This month’s theme seems to be “blog about David’s sexuality”; one of my coworkers recently reminded me that National Coming Out Day is today, so let’s just make that theme still more explicit. Because it’s kind of amazing (embarrassing, really) that I’ve written more than 1100 posts on this blog, and this is the first one containing the word “bisexual”, given that that’s how I self-identified when I was in college.
Do I self-identify that way now? Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s easy to say no, to chalk up my identification at the time up to a mixture of political tendencies and raging hormones. Clearly in general I’m more attracted to women then men, and the fact that I’ve never had sex with a man is a pretty strong argument that “straight” is the right label for me these days.
On the other hand, it’s not like there’s a huge sample size to choose from in that latter category, either: I’ve only had two sexual partners since I admitted to myself that men were catching my eye (at least I think that’s the case: I’m not exactly sure about dates for the latter), and in particular I haven’t had sex with anybody other than Liesl since we started dating more than twenty years ago. (And my working assumption is that the latter condition will continue until I die; I’m rather happy with that thought, as it turns out.) So all I can say for sure right now is that I am (very!) sexually attracted to Liesl; and while, if forced, I could speculate about what it is about her that turns me on so much, she’s a somewhat difficult case for me to generalize. And, for that matter, I’m not sure speculating about what aspects of other people might turn me on in the same way Liesl does would be the wisest course of action…
Certainly it’s the case that what’s I find most sexually attractive in Liesl are mental characteristics rather than physical ones (though I certainly don’t want to discount the latter!), and characteristics that aren’t gender-linked: her intelligence, her wit, her kindness, her aesthetic sensibilities. (On that last note: some members of the college LGBT group that I hung out with were surprised to hear that I was dating a woman when Liesl and I started going out; if I’m remembering correctly, that surprise cleared after meeting her and learning of the depth of her knowledge of show tunes.)
I guess ultimately, sexuality is for me a rather personal matter. Not personal in the sense of “none of your business” (at least not this month on this blog, apparently!), but personal in the sense of “I’m attracted to whom I’m attracted to, and I’m not sure I can generalize within my own experience, let alone to others’ experiences”. Samuel R. Delany is one of my favorite authors (and it’s high time for me to do another Delany read-through), and one of the many aspects of his writing that I appreciate is the openness with which he discusses fetishization: many of his characters are turned-on by well-chewed fingernails, and he is not the slightest bit embarrassed or apologetic about this, but it’s also not something that he presents as a universal type. People are attracted by what they’re attracted by, and that’s (almost always) okay. And then there’s The Mad Man, going quite explicitly into a specific sexual preference/activity that I’m fairly sure I would have no interest in outside of a book; reading that portrayal of desire turned me on, though, and again: I like the frankness of that acknowledgement, both intellectually and more, uh, directly. (And I kind of wish I would go bald on the top of my head, so I could look more like Delany, because that would be hot. But I digress…)
I’m not entirely sure why I feel like talking about sexuality so much this month. Part of it may be lingering effects from playing Catherine; also, as I mentioned above, one of my coworkers gave me a nudge about the specific title of this post. (And, in general, the company house style of appreciating verbal facility gets my mind working in interesting ways.) But also: this stuff is important. Back when I was in college, it was at least the case that LGBT groups were fairly common, and we’ve made noticeable progress since then; having said that, if gay couples still can’t get married in most of the country, if gay soldiers are getting booed at presidential debates, there’s a long way to go.
And if I can make even a small difference by talking about sexuality, then that is what I shall do. (Talking: I do it a lot!) I learned recently that my coming out during college had a strong, surprising positive effect on a friend of mine; that alone makes bringing up this topic worth it.
Also: I have a twelve-year-old child. Teenage years are hard enough; I would like Liesl and myself to be there for her as an open ear on relationship issues when that would be useful. (And to keep our nose out of her business when that would be useful, too!) To that end, it almost feels irresponsible to me not to openly acknowledge the fact that my sexuality is a little more complicated than it seems on the surface: I have no idea how hers will unfold, but everybody’s is more complicated than it seems on the surface, and that’s a source of celebration rather than shame. And gay rights aren’t some sort of abstraction, or even just something that matters to our friends; it matters to me, even if I didn’t need laws to be passed to be able to get married. I don’t think Miranda reads this blog (she’s generally more interested in my Minecraft blog), but if she does: hi, Miranda, glad to see you! If not, it’s something that will come up in discussions in person soon enough, I imagine.
Happy national coming out day, everybody! My name is David Carlton; I’m bi? straight? besotted with my wife? Whichever of those is the best answer, I celebrate it; and whatever is the best answer for each of you, I celebrate that as well.
This post has not been revised since publication.