One of the things I was pretty sure about for the last years of my life was the fact that I was bi. Yet, there was always some confusion involved and the last half-year or so have been spent in a kind of identity crisis (though, admittedly I am prone to overdramatising and having identity crisis). Which sounds really extreme, but it was something about me that apparently I felt uncomfortable with (the label bi that is) for some reason. Now, it turns out that reason was simply the fact that I’m not bisexual, but gay.
With the changing of 2018 to 2019 I was for the first time truly considering a lot of things, questioned and considered things and talked to people about this. And suddenly a lot of things made sense.
Looking back a lot of the signs have been pointing towards it, but I feel like it was super hard actually figuring myself out.
Two of my biggest inhibitors surely were compulsory heterosexuality and internalized homophobia (or rather lesbophobia). The first one kind of sounds like a “fashion/tumblr word”, but the concept is pretty interesting and I think especially when you are not straight but did not realise it as a kid that is pretty interesting (here is a pretty good video explaining it). It is basically the concept of society seeing a man and a woman be the only option and even though sexualities besides heterosexuality being accepted it is so engrained that you cannot really start to consider other options. Especially women’s sexuality is somewhat of a mystery/non-existent in the media anyway (just think about these two tropes: he finally gets the girl, but her being a crazy stalker when trying to pursue him).
And so I confused finding men attractive with being attracted to them. I guess you can consider that aesthetic attraction (another “tumblr word”). I had those “crushes” on guys (in school/uni), but they usually fell into one of these three categories: being either what people expected (people thinking we’d make a nice couple), being kind to me (in which case I probably confused wanting to be friends with wanting romantic interactions – considering both guys and girls actually) or wanting attention from men/them to be attracted to me for self-validation.
Usually these guys (actors as well!) did not have beards, but instead a rather soft, feminine face/features and as soon as I saw their bodies being put off. I remember googling Zac Efron (after watching Hairspray with friends), seeing pictures of him without a shirt and instantly being very irritated, because I did not like that at all. The male body and heterosexual intimacy made me utterly uncomfortable and did not appeal to me at all. When I had some sort of fantasy (barely ever) they used to be extremely chaste and somewhat blurry.
I could just terminate/start crushes on guys with no effort by pretty much deciding that would a good choice. However, they would end anyway if we got closer (even though that did not happen often) – I would turn down guys for no apparent reason other than not feeling it and distinctly disliked it when guys (who were not my friends/obviously not pursuing anything) complemented me. I did not want a relationship or intimacy, because (even while considering myself bisexual), I thought it would be with a man. Which is exactly what heteronormativity/compulsory heterosexuality is. Eventually I ended up thinking I was ace because I had no desire to be sexual with men at all. But, reconsidering things made me realise I just was not attracted to men in any shape or form.
I mean, if you dread the idea of one day being married to a man and being “trapped” in that, chances are you’re a lesbian.
There were tons of signs I should have seen besides obsessing over women in history, feminism being a real passion and watching Romy Schneider, Doris Day and Amanda Seyfried movies to no “because I loved the movies even though I don’t really like RomComs”. I used to cut out girls/women from magazines – not really for their clothing/hair/makeup, but because I liked the way they looked (never cut out men). The classic being incredibly jealous if certain female friends met other people. Wanting to be friends with that one girl so so badly (looking back, I was so damn in love with that girl for pretty much my entire teenage years). Being disappointed when the main character in a book/movie ended up with a man they barely had any connection with rather than the woman she had such good companionship with. Also craving f/f relationships that were just like hetero ones. Lesbians in the media are after all either for the male gaze, there to get male attention or existing because they did not get a man. I did not really see any actual lesbian relationship on TV/in books/movies in my teens.
Instead the repetition of stereotypes over and over again kind of made me feel like lesbian love was not real – after all as a kid/young-ish teen I kind of thought lesbians had just decided not to be with a man, but a woman instead. The concept of love in general was kind of foreign to me. Maybe because I – even if not directly but indirectly – was thought it was a man and a woman and did not feel that way. I grew up in a very liberal home and a very liberal area of the city (also dubbed the “gay quarter” because there were tons of gay bars, events etc.) and yet in a way lesbians were mostly being talked derogatorily about (one looking like a man, e.g.). Not to say that gay men have it easy/easier, but where I grew up gay men truly were a regular part of the culture and lesbians were not.
As a teen (before labeling myself as bi and actually even after that) a was so afraid of people thinking I was gay if I accidentally looked at a girl too long or looked at a girl in the locker room at all. One time when I as eleven or twelve I was called a lesbian by a kind-of-friend at the time as an insult and that stuck with me pretty much since then. So, what I felt as a teen was that being a lesbian was bad. It took me a while – distance – to realise these things, but in doing so I have kind of freed myself. I still have a certain inhibition to use the term lesbian (esp. in German and as spoken word), but I am working on it. Using the word bi was kind of the easy out – I was acknowlegding my attraction to women without having to think about it any further and the “proper way of marrying a man” was still in the realm of possibility. So being completely honest to myself that that was not what I wanted at all – not even as an option – took me a while.
I am grateful for resources like YouTube or Instagram (also Hayley Kiyoko and Janaelle Monáe) that normalise LGBT+ topic, talk about them and say that things are ok, because that is part of what helped me.
Funnily enough, the person most surprised by this realisation was me. The people I told so far usually were kind of like: “yeah, I kind of thought you were” and “I just could not see you with a man”. So, that was fun. But here I am, a lesbian.
(Also, this is about a quarter of the length of the last paper I had to write, so yeah.)