Death of Heterosexuality” – with not only a catchy title, it was substantive as well. Some of its premise is this – that there was a time and that time may still be so, that those categories were essential, not only for people coming out to be able to identify and accept themselves; but also to teach the world about homosexuality. But it also spoke about the evolution of our sexual identities and orientations; and how perhaps, someday, we won’t need those rigid categorizations any longer – they will have outlived their purpose and will no longer be big enough to define us.
Are we there yet? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I don’t have any lofty, ego-based notions that I have evolved beyond the space where people still identify with those labels. And while at times, I’ve agreed with the author and thought maybe we should just scrap the labels and evolve already; I do recognize the essential process of gay pride. I’ve continued to meet, personally and through media story after media story, the people and the places they live where their coming out is still a major breakthrough, for themselves, their families, their communities and the world. Sometimes it’s not only in the deep south or mid-west or Africa or the Middle East. Sometimes it’s right in our major urban centers. Sometimes it’s in Hawaii. So I’ve learned that, yes, we do still need these words for people who are newly aware of their sexual orientation – and hurray for them that they have the courage and determination to use them – the words, then, act as beacons leading their way through the darkness of denial and doubt into self-actualization and authenticity. So yes indeed, we do still need them. And yet still, I dream of a time when we will move beyond their usefulness in defining ourselves and each other. And I think of them right here and right now, as a woman for whom none of them work for me.
I’ve also sadly heard the words used to further divide and separate us. I’ve experienced firsthand the separatist leanings of some, I’m sorry to say, mostly gay men, for whom having any women around is disdainful. Sorry because most of my social circle and intimate friends are gay men. But for those others, their internalized misogyny and fear of women gets played out by dissing us in ways that puts the straight boys to shame. That not only perplexes me, but it also hurts me. Deeply. While I had my days of separatism early in my feminist awakening, I well understand the need for ‘a room of our own’. While I still understand the need, sometimes, to be in circles of only women where the process is decidedly different than when only one man, no matter his orientation, is present. But still, those circles are necessarily limited if that is where I choose to live all the time. And I don’t. So I wonder whether those who chose such a lifestyle are doing so based on fear and exclusivity that doesn’t necessarily serve their or all of our greater evolution.
I learned my greatest lessons about this from the Body Electric School’s erotic circles of mixed genders in which I worked and played for several years. And I learned it especially from the gay-identified men who chose to show up for these journeys of exploration. I witnessed them standing as far back in the circle (how does one stand far back in a circle – I don’t know, but somehow, in their trepidation, they did!), sometimes visibly trembling when it came time not only to demonstrate female genital massage, but also for them to take their places at the massage tables with the women ready to receive their touch. And while their fear almost overwhelmed them, it didn’t envelope them enough for them not to stay present, determined to learn about Eros and the erotic nature of their sisters and themselves in the circle. While many (most?) of them left the workshop with their gay identities still proudly and decidedly intact; they also came away with new-found understandings of women and themselves in ways they didn’t have when they started. I know I certainly did.
I’ve also made love with one of my very dearest friends who identifies as a gay man. With his lover present, we engaged in 100% safe sex (which, with his HIV status, was important for us both) – laughing, playing and coming. While it’s not an activity that is a regular part of our friendship, we were moved to do so on that particular night; and it was an experience that deepened and solidified our relationship.
I also recall the countless erotic circles of women I’ve been in and how much I’ve learned there. I’ve witnessed the potency of women learning about our bodies, our desires and coming into our erotic power. It’s was nothing short of magic. I’ve seen the terror in women’s eyes and bodies at the hour of our first meeting and how, after hours or days together, that terror transformed into at least glimpsing the possibilities of self-determined sexuality that they never knew was possible. We cried, we laughed, we came and we learned. We were old and young, straight and gay, bi-sexual and trans-gendered. And we all touched one another in the most sacred and intimate of ways. And in those moments, the categories became unnecessary and naturally melted away. And like the gay men in the mixed-gender workshops; whatever orientation we returned to after the workshops didn’t matter quite so much as the learning we received from our willingness to experiment with and learn from one another.
I remember well over a decade back to my very first BE circle of women – my sexuality was in a kundalini-esque swirling vortex of overpowering energy that I had no context or words for (certainly not yet kundalini!) – and it came time for us to find our way to the massage tables to give and receive our first erotic massages. But we didn’t pick the women we would work with – that would too painfully harken back to the high school days of being the chosen one or not, that left many of us feeling less than and not good enough to make the A-list. No, none of that in Body Electric. There were more clever and inclusive ways to assign our threesomes where we would work together at the massage tables, each woman taking her turn on the table while the other two ‘handmaidens’ served her every need and desire in a facilitated process in which the entire group took part. And there I stood, waiting, not nervously, but eagerly and with great anticipation.
Until the moment when I saw that I was put in a circle with the largest woman, one who I then described as the least ‘attractive’ in the group. Then I did get nervous. This woman was way beyond obese and appeared so shut down in her body that I couldn’t imagine not only how I would ‘serve’ her, but how I could possibly open to her touch. No – no – no – I wanted the powerful, embodied women to work with, the ones who were alive and attractive and as eager as I. How oh how was I going to be able to conjure any kind of erotic feelings with her? But as things tend to go – she became, of course, my greatest teacher in that circle and beyond.
She taught me that size really doesn’t matter in determining our embodiment; and that sexiness is not the narrow, exclusive realm of the societally-determined attractive. Most importantly for my personal sexual evolution at the time – while that mysterious thing called ‘attraction’ is most often an important and compelling pre-requisite in forging partnership – I learned that sharing erotic energy within a framework and with the intention of heartfulness, generosity and service with anyone and everyone was not only possible; it also had the capacity to truly transform beyond measure the limited ways in which we identify ourselves and our sexuality.
I witnessed that woman come alive in her body in ways she had never before known or felt. As she bathed in her tears of joy and release, the women surrounding her were equally showered with honor and awe. Women who gave touch were equally in awe of the healing and profound affect of what they didn’t know they had in them to give. Whether we went back to our single, married, lesbian, gay, straight or transgendered lives didn’t matter one bit. In those moments, labels couldn’t come close to defining who we were.
Ohsure, I know we can’t live our lives in Body Electric or any other circles. But they can inform us and radicalize our lives. In fact, they do. And from there, we take what we learn and bring it into our lives in ways that really do change the world. I absolutely believe that. We all, each and every one of us, contribute to our mutual, ongoing evolution. And in so doing, we reclaim our birthright of a sexuality and a life that is beyond what any category can ever define.