The act of “sexual profiling” has become so ingrained in our culture that I think, in many ways, we’re entirely blind to it. We take snippets of people’s behavior or appearance, compile them into our neatly categorized “gay” or “straight” files and then proceed to assume that we therefore know, with certainty, who they are at that level. It’s an issue of gender and sex, yes, but it’s a bigger issue of our mindset regarding those topics, and all the implications such a mindset will yield. I am constantly floored by the number of people who do not understand the difference between gender identity, gender performance and sexual orientation, or the fact that they rarely align like we assume they do, or that they most certainly don’t have to.
It’s almost insulting to assume that because someone who identifies as a man but whose gender performance is more on the feminine side is sexually or otherwise attracted to men. These assumptions are like ghost-written social expectations that emphasize the idea that relationships are meant to have one dominant masculine force and one dominant feminine force. When it comes to these balances in human relationships, there are patterns, yes, but never rules: and certainly not ones that we can define for other people.
People are not as one dimensional as we’d like them to be. We love to categorize them because it helps us make sense of them, and mask the unknown parts that can be daunting. There’s too much “unknown” if we don’t put labels to people. Unfortunately, our mental process of doing so is corrupted. I know many LGBT members whose gender performance aligns with their identity but not their sexuality and are constantly told: “I never would have guessed!” as though they should be comforted by the fact that they don’t appear to be gay, as if that’s a terrible thing.
While sex is determined at birth, gender is not: it’s just another way to be socialized categorically. Now, while many people can very strongly relate to one gender or another, we must also realize that it is more than okay to not feel that way. There aren’t just two sexes, and there aren’t just two genders, and although that may seem confusing and untrue to some people, it’s another reality that supports the fact that people have a vast depth within them and there is more to each person than what we can see or observe. Taking all of this into consideration, I think it becomes more evident than not that we have become too accustomed to both assuming stereotypes of ourselves and for others. I believe it’s this idea that all the elements of someone’s gender and sexual orientation must align, combined with society’s disposition to regard “gay” as the lesser, that largely contributes to the inner turmoil that is a staple for those coming out as being in the LGBT community.
Making assumptions when it comes to gender and sexuality is a slippery slope, and I think it’s something we have to stop doing entirely. On a larger scale, we must start realizing that people are never limited to the terms we use to identify them. People can fall in and out of love with men, with women, with both or with neither, and none of it is ever, or ever has to be, contingent upon what they look like or behave as. I believe that the greatest happiness comes from unapologetically being who you are and loving who you love, and I think it’s time we stop judging people for that and start creating a culture that embraces love in every form it comes in, and people for whoever they are, even if it means they color outside of our lines.