Read Time: 11 Minutes
Subject Matter: My sexuality. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
On a sweltering June night earlier this year, after having spent an electric evening with my best friends cheering and dancing at NYC’s Pride Parade, I decided in an act of unchartered transparency to upload a picture of myself cloaked in a rainbow flag, accompanied for the first time ever by the words “Oh hi, I’m bi”—the first of many drastic decisions I would make post-breakup, including but not limited to chopping off my hair and dying it purple, and moving to another continent. I’m fine, I promise.
While the picture and its accompanying caption were the first public announcement of my sexuality to the world (“the world” being whoever’s timeline I happened to grace that night, of course), the truth is that my “I’m Bi” tour started about a year before with my closest friends and family— conveniently around the time My Very Big Break Up™ began. As one would expect, the timing of both my coming out and My Very Big Break Up™ (especially given the severity of it) coincided closely enough for many of those whose ears the news fell on to speculate whether my newly-revealed bisexuality stemmed directly from having been scorned in a heterosexual relationship. And while, yes, My Very Big Break Up™ (along with the countless number of break up stories shared with me by other women within the past 9 months) elicited feelings of, quite frankly, never wanting to touch another man or be within a 10 ft radius of one for the rest of my life, the truth is that the evolution of my sexual identity had nothing to do with my break up. My curiosity and feelings of being “different” started long ago, early in my childhood, but had gone misinterpreted for the majority of my life as I unknowingly tried to convince myself otherwise.
This is called repression.
The juxtaposition of being both an “open book” (a natural over-sharer) and someone who understands that the most intimate details of her life unequivocally belong to her, paired with my lifelong flaw of needing to explain myself whenever I feel misunderstood, make it incredibly difficult to decide which stories to share from my short 26 years of life that, in my opinion, demonstrate that on the spectrum of human sexuality, I’ve always existed more-so on its center than squished in the box I had been placed in (both by myself and the greater society by which I was raised) all the way to one side. There have been scores of telling moments throughout my life that have hinted towards my true identity, and if you know me personally, you know that I would not hesitate to share them all if I could. But, for the sake of keeping some things sacred to myself, and to respect the fact that you, the reader, probably don’t have three years to spend reading this one blog post, I’ll just share a handful of highlights that I think could resonate with a few Queer Crumbles out there, as well as explain to our sweet allies what it might look like from within.
For as long as I can remember, the early manifestations of my feeling “different” arrived hand-in-hand with feelings of guilt and embarrassment; the earliest example of which being when, at 9-years-old, I discovered the music video for the hit song at the time: “All the Things She Said” by female Russian duo t.A.T.u. I can vividly remember sitting in front of my teal and gray egg-shaped iMac computer, streaming the pop group’s music video on Yahoo Music (if you know, you know), unprepared for what I was about to encounter. The song and its accompanying music video depicted the group’s two female leads being persecuted for having fallen in love with each other, and at some point within the music video, they share a passionate kiss. As I watched them embrace, my heart raced and feelings that I was not equipped to identify nor bring to the surface for further analyzation whirled in my mind. At my naive age, I hadn’t fully caught on to what the song’s lyrics meant. But as I watched the two women embrace in the rain, a wave of embarrassment and guilt willed me to close the Yahoo Music tab in my browser and vow never to watch the video or listen to the song again. If I were to ever hear the song while out in public, especially with my mom nearby, I would instantly feel as though she and everyone around me knew that A) I was practically self-destructing on the inside and B) the exact reason why even though I couldn’t pinpoint it myself.
That same year, I decided to use some of my allowance to purchase the newly-popular young adult novel Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging, by Louise Rennison (why I thought, at 9-years-old, that I should be buying a young adult novel instead of the 17th book in Barbara Parks’ Junie B. Jones series is beyond me). After acquiring the novel from my favorite childhood bookstore during a shopping trip with my Mom, surely enough to distract me while she spent the following few hours picking out new furniture, we made our way next door to her personal home decor heaven, Pier 1 Imports, and I promptly sank into one of their thousands of wickers chairs to begin digging into my book. My reading party ended just as quickly as it began, however, when a mere few minutes later I encountered a scene in which the main character, Georgia, contemplated whether her lack of a first kiss was an indication that she might be a lesbian. Again, a heatwave of embarrassment surged through my body as I promptly closed the book, exhumed myself from the wicker chair, walked back to the book store next door and returned my copy, vowing to never pick the book up again, for reasons that I still did not fully understand. To this day, I have not read further in that book than the first few pages, which is a shame, since the movie adaption of Angus would later become one of my all-time favorite coming-of-age films and would introduce me to my favorite British actor, Aaron Johnson. (Aaron, if you’re reading this, I definitely did NOT need an inhaler to watch your shirtless scenes in Kick-Ass, and would absolutely be a sane and peaceful suitor should you ever be looking for one. Call me).
Over the past few years, further analysis of these two instances and many others like them led me to the conclusion that I am not, as I had initially thought, conventionally straight. At my first moments of self-discovery, I happily settled on the term “Bi” to identify myself. But things have changed even since then.
As many of you may already know, I am the daughter of a gay man. Many people have asked me both before and after my coming out whether having a gay dad meant that I was automatically gay, too—the same assumption of homosexuality being transmittable through DNA and culture that has stigmatized same-sex parents and historically denied them the right to raise children. While it may be hard for some to believe, if there is one thing I know for sure it’s that having a gay dad did not influence my sexuality any more than having a straight dad would have. Sure, growing up within the LGBTQ+ community supplied me with the wisdom to be able to look honestly at my sexuality and the courage to then exclaim it out into the world, but having a community of gay aunts and uncles (both IRL and on the TV screen) did not actually “turn” me gay. Not only did the moments I mentioned above happen years before my Dad came out to me, but for the first 15 years of proudly living as the daughter of a gay man, I had no idea that there had been numerous indicators in my life to suggest that I was somewhat gay, too. In my eyes, whenever a girl caught my attention growing up, I just assumed that I was envious of her; that my fixation on her hair, her eyes, or her smile were merely a result of wanting to look like her, instead of the now-obvious sign of having a crush on her.
It wasn’t until after I graduated from college (around the time when I would rush home from work to stream Ruby Rose’s cameo in Orange Is the New Black and fully admire her captivating beauty on my TV screen) that I would develop romantic feelings for a woman for the first time in my life. She was a new friend at the time and, again naive in my understanding of self, I misinterpreted the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach when I first asked her to hang out with me as just a strong desire to be her friend—stronger than I had ever had before. And, a few moments later when she said that she was busy that weekend, I misinterpreted the feeling of disappointment as being the result of feeling friendless in a new city, instead of the now-evident feeling of rejection by a girl that I had a crush on. Unbeknownst to me, these misinterpretations would continue throughout the development of our friendship. Over time, our acquaintanceship would blossom into a best-friendship and my admiration for her would grow stronger with each passing season, though I would never perceive us as more than just friends. Then one day, while having a conversation with my then-boyfriend, long before our break up and during a time when he was my greatest confidant and without question my deepest love, I shared my feelings of admiration towards my same-sex friends, expecting him to reciprocate in some way.
“But…weren’t you ever attracted to people of the same sex growing up?” I said, one night while standing in our kitchen. “Doesn’t everyone feel that way at least once in their life?”
“No…” he said, non-judgmentally and directly enough for me to know that he wasn’t lying.
“Oh…” I said, my voice trailing away as I became the literal embodiment of the “Confused Math Lady” meme. If you’re not familiar with it, take a second to go look it up. You see it? Yeah, that was me.
“So…does this mean that I’m bi?” I asked, mostly to God, but my ex assumed the responsibility of responding.
“Yeah, I think it does, Ash. And if it does, that’s okay,” he said. One of the many “nice guy” moments that later solidified my theory that I had been dating a sociopath, as one can only be when volunteering to hold the most delicate components of their lover’s heart while simultaneous smashing it on the ground and stomping it out as if it were an old cigarette butt and not the framework of her entire soul.
“Oh, my God,” I said, tears beginning to stream down my face. “I’m not straight?” I laughed. “I’m not straight!” I said again, tears gliding down the sides of my face and belly laughs rolling out from my miles-wide smile as I reveled in the rediscovery of myself and the seemingly hilarious fact that, after 15 years of being the straight ally with a gay dad, I was now happily and proudly joining the rainbow bandwagon, too.
At that moment, I realized that the admiration I had all along for my best friend was more than that of friendship, and as my mind finally invited my true feelings to break through the surface, my identity as a bisexual woman felt further solidified. This would be step one in my developing identity as a Queer person.
Now, before we go any further, I want to address the speculation that my coming out had any impact on the astonishing infidelity my then-boyfriend would find himself tangled in less than two years later, as some have graciously suggested to me. First, it is important to note that a genuine partner would not falter after learning that their significant other’s self-identity had evolved, especially if their S.O. expresses having no intention of leaving the relationship. Second, if they did feel uncomfortable or upset about their significant other evolving in self-identity, a genuine partner would not default to having affairs with multiple people as a means to address it. It is deplorable to suggest as much. So, I hereby dismiss all responsibility for my ex’s actions and refuse to allow the atrocities committed by his mental chaos to taint the beauty that is my ever-evolving self-expression and journey towards living my most authentic life. Long story short, having a queer or questioning partner does not permit you to be a douchebag. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
During my transition of moving from one continent to another, almost every well-meaning friend of mine wondered out loud at least once, “Are you going to date in Colombia? What if you fall in love with a guy out there? Are you going to date girls, too?” These questions, although well-intentioned, always brought two main thoughts to mind: 1) the newly discovered fact that my attraction to others actually goes beyond the binary constraints of “boys” and “girls,” and 2) that I could not be less interested in dating anyone, at all (besides Maluma), if I tried. Within the past year of my self-love journey, I have realized that I am attracted to all genders, or all people regardless of gender. This is a sexual orientation many people call “Pansexual,” or “Fluid.” I am someone who is intrigued by another’s uniqueness and attracted to authenticity without discrimination of how the person identifies. And because human sexuality is not static, but instead an always-evolving component of life that continues to change as we grow wiser, I feel confident in saying that I identify as more than what the constraints placed by the label “Bi” hold me to. Instead, I choose to identify as “Queer” to include the wide spectrum of people I may one day choose to love.
The second thought that comes to mind when someone inquires about my future love life is how far removed I am from the thought of having a partner right now. The break up that I am healing from emotionally and mentally shook me to my core, forcing me to turn every ounce of my time and attention towards loving myself. Since my break up, I have been both intimate with men and confessed my love to a woman; neither of which done with the intention of fostering a serious relationship with anyone but myself. I am both brokenly and happily single. I am becoming familiar with living my life based on the things that I want to do, so that I can build a secure foundation of self-awareness and love before inviting anyone else to join me. Right now, I have no interest in dating (unless you consider grabbing lunch with my dog Sam at a restaurant with outdoor seating, him lying peacefully on a towel with a bowl of cool water by his side and me listening to my favorite podcasts while diving into delicious food a date…in which case, sign me up for life, please) and I am happy that way.
The last thing I want to mention is for those of you out there who may be questioning or closeted in fear of being rejected or misunderstood. In my journey of coming out, I have received retaliation in the form of others dismissing my coming out as a mere side effect of a quarter-life crisis, as well as the unwavering belief by people who I’ve only expressed interest in men around that how I identify today is a phase that I will one day grow out of. I have been asked for “proof” that I am not heterosexual, as if my attraction to men, women, and anyone in between can only be validated after sharing an intimate moment with them. News flash: In the same way that my lifelong crush on boys was accepted by society as confirmation of my heterosexuality before ever having shared a kiss with one, my romantic and sexual attraction to others does not need to come with a receipt to be real. I know what I like, and the only one who can decide otherwise is me. I am neck-deep in the “get with me or get out of my way” season of life, and I don’t have time to care about who gets left behind.
So, there you have it, my fellow Queer Crumbles. A full run-down of how I, Ashley, came to learn that I was Queer amid a heterosexual break up. No, my horrendous break up with my ex did not make me gay. No, my being gay did not cause my break up. No, I don’t have receipts to show for my sexuality, and no, I don’t plan on dating anyone on any side of the spectrum of human sexuality any time soon. My sexual identity is a personal and ever-evolving component of my adult life, and although I am writing about it here and posting it publicly for the world to see, I maintain that it is a delicate choice and privilege to invite anyone to be a part of my journey. I encourage all of you to explore and honor your most authentic selves, and to let anyone else’s doubts or fears about who you are roll off your back without penetrating your bubble of self-confidence. Your life was given purposefully to you, specifically for you and only you to live, and as long as you walk with kindness, humility, and authenticity, no one can ever take that away from you.
Peace, love, and infinite rainbows,