Had you told me 8 years ago I’d be spending this snowy afternoon listening to romantic music and dreaming up potential date plans with a woman, I can honestly say I would have been very, very confused.
I never had one of those “epiphany moments” I’ve heard other queer-identifying women describe. I never fell in undeniable love with a female classmate or found myself envisioning marriage with any celebrity but JTT.
It was more of a buildup of ignored clues. I didn’t think there was a mystery to be solved.
All throughout school, I don’t think I knew of more than one openly gay girl, let alone someone who was bi/pansexual. If I was capable of liking boys, which I (mostly) was, then I was straight. Simple as that!
Who wouldn’t rewind that kiss between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair 15 times and only play scenes with SMG in it after that?
It wasn’t a crush on that girl in English, I just wanted to be like her… gorgeous flowing hair, a perfectly executed tomboy wardrobe, a laugh that could cure disease. *cough* I digress.
I can, however, pinpoint the moment when I must have stuffed whatever inkling I’d had far, far down. I’d experimented with a friend in middle school. At first, we justified it by pretending the other person was the boy we liked. I found I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted what we were doing to be…well, real.
Although I didn’t have romantic feelings for her, I did want the physical aspect to continue and boy, did that scare her. It turns out that urge wasn’t consistent for all women after all. I had yet another quality to make me feel like an outsider.
A year or so later I was told by a friend that girl had expressed discomfort with me because she assumed I was a lesbian. I shrugged it off despite feeling ashamed for those feelings for the first time.
“Pfft, you guys know how obsessed with Zach I was.”
It wasn’t a lie. Things carried on and it was labeled a miscommunication.
From then on, I dove fully into a “boy crazy” persona. Some of it was genuine, some of it wasn’t. As I began being sexually active, I noticed that I was having far more sex than I was enjoying and most of it became validation based instead of romantic.
I thought girls were pretty still but now my casual rationalizing started to have a tinge of shame to it. I would switch my dating app preferences to “everyone” and quickly switch back in fear someone I knew would see.
I was ashamed. Women were being objectified and held to pornographic standards and here I was contributing to it. I’d still never fallen in love with a girl like I thought I had done with a boy so where did that leave me? A perv. A disgrace to feminism.
I started to ease up on myself a bit after college as my network continued to expand. I more openly acknowledged my attraction to other women and even began identifying a “type.” Slowly, I felt myself open up to the possibility I could even feel an emotional connection with some of them.
I’d constantly play with the idea of holding hands and cuddling in a theater. As quickly as the thought arrived, I was tucking it back into its safe place.
Eventually, it snuck out. Perhaps I should say, it broke out in explosions of rainbow and glitter.
Years ago I started volunteering at Girls Rock Denver, a feminist summer camp that prioritized LGBTQIA+ youth and found myself surrounded by badass rocker women who mostly identified as queer in some way. I had too many” girl crushes” to call it that anymore.
I recall coming home from one of our conferences on a new kind of high.3 margaritas into our flight back I loudly declared to my cohorts that I think I knew my taste range and it was definitely not just men.
They told me I’m good at vulnerability and we moved on. No moments of terror, no plane crash, no guilt thinking I’d deceived myself or anyone. Just a simply stated fact.
Once that declaration had been made, the world seemed to open up for me a bit, but not as quickly as I would have liked. I was locked in a pendulum now, swaying between “I’m straight but a perv” and “I’m so god damn not straight it’s laughable.”
Soon I started re-evaluating my dating patterns. I was locked in a pattern of dating emotionally unavailable men and being hurt over and over again. The only way I had left to fix it was to simply stop sleeping with them.
Eventually, the feeling that I was jumping into a void of loneliness shifted to the feeling of being my own best friend…something I thought was a cheesy cliché at best. Finally befriending myself could very well have been the final step toward accepting who I was.
Despite not having officially come out to everyone else and still experiencing serious doubts, I was far more open to the clues now and boy, did they come!
I finally caved after a woman who was so attractive it made my heart hurt put her arm around me and made a comment about hating to sleep alone. My palms sweat. I giggled nervously. Most of all, though I wanted to hold her hand and kiss her. What more was left to deny?
I decided to come out and start dating women. Like, real dates. The first one I went on was everything I could ask for…she was kind, smart, extroverted and yes, attractive. She asked me how I identified and I felt my face grow hot as I stumbled through terms and visibly panicked. She’d known she was gay her whole life and I felt like an imposter.
I’d love to say that after that I came to some sense of euphoric ease. That wouldn’t be even close to the truth, and I think I owe others who might be struggling with this an insight to the darker side of my experience.
From the start, I’ve been battling the biphobia of myself and others, queer or straight. The amount of stigma around it that remains in all communities has baffled and hurt me.
It took some intense therapy sessions to prove to myself I wasn’t a liar, that my experience counted and that bisexuality is a valid identity. That I, too, belonged in the queer community. It wasn’t that I wasn’t straight enough or gay enough. I’m just the right amount of both to be true to myself.
My dating habits didn’t just disappear…as my brother reminded me “wherever you go, there you are.” I’ll still need to work on declaring my needs and finding people who aren’t afraid of the open-hearted, feely person I am. People who can comfort me like I can them. Who see their own value and celebrate mine, too.
I’ve also experienced my first moments of being the target for homophobia. The indescribable weight of the hate you feel placed upon you by someone whose world you seemed to have ruined by existing. Angry yelling from drunk men on the street while I held hands with a woman, my date being harassed by a fellow Lyft passenger after he saw us kiss goodbye.
The journey isn’t over, as I quickly learned I’ll have to come out over and over again and deal with the heart-clenching feeling of not knowing how they’ll respond, no matter their gender or orientation. I’ll have to answer countless questions about which genders I prefer more and why. I’ll be asked to prove the value of my orientation time and time again.
So what made it worth it, you ask? Everything.
The feeling I got watching the blue and purple concert lights flash over the face of the woman I was seeing and watching her eyes lock with mine in mutual admiration. The first time I walked down the street holding a woman’s hand and feeling like I’d done it all my life.
Expanding my capacity to love and more than I even knew possible. Waking up next to a woman I care about, wrapping her arms around me and knowing the feeling I’m feeling goes far beyond sex. Sharing my story with teens and young girls who are experiencing the same shame cycles. The list goes on and has only been growing.
I wouldn’t take back coming out. For every snide remark, I’ve been blessed with 5 kind ones. I know some aren’t so lucky. My family, while admittedly a bit surprised, didn’t change how they treated me. My friends, a bit less surprised, were there to help fish me out of every hole of denial and guilt I tried to escape down. Even most women I’ve dated have shown less wariness than I expected.
As of the last few months, I declare my sexuality proudly to all who ask and some who don’t. I fawn over ladies (or men, or non-binary folks) as I please, and indulge guilt-free in connection regardless of gender. For the first time in my life I can truly say I’m proud of my journey and looking forward to the love that comes my way, in whatever forms that may be.