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September 5, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

How Gay are You?

Many of us are attracted to, intimate with, or form relationships with people of a particular sex or gender.

Labels like straight, lesbian and gay help us to form an identity of who we are in this big wide world. But these labels obviously don’t suit everyone all of the time.
That’s why people have tried to develop continuums that identify the many shades of grey in our black and white world. Grey’s Anatomy gave us a scale of “one to gay”. United States of Tara gave us a scale from “Craig T. Nelson to the most queeny, flouncy, flaming homo in the land”. And revolutionary sexologist Alfred Kinsey gave us a gay scale of 0 to 6.

In his extensive studies of the sex histories of thousands of Americans six decades ago, Kinsey found many people were attracted to or sexually intimate with both males and females during the course of their lives. He argued that a person’s average lifelong sexuality could be measured on a continuum between completely heterosexual (0) and completely homosexual (6), unless they remained asexual (x).

Fritz Klein took it a step further. He tried to identify a person’s past, present and future physical orientations and emotional orientations on the Kinsey scale. He based this on an individual’s sexual attractions, sexual behaviours, sexual fantasies, emotional preferences, social preferences, lifestyle and identity. He proposed that we are oriented in multiple different ways in any moment and that those orientations change over time.

The big problem with Kinsey and Klein’s continuum is that it puts a male at one end and a female at the other. It fails to give a position to those intersex, transgender, third gendered and gender queer people who cannot clearly identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’. And it fails to consider how people may be quite separately attracted to certain gender performances and to certain secondary sexual characteristics.

How each of us are physically and emotionally orientated towards others, socially and sexually, is way more complicated than some two dimensional model. Splitting the population into seven boxes, or forty-nine boxes, is just as arbitrary as splitting them into three boxes.

Kinsey and Klein proved that people experience life beyond the confines of their sexual categories, and bisexuality is way more common than most people acknowledge. Ultimately, if categories are stopping us from making the most of our lives, we should be entitled to choose not to use them.

You see, the world is like a rainbow. Not like the black-grey-white rainbow behind July Garland when she sang about courage to a guy that walked around in a lion costume, or the seven-crayon rainbow that you drew when you were five, or the 365-bit gradient rainbow you made in your first encounter with Microsoft Publisher.
More like a rainbow of seven billion colourful, lovable shades of humankind. How gay are you? As gay as you say you are.


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