Coming Into My Identity

 

I suppose I’m taking the cliché route and writing my first official blog post, on my queer blog, about my “coming out” story, or my queer/bisexual journey.

But I figured it would be a good place to start, to give some insight into how I got to this point, where I stand now with my queer identity, how I came to call myself queer proudly, and just a general look at me.

In the queer or LGBTQ+ community, there is a lot of emphasis still put on the “coming out” narrative, and people are still obsessed with folks’ “coming out” stories…but for most individuals, it’s more complicated than one succinct, compact, tied-with-a-ribbon story, because “coming out” doesn’t just happen one time, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

I personally prefer not to look at it as “coming out”, but more as a “coming in”. We are finally stepping into and occupying these identities that we hold. The idea of the closet holds so many negative connotations, and many queer individuals feel a lot of pressure to come out because being “in the closet” is still so stigmatized within the LGBT community.

The reality is that coming out is an extremely personal decision, and for reasons of privacy, safety, job security, etc. it should be left to that individual to decide if, when, how, and to what extent to “come out”. I have been coming out since I was sixteen, and am still not truly 100% “out” (we’ll revisit this topic in a later post), but I chose when and who to tell, and did so because it was what I was comfortable with and what worked for me.

I stepped into my “non-straight” identity for the first time when I was sixteen years old by telling my best friend at the time. I had been confused and questioning my sexuality for about a year because I believed I had a crush on another friend of mine that was a girl. I knew I wasn’t a lesbian because I was still very much attracted to guys, but I went back and forth on thinking maybe this was just a fluke and I was still straight, it was just this one girl. Finally I was honest with myself that this wasn’t a fluke, and I told the one person that I told everything to that I knew I was attracted to girls…but I still didn’t use the term bisexual.

The time I was in high school was, I feel, the peak of when people would say that anyone who said they were “bisexual” was just looking for attention or making something up to be different. I never felt that way about anyone, but because that idea was so pervasive at the time, I shied away from associating myself with it.

So I told my best friend I knew I was attracted to girls and guys, and he was the only person that knew for two years. Over that time I struggled to figure out even what to identify as to myself, because if “bisexual” meant slutty and looking for attention, then that wasn’t me, and I began to internalize that idea. For a good part of those two years I ignored it all and got wrapped up in a crush that I was convinced was love, on the aforementioned best friend, and I focused on him.

Fast forward through those times, the biggest heartbreak of my life (so far), and the ending of our friendship (which I’m sure we will come back to in a later post), to the first time I called myself bisexual, and it changed everything.

In the Fall of 2011, I was in my first year of university. It was around early October and I had just discovered my school’s student-led LGBT organization. I still wasn’t “out” to any of my roommates, friends at school, or friends back home, and I wanted to explore and discover this on my own, so I went to my first meeting by myself and it was amazing. I had been involved in my high school’s GSA (gay-straight alliance) and was always accepting of anything LGBT, but I had never seen so many out, loud and proud people in one room before. I made a friend that night and he became my introductory mentor to the group. After the meeting, we were talking and he casually asked me how I identified, and without thinking about it much or skipping a beat, I told him I was bi, he accepted it as my truth as easily as if I had told him my hair was brown, and in that moment my life changed.

I started telling my new friends at college, I started going to every meeting each week and quickly making new friends, and like the old cliché, over Thanksgiving break, I came out to my best friends I’ve kept since middle school.

It continued on like that, my queer community and chosen family forming around me, and I completely immersed myself in all of it. The word that I once had shied away from and been ashamed to associate with was now an identity I had thrust myself into full force, and with pride.

Why bisexual? At the time I began learning about and realizing my sexuality, I had a limited lexicon of terms to choose from, and it was the only one I had to describe what I was feeling. As my bonds strengthened with my university organization, and my LGBT family, I began to learn more about the spectrum of gender and sexuality, and the different identities that people occupy.

The first time I heard someone identify as Queer was in a panel held by my newfound organization. The individual who held this identity explained her personal definition of the term and something clicked inside me. It just described everything I felt I was, even things that bisexual never quite reached, and I knew it was a term I liked and identified with.

I still use both; for myself because both still resonate with me, for different situations because in some settings one may feel more right or fitting than the other, and for others because as much as many folks don’t like the idea of labels, I find them liberating. It is an identity that I can step into and feel validated, I can share my truth and have a common ground on which to connect with others who share at least part of that identity.

The process of “coming out” is never truly done, and it isn’t a one-size-fits-all. But this is how I discovered myself and came in to being bisexual.

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