I was four going on five when I was told to “pick a side”. I never found my feelings to be a cause of confusion, despite the tonnes of stereotypes and misconceptions I was faced by-in fact, on the contrary, I found it pretty fucking obvious. I had the laws of love spot on by the time I reached primary school, and not a moment later.
As someone who isn’t and has never been particularly fussy about the sex of a potential love interest or, as a child, hugely over-invested crush, it’s easy to say that gender is irrelevant in regards to the whole romantic side of life. To me; often, it is. But evidently- and without a doubt-many people feel bias towards one gender or another, and there is no harm in having a preference or even a label.
On one condition: That has to be something that liberates you as opposed to limits you.
So frequently, I hear tales from classmates, family members, and grown adults that talk of ‘confusion’ over their sexual orientation. Until yesterday, they identified as exclusively heterosexual, and now a striking young man who could well have stepped out of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has entered the stage. Gone with the sexual attraction to women, never to be seen again.
Often, the laws of love and lust are far more complex than that. It is rarely black and white; there are many grey areas. In days gone by, we assumed that opposites attract solely for the purpose of reproduction and the survival of our race. Falling in love was a by-product, occurring purely so that two parents would stay emotionally and physically close so as to give the child the best possible start in life.
In many ways, times have changed-we still buy into misconceptions and false information-but generally, in developed countries, we have more understanding of human sexuality. Whilst I believe that the above-mentioned is almost certainly a factor of why some fall in love, it is far from a thorough explanation; at least from a neuroscientific perspective. If that was the case, why, evolutionarily, would two people who weren’t able or weren’t willing to have children experience the exact same overwhelming feelings?
It’s something I’ve been considering for as long as I can recall, unsatisfied by the answer “because it just is”. Almost always, we evolve to be the magnificent creatures that we are for a reason-not a spiritual, ulterior meaning, but for the ultimate purpose that has been deep rooted within each and every one of us throughout history: survival. And because of the plasticity of the human brain in comparison to the somewhat hardwired nature of almost every other animal, we have found deeper, more emotionally orientated ways of soothing our vulnerabilities.
There is a reason for the confession “I fell for them because they were there”. As highly strung lifeforms, we seek and are sought after as sources of comfort-whenever and whoever that may be. Falling in love is somewhat of a survival mechanism. Oxytocin and serotonin are released as perfect biological rewards.
Of course, romance has its downfalls-it has never been invincible or guaranteed. But perhaps that sums up nature in general-clever in theory; but imperfect in practice.
Interestingly, it is thought that women are more sexually fluid than their male counterparts. We have no way of confirming, at this point in time, if there’s any genetic reason for that-or whether it’s an environmental outcome. However, a possible explanation for this lies in the fact that, down throughout the ages, women’s sexuality has always been downplayed by a misogynistic society. It’s portrayed as somehow naïve, attraction to the same sex is “playful”, “self discovering” and existing primarily to please the opposite gender. Opposingly, men are viewed as generally speaking more powerful-with a much stronger and more overwhelming need for sex-and to be anything but exclusively heterosexual is viewed as unmanly.
It makes me wonder, as a society, where our values lie if we are teaching children to conform to gender norms and sexual categories as opposed to allowing them to fall purely for a person. Are we really “allowing them to remain innocent”-or is this just an excuse for the collateral damage that entails closed-mindedness?
There is no way of knowing why we feel attraction towards the people that we do-particularly when it comes to gender. It’s a fascinating and often unnerving journey into the human mind; yet knowing is not essential.
The only fact that we can be sure of, right here and right now, is that it matters not who you fall for; or indeed, why you fall for them. It is okay-advisable, even-to always follow your heart and go where the day takes you.
To be happy is to be free:
Love needs no labels.