What Is Love

A short babysitting story about Ellen and Nanase (who is still dealing with rapid hair growth as a result of her magic block).

So they end up talking to Nanase’s sister about how romantic and implicitly also sexual attraction works. Nanase says “you can’t just decide you’re going to like girls” to her sister. On the contrary, you absolutely can, and I think it’s generally a good idea.

I should probably elaborate on that. Like, I don’t want to say everyone can just arbitrarily decide who they experience feelings of attraction to? Attraction, like everything else we experience, is inescapably shaped by our society (and on some level also biology, but there’s a lot of society determining what any particular biological effect means to us).

At the same time I do believe there is an element of agency, that even though very many people don’t experience this way at all, one can validly choose to be gay or bi? To some extent I even believe I did? (I’m not sure what the difference between ‘I chose to be gay’ and ‘I am probably gay regardless of how I feel about it but I would definitely choose to be gay if I was given a choice’ is in practice).

At the very least, I think ‘attraction’ is an incredibly murky and untrustworthy social construct, that divisions such as ‘romantic’ vs ‘sexual’ may be useful for some people but don’t even come close to describing anything but a popular social construct, and rather than trying to build a case for why I should meet the criteria for being a lesbian under some definition, I find it a lot easier to just declare I am a lesbian, I am into women and not men and I don’t care whether that’s by ‘choice’ or what, it’s valid regardless.

In any case, if Nanase’s sister is expressing now that she wants to be in relationships with women now, she probably could and maybe does experience attraction to women, and whether or not she does, that’s definitely something to be encouraged. Given how strongly being gay or bi is discouraged. Like I don’t think there’s any harm in encouraging the idea that one can choose to be gay to a kid, and it might save them a whole lot of soul-searching to be able to say “I want to be gay, so I am”.

The point of all this is that, contra what Dan Shive seems to believe, sexuality identities are a social construct, and a relatively recent one at that. Over the last many millenia, people have come up with all sorts of incommensurate ways to think about attraction, romance, sex, gender etc., and only the violence of white colonialism and the corresponding impulse to try and make human sexuality ‘rational’ and ‘scientific’ in precisely a way that makes capitalism and European out to be ‘natural’ and therefore objectively right and worth enforcing (and in the process pathologising people who don’t act as colonial gender says they ought to) has led to this idea that people are intrinsically ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ like a bit that gets set in the womb, when it’s actually a whole lot murkier and more complicated than that.

Please don’t read this belief in there being an element of agency in how we experience attraction as a support of abusive processes to ‘pray away the gay’ or whatever though. But if someone experiences their sexuality or gender as a choice, that is valid and worth encouraging. There are thousands of ways to tell stories about why and how we form the kinds of relationships that we do; I do think a universal ‘intrinsically/naturally gay’ model, and attempts to codify it even further a la Kinsey, ‘romantic’/’sexual’ splits, a ‘genderbread person’ etc. are generally deeply inadequate descriptions, and politically unhelpful. Like, support gay people as we are regardless of why, and destroy heterosexuality and white/colonial gender because it is inherently violent and repressive.

So Nanase handwrings over whether her sister is gay because she doesn’t want her sister to experience that oppression. Honestly this doesn’t feel like something any lesbian I know would actually say? But then most people I know are some kind of radical/anti-assimilationist type so you know, maybe that doesn’t say much.

Story time: when I was growing up (I don’t remember how old I was), my mum asked me if I was gay (or bi? not sure if she brought up that possibility). At the time, I said no. She said (if I remember right, and it’s the memory that counts for this story) she would support me regardless, but she was glad I wasn’t, because of all the hostility etc. I would experience regardless. At the time, I didn’t think much of it.

But evidently that memory stuck with me (even though she forgot). When I was struggling with, at the time, thinking I was bi at university, I was really hesitant to tell my parents and didn’t do so for a long time because I remembered that conversation. When I finally did come out to them, they were entirely supportive, and I mentioned that - my mum was really apologetic if I recall right, and made it very clear that she’d absolutley support me. But…

The point is, this kind of “I hope you’re not gay so you won’t experience oppression” is actually a really bad thing to say to a child. What will ‘count’ is the ‘I hope you’re not gay’, regardless of the reason.

And I fucking swear like, if any of my family members, or children I adopt, or honestly basically anyone I know is struggling with sexuality or gender shit, I will encourage them because those feelings won’t go away (even they do, encourageming exploring them isn’t bad) and acceptance is vital, and make dead clear I have their back regardless. Gosh I just realised I feel really really strongly about this.

No shit I guess.

Anyway yeah. You can totally choose to be a lesbian if you want to, and it’s way better than being straight, or a man.