At what point in a nearly four-year same-sex relationship does one question their own sexuality? For some, the heavy lifting has been done long before the relationship starts. For others, it’s an ongoing investigation.
I entered my relationship believing the former for myself, but in the last year I’ve rapidly descended into the latter.
At times, the ordeal that has been coming to terms with my sexuality has felt much like an Indiana Jones escapade: My sexuality is the treasure, and I am the dashing anthropologist leading the excavation. Sometimes there were beautiful women to accompany me on the journey; other times, handsome, villainous men impeded the endeavor. And if I were to marvel at these dastardly, but attractive, villains, then that felt par for the course. All in all, the pursuit of the treasure was very linear: trial and error until you happen upon the jewel.
But for me, that was the tricky part.
I would try to put a heavy rock down in the treasure’s place so as not to trigger some unfortunate string of booby traps. Only the rock is also glittering. I’m really not sure which is which, and I’m also not positive that I don’t want to trigger those booby traps.
And if you’re confused at this point, I get it. I was too.
Discourse around gender and sexuality, at least in mainstream circles, has seemingly hit a kind of enlightenment period in the last five or so years. I was going through the thick of working out my own sexual identity at the beginning of that. In the slew of terms and identities that I was being exposed to, the two that stuck out most were bisexuality and pansexuality.
But in the years since, there has been somewhat of a tense battle for territory within pansexual and bisexual communities. As I understood it, for a long time, the most widely accepted definition of bisexuality was an attraction to both genders within the binary. Pansexuality was a term coined to express attraction to everyone within the gender binary, as well as those who existed beyond or in spite of it. However, for many, bisexuality has come to simply mean an attraction to two or more genders.
The evolution of language is ongoing, so the discrepancy between the former and current use of any term is justified. But all of the conversations surrounding who was allowed to claim what definition for what term felt both confusing and incredibly limiting.
Then, right around the time that I was really beginning to tire of defending my choices and identity, a new term was revealed to me: queer.
Identifying as queer felt like a godsend. For the most part, it didn’t require I define or compartmentalize my identity, but it still allowed me to feel at home in my community. When I met my partner, who identifies as a lesbian, I didn’t feel that anything about my identity had to change. At least, not because of her.
But recently, I’ve been starting to question my identity, and this interrogation has lead me to believe that the heavy lifting and seemingly conclusive work I’d done before entering my relationship was missing something. I suppose being in a same-sex relationship for so many years will do that. And out of all the questioning I was doing, there was one glaring inquiry I couldn’t shake.
Why was it that I had never thought to identify as a lesbian?
Sure, my journey had seen my infatuation with men as well as women. But there’s a reason I refer to them as villainous men in retrospect. Even in my own telling of the story, they were never going to be who I ended up with.
The truth is, when I was coming out to my family, the idea of doing so as a lesbian was too scary — too definitive — to even contemplate. At least as someone who was attracted to both men and women, there was a chance I’d pick the more socially acceptable partner.
Thing is, I believe I’m with the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. That person is a woman.
For so long, I’ve let the choices I’ve made surrounding my sexuality be dictated by what’s easiest. Identifying as queer is easier because it’s ambiguous. It doesn’t require that I explain to anyone what the intricate details of sexuality are, but it also doesn’t require that I do any introspection into the matter myself.
Since I’ve been undergoing this personal renaissance of sexuality, I’ve realized many things. The work is ongoing, but only I get to decide what fits me best. And nothing about these choices are set in stone. My sexuality isn’t a diamond or a deeply hidden treasure I must excavate. My sexuality is the booby trap, it’s the saving of the damsel, it’s the whole damn metaphor. It’s the story I write — the story I tell.
I did not think that I was in for any more revelations about my sexuality. But I’m no longer too afraid to admit that I think the story I’m telling is that of a lesbian.
Contact Areyon Jolivette at [email protected].