1. A sport. No, O Metaphorical Gym Coaches of the World, I don’t have to pick some pre-existing Sexual Orientation Team. This is not intramural sports, and there are no team T-shirts. I scoff at this large-scale assumption that there are two or three Sexual Orientation Teams out there, or maybe like five if you went to a liberal-arts college. There are six billion people on this earth. C’mon.
2. A political party. Here’s the thing: relationships and sexuality don’t have an election day. With politics, if I don’t vote, my vote doesn’t count, right? So I might as well just pick the lesser of two (or seventeen) evils. If I’m not “straight” or “gay” or a “lesbian,” then I should just be “bi” right? But what if “bi” seems limiting to me and “pan” too all-encompassing and “fluid” just makes me think of eyeball dissection in 7th grade science class… then what? OH WAIT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE THIS ISN’T AN ELECTION. I don’t have to sacrifice my combination Democrat/Independent/Green Party tendencies just so that Bush doesn’t win. If there isn’t a sexuality label I like, I can invent my own and the world will not be thrown into dystopia! I can vote for Nader!
3. A religion. Sexual orientation doesn’t have a set timeline of steps and rituals. There’s no required First Communion when you’re five, or Bat Mitzvah when you’re 13, or Confirmation when you’re 15. With sexuality, we make those rites up as we go along. We can take a little bit from one group and a little bit from another to create our own paths and identities. So what if I sometimes like guys and girls, and girls who look like guys, and guys who used to be girls, and people with freckles? Am I a StraighTransLesBiFrecklean? Probably. But guess what: sexuality isn’t religion, and I don’t have to subscribe to all the ideals of one sect. I don’t have to be a Lutheran or a Buddhist or a Jew for Jesus. I can be a Jewddhist. A MusBuddJewtheran for Jesus.
4. A math problem. I know, HOW tempting is it to like look through all my diaries from 1991-present and meticulously tally up all the men and women I’ve ever kissed, slept with, cuddled, fell in love with? And then, because you’re obviously some kind of math whiz, you could put all that information into this fancy equation, multiply by the number of text messages times orgasms times broken hearts, divide by the lowest common denominator or the square root of one or some shit, and then you’d have the solution? And it would be a number, and it would be even or odd, and so very tidy, and it would mean something to you about me. Guess what: this is never going to happen, because my sexuality is not a nifty quiz in Seventeen Magazine where “mostly As” means I’m a Glam Gal and “Mostly Cs” means I’m Boho Chic.
5. Your sexual orientation. Or your sister’s. Or your old roommate’s. Or, God forbid, some kid you knew in college who was a crazy slut or a Studio Art Major. Because I’m nothing like that kid, and the more you try to find common threads between our histories and habits and use those to make assumptions and create categories, the more you will fail. And nobody likes failure.
6. Cool. Nor is it uncool, or hilarious, or a really fun game.
7. An outcome of my geographical location. Despite popular belief, New Yorkers are not all born queer. There isn’t something hiding in the bagels and lox and the air on the F train that turns us all into label-stomping boundary-pushing feministas. I know plenty of New Yorkers, whether plaid-clad or collar-popped or what have you, who are completely straight or completely gay and guess what? They’re awesome. What can I say, not all of Bloomberg’s Kingdom eats labels for breakfast like I do.
8. A decision I made one day when I was bored. There wasn’t some Mrs. Dalloway moment where I said, “I think I’ll buy the flowers myself!” aka “I think I’ll eschew all sexuality categories and forge my own path ahead, thus infuriating my brethren of various sexual orientations for always and eternity!” This is not at all what happened. What happened was this: I fell in love with a person. Then I fell out of love with them. I hooked up with some people I didn’t love, and some I did. I fell in love again. I fell in love with two people at the same time. I dumped some people and some of them dumped me. In the end (not that there’s ever an end) I chose a person not because of their sex or their hairdo but because of their soul — their bright, honest, totally transparent soul.
9. A citizenship. Go ahead, ask me. I know you want to see my membership card. You’re the bouncer at the Bar of Life who wants to make sure I have some sort of proof, some state-issued identification that assures you that I belong here, or if not here then back home in Georgia or Oregon or New Mexico from whence I came. If I don’t have unrefutable proof of my sexual orientation — ANY sexual orientation — then I must be some sort of a fraud, an illegal alien, and I should at least make the effort to go to the East Village and get a better fake ID. But hear this, O Bouncer: you do not get to question me. I will offer you zero proof. And I will give zero fucks about it.
10. A cute storage box you bought from the Container Store. Look at you, you’ve been paying SUCH good attention this whole time and you think you’ve finally got it figured out. “Ta-da!” you exclaim, “It’s totally you. It’s 100% unique. The shape is original, it has a million tiny pockets inside it where you can put all of your amazingly varied feelings and proclivities, and it’s big enough to hold all your emotional depths, and, it has these accordion folders that expand and contract, and…” Sorry buddy, nice try, but that box is not mine. My sexual orientation is here inside my coat pocket, as big as a chickpea but weighing 900 pounds, breathing fast like a butterfly, totally silent but crazy loud. It never stops moving, and it makes a whistle only animals can hear. It starts out as a solid but sublimates when you least expect it, turns into rainbow vapor just like that, no big deal, and then it rains down from the sky but the raindrops move so fast that — wait, look there! Oh, sorry, too slow. You missed it.