You are who you fuck.
That’s been the mantra of the gay rights movement for the last 30 years. And even in the age of metrosexuals and bi-curious women making out in straight bars, many of us have continued to encourage people to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans. Because those of us who work for political change know that by naming ourselves, we create communities for us to live in and organize around.
Coming out is an important milestone in the evolution of our sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s a fearless act that creates space for younger queers to discover themselves. And it helps remind us that even though we have very much in common with our straight friends and family members, we also have something different to offer the world — a unique take on love and relationships. I’m talking about sexual freedom.
Despite its buttoned-down reputation, the Ottawa queer community is quite diverse. The circle I hang out with, for example, includes at least two queer-identified women whose primary partners are men, but who also maintain passionate relationships with other women.
A few months ago, I attended a “pre-loved” sex toy party, where we all brought the silicone implements that had fallen out of our favour to trade with each other. At least two straight men in attendance extolled the virtue of being pegged by their female partners, as they traded in their less ambitious dildos that had fallen by the wayside. And all of us — gay and straight alike — engaged in a considerable amount of flirting that evening.
When I first came out as a lesbian almost 10 years ago, the scene I just described would have been unthinkable. Lesbian women partnering with men? Straight men buying phallic sex toys? The queer world seemed very black and white to me at the time. If someone slept with a member of the opposite sex, I reasoned, they must be straight — or bisexual at least. But after a few years, I came to understand that sometimes what — and who — we do, doesn’t always fully describe who we are. And in some cases, the gay and lesbian community might be guilty of enforcing the same kind of restrictive norms that make many heterosexual people unhappy.
Take my friend Adam, for example. He came out in high school, and has dated men ever since. But when we met in university, he was happily fucking queer women. He saw his occasional sexual encounters with women as an extension of his deep friendships with them.
Adam is a gay men’s health worker, and he recently suggested mounting a workshop on women’s sexuality geared toward gay men. He reasoned that there were probably other gay men out there who occasionally desired women. He was soundly defeated by others who couldn’t understand why such a thing would be useful to their community.
I felt similarly at a recent women’s burlesque night, where one female performer juggled cucumbers and then sliced them up violently on stage. While I love to occasionally engage in some Hothead Paisan-style rage against the patriarchy, this particular performance made me feel uncomfortable — and not in a good way. I thought about the trans women I know who already get so much grief from dykes for having different parts, and the queer women I know who engage in loving sexual relationships with men. It seems to me that the demonization of the opposite sex does little to advance our political project — or our sex lives.
An older gay male friend told me of a famous gay club in Toronto that used to turn the lights off after hours, triggering a pansexual orgy, where gay men and lesbians could experiment together. Some engaged in their first opposite-experiences there — minus the high school angst. Like my friend Adam, I maintain that when a gay man and a lesbian sleep together, it is not a heterosexual act. It’s like gay squared.
I was once called “homophobic” by a reader of Capital Xtra, because I objected to the argument that homosexuality is never, ever a choice. Because I believe that sexual freedom is all about having the ability to make choices — even if those choices may seem to contradict our core identities. Unlike writer Bert Archer who suggested that this kind of experimentation represented “the end of gay,” I think it’s only the beginning.