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Anything but Straightforward
Navigating my sexual identity has been anything but straightforward (maybe that’s why we say “straight” is the opposite of queer, ha ha), but I have learned that this is more common than a lot of us might think. For me, it felt like I only ever heard “coming out” stories about people who were certain of their sexuality, but had previously remained “in the closet” mostly due to the stigma and discrimination that is often part of the LGBTQ+ experience. While this stigma and discrimination definitely plays a large role in preventing people from opening up about their sexuality, I also think it can often be a lot more complicated than that. For instance, how do you come out of the “closet” if you don’t even know whether the dark place you feel stuck in really is a closet, or if it’s valid enough to be considered that?
I think that navigating my own sexual orientation might have been easier, or at least less lonely, if the experiences of people who struggled with uncertainty around their sexual identity were better represented. For that reason, I’ve decided to share what it’s been like for me to navigate, understand, accept, and ultimately “come out” about being queer (and why I prefer to use that term for myself).
I think part of me knew and was curious about my sexual orientation from a young age but, for many reasons, I believe I was in denial and simply didn’t even allow myself to consider the thought that I might not be “straight”. It wasn’t until my third year of university that I really let myself open up to the possibility that I might have been (what I thought was) bisexual. Looking back, I think part of this new openness to explore had to do with the fact that I was struggling tremendously with the recent death of my mom and was grasping at everything I could to try and fill the gaping emptiness that I was feeling. Initially, this made it difficult for me to distinguish between whether or not I was just desperate for extra love and affection wherever I could get it, or if I was genuinely romantically interested in females. I wrestled with the “bisexual” label for a long time and for some reason it never really felt right, but neither did anything else.
I felt incredibly lost and confused. It also didn’t help that one aspect of my experience with borderline personality disorder is struggling with an unstable sense of self; so, was this just an identity crisis? If I didn’t identify with the bisexual label, and also didn’t identify as lesbian, then I must have just been straight, right? Doesn’t it have to be one or the other? What I know now is that, no, sexual identity often isn’t so black and white *rolls eyes at anyone wanting to make a Fifty Shades of Grey joke*. There can be a lot of negatives associated with social media and the online world as a whole, but I also owe a lot of credit to it for helping me navigate this part of my identity. Being able to explore LGBTQ+ culture in a space that felt safe, and at a pace that felt comfortable, is what really helped me to build an understanding of my sexuality.
My perspective now is that sexual identity is on a spectrum with one end representing heterosexuality, the other end representing homosexuality, and a large space in between where a lot of us exist. Some people see bisexuality as being directly in the centre, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Many of my friends who identify as bisexual have said it’s not a 50/50 ratio for them, e.g. one friend refers to herself as 90/10, meaning that 90% of her feels attracted to females, but there is still 10% of her that has the potential to be attracted to males. That’s why the spectrum explanation makes sense to me, because it also means we don’t have to be confined to a box and that throughout our lives we might shift more towards one end of the spectrum or the other.
So, why do I still not identify as bisexual? At this point in time, it feels most fitting and comfortable to refer to myself as queer or gay. Part of this may be because they are broader “umbrella” terms that feel easier for me to identify with compared to more specific labels. Another reason is that, despite being in and enjoying heterosexual relationships in the past (thus, I don’t identify as lesbian), I really only feel interested in pursuing any form of relationship with females now. It’s possible that this has to do with unresolved trauma that I’ve more recently been working through (so my feelings around this may change if I make more steps towards healing), but it’s also possible that I’m just more comfortable with same-sex dating and relationships now. Whatever the case, I know that the prospect of having a girlfriend makes me giddy, and I’m learning to accept that it’s okay if I don’t feel like I fit neatly into a particular box; admitting that I’m not straight, on its own, felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
If you want to know more about my recent decision to officially “come out”, you can read my Pride Month series interview with Marnie. Check out other interviews from that series to hear different perspectives from some amazing locals who identify as LGBTQ+.
Other related links on mindyourmind:
- "How Loving Can We Be?": Frank Ocean coming out
- Kendra Fisher (on being gay and a professional athlete)
- Self care for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies
Resources and support:
Scarlett has been volunteering with mindyourmind since 2012 and has been a member of the staff team since 2016. As a Psychology graduate from King's University College at Western, she is passionate about all things related to the subject and is a proud mental health advocate with lived experience.
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