April 8, 2014
Over the past 4 years I have been struggling with coming to terms with my sexuality. It was always clear to me that I was straight until high school when I started to develop feelings that I wasn’t comfortable with. Now that I have thought about it a lot even after trying to suppress it I’m still not sure and I’m afraid of potentially being bisexual or pansexual just because I don’t know if i’ll ever be sure of it. It feels pretty set in stone that I am not straight but I have no idea what I am or what it means. I fear that if I tell others and later find out its not who I am they will think it was just for attention or I just “couldn’t choose a side”. I need any and all advice you can give me please.
Well, the long and short of it is that sexuality is really a fluid thing, which I don’t really think is what you want to hear. But it’s something that changes as you do, as apparent in your own experience. It’s something that can expand and contract, linked to how your own understanding of gender/sexuality grows, linked to the experiences you encounter with different people in sexual contexts. Words can help give you a ballpark idea, a schema that you can touch base with, but no word will ever really be a 100% match to who you are – you’re a complex person! I think that can be as scary as it is freeing, knowing that you are similar to some but still your own person. That you can affiliate with some words while still being an entity that exists independently of that.
Your concern for others judging you is, unfortunately, really valid. People are historically really horrible at affirming anything that isn’t monosexual (which is preference for one gender regardless of your own identity). There’s not a lot of support outside of the community, and even within the queer community conversation is lacking and flawed. But that’s not your fault, it’s theirs! And it’s the fault of the history that went into recognizing non-heterosexual identities. It’s a fault of homophobia, a fault of a cultural obsession with binaries, etc. I want you to know that you can change your mind RE: how you identify, and that doesn’t invalidate your past decisions and feelings. If my opinion of a movie can change drastically over the course of a year, my relationship with my own sexuality and gender definitely can; an intrinsic part of who I am and how I interact with the world is decidedly more nuanced than even the most complex of films. I really encourage you to focus more on what feels right in the moment, and I hope that the people in your life can support you through that. Try to find strength in the fact that you’re being true to yourself in the present tense! That’s really important in being your own advocate. It might change, it might not. But I definitely think it would be better to explore that part of yourself and see what you need right now than to pretend it doesn’t exist for fear of it not panning out. You’ll definitely learn something knew about yourself, regardless of the verdict, and it’ll be massively rewarding in the long run.
Some words you might find something in (and readers, feel free to help me augment this because I only know so much):
bisexuality: my understanding of the word is based on their community’s definition, which is “same and other genders.” It has been explained to me that gender plays a big role in this identity. There’s a fluidity, but attraction is very much woven through one’s own understanding of gender, and there are preferences therein.
pansexuality: my understanding of the word is that gender doesn’t play a huge part in attraction. To say gender is an afterthought isn’t correct, but it’s definitely not at the forefront of the mental process. Pansexuality is more “I like this person, they happen to be this gender” that “This person is this gender and I like them,” if that makes sense.
queer: instead of giving my understanding, I’m going to quote Brandon Wint, who is a Canadian based write and poet: “Not queer like gay. Queer like, escaping definition. Queer like some sort of fluidity and limitlessness at once. Queer like a freedom too strange to be conquered. Queer like the fearlessness to imagine what love can look like… and pursue it.” Queer isn’t necessarily as accessible as the two other words (bisexuality is, I feel comfortable saying, the most known word outside of queer circles), and I would say it’s more a lifestyle and politic than an identity, but I personally feel a lot of comfort in the word because it doesn’t ask me for permanence in the way I choose to think of myself. Queer knows that sexuality is fluid, and gives me room to find out what that means for me.
People discrediting your identity and experience can’t stop it from being your identity and experience. So, let it be yours. Find what’s right in the moment and allow yourself room to change and grow. Try not to restrict yourself to something if it’s gonna make you feel like shit. I really hope something in here helps. Good luck good luck good luck!