Sexual fluidity: Why it's disconcerting to those from the era of rigid identity

Sexual fluidity: Why it's disconcerting to those from the era of rigid identity (changing styles)

EXCERPT: Recently, a middle-aged colleague of mine told me about an aspect of her identity I didn’t see coming. Despite a long and sexually satisfying marriage to a man, and a near complete absence of female lovers in her life, she told me, a gay man, with great enthusiasm, that her discomfort with heteronormative stereotypes had inspired her to now identify as “queer.” Because I like her, and very much despise confrontation, I didn’t press her on this. Instead, I smiled tightly and chirped, “Welcome to the club!”

Precisely two weeks later, a 22-year-old acquaintance confided in me that despite never having enjoyed so much as a kiss from another woman, and after avidly dating boys since puberty, she was experiencing some unacted-upon “thoughts” about her female friends. She followed this several months later by reporting that she had fallen in love with a man. Eight months later, they married. Yet she still wanted to affix the Q word to herself, in her case to signify “questioning.”

I seriously doubt any person, under a certain age, who’s fluent in the current evolution of LGBTQ identity concepts and terminology would find any part of this unusual. Nor would they have the faintest problem with it. And, intellectually, neither do I. But, down below, where emotions wrestle with the inescapable ghosts of our past, I have a serious problem with it. When hearing each of the disclosures above, I found myself repressing feelings of bafflement, estrangement, belittlement, irrelevance, and—because of all that repressing—rage.

I ran all this by gay peers of mine, meaning those who range in age from their late 40s to their early 60s, who had all come out in the ’70s and ’80s. Nearly every one of them mirrored my feelings precisely, before sharing similar stories of colleagues and acquaintances in their own lives.

It seems that many of us from that era are struggling to reconcile our excitement over the openness of the age of sexual and gender fluidity with the past we experienced, when sexual rigidity proved an indispensable tool—both for us and for the movement. Back then, it wasn’t a matter of “questioning,” but of asserting, not of exploring, but of declaring. And that history very much matters.

[...] Wonderful as this is in many ways, today’s openness isn’t without consequences. If nearly any progressively minded person can find some way to identify as queer, what, exactly, does the term even mean? When I hear about fluidity in that context, it sounds like something made to wash away gay history—my history—drowning it in inclusiveness to broaden its clout. Perhaps that’s an inevitable element of advancement. After all, every movement winds up making itself irrelevant if it’s successful enough. (MORE - details)

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