The first time I heard about the Kinsey scale, I thought: Oh. That’s what’s wrong with me.
It was in this Resident Assistant training seminar thing–must have been one on gender and sexuality sensitivity, I guess–but what I remember is the woman heading the thing drawing the scale up on the board and explaining Kinsey’s concept of the spectrum of sexuality and it was like bam! a frying pan to the head and then this moment of complete clarity, of certainty: Oh. Oh hey. That’s me!
Now where I fall on the scale, what’s my Kinsey number, I couldn’t tell you, then. Still can’t now, because for me, my location wasn’t the thing so much as my identification with the concept.
I never felt straight in the sense of (ugh) liking guys, only being attracted to men, though I certainly was, at least in the abstract. I loved James Bond (still do) in all his hypersexualized incarnations and swooned pretty hot heavy over Connery and Brosnan, in particular. But I also didn’t feel–how do I say this?–I wasn’t bothered by James’ affection for beautiful women. Even as a baby feminist, as someone who usually could recognize when women were being degraded or treated as less than human, Bond’s proclivities made complete sense to me. I didn’t feel objectified when I watched those films, though it took me years and years to figure out why.
See, I wanted to *be* Bond, and I wanted the beautiful women, too.
Granted, I’ve always gotten on better with men than women, just in the general sense; my best friends (for better or worse) have almost always been guys. A male colleague told me recently that I’m “aggressive” [a word I’d never have applied to myself] something he characterized as a positive quality–in the world of the classroom, at least, because outside of that? boy, does it make him nervous–so perhaps this has something to do with it. I’m either very quiet or intensely blunt, so perhaps there’s that, too.
What I mean is that I’m not good at subtlety. I don’t have a poker face. When I do speak, I generally tend to say what I mean.
Not that these are exclusively male qualities–they’re not–but one has to admit, I think, these are traits the dominant social discourse tends to align with men more so than women.
Or perhaps it’s that there’s part of me (shut up) that’s always liked women and didn’t know quite what to do with that, exactly, and so skittered away from all of them in kind.
[Reading this back, I’m struck by the connection my brain’s made between my behavior and my ability to get along better with dudes as somehow associated with or related to my sexual preferences. Fascinating. I’m not sure what to make of that, so I’ll leave this, my confusion, in.]
It’s worth noting, I think, that the small town in which I grew up was not terrible conducive to discussions of gender or sexuality outside of boy-meets-girl. Heteronormativity was the name of the game–still is, I suspect–to the point where it wasn’t even questioned by most of us; even in high school [even in our drama club, for gods’ sake!] there was a basic assumption of straight.
That’s not to say that I was totally naive or black-boxed about these things. We did have PBS, after all, and I spent many late Saturday nights watching “In the Life” on MPT. I learned about Harvey Milk and Stonewall and your basic LGBT history, though I couldn’t have told you then what the fuck I found so compelling about that, exactly. But in college, that day in my RA training, all the pieces came together in that one brief sketch on a whiteboard: two poles, a spectrum, and somewhere within it, me.
But. Even then, even with that lightning sense of certain that I should always listen to when it comes, I had no idea WTF to do with that information, that sudden knowledge of oh shit, I’m different, but hey, at least it has a name, and so it sat for a long, long time.
So now, many (many) many years later, I’m finally in a place where I can argue about the crappy rhetorical properties of the term “bisexual” [ugh. just typing it gives me hives.] and why I don’t like calling myself that but I must also acknowledge there’s really no other word for “somewhere in the spectrum that’s not A or B” and we’re a species that needs words to understand concepts, a sign for each signifier, and until I or someone else creates a way of saying “I’m on the Kinsey scale” in the span of a single word, I’m pretty much stuck with you, bisexual, and I guess you’re stuck with me.
I know there are other terms floating about, but none of them, yet have granted me that moment of hailing, of Oh. Oh hey. That’s me!
And what can I say? I’m picky. And I’m content to wait until the right one comes along.