The word “activist” is a useful one. I tell people that I’m a “sexuality activist” to let them know that I view sexuality as vital. “Anti-gay activists” use this, their own term, to show people how important they think getting rid of gay sex is. But of course, there is another difference at work here. When listening to the anti-gay activist, it often becomes clear that being gay is all about sex for them. For the sexuality activist, being gay can be about sex, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
Because another very useful term is “sexuality.”
You don’t have to be having sex to have a sexuality (or a way of thinking, feeling and identifying sexually). You can be gay and never have gay sex. You can be gay and never have sex at all. You can be gay and hate sex. You can be gay and be in a heterosexual relationship.
When a certain person in my life told me that being gay was “unnatural,” I asked her to explain. She immediately started talking about sex, and how gay sex was immoral. “Animals don’t have gay sex,” she said (which, of course, is a total lie. If you haven’t done so before, just google “gay animals” to see how wrong her notion is!).
One of my responses was to ask her, “Why do you automatically think that being gay is about sex?” And I added, being somewhat passive-agressive, I’m afraid, “It’s not like everything is about sex, you know.”
I knew that would piss her off. And I was right.
The difference between sex and sexuality or sexual identity is striking. Naturally, the way you feel isn’t always the way you act or choose to act. In the UK, if you’re a gay bishop, you have to be celibate. You’re still gay. Now I’m against people having to be celibate. But I’m also against people having to have sex.
It’s time that we stopped assuming that saying, “I’m gay” is the equivalent of saying, “I’m having gay sex.” Because unless we do, we limit people. After all, sex is only going to be wonderful if we actually choose it. And whether, or how, or when we choose it is nobody’s business but our own.
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