I have always found the idea of having a social identity mainly based on the concept of sexuality an entirely bizarre one. For as long as I have been aware of my sexuality I have lived in rural areas, where forming a distinct group with other members of the LGBT+ community was not an option. I have had friends who were just friends, gone out to clubs that were just clubs, and socialised at events that were just events. I, by necessity, had to integrate fully, and for me that was simply normal.
Now, at university, there is a group. It’s quite a tight and homogenous group who choose to spend a great deal of time together. I went to an LGBT+ swap only weeks into term, and I assumed that all of the other people there knew each other because they were second or third years. Many of them, as it turned out, were freshers. In a very short space of time a tight knit social group had formed as a result of these people attending the same events. They form a primary part of each other’s social lives. To happen so fast, it almost has to be a product of a decision on their part to make their sexuality a core part of their social identity.
I find this absurd. I no more want my social life to be dictated by my sexual preferences than I want it to be dictated by my colour preferences. I don’t socialise more with other guys who like cock just as I don’t socialise more with other guys who like the colour yellow. There is nothing about LGBT+ people that makes me more likely to enjoy their company. They don’t necessarily share my interests and they aren’t necessarily people with whom I will become friends, except by virtue of a decision to have LGBT+ friends.
It is, for me, a form of isolationism. It is not only absurd but also dangerous. If we are going to separate ourselves from the wider social scene then we don’t need society to marginalise us; we are doing it all by ourselves. On one hand we demand equality. The campaigns on issues of equal marriage and employment rights focus, quite rightly, on the fact that our sexuality should be a personal matter and not made a big deal of. Our sexuality has only been historically defined to denote the fact that we have been discriminated against. Therefore we complain about bigots making our sexuality an issue by opposing freedom of choice. I don’t think that this is compatible with us having a huge focus on a maintaining a different and distinct LGBT+ identity.
This is not to say that I don’t see the value of specific LGBT+ events or movements. We do need to promote understanding and fight for an end to persecution. It is sometimes good to talk to others who understand the difficulties of oppression or rejection. Events are important for us to meet people we might be interested in sexually, as we have a smaller pool of potential partners. I just think that we don’t need to make our sexuality a core part of our social identity. We are all human, and for me, my self-definition is about a lot more important things than my being homosexual. How can we expect wider society to treat us with equality if we are not willing to fully integrate and be a part of that society?
Ronan Marron studies HSPS at the University of Cambridge.