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A short story about how I began to acknowledge that sexuality is fluid and an ever-changing aspect of me. This essay includes some “TMI” material and mentions self-harm. Names have been changed for their privacy.
Looking back to my childhood and adolescence has shed new light on why I identify the way I do, it also provided a new, unexpected understanding and comfort to accepting myself. The first social experience relating to my sexuality happened in first grade. I used to be very chatty, and supposedly all the boys in my grade were my boyfriends. I remember when I was held back the next year; I took it as a painful punishment for being too social. The next year I don’t remember having friends or raising my hand at all. I often wonder if I were a boy would I have been punished for being too social? Did I learn to associate liking boys with punishment?
Fourth grade I realized that I loved my best friend. Tina and I were twins and inseparable. I remember she told me one day that she was going to the movies with a boy from our class, I felt heartbroken and proceeded to compete with her to get attention from the boy. She ended up dating him. Tina taught me that it wasn’t okay to like girls but to instead have crushes on boys. I started taking note of how I was dressing, I started hating my un-girly shorts and loose-fitting t-shirts, and embarrassed of my pointy, bigger than average breasts, that my mother wouldn’t let me put in a bra. Attachment and acceptance hit me like a brick wall this year in school. I was no longer a carefree unisex little person.
Middle school was the next noteworthy change in my social life and sexuality. I became more comfortable in wearing androgynous clothes, fitting in with the punk/rock scene with my baggy shorts and studded jewelry. Penny was my next influencer of sexuality. She had long, beautiful, red hair, I saw my first vibrator hidden in her mother’s nightstand, she introduced me to a paper doll game online, where if you entered a cheat code, you could even take off the doll’s bra and underwear. I had my first sip of alcohol with her and my first lady kiss. I had many other experiences with sexuality in middle school including streaking at night through my friend, Stacey’s neighborhood after she told me she was gay, asking out my first girlfriend, Annie, and saying goodbye to a boyfriend before I moved four hours West. I feel that middle school was a safe space to express myself and explore my sexual orientation without significant judgment. Was this because it was an urban area?
I moved from an urban city to a rural town in mid-Florida where the high school boys drove big trucks and the girls wore make-up and pink cowgirl boots. I didn’t fit in with my band tees and studded jean jacket anymore. I quickly adapted to the country culture and joined a youth group, took an “oath” of purity, and started dating a nice Christian boy. I remember thinking that this was the “normal” relationship and this was going to be the rest of my life. I lost my virginity to him and was heartbroken when we broke up two years later. I became promiscuous, drinking, doing drugs, and cutting. My life derailed, being a dramatic seventeen years old probably did not help, but attachment got the best of me and caught me off guard as it did in first grade.
Catie was my breath of fresh air; she was different, like me. We instantly connected, and I loved how quirky and fun she was, and that she was also exploring her sexuality. We held hands and kissed in the hallways, and I found out what it really meant to be head-over-heels. But, she’s a girl, I still have to marry a guy, I thought. Although I’ve never felt pressure from my parents to be straight, they were very open and accepted me, however, my mother was very proactive in teaching me (heteronormative) sex education, and about condoms and birth control for which I am thankful. The gender-binary was extremely hard to balance with the life I had before moving here. It was heavily influenced by religion and traditional roles, something that I adapted to, and by which I was hurt.
The struggle to find my sexual identity feels like a long one. I believe I struggled with acceptance and pushed through some difficult times to arrive at the conclusion that acceptance shouldn’t be an outward desire, but an inward one. I think the moment that I let go of the need to fit into a box and acknowledged that sexuality was fluid and an ever-changing aspect of me; I liberated myself from the confines of sexual identities. I accept that I have loved men and women, bisexual, straight, and transgendered. It was an all-encompassing pansexuality.
What’s your story?