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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{Writing Wednesday} – “It was the Only Road…”

Writing Prompts. Every writer has used them at some point in their career, (whether willingly or not.) They’re like an adrenaline shot to your muse. You know, usually.

Looking for a way to keep our writing fresh and versatile, my friend Anna and I are going to be starting a prompt inspired post that we call Writing Wednesdays.

Breakdown: Every first and third Wednesday of the month, on both Anna’s blog and mine, we’ll post a prompt that we’ve either found or come up with ourselves, as well as our own flash fiction or short story for that prompt. Please feel free to join us! Just make sure that when you post, you link your work back – and comment with a link – to one of ours so everyone can read yours too!

PROMPT: First Line – “It was the only road out of town but in retrospect, taking it was a terrible decision.”

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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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Daily Prompt: BYOB(ookworm)

I’ve just finished drafting up the new cover and blurb for my (hopeful) début novel.

Truths&Lies Cover - Full

Blurb:

“Because in real life, there is so much more to a fairy tale ending than imagined.

“Aspiring teen writer Jacob Barnes has always been fascinated by the world of fairy tales. All of his life, his secret ambition was to find a happily ever after of his own. He was already halfway through the mandatory checklist – he was the step-child, with a wicked step-father and two abusive step-brothers; he was the underdog with the big dreams; he even had something of his own personal fairy godmother, although she was in fact his best friend who just happened to be rather clever. The only thing he needed, really, was his princess.

“With high school graduation and the real world looming closer every day, Jacob finally decided to pursue his secret admirer, an anonymous fan of his online blog. Yet as he journeyed deeper into the world of fairy tale romance, those carefully cultivated expectations that a childhood of Disney films had built in his mind began to crumble and Jacob was left to navigate the harsh realities of first love.

“Once upon a time, a boy undertook an epic quest, duelled vicious monsters, and sought the heart of his princess – and redefined “happily ever afters” for the real world.”

 

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A Brand New Me

I am terrible at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. It probably doesn’t help that I always seem to make the same, cookie-cutter resolutions: eat better, lose weight, get fit, save more money. They’re the same typical resolutions that everyone makes and at the end of the day I only feel committed to them because they are what I should want. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never actually kept a resolution before in my life and I think it’s because I just don’t care enough.

Do I want to lose weight and get fit? Of course I do. Do I want to save up more money? Absolutely.

But do I care enough to actually put a year’s worth of effort toward it? HA! More like I make it about two months and then I get knocked off track and give up for a couple months before trying again some time in June-ish.

Which is why this year I am going to make entirely different resolutions. Instead of the same, generalised, broad resolutions that I make every year, I’m going to make some different, specific resolutions. Things that pertain exactly to me. Things that I really care about seeing accomplished.

1. Have an adventure!: This is something I’ve always wanted to do and this year I’m going to make it finally happen. I’ve done new things and taken trips before but I want to have an actual, genuine adventure. I want to see new places and do new things and meet new people. This is a task that will hopefully be checked off during my spring break trip to the UK.

2. Lose 30 pounds: Yes, this is still the same old resolution, but this time I’m being more specific. I am setting an exact number. This isn’t just a vague plan, it’s a concrete goal. (An FYI, I’m already 2 pounds in. Booyah!)

3. De-clutter: I own a lot of s***. Like, a lot. For someone who doesn’t have much space, I have sure accumulated a lot of things. And a lot of unnecessary things, at that. So this year, I’m going to thin down the stuff and get rid of a lot of things I don’t need. The bonus is it’ll clear out more space for books, which is always a good thing.

4. Learn something new: I’ve been thinking about crocheting. Or cross-stitching. Something crafty like that.

5. Stop making excuses to cancel plans: This is one of those things I’m really bad about doing. I make plans to go do something, and then at the last minute I come up with some excuse to stay home. “I’m sick.” “I got called in to work.” “I had a family emergency.” The truth is I’m a little bit anti-social. I want to make new friends and do things and live, I’m just always too socially anxious to go through with things. This year, that changes.

6. Go to a bar/club: As a 24 year old, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually been inside of a bar or club before.This is partly to do with the fact that I’m social awkward and don’t do well with big crowds. Also doesn’t help that the majority of my friends are LDS housewives. But it’s one of those things I feel like every person should do at some point in their life, and I want to give it a shot.

7. Go out on a date: Another shameful moment here. I’ve not been on a date in well over a year.

8. Give up soda: I’ve been trying to do this for years, with moderate success. This is not just for health reasons but money as well. I spend way, way too much money on Dr. Pepper. Not to mention calories.

9. Take one day a month to tech-detox: We live in such a technologically dependent world, and I especially spend the majority of my time on the computer. And when I’m not on the computer, I’m on my phone. So I’ve resolved that at least one day a month, I will turn off all of the tech – the phone, the computer, the tv, the radio – and I will just exist.

10. Finish (and publish?) my novel: By and far, this is the most important resolution I’m making this year. I actually made this one last year and failed it epically. This year though, I will finish my novel and I’m going to start sending it out to publishers. If things don’t pan out with the contacts I’ve already made, then I’m going to self-publish by the end of the year. Either way, come 2015 I will be a published author.

Resolutions are made for a reason. They are made to give you goals to work toward; to give your year a direction and purpose. 2013 might’ve been a year of stalling and stagnancy for me, but everything is about to change. I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to be a different person.

And 2014 is going to be a whole new year.

Growing Up Disney

I am a Disney whore.

For those of you who don’t know what that means:

Really though, I belong to that generation that grew up with at least one new Disney film every year and an endless supply of happily ever afters floating in the air. Even when I was living with my then-single mother and single grandmother, we made a trip every year to Disneyland Anaheim. As a kid I watched The Little Mermaid so many times I’ve no idea how that tape didn’t just implode (because this was back in that so-far-ago time of VHS cassettes and the constant fear that the tape may just one day break.) Even as a straight-up tomboy, I always kind of wanted to be a Disney princess – Belle, because she gets that kick-ass library – and I was an avid follower of the ritual of wishing on stars. Although I never did master that whole “paint with the wind” thing; I could never figure how to get the wind to stick on my paintbrush.

To make a long story short – too late – Disney has always been a crucial part of my life.

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For the most part this has been a good thing for me. Disney films, and fairy tales in general, give us all that one commodity that is so precious in life: hope. They teach us to believe in good, that bad will always be beaten, that there’s nothing wrong with being different, and that in the end, no matter how difficult the journey, we will all find a happily ever after. That optimism and faith got me through more than one dark time and even now, when things get tough I always fall back on my favorite Disney flicks for comfort and reassurance.

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The Disney franchise as a whole also teaches the importance and power of imagination, which is obviously a lesson that resonated with me since I grew up – I use the term “grew up” loosely, mind – with the aim of being a fiction writer. Imagination is my favorite trait about myself, and it would not be a stretch to say that my imagination, and by extension my writing, has saved my life. I genuinely would not be here today otherwise. Imagination gave me a safe place to retreat when things became difficult, and there I was able to cope with the things that I could not make sense of in reality. Life problems became dragons and wicked witches, and in my mind I found the sword that helped me to slay them even if it didn’t exist in the real world, which helped me to put those troubles to rest at the back of my mind. It helped me find peace and work through the harshness of life.

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Disney as a whole has been such an influential part of my growth that I can’t differentiate between what I believed before and what has been touched by the world of Disney’s magic. I grew up in a world of mystery and adventure and magic, and that mentality has never really left me. Deep down, beneath the cynicism and weariness that adulthood has brought upon me, I still unequivocally want to believe in happy endings.

And there, in and of itself, is the one crucial defect that Disney has left implanted in my mind. I believe too much. I see the good in everyone, whether they deserve it or not. I want to believe that there is a prince hidden beneath the coarse exterior of every man, and that he only needs my love to break the curse. I want to believe that just fearlessly jumping into a new world in search of my dreams will somehow always work itself out. And every time that I am proven wrong, it hurts. Not just on a basic, “I failed and that’s upsetting” level, but on a deep, spiritual level. It puts a scar on my soul. It’s like having someone give me definitive proof that my God isn’t real.

Because in the end, I think that’s what fairy tales have become for me. They aren’t just charming tales for children, or musical films to cheer me up. They are my mythology, my faith, my religion. I am a Disney-ian. Disney-ist? Something like that.

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When the chips are down though, I wouldn’t trade my mentality for anything. I have something that so few people get to have anymore. I have innocence and naivety. I can still look around at the world through the eyes of a child and find the magic and beauty hidden behind everything. I can look into the darkness and see hope and a future. I believe.

Disney has taught me so many valuable lessons. That a person is who they are inside, not what they look like or the circumstances they were born into. That love can be found in the most unexpected places. That nothing is more important than chasing your dreams and finding a way to enjoy the life you live. That growing up doesn’t mean having to get old. That you can do anything, if you’ve got faith, trust, and a little pixie dust.

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So when the rest of the world is caving into depression and hopelessness, I will still be there, wishing on my stars and chasing my dreams and having faith that, at the end of the road, there will always be a happy ending waiting for me. Because I can do it. Because I can keep moving forward. Because every good, great thing that’s ever happened in this world has been started by one, singular person. And I can be that person.

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I make my own happy ever after.

A Rainbow Chequered Past

A snippet of conversation from my house this morning…

Me: Oh, so I found this new fruit that I like!

Dad: Yeah? What’s his name?

So I actually just meant that a friend had let me try a new kind of fruit that I’d never eaten before (persimmons, in case you’re curious, and they’re delicious. I’m not a fan of most healthy foods so it’s newsworthy when I find one I like,) but that exchange got me thinking and I realised my dad is definitely on to something. More than half of my ex-boyfriends are gay.

I should clarify, they were not “out” yet when we were dating. I didn’t know, although on more than one occasion I had suspicions. But it’s most certainly a trend in my dating life. Four of the seven steady boyfriends I have had, including my elementary school “boyfriend” and my first two proper boyfriends, have turned out to be gay.

What does that say about me? Well there are a couple less than flattering conclusions I can draw from that.

First is that I’m such a horrible girlfriend that I actually turn men gay, but I don’t believe that one. It’s not that I think I’m a brilliant girlfriend, I know I’m not very good at relationships, but I firmly believe that sexuality is a borne-in thing, not something that you can consciously choose. Which means they were all gay to begin with and not converted by my terrible relationship skills.

Second is that I make a good “gay-beard.” For those of you who don’t know, a gay-beard is that person that a gay person dates in an attempt to make people believe they are straight. Think the film “Easy A” for reference. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for being a good gay-beard, but apparently something about me fills them. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that in high school my self-esteem was so low I’d date anyone who showed interest in me, even if I suspected he might also be interested in a guy as well. Or maybe it was because I had the ample cleavage and they assume that’s what straight guys would care about. Either way, it was a thing that happened.

A third and equally confusing possibility is that something about me rings “guy” like. That maybe in some small way, they are attracted to my more guy-ish side but that whole actual gender thing gets in the way. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly girly. I own pink clothes and lots of shoes and check out boys in films, but that’s about the extent of it. I like sports, even if my boobs make them difficult to play. I like jeans and hate dresses. I only wear make-up on the specialist of most special occasions, and even then it’s very light. I paint my toenails while playing video games – a skill I’ve mastered, by the way. I’ve gotten really good at applying a coat per cutscene. For every trait that I share with the other girls my age, there’s something I do that’s considered more guy-ish.

So does that make me less of a girl than other girls?

For a long time I have battled with questions like this. There is this social stigma that beileves that any girl who is not girly must be a lesbian. I found notes like this about me scrawled on bathroom stalls in high school – a thing I thought only happened in films, but turns out people actually do it. I spent all of high school supremely confused about what these assumptions meant for me.

Did this make me gay? Was I gay because gay men were somehow drawn to me? Was I gay because I liked playing video games and basketball? Was I gay because I could appreciate that my girl friends or female celebrities were attractive? Was I only dating guys because that’s what convention told me to do?

And if I was gay, why didn’t I feel about girls the same way I felt about guys?

The truth of the matter is that sexual identity and orientation are so much more complicated than that. There’s a really great vlogbrothers video about it if you’re curious, but essentially it comes down to this:

It’s not just about guy or girl, gay or straight. “Or” is the completely wrong word to use. Because sexuality isn’t an and/or situation. There’s so much gray, fuzzy middle area that we just don’t comprehend. Sexuality and gender isn’t so much about fitting into one of two circles. It’s more like a line, a spectrum with guy on one end and girl on the other, and where in that line you fit.

So while I identify as a girl, I am not on that radical, definitive end of the spectrum but a few ticks toward the guy side. My sexuality is the same way. I am straight, but I can admit that there are women I find attractive (Jennifer Lawrence, for example). I am a straight female, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all I am.

Now that we’ve established that about me, what does that mean for all of my gay boyfriends?

Honestly, in the end, I think that there was something about me that drew them in. We had one very important thing in common: we were confused. There are so many pressures in high school, especially socially, and we were all turned around and feeling stressed by trying to uphold cultural convention. They were expected to be something they weren’t, and so was I. We were confused and we were scared, and that’s what drew us together.  We were just looking for someone – anyone – who could possibly understand us and what we were dealing with.

And in the end, during that time we shared, I think that made us perfect for each other.