Back to the Drawing Board: Re-evaluating My Sexuality Five Years After Coming Out
This piece was submitted by a member of the LGBTQ+ community at American University as part of the Rival American’s Pride Week. Their views do not necessarily represent that of The Rival American or its staff. If you’d like to submit your own work, please do so with our submission drive which will be open until Thursday, April 25th.
I came out as bisexual when I was fourteen.
I wasn’t really certain of it, but I knew that I looked at women and gender non-conforming folks and felt this warmth, this beautiful little spark of wanting to get to know them and have my hands on them and run away with them in a cottage by the sea.
Cis men seemed alluringly impossible to crack, these enigmas of status and power and secret bro-codes. I was bi, I reasoned, because of my attraction to idealized masculinity, my ability to look at some elite swimmer or soccer star and think yeah, I’d totally hit that. Maybe it was because they seemed so far away.
Last year, through connections and pure luck, I got a chance to meet this professional athlete who I’d fantasized about like a celebrity crush when I was sixteen and struggling. I had so many old dreams about how things would go, if I ever met him, how I’d be too overwhelmed to get my feet under me, how I’d be effortlessly charming regardless.
And then I was standing in front of him, worried I was going to throw up my ice cream, and he looked at me attentively as he talked, and I held my ground, and that facade fell away. I expected that much.
What I didn’t expect was how those sixteen-year-old dreams didn’t come back. I didn’t walk away and have any illicit thoughts about how tall he was or how broad his shoulders were. I couldn’t assemble pieces of this experience into a fantasy, even when I was reminded of how well he carried himself. I still thought he was objectively hot, in this abstract way, the type of attraction that makes you want to be pampered and held up for status and listened to and never actually fucked. It’s a hard line to draw, one that I’m still not sure of.
For me, meeting this idealized figurehead of my bisexuality just shattered every framework of behavior I had in mind. It was like the Wizard of Oz, when they pull back the curtain. Except, in my case, this glimmering, jersey-selling, curly-haired hometown kid next in line to become captain of a major league franchise was just a more finely tuned version of the guys I’d come to hate at frat parties. In any other circumstance, he was not what I wanted.
It happened over and over. Boys I thought I’d looked up to or whom I’d previously thought of as attractive became flat-falling jocks – some who I’d love to get to know, some who I saw myself in, some who I desperately wanted to shut up after they said more than four words at a time.
But after that first interaction, the big one, the mythos that validated my bisexuality didn’t work for me anymore, and I was lost.
I texted my ex-girlfriend after I got home: I met [person x], and I think I might be a lesbian.
She responded immediately. That’s not the reaction I expected if you ever met him, tbh.
When you’re so sure that you want something, that you have the capacity to want something, it’s hard to reassert identity, to be comfortable with closing yourself off.
I was terrified. Did this disqualify me from that superficial dream of status, of validity? Did I belong in a community where the idea of “gold-star gays” still persists, even after I’d slept with five different men and identified as bi for years? Was I overlooking my long history of, you know, only dating women? Could I be okay with honoring my experiences in context of my self discovery?
Being queer is a constant renegotiation with the world around you, finding new ways to justify and validate your existence and behavior among structures not designed to support you.
The idea of publically redefining myself now, after hundreds of steps to solidify my identity as a pan/bisexual person, seems monumentally difficult.
It’s a little like finishing an essay only to find out you did an old prompt and have to redo the entire thing. You’re frustrated. You’re exhausted. You know that you must pick yourself up and continue the work.
For some people, Adrienne Rich’s idea of compulsory heterosexuality is incredibly validating. In my case, I think it’s something else entirely. I hesitate to associate with such a strong body of theory and literature about lesbian identity when I can barely tell my friends about what I’ve been going through, when I’m not entirely sure of myself yet.
I am sharing my story for anyone else whose long-standing relationship to the LGBTQ+ community has changed or continues to change with their experiences. I am here to hold your hand and sit in silence under the weight of things that feel too big, too revolutionary to know.
My pride is hesitant, but I am proud of my ability to question my identity and continue regardless of knowing. I am queer, and I am questioning, and I think I always will be. It’s not exactly what I want to know about myself.
But it’s pride, nonetheless.
Anonymous is a sophomore arts student and is affiliated with AU Pride.