Many believe that sexual preference is something that we are born into, but I can’t say that was the case for me. As a child, I never thought to label my sexuality and curiously explored with friends of all genders. It wasn’t until I reached the 7th grade that I was “outed” and felt pressure to conform as straight.
A close female friend and I would pass naughty notes back and forth in class and one day they fell out of my backpack on the bus ride home. Our classmates found them and because we attended a Christian school, we were immediately judged and ostracized. The bus driver turned the notes into the principal and both of our parents were informed. I remember my mom waving them in frustration while hissing at me, her 12 year old daughter, “What is this, some lesbian thing?” It didn’t feel like I was lying when I quickly said no, but the answer didn’t feel complete. The next day at school, the principal sat down with both of us and made us go through the notes line by line, assigning who had written what. It was a humiliating and shameful experience that would ultimately convince me to repress that aspect of my sexuality until I reached adulthood. I began trolling internet chatrooms around 18, my eyes eagerly scanning for “bi curious f4f” in my area. Bi curious seemed like an easy enough label to claim, one that I assumed would expire after I was finally able to satisfy my curiosity for women. I had boyfriends during this time, but outside of occasionally bringing up threesomes, I hid this exploration from them. I would occasionally meet and hook up with other girls in similar situations, with boyfriends who didn’t approve of or understand their attraction to women. For some reason, we didn’t consider these encounters infidelity and denied their significance even to ourselves. This carried on for several years and it wasn’t until I was casually dating someone else that I realized my curiosity towards women had evolved into a steadfast attraction.
“You’re not bisexual are you?” he asked one day out of the blue. Before I could respond, he brusquely continued, saying, “I dated one bi girl in the past and I’ll never deal with that confusion again.”
Not ready for our romance to end, and justifying to myself that I had never had anything more than casual affairs with women, I assured him I was straight. I felt my stomach drop as the betrayal left my lips. Several years later, I was again in a long term relationship with a man and feeling called to more deeply explore intimacy with women. I was no longer fulfilled by the covert hookups and one night stands, and in truth, maybe I never had been. I tried to broach the topic by offering a threesome, but he wasn’t interested. I let the issue rest for a while, but feeling increasingly frustrated I finally told him what was on my mind and that even if he wasn’t interested in participating, I had to honor this aspect of myself.
He begrudgingly agreed, but held obvious resentment, which only proved detrimental as I sought to accept this new facet of my sexuality. Eventually we broke up and for a few months afterwards, I exclusively dated non-cis-male identifying people.
It was during this time that I realized I no longer desired a monogamous partnership and also, that I generally find women more attractive and easier to establish connections with than men. I learned the numerous ways in which intimacy is expressed and reveled in discovering the differences between my varied partners.
These days I’m pretty comfortable with who I am — a sexually fluid female-identifying person who is in a non-monogamous long-term relationship with a male-identifying person. Although most of my friends and perhaps some of my family are aware of this, I’ve never officially “come out of the closet” and I’m not sure that I want to. It’s not fear or shame that drives this decision, but a belief that people shouldn’t assume heterosexuality, monogamy, and the gender binary as the norm. Once we accept that these identities are not the default, we can get to know each other on an individual level and allow these facts to come to light in a more organic way.
Perhaps if so many people had not imposed themselves on my sexuality at such a young age, assuming that my flirtings with other girls automatically indicated lesbianism, my road to acceptance would have been filled with less wrong turns and potholes. I like to envision a world where these labels will be so plentiful and varied, they’ll almost cease to exist at all.
Feature Image by Manzel Bowman