Thursday, 8 April 2010

I Can't Even Think Straight

I've been heterosexual for as long as I've been sexual, openly since I was about 14. I don't think too much about what went before. I do remember playing some pretty weird games with my Barbie Dolls. But that is another story.

By heterosexual what I basically mean is 'I like boys'. I like the way they move and talk. I like the way their bodies bulge out of their clothes in different ways from how girls' bodies do. In recent years I confess I have developed a shallow but refined respect for the athletic male form. I dated a climber for a few, giddy months. I suffer from vertigo. But I would march up hills and stand with him, peering nervously over the edge of the rock to examine the route, because it gave me a chance to see that beautiful torso in its natural habitat. The upper body of a fit male climber is a kind of perfection in my eyes. Once you find it it's difficult to go back to the more common, flabbier, less defined variety of the species.

So, despite my aesthetic appreciation of beautiful women, and my are there some beautiful women in the world (Monica Belucci anyone? Scarlett Johannson before she went all Hollywoodised? Sandrine Bonart, Jenny Lewis, that redhead I saw on the tube the other day) I am straight. Except I can't bring myself to identify as 'straight', not really. I'm not a prick. I wouldn't insult my lesbian and gay friends by claiming the political status of being 'bi' or 'queer'. I know I enjoy all the privileges of a straight, white middle class woman living in a heteronormative society. This is not a coming out letter. But I don't feel straight. I don't think straight. I don't do the things many of my straight peers do.

Perhaps this is becoming more of an important issue to me because of my age. I am 39 and I don't have kids. I don't have a partner or a mortgage, or an interest in talking about kitchen design. I feel alienated from some of my friends who do have those things, and who seem to gain some comfort from them, some kind of identity. I can't open a newspaper or magazine without reading about the habits and desires of 'people like them', people with townhouses in Dalston or Clifton or Chorlton. People with pushchairs that have a place where you can put your capuccino while you're on the move. People who see themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, in the media, in politics, in the farmers' market on a Saturday. I don't see myself any of those places. I am not even sure who I see when I look in the mirror.

Then there's sex. I am not very 'straight' when it comes to sex, apart from the gender of the people I tend to have sex with. My longest relationship was with someone who would have been gay, if it wasn't for the fact he had a girlfriend (me). We liked anal and doggy style, we both lusted after River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho, we both looking back on it were probably submissive, which wasn't exactly a recipe for fulfillment. Many years later I've explored that submissive side of my sexuality, and that hasn't felt very 'straight' either. I know everyone is supposed to be experimental these days, but in reality, in my reality, that does not seem to be the case. I have only had embarrassment and misunderstandings when I have tried to discuss some of my pecadillos, over a nice cold glass of sauvignon on my straight mates' patios.

They say 'the personal is political' and I'd say the opposite is also true: 'politics is personal'. My politics separate me from some of my closest friends and potential 'comrades': people who on the outside look just like me, whose resumes would read like mine: white, middle class, heterosexual, feminist, left-leaning. But it sometimes feels like there's a chasm between us that will never be crossed. I don't even try to have the discussions because I know where they would lead. But I know from their comments and throwaway remarks, that most of my straight feminist friends don't share my interest in supporting transwomen, or sexworkers, or people (including me) who wish to enjoy pornography without feeling dirty or ashamed, or people (including me) whose sexuality sometimes means they prefer a bit more 'slap' than tickle.

I love reading and talking about sexuality, and in this I find great solace and what? comradeship? sisterhood? a sense of belonging? I don't know. But if you like Foucault, Todd Haynes, and Del LaGrace Volcano, if you read Anais Nin and Melissa Gira, Bitchy Jones and Christopher Isherwood, there's a good chance that we will get on.

A very dear friend of mine, who does get where I am coming from, said one day 'you'd make a good lesbian'. I would that were true, but unfortunately I'd make a crap lesbian. I like cock too much. And the lovely cockerels that provide me with it. But maybe you could think of me as a gay man trapped in a straight chick's body, or a gay chick that fancies gay guys. Think of me how you like. I may be straight on the surface, but underneath I'm definitely some kind of dyke.


  1. This all resonates with me. The details are different for me, but in some ways I am struggling with the same self-labelling problems. I'm bisexual for sure, and have had several relationships with women, and have other sexual proclivities I am not quite ready to lay out in a blog comment, but because I am married (and 45 and white and have a mortgage) I look, well, straight. In all the senses of the word. Only if you were to look at my bookcase or in my closet might you discover that my interests are not at all ordinary. Not to mention priorities that don't match up neatly to those of my supposed peers.

    I addressed some of the issues of appearing middle-aged and ordinary in a poem a number of years ago ( ), but it doesn't speak to the issues of sexuality per se. I don't think we have enough words, honestly.

    My friend KC used to refer to herself as a "gay man in a woman's body."

  2. I followed your self-promotion from Feministe.

    Just want to say I really appreciate your post.

    Personally, I identify as a big, fat (both in physicality and enthusiasm) lesbian, pro-sex feminist.

    But, the world definitely needs more of the supposed normal ones to admit that they aren't so normal.

    Also, wondering whether you've encountered Pat Califia?

  3. Hello thanks for the comments.

    @Valerie oh thanks I will go see your poem!
    @Esther Thanks for finding me! I do know of Pat Califia but havent read her stuff. I will do!

    You are right Valerie there is too much to say on this subject. Makes for great discussions once you find the people who want to talk about it.

  4. although Valerie's comment 'we don't have enough words' is more profound than mine!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this - thank you for sharing it with us.
    I think Valerie is right - we don't have enough words to talk about this. Perhaps human sexuality, in all its complexity, is meant to be experienced rather than described.
    I am a lesbian, and have known that since before I even had an understanding or vocabulary for the concept. And yet I think I can identify with many of the things you wrote. For a variety of reasons rather too personal to go into here, apart from the gender of the people I'm attracted to, most of the time I don't feel I have much in common with "the lesbian community". Whatever that is.
    I think at some point though, I began to accept sexuality and gender identity as spectrums - wonderful, diverse, colourful spectrums - and when I started to think about it like that, I realised a) none of it really matters, and b)I'm ok & comfortable with wherever I am, as long as I'm happy. As with many things,the details, they tend to just get in the way.

  6. Thanks again for this post :)

  7. "Perhaps human sexuality, in all its complexity, is meant to be experienced rather than described."

    Pretty much tops whatever dribble I was going to come out with*. The words and concepts are all pretty new, and in some ways quite closely guarded, and it's easy to see how a person could feel alienated from them.

    This is a great post. I love when someone is willing to explore a complicated idea without pretending that they know The Truth.

    *... good god, that sentence is a pcyhoanalytic minefield.

  8. Luckily emordino you are in a place where psychoanalytic minefields are very welcome! ;)

    Thanks all for responses to my blog, here and on twitter. Y'all rock!


  9. At the weekend, someone told me their designation was SBNR = straight but not rigid.

    Queer can include kink and poly and all that. Let's face it, 100% heterosexuals are probably a minority anyway (my theory is that 80% of the population are really bi, but there's a socially constructed bias towards hetero, so that only if you're really lesbian or gay do you fully identify as such).

    Valerie - I had the same problem, that I looked straight. It's difficult.

  10. I enjoyed reading this - you and I are about the same age and I was in my early 20s before I 'came out' as lesbian, though I've never been comfortable with the word. I still find certain men attractive and over the years I've had a few as sexual partners.

    Even though I identify with the queer label, it has been nearly a decade since I had a partner of any kind and I find I really don't miss it. Being attracted to women, uninterested in sex, yet drawn to eroticism - how many different ways are there to be?

    I'm pleased to have found your journal - and that you read Foucault just adds to the charm of it. :-)

    Look forward to reading more.

  11. HI DJ thanks for the comments. I think there are probably an infinite number of ways of being, thankfully. Though most media we see and read don't suggest as much. I think I found you on twitter too so hope to keep in touch