So. It’s National Coming Out Day today.
Coming out is such a strange concept. I mean, when I was a kid, I thought it was something you do once–because that’s how a lot of media talks about it. But that’s not true. As a kid I experienced it not being true, I just assumed I was doing it wrong, or something.
I think I was about ten when I figured out I wasn’t straight. I told a couple of my friends. Most of them were okay with it. One of them told me she was the same, and the two of us did that weird “dating” thing that 10 year olds do when they aren’t really old enough to date, like, at all. I think we mainly just held hands in class, really.
I spent the next couple years trying to come out to various groups of people. I never really figured out how–it always felt awkward. And I always thought there should have been some way to come out to everyone at once, and have it stick. But of course, there wasn’t. As it turns out, even if that was possible, it wouldn’t really have worked. I would still have had to come out again, and again, again–just maybe not every day. Identity changes as you grow, as you learn, as you expand your understanding of labels and of people and of yourself. My identity now, and my understanding of that identity, is not the same as it was two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. And in fact, my understanding now is a lot less firm, and in some ways a lot less confident, then it was when I was ten.
See, when I was ten, I identified as a lesbian. That’s what I came out as, although sometimes I didn’t use that word. But after a few years that had changed, first to bisexual, and, shortly thereafter, to pansexual. My understanding of the term bisexual was not really in line with what it is now. I had been told that bisexual meant “attracted to both sexes” (and, yes, sexes, because my understanding of sex and gender was even more minimal). I knew that wasn’t me, because I was attracted to more than two genders. A few years ago, when I found out that that isn’t what bisexual means, I wondered if I should go back to identifying that way.
I think that my attempts to find a label that reflected an attraction to more than two genders were the result of two things. One reason was that my orientation at that point was similar to what it is now, and I tended to be attracted to people who were not entirely male, but who weren’t necessarily women. Another, I think, was that my attempts to label my orientation were also a way of exploring gender. I didn’t have the knowledge or awareness at that point to identify myself as anything but “a girl”, but I related to trans people, especially nonbinary people-and also to nonbinary or agender characters, who had I had a much higher exposure to. I had crushes on a lot of robots as a child. There was something about them that I was drawn to, something I looked up to, something that I wanted, ached for even, even if I didn’t understand that I wanted it.
I didn’t really start to think about my gender in a conscious way until I went to college–which meant I never came out about my gender identity until college. I don’t know if I have now, really. I’ve had friends who’ve been there as I explored it, and I talk about it sometimes on twitter, but I think my gender is something I’m generally pretty quiet about outside of the internet. I do have gender questioning as my gender on Facebook, where a lot of people I know can see it–but you’d have to go looking. Even knowing that my orientation was mostly accepted by my family, in my community, in other elements of my non-internet-based life, I’m not really comfortable being open about my gender in those places.
But, I’m going to link to this on facebook, so I guess…I guess I’m coming out now. At least to some people.
Which is hard to do when you don’t have a label. Which I still don’t, for sure. I’m trying out “nonbinary femme” right now. It’s the closest I’ve found. But even if that’s right, I don’t know if I’m comfortable identifying as trans. I mean, I’m AFAB, and my pronouns are she/they, and I’m femme, so…is that trans enough to count as trans? On the other hand, I’m only a woman sometimes. Other times I’m so far removed from gender–and sometimes from my body–that I don’t know what to call myself. Other times I want to be a glorious nonbinary fairy. And sometimes, I think I want to be nonbinary, and maybe femme…but not AFAB. I think that maybe this body isn’t the one that I want to have. Isn’t the one that I’m supposed to have. Or I wonder: can I be nonbinary and femme-ish but also sort of a boy?
That’s usually when I give up and decide to be a dragon, instead.
Dragons don’t have to have genders if they don’t want to. And if you try to make them they can just burn stuff and fly away. So that’s cool.
But I mean, how do I come out about that? I can’t even come out to myself about my gender, because I don’t know what I am.
There were other things I started to explore when I went to college, too. Like I learned more about what it means to be asexual, and I eventually realized that I am asexual. That was quite a revelation. It took a while. I finally realized when my first thought, after breaking up with my boyfriend, was “Thank goodness I don’t have to have sex with anyone”. Which was followed almost immediately by horror at the fact that apparently I had thought that, if I was dating someone–at least someone who was interested in sex–I did have to have sex with them. Which is gross. No one should ever have to feel like they have to have sex.
So, now, I know I’m asexual. That’s a part of my identity. And it’s sort of something I have to come out about–but also sort of not. It’s different from my other identities. It’s not something I need to tell my grandparents about, really, because I don’t personally feel the need to discuss sex with them. Maybe when kids become an issue, I will–but maybe not. Probably, I’ll never feel the need to tell them. I don’t feel the need to tell people at my synagogue, either. But I do talk about it online sometimes, because it’s a part of me, and I need to know I’m not alone, and I want other people to know they’re not alone either. And if/when I date someone, I’ll need to tell them. I’ll want to be upfront about it, because if that’s not something they’re willing to deal with, there’s no point in us going out. It can only end badly, and there will almost certainly be a lot of pain, probably for both of us, along the way.
Being demiromantic, or greyromantic, or whatever, is similar, because while I don’t necessarily fall in love a lot, I do love a lot, and I’m potentially willing–even looking–to be in a romantic relationship, if I find the right person. My closest friends are people I love. Some of them I’d be happy to date. But if we don’t date…meh. All of that is something I don’t totally know how to express, and it’s also something that I don’t personally feel I have to “come out” to everyone about. I come out to people who it’s relevant to, but other than that…I don’t really bring it up.
Except maybe that isn’t true. Because, thinking about it, why does a person come out? Because you want people to understand who you really are, right? Being asexual is part of who I am, but not something I think about all that much, so I don’t feel the need to tell most people. But the experience of realizing that I’m a demiromantic asexual was an important one, and the way those identities affected my adolescence– those things are part of who I am. I was just talking today on twitter about wanting to see more people like me in YA and NA fiction, because sometimes it feels like people are saying that romance and sex, or the desire for sex, are vital parts of the coming of age experience. And they aren’t. Not for everyone. Not for me. My experiences are no less valid. And I wish that someone had told me that in high school. My lack of interest in sex wasn’t one of the things that made me feel like a freak in high school, but I still had to deal with people acting like sexual desire was a thing that would definitely happen to me, and I wish I hadn’t. I wish I hadn’t felt like dating people was something I was supposed to do. I don’t regret dating the people I dated, for the most part. But I do wonder why I really dated them.
So given all of that, maybe these are things I should come out about. And maybe…maybe if I come out about these parts of myself, other kids will have an easier time understanding themselves. And maybe they’ll feel better about who they are. Maybe they won’t feel like sex is an inevitability.
It’s National Coming Out Day. It’s National Coming Out Day, and I am privileged in that I can come out in (relative) safety. So here goes:
I am queer. That is one of the words I use for what I am, because it doesn’t require me to be specific, and because I, personally, am comfortable with it.
I am bisexual, I guess, or maybe pansexual. I don’t really know what to call myself anymore. But I’m attracted to women, and I fall in love with women, and I also am attracted to people who aren’t women, and I am certain that I could fall in love with someone who wasn’t a woman, even though I don’t think I have yet, that I know of. (I’ve only been in love with two people, I think. Love is confusing, and I don’t really know the difference between loving and being in love.)
I’m asexual, I think. At least mostly. And I’m demi-romantic, or greyromantic, or maybe just aromantic. I find the concept of romance immensely confusing, and the idea of having sex with someone else anywhere from repellant to simply boring to maybe-okay-if-I-get-to-give-them-pleasure.
I’m nonbinary. I find gender confusing and I don’t really know what I am and I kind of just want to give up on everything and be a dragon, which come to think of it would solve a lot of my problems, actually.
And I’m a lot of other things to, and every one of them is inextricable from the rest of who I am. But this post is like 2000 words long already, so I’m not going to talk about them right now.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I came out today.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I’m coming out tomorrow.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I am very grateful for my privilege, because I can come out.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I wish that that wasn’t a privilege. I wish that everyone could come out.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I wish that no one had to come out. I wish that nobody had to be in the closet, and that people wouldn’t build closets around others by assuming things about their identity.
It’s National Coming Out Day, and I wish that we didn’t need one of those.