Today on Blogcritics
Home » Embracing the Fact of Bisexuality

Embracing the Fact of Bisexuality

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
[…] no individual is limited to the modes of reaction of a single sex but always finds some room for those of the opposite one, just as hid body bears, alongside of the fully developed organs of one sex, atrophied and often useless rudiments of those of the other. For distinguishing between male and female in mental life we make use of what is obviously an inadequate empirical and conventional equation: we call everything that is strong and active male, and everything that is weak and passive female. This fact of psychological bisexuality, too, embarrasses all our enquires into the subject and makes them harder to describe.

It’s certainly interesting to read a passage like this from Freud’s 1940 Outline of Psycho-Analysis today. Despite the vast number of Freudian principles that have, often undetectably, permeated our cultural lexicon, Freud’s aforementioned “fact of psychological bisexuality” has not seemed to stick. How many years has it been since Freud’s death? Yet we still need theorists like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler to remind us that gender and sexuality are more fluid things than we can purport to understand through simple dichotomies.

What will it take for our culture to experience a true sexual enlightenment? Despite our society’s superficial openness about sexuality, the public still remains very much entrenched in Victorian principles of sexual morality. We may be able to identify metrosexuals as heterosexual, effeminate men, but this fleeting trend, skirting the issues of ambiguous sexuality and mainstream androgyny, seems to be the queerest element to have cropped up in mainstream culture within the last several years. Even television gay-themed television programs such as Queer Eye and Will & Grace have done little to bridge the considerable gaps between male and female, hetero and homo, straight and queer.

And yet we still come back to this same “fact of psychological bisexuality.” We all share the same brains, albeit with slightly different chemistry, yet human experience varies dramatically across lines of gender and sexuality. Although we share modes of interpretation with the opposite sex, many of us still find it culturally and socially impossible to empathize and sympathize with one another. Men continue to dominate through patriarchal modes of oppression, yet we share many of the same characteristics as females. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

We ought to face and embrace this fact of bisexuality. Certainly we are not all equally proportioned in our masculine and feminine dispositions; if this were so, we would all be a race of perfectly androgynous humans. This is simply not the case with organisms of higher complexity within the animal kingdom, and thus should not be expected to apply to us. Those differences we exhibit which are labeled “essential” often do not become important until we are placed within a social environment.

Certainly there are some essential differences between genders. We cannot ignore our biological chemistry or the facts of evolutionary development, but for the same reason we should celebrate our essential differences, we should celebrate our essential samenesses. These old simple dichotomies of male and female ought to be eroded. There is a certain essential truth that shall remain, I am sure, and these essential differences between the sexes are perfectly natural, but the human mind is a far more complex thing than we can understand. We are not made to be either one type of person or another, but rather we are masked in shades of complexities between the two.

This article also appears at Les Faits de la Fiction.

Powered by

About Bryan McKay

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Really nicely done, Bryan. I find it interesting that people (men particularly) seem to think they live in a male void; they are either unwilling or unable to see the feminine side of things.

    I find things that I like to do may be considered feminine by some people. Mostly, it is cooking, which I learned from women (my grandmother and my mother) and now share with women (my wife and daughter). This is a wonderful pleasure. Whether or not people consider it to be feminine (I suspect it’s considered more so by society and yet the highly paid professional chefs are male) I enjoy this pleasure either way.

    There needs to be a greater exploration of what is indeed masculine and feminine. If my daughter wants to play with my old Gi Joes, is that necessarily “masculine” or is it just child’s play? One the other hand, if a little boy plays with his sister’s tea set, we can ask the same question.

    I believe the answers are subjective and overall we need to search for what things regulate our identities.

    I think that your post certainly moves us forward in the right direction.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Bravo. How sad it is that a pathologically sick society and culture has such power in intimidating cowardly people so completely that they remain mired in their comfort zones and feel no choice but to bend to restrictive gender norms mandated by the masses. Even supposedly intelligent knuckle under to this crap: some men freaking out if their sons wear pink, some women losing it if their daughters refuse to wear dresses (a fight this 44-year-old had with her mother — who knows better — only last week). I mean, the thought that a conventionally well-groomed man is effeminate? Or that an assertive woman in a pantsuit is masculine? That’s garbage.

    Bottom line: Society needs to be able to categorize easily (for its own convenience) and, as such, mandates roles it expects everyone to obey — or else. It’s no wonder that this enforced lack of imagination encompasses sexuality. Many hets are uncomfortable with any homosexuality, which they often erroneously equate with a refusal to conform to prescribed gender norms. Many gays and lesbians don’t trust bisexuals, insisting that they pick a side and stick to it. Life is tough for the poor people who embrace the fluidity that is part of the sexual continuum – they are forced into a no humans’ land. But I pity mainstream society – bigoted, unimaginative, trapped in colorless mediocrity and rotten mendacity. People are people and each individual is different. That ought to be seen as a magnificent state of things! A man is no less a man because he wears a skirt or eyeliner or loves to knit or sew. A woman is no less a woman because she is assertive, eschews makeup, loves sports or wears a pantsuit. Masculine and feminine are fallacious concepts – people are people. And there are those who, to varying degrees, can relate to both genders emotionally and sexually. Society needs to grow up, wise up and deal with this fact, but I doubt it will. Fact remains, though, whatever some scientists say: Bisexuality is real and it isn’t going to go away – and neither are people who don’t and can’t conform to ridiculous rules.

  • RedTard

    Perhaps most people enjoy gender norms and fall willingly into their assigned roles.

    You start with the assumption that it is basically some evil conspiracy (for what I don’t know) and decide that it must be uncovered and changed. Perhaps our gender roles are the chaotic natural outcome of genetic differences between men and women.

    If your androgynous society were to come about perhaps you would be offending more by taking away gender roles than would be benefited by having them be ambiguous.

    Essentially what I am trying to say is leave people alone and let them do as they please. You’re conspiring to artificially change gender roles and in the process are becoming exactly that which you hate. (someone who would artificially enforce gender role)

  • RedTard

    Natalie, that has to be one of the most condescending posts I have ever read.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    And it isn’t condescending of you to address a total stranger so familiarly?

    Mr. RedTard, obviously you don’t get my meaning, but perceive my thoughts as you will. But do not be surprised that someone beaten about the head and heart by your precious gender roles will feel contempt for them and resentment against a mainsream that punishes those who don’t or can’t conform to those arbitrary and ridiculous gender norms. I am not saying everyone has to be anything or do anything: A woman who truly likes dresses should be free to wear them and a man who genuinely prefers traditionally macho things certainly has that right. Unlike society, I have no wish to punish people for expressing themselves honestly. I have no wish to punish anyone at all. Can you say that? (Rhetorical question there, Mr. RedTard.)

  • RedTard

    ND,

    Demanding acceptance and equality regardless of your gender, or any perceived notion of such, is a noble concept. You want people to accept your views yet you refuse to accept those of people who embrace traditional gender roles.

    A good example might be to show an open mind and then, just maybe, it will be reciprocated on the other side. Or perhaps we’ll all just go back to calling each other names.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    No. Whether they agree with my views has no meaning to me. Whether they punish those who disagree with them is another matter. I have no wish to punish anyone or to dictate their personal expression. Mainstream society can not say the same thing.

  • chantal stone

    when we look at the natural world around us, it is plain to see that Nature loves diversity, in fact it THRIVES on diversity. and human sexuality is part of nature.

    this is totally idealistic, but it would be so much easier if we could just get rid of terms such as “heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual” and realize the fluidity of human sexuality. problems only arise when we try to make everyone fit into a certain box, when we try to have a label for what we perceive to be normal.

    i think that if people were truly, truly honest with themselves, we would see that bisexuality is more “normal”…ie.: COMMON…than anything else.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    “[P]roblems only arise when we try to make everyone fit into a certain box, when we try to have a label for what we perceive to be normal.”

    Amen, Ms. Stone, amen! That is particularly true when people use the law to punish those perceived as being “the other.”

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    RedTard writes: Essentially what I am trying to say is leave people alone and let them do as they please.

    And this is precisely what I am arguing if you’d choose to read more carefully. Natalie Davis and Chantal Stone both elaborated quite well, but I’ll address this question once more in the hopes that you’ll understand.

    It is very easy to say “leave people alone and let them do as they please” when one is privledged to be a heterosexual male in our society. There is no rhyme or reason as to why such a group has become the most privledged class, but it is an inarguable fact that this is so.

    Leaving people alone to do as they please would be a perfect solution, but the other side isn’t willing to play that way. You may choose to express your gender and sexuality in multifarious ways, and who am I to say which is more correct or truthful? But when the majority – which I use loosely, as many members of the heterosexual majority probably fall more along the spectrum of fluidity than they might care to think – imposes their artificial restrictions upon the people, then who is being left alone? Let us not forget that a majority of Americans still do not support gay marriage.

    As for my “androgynous society,” I have not argued anything of the sort. What I have argued for is an erosion of the simple male/female, hetero/homo dichotomies and an allowance and acceptance of sexual fluidity within the mainstream. A completely androgynized society would certainly be boring and homogenized; I am arguing for a diverse and open environment, not a closed dichotomous one, or worse, one in which there is only one possible choice.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Well said, Mr. McKay.

  • stinkeydick

    I grew up on a farm in missouri. It was common fer male members of this family to stand on a stool an fuck our favorite cow after the milking. We fucked chickens, sheep, and some ducks. Im now 86 yrs old and still jeck-off at the thought of fucking them cows. Most folks I tell about this think it’s strange. To each his own the saying goes. My brother was a hansome kid. Wanted to butt fuck him. Tried once but got caught by me old man. He tried to fuck me until I shoved a pitchfork through is neck. Spent 35 yrs in prison for killing the shit. I think the shit was jealous of me fucking his favorite cow. Thats all I have to say.

    [Stinkey, I thought you might like to know that at BC we can see who comments by their IP address, so using different names in your commenting, whilst occasionally funny, is confusing no-one. I could list all your various names if you’d like or you could fo for a little Self Restraint… Thanks, Comments Editor]

  • Baronius

    Madness.

    I note that you don’t support your argument. You assume that there is a bisexual undercurrent in all people, but really the only facts you present are in defence of the difference between men and women. You label society “Victorian”, as if recognition of sex differences is historically recent. You make take bisexuality as a fact, but most people don’t.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Barionius: Would you deny that males and females often share similar psychological characteristics? The bisexuality I refer to here is not a matter of sexual object choice, although this is what the discussion of sexuality is so often limited to. What I am referring to is a sort of “psychological bisexuality” as referenced by Freud. Males and females share many essential characteristics and we ought not to try to limit behaviors of either sex to a specific set of arbitrary criteria.

    Although let us not forget that Freud did believe that each person had the capacity to be heterosexual, homosexual, or somewhere in between. Let us also not forget that, strictly relating to sexual object desires and experiences, Alfred Kinsey established that 46% of people were bisexuals. Again, that is only limted to object choice and sexual experience, and leaves out any sort of heterosexual androgyny (i.e. the metrosexual, et cetera).

    As far as labelling society as “Victorian,” you ought to read Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality. You should also be careful to note that the current definitions and labels of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” did not exist until the 1800s. Heterosexuality as a concept didn’t even exist until homosexuality was labelled. There wouldn’t be a hetero without a homo.

    As for your last sentence, I perfectly agree. Most people don’t take bisexuality as a fact, and this is precisely my problem. It is a fact, whether you take it as one or not. You can make the choice to be closed-minded and I shan’t hold it against you for too long, as Internet grudges hardly amount to anything, but perhaps you ought to be a bit more thoughtful and considerate and think about how some of this might apply to your own life or those close to you.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    As of this moment, I’m going cold turkey on dairy products and beef.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Ditto.

    Again, Mr. McKay, well said. I love how some people insist that what and who one is is not a fact. What arrogance.

    Surely you can guess what the response will be…

  • Baronius

    Natalie, I’ll admit that I’m fascinated by your comment. What do you anticipate the response to be? I’m not asking this as a rhetorical ploy. Please respond.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Better quit eating chicken, mutton, and duck too, Victor. Then again, if you think too much about what the fish do in the water, you’d soon die of thirst.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Yeah, Victor PLenty, you’re right. There’s not much left not to worry about.

    To get back to this post, I think the strongest element is for human beings to understand their close proximity to one another (race, gender, etc.) Women and men have more in common than not; we are not “other” in terms of species. Think of the many life forms that have duality (male and female characteristics).

    The problem is that we have always looked at men as apples and women as oranges, when the truth is men are more like red delicious apples and women are McIntosh (or something similar).

  • http://Dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    The problem is that we have always looked at men as apples and women as oranges, when the truth is men are more like red delicious apples and women are McIntosh (or something similar)

    Interesting Victor L. Not sure if I totally absolutely agree, but over all I agree with the premise that men and women are a lot more alike than they realize or would like to admit.

    I’ve been analyzing this exact subject for an upcoming BC post. I have a lot of masculine traits, but yet I still feel very ‘girly’. And that’s fine! I like being girly. I like jewelry and make up! Love the ‘chick flicks’! But yet, I love hard loud heavy rock, especially when I’m training.(karate) I dunno what that makes me, but the point is besides being female hetero, I can’t be easily categorized, and why should I be? Why should anyone?

  • Eric Olsen

    very interesting Bryan, although the title may be a bit misleading, because you are, as you have emphasized, primarily talking about the sliding scale of human gender psychology. Society seems to go back and forth on the commonality and differences between the sexes – I think we are in a synthesis stage between teh two right now

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Mr. Baronius, your interest does not interest me.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Eric, how is the title misleading? Many people are bisexual. That is a fact.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    I can understand how it might be a bit misleading, but if one breaks down the term and separates it from its conventional meanings, it actually fits a lot better than you might think.

    Generally when we talk about “sex,” we are talking about biological sex. When we talk about “gender,” we are talking about the social structures of male/female/et cetera. Although “bisexual” has traditional meant being sexually attracted to both men and women, one can see another meaning within the word’s root. Rather than strictly applying to sexual object choice, it can refer specifically to the dual nature of the biological sex that we all share. We have mostly the same parts, both mentally and physically. Even the things that we think might separate men from women biologically – ovaries vs. testes, clitoris vs. penis, et cetera – are just different developmental processes for the same original parts. In utero, all fetuses start out perfectly androgynous.

  • CC

    I would like to hear others’ comments and insight on why some in the gay community are so resistent to the belief that bisexual people actually exist, or say bisexual people are just gay but afraid to admit it, or ‘on the road to being gay-just not quite there yet’, etc. Its an interesting/puzzling phenomenon that I haven’t figured out.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    This is a community marginalized societally and legally. In the quest to win liberation and equality, there is strength in numbers. It’s like the phenomenon where (many of) those who identify themselves as “black” or African-American insist that multicultural and multiethnic people do the same, even as the expense of accuracy, in the hope of expanding the number of those within their societal categorization. Strength in numbers. And it doesn’t matter to them whether those they are labeling go along with it. Yeah, it sucks.

  • chantal stone

    Natalie…..great point, i’ve also wondered the same thing as CC. but you’ve explained it very well.

    i’m biracial–black and white, and i’m usually expected to choose one identity over the other, when in truth, i feel equally BOTH.

    we are what we are, whether we’re black, white, brown, straight, gay or bisexual. like i said earlier in this thread…. problems arise when we try to fit everyone into a box.

    it’s time to let go of the labels.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Kudos on your article, Bryan. It is a very good one.

    Intellectually, I grasp all of what you’re saying, and I’m willing to believe in the sliding scale of bisexuality; it stands to reason.

    But I’m not sure a general rejection of androgyny can be accurately called a “Victorian principle”

    One objection I have with the ‘sliding scale of bisexuality’ is the term ‘bisexual’ itself.

    An attraction to a person of the same sex doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual in nature, nor does opposite-gender characteristics in a person necessarily have a sexual componant.

    “Androgyny” itself is something that’s never had any appeal for my relatively open mind. Conscious angrogyny strikes me as artificial and false, like fake eyelashes. Nor does it appeal to any sexual nature in me. I have nothing against it; let people do what they want if it doesn’t hurt anyone, I always figure. But my disinclination to think about, care about, look at, be attracted to, or develop androgyny in myself is not a function of any lack of sexual enlightenment on my part.

    I suppose a Freudian could say it is; and I’m not enlightened. But I wouldn’t buy it.

    There is a problem with the “sliding scale” theory; it doesn’t take into account actual physiology. While culture can attempt to categorize a rainbow of androgyny, the fact remains that most heterosexual people equate sex with procreation (even if done for recreation; you still have to make sure you don’t procreate) and generally don’t apply much sexual drive towards that which doesn’t provide that real or fantasized possibility of special procreation.

    After all, humans are just DNA suitcases. I do think eggs and sperm are the root of all sexual drive in a very instinctual way.

    It manifests itself in different ways, hence the sliding scale (which still works as a concept, but with most humans on it clustered well on one side of the center.

    All humans deserve equal rights and protection, and one way to assure that is for people to better understand sexuality; I’m all for that. It might be a hopeless undertaking, but it’s a worthy task.

    But I’m not sure I accept the sliding-scale theory as “fact” given the fairly-standard-in-every-culture distribution that raises more questions than it answers.

    I see it as another sort of classification; not rooted in biology, and debatable in psychology.

    However, like most psychological theories, I do think there’s something to it.

    But anyway, dug the article, it got me thinking on an early Saturday morning.

    ;-)

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    forgot to close the italics after “something” in that last post.

    Anyone out there miss my typing?

  • Baronius

    Natalie, too bad. I doubt either of us will persuade the other, but I was hoping to get some insight out of this discussion.

    It does seem that Natalie and Bryan are talking about different things: Natalie, sexual attraction; Bryan, psychological traits. (I could easily be mistaken.)

    Bryan, I haven’t read Foucault. I’ve just been reading about him on the web. I guess you have to admire the rare philosopher who admits when he’s been beaten. But I can’t imagine reading a history written by someone who rejects the concept of truthful history. That’s an awfully tough sell.

    But let’s suppose he isn’t lying: what does it mean to say that pre-Victorian people weren’t heterosexual or homosexual? Do you mean this in a psychological sense, or are you talking about attraction? Do you mean that orientation didn’t exist, or it wasn’t labeled? None of these alternatives seems possible. Dante’s Divine Comedy predates Queen Victoria, yet homosexual leanings are distinguished from homosexual activity, and homosexual and heterosexual sins are treated separately. That’s pretty well fleshed-out.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    While Natalie Davis and I might be addressing two different ideas here, I hardly think that they are incompatible. My article may have dealt with more psychological and biological issues than sexual object choice, but I believe that the two realms often extend towards one another. Certainly the fact that we are all psychologically bisexual does not mean that we are all attracted to both genders, but bisexual attraction is simply an extension of everyone’s innate bisexuality. An extension that may not exist in everyone, of course, but an extension that we are all capable of forming.

    As far as Foucault and Victorian sexuality go (the actual history, mind you, not the book of that title), the Victorian era most certainly was an era of sexual repression. Society and religion clamped down rather hard on morality and “proper” behavior. Foucault is certainly not the first philosopher or historian to have pointed this out.

    When I refer to homosexuality and heterosexuality being defined in the 1800s, I am certainly not suggesting that they merely burst into existence at this point in history, but rather that is when they were first identified and labelled by psychologists and sexologists. Prior to then, there was Greek love, Sapphic love, “the love that dare not speak its name,” but no “homosexual” or “gay” love. The word “homosexuality” appeared for the first time in 1869, around the time that “sexual inversion” became psychologically identified.

    Same-sex attraction and relations had certainly existed prior to that, but they were simply out-of-the-norm. In the case of the Greeks and Romans, however, they weren’t even considered abnormal and were an accepted part of daily life. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that these men – and they were men at first, lesbians (“female inverts”) were not identified and persecuted until later – became “homosexuals” and thus identified and labelled as a particular category. They were no longer men who had sex with other men, there were definable as a perfectly separate species than heterosexuals.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    I should also add:

    Aside from the aforementioned text by Foucault, I would recommend Neil Miller’s highly readable Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. He is a journalist and author rather than a philosopher, so his writing is far more practical than theoretical. I’m sure both books could be obtained through a local library if you were truly interested in tracking them down. Miller’s book is a much more accessible read than Foucault, of course, but Foucault is a fairly essential modern thinker who might be worth checking out.

  • Baronius

    Bryan, here’s the problem. If we’re talking about same-sex activity, there’s a history of it being condemned. If we’re talking about same-sex attraction, there’s a history of it being viewed with contempt before Victorian times. If we’re talking about psychological characteristics of men and women overlapping, in what sense is this bisexuality? ‘twould seem that you’re using a loaded term to communicate the truism that we’re all pretty much alike. No one, to my knowledge, has taught that male and female humans have less in common than humans and birds.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Baronius, if the fact that we’re all pretty much alike is such an accepted truism, then why is it that society does not treat it as such?

  • Steve

    Interesting arguments here. I’m not sure why we can’t accept the notions that –
    a) we are pretty much alike (i.e. human)
    b) we are also either male or female

    Why must it be either a) OR b)???

    Why can’t it be both??

    In other words, men and women are similar but do have differences that can’t be overlooked.

  • Cecilia

    #26 Would it not benefit the gay community to include bisexual people, then just say ‘We are transgendered, not straight, or Queer Persons Movement’ (to use a term often used by gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered advocacy groups), instead of just limiting it to gay? Then there would be so many more numbers and perhaps it wouldn’t been seen as hypocritical to deny the existance of sexual orientations other than just gay or straight? Seems more logical & inclusive, but I guess everyone is fighting for rights & their piece of the pie.

    #35
    Unfortunately because those differences are often used to stereotype or pigeonhole(limit) a particular sex, as well as much of the time overstressed to claim one sex as being inferior to the other-used to marginalize. Yes there are differences, but many more similarities, so why not find more common ground instead of focusing on the differences. Much of the time, different is not equal in our whole & I think until we have the maturity to realize one particular sex’s traits are not ‘better’ than another, we should focus on the common ground.

  • Steve

    Certainly I would not argue that we should focus on our differences for the purpose of claiming superior status, and I think as far as adults with adults are concerned, we should stress the common ground.

    However, just because focusing on differences can sometimes lead to an abuse of the idea, does not mean we should throw them out/ignore them completely.

    For example, where children are involved, I think trying to muddy the waters between the genders will only confuse kids because kids just don’t work well without knowing their boundaries.

    Certainly, gender discrimination should not be acceptable. However, to deny reality by ignoring differences that are present, does not seem to me to be a very healthy approach either.

    I would wager that a key reason why there are so many divorces these days is because too many men and women have not been taught as to the differences between how men and women approach life in general, and think about things in particular, leading to great frustrations, and ultimately painful break-ups, for both.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    In response to Cecilia (#36):

    I agree that we ought to focus on the common ground, but I do think that recognizing difference is essential. One of my favorite quotes is from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who asks, “What if the richest junctures weren’t the ones where everything means the same thing?”

    If we are to simply focus on the similarities between groups of people, then we effectively homogenize. What we should be able to see, however, is that the differences that exist are often constructed differences, differences that do not alter our essential nature as human beings. Whether one is outwardly gay or straight does not change the fact that we all stem from basically the same genetic mess.

    Differences of identity ought to be recognized and celebrated as various ways of performing and expressing our own personal take on who we are. Life itself is like a blank canvas. We are all given the same tools to work with – the same paints, the same brushes, albiet slightly different from person to person – but we can each paint our own unique pictures given the same starting tools. Picasso and Monet had access to roughly the same basic supplies, but each painted in their own unique way. We should certainly not neglect the wealth of difference between the artists’ finished canvases.

    In response to Steve (#37):

    Although I agree with your points of non-discrimination wholeheartedly, I have to disagree with two of your other main arguments. The fact that we ought not to throw out differences is perfectly correct, but you lost me in the next paragraph when you wrote about teaching children the differences between genders. Gender is merely an arbitrary way of thinking about biological sex; the differences between sex ought to be taught, but gender should be expressed freely. If your young son wanted to take ballet – a traditionally feminine pursuit – should you discourage him to avoid “muddying the waters”?

    Also, I believe that your analysis of divorce is completely wrong. I don’t believe that people ought to be “taught as to the differences between men and women approach life in general.” I do not believe that there are essential characteristics that determine how people approach life “in general.” There may be biological considerations – the “maternal instinct” for one being an actual evolutionary trait that we can’t simply ignore – but most of these views of the way men and women approach life are arbitrarily constructed.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote that “a great mind must be androgynous.” Virginia Woolf took this a step further in A Room of One’s Own and suggested that “it is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties.” She hypothesized that perhaps only a fully androgynous mind is able to freely create and express itself.

    She was also careful to note, however, that in our sex-obsessed age, reaching this state was to be harder than ever.

  • Baronius

    Bryan, if bisexuality is synonymous with ballet, then fine, let’s celebrate it. We can even have a Ballet Pride parade. But aren’t you being a bit disingenuous? Foucault didn’t hang out in bath houses for the ballet. In fact, it would be outrageously reactionary to equate ballet with bisexuality, and I don’t think you’re being serious when you do it. You can’t hold a pair of aces and try for a flush – either argue that sexual preference is arbitrary and back it up, or take the position that men and women are kind of similar.

    I note also that in your most recent comment you assert that “most” of the differences between male and female are arbitrary, but again you only cite evidence supporting the opposite.

  • Cecilia

    {Differences of identity ought to be recognized and celebrated as various ways of performing and expressing our own personal take on who we are. Life itself is like a blank canvas. We are all given the same tools to work with – the same paints, the same brushes, albiet slightly different from person to person – but we can each paint our own unique pictures given the same starting tools. Picasso and Monet had access to roughly the same basic supplies, but each painted in their own unique way. We should certainly not neglect the wealth of difference between the artists’ finished canvases.}

    That’s essentially what I was trying to say, although you said it much more eloquently & clearly than I did.

    #37 True, children need boundaries to function properly, but I believe we should take care to not let those boundaries turn into limitations-
    which can be equally harmful. Oftentimes I think we don’t give children enough credit to be able to handle gender roles in more complex & meaningful ways. I know this is a little simple, but I have more than once heard a child say, “Why can’t boys play with dolls?” or “Why do I have to wear a dress?”

    To me it seems that the divorce problem stems from a lack of communication in general, not just between the sexes. Men are no more able to communicate with other men, than women are able to communicate with other women (well maybe a bit better) but I think it depends on how we are taught & socialized. The evidence of this is there is no ONE particular way men communicate vs. women across cultural lines. Sure, there are many similarities, but it depends on how we are taught & if we are effective communicators in general. Books that claim women are one way and men are another tend to overgeneralize & stereotype and fail to properly account for major individual variations in communication behavior. Men are strong & silent & women are passive aggressive? Both sexes are equally capable of these behaviors. My experience with counseling has led me to communicate more effectively and deal with others according to their own individual personalities, where I get into trouble is when I generalize b/c this person is a woman or this person is a man.

  • Cecilia

    I’m not sure if something that is generally true of a particular sex can be said to be an actual evolutionary trait- if it were wouldn’t ALL women have it? An evolutionary trait to me seems to be something physical. A evolutionary trait is more likely evidenced in the ‘Kewpie doll’ effect- the facial features human babies and small children, as well as baby animals have that trigger a need and want in adults to care for them & protect them- very large eyes & chubby cheeks(for humans), oversized heads as compared to the rest of the body. All these traits are said to trigger the ‘awwww’ effect in MOST adults- which is why we tend to think most babies & baby animals are cuter than their grown-up counterparts. I’ve never seen or read evidence of a maternal instinct over various cultures. Does anyone know of scientific studies?

    Interestingly, in some cultures it is not considered unmanly to gew and gaw over babies & children (pygmies, etc) and the males actually have an often primary role in the daily care of children. We also find this in many bird species.

  • Cecilia

    Here is a great article about masculinity & the raising of boys.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Certain “maternal instincts” do exist as evolved traits, but perhaps not in the way we generally think of them.

    Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (no typo,that’s how her last name is spelled) is a great resource on this topic.

    Thanks for all your comments and I’ll be sure to respond to more of them when I have the time.

  • Steve

    Am starting to think I may have misunderstood some folks’ comments here.

    When I think of bisexuality, I think of it solely in the context of one’s sexual behaviour. However, some folks here seem to be taking a broader definition.

    For example the comment about boys becoming ballet dancers, well, I fail to see what that has to do with bisexuality, it is simply a vocation, that’s all. You may argue it is a cultural gender issue, but I don’t see it as being of an inherently sexual nature and therefore, nothing bisexual about it.

    Re. the comments about Alfred Kinsey, I believe his studies were of prisoners, not the general population, I would be wary about arguing that they would be a good indication of the general population.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Steve: It was clear from the very beginning of my post, when I quoted Freud, that I was addressing a specific “psychological bisexuality,” referencing the dichotomy of “male” and “female” traits.

    It’s nice to see that you recognize the difference between a cultural gender issue and a sex-based one, but the problem here is that most people cannot recognize that distinction. Gender is a culturally-constructed ideology that exists in imaginary relation to the underlying real biological sex. While being a ballet dancer may have absolutely nothing to do with sex, many people cannot separate cultural gender from biological sex. Ballet is culturally a female pursuit, and people thusly assume that it is some fact of female biology that makes them suited to practice ballet.

  • CC

    #44 Many of Kinsey’s studies were of prisoners, however, not all of them. Those are more likely the ones we can ‘take to the bank’ so to speak. Except, another criticism of Kinsey is his studies tend to overrepresent the well education college student & those financially well off.

  • http://www.tresbleu.blogspot.com Sister Ray

    “Gender is a culturally-constructed ideology that exists in imaginary relation to the underlying real biological sex.”

    So your biological sex has no inborn effect on your personality and behavior? Those are arbitrary cultural choices?

    I disagree. I don’t see what’s wrong with acknowledging that biology has some effect on personality.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Sister Ray, I have acknowledged that fact repeatedly. I do believe there are essential differences within the sexes contained within the root of the biological Id. I even recently wrote a lengthy paper referencing current research into the genetics of personality, in which very specific personality traits can be linked to clusters of genes. I would certainly not deny that biology plays an important part, but perhaps not in the places where people think it might.