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  • Writer's pictureLiam Xavier

Intimacy, Sexuality & The Complicated Pursuit of Individuality

Updated: May 1

The weather is cold and I’m out for a coffee with an old school friend. Nostalgia and growth interact with one another and I realise, as we discuss the looming threat of our 30s, that they are just a year and a half away. As so many of us say: time and age are much of a construct, but it does, as ever, get me thinking. If there’s anything I’m grateful for in my twenties, it’s been the erratic, tetris-like collation of my own self-understanding - each block tumbling into place after various resets. Rare for me to be grateful for erraticism and chaos but it’s this disordered growth that has allowed me to understand my individual journey and experience and, as we’ll now discuss, the ways in which not everything fits into a binary definition. 


I once thought, as I’m sure many have, that all things about us had to fit a strict test of truth. In some circles, this is still presented as the case and is partly the reason I’m writing this. There’s a pervading belief that every experience we hold has to have a name and with that name, a checklist to qualify its purity. This purity means that for us to proudly announce something or to give cadence to a feeling, it has to first go through a rigorous examination to make sure it fits a societally imposed picture of conventionality. 


For my own experiences, this finds itself mostly in my personal connection with the Ace community and my complicated tussle of a relationship with masculinity. Even just saying Ace, I’m aware, paints a picture in some people's minds of sex-repulsion or a lack of attraction. That is one end of a spectrum but not the only definition, I feel I sit somewhere in between Allosexuality and Demisexuality. For the sake of ease, I say Demisexual because it talks of a view of sex and attraction from a place of connection and trust, separated from an immediate desire to have sex with someone at first sight. But it’s here, in my own exploration of the community, where the binary crosses the spectrum of the Left and the Right. The right wing factions would love to see heterosexuality be the only truth and the Left seem to believe in more but ask you to tick all the boxes or none at all. It’s just not sustainable. I say that as a lefty liberal, understanding that even these definitions are, in a sense, reductive.


I certainly don’t have the solution but it seems an impossible task to exist in a world where all sides believe in binaries of belonging, doesn’t it? My experience with masculinity is perhaps a more common one and shared in a number of ways, but even in these situations, there will always be an element of individualistic differentiation that can’t be forgotten. I am a man that enjoys some stereotypical masculine things, identifies as a cisgendered man but is also fervently in touch with his feminine side, with a desire to express it more in public. The ways in which this feeling came about are individual to me, the intricate desires are individual to me, the collection of intimate elements are individual. What isn’t individual is the need to feel seen and understood which is where the idea of community comes into play. We all want to know that we belong somewhere and that, even in the ways we differ, we are normal. Someone might say that if I feel at odds with a label then I shouldn’t attach it to myself at all, but sometimes labels are better than the feeling of an unidentifiable existence. It’s just in the current state of society, that seems to exist on a creaky, see-saw of imbalance in desperate need of some WD40.


Another reason this is front and centre of mind, in fact, is the recent semi-awkward, highly damaging bandying about of the term ‘queerbaiting’. Not to stir up some frustration here but think of some of the recent difficulties surrounding Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Kit Connor etc. People’s self expression is regularly placed under a microscope and called out as unacceptable if it isn’t what is expected. My assumption, in all cases, is that it comes from an insecurity created by several years of upset and so when someone sees a more conventionally ‘flippant’ approach to their identity, they denounce it. What happens, as a result, is that people are unnecessarily outed or are having to defend their self expression and, in protecting an identity, identities are ironically hurt. In the case of queerbaiting, as well, the term finds itself detached from it's genuinely hurtful origins and loses some of its impact.


We have to understand - I think as a matter of urgency - that the closer we get to an openmindedness of society and the more definitions of being that we come across, the more we have to let go of limiting conjectures. By that I mean that we have to understand that with more information and more places to learn, we should be embracing this expansion of emotional associations. Nothing has ever fit perfectly and letting go of that restrictive ideal will save so much hurt. Some people need labels, some people don't. All people want the chance to exist as themselves, but to know that someone is there to either say "I see you and I want to understand you" or "I see you, I understand you, I'm the same but I'd love to know how we differ". We should be fascinated by our individualistic interpretations, enamoured by the manifold manifestations of sex, sexuality and indivualistic expression. We should be welcoming people who fit mostly, but offer a new perspective on standardised expectations. Everytime we allow people to open up, to be different-but-accepted, we grow a kinder society. Yes, the process of unlearning can be arduous and stir-up difficult internalised feelings, but it's beautiful to realise just how varied we can be as humans. Labels are helpful but require iterative reviews to ensure they're as updated as they can be. Even as liberals that campaign for all kinds of things, we can subsconsciously be displaying a similar spiteful stubborness for traditional structures as many bigots do, and its important to stay awake to those damaging habits. Whatsmore is we have to be understanding of that erratic nature I mentioned earlier: that one day our comprehension might be far different from a day in the future. It's just as important to allow space for that impermanence.

So, my name is Liam, I feel somewhat at home with saying I am an effeminate Heterosexual Demisexual, but my view of sex and attraction is slightly more complex than what we know so far of Demisexuality. I'd love to tell you more, what about you?




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