When I first started hearing from Lena that she thought she might be gay, I was simply confused. She had been forming mad crushes on boys since she was in preschool!—a sure sign, I was confident, that at least her sexual orientation wouldn’t pose problems for her in life. Besides, I had always known Lena to cleave to the continuum between divergent-thinking and oppositional-defiant (the latter not clinically diagnosed–just a matter of how she struck her parents). A perpetual outlier in terms of how she handled art, music, dance, exercise, schoolwork, fashion, friendship, she was nothing if not consistent. So, I figured that this latest wrinkle came from Lena’s deep impulse to situate herself on the outskirts of every established norm, whatever the cost.
In spite of our skepticism about her newest insights, Lena’s dad and I determined not to act as if we knew her better than she knew herself (however we may have secretly thought so). So, every Friday evening starting in eighth grade–when she had her first full-blown crush on a girl–we have driven her to a neighboring town for an LGBT youth group meeting.
Many of the kids at the Yardley-Avonsdale Youth Alliance aren’t exactly sure, just yet, what to call themselves sexually, and they don’t seem to mind if the designations they come up with change from one week to the next. (They are good models for living in the present.) One thing that unites them is that they either feel sexually marginal themselves, or have a sympathy or curiosity for kids who are; a second is their determination to remain impervious to the allure of social norms. At YAYA they enlist the support of other outsiders in resisting the current of sexual normalcy, sometimes in the face of breathtaking parental resistance. (I have made calls to Child Protective Services in several cases where Lena told me kids were contemplating suicide.)
When the YAYA-ans congregate, they also celebrate that each of them is unique, and the exhilarating range of choices available at the margins if spirit should so beckon.The terms they prefer in their discussions allow them to reach beyond the normative codes of the “sex-binary,” with their implications that outside subjectivities can be reasonably denied. Here is a partial list of those terms that Lena put together for me.
- gynosexual: likes women
- androsexual: likes men
- pansexual: likes people
- bisexual: likes two different genders
- skoliosexual: likes gender non-binary people
- cisgender: sense of gender agrees with birth sex
- asexual: doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards anybody
- demisexual: has to get to know somebody before they fancy them sexually
- homosexual: (gay, lesbian) likes the same gender
- homo/ heteroflexible: Likes the same or opposite gender but might once in a while fancy somebody out of that set
- bicurious: straight but up for messing around a little with people of the same sex
- gender flux: gender varies over time
- gyno/ andro/ pan/ bi/ skolio/ a/ demi/ homo/ heteroromantic: same as all that, but with romantic attraction
- heterosexual: likes the opposite gender