Why I Wish I Was a Lesbian

by Sarah on August 31, 2015

(Dear family, I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: you may well read things in this blog that you wish you didn’t know about me. If you read anything here you don’t like, that is on you. I may or may not be willing to discuss these things in other contexts with you. I love you dearly. Proceed at your own risk.)

As I was biking to therapy last week, I had a strange realization.

I realized that one of the reasons I haven’t been writing very much is because I don’t really know how to talk about all the shifting identity stuff I’ve been experiencing lately.

Or more accurately, I’ve been terrified to “come out” in a public forum.

Much of this fear is less that I am concerned about people knowing how I identify; based on the fact that I keep a very public blog, it may be apparent that visibility is a thing I enjoy. I’m out-ish at work and out-ish in most of my social groups. The general response to this from most of my friends has been something along the lines of, “Okay, you’re non-binary and pansexual. So what do you want to eat for lunch?”

In other words, I travel lately in circles where this is par for the course, and nobody would think to be anything but supportive of my new-found identity.

This is why being “out” as queer has mostly not been a thing for me, and I’m really grateful that it has been this way. I know not everyone experiences anywhere near this level of safety around issues of identity, and I defimitely don’t want to lose sight of that.

And yet, in the wider world, I think most people don’t have a lot of context for understanding the things I’m saying and learning about my own identity. In a society very much governed by binaries, declaring that I exist outside of them sounds terrifying and strange.

I’ve had a conversation with my parents a number of times which usually goes something like this:

Them: Are you dating [your best friend, who is a lesbian]?
Me: No.
Them: Okay.
Me: I would tell you if I was a lesbian. I’m not.

And it’s true. I’m not. Definitely, definitely not. Although right now I’m dating women and non-binary folks for the first time ever and generally looking to focus my relationship energies away from cisgender men, it’s still true that most of my sexuality for the past 32 years has consisted exclusively of cismen.

It wasn’t until I was able to conceive of myself as non-binary that I was able to understand my own sexuality better. When I saw myself as a cis woman, I was very resistant to the idea of being involved with other cis women. Even my friendships tended towards people in the center or on the masculine side of the gender spectrum*.

This wasn’t internalized misogyny – something which folks often get accused of who identify as “one of the guys.” (That being said, internalized misogyny is a real thing and everyone has it. I’m just trying to frame this particular choice in a different light.) Instead, it had to do with a misunderstanding of femininity vs. being a woman and a confusion and inability to relate to people who were supposed to be “like me” but in actuality seemed incredibly foreign. I found comfort in masculine presence, partly because we’re raised in a patriarchal society that idealizes the masculine and partly just because it helped me connect to a more comfortable part of myself.

Once I started reading and learning about the experiences of gender non-conforming folks, however, it all took on a different cast and became quite apparent that I fall into this category. I contain a variety of traits, some of which are often construed by our society as masculine or feminine, in a way that is unique to me and inconsistent with the gender boxes foisted on all of us by society.

And after getting clear with that, a process which took the better part of two years, it became clear as well that my sexuality also could not be contained by those seemingly neat and tidy boxes. My sexuality loves androgyny, genderfuckery, and queerness, masculine, femme, and otherwise.

But how does one explain this all when one’s aunt emails asking about why they changed their Facebook pronouns to they/them? What context exists in mainstream society for putting this all into a box tied with a bow and handing it to one’s family, friends, and community under the guise of “coming out”?

If I were to say, “I’m a lesbian,” my parents would probably understand what this means. They might even comprehend “bisexual,” although I feel like any of these things are still asking my parents to think more about me as a sexual being than they probably would ever want to. But where does one even begin to explain gender theory and non-binary identities and a fluid sexuality to folks with a cisheteromonogamonormative framework?

I don’t know.

But at the same time, I’m tired of hiding. I’ve been missing this blog and missing my writing something fierce for the past 6 months. I suppose I could try to constrain myself to the topics at hand; I could talk about body image stuff, parkour, or the politics of being single without having to out myself. I could casually drop the word “queer” in my bio or in my writing and hope that nobody asked any questions.

Or I could do what my heart actually has been begging me to do, which is write this post and say, “Hello, I am here! I don’t have good words to describe myself, and I don’t have lots of answers to your questions, but I have clarity and I have things to say.”

So that’s it then.

I’m here. I’m queer. And I have things to say.

*I don’t really like the image of a spectrum as a way to talk about gender because I think it does a disservice to a variety of gender identities that don’t fit neatly within it, such as agender, but I use the word here because I haven’t yet found a better one. Ideas welcome… is anyone using “gender matrix”?

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Last night, I was at a body positive underwear party (hosted by the amazing Pleasure Pie), and one of the exercises we did was to pair up with someone and tell them our life story in six minutes or less with a focus on how we have viewed our bodies.

Once upon a time, an exercise like that would have deeply triggered me, and I might have told a story about struggling with my body, disliking my body, or hoping to change it. But last night, instead, I found myself telling a story with a much happier ending.

I’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown recently, and one of the things she talks a lot about is how bringing things that feel shameful into the light is a way to take the power out of them. And I think that is what has happened with my body image story; each time I’ve told a piece, whether to a friend, on this blog, or on a stage, it has helped dispel some of the silence and secrecy and guardedness I had previously felt around talking about my experiences of my body.

By telling my story over and over, I have dispelled its power over me.

As a result, tonight, rather than crying or feeling sad or not being able to access my words, I told my story from a place of empowerment. And as I told it, I wove in a new thread – one of knowing that my body has always been fine. Even though I may have struggled with the messages I received from external people and structures, I had this beautiful realization that I’ve always kind of known I was okay and that finding the size positive movement has only validated what I already felt to be true.

But the only way to get to that place where I could tell my story cleanly and without shame was to first tell it when I was still stumbling around in darkness and didn’t yet know its shape. I had to stand up over and over again and say things that felt overwhelmingly hard in an attempt to continuously shed little bits of light on the landscape.

Realizing last night that I was finally at a place where I could see the whole thing for what it is felt incredibly empowering and also breathtaking in it’s awesomeness.

This also comes on a week when I’ve felt strongly that I want to recommit to my writing, and I hope this is only the first piece of that, because by continue to tell my stories here (and hopefully on some other platforms as well), I can bring even more light to the dark shame-y places of my stories and take back the power from cultural narratives that have been imposed on them.

And if I can do that for myself, then maybe the world will also get a little bit lighter for someone else.

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