A little while ago I found this paper published in 2008 in the Journal of Personality Disorders, and have been meaning to share it ever since:
For me, it was both a fascinating read, but also affirmation of a part of my ‘world-view’ that I think I’d assumed, probably naively and incorrectly, reflected the way ‘most other people’ thought as well.
I think of myself as a heterosexual female and am fortunate, therefore, that I have never had to deal with any kind of prejudice on account of my sexual orientation. And yet it has always seemed self-evident to me that romantic love, including its physical aspects, is all about a person, rather than their gender. Though I have never been in a same-sex relationship, I have had a small number of same-sex experiences and I would say that around half of my ‘obsessions’ with people, have been obsessions with women (though two of those, granted, have been therapists). I can honestly say that this aspect of myself has never really felt confusing, perhaps because it seemed so obvious to me that these feelings should be based around a person’s character and not the precise form of their body. I know that I am very fortunate in this, as a large number of people struggle greatly with trying to understand their sexuality. On the face of it, given that I know my family would not have been accepting of my views, I might have expected to feel some internal conflict over this, and I find its absence rather odd. Maybe it’s just very easy to feel ‘comfortable’ while I still think of myself a heterosexual female, and have never had to face the family opposition that would have come from any attempt at a same-sex relationship; maybe it’s just an indication of a massive lack of insight and self-awareness on this issue. Whatever the reason, this attitude enabled me to find the paper intriguing and rather comforting (in showing that I am in ‘good company’) rather than unsettling; though I do realise that for some readers, this may not be the case.
In summary, the paper shows that in this particular study, conducted over ten years, patients with BPD were significantly more likely than those with other personality disorders, to report homosexual or bisexual orientation, and intimate same-sex relationships. But the most interesting part of the paper for me, was the finding that those with BPD were also significantly more likely to change the gender of their intimate partners, but not their sexual orientation. To quote from a couple of different places within the paper: “for borderline patients, the choice of an intimate partner may be more partner-specific than gender-specific” and “.…this suggests that for borderline patients, changes in sexual orientation and gender of intimate partners are not a unitary process. For subjects with BPD, choice of gender of intimate partners appears to be more fluid than for comparison subjects. This is consistent with the notion that patients with BPD may choose intimate partners more on the basis of individual factors aside from gender.”
How do other people, I wonder, feel about the factors that drive choice of partner? I thought I’d end with the following response from the singer Sia (diagnosed with Bipolar II) when she was asked about her sexuality, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, and which, according to the paper, may also reflect the views of a substantial minority of individuals with BPD: “I don’t care what gender you are, it’s about people“.