Take the recent discovery that contrary to Einstein, light is
not the fastest moving thing in the universe. An assertion that
seemed irrefutable - until something quicker came along. Yet
according to some philosophers of science this is exactly what we
Allow me to introduce you to the snappily titled Pessimistic
Meta-induction argument from Past Falsity (no, really). What this
suggests is that as the majority of scientific theories once
purported to be factual were subsequently disproved and replaced by
better, more comprehensive theories, the chances are that any one
theory currently endorsed will eventually be similarly reconsidered
But what's the relevance of this to the LGBT community? Well,
much of science is concerned with phenomena that isn't directly
observable - stuff that is only discernable because of its effects.
That's a bit like sexuality. When we pronounce ourselves as gay or
bi or straight, generally we're looking at the data our body has
provided us with and drawing conclusions about the state of things.
And that's fine as a kind of 'status report'. The problem is that
we tend to make definitive proclamations, stipulating not just how
we feel now but how we presume we'll feel evermore.
Now I'm not advocating that we abandon labels altogether. As a
minority, the familiarizing of ourselves with our sexuality is
likely to be an isolating affair and we need terms like 'gay' and
'bisexual' not just to communicate our experiences to others but to
make us intelligible to ourselves.
But with anything, where we finish is rarely where we start.
Whilst I doubt heterosexuality is impending for many of us, we
should beaware that very few things don't have the potential for
change. Gay, straight, butch, femme are all labels that when
embraced unconditionally have the potential to be restrictive,
which is why we should be cautious about how emphatically we align
ourselves with them.
Unlike science, making new discoveries about ourselves doesn't
undermine either the truth of previous declarations at the time or
crucially the respect with which they should be treated. If at some
point I feel an irrepressible urge to don a frock and stilettos,
whilst it will be reminiscent of a cat walking on its hind legs,
more importantly it won't be a case of finding my true self after
years of delusion; it will simply be a change in taste.
If we don't allow for fluidity in our preferences and
inclinations, we may find ourselves in something of a developmental
black hole. And from a black hole, there's no escape…at least not
according to current scientific theory.