Living in a binary world and I am not a binary girl

I am going to reveal something about myself that you might find it difficult to understand. It something that I’ve known my whole life, but have hidden at times because of the reaction I’ve had when I tell people. Sometimes people react with confusion, sometimes irritation, sometimes downright anger. People tell me I am kidding myself, that I need to just pick a side, that I MUST like one more than the other.

But it’s true: I like both cats AND dogs.

I am neither a cat-person, not a dog-person. I am both.

Yes, both of them. No, I don’t really like one more than the other. I’ve owned more cats over the years, but that’s just been circumstance. If I could, I would love to own a dog.

I am not ‘greedy’, as some people would put it. I am not sure I’d want a dog AND a cat, I think that sounds like hard work. But I would be equally happy with a dog or a cat.

It’s surprising how often people are confused and rejecting of this idea that someone could like both equally. But at times I’ve been in conversations where someone is pressing me really hard – “but you MUST like one more than the other? NO ONE really likes BOTH equally”. Occasionally people have even been quite angry about it and have insisted that I MUST CHOOSE WHICH I LIKE so that they can stick that little ‘dog person’ or ‘cat person’ label on me for their own comfort and convenience. People like to know what you are. And what you are must be specific.

We live in a binary world. A society which really likes people to be either/or, so that we can neatly fit into the world and be understood. You’re a cat person, you’re a dog person. You’re male, you’re female. You’re gay, you’re straight. You’re trans, you’re cis. Transgressions to these easily understood binaries are rejected, feared, and misunderstood; particularly by people who comfortably find themselves occupying the ends of these binaries.

In my opinion, the only thing that truly is a binary is fucking binary. People are not simple computers. While technically our bodies operate like machines made out of meat, we are so much more complex than a computer or a machine. We operate on deep and flexible complexities. We have so many different drivers, backgrounds, responses, emotions, beliefs. And yet we insist on driving down the whole of human experience and desires into rigid opposing boxes that people MUST SIT WITHIN or they are other and weird and strange.

Well, I reject society’s binary obsession. I won’t ‘pick a side’ so that I fit comfortably within someone’s box, or wearing a helpful ‘dog person’ label. It’s not me that needs to pick a side. It’s society that needs to learn to live with grey areas. To accept that perhaps the people that live between the far ends of these spectrums are not unusual or other but in fact make up the vast myriad of beautiful difference in this world.

From a pretty young age I knew I liked both boys and girls. Hitting my teens in the 90s, and being somewhat inclined to the rock/goth/alt side this never really seemed a problem. All of my immediate friendship group seemed to be gender/sexually flexible. We admired Brett Anderson and Skin from Skunk Anansie. I remember when Placebo’s first album came out and I listened to it obsessively and thought that it was oh, so very meaningful and oh, so very me, and oh, only me, no one else can understand – in the way only a confused teenager trying to navigate the horror of adolescence can manage. There was never really a ‘coming out’ moment, unless you count a very drunken house party at the house of a girl called Liz, whose parents never seemed to be home, where almost everyone at the party announced that they were bi, and we all had a good cry, then someone played Nirvana’s ‘Come as you are’ on the guitar and we all passed out on the floor.

For most of my adult life it’s just been an aspect of my life that has been there, in the background. Culture makes it easy to be straight, and when you have no gender preference for a partner it’s easier to just fall in with that. But just because I’ve been in long term relationships with mostly male-identifying men doesn’t take away that fact that actually I do fancy people that aren’t male-identifying. And this is sometimes hard for people to get their heads around.

I can’t say these days that I am entirely comfortable with the term ‘bi-sexual’ for the direct connotation that indicates that I accept there is a ‘bi’ to be sexual about in the first place. My attraction towards people has always depended more on their personality, confidence and sense of humour than to how they identify gender-or-sex wise. That aspect is just significantly less important to me when having a crush on someone. At one point I did so some research, trying to work out a label to give myself, and found ‘pansexual’ which just made me think of 70s dance troupe Pan’s People. So I decided not to have a label.

I am not a cat person, or a dog person. I like both. I can never pass by a cat or a dog on the street without stopping to say “aww, HELLO” in that weird voice that animal people have for talking to animals that they can’t replicate unless talking to an animal. And I am not a boy person or a girl person. If they are funny, cute, interesting, smart and confident I can fall for them however they identify, or whatever body they might be using as their vehicle through life. And if that makes you uncomfortable, that’s your problem, not mine.

A good friend of mine, who experienced the ‘so are you straight again now or what?’ when dating a guy after a long and serious relationship with a woman, has a saying. “Labels are for jam jars.” she says. And people are not jam.



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