Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Sexuality isn't Straightforward

That the House of Commons has voted to allow more people to marry the one they love is a cause for celebration. But while progressive voices may have triumphed in the fight for 'gay' marriage, those voices, just as much the opposing ones, are further entrenching the idea that people can be divided into Straight and Gay, with a sliver of Bi in between. This idea is false and cruel.

I know it's false because of Alfred Kinsey's 1948 study Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male, though sadly that study is a classic example of how people change evidence to fit their preconceptions, rather than the reverse. The specific victim of this statistical abuse is Kinsey's famous assertion that 10% of men are gay. Famous but wrong. Kinsey never claimed that because, having looked at the facts, he saw that human sexuality is as varied, complex and changeable as humans themselves and does not slot neatly into three discrete categories. What Kinsey discovered was that 10% of men are predominately homosexual for three or more years of their life; his 10% includes those who have homosexual relationships in their teens then go on to have heterosexual relationships as adults. (See here for this fact and a discussion of sampling bias in Kinsey's work)

I know it's cruel too. In case bent love isn't what went down when you were young, imagine this: you're a teenage boy in love with another boy and you have three choices. You can deny your feelings because you're not, or feel you're not supposed to be, gay. You can have the relationship in secret, accepting the fear of discovery as the price of its pleasures. Or you can come out to your friends and family and face a lifetime of irritating questions about why you went back in. Those are three shit choices.

Astute readers among you will have caught the scent of personal experience in this post. Many are doubtless tutting that this poor young man was “confused about his sexuality”. Nothing could be further from the truth; it's their understanding of sexuality that's confused about me.

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