Aaron Swartz Refused To Be Labeled

Years prior to his death, Swartz, the co-author of the first RSS specification, addressed his sexuality head on in an essay titled “Why I Am Not Gay.”

The New York Times, Michael Francis McElroy / AP

In September of 2009, Swartz wrote about his own sexuality on his blog, “Raw Thought,” in which he discussed society’s need for labels and how he, in fact, did not identify with them.

This new gay identity was projected back through history — famous historical figures were “outed” as gay, because they’d once taken lovers of their own gender. They truly were gay underneath, it was said — it was just a homophobic society that forced them to appear to like the opposite sex.

Along with the identity went an attempt at justification. Being gay wasn’t “a choice,” they argued — it was innate. Some people were just born gay and others weren’t. To a culture that tried to “correct” gay people into being straight, they insisted that correction was impossible — they just weren’t wired this way. (They even provided a ridiculous genetic explanation for how a species with a small percentage gay people might evolve.)

This might have been a good thing to say — maybe even necessary in such a homophobic culture — but in the end it has to be seen as simply wrong. Having sex with other people of your gender isn’t an identity, it’s an act. And, like sex in general among consenting adults, people should be able to do it if they want to. Having sex with someone shouldn’t require an identity crisis. (Nobody sees having-sex-with-white-people as part of their identity, even if that’s primarily who they’re attracted to.)

People shouldn’t be forced to categorize themselves as “gay,” “straight,” or “bi.” People are just people. Maybe you’re mostly attracted to men. Maybe you’re mostly attracted to women. Maybe you’re attracted to everyone. These are historical claims — not future predictions. If we truly want to expand the scope of human freedom, we should encourage people to date who they want; not just provide more categorical boxes for them to slot themselves into. A man who has mostly dated men should be just as welcome to date women as a woman who’s mostly dated men.

So that’s why I’m not gay. I hook up with people. I enjoy it. Sometimes they’re men, sometimes they’re women. I don’t see why it needs to be any more complicated than that.

Regardless of labels, it’s unfortunate to lose a man who meant a great deal to the Internet community. Swartz’s suicide did not come without prior mentions of depression. He first wrote about his struggles in November of 2007.

BuzzFeed FWD has more about Swartz’s legal battles and his advocacy work prior to his death.

(H/T Towleroad)

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