I hate being told that I chose to be gay. Absolutely hate it. It doesn’t help that the majority of people who claim this are clutching to a Bible and never question their logic. Infuriating. As far back as I can recall, I’ve never made a conscious decision to find attraction to men. Of course I remember labeling my feelings as gay, but these feelings go further back than accepting that sexual identity.

This has also been a consistent peeve with a lot of gender studies classes I’ve taken. Of course I believe that gender roles, sexual identities, and meanings ascribed to the sexed body are socially constructed, but I never understood how we can talk about strict constructivism and not once question it. For example, strict constructivism would say my sexuality is totally molded by society and gender norms. But I’ve always known these feelings and I certainly wasn’t raised in an environment that endorsed it.

When Lady Gaga’s cd Born This Way came out, I remember a good chunk of my gender studies friends having a tizzy because it’s an essentialist claim and no one is born a said way but society creates it. I agree to an extent that the social meanings, labels, and even dichotomous understandings of gender are all socially constructed, and in that context my fury echos theirs. But I always think back to when I was growing up, knowing nothing about sexuality and attraction, and having the same feelings that I do today. I wasn’t born labeling myself gay or knowing the meanings and connotations behind queer attractions, but I knew there was something about the other boys that interested me.

This being the case, I dislike the essentialist/constructivism binary I’m presented with to explain gender and sexuality. It seems like we’ve left the problematic claims by essentialism in favor of constructivism without considering the potential limits it presents. How does constructivism explain these feelings? How do they validate the trans experience?

The relief I felt reading about Julia Serano’s intrinsic inclinations to explain human gender and sexual variation was great. It was the acknowledgement from a scholarly source that my feelings weren’t a result of ignorance or lack of understanding. Finally, there’s a way out of the the essential/construction binary that seems to suit me. Though the intrinsic inclinations can seem relatively simple and applicable to everything, at least it’s a start and I can sleep better tonight.

 

-Lucas Zigler

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