Saying Goodbi to Labels
When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my mom gave me two talks. One was, of course, the sex talk, to which my only reaction was “eww”. The second was the homosexual talk. The talk in which she told me that sometimes two people who love each other can be both women or both men. When my mom was explaining this to me, she made it clear that being gay was not weird or scary or dumb. She talked about being gay like it was a normal thing, because it is a normal thing. A few days after that talk, I was at school in front of the computer building (remember when?) with my classmates and they were calling something “gay”. For the life of me, I can’t remember what that thing was, but it was definitely an object and not a person. They were loudly and nastily calling an object “gay” with a tone implying that gay meant “dumb” or “weird”. I was offended. I was offended strictly on the grounds that they simply did not know what “gay” meant and they should pick up a dictionary (or use the large boxy computers in said computer room). In all my 9 year old bottled up anger and frustration, I yelled out “Stop saying that! You don’t know what that means!” They rolled their eyes and snarled. I felt defeated. My classmates now hated me because I took all the fun out of their newfound slang word. However- they did stop.
Cut to- I’m in high school. Up until this point, I knew that there was straight and gay. But coming into high school, the word bi was being tossed around. I asked my mom what it meant and she told me. However, I had also heard from schoolmates that it’s a term used for when a person is undecided. Or, they were definitely homosexual but not ready to fully come out of the closet. This description of bi-sexual implied to me that it was something deemed illegitimate. At that time, the concept of being bi -or anything between heterosexual and homosexual- was not an open concept kitchen. This was not an uncommon belief in the late 1990s/early 2000s. This predisposition posed a problem for me- when I started having a crush on a girl.
There was this one girl. There was something about her. She was cool. You know those girls who are just cool? I would tell myself that I was jealous of her— that her hair was silkier than mine, that her jokes were funnier than mine, that her confidence was on a whole other level than mine. Truth be told, I liked her. I would find myself tugging at my clothes and twirling my hair when she was around. I didn’t understand it, but there it was. I would get mad at myself and anxious. I didn’t know what to feel. If liking boys and girls wasn't a real thing, then, 'I must be gay? But I’m not gay. I’ve had crushes on boys every year of school since I was 3. I’m definitely straight. I think.' I wrote it off as appreciation. I don’t like her- I appreciate her. Later on, cool girl and I became friends and the crush went away. I also got a boyfriend. (Honestly, I would have been better off with the cool girl. But, I digress.)
This wasn’t just a one ‘n’ done situation either. I have had attractions to men and women over the last 14 years. I wouldn’t consider myself bi, exactly. I’m not really sure how I feel about the different labels that could apply- queer or questioning or bi-curious. That’s okay. Why label it? I’m on the spectrum. I read an article online titled, “Okay, Okay—Does Sexuality Really Exist On A Spectrum?” by Hilary Weaver who emphatically pushes the idea of sexuality as a spectrum.
"Just think about your sexuality as a series of boxes on a magical multiple-choice exam ... You can check off all of them (or leave them blank if you aren't sure). And there's no—I repeat, NO—wrong answer." — Hilary Weaver
(There are copious inspiring articles online further discussing the controversial idea of the spectrum, if you’re so inclined.) This sexuality spectrum has been around for ages but it only popped up in my worldview in the last 3 or 4 years. And, what a relief that was! A spectrum? Of course! That makes so much sense! That is exactly how I feel. I’m not one hundred percent straight but I’m not gay either. I’m like… 85% straight. More or less on any given day. What a whirlwind. I’d been shoving down my feelings for the longest time- “Whoa, she’s hot. I’m not attracted to her (cough) but she is FINE.” Now, I feel at peace with myself. I am open without any judgments on who I find attractive. Maybe I’ll date a woman, maybe I never will. The point is, I know I’m somewhere on the spectrum and I am an open book about it.
I’m 28. I have the rest of my life to date and figure out which gender I prefer, but that’s the great thing about this era. It used to be something that was hidden but now we can loudly proclaim who we are and who we prefer. Or, we can quite calmly and plainly keep it to ourselves. Especially here in Los Angeles, nobody gives a flying flag where you land on the spectrum. It’s a spectrum, much like a rainbow. See what I did there? There are colors our eyes can’t even see and I believe that is true for our sexualities, too. We don’t have to label every single color or shade. We are who we are. We don’t need to label it as long as we stay true to ourselves. (Cue “True Colors” by Cindi Lauper)…
Knowing what I know now, I look back on little 9 year old me and smile. She is exactly who I am and who I want to continue to be. I should not have felt defeated. I should have felt – proud. I should’ve felt proud that I, at only 9 years old, stood up for an entire group of people (or the true dictionary definition of a word). I spoke up and those kids shut up. But now, I am speaking up and hoping others speak up too. I’m certainly not the first to show my true colors, but I’m hoping to continue broadening the conversation. I’m hoping to enlighten anyone who did not think of sexuality as a spectrum. I am hoping to delve deeper into who I am through writing it out, because that’s the only way I know how.