Originally posted on November 11, 2016 on my old blog.
Writing about my sexuality is weird. It does not feel uncomfortable, rather, it feels unexpected. I’ve never felt the need- a deep urgency- to define my sexuality or to categorize it neatly, into an easily readable, concrete box. I just am, and my heart will be what it is; I will love whoever it is that I love. My sexuality exists not in a vacuum isolated from my whole identity, certainly, but it also is not exactly a defining attribute of mine. It says nothing about my brain or my ambitions or anything, it just says, this is who I am, this is who I’ll love, and nothing about this makes me feel strange or inhuman.
There is no closet door I have been attempting to shove open. I talk about my sexuality with anyone who brings it up in conversation. I’ve written a multitude of personal essays and pieces for school which include my sexuality somewhere in there. I do not feel any desire to stand up and “come out”- to, with a shaky fist, hold a cooking pan up to the limitless, vast world and say, “I ain’t straight!” Although that would be a lot of fun, I can’t say I’ve really considered it.
So, I’m pansexual. Contrary to the belief of so many, I am not sexually attracted to pans. Pansexuality is simply just falling in love with whomever one falls in love with, regardless of gender. Additionally, since gender is, to me, a more arbitrary label we have decided to create in this globe of ours, and since we now have to deal with that, pansexuality allows me to reject the ideas of the binary and concrete. I don’t feel binary or concrete- so this label works for me. It is a fluid label for me, because I am complicated and utterly confused by it daily, yet I also know that I feel it best describes how I feel about the world and my place in relationships.
Rowan Blanchard, an activist hero of mine, inspired me to write this piece. She wrote a startlingly resonant piece for Rookie nearly boiling over with unadorned, teenage honesty. I have read that piece again and again, and my heart has ached with the swellings of connection to her feelings. I feel so quieted and disconnected from the person I present myself to be. This brick wall constrains my effusions and deter my truth, and I no longer wish for it to stand up like a hulking fence around my identity.
I, like Rowan, find myself apologizing for my existence. I engage in an endless conflict with myself, one that never seems to truly dissipate, no matter my persistence. I feel as if I have to earn my place in this world. I feel that I am not entitled to existence. That I must earn my right to exist. And if I feel that I am not living up to these high, self-constructed “standards” of living, I must apologize for it.
Since childhood, one learns the ways in which they are supposed to behave and, since we are, at such a young age, so unwillingly susceptible to these ideals, we thus instill them into ourselves. We feel as if we are somehow innately wrong if we don’t. This is not okay. I want to live in a world where a child is born and they grow up however the hell they want to. A world where a human is a human, not subjected immediately to the inflexible, binary social constructs of gender. Gender is so, so, incredibly complicated and we have tried to simplify it down by splitting it into two, when, in fact, it is a different story for every single person. By splitting things into twos, we drown out so many valuable voices. So many of us go unheard and unasked.
Personally, I’ve always been perplexed by sexuality. It’s seemed an aspect of identity so personal, so complicated, and yet in ways so unconnected to who you are as a human being. The many harmful stereotypes surrounding different well-known sexualities have always seemed ridiculous to me. Just as identifying as a certain gender does not, in any way, mean you have certain intrinsic qualities, being of a certain sexuality also does not, to me, determine any of your innate characteristics. I’ve always been hesitant to assimilate myself with the label “straight”. I do not wish to be defined by a word any longer. In middle school, I’d uncomfortably, but also, obliviously, contort my definition of my sexuality to something easy, societally acceptable, and what I considered “the norm”. This was poor judgment, and quite ridiculous, I feel now. But I felt the intense, underlying homophobia, or rather, phobia of any sexuality other than strictly heterosexual, pervade through even the most mundane of occasions. And even through the most seemingly “progressive” of places. My school is one that prides itself for its tolerance, diversity, and progressive, highly liberal nature. I am privileged to have the capability and means to attend such a school, and this, I am acutely aware of, however, I also recognize that we are certainly, by no means, 100% accepting.
There is still the common desire to fit ourselves into the easy labels. So many of us are too confused and too nervous of judgment and fear to identify as something other than straight or gay. Yet now we see a world that is starting to reject and dismantle outdated paradigms of sexuality and gender. The invalidation is dissipating a bit- it is still there, and it hurts- but it is slowly spreading apart, and we can see the holes in its finite body.
Here is the thing that I need to say, and, thanks to Rowan, I feel that I truly am freed to express the words that have been trapped inside of me for so long: sexuality is not always the black and white. It is not always an immediate, innate knowing, or something that is defined from birth. I’ve questioned what I identify as more times than I can count, but I have always felt strange about it, always invalidated the many discordant feelings I’d had. I’d always been attracted to boys- I couldn’t really be questioning that, it’s probably just a phase, it has to be, right?
I understand why many find the idea of sexual fluidity uncomfortable. It can most definitely be used as a means of discrediting anyone who comes out as LGBTQ+, can be used as an excuse for someone’s sexuality, as in, a parent saying, it’s just a phase, you’re just experimenting, etc. I also understand how important labels have been, historically, to the LGBTQ+ movement as something that immediately connects and supports people of sexualities other than heterosexual. I understand and wholeheartedly support this. The LGBTQ+ community is a powerful and, of course, highly oppressed group of humans, and I am unbelievably grateful that there exists such strength stemming from this acronym. But I also wish not to forget about, or marginalize, those of us who feel we fit more into the + side of things. After all, LGBTQ+ is meant to encompass not solely the LGBTQ, but rather to provide an inclusive umbrella term meant to create a community for those who identify as any sexuality, on the vast, complex spectrum, other than rigidly heterosexual.
I know that, as definite and as innate sexuality can feel to many, it is also something vastly, confusing. As a sixteen year old girl, I can easily attest to the immense pressure blatant in society to label yourself immediately; to define your sexuality instantly, as if, by becoming a teenager, you somehow magically, instantaneously, know exactly and precisely Who You Are. This is not to say that those who know their sexuality are any less right or valid in their self-knowledge. I am trying to express is that we are all valid in however we identify, and that our identities can and often do change. That does not make them any less valid.
I am pansexual, but I use it interchangeably with the word “queer”; meaning my sexuality is simply that I love whomever I love, and that gender is irrelevant to that love.
Existing as an adolescent often sucks. The extraordinary amount of suckiness in adolescence does not need to be augmented by condescending adults correcting our identities and demanding that they need us to place labels upon ourselves in order to understand us. We certainly do not need said adults to criticize how we choose to grow up. An enormous, and strange, aspect of growing up, to me, is accepting how many versions of yourself there are. To accept that you are not a definite, rigid thing, and that you can allow yourself to be something fluid– it is a simultaneously terrifying and liberating thing. You are allowed to be many different things, and many different people. You are allowed to become something unexpected. You are allowed to be yourself, but Yourself is not always going to be what it once was. I forget this, a lot. I forget of fluidity, of the utmost, undeniable but so harshly repressed truth of being a human being: you are free. Inherently. Your mind is a free thing and it is so, so unique, and I do not say this lightly. I do not say that you are unique in order to follow any outdated cliches. I say this to truly express the absolute isolation of humanhood. It is a disconcerting thing, to become aware of how truly singular you are, how you are and always will be the only you that will ever exist.
I want to defend those who feel as if they’ve had to doubt the validity of their sexuality- whatever that may be- because they cannot wholeheartedly fit into one concrete label. And, of course, I would also like to defend those who do fit into one concrete label yet feel as if they must still apologize and justify their sexuality. I do not believe that sexuality requires justification. Neither does gender. My life is teeming with a reluctance to validate what is considered unacceptable or inconvenient. I listen to people in my school talk about gender identities as punchlines, as mere superfluous, absurd things people make up to “get attention.” I hear these words echoing a deep lack of empathy and an underlying fear of complexity. To solely validate what is easy for you is to disregard that you are not the sole human in existence.
I paint myself with soft-spoken protests when I am told I am too much. I hear people make fun of feminism and even of sexual assault statistics; boys explaining to me that rape culture does not exist, how my body works, as if I am not a woman existing in the world with a body and mind. I hear all of these crackling, headache noises, and I wish I could turn it off sometimes. I’ve felt it so much lately that I felt the need to write this piece. I felt a need to remember that I am a person who is no less than any other simply because my identity is a little less mainstream or well-understood. To believe in self-reliance, in self-fulfillment, is key. To deny yourself the entitlement of existence will only burn your brain with fear and doubt.
So I am trying to feel comfortable being an undefinable thing, floating about this strange mass of matter and space and people and chemicals and things. I live in fluidity and undefinability. This hurts sometimes. It alienates me a lot. It is me, though. And that is enough.