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"Am I bisexual?" - A guide to dating women for the first time in adulthood

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  1. kfwyre
    Natalie Wynn has a great ContraPoints video (NSFW) that pairs well with this piece in which she explores the difficulty she had in identifying and acting on her attraction to women. Both Natalie...

    Natalie Wynn has a great ContraPoints video (NSFW) that pairs well with this piece in which she explores the difficulty she had in identifying and acting on her attraction to women.

    Both Natalie and the article identify a sort of slow-burn, delayed realization (consistent with many people I know in real life too) that I find personally fascinating because it's so different from my experience. Learning that I was gay was like someone kicking down the door to my house, planting themselves on the couch, and refusing to leave, all while I ran from them to hide in my room and pretend that they weren't there for the following decade. It was forceful, immediate, and ultimately undeniable for me (and believe me, I tried).

    However, a lot of other people I know tend to describe awareness of their attractions more as a soft, polite, and infrequent knocking at the door -- often so quiet that they weren't even sure anyone was there at first. It wasn't until the knocks persisted and they realized that it was on them to even open the door that everything started to fall into place for them. Instead of an unwelcome intruder barging in unannounced and uninvited, it was instead the most patient of visitors, happy to wait as long as needed until they were finally let in.

    I remember one of the first bi people I met explaining to me how he remained unaware of his feelings for so long. As a fledgling queer individual myself, I didn't have any frame of reference to put it in, as I assumed at that point that attraction kicked in everyone's doors like it did mine. My belief was that everyone refusing to acknowledge that was either in denial about themselves or simply not willing to admit to their feelings publicly. I've since realized that's an unfair assumption, and it contributes to a culture of erasure or dismissal surrounding queer identities in general by enforcing a rigidness and clarity that doesn't pair well with the flexibility or fluidity of human experience. In fact, much of queerness aims at shedding light on these experiences without rigidly identifying them. There's a quote at the end of the article that encompasses this that I really like:

    Queerness is about expansion [...] It’s about erasing delineation and requirements for what ‘counts.’

    Unfortunately, because our identities and experiences are stigmatized and doubted, there's a pressure to speak about ourselves with clarity, but that doesn't leave room for people whose situations aren't clear cut.

    That my bi friend liked women was obvious to him and took no discovery or digging on his part, but he explained to me that for the longest time he couldn't separate admiration from attraction with regards to men. He would look at guys in a particular way and identify that he wanted to be like them, not realizing that there was also part of him that wanted to be with them. It took a long time to disentangle those feelings, particularly because they weren't socially supported. Everywhere he went there were examples and signs that affirmed that men are interested in women and how to identify, act on, and execute those feelings, but men being interested in men was not only absent from representation but also widely reviled in our community at the time.

    I had another friend who identified as queer but who would never identify their attraction. Were they gay, bi, pan, etc.? Initially, this infuriated me! I wanted so badly to put a label on them but they outright refused. In fact, I remember thrusting one on them anyway based on what I knew of their attractions, and I can remember the look of genuine hurt in their face as I said the word. At the time, I didn't realize how awful I was being -- instead I assumed that they were just being deliberately obstinate or evasive. Furthermore, I was even a little offended. As an out and proud queer advocate, I felt that their refusal to identify themselves was a way of kowtowing to the societal shame that I was working so hard to overcome!

    I was completely in the wrong in two ways: one, I claimed that I had a right to their self-identity by forcing a label onto them, and two, I made the mandate for and implications of their self-disclosure about me rather than about them. I look back on this event and cringe. I have since lost touch with this individual, and I wonder if part of that is because of my paternalism -- not just in that moment, but in regards to many other things too. I later learned that they were grappling with their own gender at this time as well, and it was like a lightbulb came on for me. Because our own genders are so strongly coded into how we identify our attractions (e.g. a woman who likes women is gay, but a man who likes women is straight -- same attraction, different label), it makes complete sense that someone who had not yet identified their gender might have a corresponding difficulty labelling their attraction as well. Furthermore, even if they were completely certain, it was still not my place to define it for them.

    I'm a big believer of "we come out when we're ready", and I'm also a big believer in the idea that we can work to make the world something that helps in the readying process. I thought by being out and proud myself I was doing that work, but I didn't realize that I was actually sometimes making it more difficult for others by forcing a narrow view of what "ready" had to look like. The queer possibility space is both vast and vague, and that's an asset, not a flaw. There isn't any one right way to be queer, and certainty is not a prerequisite nor even a necessary outcome.

    4 votes