“Don’t be a faggot!”
I jumped like I had been shot. The term reached into my gut, grabbed my intestines and shook them around. I felt my heart flip-flop over and over, as if he had found out a secret.
I slapped his arm. He stared at me, his pupils blown out and confused, stumbling a little bit as he spilled his drink on the floor. “What did I do?”
“Don’t you ever say that again,” I hissed, picking up my shoes from behind my chair as the music wound down. “That’s disgusting.”
“Oh come on,” he moaned, pushing me up against the table, insistent. “It was a joke. I don’t actually say that shit.. I said it because he said it…babe…” his eyes turning black at the edges, “ugh, it’s going to be like THAT all night?”
Later, he pushed himself onto me, I looked up at the ceiling and thought about homophobia can snatch the words out of our mouths and rearrange them into patterns we don’t realize we’re making. He didn’t know. He didn’t know who I was.
When I was in middle school I honest to god thought I was gay for at least six months. I think this is probably super normal for most kids who are slowly figuring out that that cute person in their class would probably be even cuter if tongue-kissing were involved. There was a boy in my class that made me flush red whenever I saw him, but then, there were girls I felt a strange pull towards.
I liked men. Liked them a lot. Liked them ever since I saw Devon Sawa throw a football in Little Giants and felt my feet go blissfully numb. But I also knew the term “straight” wasn’t exactly right, because I had deep, unceasing, endless love for women.
I couldn’t figure out how I felt, and it confused the hell out of me. The thought of kissing a boy absolutely terrified me but at the same time it sent rockets of warmth through my body and it made my ears pink.
With girls, things were easier. Things weren’t weird. Things were safe. It gave me the kind of fullness, the kind of seratonin-laced stupor, that wouldn’t be out of place at a Thanksgiving table.
I thought that this was okay until I overheard another girl in my eighth grade class call another girl a dyke, and I immediately shut down any sort of confusion, awkwardness, or weird feelings like a Venus fly-trap. The feelings went away – or rather, the feelings were controlled in a tight vise. But that word made me uncomfortable, almost like it was scratching at a scab that would start gushing at any second.
When I got to high school I watched seven girls declare their sexuality in front of the entire school and it sent a lightning bolt up my spine. I met women who also liked men, or women who liked both. They were the cat’s pajamas. Although I spent most of high school hiding away in my bedroom, chatting online and watching Lord of the Rings countless times, I still thought about which way on the Kinsey scale I would settle. When peopled asked, I told them I was straight. On National Coming-Out Day, I called myself a proud ally and advocate for gay rights.
At that point, I only knew about gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. I didn’t think I fit in with any of them. But those feelings I had felt as a thirteen year old desperate to fit in with the cool kids in my class? Those feelings didn’t go away.
On some days, saying I was “straight” fit as snug and warm as a new pair of shoes. On others, it felt like a jacket cut slightly too small, or a bra you’ve grown out of but insist on wearing sometimes because the color goes with certain shirts. It’s all right – it’ll do for now – but you can’t wait to throw it off at the end of the day and let yourself flop open.
This isn’t just about thoughts and feelings. My first legit kiss with anyone was with a girl. Not a lot of people know that.
Women hit me in a spot that perhaps I’m afraid to let men go. When I kiss men, I have to force my eyes to close. I want to make sure of all the exits so if the evening turns, and they try to harm me, I know where to run.
I know eventually that feeling will fade, that it’s only because I’m working through the trauma of being deeply hurt.
But yet – I walk into a rehearsal or a house or a room and my dear girlfriends are there, and I fall into their arms, easy as breathing. We sit, like penguins, on each other’s necks. It’s like I’m home.
I confessed these things to my therapist, not out of fear that my sexuality was non-normative but because I was just confused, and she told me it might be a reaction to my previous experiences with emotional abuse, and that I’m running towards the things that make me feel safe.
If only we all had the freedom to run towards the things that make us feel safe.
There are so many parts of my personality that aren’t straight. That are non-binary. That are fluid. That are queer. I actually joke around with one of my dear friends that I have the soul of a gay man, but obviously, that isn’t accurate at all. (Although I do love me some drag culture.)
Now, I know there are so many different ways to fall. So many different ways to tilt your axis. So many different ways to offer love. And I didn’t want to close myself down to the opportunities and beauty that life offered. I had put a cork on my body and my sexuality and my gender representation for so long, to feel it pop is the most satisfying sound.
Yesterday, in light of the absolutely unconscionable attacks on Pulse in Orlando (an attack that not only impacts the LGBTQAP+ community, but also the Latinx community and the HUMAN community), I discussed all of this on Twitter and I told my lovely community of followers that I’ve been identifying as queer for a little while now, because I had no other term to go with. I explained that it was because I didn’t want to shut myself down to just one gender, one sexuality, that the term “straight” sat badly with me. I wanted to be open to whatever life brings. Do I absolutely see myself with a woman one day? I have no idea. But I don’t want to say absolutely not. I wondered if the term “queer” even made sense for what I was.
One of my followers tweeted at me, “Maybe the term ‘sexually fluid’ would work?”
I clapped my hands. It was perfect.
But then. Then.
Another follower said, “So you’re telling us you’re human?”
I am a human. I am coming out as a human. A fluid human. A spectrum human. A member of the queer, fluid, spectrum community because my soul refuses the binary. I am full of love, hope, and joy, because I have to be.
I’m saying these things because I am safe. I vocalize these thoughts from a goddamn Starbucks in the bullseye center of Connecticut, where laws are set in place to prevent LGBTQAP+ discrimination. Where our governor and senators have frequently challenged the gun lobby, supported and protected the rights of all queer citizens, and have placed a firm and decisive ban on assault weapons in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. I am privileged to live in this state because I am able to just live.
I vocalize these thoughts because in many other states, in many other situations, these words could get me killed if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if I hold a woman’s hand, or if I dare to go to a gay club with my best friends. I say these things because I am full of rage at a country that tries to dictate where people can go to the bathroom, but cannot get it in their heads to write policy that prevents people from getting killed. I say these things because I spent four days this weekend at a beautiful academic conference that was more like a summer camp, with gender-free bathrooms, and I woke up full of light and love on Sunday morning
The most we can do, in every single moment, is love. Love as hard as you can, and do as much good as you can.
And love is love is love is love is love is love. The opposite of apathy, the opposite of indifference and phobia.
I am femme.
I am fluid.
Let us work, live, and breathe in love. If we do that, fear will never win.