Chapter 14 | Are you a lesbian?

When I was in primary school, “that’s gay” was an expression often used to say that’s “dumb” or “uncool”. I later realized how wrong and awful that was; it fed our culture’s homophobia and fear of “different”. We absorbed and imitated the behaviour of the media and the influential adults around us, our family and teachers. Canadian schools reinforced this narrative by teaching us that being straight was the only way; they didn’t even mention other possibilities. I’m pretty sure most of my classmates had no idea what being gay meant. I definitely didn’t, nor did I know what being “straight” meant. The letters in the LGBTQAI+ spectrum were a mystery and a taboo. No one I knew was openly queer and I had no idea it was possible. That’s why it took me 30 years to realized I was bisexual.

Lion King

When I was a kid, my friend and I would play Lion King on my bunk bed. We both had lion king plushies, one of Nala and one of Simba, that purred. We were lions and the stuffed toys were our babies. I believe that is the first time I felt feelings for someone else. I loved my friend, I had the urge to cuddle her then, but I didn’t. I had no idea what my feelings were or what they meant. It scared me. Were these feelings normal?

Friendly hugs

As I got older, the lack of information in sex-ed didn’t do me any favours (more on that in the previous post). In my early teens, I got really close to one of my best friends. She and I spent vacations together and many sleepovers. I felt 100% comfortable with her. We would tell each other stories about how we would meet our favourite actors or band members and how our first kiss or date would go. I was exploring my sexuality and it felt great.

For my thirteenth birthday, we went bowling. She was the only friend I invited to my birthday “party”. We danced, jumped around and hugged each other often. We were best friends! I went back to the score table to my parents while my friend bowled her turn. My parents told me: “Why do you guys hug and hold hands, it’s weird. Stop acting like a lesbian.” I was confused.

A few months later, the same friend and I hid in my closet to tell each other secrets in the dark. It’s was fun and felt safer that way. My mother came into my bedroom unannounced. We went quiet and giggled. She whipped the closet door open and stared at us. She was mortified. I could see the overwhelming anger building up inside her. She snapped: “Get the hell out of there!” That night she asked me again if I was a lesbian. I didn’t think I was, and I felt that even if I was, I would have never told her. My friend and I stopped hanging out not long after. I was left with a bad feeling. Am I wrong? Is it wrong to love women? Did I love my friend or were we just friends. I was just hugging and showing her how much I loved her. Why is that bad? Why is it shameful?

Beautiful women

My entire life I have found women beautiful. One of my girlfriends and I kissed once to try it out; it felt the same as kisses with boys. Since I had always got on with boys and girls, I figured it was normal for women to be attracted to both sexes. I hadn’t seen through the lies and encouraged behaviour coming from men and the porn industry. Lesbianism and bisexuality are sadly monetized as a fetish and are considered a “phase” in one’s life. If you’re pretty—by male standards—then you must not be a real lesbian. Lesbians are butch and hate men. Right? “You don’t look like a lesbian”, is simply insulting and ignorant.

A few years ago, I started watching doddleoddle, dodie, on YouTube. She is a great singer-songwriter, but she also vlogs on her channel doddlevloggle about various topics, including her sexuality. I remember watching her video I’m bisexual WOO and something clicked in my brain. Holy shirt, I am bisexual.

I sat down with my husband and told him, “I think I am bisexual”. He answered something along the lines of “D’uh! I know”. I was shocked. How did he know and I didn’t? We talked about it for a while. He didn’t judge or shame me. He didn’t get jealous or worry that I would go off and sleep with women now. I am happy I married someone who is not only supportive and open-minded but also self-loving and confident enough not to be threatened by my sexuality or my growth.

Guilt Trip

After my epiphany, I remember wondering, “how did I not know?” It was obviously clear that I am bi. I talk about women a lot, I point out the ones I find attractive and I sometimes fantasize about women. I could easily see myself sharing my life with anyone, regardless of their gender. I suppose I suppressed the label because when I first found out what it was, I was always told it was wrong. Was I brainwashed into thinking women having sex was for male pleasure? After reflecting on it, I came to the conclusion that I thought this behaviour was normal and every woman felt an attraction to other women.

The realization later transformed into guilt. Was I really bisexual? I felt like an imposter. I only ever kissed a girl once for fun, but I did find women attractive and beautiful. Is that enough to call myself bi? It took me a good year to be able to say it with confidence; I am bisexual. It took a lot of research, self-reflection and discussion with friends to come to terms with my new identity, even though it had always been a part of me. I was scared that people wouldn’t believe me, that they would say I wasn’t really bi. Then, it dawned on me. Who cares? They don’t need to believe me, as long as I know myself and I am true to my feelings.

I recently told my mother that I am bisexual. She was surprised but accepting. She knew me to be an outspoken ally and we had discussed the topic a few times. It’s a hard and slow process to educate others and alter their belief systems. They have to be willing to listen and be open to change. My mother was raised to believe in heteronormativity. In her mind, humans have distinct and complementary genders, male and female, and they have specific roles to play for life to work. I am happy she is open to listening, learning and changing. It’s not an easy feat.

I evolve and change every day. It’s hard to predict how much I will change over the years and that’s the fun part. Just a month ago, I learned the term pan- or omnisexual, so I googled it.

“Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are not determining factors in their romantic or sexual attraction to others.” (Wikipedia)

Another little light flickered in my brain. I may soon start identifying with the word pansexual, rather than bisexual. Either way, I hope to always be open to learning more about the world and myself, it’s the best part of life. Remaining static would be my version of hell.