It's Not Just Black And White: Why Gen-Y Needs To Break Societal Standards Of Sexuality

by Kayla Wilkinson

Our society loves to categorize, compartmentalize and label absolutely everything.

You either have beauty, or you have brains. You're personality type A, or you're personality type B. You're liberal, or you're conservative.

It's all black or white, and we are placed under the impression we need to force ourselves into one of the two dominant categories, never mind any other options.

Our creation of dominant labels makes us uncomfortable with the more ambiguous "gray zones," as we can't understand why everything doesn't fit into the narrowly defined categories we create.

Sexual orientation is no exception to this trend. You're either straight, or you're gay -- at least that's what our compartmental brains have always seemed to think.

Yet, in a time when LGBT rights are more hotly contested than ever, it's important to understand that there's more than just straight and gay.

The concept of sexual fluidity is becoming an increasingly popular way to determine and understand the nature of sexual preference, and it's another gray zone we need to familiarize ourselves with instead of avoiding.

Sexual fluidity is the idea that your sexual orientation can be fluid, or malleable. Depending on your surroundings, your state of mind, the people with whom you interact, your interests at the time and other circumstantial factors, you're sexual preference has the potential to change, according to this concept.

Sexual fluidity promotes the idea that when we are born, we may not be permanently programmed to have one sexual preference or the other.

Our sexual experiences instead operate on a continuous linear model, where we are free to move closer to one end or the other as much and as often as we'd like. Each person has a different level of fluidity based on his or her own experiences.

People with very low sexual fluidity may identify themselves as absolutely, 100 percent heterosexual or homosexual.

Someone with high sexual fluidity, however, probably doesn't feel as though he or she can fit into our traditionally defined categories.

For example, maybe someone is used to being exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, until one day he or she becomes romantically involved with someone of the same sex, despite feeling no sort of same-sex attraction prior to this situation.

This person would likely identify with higher levels of sexual fluidity, as this experience has caused his or her sexual preference to transition at least somewhat more toward one gender than it previously was.

A great example of this is Piper Chapman in "Orange is the New Black." In the show, Piper had always dated guys until she became romantically involved with a particular woman.

Once that relationship was over, Piper went on to become engaged to a man, despite her continued feelings of romance and attraction toward this woman.

So, how can we definitively label such a situation with our typical categories of sexual preference? Maybe Piper is straight because she was mainly attracted to men and ultimately married one, despite being with a woman at one point in time.

Maybe she's gay because she's been with a woman, which means she can no longer truly identify as straight, even though she's only been with men in every other relationship. Or maybe she's bisexual because she experienced sexual attraction toward both genders.

Even though the phases of attraction came at different times in her life,  she seems to only experience same-sex attraction for that one woman.

There's no clear-cut answer to categorizing such a scenario. Yet the show still attempts to stuff Piper under a label, calling her a "former lesbian," even if her character doesn't seem to fit the label correctly.

Situations like Piper's prove sexual fluidity is a very necessary gray zone. Sexual fluidity accepts the potential to move along a continuum of varying sexual preferences.

It provides a much-needed alternative to just forcing someone to categorize him or herself as something he or she may not truly identify as.

Sexual fluidity shows that we cannot clearly label everything. It shows us that we can freely move from, and in between, these often inaccurate labels, instead of feeling pressured to characterize ourselves in a certain way forever.

It's possible to waver, change and realize that time and circumstances can play roles in how we identify ourselves.

We don't always have to remain completely rigid in our preferences, and sexual fluidity recognizes this ability to move along a spectrum, instead of only categorizing people as one extreme or the other.

Ultimately, we as a society must allow one another to identify ourselves as we all feel most comfortable.

Whether it's sexual preference, or any other characterizations, it's our personal choice to decide whether we identify with the black, the white or something a bit grayer.

If anyone should promote the acceptance and understanding of these gray zones beyond the traditional cookie-cutter options, it's Millennials. Labels are overrated, anyway.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It