Labels on sexuality can be a really controversial thing in today’s social climate. Myself, I used to love having a label that I felt fitted me perfectly, after years of having no idea that what I was was normal. But sometimes as you age and experience more of the world around you, things change, and I’ve come to realise that that’s perfectly okay.
I grew up religious, but not because my parents forced it upon me as is the traditional story; moreso because of the education I’d received. I went to solely Christian schools, and believed in what the adults told me as fact. At my school – though it’s improved now – we weren’t even taught the big bang. We were taught genesis. And so I read the bible cover to cover, and reading this so young – and taking it so literally – I was caught up for a long time in the idea that God could hear my thoughts and would judge me with fire and brimstone one day if I was thinking ‘impure’ things. As a result, my mind became a melting pot of fears and doubts, culminating in an almost constant state of fear and anxiety.
Naturally, I began to second guess myself even more when I began to have thoughts about girls beyond the realms of ordinary friendship. In my mind, God’s outlook was pretty clear. I was wrong for thinking that way. I often saw stories on the news about the church side of the debate on gay marriage, which wouldn’t yet be legal in the UK for several years, and felt rejected by my faith for these thoughts. Therefore, I repressed them.
My first crush on a girl emerged after she stood up for me in a bullying incident, and became one of my closest friends; but I felt differently for her than any of my other friends and didn’t understand how for a long while. Whenever we’d sit together and I’d have the urge to tell her how pretty she was or hold her hand, I told myself, I can’t be gay. I’d had crushes on boys too – or so I thought, as I had certainly found boys in my class attractive – so it wasn’t possible. I couldn’t like her that way.
The two of us drifted apart, but it wasn’t long after that that I got my first laptop and started becoming immersed in Internet communities. It was on forums that I discovered the term ‘bisexual.’ I had no idea that it was an option, and that other people had had the same thoughts and experiences as me; that I wasn’t strange for liking boys and girls.
This still contradicted my religious beliefs, but I was beginning to lose touch with God with age. I decided that if fundamentalism disagreed with me and others like me, then I disagreed with fundamentalism, and I would become a Liberal Christian, instead of strictly adhering to a two thousand year old document that seemed to preach hatred. I could still believe in God, for the time being, but disregard the parts of scripture that were the product of another era.
My next step, however, was coming out. I’m a big believer now that this isn’t necessary if you don’t feel comfortable enough to do so, but for me, it was a secret that was eating me away inside. So I told my best friends, one by one. And they hugged me, and told me it was okay, and that they really didn’t care if I introduced them to a girlfriend one day. It was a huge relief. Still, I wanted to keep it between us at school. I knew not everyone would think the same, and didn’t want some of the meaner girls avoiding me in the changing rooms for PE. Unfortunately my school didn’t provide any education on LGBTQ rights, and so casual homophobia was pretty rife. Girls who came out as gay were avoided and sneered at, even accused of being perverts, and the boys would be teased relentlessly and even hit by other boys, as well as kicked out of their changing rooms to change in toilets or the hallway. Few people were out because of this, so I felt rather alone, though I now know that many more people than I realised were actually going through the same situation.
Feeling a wave of confidence brought about by having such supportive friends, though, I decided to tell my parents one at a time how I was feeling. But the reaction was not so positive. Both of them were allegedly just fine with the gay community, but neither knew a thing about bisexuality. They didn’t think it existed, and all over again I felt invalidated. They said that they were convinced it was a phase, that they didn’t understand it, and that it would be easier if I just picked a side. I felt I shouldn’t talk about it anymore. I suppose they just didn’t think their daughter would end up that way. Though it could have certainly gone worse, as I was thankful not to be rejected for coming out like so many LGBTQ people who are punished for their sexuality by those who should have their corner the most, this certainly made things uncomfortable and tense for a long while, and whilst this was happening, I lost touch more and more with my faith in God, until I decided I just didn’t believe in him anymore. Seeing people suffering around me of every day and in the news, the problem of evil overcame my faith and I became an atheist.
I kept the label of bisexual for a long time, in spite of only dating boys. It was simply easier to find boys who were interested in me than girls in a small town, when I was still too young to use dating apps. But a series of relationships with boys soon began to teach me more about my personal preferences. I found guys who were kind, caring, and who I had a lot in common with, even who I could objectively say were physically attractive; but the relationships felt hollow. With nothing to compare them to, I thought that this was normal. But I couldn’t connect with them on a deeper level. Most of the time they felt like friends who I could kiss, and though I enjoyed some of the encounters I had, I didn’t enjoy who they were with. I’d often put off doing anything, and use any excuse to get out of it.
One relationship however really showed me who I was, in a number of ways. It firstly showed me my strength, after I walked away from this controlling individual and realised I was tougher than I’d ever given myself credit for. Secondly, it showed me that I no longer wanted to pursue relationships with men. I had given them several ‘tries’ and always I felt incomplete.
In the case of the boy who made me so unhappy towards the end, it may be easy to say that I just hadn’t found the right one, and that I was writing off all men because of one bad egg. But to claim that is really nothing but ignorance. Putting aside the bad parts, the relationship had many good moments that made me stay. He wasn’t an inherently bad person by any means, and he was very attractive, yet things never felt right knowing it was with him; a male. Even when it was good, it wasn’t right. And even the deepest late night conversations never felt like discussions between lovers, for me. There was no distinct, special quality that made them different to a conversation with my best friend.
So I knew now, that I had a clear preference for women, and to say that I was bisexual – the label that had provided comfort for so long – no longer felt fitting. Bisexual implied that I was seeking relationships with either gender. But I was only seeking women now. However, to say I was gay didn’t feel quite right either. I wasn’t willing, one hundred percent, to announce I was a lesbian to the world and write off men forever, on the off chance that one existed out there who could give me that unique, special feeling in late night conversations. I realise that this isn’t the case for everyone, and people who know for sure that they’re gay or lesbian are so incredibly valid. My own personal experience is a little different, and complicated. But I am endlessly happy for the people who manage to figure out a label that makes them happy in this confusing world.
Still lacking a label myself that properly fit where I was on the vast spectrum of sexuality, I began to explore the world of female dating apps, and I found a girl who made my heart race. Just looking at a picture of her gave me more butterflies than any ex had, and so the two of us went on a date.
It was a perfect day. After lunch at a dessert restaurant, we wandered through a museum together, then to a few different shops; including a book shop where we both talked about the stories we loved, and our mutual passion for writing. She told me she wanted to see her work on these shelves one day and the passion I saw in her was completely infectious.
Just wanting each others company, we sat in the park in the sun, and she kissed my cheek and taught me to make daisy chains while we people-watched together. Of course, people stared at the sight of two girls in flowery dresses holding hands on a romantic date, but neither of us cared much.
We know there’s still a long way to go for LGBTQ equality in society, but we are thankful to live in a country where two girls kissing in a park and holding hands in the street is legal; where I am privileged enough to be debating an appropriate label for my sexuality instead of pushing it down entirely and surpressing it.
The very same day we became girlfriends, and I had to tell my parents, four years after coming out as liking girls and never once wavering in that. To my surprise, my dad hugged me so tight. He told me he was proud of me, and happy for me, and that he wanted to have her over for dinner. He went to the special effort of cooking vegan food for her to show me how much he supported us, and both of my parents said how much they liked her over anyone I had brought home before.
Over time, they had come around, and educated themselves. They are now proud allies of the LGBTQ community, and of their daughter, who still isn’t sure what she is, but doesn’t care. I call myself queer, if anyone asks; but mostly I just say that as of right now I’m dating someone who happens to be a she. And that is perfectly okay, no matter what people may think.