“Come on Heather, you know you have to admit, she’s beautiful,”
“I don’t know, I’m straight” “Not even a little persuaded?”
“Okay, maybe 99% straight”
These conversations between me and my friend carried on constantly when I was 14, the running joke being a percentage knocked off anytime he mentioned a woman I found vaguely attractive. This continued, until one day I swallowed my pride a little, and said “Well, maybe I am actually 50%....”. This ground-breaking revelation of mine was simply met with a “Ha, obviously.”
It didn’t feel so obvious at the time, as the concept of bisexuality was something that existed outside of me. It was something that other people were, not me. It was normal to find women so painstakingly gorgeous you got a lump in your throat and butterflies in your stomach, right? Truth be told, I didn’t want to be bisexual. I still had that hormone-fuelled teenage obsession with any remotely attractive man, I didn’t have to admit to anything other than being straight because it was so easy to hide it.
Okay, You’re Hella Gay
In true Queer fashion, my real awakening derived not from a real person, but a fictional character. Chloe Price.
Life Is Strange is one of many pieces of media my ADHD brain latched onto for comfort in my teenage years, but this game was different. At least when it came to how I felt playing it. I was completely enamoured with the punk deuteragonist, I related to her story and her attitude to life and I saw myself within her character arc. Though, most importantly, I really fancied her. This obsession with Chloe Price was eventually a slippery slope into a wonderfully sapphic world filled with Hayley Kiyoko and King Princess.
I can pin-point the exact moment I became really aware of my sexuality to a selfie I took in my college library, where I had put on a friends beanie and thought “Oh, I’m a lesbian”. Don’t ask me how the beanie equated to my gayness (most likely a Chloe Price related association), but it was an incredibly freeing feeling. So freeing, that I came out. To my friends, my family, to anyone who would listen.
I finally found myself! Or, in actuality, I thought I had found a way to finally choose a side.
So What Are You?
I had spent most of my teenage years latching onto labels. Trying so hard to define myself through singular words and categories, stitching together my personality like a worn-down teddy bear held onto from childhood. In a way, labels are important. To be able to see yourself represented in others through them, to have a part of yourself that causes confusion finally explained. It's why I felt like such a traitor, such an undefinable mess when I slowly realised lesbian wasn’t quite what I was. My attraction to others has never come from gender, but rather who they are as a person more than anything. So, Pansexual, right? Well no, that doesn’t feel quite right either. Truth is, no word feels right for me.
I often feel like a disappointment to my community, that I can’t proudly announce myself as anything or give people a straight (no pun intended) answer when they ask me about my sexuality. In the end, I owe thanks to Daniel Howell who came out in his video “Basically, I’m Gay” in which he explained the term queer. An umbrella term for being within the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, a word that I can assign myself to, that doesn’t make me feel like a liar, or like my sexuality isn’t valid because it isn’t tangible.
I Am Queer
Even though I am out now, and with a label or no label I am aware of who I am, being out hasn’t been the euphoric release of self-expression I had always imagined it would be. The best way I have seen this shown is through Eugene Lee Yang’s coming out video “I’m Gay”. The choreographed video beautifully displays Eugene’s journey with his sexuality, with those who are LGBTQ+ allies wearing black, and those who seek violence against the community in white. Through the use of colour, wardrobe, and movement he takes us through his first romances, his family's reaction, his expectations of coming out, and the hate he has received.
The final shot however, is a powerful statement that truly reflects the reality so many of us within the community relate to. Eugene stands tall and proud, staring down the camera, his outfit androgynous and truly expressive of who he is now that he has came out. However, he is surrounded by people around him dressed in both black and white, fighting amongst each other and pulling at him as he passes through. His expression is one of bittersweet relief that eventually fades into concern and fear.
What I never understood during my journey discovering my sexuality, is the lack of a metaphorical rainbow at the end of the road. From the growing concern of the Don’t Say Gay bill, to sitting quietly in rooms of people loudly debating my existence, finally being out has changed nothing for me in terms of feeling safe expressing myself. I relate to Eugene’s sense of distress that his journey is not over, and that as much as we have spent our lives trying to accept our own sexuality, we for some reason still have to fight to get others to accept us.
Being queer can feel like a commodity, like a point of debate for others, well-meaning or not.
I’m tired of explaining who I am. I am queer. Now what?