Since some people out there (journalists, activists, politicians, and people making helpless efforts to be polite) seem to be confident that I am and should be referred to as a member of a “sexual minority”, I would like to give this some thought here.
To clarify: I am definitely not contesting the fact that I am not heterosexual, so it is obvious that I am meant to be included under the “sexual minority” umbrella. My impression is that “sexual minority” is something like short-hand for “LGBT plus some other stuff that somebody might think is related to this”. It’s just that… well… what is it supposed to mean? And who was the genius who thought that it was a good term?
Is it supposed to mean that my sex life is in any way not like that of the majority? Well, if this were so, it would be nobody’s business. The fact that it drags people’s sex life into the public is in itself a reason for me to hate the term. But honestly? I am a single person who is currently overworking herself, so I am going to share this much with you: there is not much difference between my I-don’t-have-time-for-myself-let-alone-other-people single life and that of my straight friends in comparable situations at the moment. Does that exclude me from the category? Does it include my straight single friends with comparably boring lives? Probably neither, so let’s try again.
Is it supposed to mean that my preferences are not like that of the majority? Well, that wouldn’t be very informative, would it? First of all: I have no idea what the majority of people like or don’t like but I am willing to accept that the lack of focus on the opposite sex is a deviation from the majority’s preference. But it sure isn’t the only one out there and by far not the most extreme one. So why exactly am I publicly referred to by a phrase that – once you start thinking about it – picks out me as well as, say BDSM lovers and people who are turned on by airplanes? Because we all have in common that we are unlike the majority in one arbitrary way? Is that in itself supposed to be meaningful information about us? My suspicion is that that’s the idea, and that the reference to the minority status is supposed to appeal to a sense of solidarity, or maybe even an intuition that minorities are deserving of support. But if you just think about it for another moment, you will find that the class of deviations from the sexual norm includes some very harmful preferences and behaviours and that in fact, the worst kinds of preferences are luckily only held by a minority of people. For example, by definition, “sexual minority” as a class term would include someone like a serial rapist, at least insofar as his desire to harm people is not shared by the majority of people. But that wouldn’t make his preference any less despicable. There is nothing inherently valuable about a preference being that of a minority, and by speaking of “sexual minorities”, we truly open a can of worms. I hope that when people use the term, that is not what they mean to do. But if it is not, how about refraining from using this term altogether?