Belenen (belenen) wrote,

why it took me 3 decades to claim my identity as queer, non-binary, and demisexual

icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

do you consider your own sexuality fluid? If so, how has it changed over time? Regardless, how did you come to discover and embrace your sexual identity(ies)?

I think my sexuality has always been the same, but my experience and understanding of it has evolved. When I was a teenager, I was so restricted from knowledge about sexuality that I identified as straight despite the fact that I had more than twice as many sex dreams about girls as I did about boys (and I didn't know any other kind of person existed). It literally did not occur to me that I could be anything other than straight, because I wasn't lacking in crushes on boys. I don't think I even heard the word bisexual until I was in college.

How is this possible? Well, I was in private christian schools until 4th grade, when I went to public school for one year before being homeschooled 5th to 10th. The internet was still a toddler (google didn't exist until I was in ninth grade and didn't become really useful until a few years later), my house didn't have cable tv, and I wasn't allowed to socialize outside of school, except with people who lived as restrictedly as I did (and even with them, only once or twice a month). I had only books to teach me about relationships, and there were no queer people in them.

I think it was actually Angelina Jolie who taught me the concept of bisexual and the concept of genderfucking, via quotes people shared about Jolie on livejournal. "Honestly, I like everything, boyish girls, girlish boys, the heavy and the skinny." Reading that quote was my first time relating to anyone who expressed attraction! and still, there are very few who feel this way, because even among people who don't identify as monosexual, most people don't consider genderfucking people or fat people to be attractive. We look "weird" or "wrong" to the average person due to sexist and cis-sexist assumptions.

It was a few years after I learned what bisexuality was that I came to identify as bisexual, because I was strongly influenced by the popular cultural myth that unless you had experiences with men and women, you couldn't identify as bisexual. I would guess that at about age 21 I learned that bisexual people exist and at 23 I began identifying as bisexual. At about age 25 I learned that non-binary people exist and changed my self-label to queer to make it clear that I liked non-binary people too. This was before bisexual people queered the definition of bisexual to its current meaning of "attracted to people of 1) my own and 2) other genders."

A few years later, age 28 I realized that I was trans and non-binary, which further complicated my sexual identity as most ideas of identity start with who you are -- for instance men who are attracted to men are called gay while women who are attracted to men are called straight. Fortunately, "queer" is an umbrella term that always means "not hetero" and otherwise can mean pretty much anything.

Despite identifying as bisexual and queer since age 23, it took me until age 30 to feel sure that I was right about my identity. Even though I had had a number of romantic and sexual relationships with non-men, there's this attitude among mainstream gays that until you've done certain sex acts or had 'primary' relationships with people who were assigned the same sex as you, you don't 'count' as queer. The sexuality-policing heterocentrism is as common and intense among binary gay people as it is among binary straight people. We should be able to claim our identities without having to perform, just like straight people who have never had sex do. But it is a struggle.

It was a few years after I began identifying as queer when I learned what asexual meant, but like with bisexual, I came across a very restrictive definition and it took a while before I even learned the word demisexual. I had to work up my courage to claiming that label as well, because while it is true that I need to feel emotionally intimate to begin to feel sexual attraction, I had a period in my life where that wasn't always true, so I had to deconstruct a binary to claim my demisexual identity. I was 30 when I finally claimed this part of my identity.

When I was a kid, a teen, and a young adult I didn't know what I was, because I didn't have words for it. Once I learned the words, in every case I had to unlearn the shitty gate-keeping definitions in order to claim my identity. When you think you are cis, straight, and allosexual (having an average or high sex drive), society will never pressure you with "are you SURE?" or "but WHY are you that way?" -- you just get affirmed as who you are. If you are not those things (especially if you are trans), you have to be more sure than you have ever been because people will question you and invalidate you constantly.

As you can tell by the fact that it took me three decades to learn who I am, representation is vital. I have seen trans people on tv now but they're never asexual, rarely non-binary, and usually straight. Maybe two characters that I have seen in my life are queer and non-binary (Vex from Lost Girl and Nomi from Sense8) and that is only a guess as their identity is never mentioned and they use typical gendered pronouns -- and both are shown as highly sexual. If I had ever seen a character like me on screen I would have instantly known "that's me!" but instead I had to fumble in the dark and each time I found a part of my identity it was taken away several times before I got a permanent hold on it. If I had had an example, that would never have happened.

Straight, cis, allosexual people should have their identities questioned at least by their intimate people (parents, best friends, lovers) to help them understand themselves and to increase their empathy with people who are not like them. Queer, trans, and asexual/demisexual people should be questioned less often in general and NEVER by non-intimate people. The same as you wouldn't ask someone who you're not intimate with about what they discuss in therapy or what they like in sex, you don't ask them why they identify the way they do. That is demanding a vulnerability from them that you have not earned the right to ask. If you feel like you need to know their why in order to accept their identity as legitimate, that's due to your ignorance and cis-sexism and you need to do some serious self-examining.
Tags: demisexual musings, gender, growth, identity, learning, queerness, social justice / feminism, writing prompts

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