Orientation: A Two-Thousand Word Essay

June 5, 2011

I ask myself whether we need to know and some people would say that it doesn’t matter, but for me it is important to know because to know or understand it, is to know or understand myself.

Over the years I’ve taken it upon myself to continue to ask questions and theorize explanations for what I don’t understand.  It interests me and I want answers, it matters to me, to understand myself.  Questions plague me because they are unanswered ideas, I don’t like to leave things alone until I am satisfied in the thought that I have figured out as much of it as I possibly can.  And for me, orientation is an open book that I have not yet finished reading.

Some people willingly accept the world as gay and straight, a black and white image of human orientation.  I once perceived the world in the same way, but as I’ve grown and experienced more of this world and the people in it, I’ve come to understand that the world is far more complex than that, that people are not so easily understood.  There is a difference between romance and sexual desire and things only get more complex after that…

Just from the male side, there are men who are romantically and sexually interested in women, there are men who are romantically and sexually interested in men, there are men who are romantically interested in women and sexually interested in men, there are men who are romantically interested in men and sexually interested in women and finally there are men who are romantically and sexually interested in men and women.

Probably one of the biggest questions to ask is what causes someone to be one orientation and not the other.  An even bigger question is whether that’s even true, whether there is even such a thing as orientation.  Perhaps there is no such thing as gay or straight at all and that’s just an attempt by society to make complex things more simple by turning it black and white.  Perhaps you aren’t born gay or straight, that it’s not about being attracted to one gender over the other, but rather being attracted to a personality type.

Take a moment to ponder this for me, consider the possibility that during puberty, all those hormonal changes that occur in the body and the chemical changes that happen in the brain determine where your romantic interests are.

It’s generally accepted that we learn what type of person from both genders we consider favorable or attractive when we are young.  For example, men fantasize during childhood about what kind of man they want to be when they grow up.  And it is this pre-adolescent perception of human behaviour that may direct our later development through puberty.  There is also the theory that women admire men who remind them of their fathers and men admire women who have similar personalities to their mother.

This pre-adolescent perception of either the self or a future partner may be a determining factor in who we are attracted to later in life.  I can even take this down another path.  Women who had abusive fathers, have a tendency to become romantically involved with men, at some point in their lives, who physically or emotionally abuse them.

I can’t approach this very well from a female perspective because I’m a guy, so let me approach it from a male perspective.  There has been a long living, but mostly disproven, theory that men become gay because of their fathers.  That either the father wasn’t there, he was abusive or was utterly lackluster in his fatherly responsibilities.  Like I said, this theory has been disproven and I personally know gay guys who have had and still have a great relationship with their dad, so it isn’t true for all gay men, but it may be true for some.

From my own personal life, I can tell you that I spent my childhood afraid of my father and desperately wished that I had a dad like the other guys I knew.  I wished that I had a dad who would spend time with me, who would teach me how to play sports or go hunting with me and do other “fatherly” things that he never did, just generally be more involved in my life.  Many times I found myself jealous of other boys my age who had fathers who were so involved in their lives and gave them positive attention.

Perhaps this pre-adolescent deep-seeded desire for a more involved father played a part in the later development of my mind during puberty that caused me to come out the other side as having an attraction to men, or a desire for male attention.  But again, it may or may not be true and it definitely is not true for all gay men and I could easily point out that there are heterosexual guys who had deadbeat dads or fathers who weren’t even there and they didn’t turn out gay.

I think it’s important to point that out because right now in society there is that debate of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt, in fear that the children will grow up gay.  And honestly, that “fear” only exists because people still perceive being gay as a negative thing.  Which in and of itself is an ignorant thought.  There is nothing good or bad about it anymore than there is anything good or bad about being heterosexual.  And like I’ve shown, there really is nothing a parent can do to make their child straight or gay, it’s however the child’s brain develops.

Some people think it occurs during pre-natal development and others think it’s during puberty.  I agree with the latter because our sexual interests don’t begin until puberty, therefore it makes sense that any sexual attraction to a certain gender cannot exist until then.  I do think, however, that our interests in personalities do develop prior to puberty and that it plays a role in what gender we are attracted to during and post-puberty.

Let me recap what I have already said, before I go any further.  So I said that I think our childhood (pre-puberty) perception of what is a favorable or admirable personality, whether of the same gender or otherwise, plays some determining factor in our brain’s development through the chemical/hormonal changes of puberty.

And let me state that I am not saying that nurture (parents) are the cause of this, I’m saying that the child’s perception of the varying personalities they encounter cause it.  In other words, becoming gay or straight is as conditional and individual as growing up to like cherries over lemons.  You don’t consciously decide that you like one over the other, either you like the taste or you don’t.

I wanna discuss the occasional situation where someone changes what gender they are interested in.  I’ve always doubted that this could actually happen, I’ve long been convinced that a person’s interest in a gender is set during puberty and that you always know which way your interests lead.  However, I do consider it possible that there are individuals who have never had an experience with the same gender that they are until much later in life and then realize that they actually prefer that gender instead of the one they grew up thinking they were interested in.

To be more specific, I’m talking about men who get married to women, have children and then one day realize that they’ve been living a life that was not their own.  Get divorced and end up in a relationship with another man.  I don’t know how often this happens, but I have encountered it.  I think that this happens because our society still looks negatively on same-sex relationships, which prevents some young people from having the chance or willingness to understand themselves and their interests earlier in life.  Then they become unhappy with their life, venture elsewhere and learn that they’ve spent their life living in a way that didn’t reflect who they really are.

It’s situations like that which have caused me to become more convinced that society as a whole needs to stop degrading and harassing people for their differing orientation.  Young people need to feel like they can be themselves without encountering hate and at times violence for who they are.  Everyone needs the chance in youth to understand themselves, not just heterosexuals.

I wish that we lived in a world where the word “orientation” was not needed.  That we all accepted the reality that not everyone is interested in the opposite gender and that there is nothing wrong with that.  There are varying degrees in the people we are interested in, everything from height, to hair color, to body type and personalities, why is it that adding gender to that is so uncomfortable for some people?

Personalities is the recurring subject in this essay.  I mentioned earlier on that we learn about different personalities in our childhood and through that experience understand what types of personalities we favor.  Men and women have different personality types, clearly defined by gender because men and women approach the same scenarios differently.  I fear not to pose the thought that perhaps we as human beings are not so interested in different genders as we are interested in different personalities which so happen to be defined in one gender or the other.

I can confidently say that my interest in men is connected to my interest in personalities that are categorized as predominantly male.  Therefore, any sexual interest in the male gender is a consequence of my interest in that personality type.  You could find me 1,000 men, strip them naked and through us all into a room together and I may not be sexually attracted to or turned on by any of them.  Why?  Because I’m not necessarily attracted to men, I’m attracted to a personality type and it’s my theory that everyone else is the same way.  Because that personality type is found more commonly in men I sub-consciously associate that interest with the male gender and therefore overlook the female gender.

If you asked me right now, whether I would ever date a women, I could not tell you with absolute confidence that I would never do it.  I can tell you as of right now, I have not met a women who stole my attention and completely captivated me to the point where I thought she was everything that I am looking for in a partner.  I tell people that I have closed the door to dating women, but I have not locked it because in life, love is not bound by things physical.  It’s ignited by the things we cannot see with our eyes.

The reason I have closed the door to dating women has everything to do with personality.  Three years ago I made the decision to stop dating women because the personality that attracted me, was one that I found existed in men and I have never since found a women who had a personality that attracted me.  Even as I was going through puberty, I discovered that the way certain guys behaved or the interests they had were far more alluring to me than that of any of the girls I knew.  Despite that, I openly got romantically involved with girls for nine years.

I should also state that at times I still have feelings for women.  Especially if I spend a lot of time with them.  I can feel myself become drawn in and I don’t know why this happens.  I’m not sure if this is some type of chemical/biological response, something sexual, I really don’t know.  I never allow myself to find out because I’ve made the conscious decision to date only men as that is where my strongest romantic interest is.  And if I find a romantic and sexual interest in certain men, then I see no reason to walk away from it.  In some sense, I couldn’t walk away even if I wanted to.  I don’t want to become one of those guys who gets married to a woman he has fallen in love with, has children and then later in life realizes that those feelings he has for certain guys are stronger than he can control.  Life is complicated enough, no need to make things worse.

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About Kephen

I am a writer who happens to be a pantheist living in the heartland of America. I write about everything that interests me, from Zen Buddhism to depression and mental illness, society and civil rights to the LGBT community and the personal meanderings of my life. To learn more about me just check out my blog.
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