This piece first appeared on the website, Em & Lo, and is reprinted here by permission.
Our contributor is a college student who wishes to remain anonymous. She has this to say about labels…
I’m definitely not straight, definitely not gay, nowhere near asexual, and not exactly bisexual.
In its simplest form, the meaning of heteroflexible can be found on the sexual spectrum as a sliding scale between straight and bisexual — and this is the label I am most comfortable with, if I’m forced to give my sexual orientation a name.
I’m often not attracted to the conventional manly/good-looking man, and I like men who explore their own sexual flexibility. I often find myself sitting silently when my friends swoon or trade obscene sexual quips about men in magazines or on the streets. Even when I was as young as 2nd grade, I can remember not having as many crushes on my fellow peers as everyone else. In middle school, I had an unusual amount of male friends — and as it turned out, my best male friend had just as many female friends. Not surprisingly, under those circumstances, combined with hormones and peer judgement of preteens, we had more than one conversation about whether or not we were gay. Thus the contemplation of my sexuality began to evolve.
As soon as high school hit and puberty was in full swing, I was certain guys were on my mind and they were absolutely in my bed. But I still wanted to kiss girls too.
At that time, however, being bisexual had more of a stigma, even for women, and it wasn’t something people were jumping to identify with unless they’d had a “real” relationship with a woman. If you were like me, and had only kissed and crushed, then it was easier to just be a straight girl who liked watching The L Word.
And then, at the beginning of college, I took a class where the professor had us write down three one-word self-descriptors — such as “tall, white, male” or “lesbian, Asian, woman” — and then had us each cross one out. I crossed out my sexuality. Being “straight” didn’t feel right. I crossed out the descriptor that felt the least important to me. Maybe it didn’t feel as important because as a straight person I felt little oppression, but it also didn’t belong on the list because it didn’t feel a part of me.
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This was a significant exercise for me because it allowed me to really think about my own sexuality. I always felt like my sexuality was very fluid, but at the time I had only ever had boyfriends and had only kissed women before. I felt like, if I identified as bisexual, I would be discriminated against. And also that I’d be a “poser” because I’d never had a girlfriend or even slept with a woman before. In other words, as Britney Spears almost kind of sang, I was not straight, not yet bisexual.
Part of me still feels uncomfortable about the idea of being in a relationship with a woman. Women and romance is still a mystery to me. I don’t even know what kind of woman would like me. The role I play and the type of relationship dynamics I have in my female vs male friendships are very distinct from one another. So I can’t help but think that a romantic relationship with a woman would be very different from the relationships I have with men. I think I would take a more submissive, possibly not as confident, position in a relationship with a woman. Whereas with men, I feel a perfect balance between mutual nurturing and free spirited-ness. The thought of being with a woman can feel scary, because it is an unknown.
I still think about women and have crushes on women, though. I sleep with women. I fantasize about women and how different being with a woman might be from being with a man. However, I always end up with bigger, more accessible relationships with men. I consider myself heteroflexible because that is what I feel is the closest label to my reality.
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I could go without a label. Or pansexual even hits close to home. But heteroflexible feels more honest and genuine to what I’ve experienced. Maybe it’s simply my lack of experience that leaves me identifying as heteroflexible — or maybe it’s my heteroflexible nature that makes me lack a more bisexual existence. I suppose only time and self-exploration will tell.
Our sexuality can feel intimately intertwined with who we are. Labels can make us feel closer to or further from ourselves. They can map out and give us little pushes in the movement and labyrinth of defining oneself — being comfortable with accepting of oneself. For now I will let my heteroflexibility, sexual fluidity, and (oh yeah, thanks to Freud) my pleasure principle guide me.
[Featured Image: Two people are standing in a field. They are kissing. The person to the left is wearing a gray shirt and black pants. They have blond hair. The person to the right is wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans and a white hat. Their hair is long and dark brown. Source: pexels.com]