What’s in a Label?: Discovering My Sexual Orientation

As Pride Month approaches, I feel called to share a journey that took a very long road to its realizing. In all the things about myself that has taken time to understand, my sexual orientation was at the top of the list of most confusing.

Looking back, when I was really young (elementary school age) I was not afraid to experiment. I kissed boys, I kissed girls, I talked about what I thought sex was and would it possibly could be. The topic fascinated me! However, growing up in a highly religious environment (at home and at school), the topic was not easy for me to discuss with the grown ups. Whenever I did bring it up in mature company, I was usually left with at least some inkling of regret after the conversation had ended. The shame was too much to bear to continue to risk it further so, like many other children, I sought answers myself through peers or media. I actually learned a lot about the physics of sex but not enough about sexuality itself until much later.

There was always a stigma around homosexuality (as there tends to be in Christian settings) so I dared to not inquire about my urges towards other girls. This suspicion was solidified for me during the 6th grade. I came home with my boy crush written on my hand in pen. My mother asked me about it and I reluctantly explained. She responded with, “You are at the age now, huh? Well, I guess I should be glad you didn’t come home with some little girl’s name on you.” My instincts immediately told me that this was not a good time to come forward about my past girl-on-girl experiences.

I never felt like my sexual attraction truly conflicted with my spirituality but I learned to suppress it for social reasons. I suppressed it so well, in fact, I became a bit homophobic (projection, much?). Being around gay people made me rather uncomfortable and I found myself judging in a very stereotypical way (probably because my own tomboyish nature often caused people to perceive me as a lesbian which really annoyed me). This criticism didn’t last terribly long as I spent most of my teenage years in a very culturally diverse environment in which I gained friends and associates of various backgrounds and sexual orientations. However, it wasn’t until college that I became reintroduced to the idea of widening my own personal options.

Like many college kids do, I found out a lot about myself both in the classroom and the dorm room (if you catch my drift). By this time, I had never considered being with the same sex since my grade school days. I figured it was a developmental phase that had come and gone. Then, ironically enough, after several failed attempts at having a romantic relationships with guys, a good gay friend of my told me to consider trying women. I was shocked to hear his suggestion, wondering what it was about me that would prompt such an idea. Hadn’t I feminized myself up enough to be with any of my male counterparts? I eventually learned that wasn’t the point at all but that there was a side of myself, more obvious to everyone else at the time, that I had not been in touch with; a side that I had, in retrospect, apparently forgotten to some extent.

Years after graduating from college, I still had not acted on my friend’s recommendation. Luckily, I found the guy (or should I say he found me) who would become my husband and didn’t give it much more thought after a while. Yet, the question resurfaced between him and me – apparently he saw the same thing everyone else did. At first, I was aggravated that this notion had not yet died along with my frequent wear of sports gear and over-sized hoodies (because sexuality is all about the appearances, right?). Then, I had a serious reckoning with myself. Why would I be so aggravated if some part of it weren’t true? Why would the questioning linger in my mind like it did if there wasn’t a “question” in the first place?

And so, it took my fiance’s nudging to finally make me do some exploring back down memory lane. I came to realize that I was not acknowledging a part of myself because I was afraid of what it meant to be that. I was afraid it meant something more than just being myself or that my Self would have to live out loud in an uncomfortable and probably not fully accepted way. I’m glad to say now that I’ve come to terms with that – privately and publicly.

Thankfully, I live in a time where the concept of sexuality is expanding and while it is confusing and even upsetting for many traditionalist, it’s actually very relieving to those of us who have lived our lives in the previously undefined gray areas. As for my label, I currently accept bisexual heteromantic as most accurately describing my experience. At first I thought, “Oh god, I’m one of those people with an obnoxiously complicated sexual identifier”, then I thought, “Who cares?

I’ve come to figure that anyone who does will have to carry that burden on their own. I’ve already done that. I cannot say that I understand all the sexual walks of life just yet, and I may never. Nonetheless, I am learning that it’s most important that we give people the space to figure it out. And, if there is something in us that struggles to allow that, then the time may call for your own self-reckoning and I hope, if no one else does, you grant yourself that safe space.

Happy Pride Month!