50 Shades of Gay: Could You Quantify Your Sexuality?

[Ed Note, this is a guest post from Kyl Myers. Kyl is a sociology PhD student and a sex educator in Salt Lake City. She’s a connoisseur of 90s R&B, loves lipstick, and makes a mean batch of guacamole.]

If I asked you, on a scale of 0% to 100%, how gay are you? Could you answer? And if you could decide on a number that seemed to fit your sexuality, would it be one of the two categories “we” expect people to fall into? Straight or Gay, are you or aren’t you?

A friend of mine recommended I watch a recent TED talk given by photographer/artist iO Tillett Wright called, “Fifty Shades of Gay.” I found the video and then proceeded to have my mind rocked for about 18 minutes, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Wright discusses a spectrum where straight is over here, and gay is over there, and the reality is, that while some people will consider themselves straight and 0% gay or 100% gay without a drop of straight, most people fall somewhere in between. Luxuries and privileges are provided to “straights” while they are withheld from “gays” – but what makes one gay and unworthy of human rights? Is it being partnered with someone of the same-sex and 100% out, or is it having had one or two homosexual experiences? Does having a fantasy about someone of the same-sex merit eviction? If so, there would be millions of empty apartments in this nation. Wright’s talk has had me questioning a lot.

I am bisexual, pansexual if we get to the real talk. But I am also a cisgendered female who is in a relationship with a cisgendered male. My sexuality is invisible in my day-to-day life because on the surface I fit in to what is “appropriate.” I am not constantly pushing gender boundaries –sexuality boundaries – but it troubles me that I am perceived to be something I am not. That said, when I was in a relationship with a gender-queer female I was aware of the eyes on us every day and that was uncomfortable because I also felt I was being perceived as something I’m not; perceived as deviant, perceived as a problem. Who I am does not drastically change according to who I am attracted to or dating – but it sure feels like people think it does. While I was in a same-sex relationship, I felt comfortable serving on an LGBT panel for my university. Now I don’t. But no one disinvited me – my discomfort is a product of my self-policing. My invisible bisexuality troubles me because people expect you to be “this” or “that.” If I married my boyfriend, I would not feel any less bisexual – yet privileges would be bestowed upon me that I could never receive had I chose a woman as my life partner. I could bask in the comfort of being perceived as “normal,” as “straight,” as “deserving;” but that would be irresponsible of me – and a giant cop-out. I am part of this struggle. I must abandon false comforts to contribute to the fight where I don’t have to think about being 68% straight – I want to focus on being 100% me.


  1. Thanks for sharing this insightful project. I found it interesting, and helpful. I’ve been reading many of your posts over the last several weeks, and just wanted to say thanks for putting your voice into the ring.

Share Your Thoughts