Is sexual identity now a mere entry in the post-modern menu?

Last week, Simon said the grandmother of his best woman friend had "turned lesbian" - at the age of 70. Which got me pondering about "Sexuality not being fixed" and "Desire having no gender" and "What will the neighbours say?", so I took a Tylenol and forgot about it.

Three days later I'm at a screening of Gazon Maudi, a film about how it takes a single kiss to transform a middle-class wife into a diva dyke, how the lesbian who bestows the lip-lock ends up having a baby with the hausfrau's husband, and how said husband finally makes it with a man. I would have retreated to a darkened room only I was already in one.

Then yesterday Robert rang. After a lifetime of boys, boys, boys, he'd started a relationship with a woman. I hiss something obscene, hang up and hide under the duvet, waiting for the insistent throbbing in my temples to subside.

Cue Diana Ross: I'm still waiting. Well, there's a lot of whatever, thingy, it about. It being ... Give me a second here.

We're not talking about bisexuality (I think). Bisexuality is as quantifiable as heterosexuality or homosexuality. Take dear, sweet, old-fashioned actress Drew Barrymore. In the past year she has married, divorced, gained and shed a new boyfriend, and is now, according to press reports, planning a baby with her lesbian main squeeze, apparently employing the white stuff extracted from REM singer Michael Stipe.

Now, Drew's domestic arrangements do aid and abet whatever, thingy, it. She's helping detonate the nuclear family, to break down monolithic categories. Gazon Maudit swims in the same meltdown: late-20th-century life is something you make up as you go along, as mood and circumstance strike. This can be viewed as liberating, a backlash against two decades of right-wing repression, or as the triumph of market forces. Imagine, sexual orientation - once considered a biological imperative and/or socially conditioned (or ideologically selected, as with "political lesbianism") - may now be a mere entry in the post-modern, multiple-choice menu.

Still, Drew has a label: bisexual. Simon's friend's grandmother wouldn't recognise the branding. She was straight and then she wasn't, just like the married couple in Gazon Maudit, and just like Robert in reverse: never a heterosexual thought, then, you should pardon the expression, bang. Robert says he isn't gay or straight or bisexual (though he may be one or all of the above in the future - who knows?), he's decided he is ... whatever, thingy, it.

No labels then (useful things, labels. You know where you are, what you can do, and - oh, let's be practical - whom you're attempting to shag). As Julie Burchill informed the letters page of the Evening Standard when her liaison with journalist Charlotte Raven leaked: no, she wasn't a lesbian, she just happened to love another woman, a sentiment echoing the formerly Glad to be Gay Tom Robinson's stand when he embraced heterosexuality and fatherhood - he just happened to love a woman. Burchill has since recanted, but she could change her mind again. We're talking mood and circumstance, remember?

And, perhaps, polymorphous perversity and pop culture, too. At one extreme there's Masters and Johnson's research showing that older people (women in their forties and men in their fifties) find it easier to glide from opposite sex relationships to same-sex relationships - out of boredom or in the belief that a change is as good as a rest? At the other, the left-wing think-tank, Demos, which produced a study showing that today's youth takes androgyny for granted: girls who like boys who like boys to be girls who like girls to be boys, as (the aptly named) Blur sing it. And as Pulp and Suede occasionally demonstrate it, despite Brett Anderson, the latter's front man, queering the pitch by stating that he's a bisexual who's never had a homosexual experience. Masters and Johnson imply choice, Anderson negates it; he's flowing with the go. No label, simply a statement for a time when the fluidity associated with femininity is, more and more, a masculine feature, and girls can be boys, simply another costume purloined from the closet and placed in the mainstream's fashionable wardrobe of identity.

And that's not it. Not exactly. I'm under the duvet and all I know is I need certainty and a aspirin. And the phone rings. It's Robert and he says, chill, what's your problem? (Good question.) Look, I'll explain. And I say, I beg actually, shoot, tell me, and Robert says ...

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk