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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.