Fetch the Label Maker! A Discussion on Sexuality Terminology

It has been one year since the last time I posted on here and it’s been something of a whirlwind year for me. Last year, in observance of National Coming Out Day, I talked about my struggles to come to terms with my sexuality. At that time I was still embracing the concept and I knew that there was a chance that things would evolve from that point. I was quite new to the community and there were still a great many things that I didn’t know and this year has been a wonderful experience in learning and expanding my understanding.

I’ve since learnt that there is a whole other layer of terminology for sexuality types beyond the simple 0-6 Kinsey scale. Pansexual, demisexual, polysexual, asexual. And it doesn’t end there; there are even more specifications from that point. In the last year, I’ve been introduced to a whole new vocabulary and found a new label that fits me so much better than what I’d known before. (Biromantic demisexual, in case anyone is curious).

The most common question that I’ve gotten since my last post is why having a label matters? I admitted that I knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. The people closest to me already knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. Why did it matter that I have an appropriate label for my sexuality?

The thing that people doesn’t understand is that it was never about putting a label on myself. It wasn’t that I needed something to call myself or that I needed to have some absolute definition to attach to my sexuality. For me, the magic in finding a correct term was purely in knowing that I was not alone. If that term existed, it meant that there were other people out there who were the same as me. That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process.

That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process. It wasn’t in embracing myself for who I was or knowing that the people in my life would still accept me while knowing the truth. It was the realisation that I was not alone in this world. I haven’t actually met anyone with the same sexuality as me – at least not that I know of – but the simple fact that they are out there somewhere is comfort enough. Much in the same way that discovering communities for people suffering from depression provided hope and reassurances, knowing that there are enough other people out there who feel the same as I do eases the fears and uncertainty of reinventing my self-image.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, when so many people are opening up and learning to embrace and identify their sexuality, I simply want to let them all know this one crucial detail: Whether you are ready to shout your sexuality from the rooftops or if you’re still playing things close to the vest, it doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t about the labels we attach to ourselves. It isn’t in being able to tell the world that “yes, I am ____.” It is about belonging.  It is about knowing that there are other people out there that are like you.

You are not alone.

 

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National Coming Out Day

I never thought I would be the sort of person to do this. Frankly, I’ve gotten by for years by telling myself it’s nobody else’s business but my own. In the grand scheme of things, that’s true. The problem though, is that I was using that as an excuse. I wasn’t telling people because I didn’t want them to know. I was afraid.

I’m still afraid.

I’m tired of being afraid.

For those of you who don’t know, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. You can click the link for more information, but the gist is that it is civic awareness day where people of the LGBTQ+ community can feel empowered by “coming out” about their sexuality or gender identity. I’m sure you’ve all figured out where this is going, so I’m going to cut to the chase:

I identify as a bisexual.

Anyone who knows me well personally is probably unsurprised by this news. The few people I’ve told in person – which has honestly been fairly limited to immediate family – have simply given me looks like I’m being dense. My mom was actually able to use the term “bisexual” before I could, which was the flashing neon sign that made me realize that this is something I need to do, not for anyone else but for my own peace of mind.

I first suspected that I was “not normal” in my first year of high school. At that time in my life, I had no concept about what it meant to be bisexual, or that it was even a thing. When I realized that I was just as appreciative of pretty girl as I was of a handsome guy, I struggled to make sense of my identity. I knew that I wasn’t gay, because I was just as keen on ogling the cute guys as my other friends, but that left me with more questions than answers when it came to my burgeoning crush on Emma Watson. I ended up rationalizing it by telling myself that as an artistically inclined person, I was merely admiring the general aesthetics, and any other lingering feelings were more from a jealous desire to be like these girls than from a desire to date them.

In the last few months I have come to realize that I am an expert at “rationalizing” my way out of things I don’t want to think about.

I managed to get by for the rest of high school and a bit of college on that weak rationale. It helped me ignore my first crush on a girl who wasn’t a celebrity I had no chance of ever meeting. I continued to date guys – albeit most of them turned out to be gay guys who were still in the closet. (Yes, I can appreciate the irony.) In college I met a guy that I fell madly in love with – like cheesy, over-the-top Nicholas Sparks’ film love – and I thought surely all of that confusion was over.

I actually wrote a post a few year ago when I first became introduced to the idea of sexuality as a spectrum. Being able to think about sexuality without the constraints of labels was incredibly liberating for me, but that wiggle room also allowed me space to continue to dance around the issue. Even as I began to consider the possibility that I wasn’t “straight” like I had spent my life thinking, I found ways to play it off.

In the last few years, I turned it into a joke. Humor was my way of dealing with my confusion. Whenever the subject came up, I laughed it off. When I let myself get comfortable and my continuing crush on Emma Watson or new crush on Jennifer Lawrence cropped up in conversation, I found ways to make light of it until it was dismissed. Even with my closest friends and family, I couldn’t openly admit to the fact that I was dealing with a lot of internalized confusion.

Hell, I couldn’t admit it to myself.

It has only been within the last six months that I was able to admit, to myself and never aloud, that I wasn’t necessarily straight. Less than two weeks ago I told my mom that I might be “occasionally gay” and that’s when she said it, with simple curiosity and a pure lack of judgement: “Why don’t you just say bisexual?”

And the lights came on. I realized in that moment that even when I claimed to have accepted the fact about myself, when I told myself that I wasn’t telling people because it wasn’t their business, I was still denying it. I had spent years spiraling in concentric circles closer and closer to the truth without ever actually touching it. I had never before actually given a name to my feelings, but in that instant someone else had already embraced the word I had done everything in my power to avoid.

There was a sense of wonder and relief in my voice when I admitted, “Yeah, I might be bi.”

Which is what brings me to today. It’s what brings to me typing out my sad, pathetic story of denial and hypocrisy. While I’ve spent my life as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was more than eager to accept other people for whatever they might be, I wasn’t ready to accept myself.

Today, I am.

I never imagined myself as the sort of person to publicly “come out” because I also believed that it wasn’t anyone else’s problem. I never understood all the fuss. What did it matter if other people knew?

It’s only now that I realize that coming out isn’t for everyone else. I’m not doing this because I think other people need to know. I’m doing this because I needed to know. I needed to say it, to not feel like it was my dirty little secret that would only be dragged out into the light if I happened to find a girl I liked. I told myself I wasn’t lying by keeping it quiet, but a lie of omission is still not true.

I’m tired of lying and skirting and tiptoeing about without actually saying it. I know that there will be backlash. I know that there will be people in my life who can’t accept this fact. I know that there are going to be hard times and hurtful words and more tears (I may or may not be currently crying) ahead of me, but for the first time in my life I am not afraid to face that. I finally feel like I am me, without restraint.

Tomorrow can do as it wishes; for today, I am out and I am free.

Daily Prompt: BFFs

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from the person you’re the closest to?

I want to preface this by saying that as far as best friends go, I have always lucked out. I’ve had a handful of really close friends in my life because of moving around and changing personalities. As a little kid I had a first best friend, although when I moved we drifted out of touch for a long time and have only just recently reconnected – thank you technology!

In the end though I’ve got one person I would consider my absolute best friend. We met when I first moved to my small town – she introduced herself by offering to shake hands, despite the fact that we were only ten – and we became inseparable almost immediately. Now, almost fifteen years later, she’s still my best friend and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. She’s been there for everything – the ups and downs, all of those pivotal moments of growing up and becoming an adult.

She’s more than just a friend; she’s family.

There are a lot of really great things that I’ve learned from my best friend through the years. There were so many valuable lessons about growing up that I can attribute to her simply because was went through them together. However, if I’m going to limit this to lessons not that we learned together, but that she taught me, it would be the simple lesson of trying

I will freely admit that for a great deal of my life I was a withdrawn, anxious doormat. To an extent, I suppose I still am a little bit. I was always content to simply coast, to deal with the standard, mediocre and basic. I was okay with just getting by and never really putting myself out there. Thinking back on it, I can pinpoint almost every great chance that I took to her encouragement. And every one of those chances that I took led to discovering something great about myself and introduced me to something new that would shape who I have become today.

At her prodding, I auditioned for my first musical and found a brilliant new form of art that I still revere. It was because of her that I took up dance, since she had been a dancer from nearly birth, and I realised a new form of self-expression that helped me get through the stress of high school. And when it comes down to it, I also took up writing because of her – it was a project we picked up together – and we all know how much that’s affected me.

She urged me to try new things and open myself up to my artistic side, something I had been too complacent to bother with much before. It is because of these early instances of trying that I have the courage to take the chances I do today; posting my thoughts to an online audience, seeking publication, and taking spontaneous trips across the world just because I want to.

That day in November of ’99 when she took a chance on the new girl transformed me forever.

 

 

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Cuffed | An Autobiographical Short Story

Winter, quite often considered the most memorable time of the year, with all the holiday cheer and Uncle Jeff getting drunk on eggnog and running into the family Christmas party wearing nothing but his boxers and a Santa hat. But the winter of 2001 was the most memorable of all, for me anyway. That winter was the first time I ever got cuffed.

It was a Friday and my best friend, Alicia, was supposed to be coming over for the weekend. Everything was planned out; Alicia had brought all her gear to school with her that morning and we were going to walk to my house after school. So, when last bell had rung, Alicia and I gathered our belongings and set out for my house.

The road we took to get to my house was not very heavily populated so we weren’t crammed into the usual stampede that flew from the school doors like gentlewomen from a mouse. Barely more than a block from the school the chill was completely soaked into our skins and now marinating within our bones, even though we were panting and sweating under the weight of the baggage. On the bitter wind I heard someone shout my name and I turned to locate the speaker but before I could identify them my eyes found another sight, far more daunting. An immaculately white police car was heading up the road behind Alicia and me. My eyes made contact with the officer within the vehicle’s tinted windows and my heart jumped wildly. I knew this guy all too well. Instantly the wailing of sirens cut through the quiet of the frigid afternoon like a hot knife through butter and I broke into a run.

I became senseless with fright. I heard Alicia cry out after me but her words never penetrated my mental block. The weight of the bags, the cut of the strap, and the wintriness of the air all disappeared in a flash. I was only aware of the screaming sirens, the colorful splashes of red and blue cast on the snow at my feet, and the erratic pounding of my heart. My struggle was entirely in vain however; I had hardly gone five feet before the police car pulled in front of me, tires sending bright rings of reflective snow into the air around it, and I was forced to slide to a stop.

“Drop the bags!” the officer shouted as he clambered out of his idling vehicle. “Hands on the car!” I immediately complied, not that I had much of a choice with the barrel of a gun pointed in my direction.

“You, too,” I heard the officer bellow and in seconds Alicia was at my side, her whole body trembling. I started in alarm as I felt the officer’s hands on my sides as he checked me up and down for weaponry. Then my arms were yanked brusquely behind my back and I gasped as cold metal encircled my already frozen wrists. As though echoing through a great void of space I could faintly recognize the voice of the officer reciting my rights in a mechanical intonation that blatantly proved he had done so on many occasions. The back door of the car was opened and I was only short of thrown inside. Moments later Alicia was sliding in next to me, her face white and her jaw quivering. The sirens were still singing their mournful march and now I could hear the grinding roll of the lights as they continually pivoted overhead. Shii-tunk, shii-tunk, shii-tunk. A loud thump jerked my senses as the trunk of the police car was slammed shut. Apparently he had confiscated our bags.

As the officer climbed into the front seat of the car I glanced despairingly out of the window, to freedom, and discovered who had been hailing me in the start. A small cluster of my classmates was standing across the icy roadway, now watching the scene before them with wide-eyes and open-mouths. When I saw them the tears I had been withholding slid free of their barriers and I hastily bowed me head although I couldn’t stop my shoulders from shaking.

The police car backed out on to the glassy road and continued down the street for three blocks before the policeman made any motion toward us. He had grasped a small key in his one hand and was now offering it back to us. Alicia grabbed it hastily in hands that had never been cuffed and unlocked the circlets of silver around my wrists. I raised my hands to wipe away the tears of laughter still coursing down my cheeks and when I glanced up my eyes once again connected with those of the officer’s through the reflections in the rearview mirror. We both smiled broadly.

“Classic, dad,” I grinned from the back seat. “Absolutely classic.”

A Letter to My Future Child(ren)

Dear Future Child/Children,

I’m going to go ahead and apologise first off. With my intense nerdiness, odds are that you’re named after a fictional book character. Depending on who your father is and if he’s as awesome as me, then you’re probably named after a character from Harry Potter. Actually, if that’s the case, I don’t apologise. I’m sure that I’ve read the books to you enough times that you realise it’s an honour to share a name with one of them. In fact, come to think of it, I take back my apology.

I have no idea how far down the road it will be before I have kids, although I’m hoping that someday you will actually exist. It would be a wonder, really. When I was a kid, I had all these dreams of having a huge family. Then I became an adult, learned about childbearing and labour, and I started to feel leery. I was less enthusiastic but I still wanted a family.

Then I met this guy. He was charming and funny and obnoxious and completely insufferable. I fell in love. And remarkably, somehow he loved me back. We lived and loved and laughed and started making plans. We talked about getting married and having children and settling down. And for three brief weeks, it seemed like those plans might be coming to fruition a bit sooner than we expected.

And then it all fell apart. The family, the plans, the relationship.

So after being so close to everything I had wanted since I was a kid, I found myself broken, disheartened, and alone. A visit to a doctor told me that my chances were slim and deteriorating, so I began to change my plans. I started focusing on other things. School, my career, and myself. Ideas of marriage and children and family were pushed to the back burner. I’ve reached a point where I actually have a hard time imagining that future anymore, because there are just so many things that are easier to do and require less commitment – something of which I can admit to being a little afraid.

But there will always be a part of me that wants to be a mother, no matter how it happens. So it is a wonderful, pure pleasure to meet you.

I hope you’re happy and healthy; that you have a good life and we have a good relationship. I had a great relationship with my mom, still do by the time you read this hopefully, and it was pivotal in making me who I am. It was good to have someone to always talk to, someone who I knew would absolutely always be there for me no matter what I did. She was always there, every day, waiting expectantly for me to come home from school and tell her about every banal detail of my day. It was comforting. Familiar. I will never take for granted just how glorious those days were.

I want you to know that I am proud of you. I don’t care who or what you are, if you’re tall or short or gay or artistic or sporty or a collector of bugs. I’m still proud of you. Because I’m your mom, and that’s my job. No matter what happens, I want you to be whatever you are. I know there will be times that you hate me, especially once you hit that teen angst stage, but you should know I will always be your mother and I will always love you.

I really do hope I pick a normal name for you, at least not something mental like Albus Severus. And I hope I don’t mess you up too badly, damage your brain with too much of my nerdiness.

And it may be years down the road still, but I can’t wait to meet you.

Love always,

Your Future Mom

Fear Factor

Everyone is afraid of something, whether they will admit to it or not. Spiders, snakes, heights, clowns. I’ll be the first to admit that I am afraid of a lot of things. Like, a LOT. Including those four things I listed above, I’ve got a lot of strange, irrational fears as well. Yeah, those ones that you can’t make any sense of or figure out where they came from, but you’re still freaked out by them anyway.

Perhaps the weirdest one I’m afraid of is calling people. I’m not afraid of answering the phone or talking on the phone to people, but I get so freaked out when I have to actually dial someone’s number. My heart races while I fumble through dialling the number, and if I manage to properly dial the number, that few seconds of dialtone waiting for the other person to pick up is so nerve-wracking. I can’t tell you what the hell caused this one or even why it bothers me so much, but I will go to great lengths to avoid having to calling anyone.

I’m also afraid of most barnyard birds, like chickens and geese and occasionally ducks. And swans. And pigeons. And crows. But mostly the barnyard poultry birds. This one I actually have a reason for, since I’ve been chased about by both geese and chickens before. They’re mean. They peck at your ankles, the dirty buzzards.

Then there’s the weird fact that I am not afraid of the dark or of enclosed spaces individually, but when combined together they are the thing of nightmares. There are few things in the world that I hate more than being stuck in dark, enclosed spaces.

Except maybe the dentist. God I hate the dentist.

I’ve somewhat tempered down my fear of spiders. I can handle spiders until they reach about the size of a nickel, and then I want nothing to do with them. That’s the point when I jump up on furniture and scream for mom to come save me.

And I never, under any circumstances, want anything to do with snakes. Ever. At all.

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