Wednesday, May 12, 2010


You've probably noticed that I haven't posted anything in a few days. Once again, I've been extremely busy handling my partner's health problems. I spent the better part of the last two days in the hospital. I didn't sleep much during that time and when I got up this morning I was too exhausted to think, let alone generate a decent post. Aside from that, I was out of town this weekend and have been occupied with lots of new things; and don't worry: They are good for me!

Still, all these events have denied me my writing time. That bothers me on many levels. It makes me feel better just to let you all know what's going on with me, since I'm accustomed to a certain weekly output. On the other hand, I realize that life does not always offer the best circumstances in which to create. And if I have to go into "writing dormancy" more than usual in the coming weeks, I will have to face it. I apologize in advance if I don't crank out my hoped-for three or four posts every week.

I always get so many ideas during my breaks. When I just live and observe, I amass new thoughts, experiences and impressions. I know those ideas will all buoy me when I settle down into another long writing phase. I've actually jotted down three big ideas for longer pieces in the future. Although I do not have the time or space to discuss them all here, I will say that they involve these issues: Truth; confessions; power; capital punishment; free will; death; sexuality; categorization; identity; desire; subjectivity; happiness; prejudice and reflection. I have conceived both fictional and nonfictional structures in which to explore these themes. But my piece on sexuality will be part reflective, part anecdotal and part polemical. Think of it as a sequel to Foucault's work on sexuality, with a personal twist to make it accessible.

To share some detail from my own personal experience lately, I have been entertaining serious doubts about my own sexuality. And my doubts move in an unconventional direction. Namely, for almost 14 years I have been quick to characterize myself as "gay." But in fact I'm not so sure what that means anymore. By the same token, I cannot say what "straight" means, either. In truth, the only reliable conclusion I've made in this inquiry is that sexual identity is never clear-cut. That is because it reflects basic desire. Basic desire, in turn, is purely subjective. It is impossible to categorize desire because there is no limit to individuals' deepest subjective tastes.

I don't think people appreciate just how fluid sexual identity is. That is what I will address in my piece. In the process, I will discuss the unfortunate human tendency to associate absolute meaning with artificial categories. I plan to show that categories like "gay" and "straight" are not talismanic. Rather, I will show that they are at best "rough guidelines" that exist in various proportions in us all at different times in our lives.

I also plan to discuss why I think the term "gay" is absurd. When it comes to categorizing groups, sexual "orientation" is a dubious--and barely unifying--characteristic. That is not to say that people who identify themselves as "gay" do not merit certain assistance or solicitude under law. My main argument will be that "gay" is not a good identifier, nor is it absolute. There are plenty of people in the world--including me--who find men attractive, yet have no difficulty whatever finding women attractive, too. The bottom line is that one desire never excludes another. And "gay" is a category that essentially implicates a particular sexual desire.

So that's what's on my mind these days. Forgive me for the sparser posting. I promise there is plenty more to come. I have a whole list to get to!

Take care. And thanks as always for reading my archives.



angelshair said...

Interesting topic, I can't wait to read what you have to say. This is something that I find really strange, this necessity to put people or ourselves into category.
As a mix person ( half black half white), I have always found it difficult here in the US for me to find the right category when I fill applications. I am not hispanic, not white, and obviously :) black. So I just always fill as black as no other category is proposed to me. But in the mean time I am always frustrated because I think this category does not represent me fully. Yes, there is no category mixed race. LOL

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Thanks for that comment. I can empathize with your confusion about racial categories. On the latest census, I checked "white," but that is not altogether accurate, since "white" people come from completely different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. I actually wrote on the report: "White--but of German, British and Dutch descent." That's the thing about America: Ultimately we're all "alloys" of different cultural ores.

You picked up on the heart of my piece about sexuality, namely, that categorizing people is extremely crude; and even condescending. After all, who's creating the category? He seems to have more power than the person categorized, doesn't he?

It's one thing to categorize industrial machine parts or marine mammals. But people? We're too scattered and too diverse to neatly fit into all-encompassing verbal designations. Rather, categorization only takes us so far. Categories help us analyze questions in an organized, seemingly authoritative way. Yet in the end, categories are mere abstract inventions intended to help the human mind synthesize the wild variance of existence.

Sarah said...

I have been telling some people sexually is fluid for some years now. I don't think they like hearing it. They probably feel threatened, which was not my intention. I just think while it's clear to some, it may not be for others. I'm glad to see you're honest about yours and not trying to cover it up.