When I first learned what a bisexual was, it was an insult. It meant a lesbian who couldn’t make up their mind — a stop-over on the way to Gay Town. In hindsight, Gay Town sounds like a dreamland.
I was always raised to be an accepting person. I had two, liberal parents who taught me to respect people for who they are — not their census identity-categorization. In high school we were taught about social justice issues, and I accepted it all without question. I felt good knowing surely that I was neither a homophobe nor racist nor sexist — a great way for a middle-class white woman to be. Although I did feel a nagging sense that there had to be more to racism and homophobia than simply learned-hatred, I didn’t call people slurs or self-segregate, so I was aaallll good.
When I got to college, I randomly got a slot in a Sociology 101 class that came with a healthy reality check. Although I had been introduced to gender-neutral pronouns and micro-aggressions during orientation, I didn’t really have an understanding of how it all fit together nor how it affected me. In the class, I was introduced to a more in-depth understanding of Social Justice, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, and so many of the other -isms that make up inequity in US society. More than that, I learned about myself in the process. I learned how I personally internalized these -isms my entire life, and continued to enact harm on myself and others in my everyday routines and interactions. One thing is for sure — there was no turning back to “ignorance is bliss” after starting to study Sociology (I went even went on to get a degree in it). But, in learning, I also found self-empowerment.
I will never forget learning about the Gender and Sexuality spectrum for the first time — my mind was blown. What bored most of my New Englander classmates who had learned about these concepts many years before, flipped my world upside down. Much to my growing delight, I learned about all the many diverse ways in which a person can happily live; all of which were in stark contrast to the cookie-cutter nuclear family ideas I’d come to learn in Texas. Which is especially interesting considering that I had an exceptionally strong educational background for a Texan public school applicant. I went to private school through middle school, after which I transferred to a public charter high school — a high school with a strong track record of Ivy-League graduates. However, one of the many gaps in that exceptional education was in LGBTQ+ History.
So, in college, when I started to realize that I was attracted to women, I ignored it. I was completely fine with other people being gay, but I was positive that I was straight. Because I’d always been straight. I’d considered homosexuality in the past, though I never saw myself as a lesbian. I mean, I didn’t identify with Ellen Degeneres, or David Bowie, or any of the queer characters on Orange is the New Black, so I didn’t think I was gay. In my mind, queer people were different than me, a separate, distinct category.
I wasn’t like really interested in dating women, I just had a crush on like one. Okay, 5.
But I’ve never even been with a woman, how could I possibly know that I’m gay?
Also! I enjoy sex with men — men with dicks. So I couldn’t be gay.
Real gay people realize that they’re gay when they’re a child, I would surely know by now.
I have long hair, so I don’t really think I’m, like, “queer”.
AND I use she/her pronouns. I can’t use the word queer for myself.
All the queer people I know are so cool, I would never fit in.
I don’t think I’d enjoy sex with a woman, seems gross. (It’s not, and I did, a lot).
I don’t remember exactly when I started having these arguments with myself, but, eventually, after I drunkenly re-added women on Tinder for the 3rd weekend in a row I knew I needed to give myself space to explore this new part of my identity.
Intellectually I knew that exploring one’s sexuality is a completely normal, healthy thing to do, but I couldn’t get past the thick social anxiety persuading me that I would be shunned by my friends. I remember the first time I mentioned chatting with a woman on Tinder, very casually of course, and waited anxiously for my friends to mock me. AHAHA LIZ YOU’RE IN YOUR “EXPERIMENTING” PHASE HOW CUTE! YOURE NOT, LIKE, REALLY QUEER THOUGH.
Blessedly, the mocking did not, and has not, arrived. I am incredibly grateful that my “coming out” to my parents was a casual mention that was met with supportive love, rather than the social blacklisting that I had feared. It was, nevertheless, one of the scariest moments of my entire life.
Although I am much more comfortable with saying aloud that I’m queer than I was a month ago, and evolutions away from where I was in high school, the process of writing this essay is still sending me into a bit of a panic. I’m still working up to being comfortable saying that I’m gay — what is it about labels that makes us feel so confined?
I’ve been writing this essay for months, but have only recently felt safe enough to claim queerness publicly. There’s still an argument in my head, volleying violently back and forth, in which Self Preservation is pleading with me to keep this one unpublished, reminding me of the times I’ve been burned in the past. However, in learning to love queerness and unlearning my internalized homophobia, I have found that the more I share of myself the more I am able to connect with others. And, in learning about others, I learn new ways to be kinder to myself and my community — to be undefinable. I am my own queer idol.
More Queer Idols
- “How to Make Your Marriage Gayer” by Stephanie Coontz
- “What is Intersectionality? Let These Scholars Explain the Theory and Its History”
- “From Queer to Eternity: Queer Futurism in modern media” by Savannah James-Bayly