MY GRAMMAR-SCHOOL girlfriend has a girlfriend who used to have a boyfriend. Two of my girl friends have boyfriends whose last girlfriends were actually boyfriends. One of my girl friends' boyfriend still has a boyfriend. I don't have a boyfriend, but I did have an affair with a boy friend who now has a wife. Of this whole group, though, I'm the only gay one.
Try wrapping your brain around that.
It's a doozy for those of us who grew up in a polarized world where you were either straight, which was good, or you were gay, which was better or worse, depending on your point of view and how much you valued the ability to accessorize on a budget.
Today, however, traditional notions of sexuality are being thrown out the window. A lot of shiny, happy people have decided that calling themselves "gay" or "straight" is too constricting, the emotional/sexual equivalent of Martin Landau's too-small coffin in the movie "Ed Wood." "Why pick one thing when you can have it all?" they ask, confounding both the exclusively gay and the staunchly straight with their impudence and bravado. These folks want everything and, it seems, they can have it.
Michael Stipe, for instance, the chrome-domed lead singer of the most popular band in the world, R.E.M., calls himself an "equal opportunity letch," when discussing his proclivities for both men and women. Singer Sophie B. Hawkins uses the word "omnisexual" to describe herself . . . and it has nothing to do with a fondness for Dodge automobiles. "My sexuality is as individual as my soul," she told Out magazine. Who's going to march in the gay pride parade in New York City this weekend, now that no one is gay anymore?
Jill Sobule, too, sings "I Kissed a Girl" every two minutes on MTV, but in interviews says: "I've kissed a girl. I've kissed a boy. So what's next?"
What's next, indeed! I wonder who's going to march in the gay pride parade in New York City this weekend, now that no one is gay anymore? Me and Lady Bunny?
Still, when you read interviews with "try-sexuals" -- people who'll try anything, as we used to say -- or the book "Gender Outlaw," the gender-blending treatise by performance artist Kate Bornstein that just came out in paperback, you start to think that to be exclusively gay is to be an antique. Ms. Bornstein is an extreme case of modernity. Born a man, she's now a transsexual lesbian whose female lover is becoming a man. And you thought the Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley union was confusing!
Bisexuality is tame in comparison to that, too. An article on the topic in the June Vogue -- always a good place to learn about such things -- suggests that bisexuals drive the rest of us crazy because they embody "the certainty of ambiguity" and "the stability of instability." The author is quoting Harvard English Professor Marjorie Garber's new book, "Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life." In it, to quote Vogue, Ms. Garber suggests that being exclusively gay or straight all your life "has outlived its usefulness; it should recede into the background in much the same way as other anachronistic social arrangements have."
That's going to be a tough one for all of us to swallow. I think I've got to re-examine my thinking. Like so many people, I've clung to the label of "gay" because it gave me membership in a community. But certainly it is not all that I am. And, I've certainly been physically attracted to my share of women over the years, even if I haven't done anything about it. I mean, if Annie Lennox ever leaves her husband, I hope it's for me.
Until then, maybe it's a good idea to eschew labels while we're marching in the gay pride parade this weekend. Maybe then we can get around to what's really important: caring about other people, whether they're like us or not.
In the wonderful new film "The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love," one young woman leaves her boyfriend for an out lesbian. When she tells her friends she's fallen for a girl, she says, "I didn't say I was gay. I said, 'I'm in love.' " Maybe that's liberation in its purest form.
Frank DeCaro wrote this for Newsday.