November 2018
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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.

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Comments
bunnika ══╣╠══
sandracaprice ══╣╠══
Yes! This! As I have discovered the language—often from you, Vex—I have been better able to define myself. And it has changed for me as I’ve learned in ways similar to how you describe. I identified as bisexual at 14, but I have never had a relationship with anyone who didn’t identify as a cis man at the time (one past lover has since identified as trans). I think if I had some kind of model of what other sexualities and relationships looked like, perhaps it would be different, but only now am I seeing healthy examples of these. Thank you for writing this!
hana_broom ══╣╠══
Interesting post :) Personally I'm not sure *what* I am and what labels apply/don't apply - which is sort of annoying really given that I'm almost forty... definitely food for thought though :) thanks for posting.
browncouch ══╣╠══
Yes! I told two friends that I was bisexual when I was thirteen. I ended up identifying as straight after being with the same man for almost twenty years. I had bisexual friends in straight relationships, but for some reason I didn't feel comfortable calling myself queer. Whenever they posted things on bi visibility day I felt a pang. The feelings, identity and fantasies were there, but I brushed it off. I wore pansexual colors at pride last year, because my current partner is non-binary and I was considering exactly how to define my attraction. Like you, I feel most comfortable with the word queer.
coolbandanas ══╣╠══
This is really interesting, thank you for posting this. I've never really considered all the different labels people use for themselves and/or labels society puts on people... I suppose it's because I'm lucky(?) enough to be off the shelf into men adn that's it. I can find women attractive, but I don't think I'd class myself as bisexual.

It's not exactly the same, but I can relate to you when you say - society will never pressure you with "are you SURE?" or "but WHY are you that way? - for me it's when it comes to having kids. People (especially women) are always questioned when they say they don't want them and know they aren't going to change their minds. It happened yesterday at work actually! It seems unless you see the world as black and white, right and wrong, with no shades or grey, you are there for those people to see and question the fuck out of =/
angie gia closeup kiss gif
kehleyr ══╣angie gia closeup kiss gif╠══
I must admit I'm a bit unsure of all of these definitions... non-binary people, binary people etc... but it's still interesting to read about. Thank you for sharing.
btw I've identified myself as bisexual for years... however with all the other "labels" out there I'm not sure if there is another one that would fit me more :-).
callmebee ══╣╠══
This post came at a most timely moment in my own life. As you know I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately, and part of that has been about sexual and gender identity.

I kept thinking, "Can I even claim queer as part of who am if I haven't been with anyone but cis-dudes for the past 8 years?" The answer is, of course, YES.

For me the journey has been one of trying to involve myself in more queer events. It brings out the really shy, socially anxious part of me because in this group, acceptance matters. I must remind myself that most of the queer people who go to the things here are college age or my age, and that the hurtful comments I remember getting back when I myself was college age from older queers, probably won't happen.

Like, "We're gonna lose you to the men, aren't we?" It was so confusing because like, I didn't know that this particular lesbian owned me? Or that the lesbian community owned me? Back then claiming bi-sexual or pan-sexual (which is what I identify with most strongly. Hearts, not parts.) would NEVER get you intimate with a lesbian. I'm sure it seemed dangerous to them, but it also hurt me. As if being "bi" (as I claimed then) wasn't gay enough for them to trust me, and I would undoubtedly treat them as a toy or use them to make men jealous.

I'm not sure what kind of stigma exists now because I've been so far removed from that community.

And gender is sticky for me, probably will be forever. I still haven't been able to find a gender identity that sounds and feels right to me. I'm exploring that.

When I was young, I used to think, "I"m the son. I'm the boy my father always wanted." Then I'd go do the "boy" things he wanted someone to do with him. Play ball, build things with, etc. But I was also perfectly happy dressing my dolls up and playing makeup.

I switched back and forth effortlessly because my family allowed and encouraged it, but not as a gendered thing. For them it was just that everyone is allowed to do what they want. For me, it felt gendered. I wanted to be both their son and their daughter. There's more details, but this comment is getting long. So this is what I'm actively exploring in myself right now, and trying to come up with the right language and labels to describe myself.
bunnicula38 ══╣╠══
It baffles me that people would question anyone's sexual identity or how they identify themselves in general. I think people who ask are trying to pigeon-hole that person because they may not be able to figure out their sexuality through conversation or nuance and curiosity gets the best of them (or the need to judge). Frankly, nobody should be asking that question. It's one of those questions that there's no need for them to know unless the other person chooses to discuss it.

Besides, in my opinion, sexuality is very fluid. Most of us live enough years on this planet to recognize that our sexual leanings do not remain static. Oh, we might pretend they do because we want to fit into a "polite" society. But I always assume that all of us are more fluid and open to to change in this regard but we don't feel comfortable discussing it. And that's okay-but it would do a good person good to just accept that their feelings about sex will change on occasion and sometimes come full circle.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.