Is It Time We All Stopped Coming Out?

Courtesy of Monica Heisey for Vice.

A girlfriend recently spent a substantial portion of a night out sticking her tongue down the throat of a man who we’d recently me and presumed was gay. Just a couple smooches between platonic gay/straight budz, no big deal, right? Until roughly halfway through the night, we realized we hadn’t actually ever asked him about his sexual preference and he’d never mentioned a boyfriend or anything and was actually pretty set on smooching and squeezing my undeniably female (deniably single) friend. When we finally asked the guy—who we’d thought was gay based on, like, a haircut and a low vest top (come at me, bigot police)—he responded: “Gay? I’m 20, I dunno.” Eventually he settled on “heteroflexible, I guess,” and sauntered off to flirt with the bartender.

I’ve heard this word before and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the cheeky portmanteau is a word group I try to avoid, on the other, I totally get what he means. Someone else I know uses “homoflexible,” in a bid, I guess, to denote that she’s a bit more gay than straight. Dan Savage, the younger, sexier, male Dr. Ruth has referred to his relationship as “monogamish”, meaning that while him and his long-term partner generally don’t sleep with other people, sometimes they do. He also said in his column that “sexual fluidity is a super power,” although he claims only women are sexually fluid, which, in my opinion, is complete bullshit.

This new vocabulary of sex, full of qualifiers that suggest someone is kind of something and sort of something else, is an extension of the ever-expanding umbrella of different sex and gender identities young and old people getting their boink on are using to describe themselves. There seem to be two schools of thought: there are the people who say things like “I’m a poly, pansexual, genderqueer, trans-domme,” in a desperate attempt to sexually define themselves and those who hate definition with the same ferocity Australians Hate Seals.

Now, maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to think of a name for my own bedroom steez, but the thought of choosing enough adjectives to state a sort of personal sexuality doesn’t appeal to me. And yet, if the alternative to this hyper-description is resorting to non-words like “straightish” and “gay-on-occaish,” surely what’s really being illustrated is that these words are no longer linguistically useful, that they’ve become detached from their sociological signifiers.

Ignoring how funny the word “fluid” is in this context (I mean, really guys—fluids?), I think the concept of sexual fluidity and this seemingly contrasting smorgasbord of identifying terms actually invite the same question: are we finally moving towards not having to come out at all? Can we sit our parents down around the time we start to get pubes and just be like, “Parents, I am interested in sex now. It’s not really your business what kind. Yeah, yeah—safety first. I have to go now, I’m going on a date with someone named Jesse; who knows if it’s a boy or a girl.”

Coming out seems like a real pain in the ass (I’m allowed one bad pun, no?) because it’s such a definitive thing to do. What if you tell the world you like ladies and then meet a man you want to CLIMB? What if you thought you were into a lifetime of monogamy, but really all you want is a cozy, three-person tribe of lovers? What if you’re a regular, old, straight guy with a wife and you’re really happy about it and have no interest in swinging or orgies or anything too cray – you just want to watch movies and grow old together? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you didn’t have to explain yourself about any of it? Technically you don’t, but there are still all these words encouraging you to do so. What if we just quit it with them all and came out as horny?

Realistically, we’re probably not there. Given that being a gay is still punishable by death in some countries (shout out to my boys in Saudi Arabia!) and gays can’t even get married in many states in the US, it’s still pretty important for people to be openly here, queer, get used to it, etc. But can you imagine how much better it would be if we just all agreed that everyone does their own thing and nobody demands that they invent a slew of compound words or scales or spectrums or—for God’s sake—flags, to try and explain themselves?

  1. The irony of “coming out gay”–for men especially–completely ignores the work of Kinsey and his successors who found that men are inherently flexible sexually. Defining oneself as 100% gay or 100% STR8 is of course up to the owner of the penis, but I enjoy being with men and women. I get asked: “Yeah, but which do you like MORE?” As if I’m not being truthful about my sexuality. I’m engaged to a woman who understands I also need to be with men and hell she even likes to watch me in action sometimes. Individuals should have the freedom to express themselves sexually based solely on whom they find attractive and people should shut their wagging maws. If I were to “come out” as LGBT politics demands then my my fiance would be called a beard and no doubt all kinds of salacious slandering would happen. Similarly, if I call myself straight, I’m not in the closet when I take a shower with my FB. The labeling we do is (1) driving us apart, (2) keeping bigotry and prejudice alive and well, and (3) not promoting healthy psychology. We are sexual. Let’s leave it at that.

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