Which Way Do You Go?

Author: Jack Rinella © 1997

Used With Author(s) Permission


Since I’m among the first of the generation called the Baby Boomers, I have often found myself watching at the cusp of social change. As a child, I witnessed the growth of the suburbs and the effects of television, automobiles, and the atom bomb. Though I remember some of the more obvious pre-sixties ways of doing things, such as Blue Laws and law-enforced segregation, my life has been lived in the midst of significant social change. That change continues, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, sometimes (alas) even backwards.

There’s no question that the expression of human sexuality has undergone radical and controversial change. It’s probably even more correct to say that it is still undergoing revolution. The process begun with liberalized divorce, the invention of penicillin and birth control, and the decline of the moral power various churches held over society, has ebbed and flowed but certainly continues unabated.

I predict it will end up just like hand-writing.

Though most of my younger readers won’t remember it, there was a time when teachers disciplined children for being left-handed. The nuns especially made serious efforts to force children to write with their right hands. It was the cultural wisdom of the time that writing in that fashion was more natural. So the ten percent of children who were born with a propensity to be left-handed were coerced into being right-handed.

Left-handedness was punished. Left hands were tied so as to be unusable. It was right to be right-handed.

Right or left doesn’t make much difference any more. Oh right-handers are in the majority and therefore are at a certain advantage when it comes to buying scissors or keyboards, but we no longer discriminate or even try to change one’s manual dexterity.

You can see, no doubt, where I am going. Is dexterity genetic? Or is it cultural? Does one’s mother affect it? Do absentee fathers cause it? Is it (oh, no!) a chosen lifestyle? Can dexterity be changed by proper re-conditioning? Should it be?

The left-handed activists of the forties and fifties have won their battle. You can buy left-handed scissors and there are left-handed gadgets in left-handed stores. Teachers no longer tie children’s hands behind their backs to coerce right-handed activity.

I wonder when, having seen the rise of left-handedness, we will see the next dexterity fight. Can it be that any moment the League for Bi-Dexterity will demand equal rights?
Enough of the analogy. There’s no reason to beat this horse to death.

I’m of the conclusion that sexuality isn’t much different than dexterity. In fact, it may be that the ultimate sexual preference is some kind of ambisexuality. That may not be PC with either strident homos or militant heteros, but it just may be that the vast majority of us fall into the middle of the spectrum.

This categorization of human sexuality into two, three, four, or even five groups (SGLBT) is akin to saying the rainbow has a certain number of colors. I don’t buy it.

Today I honestly acknowledge that my preference is for sex with men. Yet there was a time when to have heard that said of me would have provoked enormous denial. As you know I was once married and have fathered two children. I didn’t have the vaguest awareness of my homosexuality when I said "I do."

In those days, law, culture, morality, convenience, tradition, and who knows what else made it seem "natural" for me to be straight. As my wife and I only later discovered, that doesn’t necessarily make it so. As I entered my thirties, life experiences made me question the foundations of my life-views. I began to experiment with sex with men and found it rewarding. The structures and strictures of my childhood melted in a whirlwind of conflicting ideas, feelings, and actions.

And here I made choices. I never chose to be gay. Instead, at a vast number of decision points, I decided to do this and to do that. In the face of incredible anxiety, under pressure from hormones and genes, midst depression and a desire for relief, seeking satisfaction and fulfillment, sometimes silently, sometimes with tears and/or screams, I sought to find myself, to know and then to live my real identity.

Like you, my real identity isn’t found on a Kinsey-like scale of one to six. Like you I don’t see myself as a category, as genetically controlled, as driven by childhood trauma or a way-ward seducing anyone, be it uncle, priest, or ex-girl-friend. The day I told my mother I was gay (at her insistent questioning), she denied it, then blamed it on seminary, then blamed it on past girl-friends who had jilted me, then blamed it on herself, and finally admitted that she had known it all along, but please don’t tell your grandmother.

Vast changes across the planet are merely reflected in the creation of new cultures, new paradigms. Yes, there probably has never been a society as individualistic as ours. There’s no doubt that same-sex sexual activity is older than the human race but there can be lots of discussion as to whether modern-day homosexuality is merely a social construct invented by nineteenth century scientists and social writers.

Simply-stated, sex isn’t just for procreation anymore, though I doubt seriously that it ever was limited to that one purpose. For some of us, sex isn’t just for love either, though I hope that love is never left out of the sexual equation. Why, sex isn’t only for falling asleep either, though many of us will probably always jerk off in order to more quickly do just that. Even though I strongly espouse sex for pleasure, sex for communication, and sex for comfort, it’s certainly more than any or all of them as well.

So, am I gay, bi, straight? Are you any of the above?

I suspect that past the taboos, past the constructs, past the analyses, categories, and easy answers, past the moralists, the biologists, the psychiatrists, and the anthropologists, sexual activity is multi-purposeful, remarkably fluid, and highly adaptable. All that only says that sex (among humans anyway) is human in nature, far more complex, far more elusive, farther beyond our comprehension than the regular path of the planets or the functioning of the stock market.

And that’s OK.

Sexual activity, after all, is a means of human expression. It speaks of love, of life, of continuance of the race, of pleasure, of ecstasy, of the spiritual and transcendent, of lust and animal passion, of reason. It speaks of self and selves. It is at the same time intimate and personal, receptive, inner and inward, even as it is sharing, outward, and giving.

The so-called problem with sexual orientation is mostly one of projection. For some reason, too many of us think that they way we live is the way everyone ought to live. Differences threaten us. Conformity brings comfort. Not willing to face our own phobias concerning self, not wanting to own up to what we perceive as our inadequacies, plagued by self-doubt and fear of failure, we find a false security by labeling, ridiculing, persecuting, even outlawing that which we needlessly fear. Now here’s where I get myself into trouble: My experience is that the most strident homophobes are those with the greater (and more suppressed) fear of their own sexuality. Likewise, the most angry gay activists are projecting anger that they deeply feel (perhaps unconsciously) towards themselves.

So where should we go? We should accept ourselves as vibrant, complex, multi-faceted, multi-talented individuals. Our uniqueness ought to be honored and loved, nurtured and exalted, even as we do the same for everyone else. Be yourself while allowing every man, woman and child the same right and benefit.

After all, sexual preference changes, grows, diminishes, and transforms. Who, what, and how we are is important because being who we are is the only authentic way to be. Who what and how you are to me is important because it’s only when you are authentic that our relationship can be as real as we perceive it. As long as you respect me, what, and how you are to me is irrelevant to who, what, and how I am. For I am who I am and you are you.

Let us, then, go our respective and respectful ways. Together we will find the meaning of being human and joy that meaning is meant to hold.


Copyright 1997 by Jack Rinella, all rights reserved. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact mrjackr@leathermail.com or visit my website at "Jack Rinella's Weekly LeatherViews".





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