When Our Names Expire

There’s a man in my writing class who is perhaps one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met at N.C. State. He’s a little scruffy, has an adorable smile, and says some pretty cool things sometimes. For our second round of short stories, his protagonist was gay, and it made me think, here’s my chance to see where things could go.

So after class, I told him again how believable the character’s voice was (because honestly, it was) and then I asked, “Are you gay?”

He shook his head and said, “Man, I don’t believe in that shit.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, so we said something else, and then we both went on our ways. But what he said stuck with me. It left me feeling unsettled. Was he saying he didn’t believe in sexuality? Was he saying he didn’t believe in gay rights or that “gayness” exists at all? Should I have taken offense?

What if that is what he meant, and I should have taken offense? I’d just stood there. I’d let myself become the victim and I never once tried to stand up for myself, for my people, my brothers and sisters. That left me feeling even more unsettled than before.

So we had class again today, and I vowed to myself I would ask him precisely what he meant. I didn’t want to think less of him for what could ultimately be a misunderstanding, and I certainly didn’t want to feel bad about myself because of my reaction.

I waited for him to leave the classroom (I wanted to make it as private as possible, to be respectful of whatever his answer would be), and then I ran after him and just flat out said, “I didn’t know what you meant by what you said yesterday. Could you explain it for me?”

He sat down, chuckling a bit (there’s that adorable smile again, he really is beautiful), and he tells me he believes sexuality is fluid, non-constant, so why should we use labels? He thinks they do more harm than good. We’re just sexual, he said, so why stick a label on it?

Of course, he also said right now he has a girlfriend, which means he has no interest in becoming my boyfriend, but I was really grateful to have asked him what he meant–because not only did it help me to see him more fully and feel better about myself, it made me realize I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I’ve probably said once or twice I foresee a world in which people don’t distinguish between “gay” or “straight,” a world in which we all equally value all expressions of committed and consensual love. If one person is attracted to another, asking the other out would be the same regardless of gender and sex: if the other is interested, good things will follow, and if not, an honest admission of that position would not be met by hatred, disgust, or possibly even violence.

One man asking out another, a man who’s only interested in women, would be no different than that other man asking out a woman and being turned down. Negative repercussions would, in theory, cease to exist in general interactions.

In this world, gay and straight cease to define us. Regardless of whether we see sexuality as dynamic or static (I fall into the latter category myself), we will have reached a level of acceptance, no, a level of embracing our differences such that distinguishing ourselves based upon those differences is no longer necessary.

In this world far ahead of us, one might say this unity, conformity, is antagonistic against the natural order: Entropy is not conserved. As time progresses, the universe becomes more random. Progressing to a level state is a contradiction of natural processes. Social change could never be attained. How would this world ever exist?

The truth is our individual differences, I feel, would continue to diverge, each of us being so unique we lack definition under broad categories such as gay or straight. The unity follows from this, that only by lacking labels, we have actually increased the randomness. There’s only one possible outcome if a gay man asks a straight man out. How many more possibilities would there be if simply one man asks another out? The universe itself is pushing us in this direction. Society just needs time to follow.

This world beyond labels needn’t stop at sexuality. Race, ethnicity, and maybe even nationality or religion–the homogeny will not arise from adopting identical beliefs, but from embracing all of them equally. Identity will follow our own individual truths. My identity will be that which, through all things, remains invariant to myself. Outside labels need not apply. We’d live beyond their need in this utopia of equality.

I will no longer be that gay Jewish storyteller studying math.

All those labels? All those names? They’ll just expire.

And in the end, all that’s left will just be me.


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