How wonderful it is to get your updates! And with a great photo from your “Leo and Takeru” party, too. What fun! Takeru and I are with you in spirit!
It’s great to hear that your book is inspiring so much thinking and such valuable conversations. The world is changing rapidly, and it’s wonderful that people are exploring ideas and looking for ways to “build bridges instead of walls.”
It’s clear that you and your readers are thinking about definitions of sexuality and about the role of desire in those definitions. My own feelings evolve, so let me offer the thoughts I have today in case they might be helpful.
In the late 1940s the first Kinsey Report introduced the idea that sexuality is a continuum, not two static points: that some people are purely homosexual or heterosexual, while sexual identity for many other people exists along the line between those two extremes. This idea makes so much sense to me, particularly as the world and its “truths” become less and less black and white for me, and more and more like shades of grey.
If definitions of sexuality have more than two options, however, then how do we identify ourselves to those who want clear and firm labels?
One way to figure out our place on the continuum would be to look closely at our desires. I’m choosing the word “desire” because for me today it’s different from empathy, compassion, or even heart-felt romance. For me it includes some degree of “craving”: erotic desire at a level anywhere between mild and profound. The placement and intensity of that desire might reveal our place on the continuum of sexual identity, and if our desires shift, then perhaps our identities may shift, too.
In the Renaissance many Europeans felt strongly that the highest, most ideal form of love was one man’s Platonic love for another man. (Surprise! —the writers celebrating this notion were men.) In those days the word “homosexual” did not exist and people did not define themselves by sexual acts, so this “noble love” existed independently from physical desire, at least as an idealized concept. In the United States today we call this kind of connection “Male Bonding” or, in Hollywood-talk, a “Bromance.” This might be what your young reader is experiencing. It’s a deep, powerful friendship, and it’s a wonderful thing. If this bonding is entirely without sexual desire, both participants would probably identify themselves as heterosexual, and might or might not have sexual relationships with others of the opposite gender.
But what if part of this love is more than purely Platonic? What if one of the two has sexual desire for the other? How do we define the participants then? One of them might already identify as homosexual or bisexual (a lovely shade of grey!), and you can sometimes also hear people identify as “Straight but not narrow”, or use the charming “Heteroflexible” for folks who mostly see themselves as straight, but still are curious or occasionally active in same-gender sex.
If what we’re talking about is labels, there’s another one that’s important to me, too: Allies. These are people who don’t personally identify as members of a minority group, but who support the rights, opportunities, and contributions of others in a minority community. These allies are incredibly important in helping to promote civil rights so that oppression can decline and people can be more informed, caring, and compassionate. I’m certain that some of your readers fall into this category, and my gratitude goes out to them, too, for the ways that they are helping the world grow.
So what’s your own sexual identity? You get to choose any label you wish. Let’s start with “Human”!