Standing center stage at The Masonic, rocking his hips in a fog of soft purple light, Troye Sivan was absolutely sexy, but that wasn’t the point. His vulnerability mattered more.
I knew I was bisexual before I saw Troye Sivan, but I didn’t feel comfortable being bi until after I did.
At my 13th birthday party, I watched a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie for the first time. At 14, with a crush on Keira Knightley, I found myself on a long, quiet car ride from Los Altos to Monterey with my mom. I remember the bend in Highway 1 and how my voice cracked when I said, “I think I’m gay.”
She didn’t say anything for so long that I wondered if I had daydreamed it. Then she asked, “Why?”
I told her I liked girls, and she wanted to know which girls. But I didn’t know which girls. “You’ve always liked boys,” she said. “I don’t think you can be gay.” And then we pulled into the parking lot of the Del Monte Shopping Center and got a table for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen.
The second time I told my mom I was gay was the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, at a restaurant blocks away from the same shopping center. I waited until we were about to pay the bill to say, “I have something important to tell you.”
Everybody at the table freaked out, and I was asked multiple questions about a boyfriend I didn’t have. So I picked one to answer and just said, “She’s from Sunnyvale.”
My mom didn’t say anything for so long that two whole days went by in silence. Since then, my mom has met my girlfriend, and sometimes, as I’m about to hang up the phone, she even asks how her dog is doing. But her initial doubt in me is hard to forgive.
There are times when I think my mom was hesitant because she was afraid that if she said anything encouraging, I would stay gay. Then maybe if my life was harder than hers someday, it would be her fault. But sometimes I think that even if she was coming from some place of convoluted love, it wouldn’t matter.
Despite being raised in a liberal household in which gay rights were always supported, I was being told now that I was going through a phase. I began to doubt myself again and again.
Back in Berkeley, at a brunch party of endless mimosas and loud queer girls, I stood next to my girlfriend — proof of my own queerness — and felt out of place. I wasn’t like the bi girl in the corner who reminded everyone how many other girls she’d made out with at Kip’s. I knew everyone could tell I was bi — I just didn’t feel like I was.
I didn’t know what “The L Word” was and I couldn’t understand why someone in a fur coat kept asking me if I was butch enough to open the Costco champagne bottle. I didn’t own any rainbow wristbands or rainbow shoelaces or rainbow pins. I didn’t own any pins at all, for that matter. So I hung back and got tipsy on cheap champagne, and by the time I left, I figured I’d never fit in.
That brings us to this past November and Troye Sivan standing 100 feet away from me in San Francisco. The way he sang about me, even though I knew he was singing about himself, surprised me. I haven’t watched “Love, Simon” and I don’t particularly like Hayley Kiyoko, but as Sivan sang, I was hit in the face with the representation I’d been missing.
Sivan is a pop star, but he isn’t too cheeky to belittle his sexuality. That night, he sang 2015’s fearful “HEAVEN” and 2018’s melancholy “The Good Side” even as he joked with the audience about his more recent sexcapades. As often as he laughed about his teenage crushes, he honestly thanked everybody for being there.
This was a queer space where I couldn’t choose to hover at the outskirts when I wasn’t sure I belonged there because I was quite literally too far from the walls. And after I had been forced into the center of this space, it turned out it didn’t matter that I didn’t know what a “twink” was or that I was wearing leggings when it seemed like everyone else was in a miniskirt. I was dancing to “My My My!” and so was everyone else.
As Troye Sivan slipped out of his silver suit jacket and swept his wavy blonde hair from his eyes, he couldn’t have looked sexier. Then again, I was feeling pretty sexy myself.
Contact Olivia Jerram at [email protected] .