Sexuality: Fixed or Fluid?
A recent article in the New York Times Magazine discussed women's sexual orientation and whether it's fluid—that is, subject to change in the course of each woman's life. I know mine has changed. For a decade, all my lovers were female and I identified myself as a lesbian. And then... I changed. Now I have two male partners, and at the moment, I'm not feeling very drawn to women sexually.
Many women's sexual identities are complex. The trouble is, we lack language for this. The words "bisexual" and "pansexual" are annoyingly coy and vague, and I hadn't found another one-word descriptor of my sexuality that appealed to me. Could fluid be the new label of choice for women who travel up and down the Kinsey scale during their lives? I asked some other women what they thought.
Miss K: "When I came out, I identified as a dyke because of the political and social statement as much as the sexual orientation. Fifteen years later, I now identify as queer. I was married to a female-to-male transsexual, and when we walked down the street, people saw a straight couple. It meant I was treated differently by the straights and by my fellow dykes who didn't enjoy the same privilege. Now, I'm in love with a butch genderqueer—born female, not taking hormones. He identifies with male pronouns, and he has a very masculine energy. But I don't relate to him as a bio-male, and I'm not looking to move back over to bio-men. But in this way, yeah, my sexuality is fluid, because I can bend my brain, I guess, as my partners can bend their genders."
Red: "I identify as kinky first and heteroflexible second. Among my three key relationships, I happen to have a girlfriend who is very clearly bisexual. I am not. I show up to women's parties and enjoy the eye candy, but the only woman I really want to be with is my girlfriend. I think my sexuality is fixed, but it's fixed on the need for power exchange, not plumbing. My gender preference is pretty fluid. It's vanilla lesbian sex that doesn't do anything for me."
Molly: "I used to wonder, am I missing out on something awesome? I've had crushes on women who are beautiful and smart, and asked myself, could I actually be with her? But I think I am hardwired for a physical attraction to men. I think women are beautiful and sexy, and I admire women for different reasons, but have sex with them? No. I do believe other people's sexuality can be fluid, though."
A new term wouldn't magically erase tensions about sexual orientation, however. Sex writer Midori—who once had a long-term male partner and is now happily married to a woman—summed it up: "We're still trapped in a binary, or at best tertiary, view of orientation. Humans aren't particularly good with the grayscale view of life."