The first “Gay” entry on the Gay Geek website, you knew it was coming sooner or later.
The core point of this entry is:
What is in a Label?
So the other day this video went viral
We have here a High School student, while accepting an award, “coming out” as LGBT. Not as Gay but as an “LGBT” person. By his own admission he is not Lesbian, or Transgendered, so why didn’t he use the label “Gay”, why use the label “LGBT”? Well here you see him say why in his own words: Teen Reveals Why He Identified As 'LGBT' And Not Gay In Viral Coming Out Speech.
This issue of Labels is important. It is how we define ourselves, how the societies we live in define and interact with us. The question of “Was Alexander the Great Gay” is not meaningless, and yet can’t really be answered. One of the first things that a Subjective Objectivist must do before beginning a philosophical discussion is agree on the words to use and more importantly exactly what DO those words mean.
This post is for two people I know, One I know from long ago; I only directly interacted in his life for a short period of time and there was a significant gap (30 Years) between the last time I saw him in person and his finding me on Facebook. Truth be told I didn’t remember who he was, and I at first turned down his friend requests because I couldn’t identify “who” exactly he was. It took a picture from his youth in his Facebook photos to remind me about him (Sorry Jack…).
So why did it take me so long to recognise him, well simply put looking over his Facebook page there was NOTHING that indicated he was Gay. In fact far from it, he had children, most of the friends he had listed on Facebook were women and straight men. And the number of straight men I was friends with I was 18 / 19 was an extremely small list. His Facebook made it so “obvious” by looking thru it that he was straight I was sure he had the wrong “Matthew Hintzen”. But I saw the picture from his youth, and suddenly the memories came racing back. Mostly because for a short period in May 1980, the Los Angeles Police department had a “Detain and Question” order issued on me for abduction of a Minor. Funny now… Not all that funny at the time. Jack was Underage, he had gone on a road trip with me and Ted Otis just prior to my going into the U.S. Air Force, and his mother (who was pretty sure what was going on between Jack and I) had lodged a complaint with the LAPD. The only reason I had found out about the Detain and Question order was when I called my Air Force Recruiter 2 days out from my induction into the Air Force, he let me know that I was wanted for questioning on the disappearance and possible “corruption charges” of a Minor. I was technically an adult, Jack was most definitely NOT (yeah I’ve always been a bit of a chicken hawk) but in my defence I thought he was 16, (turns out he may have misled me on that as well, and was 15… I would’ve been screwed in any state or the U.K., 16 being the minimum age of consent in those places).
But it was California, and I was in major trouble. Well I made Jack call his Mother AND call the LAPD and call off the dogs, so I got away with corrupting a youth. And yes I was “Corrupting” his youth. That is to say I was engaged in Sexual Activity with Jack. Let’s be clear here, I was acting completely illegally under the laws of the state in which I and Jack Resided, I knew I was, and there is no way I would try to say it wasn’t technically illegal, and on my part a true lapse in moral judgement. All I can say is at the time I thought Jack was Gay, and he was acting of his own free will. So of course I have talked this over with Mr. Harkness now that we have reconnected on Facebook (Jack Harkness… Yeah that’s a pseudonym…) and he had confirmed that he was more then willing to engage in sexual activity with me. Actually the words he used were “Yeah, I was in-love with you…” which touched me much more then I thought it would I must add. Not many people have said that phrase to me, and it means something very special to myself. Ok this is all a great (albeit slightly EWWW creepy) story, but what does this have to do with Labels and Alexander the Great?
Well here is the kick in the rubber parts, It had never occurred to me that anyone I have ever engaged in sexual activity was anything by “As queer as a 3 dollar bill” just like me, to use the crude language my father used to like. Jack contacted me on Facebook when I was 49, Old enough to have known “bi-sexuals” in my time, but I still had the innate tendency to put people either in the You are GAY or You are STRAIGHT groupings. Jack’s Facebook profile had no hint of “Gay” in it, ipso facto, I erroneously assumed that meant he must be straight. And that is where the Label comes in: in all fairness Jack was neither Gay or Straight he was just Jack. And he had the ability to love both males and females and engage in sex with those he found attractive.
Let me introduce you to the Kinsey Scale (the diagram to the right). This is the Scale that Alfred Kinsey invented in 1948 for his famous sex study. There actually was no “test” that put people on this scale rather thru a long series of interviews and questions and other criteria, the Kinsey group would place people on this scale based on a large set of criteria. However since that time people have taken some of the salient questions and other survey criteria that Kinsey collected and have come up with a pretty good “test” that will allow you to check your own Kinsey score if you are of a mind too here at the Kinsey Scale Test. Before you ask, I’ve taken the test a few times, except for the first time I took it, I always come up 6 (which really doesn’t surprise me at all). The first time I took it I came up as a 5, and I’m not sure why to be honest with you, I must have mismarked something.
Jack was unfamiliar with this scale and Kinsey, he Googled it when I mentioned that I was a “hard 6 on the Kinsey Scale”, found the link to the test I gave above and took it, and his score came out as a 2. Well besides completely inflating my ego [hell, I got a “2” to fall in-love with me, I must be really good], it brought up an issue that I have regularly considered, what does it actually mean to “be Gay”.
The other Friend I mentioned at the start of this post, Jonah, is in a long term (4+ years) relationship with another man, mostly engages in sexual activity with Men but is vehement in NOT labelling himself as Gay cause, as he says, if it’s just Sex He’s not Picky. Give him a gal or a guy and as long as they are into it, he is into it! He hates that we go around labelling each other and insists that we should just stop it. Of course as I pointed out to him Homo Sapiens Sapiens is hard-wired into grouping and labelling and there is nothing that will stop that. What I find most interesting about Jonah really is that I totally believe him when he says he can happily have sex with either gender, but since I have known him all of his relationships that are emotionally based, and by that I mean strongly love oriented spend time with, have been Men. He doesn’t deny it… but he also totally doesn’t agree that he actually does have a preference for one Gender over another. I believe he does, for long term emotional live with me relationships, he prefers men. But if he was the only Man on earth, I think he could quite happily Marry a woman and have a long and emotionally fulfilling relations / life. So is Jonah Gay or is he not?
So we are left with what is in a Label? And here is a question that my fellow 6’ers on the scale would really hate my asking, but honestly, looking over the huge variation in human behaviour and sexual drive is it really impossible that a straight person could become gay or a gay person could become straight. Is there anything to so-called conversion therapy, and if I tell you I only want to suck cock and expect you to take my word for it, what gives me the right, from where do I derive the arrogance, to doubt the stated intention from someone that while they did at one time, they no longer have any desire to suck cock? If I truly believe that tomorrow Jonah could meet and fall in love with and marry a woman who he remains sexually faithful to for the rest of his life (Unlikely but I would have to say I don’t think it’s impossible), then why should I not believe someone else who says “I used to be Gay but I am no longer”?
So what is Gay and what is Straight? Does Gay Objectively Exist?
This first came up for me in a sociology class I took for my Humanities Credit when I was going for BS in Computer Science. It was Gay and Lesbian Studies 101, yeah, I know… Anyways as a good Sociologist, the teacher was adamant that “Gay” was a Modern Concept that you couldn’t call anyone in history “Gay”, it was a totally modern thing. Needless to say, I completely disagreed with her. When I pointed out Alexander the Great was Gay, She proclaimed he may have slept with Hephaestion, but that didn’t mean he was “Gay”. Damn that irritated me. Because if she was right then it was possible that the religious loonies who claimed it was a “choice” and a “Live-Style” not an immutable fact of my makeup could be correct. And I’ve known I wanted males and only males for sexual activity, so which is it, is Gay an immutable Fact or just a social construct that has no objective truth to it. And the answer is both Yes and No in my opinion.
What are the facts? Again and again and again-what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”--what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
Robert Anson Heinlein
So let’s start there, what are the facts? As a Scientist how do I approach this? Subjectively I absolutely KNOW that there is such a state of being as unchangeable homosexual; but Objectively, well that’s a different matter. Actually Kinsey started the science back in 1948, and at least as a historical fact we can say that there were men and women who engaged exclusively with members of the same gender in sexual activity. The question our modern society has been dealing with ever since then is; Is it Innate or is it Learned, Is it Biological or Behavioural? When Kinsey first gave us some numbers (1 in 10 is what Kinsey put as the percentage of men who are a 3 or higher on the scale), we didn’t have the knowledge exactly how to ask that question. Oh as a side note, that 1 in 10 is not an objective fact because we can’t all agree on a measuring stick so we keep getting different numbers. Keep an eye on that “We can’t all agree on a measuring stick”. Well since that time we now have a way of determining if a trait is Biological or not, because since Kinsey’s time we have unlocked the DNA molecule and begun to take apart the instruction manual on how to build a human contain within our DNA and Genes.
Of course there is the argument that under the mechanisms of Evolution, nothing should breed itself out of the genetic line faster then homosexuality, if you don’t have children, you don’t pass on your genes, And yet the scientific census at this time is that “Gay” is, at least in part, is tied into our Genes, our DNA. The scientists who study genetic inheritance and sexuality continue to study this and propose theories, but we don’t have an definitive answer that a majority of scholars can agree on. Having said that, from my own experience I can tell you, I was Born Gay. There was no choice for me, in who flips my switch, what dreams populate my fantasies when I masturbate. Males it always has been, and never has that wavered.
So back to that Sociology teacher I had, she was a self identified lesbian. When I asked her if she believed her sexual orientation was a learned trait or a genetic built in pre-determined orientation, without hesitation she said, “born this way”, and yet she refused to accept “Gay” as being something other than a modern construct. I asked her, since I felt the same way, how did she square that circle, and she admitted she couldn’t. So if the recent genetic studies of behaviour and sexual orientation are to be believed to be accurate, and since they have been successfully tested and retested in a scientific manner we have no Objective logical reason to doubt them, that leaves us with only two possible conclusions objective conclusions
- Since 1946 Humanity has had a evolutionary modification in our genetic code that means some people act and are now identified as Gay
- The genetic conditions that leads to what we identify as Gay today have been part of the Human Genome for a very long time.
Yes, 1 is a straw man, it is not possible. I can safely and smugly out of hand dismiss 1 because World and Social Wide genetic modification does not happen on that time scale, so I can safely say 2 must be true, and Gay has been part of the human condition forever… Or can I? I’ve been thinking about this for 20+ years and while I believe that 2 is an objective fact, I don’t believe that I can say it is an objective fact that there have always been Gay humans, because the problem is the word itself Gay. It’s a word that has a very modern meaning and even in my life time I have seen that very meaning change. Was my teacher correct or not? The problem is we are asking the wrong question.
The question is not was Alexander The Great Gay, the question should be What are we Measuring:
First up, Kinsey makes a valid point, it is actually the rare human who is wholly one thing or another, we are a creature that expresses itself across a spectrum of behaviour. We know that Alexander had 3 wives and had sex with them, maybe we should be Alexander on the Kinsey scale and just call him a 4 or a 5, mostly liked spending time with Hephaestion, and other men. Can we do that and call it a day? No I don’t think so. We can’t just say Alexander was a 4-Gay-Person and move on from there, because we still have defined what exactly do we mean by Gay. It’s not enough to measure the DNA of a human for one thing especially if you can’t get agreement on what the “one thing” exactly is. So when we Say someone is Gay I think it is fair to break that out, what exactly are we talking about? I think it is more accurate to speak of the Axis of Sexual Orientation.
For example, In the United States, and in some other western cultures, from the mid 1800’s to the late 1950’s if you were a male who always did the penetration of another male, and you never preformed fellatio, but were always the receiver of pleasure, if you were what we today would in the parlance of the gay community call a “Strict Top” then society didn’t consider you a homosexual, for the most part. A man who always did the fucking was not a homosexual regardless of gender of the person he was fucking. Really, that is true, I know it sounds completely ridiculous to our frame of reference, but only the “fuckee” was the homosexual. So here are two axis to consider, what percentage of the time does the person “Top” in the sexual act (as we would say today), AND as a completely different demonstrable axis how (or even if) does the society in which the person lives view the person who Tops as different?
To understand this, let’s look at methods of entrapment practiced in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the U.S. Navy and police departments. Sailors and Officers would be recruited to go to areas that were believed to be havens for Homosexuals, they would then go on the prowl in the cruising area, then once they had “hooked-up” with a willing participant, they would then, in order to be able to proof the crime of homosexuality, actually engage in full anal penetration, often too climax, but ALWAYS as the top. Then the “plant” once he was done would call in the “back-up” who would arrest the male who had been the receiver. The only person who was guilty of a Homosexual act in these cases was the person on the bottom. The people in charge of the investigation LITERALLY did not even think for one moment that the person who was doing the fucking, the person acting under the shield of law was a homosexual, only the person beneath. The Courts, the Society all held the same view. Even more interesting, is that some of the Sailors and Officers who were recruited to act as lures, openly admitted they only fucked other Men, but because they were always the “Top” or what was perceived as the Masculine role, they didn’t even see themselves as homosexual even though they had only had ever had sex with other men. They were not charged with Sodomy.
Today we have the complete opposite. Society (and some antiquated legal systems) view a man who has sex with another man a homosexual regardless of the position, and yet there are Men who don’t consider themselves homosexuals because they only top. The population of Prisons in the U.S. are notorious for this way of thinking. And it is this that makes me realise that my sociology professor was correct. “Gay” means something very specific to a very specific society at a very specific time. Alexander the Great was not Gay but he did like fucking men. So how should we measure. Just as Kinsey had a scale, I think he was on the right track but I believe it is a Scale of Scales, and it’s not just the people engaging the sex, it is also the perception of the different aspects of the society in which they live.
So do we throw up our hands and say “you can’t classify people, labels can never apply”, well with apologies to Jonah I would have to say, no, what we need is a set of criteria that take into account these variables across societies, across time, and across personal actions, and plot the genetic component of human same gender sexuality.
The Eight? Axises of Orientation
- With which gender does a person ACTUALLY engage in sexual activity with (% of)?
- With which gender does a person WANT to engage in actual sexual activity (% of)?
- How does a person view their own identity based on the gender they engage in activity (% of)?
- How does society classify / treat based the % of same gender encounters?
- How much does the persons mannerisms align with what the society they live in see as traditionally belonging to the opposite gender
- When engaging in sex with same gender people, how does a person view the implication of their physical actions?
- How does society view the implications of the Physical actions of the people engaged in same gender encounters?
- With which gender is a person most easily and mostly likely to form an emotional attachment (specifically “In-Love” to use a colloquialism)?
This is the list of axises I have so far, and each of them should be measured on a Kinsey Scale. I “feel” that there is probably one to three more axis, but these are the only ones I have fully fleshed out.
So using the Kinsey Scale and knowing what I do about the society in New Zealand how would I rate myself
- Solid 6
- Solid 6
- Solid 6
I’ll leave you with one last thought, look again at the list, and what I find most interesting is that there is actually only one axis that is truly measurable in an objective way, and that is axis 1, all of the rest of them are subjective measurements to a objective scientific monitor.
I’d be really interested to read your thoughts and comments in the comments below.