Friday, February 17, 2012

An Analogy (with Colors!)

I need to stop apologizing for not blogging.  I've been so busy lately I haven't even had time to think, let alone blog.  I will do my very best to blog as often as possible; as much as my job and schedule permit.  That said, I have four or five post ideas and an entire week off.  (I think I'm the only one who's actually worried about this, so I am saying it more for my own sake than anyone else's).

One of the most frustrating things for me personally is when I'm explaining things about sexuality to people and they say: "Why is there so much terminology?  Why can't there just be: straight and gay...and maybe bisexual."  And my answer is: "Because sexuality and gender are complicated."

And here is where the colors come in.  Like straight, gay, bi, female, and male there are common colors that everyone knows: red, green, yellow, orange, blue.  There are also colors that mean pretty much the same thing like purple and violet (violet is actually the proper name for purple, not an actual shade) just like straight is synonymous with heterosexual and het; gay is synonymous for homosexual and both overlap with lesbian.

There are also slightly obsolete/more obscure/less used/more formal colors: red-violet, red-orange, blue-green. Homosexual and heterosexual are terms the people will certainly know what they mean, but they aren't used in colloquial speech.

Then, beyond the common, universally-known colors and the uncommon, universally-known colors, then there are all the names for very specific shades of colors: maroon, vermilion, puce, periwinkle, lavender, seafoam green, cerulean, indigo, mustard, etc, etc, etc.  I literally could probably go on for an entire page without even having to think about it that hard (I didn't even name all of the Kanto Pokemon towns yet).  In parallel are sexuality and gender related terms that not everyone knows the meaning of: transgender, intersex, pansexual, queer, polyamory, asexual, cisgendered (to name a few).

In all honesty, I think that I'd run out of gender and sexuality vocabulary and terms a whole hell of a lot sooner than I'd run out of colors (maybe not, I might surprise myself, but I think I still might).  Why do we have literally hundreds of names for colors and people don't complain (at least not seriously (generally)) but more than one handful of sexuality and gender terminology is just too much?  Sexuality is an infinitely more complicated, more intimate, and more human subject than colors.  It's complex and if we are to be totally honest with ourselves, sexuality is truly unique to each person.  Yes, you can be heterosexual in essence, but even within that classification you might be more attracted to masculine people, feminine people, people with your own interests, people with opposite interests.  And those varieties are going to be unique and thus it is impossible to have a word that describes every person's gender and sexuality; just like how you could never have a word for every color, every shade, every tint, every tone in existence.

Saying: "Only heterosexuality, homosexuality, female, and male are valid terms, everything else is superfluous" is just ludicrous.  It's just like saying: "Only red, blue, yellow, and green are valid colors".  Yes, it's true red, blue, and yellow (or green if you're talking about light) are the basic colors which everything else is based on, but calling purple, blue instead is just not calling the situation what it actually is.  Just like calling a woman who likes men and is attracted to women occasionally gay is just incorrect.  Just like calling a woman who likes men and is attracted to women occasionally bi, is not necessarily correct.  The terms in common usage are limiting and archaic.

In the situation just described previously where my analogy breaks down is: if a woman likes men but is occasionally attracted to women and still identifies as heterosexual then that is her choice.  A choice which should not be questioned because only you truly know yourself.  It's entirely possible there are perfectly good reasons she still identifies as heterosexual.  Unlike with colors where that can be some debate: is it pink or purple?  In the end, it's still in that range on the spectrum, unlike (universally) in relation to sexuality and gender.

The other thing about gender and sexuality is most of the terminology is incredibly intuitive if you know anything about Latin (and Greek) roots, which, believe it or not, even the average person knows something about just by speaking the language.  The "cis" in "cisgendered" isn't pulled from the middle of no where.  The "a" in "asexual" is common in so many other words: apathetic, atypical, amoral.  I don't understand why people complain when the language and terms are not conjured from thin air (like vermillion (a plant root) or cerulean (a dye pigment) seem to be).  It is true that even some of the terms get confusing for me (what is the difference between omisexual and pansexual exactly? (this seems to depend on who you ask)), but it is still mostly understandable.

There is just a human tendency to simplify things.  To shy away from anything becoming too complicated.  To shun situations that aren't easy to grasp or deal with or comprehend.  But people are the most complex things I have ever run into.  I love just watching people because you can learn so much just about humanity and how people exist.  I just desperately wish we could all appreciate the complexities of each other and our identities as much as we seem to appreciate naming colors.


Yeah, I know: "Why can't we all just get along.  Waahh. Waahh."  But some times I really just wish people could be more accepting of deviation.  Also, on an unrelated topic, I'm not generally very good with analogies but I'm really pleased with this one.  Everything just seemed to sort of fall into place.

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