I’ve heard that there are people in this world who, from an early age, are confident in their sexual orientations. Some people know whether they are straight, gay, bisexual, or something else entirely by puberty, sometimes even earlier. If you are one of these people, know that I envy you. My experience hasn’t been like that. To paraphrase Alyssa Jones in Chasing Amy, I was not given a map at birth.
Rather than tell you about my full journey (as I doubt it’s finished), I’ll tell you where I am now. I am a cisgender bisexual woman, married to a cisgender straight man, involved in queer and sex-positive communities. “Bisexual” is the term I most often use to describe my orientation, but it’s not the only word I use. I might say “queer,” depending on the context, or “lesbiAnders,” a term that I affectionately coined when my husband and I started dating. But none of those words have simple, clear-cut meanings. I often feel the need to over-share personal details about my life just so that the words I am using make sense to the people listening.
This isn’t just a problem that I have. It’s a problem that we all have. Is there a universally-accepted definition of “straight”? Perhaps, but does that definition include straight-identified men who have sex with men? Is there a universally-accepted definition of “gay”? Perhaps, but does it include women like Sheryl Swoopes, who became engaged to a man six years after coming out as a lesbian? If your sexual orientation evolves over time, does it invalidate past experiences and identities you have embraced? Do “monogamy” and “polyamory” qualify as sexual orientations? If your gender identity falls outside of the man/woman binary, how do you communicate your existence as a sexual being in a culture obsessed with binaries?
These are just a few of the questions I want to address in Greyscale, the interactive documentary about sexuality and language that I will be producing this year. Greyscale is my Master’s thesis in the Media Studies program at The New School, and I am using this blog to document my process of developing, producing, editing, and distributing the documentary. I am expecting to graduate in December 2014, which gives me about a year to complete this project. And I couldn’t be more excited, because this isn’t just a Master’s thesis or a fun project for me. This is the culmination of much of the work I’ve done as a filmmaker, writer, academic, and inquisitive queer person over the course of my life.
That’s a bit dramatic, but I want to make it clear how passionate I am about Greyscale. I am disheartened by the lack of comprehensive language that we have to discuss sexual identity in the year 2014. We’re all a lot more complicated than words like “straight,” “gay,” or “bisexual” suggest. Please join me in finding a new way to communicate our stories to the world.