I carry around a lot of labels. Some of these are the result of circumstance - Daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, employee. Others are more specific to how I’m perceived – feminist, writer, over-opinionated. These kinds of labels aren’t natural extensions of who we are, but they’re given to us by a society that relies on them to function. We are comfortable living in a space where we’ve labelled everyone around us, because we’ve created an illusion that we ‘know’ them. We don’t like the ‘other’, we don’t like people who don’t fit inside the boxes we understand.
One thing we all love to do, and insist on doing, is rigidly labelling everyone’s sexuality. Everyone is assumed straight, and we work from there. Unfortunately. Generally people will label someone gay or straight, ignoring that they may be bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender or queer. As a society we don’t fully understand the scope of those identities yet. We’re making good progress, but people still default to the binary gay/straight labels.
I have always been labelled as straight, and I’ve never contested it. I’ve never really discussed it at all to be honest. No one has. Why would anyone need to? I’ve always had boyfriends so I’ve lived comfortably in my bubble, not required to become part of the LGBTQI discussion.
I didn’t avoid talking about it on purpose. I wasn’t nervous or scared about contributing to the rhetoric. I just wasn’t sure I was in a position to add my voice to an already incredibly loud movement, when I didn’t understand where I stood.
Because the truth is, and please forgive me the cliché, I don’t know what I am. How do I explain my sexuality to people who have always relied on labels, when I don’t know what my label is?
I’ve had sex with women. I’ve used the plural there, but it’s only been two women. I’ve had glorious, wonderful, extremely pleasurable sex with two women. But I don’t consider myself bisexual. For a while I assumed I must be, because of the aforementioned intercourse. But I have never had romantic feelings for a woman. I’ve never been more than sexually attracted to women and I’ve certainly never dated any. Enter, stage left: years of confusion and self-doubt.
I always knew I was attracted to women. I exclusively think of women while getting down and dirty in the self-love club and have done since the very beginning, at age 14. It was confusing then too, but I just figured it was because I’d never seen a man naked and I knew what women looked like and understood their bodies. I’m not sure how I justified it to myself once I became sexually active with men – but I know all the lesbian porn I consumed was a lot more fulfilling than any of the straight stuff I found online.
I have never talked about this openly until now, however. Before writing this I actually had a conversation with my best friend where I opened up and told her all about it. My chest became tight, my hands were sweaty (knees weak, arms are heavy/There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti) and my heart was pounding. I thought she might feel betrayed I had kept it from her for so long. If she did, she didn’t let it show. Instead she listened, and responded with a list of friends she thought might be able to help provide me with advice and clarity like a total champ.
My point is, talking about this got harder for me the longer I didn’t talk about it. My main fear was that people would think I was just talking about this for attention – and no doubt plenty will – or trying to buy into the topic of LGBTQI issues for clicks because they’re topical right now. But fuck those people.
I’m also very aware that I’ve grown up with the benefit straight privilege. I’ve presented myself as a straight woman and thus conveniently avoided the persecution and judgement bestowed upon the LGBTQI community. I didn’t do this intentionally. I didn’t even have the self-awareness to start assessing my sexuality until I was about 21. But nonetheless, I grew up as safe and protected as I could hope to. A white, middle-class, straight woman in heterosexual relationships.
I wanted to mention this, because I know LGBTQI people have the highest rates of suicide of any population in Australia (BeyondBlue 2013) and same-sex attracted Australians have a suicide attempt rate up to 14 times higher than their heterosexual peers (Suicide Prevention 2009). I was most definitely sheltered by my confusion and silence. I do not want to undermine or dismiss the true and real hardships the LGBTQI community go through.
Another reason I’ve kept silent about my sexual fluidity is because I’ve not known how to best explain it to people. Until now it’s been a private matter I discuss with no one but my boyfriend, for matters of transparency. I recently saw a funny text post on Tumblr that summed up my problem.
I know I’ve said I don’t label myself as bisexual, but you get the idea. I love women. The way their nipples crinkle up when you lick or touch them. The way the skin on their legs gets dimples when you grip it in your hands. The way they always smell good, even when they’re so sweaty their hair is stuck to their neck and your hands can easily slide up the curve of their back.
Sorry I didn’t mean this to turn into erotica. But they turn me on. I may never be able to explain why – for the reasons above and many more I won’t get into – I dig creating friction between their bodies and mine, but can’t seem to fall in love with them. But, for now, I’ve come to terms with it. I’m happy accepting my sexuality is fluid. I am in love with a man. And his body - and what he does to mine – turns me on. But quite frankly, that's nobody's business but ours. I opened up about this because I came to the conclusion labels are unnecessary and damaging. I spent years retreating inside myself and refusing to acknowledge my own identity because I was so sure I needed to fit into a sexual box (no pun intended). But I also wrote this for selfish reasons. I was sick of hiding it. Now if any of you have Kate McKinnon's phone number please hit me up, I have a hall pass I want to use.