The ICK Factor

Virgin.

When you see that word, it’s likely that its sexual nuance is the first thing that comes to mind. As a concept, though, “virgin” is more encompassing than simply describing a person’s first sexual experience.  To be virgin is to be untapped, undefined, and undeveloped; it is an empty slate with endless possibilities. Limiting that word to its corporal connotation only limits the essences of these potentials.

Homosexual.

Odds are that when you read that word, you also immediately think about sex—same sex. Let’s be honest. That probably makes some of you uncomfortable. It likely even grosses out many of you who consider yourselves to be open-minded. That’s because when we think of words related to sex, we often immediately think of how those words apply to us. A happy heterosexual going about his or her day who happens upon the word “gay” or “homosexual” immediately has their sexual identity subconsciously projecting unsavory mental images of themselves engaged in same-sex acts. ICK!

That “ICK!-factor” is the root of a lot of the stigma and problems gay and lesbian people face. You don’t have to be a bigot or a hatemonger to be slightly grossed out by another person’s private intimate practices. However, when that disdain manifests itself in discriminatory behavior (like not hiring someone for a job because they’re a lesbian or not buying advertising in a magazine because it employs a gay writer) well, that’s an entirely different matter.  When it comes to words and their subtexts, we need to get our minds out of the gutter!

Sex is actually a very small part of what it means to be a homosexual. Most of us are so busy working, spending time with our friends, being with our families, and occasionally relaxing that we don’t have a whole lot of time to spend in the bedroom. True, new relationships probably bring an uptick in libido. However, committed partners tend to find a carnal wane as the routines of daily life take hold. Sound familiar? The ratio of sex for heteros and homos really is a level field.

The field should be level outside of the bedroom, too!  More important than legal rights are social interactions. The “ICK! Factor” contributes to a lot of the reasons why straight people are sometimes apprehensive to mix with the gays. There’s a subtle fear that association will lead to amalgamation. The simple fact is that sexual orientation is not contagious. Either you are gay or you are not. If your mind is conjuring up unsettling imagery when you see or hear of homosexuals, it’s your thoughts that need to change—not the people you’re thinking about!

Just like putting “virgin” in a box dilutes its meaning, we’re limiting the holistic possibilities for homosexual people when we box up that word right along with it. Let’s take our focus off of sex and put it on to people. In doing that, our mind itself becomes like a virgin.

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