If I remember correctly, I was eight. I walked into the kitchen looking for a fork, and thought to myself, “hmm I am attracted to a girl in my class, so I guess that makes me bisexual. Hmmm,” grabbed my fork and went back to my room. I don’t remember learning the word, but I knew what it meant and how to use it.
That is the earliest memory I have of me understanding what my heart was capable of, how big it was that it could fit so many people in it. After that, the word waxed and waned in its importance in my life, but the times it reemerged were just as simple as when I was eight.
Before the start of every school year, my mom would take me shopping, and, every once in awhile, a pretty girl would grab my attention, and I’d think about what it would be like to kiss them, to kiss any girl at all. I remember one moment in particular, standing in the Juniors section of Daffy’s, a girl, seemingly angst-ridden (so, we had that in common) sat on the floor listening to her ipod, and I couldn’t stop myself from looking at her. I knew then — this happens often enough that I can’t just be straight. Then, I grabbed the t-shirt I had also been eyeing and returned to my mother.
It was that simple for me. I knew that I liked boys, and I knew that I had the capacity to like girls. I didn’t feel shame or confusion. I hadn’t lived long enough yet to even think to question who I was – everything I knew and felt was a truth. But, I haven’t identified as bisexual since then. Over the years, my language for my sexual identity has made its way back across the spectrum, and landed once again on straight – despite what I know to be true.
At 24, I can name a handful of women I’ve known and have been attracted to. There was my first real high school crush; I was a freshman, she a senior – a poetically forbidden love as she was the President of the literary magazine I had just joined who also identified as straight. There was the girl my sophomore year of college who rode horses and championed feminism. Neither of whom knew how I felt about them, neither of whom I had a real desire to be with romantically anyway.
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But that’s about as close to being or identifying as queer as I’ve come – as if “queer” is a rollercoaster I’ve not grown tall enough yet to ride. I put “queer” on an impossibly high pedestal so that I might not ever reach it, which means I never allow myself a sense of belonging in queer spaces, but I also get to safely live and “pass” as straight. This has afforded me more energy to fight for Black lives as I don’t feel as urgent a need to fight for queer rights, because, despite intersectionality, my Blackness has always felt like my primary identity, even before gender or disability. The daily politics of living and surviving as a Black woman were hard enough, so I made sure to never include myself in any conversation around sexuality; the surest way I knew to not get asked about my own identity and have to fumble around an answer that felt both true and safe. It simply felt easier to not claim a sexual orientation at all.
Which begs the question, when do I become queer enough to claim queerness?
Is it just a matter of saying it?
Is it only true and real once it’s been said? If I don’t “speak it into existence,” am I doing a disservice to myself and to a whole community?
These are the questions that have been somersaulting through my mind for the past year. I say “for the past year,” because before then, I didn’t want to identify as anything but heterosexual, because I didn’t want to have to talk to my parents about it. I knew I’d have to follow up coming out with, “but I’m still going to spend the rest of my life with a man and give you grandchildren,” which I’m 99% sure will be true. I have never imagined a life where I was dating someone who didn’t identify as male* (cis or trans). So, I must not be queer then, right?
I know that I will always be more attracted to men*, which has always seemed to complicate my relationship to queerness.
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I know the stereotypes attached to being a queer/bisexual woman: that they are more likely to cheat, that they are confused, that they haven’t realized they’re gay yet. I know how these stereotypes can and have led a lot of women* to suppress their sexual and romantic desires for fear of not being taken seriously as queer/bisexual women. That still doesn’t ring true for me, at least not consciously. I’ve never felt the need to suppress any non-hetero impulses; I’ve kissed girls, had threesomes, been sexually attracted to women – just never enough so to act on it. So, I must not be queer then, right?
Yet, even as I write this, there is a girl I have a crush on and a boy I think I’m in love with. So, I must be queer then, right?
Queer itself is defined by its lack of rigidness, its ability to fit itself in many bodies and still be uniquely true to each individual. Queerness is a language wide enough to allow for all deviations from heterosexuality, whether that means you’re a bisexual woman who has only dated men or a bisexual man who has only dated men or an agender person who dates whoever the fuck they want to.
Sexual identity is not a stagnant thing, it is as malleable and subject to change just as people are.
I think my hesitance to identify as queer, at its root, stems from having identified as straight for so long. Heterosexuality has been my truth so long enough, that any other word has felt like a lie. But, I think it’s time I reimagine myself. Here goes nothing.
Hi. My name is Taylor, and I’m a queer Black woman. Nice to meet you.
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[Feature Image: A black and white image of a dark skinned person as they sit resting on a couch wearing a sweater. The person has short curly hair and is staring straight ahead at the camera. Flickr.com/JPhotos]