I Have Not Always Known
I realized I wasn't straight when I was 22 years old. I still feel embarrassed that it took me so long to realize. It's interesting – the coming out stories I’ve heard always start with something along the lines of "I have known for a long time". But my story is slightly different.
It started with one girl, I like to call her my lightbulb person because she helped me shed light on a part of myself that had been hidden and suppressed for 22 years. At first, I was confused, mostly about myself.
I grew up in a very heteronormative environment: my friends and I would discuss crushes on boysat sleepovers and we hung posters of the famous boybands and actors on my walls. Family was always portrayed as a mother and father who had children the “normal” way – I never questioned this idea.
But I also hung up posters of Emma Watson and Taylor Swift and Kristen Stewart – because I thought they were talented and pretty and "my celebrity girl crushes" – but those weren't the same as the real crushes that I had on boys. I had never met an openly gay or bisexual person until high school, when I met our school's ever-so flamboyant drama teacher – and he was a very stereotypical gay man, so my image of what LGBTQ+ individuals were like did not shift much in these years. Slowly, television and movies started featuring same sex couples, which I greatly appreciated, but of course I thought nothing of this appreciation and simply considered myself a supporter, an ally.
In late high school, a few people in my class came out as gay or lesbian, or transgender. I wanted to be as supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals as I could be – as a straight girl could be.
I was flooded with confusion after my first encounter with her, and my mind filled with questions: am I gay? But I like men? Am I bi? Since when? But I liked her. I can't be straight then, can I? Is this just a phase? My university experimentation phase? But when I couldn’t stop thinking about her for the rest of the week, I realized that this wasn’t a phase, nor was it an experiment. I had a crush on this girl. A realcrush. So I asked her out. And as our relationship progressed, the idea that this was "just a phase" or "just something I wanted to try out" faded. I was developing real feelings… for a girl?
It's clear to me that there were many moments growing up that hinted at my non-heterosexuality, but of course, only in retrospect do I understand this.
When university started, I started meeting more individuals from the LGBTQ+ community. I was in a long-term relationship (with a boy), but when I saw pretty people (namely pretty ladies) I would wonder what it would be like to not be dating a boy, what it would be like if I was dating a girl. But I would brush off the idea, telling myself that everyone thinks about these things in university because movies made me believe that everyone experiments in college at some point. This, I now know, is not true: everyone does not experiment in college.
This curiosity amplified when that relationship ended. Though, I didn’t act on it.
Until I did.
My feelings for her grew. These were coupled with greater confusion about my sexual identity. And what does a young twenty-something do when she is confused? She turns to YouTube.
I watched every coming out video, subscribed to every bisexual and lesbian YouTuber I came across. I slowly started to learn about myself, both through my experience with her and the experiences of the content creators I immediately connected with.
I felt dissociated from most of the coming out videos I watched because so many individuals explained how they had always known they were not straight. Not relating to videos just meant that I watched more, and I kept watching until what was being recounted made sense to me. I soon realized that none of our narratives are exactly the same. And that’s okay. And that is normal.
I found comfort in the stories other women recounted about having not always known they were not straight. I think they are so brave for not being ashamed. Am I daft for not having realized this part of myself sooner? Aren't I supposed to know myself entirely?
And then it hit me. Meeting new femaleclassmates and thinking "wow, she's really pretty" and trying to sit next to her. Watching Riverdale and being draw to Cheryl and Toni’s characters more than any other. Getting nervous around ridiculously gorgeous girls.
This all happened a month or so before Christmas break. When we said goodbye, we cried. We cried so many tears. My tears and confusion continued into the Christmas break, and followed me into the New Year. Though a few close friends knew about what I had been going through on a superficial level, I hadn't told anyone about the nights I laid awake rethinking so many moments of my life, or about the frequent 'bathroom breaks' I took at work during which I would just cry in our store's washroom.
I hadn't told my family about any of this either. The only ones who knew were the ones who had seen us together, and my two best friends who didn't go to school with me, who I knew without a doubt would support me. I did not doubt that my other friends would be supportive and accepting, I guess I just didn't know how to bring it up. I didn’t know how to seamlessly transition the conversation from the weather to school to my bisexuality.
Slowly I started telling people. I met up with my oldest friend – she has known me for 10 years and I knew I could tell her. We sat in a McDonald’s and after some small talk, she asked me why I asked her to meet up. My palms immediately started sweating, and my heart raced. And then I told her: the first time I said the words "I am bisexual" out loud was at a sticky McDonald’s table. It was incredibly difficult to work up the courage to say it, but her reaction could not have been better. She didn’t even bat an eye. She thanked me, genuinely, for telling her. And when we left, she hugged me and thanked me again, and it was perfect - I smiled the entire drive home.
I have found that coming out to myself was the hardest step in all of this. Once I understood who I am, once I could admit it to myself, I wanted to shout my secret from the rooftops. Because this is a part of who I am, and it should not be kept a secret. Something that they don't tell you about coming out is that it happens every day. When you run into an old friend and they ask you if you are seeing a guy, when you are out with friends and they point out cute guys because they think you arestraight.
It's a process and I can go at my own pace. My pace speeds up when I drink, because I get drunk and work up the courage to tell people. In those moments, I want my secret to be out. One night, after getting home from a girls’ night out, I posted a picture to my Finsta (not my main account, because too many people and my mom follow that one) and captioned it "when you casually throw your bisexuality into the conversation and feel so proud". That was a beautiful and freeing moment. I am bisexual. And I am not ashamed.