It is within human nature, in our neurological make-up, to seek out people like ourselves and environments that re-enforce our personal choices. But what happens when we are confronted with people who are not like us?
In history, we have seen wars fought over religion, freedom denied because of colour, and now we are seeing basic rights denied because of sexuality. In today’s talk, New Yorker iO Tillett Wright shares her experiences growing up in between gender and sexualities. She also shares her learnings from the Self Evident Project, a project to photograph 10,000 people who identify themselves as anything other than 100% straight.
As iO eloquently explored several issues during her talk (seamlessly woven into a coherent and thought-provoking plea), it made me think about a lot of things… I’ve never had a problem with people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, etc. However, it was easier for me to understand when people came with labels that I could comprehend instantly, including all the connotations stereotypes and pre-conceptions that came with what they chose to call themselves. What confused me was when I encountered people who are not strictly gay, lesbian, transgender or transsexual. It made me wonder what it meant when sexuality moves beyond the binary system that we have all learned.
A few days ago, I watched a film called Laurence Anyways. It was a film that showed the evolution of a 10-year relationship between a male-to-female transsexual with her lover. At the time, what kept me wondering was whether you could say that the lover turned into a lesbian since she stayed with her partner even after he had become a transsexual.
I learnt one very simple truth tonight, people don’t fit into over-simplified boxes. Everyone in fact falls somewhere on a nuanced spectrum of human sexuality. Yes preference for one or the other exists. But if you asked people to rate their sexuality on a scale of 0 to 100, some will say they are 100% heterosexual and some will say they are 0% heterosexual. However, a significant number of people will rate themselves in various place along that scale. The real question is, where do you draw the line that says those on one side are homosexual? Do you draw it at 3%, 20% or 98%? Current legislation in the US and other parts of the world deny people on one side of that line some of their most basic human rights.
If you are 3% homosexual, should you be denied the right to marriage equality? At 20% do you lose the freedom to adopt and raise a child? What do you lose at 50%? How about at 100%? Regardless of whether or not sexuality is binary, human rights should not be conditional.