Your place on the Kinsey scale
by Johnathan Williams; illustration by Emma Kearney
NAME: Marcos Descalzi
SEXUALITY IF LABELED: Bisexual
BIRTHPLACE: Buenos Aires, Argentina
QUOTEABLE EXPERIENCE: I grew up pretty normally as far as sexuality goes. I was never really bullied or pushed away from the community other than being called a “faggot” in the joking way that middle schoolers did. I finally “figured it out” I guess in sophomore year and came out to my family, even though I didn’t really get the whole thing yet. Anyways, they were pretty okay with it even if they didn’t completely understand, and my girlfriend was okay with it too–in fact, we are still together.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: “When you found your relationships on the assumption that there is no sexual tension, it changes things when you come out to a friend and figure out that maybe there is.”
ADVICE FOR SOMEONE QUESTIONING THEIR SEXUALITY: “I think Kanye West said this, but if you aren’t being yourself then you aren’t alive. I remember coming to terms with my sexuality, and it made me feel more comfortable, and that was invaluable.”
* * *
There are a lot of things in life that don’t tuck neatly into tub A or B, like oh so many pens and pencils or board game pieces that would take too much effort to actually put away. All these odds and ends go into that incredible dresser drawer we all have in our room, the one that you really don’t open all that often. In other words, they go into a separate bin. Together the pencils and Monopoly tokens live in varying degrees of disorganization and free-floating chaos, each a little bit different in some way. There is a beauty in this drawer, especially when your steady hand pulls out one of the small gems and holds it to the light, ready to be used at family game night. Of course there are some people who can’t stand this type of mess, so they sort the pieces into different spots, even if that means they are thrown away or tucked all by themselves on a high shelf to roll around and choke on dust and loneliness. Sorry, that got pretty dark. Anyways, hopefully it’s obvious that I’m not actually writing an article about drawers and toys, but rather one about girls who don’t exactly like boys, men ogling at the root word of women, kids and adults trying to figure it all out. This article is about those people who live in that separate bin.
In 1948, sexologist Alfred Kinsey and colleagues came up with the novel idea that not all people fit perfectly into bins A or B. It’s strange that the world is just starting to comprehend that there are a million shades of gray between white and black. Kinsey looked at the bookend labels of “gay” and “straight” with an attempt to find out what was in between. And while he didn’t technically find a million shades, he gave us seven.
(0) exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
(1) predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
(2) predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
(3) equally heterosexual and homosexual
(4) predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
(5) predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
(6) exclusively homosexual
NAME: Katelyn Blake-Leibowitz
SEXUALITY IF LABELED: Not straight…
BIRTHPLACE: Madison, Wisconsin
EXPERIENCE: I grew up with two moms that eventually split up to give me a total of four moms. Apparently, when I was a little girl, I was like ‘you hold hands with girls, I don’t know what boys are for’. Somewhere I grew up and became conformed to the world and I was okay with people being gay, but I never really ventured to think about if I was gay or not. I didn’t really think about my sexuality until a bisexual girl at my school came out to me in sophomore year. I just remember thinking ‘Wow, so it’s not only old lesbians that are okay with this.’ And so we actually ended up dating for six months. I was actually outed to my mom when my girlfriend put up our relationship status on Facebook before I was ready, and a family friend called home. My mom was sort of upset that I hadn’t talked to her about it, but she wasn’t that bothered. Now I don’t really have a label, but I’m okay with where I am.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I really wanted to label my sexuality to help me figure out who I was, but then that ended up being sort of restricting and confusing when it didn’t exactly fit.
ADVICE: Be safe and remember that you can fall in love with anybody given the right time and place, and the best thing you can do is to not put yourself in a box in the meantime.
* * *
These seven notches became known as the Kinsey Scale and tell the world that there is in fact a spectrum of sexuality, rather than just the disjointed dots of gay, straight and bisexual. This plastic notion of love seems to make sense to most of us. After all, nobody enforces the idea that only chocolate or vanilla ice cream can be eaten, never any combination of the two. (If there are people who have such feelings towards ice cream, then you’ve never had chocolate and vanilla swirled soft-serve from Rastall.) Anyways, the fact remains that society is full of sorters, and while the Kinsey Scale may feel right and make rational sense, for some sorters the separate bin needs more distinction. Just imagine how out of hand it would get if people could choose from any degree of sexuality, not just a label found in the dictionary. In the spirit of such anarchy, pieces and sorters fight for a bin with or without dividers.
SEXUALITY IF LABELED: Labels aren’t exactly my thing
EXPERIENCE: I grew up in some pretty liberal areas, but I’ve always been sort of a tomboy, and I remember going out with the soccer team and asking for the boy toy at McDonalds. The team was like ‘are you gay?’ We were all so young, but it kind of made me think about my image. I started questioning my sexuality this spring when my best friend, who was a girl, proclaimed her love for me. We ended up dating for like three months, and then we broke up because I was super confused, and then we got back together for like two more months. I told my parents after we were over, even though they suspected for a while, but they didn’t really care. It was a very private thing, and at one point she told some of my other friends when I wasn’t super ready for them to know, so that sort of freaked me out. Generally I think I like boys more, but I can’t really count it out anymore, can I?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: It’s weird because I was definitely into her while we were dating, but when I was with a guy afterward I was definitely like ‘I like guys more…’ so I think the [Kinsey] scale is a real thing.
ADVICE: You don’t really have to know your sexuality. If you like someone who is the same gender, go for it, and if you like someone from the opposite gender, go for it. Don’t try and place yourself in any kind of box because there’s no point. You are who you are.
* * *
The bin is broadly labeled the LGBTQ community (using the most widely recognized term at this date), but inside the pieces have organized themselves, despite their tendency towards anarchy. Little cardboard walls between gay, bisexual, asexual, polysexual, questioning and more. The pieces have corrupted their own free-flowing fluid utopia for one shot at being recognized in a world of sorters. Now, instead of having to comprehend a spectrum, the sorters merely have to recognize a new list of distinctions. Sure it’s not as convenient as gay, straight and bixsexual, but it’s manageable. It is easier to comprehend a man-made tent pole that snaps down into a dozen bite-sized pieces than it is to grasp the fact that a blade of grass can bend wherever the hell it wants to. The man-made things exist in points, while the natural thing bends on a million shades in between–just like how labels don’t quite fit the spectrum of love we experience. Kinsey understood plastic love enough to trick mankind. He developed a scale with whole numbers for the sorters to fall in love with and an infinity of decimals in between for the rest of us.
NAME: Nathan Makela
SEXUALITY IF LABELED: Gay
BIRTHPLACE: Seattle, Washington
EXPERIENCE: I realized my sexuality in the seventh grade when I joined the wrestling team. I mean, I was good at wrestling, but I didn’t end up doing it the next year because I realized it wasn’t as innocent as it should’ve been. That’s when I realized that guys were pretty fucking hot. (Laughter) This was the first time I’d thought about it, but during middle school I definitely got bullied, and I even had some amounts of internalized homophobia that I had to get over. I didn’t really fully come out actually until freshman year of college, and before that I identified as bisexual.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Last year I was the only openly gay freshman guy that I knew of, and I hate to criticize CC because I really love it here, but it can be a very heteronormative culture. Sometimes it isn’t what I thought a liberal arts college was going to be like.
ADVICE: I think it was Gandhi—I know I’m quoting Gandhi like I’m super enlightened—but I like when he said that ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you do and what you say are in harmony.” It hurts to hold something like your sexuality inside, and you need to be ready to come out, but when you do things become far less limiting.
SEXUALITY IF LABELED: Bi or Gay?
EXPERIENCE: I only started questioning my sexuality about a year ago, and I said it out loud in probably like May. It was just a sudden realization that “I like girls” while watching a shitty guilty pleasure show on MTV about lesbians. I came out to my best friend who is also on the spectrum, and he really helped me out a lot. Coming out to my parents was weird though, because while my dad was sort of neutral, my mom got disappointed that I didn’t talk to her while I was questioning, and she didn’t really understand it so she said some really hurtful things about how sexuality was a choice and stuff. She actually doesn’t know about the girl I’m seeing, so I’m not out of the woods yet.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What if you showed a little kid blue and told them it was green and told them that green was blue? They would grow up confusing the things. So maybe a little girl meets a boy and ends up thinking, ‘oh so this is a crush’ and actually has feelings for the girl but is told that it’s friendship so she thinks ‘okay so this is friendship.’ That kid would mislabel them for a long time until they sorted it out.
ADVICE: Don’t worry so much about labels. Fuck it because it’s a case-by-case thing.”
* * *
This is the real world. It lacks convenience and simplicity. It isn’t laid out in black and white, and everything isn’t placed in the absolutely perfect spot on the shelf. The world we know, but don’t accept, is a million shades of gray, it is frantically digging through a messy dresser drawer and having absolutely no fucking idea what is going on while pretending that you do. We think that straight people have it easy out there, and while it is a hell of a lot easier in some ways, people on the spectrum enjoy a little something that many straight people don’t get to taste: FREEDOM. Sure, it sucks having people try and pigeonhole you, but some people live in a box their entire lives. Boys grow up thinking their only options are to eat beef, watch football games and stare at posters of naked women, while girls sit and play tea in little pink dresses. A lot of us live in boxes, and for some people, that’s okay. The not-okay part is when we have to live in a box, or with a label that we didn’t choose for ourselves or one we don’t have the courage to question.
Questioning is scary and so are the answers. I still remember looking in the mirror and telling myself, “I’m gay,” over and over again, because I had to say it once for every time someone told me differently. Years later, you and I are all here, in a liberal arts college. I’m going to extend the “question everything” mentality to your rows of boxes. Look around you at the walls of your bin or the Kinsey tattoos on your heart, then look away. Get out there and experiment. If you’re a straight white male (let’s be honest, you’re out there in strength), wink at a guy; if you’re a girl, hold another girl’s hand; if you’re trans or non-binary, live in your freedom and check out absolutely everyone in the Rastall line. Actually, everyone check out absolutely everyone in the Rastall line because we are a gorgeous campus, and we’re awesome humans and I didn’t dress up today for nothing. Be the people of decimals, be people of separate bins whose hands can’t wait to hold to the light, and be the people of plastic love.