The fluidity of sexuality

My mother and I had some odd discussions when I was a teenager and a young adult, most of them during the time period when I was essentially an only child and played the role of both daughter and best friend (a very weird dual role at times). I don’t know that she ever had these same conversations with my sister; I’m fairly confident in saying they never came up with my brothers.

One of the discussions revolved around my having children. It seemed very clear from a fairly young age that marriage and children were not at the top of my life’s “to do” list. Some little girls dream of having a husband and having a family. Me, not so much — though I’m sure there must have been a point in my young childhood when I had those typical dreams, they were long gone by the time I hit my mid-teens. I hadn’t ruled out the possibility of having husband and/or children completely. At some point, my mother and I had come to the agreement that I really didn’t need the husband to have the child. (In hindsight, I suspect my mother was hoping that I would remain a virgin until I got married and would never get married — thus allowing me to remain a virgin and making artificial insemination the only option for having children; I, on the other hand, was thinking “I don’t need to be married to have sex.”)

Another of the discussions revolved around my sexuality. As I’ve already mentioned, my mother hoped I’d be a virgin until I got married, a plan I fully supported until I was in my late teens and had realized that I really didn’t want to get married anytime soon. I’ve always considered myself to be heterosexual in terms of sexual attraction. Women in general do nothing for me sexually. However, I’ve always thought that I *could* be sexually attracted to a woman if I loved her. Love is a soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart thing that is non-gender-specific. I can remember trying to explain this to my mother when I was in my teens. I’m not sure what she truly thought of it — you tend to be really self-involved in your teenage years and everything is All About You — but she seemed to go along with it. From later conversations, I think she would have been typical of her generation, thinking that she’d failed as a parent if one of her children turned out to be gay. (I think it fell into the same category as committing a serious crime: “I’d love you no matter what, but I’d still turn you in and then visit you in prison.”)

Anyway, to make a long story slightly less long, NPR published an article on August 7th entitled ‘Late-Life Lesbians’ Reveal Fluidity Of Sexuality that reminded me of that last conversation with my mother — clearly I was way ahead of my time:

For many years, researchers assumed so-called “late-life lesbians” were simply repressed by society until they felt comfortable coming out. But that’s not entirely the case, says Lisa Diamond, a researcher at the University of Utah who is studying whether sexuality is fluid or fixed. Diamond has been studying a group of 79 women for 15 years to track changes in their sexuality.

“It does appear to be that women’s erotic desires are pretty tightly linked to their emotional feelings,” she tells NPR’s Guy Raz. “So for some of these women, they authentically did not feel attracted to women before they met one particular woman that they completely fell in love with.”

(The NPR page linked above also includes the radio broadcast of the story, which is more extensive than the written article.)

I’m pretty sure I’ve read personal stories from men who found themselves in similar circumstances, where they weren’t — and perhaps still aren’t in general — attracted to men until they met the man they fell in love with. Again, it’s about love, with sex just tagging along for the ride.