Change is entirely natural

What a surprise — once upon a time, way back when we lived in Pennsylvania, I voted for Harris Wofford for the senate. He lost. He was defeated by Rick Santorum. I haven’t heard much about him since we moved out west to Minnesota.

I’ve now learned that his wife died in 1996, 20 years ago, and a few years later, he started dating again. He’s been in a long-term relationship ever since, and is now, at age 90, planning to get married, to Matthew Charlton. No big deal; he loved his wife, Clare, sadly lost her to leukemia, and found new love with a same-sex partner.

Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between. I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.

I thought that was wonderful. You love a person, not just the sex of the body they inhabit. And hey, you can keep romance alive into your 90s? Good news!


  1. says

    straight, gay or in between.

    Also known as bisexual. Anyroad, congrats to Harris and Matthew, I think it’s wonderful they are getting hitched.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Whatever makes him happy. Congratulations to Harris and Matthew.

  3. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    Another example of the failure of relying on labels. Unless you have a near-infinite supply of labels, you’re going to have errors. I just heard an interesting one, sapiosexual (attraction the the human mind/intelligence). For me personally, kindness is a much bigger factor than physical attractiveness. I am, thankfully, unable to see a cruel person as attractive, no matter how “hot” they are.

    A better question than, “are you gay/straight/bi?” would be “what are you attracted to?”. It is a much longer conversation but I think necessarily. Even then, that answer will likely shift around at different times and in different situations, especially when intoxicants are involved.

    The problem is that, as a society, we are so obsessed with other people’s orientation that we need the shorthand of using labels. What an individual is attracted to should only matter if you’re trying to date them or if their attractions are unethical/illegal (i.e. lack of consent/ability to consent or unfair power dynamic).

    P.S. Congrats to Harris & Matthew.

  4. magistramarla says

    It was nice to read something uplifting about a politician for a change.
    I’m so happy that Harris found love twice in his lifetime.
    That’s what life and love is all about – certainly not the labels.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Golgafrinchan Captain @ # 3: … “what are you attracted to?”.

    For which reason I like the terms (created by me, sfaik) “gynophile” and “androphile”, which describe orientation without alluding to the referents’ gender(s).

  6. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    why the need for a prefix? I guess that’s the point of the OP. Whether bi-, pan-, a-, omni-, homo-, hetero-; why not just “sexual”, without the prefix which would restrict the options.

  7. Vivec says

    Can we fucking not have the “ugh labels are bad there’s totally no reason why oppressed groups might want to have a name to define themselves by and to establish a community around” discussion here?

    Fucking christ.

  8. Vivec says

    Like yes, trying to put people into boxes without any input on their part is bad. No shit. But labels serve an important purpose and I’m sick of this rhetoric where they’re seen as some kind of inherently negative thing when many of us have to fight and scrape every day to have our groups recognized as a valid thing by itself, not a disease that affects perfectly normal cis/straight people that we can be cured of.

    I’m not really like pointing fingers at any of you or whatever, I just hate that rhetoric.

  9. Paul K says

    Thanks for pointing this out, Vivec. As an old, white cis/straight male*, I walk pretty blindly through the world of privilege. I try to see how others might experience things, but this would not have occurred to me. This is not the first time that something you’ve written has made me grateful for the opportunity to learn.

    *I almost typed ‘man’, but I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself one. There are too many associations to the word that I don’t (and never have) pictured with my own idea of what and who I am. And the older I get and the more I learn, the less I’ve wanted to have the word applied to me.

  10. Vivec says

    No worries, I do apologize if I came off as aggressive, I just get fired up at this issue. I’m transgender and I’m bisexual. Those are valid descriptors of me just like “atheist”, “nerd”, or “occasionally annoying person”.

    To act like the issue with this is that we decide to label ourselves, rather than people’s reactions to the labels and the reasoning behind said reactions, really misses the point and shifts part of the blame to us unjustly. We could have a million different gender and sexual labels, and that would not validate any of the discrimination by any amount.

  11. jefrir says

    Thank you Vivec.
    Labels matter. Labels help us make sense of our experiences, and find others who’ve gone through similar things. Labels forced on us by other people are a problem, but the existence of labels is not.

  12. says

    I think that conservative homophobes actually do have a point: Once kids grow up in a society where they aren’t indoctrinated with compulsory binary heterosexuality, many will explore more options. Sure, some people will still be firmly in one camp or the other, but many others will become more flexible in their choice of partners.

  13. says

    slithey tove:

    why the need for a prefix?

    Because so far, as a bisexual person, I have spent 48 years* of my life watching bisexuals be dismissed and erased. It fucking bothers me, okay? Bisexual support is crucial.
    *I was 10 when I realized I was bi.

  14. Vivec says

    TBH I don’t even really buy that labels only have a use in our social context and wouldn’t exist in some hypothetical no-homophobia world.

    Even in said hypothetical world, it’d be a nice way to relate your experiences to others of the same inclination, as well as a nice way of making your categorical non-attraction to someone known rather than having to explain your preferences in long-form.