Ten years before Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it, I was sitting at my small kitchen table staring at my best college friend as she told me about her most recent sexual encounter.
“I totally kissed her.” And, perhaps sensing my confusion, she added, “I am not a lesbian. I just wanted to make out with her.”
Isn’t that what a lesbian is? Someone who makes out with another girl? Was she going to say that having sex with a girl doesn’t make her a lesbian either? Was she in denial? Was she going to want to make out with me next?
I was born and raised in a small town and this was my first non-hetero exposure. Before this moment, my world consisted of two perfectly defined, black-and-white boxes labeled ‘straight’ and ‘gay’. My straight box consisted of every single person I knew on the planet. My gay box consisted of a mix between the people I learned about in church who were going to be burning in hell and the stereotypes I managed to pick up from MTV.
My friend had just made a definite leap into the ‘gay’ realm.
It would still be a few more years until my highly adaptive but very destructive boxes would fade into a wonderful sea of gray.
Perhaps, the greatest gift of education is the diversity that enters into one’s life combined with becoming a more critical consumer of information. I am glad to say that during my sophomore year of college, I was introduced to the Kinsey Scale.
Instead of conceptualizing concrete categories, Alfred Kinsey proposed a continuum as being more accurate. A person who ranks as a ‘0’ is exclusively heterosexual, meaning all thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are toward the other sex. On the far end of this continuum is a ‘6’, which represents people who have all of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward the same sex. The numbers in-between represent varying degrees of attraction towards same/other sex, with ‘3’ being equal attraction toward both men and women.
It wasn’t too much further into my education that I discovered the fascinating work of Dr. Lisa Diamond, who researches sexual fluidity at the University of Utah. Not only is there a continuum that we exist on, her work suggests that sometimes we shift around on the scale!
I was well on my way to realizing that my friend was right, she could kiss a girl and be totally into guys. More importantly, I was realizing that it doesn’t really matter. We all exist on this great big continuum of gray with one huge thing that unites us:
We all have the need to love and be loved—everything else is just details.
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Edited by: Ben Neal