I recently read the following from a call out for papers from Genesis, the Journal of the Societé Italianadelle Storiche (Italian Society of Women Historians) on Cultures of Sexuality: “The acronym *LGBTQIA* refers to a plurality: lesbians, gay, bi-sex,
trans-sex, queer, intersexual, asexual, to which heterosexual should be added, after being dismissed from the normative model of a ‘natural sexuality’.”
I think that the question of whether to include heterosexuality is a question of community (practice) rather than philosophy (theory). As much as I agree that the term heterosexual should be included as non normative sexual practice, most people who self identify as heterosexual likely do not think of themselves as allies or members of the LGBTQIA community.
That said, there are many ways in which I think the term heterosexual should be re-imagined, if not thrown out altogether, as well as the term
To begin with, the acronym LGBTQIA is, if not “problematic”, then at least “complex” because the acronym includes heterogenous categories of how one looks, how one feels about one’s body/sex/gender, as well as how one is orientated sexually. In a sense the acronym is more useful in referring to a kind of community (and that is up for debate) but is increasingly less useful as we realize how different and complex these intersections of sex, gender and sexual orientation (or disorientation!) actually are.
For sure there IS purpose and power in a LGBTQIA acronym, the purpose of forming solidarity around feelings of sameness (ie queer) / different from the rest. But, it should be acknowledged, this is at root, a binary. So as we increasingly imagine the multiple scopes of this community, and include, for example, heterosexuality, the binary merely shifts. It is no longer: heterosexual or LGBTQIA. The binary becomes: friend or foe, community or enemy?
But let’s get back to the term heterosexual itself. If we were talking about men and women, which the LGBTQIA is not (or trying not to), then the term heterosexual (and its binary opposite–homosexual) would make sense, but since we are no longer really talking about men and women any more, we are given a choice: either the terms have to be expanded in meaning to be as poly-complex as our identities are, or they should simply be thrown out altogether.
Consider the fact that “hetero” means merely different but–in our linguistic use–implies a binary difference (male attracted to female and female attracted to male) and “homo” means same but in a binary world implies EXACTLY THE SAME (male attracted to male and female attracted to female, wherein male is same as male and female is same as female). But as the LGBTQIA community illustrates, male is not same to male and nor is female same to female, nor is same to intersex or trans or to any other gender-sex intersection.
In our imagined world it seems to me, all sex is in fact hetero-sex because we are all different and singularly unique from each other in our gender-sex-orientation constellation. (Try to GPS map that on your iPhone!)
In practical terms, it’s clear many if not most of us are attracted to–sexually or not–people who are not EXACTLY like us. (though we may spend lots of time wondering why our chosen partners can’t think and act more like we do ;))
And if we adopt a truly multiple stance, each of us by definition is, in our gender-sex-orientation, unlike any other. Therefore in that model all of us by definition are always dealing with and attracted to people different from ourselves (and I mean this in merely sex-gender-orientation terms, not to mention all the other ways we are different.)
Especially as differences are truly not outwardly visible (think of just one example: a trans couple “passing” as “heterosexual,”) you never know whether you’re encountering a member of the LGBTQIA community or not, which is what the LGBTQIA really cares about at the end of the day–because that’s the one binary we’re still holding onto, isn’t it?
Is this person an ally? Or is this person going to cause me harm? Too bad we still have to wonder.
10 December 2011 on the road to Rome from Osimo // full moon!