The thing about being queer is that sex is always a topic. I should say that romance is a topic, but no one wants to talk about romance, that’s too depressing. We talk about sex because it’s easier and people want to hear about sex, so we end up using sex to talk about love in that way that adults do. Everyone does this, not just queer people. Sex and love aren’t the same, and we act like we’re not talking about love, like we’re just talking about sex, but it’s not true. We’re talking about love because as much as no one wants to admit it, that’s all anyone cares about anyway. So for queer people, queer writers and artists, sex is always a topic because love is always a topic but people are embarrassed to talk about it or hear about it so they act like adults and have adult conversations. But if everyone does this, why is it different for people who are queer?
Most people are generous enough to believe that queer love is like everyone else’s. Where things start to look different is in the sex department. Let’s take an example that is not two gay men. Let’s talk about a polyamorous relationship between a woman and two men. So we want to talk about the sex here, we want to talk about who she is having sex with, and are the dudes having sex with each other? What is their sex like? But we don’t really care about their sex, we care about their love. We want to know how their love works. We can’t imagine a love like that, but we are generous enough to believe that this love isn’t inherently wrong. We want to know more, but we talk about sex, not love, because that’s how grown-ups talk about this stuff. Let’s take another example: a woman who penetrates her man. We can talk about that sex. We ask: what is that like? Does that make him gay? I mean a little bit gay? (Is his love for her a gay love?) Does that make her gay? It makes them queer.
So now let’s imagine a writer, one of these women or men. Everyone is thinking about how they have sex, what do they do, wondering about it, making assumptions. When I say everyone, I’m only talking about sympathetic readers now, those who come with their own inherited biases and varying abilities to empathize generously, but have a real desire to take in this artwork. So suddenly the writer or artist feels compelled to self-identify. Because whether we admit it or not, we’re talking about love — and it is actually the only thing anyone cares about. Their privacy has been stripped away by their queerness, and everyone else wants to talk about their sex life so they want to talk about their sex life too, just to shut everyone else up and set the record straight or — and here’s where things get tricky — because if they stay silent it is a conspicuous silence, not a normal tasteful silence like when straight people don’t talk about their sex life. A romantic silence. Instead we have a bold silence, a silence that speaks louder than words. Because when you’re queer, sex is always a topic whether you like it or not.
But like I said before, we’re talking about sex as a way of talking about love. We want to say, our love is just like everyone else’s, our desire, our eros, is just like everyone else’s. We just express it differently. We want to speak to others like us and tell them, you are not the only one who wants to express your love in this way. You are not dirty. Sex is not dirty and queer sex is not dirtier than straight sex — and you know what, if it is, that’s awesome. Be proud of your dirty queer sex, because your love is just like everyone else’s, maybe better even. And there are people out there who are not queer and are trying to use sex to talk about love, ungenerous people who are trying to obscure the truth that our love is like everyone else’s by focusing on our sex lives.
There is this phenomenon that happens with Black people, with Black children specifically, that has been well documented: Black children are routinely identified as adults by White people.This is one of the ways that we as a society find to do violence to Black people. This is one of the ways we make excuses for it, one of the ways we make it easier, make it possible. We take their childhood away from them as a first step, before we take other things we can’t afford for them to have — safety, freedom, etc.; these are just examples. I think this thing where sex is always a topic for queer people is similar in the way our privacy is being taken from us. This gets really obvious when everyone wants to talk about trans people’s genitals. What are your genitals like? Are you really a woman? What does your penis look like? This is more obviously invasive, but the sex thing is harder to identify because we as queer people really want to talk about our sex lives, too. We want to tell other non-queer people about it and we want to tell each other. We want to watch porn. We want to be in porn. We want to say, this is ours and it is worth having.
We lose a kind of childhood this way. We give away our innocence in order to get a seat at the grown-ups’ table. We fight for our right to fuck who we want and how we want, and we lose the opportunity for romance, for the veil to be stripped away in the privacy of our own bedrooms. We miss romance. We have fought for gay marriage to be legal, but in the meantime we lost our virginity rather publicly so we will never be able to wear white on our wedding day. We say that we never wanted to wear white on our wedding day, that wearing white on your wedding day is stupid and old-fashioned and repressive; that our way, the adult conversations we get to participate in as equals, is a better way. More progressive, more egalitarian, more honest. We believe in kink, in everyone’s right to love who and how they want. We are queer, and this is what it means to fight for that space in mainstream discourse. We fight with our pussies and our dicks. And we win, most of the time. Because everyone wants to talk about sex anyway, and one of the good things about talking about sex is that sex usually gets a lot better when you learn more about it. Ignorance is the enemy of good sex, and everyone wants good sex.
Except that no one cares about sex really, we’re using sex to talk about love. Sex (especially good sex) with someone you love, even outside of a committed relationship, is so different from sex with a stranger that you shouldn’t even compare the two, they shouldn’t even be considered the same act. Sex with someone you love affects your body differently, affects your mind differently, affects your soul differently because you feel something, you risk feeling deeply, and that has nothing to do with the mechanics of sex. It has nothing to do with what you can see looking in a bedroom window, not while people are fucking anyway. Maybe if you looked in their bedroom window while they got dressed in the morning. Or while they went to sleep at night. And it isn’t clear at all, to me anyway, that talking about love helps us love better — especially if all we are doing is talking about sex as a proxy. Loving, as a sustained practice, is what makes us love better. Is it easier to do this without sex being the topic all the time?
As terrifying and boring as it sounds, I want to give us room to talk about our feelings. I want to give us room to talk about how our bodies are different from other bodies, from heteronormative bodies, but I want to give us room to talk about our souls too. This isn’t a popular word, soul, but I use it because I think it is important. Prayer is another word that isn’t popular, but I use that word too. I am praying for our souls, our queer souls, not because our souls are damned but because our souls are precious, are ours, and as such need saving just as much as anyone else’s.
Eli Rarey is Ohio Edit’s Magazines and Media Expert. He has lived in New York, Santa Rosa, Dublin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and his own mind. He is available for parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. His feature film, The Famous Joe Project, is out now on iTunes. His new interactive movie HARD DECISIONS will be released on Youtube this fall.