grace (ge) gilbert
Where are you on the Kinsey Scale?
[a play in 7 acts]
__0__ exclusively straight
To begin here, it’s important to know that the word “straight” originally meant to stretch, to extend at full length, to expand.
Knowing this, let’s imagine the first time you have sex with a man. You aren’t sure if you love him, but you think this might well stretch you in the right direction.
[It’s a Wednesday, his white-walled bedroom.
Everything is straight.
Framed pictures on the wall
hung with rulers.
Lying prostrate, stretched limbs
are straight angles.
The sterling silver cross necklace you wear,
a habit of years, an intersection
Small beads of sweat
make straight their narrow paths
down the body. His flesh, straight—coiled and columned
like it might as well be made of clay, a work in progress
on the potter’s wheel. His gaze, straight into your eyes,
even the whispers seem to come out
as jagged angles. In a realm of straight, you are so many planes
at once, yet you feel like an absence, a negative space, nothing but an entanglement
Here, we have the beginning.
It is quite rare for an individual to be a “0” on the Kinsey Scale, but perhaps it is more common in select sub-cultures, where a hetero-homo binary is, literally or figuratively, life or death.
But to get here, you must first remember the garden; the story Father Morisette tells you every week as a clumsy-limbed child, reading in the cherry wood and velvet chapel from the big book of truth. The beginning of days. A lonely God forms his hand into a pile of clay, rolls & stretches it like johnnycake batter between his palms. Makes a fact of it, every new angle a fact. Stretches straight angles into shoulders, everything so sharp & necessary. God loves every fact of Adam, makes sure the facts know they are facts. Gives Adam a mouth to name everything else in the land. Looking out over his fresh landscape, the curve of hill, softness of every edge, the lovely veined glasswing of the dragonfly, God knows what the world needs next. Expand, he whispers, and he takes Adam’s rib with the next lump of clay. This becomes Eve: soft kneecaps, curved hips, delicate spider webs of veins within the breast. Makes detail of it, every curve a detail. God loves it all, makes sure the details know they are meant to accompany fact. Adam is bone, Eve is ligament. Adam is the first sentence of creation, Eve the gentle space between each word.
As a child, you plant this garden of life or death in your head and water it with straight thoughts. You want to love the boys in your church class, watching their mouths move as they speak, ready to offer your space. You dream of Adam, of a wedding night, of the apple-cheeked children running through the pews. The garden is ground zero, pre-fall. Straight is ground zero, pre-fall. Where healthy, natural desire and order are supposed to begin. Zero is where you feel the safest while praying, the first place where you’re taught it’s holy to get on your knees for a man.
[Zero: used as a placeholder, at least it always felt that way
in math class, where zero is something you always carry with you
to allow everything else to work.
The word “zero,” in Arabic, originally meant, “empty.” In Ancient China, “a vacant position.”
To know this, you must first become it, & you do, wedged under an Adam
of your own, on a Wednesday after dinner,
& where you were expecting the full harmonic design
of the garden, all you discover are two tangled brackets,
nothing but the emptiness of zero
__1__predominantly straight, incidentally homosexual
The Kinsey Scale, much to contemporary Christian dismay, was made public in the late 1940s. Consisting of seven categories ranging from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual (and everywhere in-between), the scale was created after thousands of post-War interviews. Alfred Kinsey, in an era of white picket fences and an ideal Christian America, was aware that this world was trying to usher itself back into the garden, the Genesis-esque binaries now established within public and private spheres, a woman’s world and a man’s world, black or white. Kinsey created the scale to prove his notion that human sexuality does not fit into two strict categories, as God intended upon the creation of Adam and Eve, but, rather, that sexuality is fluid and subject to change over time.
“The world is not divided into sheep and goats,” Kinsey states, “…the living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.”
There was extensive criticism of Kinsey’s research. In the Bible, critics quoted, God says you are for me or against me, you are Adam or Eve, you will find the narrow gate or you will live apart from me for eternity.
What they were really saying: what good does even a slight gradation get you in the ultimate binary of heaven or hell?
To understand this, let’s go back to the sheep and the goats, trousers and skirts. Your first memories of nursery school at the Christian institution are hazy, but sweet. You are a small girl, barely four, and a boy named Patrick kisses you on the cheek every day as you enter the classroom. Another boy named Benjamin holds your hand on the playground and will not let go, even when it makes it impossible for him to go across the monkey bars. Your mothers gush over this at pick-up time.
“She’s going to be quite the heartbreaker,” Your nursery teacher says to your mother, clearing away Benjamin’s tears after his unfortunate but predictable fall from the monkey bars.
When, one early afternoon, this same nursery teacher finds you and your classmate Hannah curled into the same blanket during naptime, giggling and holding one another’s hand, she does not laugh or call you a heartbreaker. Instead, she silently and briskly moves your Pokémon blanket into the corner near her desk, far away from the other kids, and instructs you to sleep.
“Not appropriate,” she says sharply, and you lay down your tiny head, spend the remainder of naptime trying to watch Hannah rest through the legs of your teacher’s old rocking chair.
__2__ predominantly straight, more than incidentally homosexual
Let’s return to the garden, to childhood, and imagine an incident involving Eve. Incident: occurring or liable to occur alongside something in which it shares no essential part.
An incident is casual to the world and to Kinsey, but to God, sin is neither incidental nor casual. You are raised not by the world’s standards, but with thoughts of the garden.
“Sooner or later,” says Father Morisette,
“there is always
an apple, an occasion
This is all from Eve. With the apple, every part of Eve’s detail becomes sin, and when she leads Adam down with her, the fact of the world is that it is full of death.
[After this, God cannot notice the casual, not even
something so slight—just a chance encounter
with an apple, just a different way
of noticing it.]
The incident is when you first consciously notice the apple. In the old chapel, dust turned to sunlight turned to dust, Father chooses you and Hannah, from class, to carry the candles down the aisle every Sunday. This is not your choice, but you don’t mind. Wearing all-white robes, covering everything down to your dirty untied canvas shoes, you are a party of Eves, waltzing down a narrow strip of velvet rug toward the altar of God, whom you imagine waiting for you at the end like a groom.
Mass is nearly two hours long. During it, you and Hannah sing the hymns, ring the bell, wash Father’s wrinkled hands and dry them with cloth. Between sacred duties, you speak without speaking; invent new games to pass the time. It’s a consequence of circumstance, casually met or encountered. You are children. You need something to do besides listen.
In one game, when you mouth the words to a pop song, Hannah mouths back the next lyric. Another game, you tie your belt of cords together and slowly try to sit as far apart as possible before the cords grow too taut and heavy to move.
Your favorite, though, is during prayer: when the congregation closes its tired eyes, you bend your small backs all the way down into the pews so all you see is each other, faces inches apart, and you make as many silly faces as you can until Hannah giggles out her prayers; the unknowing congregation can only assume you are genuflecting in the utmost reverence for God.
[The incident is this: at seven years old, some Sundays, you simply cannot wait
for prayer. At first you don’t question why, what kind of Eve would not want to speak
with God? But then you are two inches from Hannah’s face,
& you scrunch your nose up like a pig, Hannah giggling,
& you feel her breath against your face, & something is sharp
within you, and it isn’t the need
“Sooner or later, there is always an apple,” says Father Morisette.
[Before the fall, Eve looks forward to her walks
past the apple tree, & maybe she doesn’t know
why, but she notices the apples, perhaps at first
just a consequence
of her path.]
__3__ equally heterosexual and homosexual
The Kinsey Scale is perhaps the most contentious in the middles, because the enemy of a holy binary is the insertion of a middle ground. Within popular discourse, classic presentations of bisexuality and certain extreme sects of Christianity are seemingly incompatible. When Kinsey published the first likeness of his scale, bisexuality was nearly invisible, typically shoed away as an opportunity for adultery and multiple partners, a moniker for being promiscuous in nature, or as a form of dissonant moral fence-sitting. Now given a contemporary term, these exhibitions of “bi-erasure” are still firmly held by the fundamentalist church, and it has been this way for centuries.
Let’s imagine Father Morisette, wire-rimmed square glasses glinting in candlelight, as he teaches for the first time about Sodom and Gomorrah. This is where you first learn the word bisexual. You are nearly twelve years old, sitting in the old monastery, listening attentively to the Word of God. As Father Morisette explains, after Eve and the apple, further in the book of Genesis, comes a compelling account of God’s hatred of sin.
“The men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah were let loose in their sin, man lying with man and woman lying with woman as they do with one another,” Father exclaims gravely, almost as if he is rehearsing a ghost story. At once, he shares, God destroyed these unholy cities, burning them to the ground as a lesson against all forms of sexual immorality and the plunders of sin. At once, the likes of this kind of sexuality burnt to nothing, made entirely invisible.
Is it possible for these identities to coincide? In your preteen years, you begin to take your religious identity more seriously, mostly because the lessons, like this one, seem to require more seriousness as you age. Where Father once spoke of God’s love and Jesus hugging the little children, he now speaks of sending groups of us to D.C. to rally at the national pro-life conference. We watch Catholic Youth videos of a teenage girl deciding to get an abortion, of two young boys deciding to kiss in their parent’s closet, of kids on rooftops drinking copious amounts of alcohol when their parents aren’t home. In each, Jesus arrives in the midst of these young Sodoms and Gomorrahs, glowing, explaining to the teens the paths to heaven and hell.
“For the wages of sin is death, but in me you will have eternal life,” he speaks, holding out his perfect ivory hand, and when I leave each week, I am determined to achieve eternal life—to kill the sin within me, to leave every apple on the ground to rot.
Imagine yourself, again, as Eve, though this time within the narrow concrete-walled hallways of the sixth grade corridor. Your first boyfriend, Stephan, is sweet and kind, a member of your after school youth group. He picks flowers to put in your hair for the bus ride home, writes notes to leave in your desk. When you see him, there comes again the sharp feeling within you, like a surge, a magneticism, a pull that feels worthy of the garden. One afternoon, at your locker, in the hallway, he leans his lithe body against the wall, speaking with you about his upcoming baseball game. You watch him, eyes set far back, high angular cheekbones, focus on the way his thick eyebrows flicker when he speaks, observe each fact of his being.
[ Let’s imagine an apple: imagine that, for a split
second, in the distance, above his right ear, you see Hannah
down the hall, putting books
in her locker. You watch the way her figure moves &
bends, the detail of skin curving with bone,
hair waterfalling down to stomach]
“Hey, you okay?” Stephan asks, and you snap back to him as the foreground, Hannah fading to nothing but a brunette blur in the distance.
“Yeah,” you whisper, and you shut your locker before turning to walk him to his next class.
__4__ predominantly homosexual, more than incidentally straight
[Here we imagine Hannah Dream #1, Tuesday in the churchyard]
Hannah & i
in all colors
when God allows
she wants fireflies
we laugh & run,
our skin pulsing
oh how i love
when it is time
her palms &
evening can mean
i know God
will gather back
all our light
before the sun
i think i hear
__5__ predominantly homosexual
It is important to recognize Alfred Kinsey’s intent in creating the Kinsey Scale. Within the spectrum of sexuality, an individual may find themselves at different classifications at different periods in their lives. Sexuality, he argues, is not meant to be fixed, but rather, fluid as all else. It is possible to slide from one number to the next and back.
Imagine yourself now, a mostly-grown adult. Past Patrick, Benjamin, and Stephan, you have known many men, kown their minds, their bodies & you have learned the fact of Adam can be flawed, some shoulders cannot carry the weight of God’s design. All of this is to say there is a question within you about what gives Adam his power to name. Picture the hymns, though, that you still remember in your mind, even in years away from the pew, the garden that, at times, wishes to ease itself back into your mind, the God you still pray to on long car trips when you are desperate for a passenger.
Imagine, at certain times, Hannah: longing to be three inches from her face, to feel the vibration on the pews when she laughs. You see Hannah everywhere: in class, walking down the street, at your favorite coffee shop;
[you have moved beyond
just one apple, now
to an entire tree, sometimes even
But for Sodom and Gomorrah, for the fall, for the God who looks upon the fruit of sin in detestation, here you have lived a whole life, here you fear the destruction that has come from human, from Eve, or perhaps from God, though you aren’t yet sure who exactly is to blame.
[But now, let’s imagine
Eve was made
of Eve a perfect
there would be no fall
just two girls
handing the other
grace (ge) gilbert is a hybrid poet, essayist, and collage worker based in Brooklyn. they received their MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2022. they are the author of 3 chapbooks: the closeted diaries: essays (Porkbelly Press 2022), NOTIFICATIONS IN THE DARK (Antenna Books 2023), and today is an unholy suite (Barrelhouse 2023). they were the MCLA Under 27 Writer-in-Residence Fellow at Mass MoCA. their work can be found in 2023’s Best of the Net Anthology, the Indiana Review, Passages North, the Offing, the Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Diode, TYPO, ANMLY, and elsewhere. they currently teach hybrid collage and poetics courses at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and they are a 2023 Visiting Teaching Artist at the Poetry Foundation. they are passionate about making the hybrid arts accessible to all. find more at gracegegilbert.com.