“You know how I know I’m definitely straight?”
“Hm?” I said, my voice muffled against the duvet of Anna’s* bed.
“All I can think about is how badly I want James’* dick right now.”
I chuckled, not at all sharing in the sentiment. We were 16, James was her boyfriend. I also had a boyfriend: I did not want his dick right now. What I did want was to go back to doing what we had just been doing for the last 3 hours.
I closed my eyes, turned my face back into the duvet and went back to replaying the whole night in my mind.
I wish I remembered how it started. I remember mundane things like the date (May 2nd, at least that’s what Facebook says, it was probably actually the end of April sometime), what I was wearing (blue tank top stacked with a white tank top on me pink plaid tank top on her). I remember, strangely, that that morning I had been thinking about kissing girls and how badly I wanted to, quickly forcing those thoughts of my head.
I remember the moment right before the first kiss. I remember the moment thinking her breath was cool and smelled like chemically flavored sugar from the dozen or so pixie stix we had knocked back over the course of the night. I remember the skin of her waist was so soft, the softest thing I had ever felt. Her lips were thin and smooth and gentle against mine, instead of insistent and forceful as were the lips I had experienced until this point.
It was like my whole body finally exhaled when our lips met, it was like I was experiencing a kiss for the very first time instead of the thousandth, approximately. I remember it was over far too quickly and Anna was flipping a switch, harsh light chasing away everything we had just done.
Oh no. I thought suddenly.
“Yeah, same. Definitely straight.” I mumbled instead of saying any of this. Anna* smiled and flicked off the light again.
She knocked out almost immediately and I stayed awake, acutely aware of my body’s response to her and unable to sleep.
Definitely straight. I thought over and over again, holding the cross I always wore, until I fell asleep.
“So the thing is, Anna and I used to hook up and also I think I’m bi?” I spat out all in one breath before Lauren* could react. We were sitting in my car in the deserted parking lot of a strip mall we frequented. Lauren quickly looked to the side and then back at me.
“Oh, is that all? Wait you and Anna are hooking up? What? Doesn’t she have a boyfriend?” I dropped my head into my hands and nodded.
“Used to! Used to!” I repeated even though that was technically a lie. I was 17 now, a full year after that first, and definitely not last, night with Anna. The last time we had hooked up had been the oh-so-cliché prom night about a month earlier, with Lauren sleeping about five feet away from us after a long night of screaming at my now ex and dancing. I shut my eyes tight against the memory of the breathless, silent kisses and still forbidden touches. It had been the first time her hands had slid under my shirt and between my legs and I was still reeling from the utter rightness of the night, and how much I couldn’t wait for the next one.
“I mean. I figured that’s what you wanted to tell me, it’s all good. Why are you so freaked out?” Lauren said confused. I was visibly shaking. I didn’t know why I was so freaked out. It didn’t sound right, it sounded so strange coming from my mouth.
“I think I’m bisexual.”
It really wasn’t right. But what else could I be?
Pansexual ~I don’t see gender~
“I just like don’t identify as anything I don’t know.” This would be so much easier if I wasn’t so drunk and so very scared. I had never been asked this I did not have a ready response.
“But like if you had to identify…how would you?” He said, insistent on an answer from me. I was 20 now. I had been going with pansexual for about a year now and it was…fine. It was fine. It worked. It still wasn’t something I widely broadcasted. It helped me explain my relationships with men and my “only physical” attraction to women and also my short-lived online flirtations with those who lived as non-binary or on the trans spectrum. I hated the identification process so much. I hated wrestling with my extended family’s religious views, I hated the fact that I had a boyfriend I loved but for some reason couldn’t shake the attraction to my suite mate. The attraction I acted on more than once. I fashioned myself someone who just didn’t see gender, or take it into consideration when feeling attraction. This wasn’t true of course. Gender is very important to how many people identify and it’s equally important to be sensitive to people’s appropriate pronouns and descriptive language.
“Well you’re obviously the gayest one in the room.” He shot back after I didn’t answer. For some reason tears filled my eyes and I had to leave, the alcohol slowing me. I said goodnight to everybody and went back to my dorm where I would cry until several pairs of arms found me and I felt safe with myself again.
At this moment as I type this I’m in my bed, a black cat curled up next to me, and my girlfriend curled up and sleeping as well, 200 miles away from me. I’m so comfortable in my bed but hers is so much more welcoming. I’ll be back with her soon. I’m 23 and actually so comfortable with so many parts of myself, even though my depression will convince me otherwise. I remember the moment I claimed queer as my own. I was at my city’s Pride festival last summer and walked up to a booth selling adorable merchandise with rainbows and glitter galore. They had displayed a particularly flashy tote bag that said, appropriately “Totes Queer”. I chuckled, I love puns. I had been dating my girlfriend for about seven months at this point and still hadn’t really “come out” to my extended family.
In a moment of recklessness I asked the man working the booth for one of those bags, which I used for the rest of the day to hold all my complimentary condoms and (terrible) sex toys and lesbian erotica I had bought after being charmed by the author. I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook along with the “=” tee shirt I had bought to commemorate the day. There still haven’t been any responses from them to that picture, nearly a year later.
Everything has finally brought me here. Everything has brought me to living so loudly and loving my person so fiercely I can hardly bring myself to remember how scared I used to be, it’s embarrassing. I’ve found that accepting sexuality as a journey has been the thing that made it all the easier. That made it just as easy to accept myself as fat or to accept myself as mentally ill. Queer encompasses everything I was too afraid to say all throughout my teen years. I could be anything; I could be something different every day. I’m finally proud, I’m finally loved by exactly the person I’ve always wanted and needed but never allowed myself to have. This person is kind and generous and understanding and so lovely in every sense. This person is exactly who I hoped I would find, and I’m so lucky they’ve appeared in my life just in time to see, who I believe, will be the best version of myself. I am now the person unafraid to label and claim identifies as my own and also unafraid to change. And we have so long still to go.
*All names have been changed*