Guest post by Devin.
Both of my parents are artists. My dad is an illustrator and my mom a photographer, and they were married for the entirety of my childhood. Growing up I visited my fair share of museums. I loved them. They were so quiet and serene. The modern art exhibits were by far my favorites. I loved how different they all were; the styles were easy to differentiate and every one was beautiful. But it was the classical art that fascinated me. How open they were with their bodies, how the naked body was equated with innocence and purity. I had never seen the human form celebrated until I discovered them. Showing skin was at the time, and still is, thought of as sexual and vulgar.
I remember staring up at The Birth of Venus at six or seven years old and noticing how different she was compared to images of beauty of the day. Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez couldn’t hold a candle to Venus in my mind.
They say hindsight is 20/20 right? Maybe someone could have pieced together the clues and realized I was of the queer variety long ago, but probably not. Most of my queer cues happened when I was alone, doing things and not knowing why. Take, for instance, the time when I got new Barbie dolls and immediately stripped them of their clothes. I was entranced by the curves and smoothness of them. Innocent child curiosity.
It wasn’t until middle school that I realized I was different than my friends. I mean I had crushes on boys, asked them to dances, day dreamed about holding their hands. But the day came that a thought crossed my mind: “do I have a crush on my best friend?” The immediate answer was no. And stayed no. But that it was a question that existed; that it was a possibility for me was mind blowing. I never said anything to anyone about it. I felt alone.
High school was the first time the answer had been a “yes.” This was it. This was not a drill. I repeat, this was not a drill. I felt the things you were supposed to feel. Butterflies, tinglies, weak knees. The whole nine. I still felt alone, but this time alone didn’t feel so scary. Maybe alone was okay as long as I could feel things like this. Soon I found out I was decidedly not alone. I joined the GSA and started to learn about gay rights and social justice. I mean, the idea of gay people was not lost on me; my parents had gay friends, and people in the artistic community tend to be more open minded. But to me it seemed like something so far removed from my tangible life that I didn’t know I could be a part of it.
Still, I was unsure of my orientation. I knew at least part of me had the ability to like girls. I had only heard bad jokes about bisexuality, but once I started to surround myself with queer and queer allied people, I started to identify as bisexual. I would tell anyone who asked. And then I was told by a prospective boyfriend that he could never actually be with me because I wasn’t truly straight and I would betray him.
It hurt to be judged and accused of things I had not only never done to him but had never done to anyone, seeing as I had never been in a relationship at 14 years old. After that, I just avoided orientation discussions. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be bisexual.
Soon after that, my mom came out to me as bisexual. She helped validate my previous experiences and pique my interest in discovering my orientation again.
This was about the time I learned about pansexuality. I identified heavily with this orientation, and I still do to a point. I claimed this orientation the rest of the way through high school and a little while after. Again I heard bad jokes, and it was only mentioned in the media in negative ways (e.g. “trysexual”).
It wasn’t until I found a community of queer individuals online that I decided to put my orientation on hold. I didn’t need to know right then; I just let things go where they wanted to go. I found a YouTube channel called Lesbian Central (which has since sadly stopped posting new content) as well as Lesbian Answers, HartBeat, Laci Green and Arielle Scarcella. I delved deep into Tumblr and YouTube. I became an online social justice warrior.
Once I started college, I had a pretty good idea of myself. I was a strong, lesbian, feminist woman who could conquer the world! (Again with the need to define myself into rigid boxes.)
My friend would point out cute guys and I would always respond with “he isn’t my type.” Eventually she caught on, and when I came out for the very first time, I was met with understanding and a little bit of I-already-knew.
I met my first girlfriend my freshman year and u-hauled my way right out of that relationship, checking every box on the list of lesbian stereotypes on the way. I was just missing the Subaru and Birkenstocks. After a few more failed and pseudo relationships, I finally realized I am just me. Yes, I still have a label (homosexual panromantic), but I no longer feel the undying need to fulfill some kind of role. The need to uphold the Lesbian Tradition has finally melted away.
It is one of the most amazing things to be able to accept yourself for who you are. And while I have never heard anyone use the same label as me, I am certain I am not alone. But the bottom line is that even if I was the only one who identified that way, I am still valid. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone anymore. And that is so incredibly freeing.
And I don’t think the fact that I’m in the best marriage I could imagine with the love of my life is any coincidence.
One thought on “Evolution of an Orientation”
Thank you for sharing your story, Devin! This was a great read, and really rang true with a lot of my own experiences. No matter how many times I hear it, I’m always relieved that I’m not the only one who struggles with identifying their own self.