Monday, April 04, 2016

Another Strange Analogy

So, you may have sensed I like analogies, allegories, and other such comparisons. The background here, is there has been some discussion recently about erasure of bisexuality.  As this post eloquently notes, it's tied to a lot of things and has been brewing for a while, but particularly sparked in reference to a book making use of the so-called Gay for You trope, ie a person (often, but not always male) who has only ever had straight relationships, but falls in love with a person of the same gender and essentially declares that in this one instance they are therefore gay.
Now, there are a few things here. Yes, sexuality is a spectrum.  Yes, sometimes people realize after dating someone of a different gender than previous, that oh, oh, that's what was not working in my prior relationships.  And yes, there are documented examples of folks who found their attractions shifted later in life.  (About that last link, I would be interested to see if the numbers look the same in another generation, because I think broadening acceptability might also play a role there. We may discover that maybe more people are just bi or pansexual.)
But, bisexuality (which I'm going to use primarily for this post, although I realize pansexuals also experience this) is a thing.  And if people could realize they were homosexual when they previously heterosexual, there's also the possibility that they are actually bisexual.  And I don't think anyone is suggesting we assign labels to people that they don't feel accurately describe them, but there's also a recognizable issue that people who are bisexual are often told they are incorrect about their sexuality, or that they have to have dated a certain number of people of either gender to know this for sure, or that if they date a person of a specific gender for any length of time, that that means they have picked a side.  So, referring to a story where a man (fictional man, but yes) who has only had prior relationships with women as gay for you, is problematic.  It may be true for those characters.  That character may realize that he is no longer attracted to women.  But if he remains attracted to women except for this one man, then that starts to sound like bisexuality to me. 
So, the analogy I promised.  When a marriage ends from a legal standpoint there is annulment and divorce. The idea being that annullment means that the marriage for legal purposes never existed, whereas divorce is saying that this legal arrangement is now over. In addition to the legal aspect, there are religious annulments.  My understanding is that these days, these are only using in congregations where divorce is not acceptable and while the reasons provided are often similar there are times when one cannot get a legal annulment but can get a religious annulment.  All of this is a lead up to say that there are people who have parents that from a religious perspective have annulled the relationship that produced them.  And certainly, in each case there may be very good reasons for all of this, but imagine for a moment that you are that kid. That one or both of your parents have gone to the church and said, well, as far as I'm concerned, this relationship never should have existed.  And certainly children can, should, and are loved and appreciated apart from the circumstances that led to their conception.  But, it still has to be a little weird, to realize that not only do your parents no longer wish to be together, but they have chosen, for religious reasons, to erase their relationship. 
I'm not saying I don't understand why annullment - legal and religious exist. Or that they shouldn't.  I'm again saying that words and labels do matter and just like parents annulling a relationship would feel a little like they were erasing you, calling a relationship gay for you instead of bisexual for you or some other more inclusive term, feels a little like erasure.