Being LGBTQ+ feels somewhat like trying to navigate around binary black holes. LGBTQ+ identities are all about sex. Or non-heterosexual sexualities just don’t exist. These are the only two stories on offer. There is no space in between.
Our elevation of sex in society means that sexuality has become the centre of our identity – and we get obnoxiously flimsy narratives applied to queer lives, as a result. Throughout history, women in same gender relationships were completely erased. There are few records of same gender sexual relationships between women. Men controlled history and the story they told was that they were just super close gal pals and nothing more. Cisgender heterosexual men couldn’t possibly fathom that women would want to have sex with each other, because sex was seen as either an ultimate goal for men or the ultimate declaration of love for women. Guys just couldn’t stand the idea that a woman would long for a woman, and not want a man.
Erasure of this kind still exists today, as social media keeps showing us with viral posts of straight people assuming women are besties instead of partners. Yet, within the community itself, everything evolves around proudly being sexual. It’s an understandable reaction for a community that has constantly been told their desires are wrong, but it still presents a dangerous (and tedious) narrative that also isolates asexual people.
The sexualisation of queer spaces
LGBTQ+ spaces are often all about sex and alcohol. There are some radical lesbian feminists who will talk of being a “gold star” and treat bisexual women with contempt. It’s cissexist, biphobic and inherently misogynistic. Our queerness is never taken as just accepted. Queerness is defined by who we have sex with, which therefore means bisexual people have to pass a threshold of same gender partners and asexual celibate people never actually count. How much we have sex as well, now apparently is what makes us truly queer with the Huffington Post publishing one piece earlier this year arguing that queer sex was the best form of resistance. Personally, I’d rather work to stop people voting for fascists but that’s just me.
The conversations around polyamory always seem to revolve around sex too. There’s never any conversation around asexual people in poly relationships. The questions are usually about open relationships (which are conflated with polyamorous relationships), group sex and navigating sexual jealousy. Talking about conflicting schedules, who gets a Wednesday night to watch The 100 together without revealing spoilers to any partner(s), and awkward conversations with parents about the relationship makeup just isn’t interesting enough for people to hear about.
Policing the trans experience
The obsession with sex corrodes conversations around gender too. Trans people are routinely policed for their sexuality. There are constant interrogations regarding whether partners were aware that they were transgender before sleeping with them. The idea of trans people having sex is meant with dogged with erasure and hatred. When trans people reveal their gender, they’re treated as though they’re never supposed to have sex again.
Sex has become everything about us. We’re either defined by it completely or it’s brushed aside as nothing. LGBTQ+ people aren’t allowed to simply just be. Fluidity of existence or experience isn’t allowed. The narratives we’ve got were largely handed down by a cishet society that didn’t want to think about people of the same gender going to bed with each other and we’ve fought back against that fiercely, but we need our own stories to reflect more on whether or not we’re having sex. Identities go far beyond that. There are romantic identities (for one thing) and these never get spoken about. We reflect on bisexuality, but not biromantics. We talk about those who experience sexual and romantic attraction to those of the same gender, but what about people who are heterosexual but also homoromantic?
There’s more to us than who we do or don’t sleep with. We’ve been trying to argue that for years to get better rights from society, so it’s about time our own community started to act by its own words. It’s 2017, people fuck or they don’t. It’s really not that the be all and end all either way.
Stephanie Farnsworth is a freelance writer and journalist. Her writing focuses upon identity and intersectional feminism.