James W. Hicks, M.D.

Archive for the ‘Flexible People’ Category

Rimbaud

In Flexible People, Media on October 10, 2011 at 9:15 am

The publication of a new biography of — and a new translation by John Ashbery of the poems of — Arthur Rimbaud, the prodidgy of French modern poetry, have been the occasions for several articles about the poet and his life.

Rimbaud was notorious as a youth for his homosexual relationship with the older poet Paul Verlaine, who left his wife to be with him. Rimbaud spoke graphically about engaging in sodomy with Verlaine, and complained that Verlaine sometimes expected him to top, when he would prefer to bottom. But about a decade later, after giving up life as a poet and becoming a trader in Africa, Rimbaud settled down with a local woman.

Disappointingly, the reviewer of these books in the New Yorker needlessly characterized Rimbaud as really heterosexual, suggesting that his earlier homosexual relationship was just a bit of performance art. The reviewer in the New York Review of Books more properly avoided imposing modern assumptions onto the sexuality of either poet, both of whom were clearly capable of having meaningful relationships with either sex.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!

Gandhi

In Flexible People on April 2, 2011 at 9:00 am

A new biography of the Mahatma Gandhi – Great Soul, by the acclaimed journalist, Joseph Lelyveld – has sparked controversy after reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal published revelations that Gandhi may have been bisexual.

While working as an attorney in South Africa, Gandhi apparently left his wife and moved in with a male friend, a German bodybuilder and architect, with whom he also exchanged homoerotic letters.

Comedian, Travon Free

In Flexible People on January 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

The young stand-up comedian, author, and former college athlete, Travon Free, has joined the small rank of celebrities who have declared themselves bisexual. His coming out is unusual not only because he is male, but also because he is black. Read his coming-out essay on his blog, which eloquently describes his evolving sense of his sexuality, his challenges and supports, and his relationship to god, religion, the black community, and college friends.

Free describes himself as sexually interested in both boys and girls since he was 14 years old. He’s had relationships with both men and women and is currently in a relationship with another man. He politely resists suggestions that he is “really gay.”

In terms of the sexual types defined in this blog, Free might be ambisexual or flexamorous, two categories which obviously overlap. But why parse, since he is proud and comfortable with the term “bisexual.”

You can also read more about Free on his professional web site, but be sure to read his essay.

Gay and Lesbian

In Flexible People, Sexual Types on October 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

If you are gay or lesbian (the term usually preferred by gay women), your sexual interests are directed almost exclusively towards members of the same sex. You have probably had some heterosexual experiences, but they have felt uncomfortable, unpleasant, mechanical, or devoid of passion and affection. From an early age, you have been most attracted to, fallen in love with, and sexually desired other men (if you are gay) or women (if you are lesbian). Over the years, you probably began to realize that forming a relationship with the opposite sex was not for you, and if you continued to date, you did so to provide a cover or to please your family. You began to identify with the idea of being gay or homosexual, especially if you were exposed to gay family, friends, or role models.

Since society discourages homosexuality in so many ways, those who identify as gay or lesbian tend to be those who feel they have no other choice. You may feel you were “born that way,” and several scientific studies suggest there may be a genetic component. If you have any feelings at all for the opposite sex (in other words, if you are naturally homoflexible, ambisexual, flexamorous, or some other flavor of bisexual), you may be tempted to favor those feelings and identify as straight rather than pursuing a path that can put you at odds with your family, church, and society at large.

Some lesbians and gay men express what are generally considered, respectively, masculine and feminine traits (see the description of the metamorphic type). But the opposite is not true: most gay men and women do not grow up feeling that they are, in other respects less masculine or feminine than their peers.

There are many men and women who have come out in recent years and identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Two of the most famous are the Democratic senator, Barney Frank, and the entertainer, Ellen Degeneres.

Metamorphic

In Flexible People, Sexual Types on October 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

Metamorphic is a term I invented to capture several different sexual types which have in common some degree of identification with the opposite sex. There are many theories about the features which define and distinguish the different types, for example by contrasting gender identity to sexual orientation, but we do not really have a coherent explanation for the wide range of combinations that exist in real life.

This is the most preliminary and uncertain sexual type in my model, so I hope you will bear with me and continue to give feedback until we get it right. Surprisingly, metamorphic features have turned out to be much more common in the profiles generated by my Flexuality Test than I expected.

In the most common metamorphic presentation, you are not only attracted to the opposite sex, but also sexually excited by the idea of imitating or becoming the opposite sex. As a child, you enjoyed wearing the clothing, shoes, accessories, or make-up of your opposite sex parent or siblings, and at puberty, you found these experiences sexually arousing. But in contrast to some boys and girls who later grow up to identify as gay, you are otherwise typically masculine or feminine and feel comfortable with the sex of your birth.

When you are with a sexual partner as an adult, you may ask to wear his or her clothes. When you are alone, you may cross-dress and arouse yourself in front of a mirror. You may wear undergarments of the opposite sex beneath your regular clothing in public and become aroused later when recalling the sensation. You may switch gender roles during sex, and you or your partner may use a strap-on dildo. You may have heard these sexual behaviors and preferences described as a cross-dressing or transvestic “fetish.”

For some who have these feelings, the desire to inhabit the body of the opposite sex becomes more intense. You may imagine yourself switching places with your partner or think of yourself in the role of the opposite sex when watching pornography. Though you consider yourself straight, you may have homosexual experiences (perhaps while cross-dressing) in order to better imagine what sex would feel like from the perspective of the opposite sex. A few men and women in this category eventually seek to live as the opposite sex, changing their wardrobe, taking hormones, or seeking surgery. Social scientists refer to them as “non-homosexual” transvestites and transsexuals.

In contrast, you may have identified closely, and for non-sexual reasons, with the opposite sex since childhood. You may feel you were born into the wrong body and consider yourself effeminate or butch, respectively, compared to other boys and girls, at least when you were growing up. Your interests and mannerisms may be more typical of the opposite sex. Children with these traits tend to identify as lesbian or gay when they grow up, and may be presumed to be gay by others. Some, who identify most strongly with the opposite sex, may seek to change their gender and may think of themselves as straight from that perspective. Like the other metamorphic type, you may cross-dress, take hormones, and eventually seek gender-realignment surgery, but out of a desire to live as the opposite sex rather than because you find it sexually exciting.

In clinical settings, metamorphic presentations are seen almost exclusively in men, but this may reflect the difficulty and distress felt by men who try to dress as women, rather than the actual incidence of cross-dressing. In Western countries, women can generally get away with wearing men’s clothing without attracting much attention, and “tomboys” are treated better than “sissies.”

Another variation of the metamorphic type would include those who feel that they are neither male nor female. You may dress and style your hair in a way that blurs the distinction between male and female (as opposed to cross-dressers, for example, who may exaggerate the traits of the opposite sex in the process of imitation). Some might feel uncomfortable with gender labels in the same way that others are uncomfortable calling themselves gay or straight. Some in this category may be most attracted to other androgynous individuals.

Finally, some who consider themselves unambiguously male or female may be most attracted to partners whose gender is ambiguous or paradoxically exaggerated, including transvestites and transsexuals. Again, this may be conceptually a very different group, but may also be a variant of the metamorphic type.

A recent example of the metamorphic type is Chastity Bono, the daughter of Sonny and Cher, who has legally and surgically changed his gender, and now goes by the name of Chaz Bono. He grew up lacking the interest of other girls and came out as lesbian before switching genders. The early 20th Century Brazilian, gay hustler, murderer, and transvestite, Joao Francisco dos Santos, portrayed in the movie Madame Sata, is another example. And though I don’t intend to speculate about the artist Prince’s personal sexuality, his stage persona exhibits heterosexual-metamorphic traits, evident in his hermaphroditic outfits, iconography, and lyrics. “If I were your girlfriend…,” indeed!

Nicki Minaj

In Flexible People on September 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

With a cover article in Out magazine, Nicki Minaj continues to stir speculation about whether she is bisexual. The Billboard #1 rap artist raps with Usher about cruising for girls with “a real big ol’ ghetto booty” or stopping in her tracks for a “real, real bad lesbian.” Is she bi, or did she just need a word that rhymed with “pedestrian”?

Minaj told Black Men magazine that she does not date or have sex with women. She told Ebony magazine that she doesn’t date men. She told Out magazine, “I just don’t like that people want you to say what you are, who you are. I just am. I do what the f*** I want to do…. The point is, everyone is not black and white. There are so many shades in the middle….”

We couldn’t agree more. Judging from her rap lyrics and her habit of scribing her name on the breasts of her fans with a big marker, Minaj (or her stage persona) might be the rare manifestation of the macho type in a woman.

William Shakespeare

In Flexible People on September 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm

The greatest writer in the English language was probably bisexual.

The majority of Shakespeare’s sonnets, written 400 years ago, were addressed to a young, beautiful, male beloved, perhaps the same “Mr. W. H.” to whom the book of sonnets was dedicated. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and many other famous lines were written about this young man and muse, the “master mistress of my passion.”

But Shakespeare also married a woman, fathered three children, and referred passionately in other sonnets to a dark-eyed, female mistress.

Shakespeare might exemplify a sexual type that I have not included in my list of a dozen types, because it is rarely encountered in the contemporary Western world: the inter-generational lover. But in most cultures throughout history (think ancient Greece and Rome, the Islamic caliphate, empirial China, etc.), adult men have been able to have both women and male youths as lovers. The older man offered experience, patronage, and wealth, while the beloved had beauty. Contemporary culture values egalitarian relationships and is fearful of the exploitation of minors, so inter-generational desires and relationships are viewed, at best, with skepticism.

Vivien Leigh’s Desires

In Flexible People on August 31, 2010 at 2:51 pm

A new biography of Vivien Leigh alleges that the actress, who starred in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, was bisexual. Advance reviews say that Ms Leigh, though married to Laurence Olivier, conducted numerous affairs, several with other women. She also reportedly went to male brothels with a gay director and solicited sex from male hustlers. All this suggests she might have been supersexual.

The authors also reportedly describe Ms Leigh as suffering from manic-depression througout her life. Hypersexuality is a common symptom of mania, reflecting both the increased sexual drive and decreased inhibition experienced during manic episodes. We will have to wait for the release of the book, Damn You, Scarlett O’Hara, in order to get a better sense of whether illness or personal preference contributed most to Ms Leigh’s sexual behavior.

As a side note, though some might think of bisexuality expressed during episodes of mental illness as pathological, it really provides further evidence of our innate bisexual potential, which the other symptoms of the illness have uncovered. I have seen this myself many times in my practice, when otherwise straight patients pursue sex with both men and women while manic.

Bisexual Beats

In Flexible People on August 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

The Beats: Pictures of a Legend
Edmund White
The New York Review of Books
August 19, 2010

According to White, “Almost all of the Beats were bisexual and one another’s lovers.” Neal Cassady “slept with everyone” (i.e., supersexual or ambisexual). William Burroughs (author of Naked Lunch) married, but his fiction featured explicit descriptions of anal intercourse with young men from third world countries. Jack Kerouac (author of On the Road) and Peter Orlovsky were straight but would “put out” (i.e., heteroflexible) for Allen Ginsberg (author of Howl), who was gay.

Simon Hughes

In Flexible People on August 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Yesterday I posted about politicians in the closet. As a counter example, I should point to MP Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats (the minority party that recently formed a governing coalition with the Tories) in the UK. When faced with accusations that he might be homosexual, Mr. Hughes told the BBC in 2006 that he had had relationships with both men and women. He later confirmed that he considers himself bisexual.

Bisexual Rapper

In Flexible People on July 16, 2010 at 6:49 am

Over the last year, many female entertainers have declared that they are sexually attracted to, or capable of falling in love with, both men and women. But male celebrities rarely acknowledge any sort of bisexuality.

Now a rising star, Imani the Misfit, has marketed himself as the first “bisexual porn star rapper.” In an interview with New York Examiner, Imani reports that he is more attracted to women but has been sexually attracted to men as well since he was 13. He has posed naked and would like to be filmed having sex with men for a pornographic movie.

Imani asserts a masculine image (saying he’s “not a sissy or wuss”) and says that women are turned on by his profession of bisexuality.

Imani describes himself in a manner that suggests he is ambisexual and supersexual. He believes that men who are “freaky” in bed with women have most likely fooled around with men as well.

You can see more pictures and listen to his latest song at the Examiner web page.

Flexamorous

In Flexible People, Sexual Types on July 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm

(Updated 4-7-11) I previously referred to this type as “polyamorous,” but the word “polyamorous” is already being used by some people to describe their non-monogamous relationship preferences. In other words, they believe in having loving, sexual relationships with multiple partners. I had used the word with a slightly different focus on the capacity to fall in love with more than one gender.

You are flexamorous if you are capable of having romantic relationships with both men and women. In contrast to those who are ambisexual, you do not necessarily view your sexual desires as equally strong in both directions. You view each relationship, whether with a man or a woman, on its own terms. You do not define yourself by the gender of your partner, even to the extent of asserting an equal interest in both. You fall in love for a variety of reasons, and sexual excitement is not the defining condition. You are sexually compatible with both men and women, but the sexual component in your relationships may have more to do with physical comfort and affection rather than intense sexual desire.

Flexamorous sexuality is a more common presentation among women than men. Many women who do not define themselves assertively as bisexual nevertheless consider themselves capable of falling in love with both men and women. Perhaps this reflects a cultural expectation that men are primarily interested in sex and women in relationships. In either case, for men or women, this category places greater value on falling in love with an individual, regardless of his or her gender.

This category also captures men and women who may have never questioned their sexuality, and who continue to have sexual desires for the opposite sex, but who have found themselves unexpectedly in love with someone of the same sex.

Cynthia Nixon, the star of Sex and the City, may be a good example of the flexamorous type. She is commonly described as lesbian, but in fact she was married to a man for fifteen years before falling in love with her female partner of the last five years. Nixon told the Advocate this month , “I identify as gay as a political stance… I would have said I think we’re all bisexual. But I had that point of view without ever having felt attracted to a woman.”

More Bisexual Announcements

In Flexible People on June 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Singer and songwriter Vanessa Carlton just announced at Nashville Pride that she is “a proud bisexual woman.”

Actress Cameron Diaz told Playboy magazine that she finds women sexually attractive.

For women in the entertainment industry, coming out as bisexual is viewed at worst as a publicity stunt. Why are so few male actors and singers announcing that they find both men and women attractive, or that they have had relationships with both genders?

Go Girls!

In Flexible People on June 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Female entertainers have been leaping out of the closet recently.

Christina Aguilera, while promoting her new album Bi-on-ic, told Out magazine this month that her husband knows she’s “into girls… it’s fun to be open and play.” She describes women as more visually attractive than men. However, she goes on to qualify that she could not live without “dick” and cannot really imagine having sex with a woman, because there would be too much “estrogen” in the room. She did not go so far as to call herself bisexual, but her statements reveal flexible thinking. The singer has a young child with her husband of many years.

Anna Paquin, a star of True Blood, the X-Men movies, and The Piano, recently declared herself bisexual for a public service announcement for The True Colors Fund, an organization advocating for LGBT rights. She is engaged to be married to her male co-star.

Lady Gaga told Rolling Stone a year ago that she was bisexual, and confirmed in an interview with Barbara Walters in December that she has had sexual relationships with women. She says her attraction to women is purely physical.

Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas told The Sun a year ago that she considers herself bisexual. She had previously revealed that she has had sex with both men and women. She is in a long-term relationship with a male actor.

A week earlier, actress Megan Fox of the Transformers also revealed that she was bisexual and had had sex with women.

Which sexual type best describes each of these entertainers? Fergie and Lady Gaga hint at being supersexual. Anna Paquin makes no apologies and might be flexamorous or ambisexual. Christina Aquilera is unafraid to say that she finds women attractive and may be heteroflexible, if not just self-promotional. If anyone knows these stars, please ask them to take the Flexuality Test!

Each of these women deserves applause for leading the way and resisting the pressure to define herself as straight.