When will we stop putting people in boxes and categories?



This week is bisexual awareness week, 7 days to note that people who are bisexual often get a raw deal, and face even more discrimination than gays and lesbians.

Bisexual people can face discrimination for not being heterosexual, and also encounter discrimination from other sexuality minorities. They face suggestions that they are ‘undecided’, ‘in a slight homophobic denial’ or ‘greedy’.

Increasingly we are accepting that sexuality for most people is fluid. We might be attracted to someone of the same gender 99% of the time, but maybe there is that one person of another gender who you find really attractive. Maybe for some people the ratio is different, maybe it’s 80/20, maybe it’s 50/50.

When comedian Magda Szubanski came out on Valentine’s Day in 2012 on The Project she described her sexuality as being “absolutely not straight” and noted that she wouldn’t define herself as being bisexual either.

“I would define myself as being gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, little bit not gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay.” Magda told the panel on The Project.

So maybe we’re all a little bit ‘not gay’. Maybe it’s time that we embraced the part of us that’s ‘not gay’ and acknowledged it.

Maybe when we proclaim we were “Born This Way” there should be an additional note that indicates exactly what way that is.

But here’s the problem, those people in society who think that ‘being gay’ is lesser than ‘not being gay’, the conservative politicians and religious leaders, see the concept of sexuality or gender being fluid as our road to salvation.

They advocate that if you’re only 99% gay – there is still a hope that you can try really hard and focus on the 1%.

Accepting the idea that our sexuality and gender is fluid unfortunately opens up some of the oldest and most worn out homophobic viewpoints. The idea that homosexuality and bisexuality grows out of exposure to gay people, poor parenting, trauma and not enough cold showers.

So much of the rhetoric we hear about marriage equality and the Safe Schools project is based in a fear of people not fitting into neat little boxes.

You can hear the concerns.

What if a young child declares they’re transgender and wants to go to school as the opposite gender, and three years later feels more comfortable with their biological gender? Will they be able to get out of that box?

What if I discover my work colleague’s spouse is the same gender as they are – in my mind I’d put them in a certain box, now I need to re-categorise!

Last year a man called up talk back radio in Perth with that exact concern. Vince said his major concern about marriage equality was how he’d respond in a conversation.

Vince told Perth’s 6PR that when he met other men who were married he’d often ask “How’s your missus?” in social conversation. He shared his concern that if society allowed men to marry other men he wouldn’t know what to say. Vince was worried about how this lack of clear relationship  labeling would cause awkward moments.

True equality, will be when we simply don’t care about anyone’s sexuality or gender identity.  It will be irrelevant. Your gender and sexuality will have no bearing on what job you can do, who you love, where you live or anything else.

Just how far are we from the goal of real equality, a world without prejudice and discrimination?

Is the next step on the path to equality taking ourselves out of the boxes first?

out of boxes

Graeme Watson

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