This post has been a long time coming, but there’s something I’ve finally decided I need to say.
I’m not straight.
I’ve known this for at least a few months, and probably really the better part of a year, but I was afraid to say it. I was afraid because I wasn’t positive, and I felt like declaring that you’re not straight isn’t something you can take back. Heterosexuality is the default; as soon as you step outside the safe realm of straightness, you can’t walk back across the line so easily.
And also, I was afraid because I felt like I hadn’t earned it. Many of my LGBTQ friends went through long processes of self-discovery. Some spent years trying to hide their identities or convince themselves that they weren’t “other.” Most had to deal with dating people of the same gender in high school and were subject to scrutiny from peers and parents. Many of them had supportive families and friends, but there was still a level of self-awareness and struggle that I didn’t feel I could compare to.
I’ve always dated guys, keeping my crushes on female friends under wraps until after we’d all graduated from high school. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with women about as often as I’ve had a boyfriend, but something about my desire seemed fundamentally different. There wasn’t anything sexual about it; it was all about admiration and devotion. My crushes on women tapered off as I got my first serious boyfriends in high school, and I laid the thought of same-sex attraction to rest.
But after two years of long-distance college relationship, I found myself single again. Faced with the prospect of dating and hooking up, I started thinking vaguely about women again. I told myself that in the right state of mind (slightly intoxicated, somewhat horny), I could see myself hooking up with someone who wasn’t a guy. But this was all theoretical, until I actually tried it a few months ago. And I liked it. A lot.
Since then, I’ve opened myself up to the idea of desiring women, of not discriminating based on gender when I’m attracted to someone. And lo and behold, that voice in the back of my head telling me to reconsider has only gotten stronger.
Still, I didn’t want to label myself. How could I say I was queer when I hadn’t actually slept with or dated anyone who wasn’t male? On the other hand, denying this part of myself seemed like lying, not to mention furthering the invisibility of the substantial non-straight contingent of people in the world. I lamented this to my friends, many of whom are LGBTQ. After agonizing over my options for a few minutes, one of my best friends, who’s also gay, interrupted me.
“Rachel, our tent is small enough as it is. You’re an awesome person, and we’d love to have the company.”
I began to speak openly about my experiences with women. Because I go to a liberal arts college in Washington State, no one really batted an eye. I thought about coming out, but it seemed contrived. I wasn’t sure how to label myself—bisexual reinforces the idea of a gender binary, and queer seemed inaccurate given my limited experience. It’s the closest thing I have, but I ultimately decided that even coming out as “not-straight” was worth doing. So here we are.
I have benefitted from and will continue to benefit from straight privilege. Most of the relationships in my life will likely be with men, because I’m more on that side of the spectrum and because it’s what I’m used to. I have the option of folding myself back into the niche that society wants to carve out for me, and to do so wouldn’t be impossibly difficult. I could forget about this whole queer thing.
But I don’t want to. I know many LGBTQ activists have staked claims on the fact that their sexuality wasn’t a choice, and that science has suggested some portion of our orientations might be coded in our genes. I’m declaring the opposite. I’m choosing to be this way, because it makes me happy. I don’t know where I’ll end up, what experiences the world has in store for me. But I know that I’ll live better for keeping that door open.