Today I’m marching on to a topic that is becoming more and more acceptable to discuss publicly as it is explored in the media more and more frequently – sexuality, or sexual orientation.
I count myself as one of the few fortunate enough to have grown up in a time and place where no one has ever tried to teach me that sexual orientation is something that you can get right or wrong. That is not to say that I haven’t seen people being treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation, but I am full of hope that it is possible for members of the younger generations to get all the way to adulthood without being taught any prejudice, anger or fear for people based on this.
As a kid, I didn’t really think about relationships or marriage much – people try to avoid teaching you that stuff until you’re a bit older, so I just figured it was one of those adult things that would happen eventually. All the adults that I knew were either male/female married couples, or they were single (divorced, widowed or simply never married). So the only thing I really thought was that you either choose to get married, or choose to not get married. I was dead set on being a hermit on a mountain somewhere, so it seemed like an obvious choice for me!
As I got older, they started to teach me a bit more, and I came across the concept of homosexuality. It was interesting, but otherwise uneventful. I just kind of thought: “Oh, okay. I didn’t know that was a thing. I wonder why I don’t know anyone like that. I guess it’s just really uncommon.” Though I still held onto my dreams of being a hermit, I thought to myself that if I did end up getting married, it would probably be to a guy because then we could both climb trees and play video games together. I really didn’t want to think about spending all my time shopping and talking about fake tans. (Obviously there were no gender stereotypes in kid-me’s head at all.)
When I was about 15, I took a Health class as a more interesting alternative to Economics (which was driving me insane). It was definitely interesting. We had an all female class (the only guy dropped out after the first week… go figure) and I learnt a lot more about sex than I ever really needed or wanted to know. But I was introduced to the term, bisexuality, and that was quite an interesting thing for me to get my head around. I don’t know if I’m strange in this or not (I know I’m strange in a lot of other ways) but at 15, I had never really thought about sex in the slightest (possibly not helped by the fact that I was so conflicted with my gender identity). I’d had a couple of boyfriends, sure, but they really were just that to me. Friends that were boys, that you got to hug, and hold hands with, and talk about everything with. Sex was something gross and weird and adult and I wasn’t ready to stop being a kid, ever.
So my then-current understanding of relationships was that there were three options:
1) You’re heterosexual and you get married to someone of the opposite gender
2) You’re homosexual and you get a Civil Union with someone of the same gender
3) You don’t marry, move to the mountains and grow a long beard
There really wasn’t room in my understanding for bisexuality, because you couldn’t get married to two people. Around about this time, my best friend opened up about being bisexual. I didn’t really know what to think about that. I remember bringing it up with an adult who told me that people our age were often confused about what they wanted, and liked to experiment and try new things to figure it out. I knew that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted really, except for some good, close friends, but she had been very confident and relaxed about her sexual identity – like it was just another fact about her. She could have been talking about her hair colour. (Now, of course, I appreciate that that’s exactly what your sexual orientation is – a fact about you, and not a definition of you.)
Then, I got a boyfriend (who I’m still with today). Unfortunately, around this time my best friend and I had a falling out and stopped speaking to each other. I doubt I’ll ever know what that was about – whether she was hurt that I wouldn’t be able to hang out with her as much, or if it was something more than that – but I realised that losing her felt exactly the same to me as losing boyfriends I’d had in the past. I’d enjoyed her company, admired her talents, loved getting to know her, and I kind of thought, what’s the difference between that and what I had with boyfirends?
From what I knew, the main difference between a close friendship, and a sexual relationship was the sexual part – the intimacy and the sexual attraction. The trouble was, the sexual part was the bit I felt I didn’t get the instructions for. I was capable of being attracted to people, but not really for their bodies. I didn’t really look at people and think, wow, they look hot. I could appreciate the difference between looking nice and looking ugly (which I actually feel bad for thinking. I hate judging people based on how they look), but I wasn’t really attracted to people based on this alone. It took me a while, but eventually I realised that it was people’s personalities, actions and motivations that spoke loudest to me. What I was attracted to was who people were, how they saw and interacted with life, and how they treated me. And with that understanding came the realisation that I really didn’t care whether they had boobs or a beard, because that wasn’t the part that mattered to me.
Since then I have learnt that there are a whole range of other sexual identites out there. There are multiple labels that could apply to me but I would probably say that bisexual or pansexual fits best. But the label itself is mostly academic as I am happy with my boyfriend.
I find myself reluctant to discuss my sexuality because it’s so easy to just let people assume I am straight because I have a boyfriend. I feel as though there would be no benefit to coming out as bi- or pan-sexual and risk being alienated by both my straight and gay friends. That being said, I don’t really try to hide my attractions towards girls (or my mix-and-matched gender identity), I just don’t put a label on it and nobody asks any questions. I’m pretty sure that some of my family and friends know or have guessed that I’m not your regular het girl, but they seem content to stay quiet and not throw labels around. The one or two people I have told have been very accepting, but often seem desperate to divert the conversation elsewhere. And I’m okay with that, because it really is just one more fact about me, and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a personal preference.
Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know if you have any thoughts or opinions on this topic.