I feel very nervous writing about it, in fact. Which is probably a sign that I should write about it.
A classmate of mine recently asked me when I came out, and my response, “oh, a year or two ago,” prompted a surprised response.
I actually came out to my friends as genderqueer before I came out as bi. In school, I am more willing to discuss my sexuality than my questions/understanding of gender. This realization led me to the understanding of how complex these contexts are, and as I develop friendships within my cohort these contexts grow closer together and overlap in uncomfortable ways.
This post is going to talk about sexuality more than gender. I think my feelings about gender and my identity are complex enough topics to deserve their own space.
Wait, You Came Out in Your Forties?
When you’re a bi woman, I think, and especially if your attraction to men and women (catering to the binary for the sake of simplicity) is roughly equal, it’s easy to believe that you’re straight. And this is what happened to me. As an artsy kid, I rationalized that female beauty that struck me dumb was an artistic appreciation. That the women that I wanted to fawn over in my life were simply people I deeply admired.
It wasn’t until age 40-41 that I started to recognize deeply gay feelings I was having for what they were.
I attribute this to my existing in a circle of friends in which queerness and same-sex attraction is very normalized. It suddenly seemed not so strange that I would see a woman in a midriff baring shirt and kinda want to squeeze her belly. That I would want to kiss a woman’s shoulders. It was no longer something I could pass off as artistic, as platonic admiration.
I went home and said to my roommate: “I’ve been having some very gay thoughts today.”
She leaned forward and said, “tell me more.”
And I did.
I really benefited from having someone to talk to about it in a non-judgmental way, someone with whom I could verbalize what I’d been feeling and sort of get things untangled.
A few days, maybe a week later, I came out as bi on Facebook.
I identify as bisexual probably because I’m older, and it feels more comfortable to me. The bi identity is often accused of being binary and transphobic, but it means that I am attracted to genders the same as mine (homosexual) and those different than mine (heterosexual).
People say that “pansexual” is an identity better fitting this definition, but I don’t know, it just sounds so modern and wishy-washy to me, so I don’t use it.
Since coming out, I have felt a great deal more attraction to women than to men, and I’m not sure if it’s a case of waking up in a beautiful garden and wanting to smell all the flowers, or if it’s a genuine reflection of my orientation. Either way, I don’t know that it matters. I don’t think I’m a lesbian. I’m absolutely for sure not straight.
I think I might be done dating men. This is not a reflection of my orientation; I still find some men attractive. I’m just so tired of dating men and all the bullshit that comes with it, and statistically cis straight men are just not good in bed. This squares with my experience with sex with cis straight men. So why put in the effort if the sex is bad and the relationship fraught with societal issues around gender?
I also don’t know about dating women? This new (it’s not new, but more on that later) attraction is kind of scary. The thought of learning how to have sex all over again at age 41 is intimidating and women are beautiful and scary. But if I were to date, if I were to even eventually marry, I would prefer it be with a woman or non-binary person rather than a cis man.
See how complicated this gets?
How Could You Not Know?
Well, there were signs, right? I should have known.
Those girls and women that I felt compelled to make meticulously handcrafted gifts for, those were people I had crushes on. The teachers and professors that I worked so desperately to please, I found them beautiful. My often lackluster attraction to my male lovers, that was a sign, too.
The fact that I would make out with women whenever I was drunk and had a willing accomplice, that was a sign too.
But the fact is, since I was sexually attracted to men, and since I grew up in a time when “gay” was the worst thing you could be, it was a matter of internalized homophobia causing me to ignore those feelings, to rationalize them away, to be what I should be: a straight woman who has sex with men.
I had an advantage in this sense. I avoided harm that came to my contemporaries as a consequence of their sexual orientation. I lived as a straight person for most of my life, and I consider this a form of privilege, because I lived out of reach of the violence and hatred that was visited upon gay people during my youth.
But I also feel as though I gave up the opportunity to acknowledge and explore this part of me, and as a result, may have missed out on important, life changing relationships. I missed out on part of who I am. And I feel that loss now that I’m out. I feel it almost every day.
Why is This Important?
I mean, it’s personally important, right? Let’s not just take that for granted. But lots of things that are personally important to me don’t make it on to this blog.
As a marketer, I consider myself a cultural worker. As a writer, I am most definitely a cultural worker. And my identities and how they intersect absolutely impact my work in cultural spaces. That includes both writing and marketing. That doesn’t mean I can only market in queer spaces, but it does mean that I have an ability that straight people may not have to understand some of the ways messaging impacts queer communities (the LGBTQ space is very diverse and I by no means speak for or to all of the many communities covered under this umbrella).
It also means that I’m more likely to write in ways that include non-straight, non-cis people. This has cropped up in my fiction especially, where even before my late revelation, I had taken to writing queer and gender non-conforming characters. And that’s something that’s going to continue.
This is valuable, because as our culture is (slowly) becoming more accepting to diverse orientations and identities, we’re going to see more people like me; more people who were safe living as cis straight people and could reasonably pull it off coming out, and fewer teens and young adults who feel the need to hide their identities even from themselves to be safe.
The world is not getting straighter and more binary, in short. The internet age reduces information asymmetry and speeds social change. And writers and marketers will need effective ways to address those changes.
Aside from being personally significant, my orientation and my identity are a way to address marketing in a queering world.
I don’t know if any of this made sense, or if any of it is accidentally offensive. If you have comments, feel free to post them.