A few months back it came out that actor John Travolta may have had sex with men. Whatever the facts of the case, the blogosphere and my sex therapist circles were a-flutter with speculation. What did this mean? Was John Travolta gay? Does sex with men necessarily mean gay?
This fascinating Good Men Project post Mostly Straight Most of the Time talks about men who identify as “mostly straight,” including men who feel politically or personally limited by the heterosexual male role, men who find other men attractive but primarily enjoy sex with women, and men who have romantic feelings or enjoy cuddling or going “beyond platonic” with other men but not having sex. It also talks about men who have sex with other men but still identify as “mostly straight.” For example, the article quotes a man named Dillon who explains that “he resides in the ‘Sexual Netherlands,’ a place that exists between heterosexuality and bisexuality.”
So what is going on with these men? Are they gay, straight, or bisexual? My answer to that question is that it is the wrong question. Rather than trying to squeeze people into existing labels, perhaps we should be making new labels. Can you be sexually gay and romantically straight, or as some of my colleagues described it, “homo-sexual and hetero-emotional?” Of course! You can be ANYTHING. That is what we keep missing. No matter how many categories we make, people will keep inhabiting “the netherlands in between.”
This week I had an experience I’ve never had before. I guess I’ve always taken for granted that folks in political office or in the public eye represented me as a white, feminist, progressive, Italian-American, queer-(ish, before coming out) woman. I’ve certainly never sat down and thought about the fact that there’s no one out there who really represents my identity, as I’m sure many other folks have. I live in a privileged space where I can be fairly assured most aspects of my identity will be visible in culture and politics.
Thus, I would never have predicted how visceral and powerful my reaction would be when I saw this. As reported here on feministing.com, Mary Gonzalez will be the first out pansexual legistlator in the country. After her election to the Texas House of Representatives (Texas! Of all places!), Gonzalez, who had presented herself as a lesbian, explained her choice to wait until after the election to reveal her true identity.