It's not uncommon for people, at some point, to question their sexual and romantic identities.
Living in the middle of nowhere, just off the Bible Belt, it was a bit more common than I would have thought.
Before I realized I was a queer non-binary person, I pretty much lied to myself that I was straight all my life, had a crisis, dated a trans guy, and started figuring out things slowly. But before I get to that, I'll start at the beginning.
My mother used to run a daycare. Well-known in the community, she was like a saint among people. She taught kids how to ride their bikes, taught kids how to tie their shoes, was a master at potty training, and the absolute angel of "Picnic Friday."
She's a good woman, and just this year, she's watching more of the kids she helped raise graduate, including my youngest sister. (Congrats, Gabby!)
In the days and evenings after the parents came to pick up their children, she let loose, relaxed, and tried to unwind from the long day of babysitting and maintaining at least fourteen kids in a little house.
My mother knew that I was an inquisitive, perceptive child. In the 90s in the middle of nowhere, being gay was a taboo, hush subject. It was hardly spoke of, but in the rural Baptist church, it was frowned upon and considered wrong. I remember one night, I had wedged myself between my mom's recliner and the couch, trying to pet our family cat that was wedged between the wall and the couch. The thought came to my head, and I wormed my way out of the middle space and sat upright, looking at my mom with a confused expression. The moment I opened my mouth, I probably should have snapped it shut.
"Do you think a guy and a guy could get married if they really liked each other?"
I didn't get a long, documented list as to why they couldn't, but I did get a stern look and a partial glare. "If that's what you're getting from TV, you're not gonna watch it."
Being a five-year-old, I was bummed out about being grounded from TV, but it sparked an idea in my head. Guys could marry guys, and girls could marry girls. I mean, if they loved each other like my parents did, why not? As long as they were happy, right?
In high school, everything started to get stranger and stranger to me. I met a girl named Dani, and she identified openly as bisexual. She'd get criticisms about being bi, and how that she was "sinning," but that didn't faze her at all. She was confident about how she felt about both sexes, and honestly, I found her kinda pretty, too.
We became fast friends, talking about video games, anime, internet roleplaying and the like. She was really the one who kinda got me into the whole internet subculture because she had the internet connection that my parents wouldn't let me dabble around with.
The idea of liking both girls and boys came to mind as I developed my first crushes and quickly realized that I wasn't really that into boys that were "big and masculine."
The idea of hyper-masculinity was just...off-putting to me. Muscles didn't mean much, and the lack of male socialization in my life really didn't give me strong opinions about facial hair and men in general.
Any guy I liked was usually feminine. Looking back on the pattern of crushes I had, they were pretty androgynous or feminine in my eyes today.
In 8th grade, though, my whole boat of beliefs and ideals capsized, all because of one thing. Church.
You see, about that time, I decided that I was old enough to sit in sermons and listen to our pastor at the time talk about preaching and religion. That's fine. I was old enough, I understood, that was great. One thing I didn't account for, though, was anxiety and the power of impending doom.
I wasn't diagnosed with anxiety until my senior year of high school, so ended up being an anxious, stand-alone shut-in with a long list of worries. In eighth grade, what happened to be on the top of the list?
In Christian faith, there's an "end of the world" sequence that pans out into a few international events, the Rapture of Christians into heaven, and then the second coming of Christ. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was half listening, and I've forgotten parts and bits over time.
The whole message that had been talked about the Sunday before I went back to school for the week was something like this: "When the end comes, we won't know when it'll come. It could be today, tomorrow, next week, in the next hundred years.
"When Christ comes, we need to know that we'll be right and ready to go when the rapture happens. If you aren't right with God, you might not make it out of here when the rest of Judgement Day comes."
Our pastor went on to say that we needed to cut out the sin in our lives, and make sure that we were spiritually ready. Now, imagine small teenager me, staring at the pulpit with wide eyes after being told what would happen to my family and friends if they didn't "make it" to heaven. I was pretty much having an identity crisis right there. Because at that moment, I was a paranoid, potentially bi, cis woman, who was friends with a bisexual agnostic person with "sketchy" morals, and, by my mother's views, a bad reputation.
As a well-taught, anxious teenager, I did what I thought best. I wrote a letter to my friend, Dani, explaining that we couldn't be friends anymore because I didn't want to go to Hell.
Absolutely classy. Right on, 10/10. Yeah. I totally fucked that up.
Life went on, and I started thinking more and more about religion, and how unfair it was that God "said" being gay was wrong, that if you're gay, you're going to Hell, etc...
It seemed kinda fishy to me at the time, so I started looking into it. All through high school and parts of college, it was making more and more sense that maybe God didn't hate the queer people in my life. Sure, my mentor and some of the people from my former church said, "Oh, well my brother was gay and he got AIDS and died. He died because he was gay, and God punished him." To me, that didn't make sense. It didn't really compute the way that others were talking about it.
It was just, in lack of better terms, queer.
Jump back a few years, to when I became friends with another person named Holly. My brother (sister at the time) and I became good friends with Holly, and they, too, were queer. I think they identified as pansexual, but slowly, I developed yet another crush. They were cute, funny, they did cosplay and watched anime and played video games, and was just amazing to my young heart. Plus, my sibling was dating one of Holly's friends.
The same year that he started dating a girl named Maddie, my brother came out to me as bisexual. At the time, I shrugged it off and said it was okay, but later, as my mother told me what she thought, her ideals clouded my thoughts, and I had a nervous breakdown because I thought my sibling was going to Hell because she was dating a girl.
This seemed to throw a wrench in the whole situation, a blockade of emotion, half-baked anxiety, and enough drama to choke a soap opera writer.
In the span of four years, my sibling had come out as bi, attempted suicide, come out as transgender, broke off the friendship with Holly and me, broke up with Maddie, and a whole list of other things.
I still don't know why I stuck with Holly for so long. We never dated, but I did voice about how I thought they were attractive, and I really, really liked them.
I also, with them, decided that I identified as Asexual. I didn't really have a thing for sex, which was a leftover asset of the "Virginity Lie" I had been told about in church. (Tl;Dr: You're worthless to men if you have sex.) Regardless, penises really didn't do it for me, and I just...wasn't interested at all.
Sooner or later, I was slowly realizing that maybe I didn't mean much to Holly. It just so happened that my sibling, who moved to a different town for college, came down and decided to help out while my mother had a hysterectomy. I had been told a bit too late that she was experiencing internal bleeding, that the surgery didn't go as planned, yadda yadda, and I was freaking out.
I ended up having an argument with Holly about me calling my sibling "Wyatt" instead of their dead name. By that time, I was deciding that maybe if Wyatt stuck to a name and idea for that long, maybe he was transgender.
And, just like that, another friend was cut out of my life. Not by my choice, but by theirs, and with what felt like dull child-proof scissors.
I'll admit, I was kind of lovesick, and I hated having Holly angry with me. I apologized, I begged, I pleaded, I wished them back into my life, but it just ended up that she was gone. It took me years to actually get over her. It took me years to realize that she wouldn't really look at me the same way I looked at her. So, I tried letting go. Slowly, but then the idea of her popped out of my brain like a dead skin tag off of the body.
I also started talking to another person, who is still in my life today. The first time I met them, we actually started talking on Tumblr. We both liked the same stuff, we could talk for hours, and honestly, they were really nice.
We talked about things like shows, ghost stories, and things like sexual identity and how we feel about ourselves. We still talk about things like that today, give or take memes and everything in between.
It really donned on me about a year and a half ago, that "Holy shit, I'm gay." Recollecting all my thoughts and feelings about different people, how I looked at others and how I felt...It just hit me. "I really like girls."
Going back on my own religion and building my own thought process from those original building blocks of Christianity, I validated that maybe, just maybe, the end of times will come. I've been "saved," sure. But in theory, who's to say we're living in that universe.
That's right, in the midst of my own personal crises, I decided that "You know, maybe we're part of many more universes. It's possible, right? So it could happen, it could also not happen. We don't know, so don't let it bother you. Death is imminent, life is fleeting. Enjoy it, don't live in fear over what others think."
So, I came out to my mom as queer a few times over the years. First time, I told her I was asexual. She said "Alright, that's fine. Good for you for not wanting to have sex." The moment I told her I was gay, I got the "No you're not, you know how I feel about that, you know how God feels about that," and I sort of buzzed myself out of the anxiety-ridden conversation. (On top of that, we were having a religious and political debate about the Cheeto bastard running for president at the time.)
Every so often, I'd mention about how gay I am, how pretty girls are (y'all are gorgeous) and how men really don't appeal to me. I've told my mother that I'm calling Wyatt by the name he picked for himself, and how I support him in what he does, and hope to help him eventually transition.
In the end, I've kind of worked myself into the place where my friends have been. I still kind of keep up to date with Dani. She got her GED and moved out of state, and she seems happy.
Holly, I think, moved to Florida. I have no idea what came of her, but she's gone, and kinda gave me a stepping stone into a different life.
I still talk to Lu to this day, and I kinda think our friendship is pretty gay. I'm hoping to eventually say something about how I feel, but you know, not putting a name to what I'm feeling works as well.
I didn't know right away who I was, and what I was going to be like. I couldn't really tell you right away that I wanted to be a wife and married to a big strong man and have kids. It was kinda iffy, hidden by anxiety and fear of what others would think of me.
It wasn't until later in my life that I really started to delve into my own brains and come to terms with my feelings and how I thought about things. I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm happy where I'm at with my identity, and who knows, my preferences may change.
It doesn't matter what my family thinks, or what society believes I should be. I've come a long way from where I've started, and my thoughts have changed as well.
Just kinda shows that like everything in life, you can change.
Stay weird, my friends.