why wouldn’t men and women act on same-sex desires? But the liberation cuts both ways. In a culture where the grey space may be overtaking the rainbow, queers who may have felt cultural pressure to identify as all-the-way gay are free to act on the occasional hetero fancy without feeling they’re letting down an entire community.
of my complicated sexuality into a strictly lesbian one was called out when a serious girlfriend had the revelation that he was actually male. As I sorted out what this meant for me, I landed in a more honest place. I was attracted to women, yes, but to guys as well. I was attracted to everyone. With my newly transgender boyfriend, I acquired a new language. If individuals making a gender transition are trans, from the Latin ‘other side of’, then folks whose gender matches the cultural expectations of it are cisgendered, Latin for ‘this side of’. Being so close to a trans community also made me understand the true limitations of a bisexual orientation. As it turns out, there are more than two genders – there’s a spectrum!
The current move towards sexual fluidity is happening hand in hand with recent strides in trans visibility. Jill Soloway, creator of the Emmywinning show Transparent, told me that trans people can inadvertently broaden a person’s notions of who exactly they are attracted to: ‘Are these gay or lesbian crushes? Or straight or queer or gender-fluid crushes? Maybe just crushes. Maybe just sex. Maybe just love.’
After that boyfriend and I broke up, it seemed likely I’d end up in a heterosexual relationship with a cisgendered guy. I wanted to settle down – and straight men seemed pre-programmed for that. There was something great and rebellious, after a decade of extreme lesbianism, to be sort of preferring men. But despite the giddy novelty of embracing my attraction to them, the reality of men disappointed. Bringing my queer, feminist self into the hetero dating world made even basic interactions with men land mines. It’s exhausting to argue with your date about how trans women are actually women or how women who sleep around aren’t sluts. At the end of a spell of heavy dating, I knew hetero wedding bells would not be ringing for me. Anyone I was going to spend that much time with would have to be a real soul mate – and for me that meant a woman.
Social change moves at a glacial pace but pop culture has been laying the groundwork for an embrace of label-free identity since the ’90s. There was Madonna’s 1992 Sex book, which featured the icon cavorting with shirtless hunks