I look pretty straight.
I know this because every time I tell people I “um … think … I’m bisexual,” I’m met with genuine shock and a wave of questions that leave me doubting my sexuality all over again.
Maybe I should start cuffing my jeans more.
The first boy I ever came out to was my friend Carson, and his first question was, “Are you sure?” That also happened to be the next six questions, with one variation of “Are you sure sure?” Once I finally convinced him that I was sure, he began to identify me as a threat.
“You better not like Milly,” he said, obviously interested in one of our mutual friends. He then proceeded to analyze her sexuality by picking apart aspects of her personality and the way she dressed, wondering if she was also queer.
I sat there trying to listen, sipping a can of something underwhelming that he insisted I try. To his credit, he texted me later that night and said he’d always support me.
Still, that roller coaster of a conversation made me realize I’m not gay enough to fall on people’s “gaydars” — and if I do tell someone outright, then I’m barely gay enough to be believed.
And I have trouble convincing myself too, sometimes.
The doubting began as I grew up in a Christian household, where I first was taught that feeling like you are anything but straight is just a phase.
I’d pick boys to like even if I didn’t find them attractive, and openly declared my love for Ian Somerhalder on “The Vampire Diaries” while having an equally huge crush on Nina Dobrev. I was terrified of coming out to myself and admitting that I like girls too. But even more than that, I fundamentally doubted that my feelings were valid in the first place.
I remember once telling my mom that someone I knew came out as bisexual. She responded rather nonchalantly, not taking her eyes off the road as she drove.
“You’re too young to know what you are right now,” she said. “It’s natural to be confused.”
I sat there in silence not really knowing what to say. The conversation ended there.
Was my friend really just confused? Am I just confused too? What does it really mean to know what your sexuality is and be sure sure about it?
I think about my conversation with Carson more than I like to admit — the way he analyzed Milly’s sexuality through her personality and her appearance, the way he brushed me off when I didn’t present a certain way.
Would he have believed me if I had more piercings and wore quirky lesbian earrings? What if I finally caved and listened to girl in red? Would I stand a better chance if I wore more button-up shirts?
If I had dropped more hints about a stereotypically queer identity through my appearance, would you have believed me, Carson, the first time I told you I was sure?
The saddest part is, by the fourth time he asked, I wasn’t sure either. I thought about my mom then — maybe I really am too young to know “what” I am.
Although I’ve kissed a girl before and had a few girl crushes, I’ve never even been in a relationship with one. All of those actions could have just been part of some “phase,” right?
It’s been so easy for me to overthink all of this as I continue to explore my sexuality. I’m afraid to come out to people not just because I fear they won’t accept me, but because I’m afraid they won’t believe me. And if they don’t believe me, then I’m not sure I’ll even believe myself.
But still, through all the overthinking, all I really do know is how I’ve felt.
I felt my heart flutter when I met my first girl crush, when she smiled at me before the elevator door closed. I felt my palms get sweaty when she touched me and disappointment when I found out she was straight.
I felt my chest grow warm the first time my boyfriend and I ever held hands under an umbrella on a rainy day, and I still get butterflies when we call. I know how it feels to mean it when I tell him I love him — even if I haven’t fully wrapped my head around what love is yet.
I’ve never trusted myself enough to definitively say that I’m bisexual. It’s always been punctuated with uncertainty. What I’ve realized, though, is that I don’t owe it to anyone to drop hints about my sexuality or to provide an explanation for it.
Elusive as my feelings are, I’m starting to believe they are enough.
So hey, I’m Jessie, and I’m bisexual.
And yes, I’m sure.
Jessie Wu writes the Thursday column on exploring the intersection between risk and self-discovery. Contact her at opinio[email protected]