Commentary

Heterosexuality is often considered the “default” but that banner belongs to sexual fluidity

Two men holding hands behind the back of a woman cuddling with one of them
Photo: Shutterstock

“Something that the LGBT community always says is that your sexuality and identity can change at any time, but when it’s the other way around from gay to straight they get angry and say that it can’t.”

The former quote is a comment that was left on a CBN News video covering the Matthew Grech case. Matthew Grech is Christian charity worker who claims to have left his “homosexual lifestyle” for Jesus Christ. 

Grech is currently facing criminal charges for allegedly promoting conversion therapy practices in Malta during an online interview. 

Conservatives are outraged by the supposed hypocrisy of queer folks surrounding sexuality, but is it really hypocritical?

Why is it that LGBTQ+ people believe sexuality and gender identity are fluid yet also say a gay person cannot “turn” straight? Well, first of all, some LGBTQ+ people, even some who identify as gay, are in fact fluid and do sometimes engage in relationships with people of the opposite sex.

Since the beginning of time, heterosexuality has been viewed and promoted as the default. This is a product of the Christian patriarchal values many societies live by. 

Despite these values and all of the conditioning they come with, there has been plenty of evidence—throughout history—suggesting that it’s not true. 

If anything, sexuality is fluid for all genders and orientations. We’re conditioned to believe that you’re either straight or gay; if you’re not one, you’re the other. But, this is far from the truth.

In the book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men Jane Ward shares insights about the various reasons why straight-identifying men engage in homosexual behavior.

But how is it possible for someone straight to engage in homosexual behavior and not be gay? Well, there’s a difference between sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sexual behavior.

Sexual orientation is defined as the quantity and duration of one’s same-sex or opposite-sex desires, often believed to be hardwired.

Sexual identity, on the other hand, is defined as how one identifies oneself; straight, gay, bisexual, etc. 

And finally, sexual behavior is defined as the actual behavior one engages in.

The distinction between sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sexual behavior are what make it possible for people’s extracurricular activities to deviate from their disclosed or perceived orientation. 

For decades, institutions like the army, prison and fraternities have manufactured circumstances where straight-identifying men are not only encouraged but sometimes forced to engage in behaviors that could be labeled as homosexual.

For fraternity boys, this means engaging in traditions such as the elephant walk or participating in a game of ookie cookie. In the Navy we see rituals of all kind including simulated oral and anal sex. And of course in prison, we see men have sex with other men due to the lack of access to women. 

The reason why the straight-identifying men who engage in the aforementioned homosexual behavior aren’t considered gay is because the encounter(s) are either situational or seen as patriotic rituals that promote male bonding and/or character-building.

This makes it abundantly clear that straight-identifying men are capable of engaging in homosexual behavior — proving their fluidity.

It’s important to note that straight-identifying men don’t simply engage in homosexual sexual behavior because they are required to, they also engage in it because they want to. 

In the 1940s, Dr. Alfred Kinsey created what we know today as The Kinsey Scale. Dr. Kinsey claims that sexuality exists on a spectrum ranging from 0 to 6; 0. exclusively heterosexual, 1. predominately heterosexual but slightly inclined to homosexual behavior, 2. predominately heterosexual but more than slightly inclined to homosexual behavior, 3. bisexual, 4. predominantly homosexual but more than slightly inclined to heterosexual behavior, 5. predominantly homosexual but slightly inclined to heterosexual behavior, and 6. exclusively homosexual.

The Kinsey Scale explains why straight-identifying folk can have sexual encounters with members of the same sex and remain straight, and vice versa. 

Contrary to popular belief, straight-identifying men are not immune to the accidental hook-up with a member of the same sex. 

For some, the accidental hook-up may open the door to further exploration and perhaps later the expansion of their sexuality. But, for others, the accidental hook-up is simply a one-and-done. 

Homosocial homosexuality refers to men’s need for access to quick and emotionless sex and their longing for physical intimacy with other men. This manifests, for example, as men engaging in mutual masturbation while watching porn.

In addition to that, similar to cisgender heterosexual women, straight-identifying men often engage in homosexual acts like kissing (or more) simply for female attention or pleasure. 

Engaging in sexual behavior for ritualistic purposes, attention or pure desire demonstrates the inherent fluidity of straight-identifying men’s sexuality.

Behavior that goes against the grain of one’s sexual orientation isn’t just limited to straight-identifying folk. Queer men are capable of demonstrating fluidity as well.

The term Down Low — which is most popular amongst the Black and Latino community, as well as the queer community — is often used to describe men who live “heterosexual lives” but have sex with men (MSM). 

DL men are often queer men who not only present in a hyper masculine fashion, but also cling to a heterosexual identity for the status and protection it provides them. 

Several kings, like Emperor Hadrian of Rome, would take wives while also having male concubines. Were these men polyamorous bisexuals or were they simply closeted gay men? No one knows for sure. 

Some DL men retain their title, while for others, DL is simply a pit-stop before they fully embrace their queer identity. 

Gay men have also expressed engaging in playful kissing with women whilst under the influence, fantasizing about being with a woman, or even going as far as experimenting with a woman. 

This can occur more than once, and the events may be separated by years if not decades. And much like straight men, many gay men who have these experiences remain just that – gay. 

Unlike straight-identifying men, gay men don’t choose to remain gay because of the status and protection it provides them. There is no status and protection reserved for queer folk. They remain gay because that’s who they are. 

Gay men can expand their sexuality to include infrequent attraction or intimacy with women—that is to say, identify as homoflexible—but they cannot unsubscribe from homosexuality. 

As for cisgender women, society doesn’t care all that much about their orientation or behavior. Cisgender women have for the most part had the luxury to be as fluid as they like without much scrutiny. 

Sexual fluidity, of course, isn’t just exclusive to cisgender folk. As a predominantly heterosexual trans woman, I have experienced attraction to women and explored this desire too.

It is absolutely possible for someone to experience different sorts of desires at different points in their lives—but a gay person is not going to lose all inherent attraction they have to folks of the same sex or gender, just like a straight person who may be a little bit fluid isn’t going to lose their attraction to the opposite sex. 

If one’s own natural desire for exploration can’t change one’s sexuality, it should go without saying that religion and conversion therapy can’t either. 

Maybe, just maybe, this is because straight isn’t the default we have been conditioned to believe it is. Maybe the true default is sexual fluidity. 

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