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Making my gray world gay again

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JUNE 29, 2023

I’ve known I was bisexual since I was twelve. 

This means that I’ve known who I was for almost the entirety of my sentient life. However, I really don’t know how I came across this realization. Maybe it was a definition I stumbled upon on Tumblr (of course) which made me go: Oh. That’s me. 

So without much fanfare, I came out in the comfortable environment of my relatively liberal middle and high schools. I didn’t catch any flak for it except from my parents, who I then proceeded to come out to three different times over three dinners until finally they threw their hands up, asked me to stop pretending to have amnesia and let me have my way. 

That was that. 

I was truly out and very proud of it. Anybody who asked, I’d tell. I can’t tell if I used to be more stupid or brave.

My first relationship was with a girl. I did a whole project on LGBTQ+ rights. I let my high school newspaper put me on the cover for the Pride Issue. I cut off almost all my hair sophomore year (which was a terrible decision — I do not recommend it) and read books almost exclusively about lesbian relationships. 

I was quite comfortably me, even when, at 14, a grown adult asked me how women have sex, or when kids in my class said they’d kill their child if they ever came out as gay or trans, or when I knew coming out to my extended family meant they might not look at me the same way again. 

I never faced any real consequences for being bisexual other than discomfort, for which my tolerance is high. 

So, when I came to Cal, I expected myself to be the same. I had already challenged every part of myself, which made me willing to challenge the world around me. After all, how hard could it be if I’d already faced my most intense critic? 

Besides, Cal is liberal. Cal is welcoming. Cal is all about breaking the status quo. 

Which is true, until you’re sprinting down Piedmont to escape the pouring rain because you thought you wouldn’t be able to get into a frat house if you weren’t wearing the least amount of clothing possible. 

Or until you decide to dabble in hookup culture and find out that there are unspoken rules you didn’t really know how to follow with straight men, because in your dating history, you’d never actually been with one. 

In my first year, I wanted to fit in so bad that I put away a part of myself in a way that an earlier version of me would’ve been downright appalled by. It made my world a little grayer. 

Queerness encapsulates so much more than just gender and sexuality; it’s given me confidence, empathy and resilience. It’s made me more politically aware too, and motivated me to tune into social issues. Queerness forces you to look so hard both inward and outward, to work out your own emotions while also handling the reaction of the people and the politics around you. 

For me, being queer comes with seeing the world in a lot of color.

I wouldn’t ever change my sexuality — it has enabled me to explore gender dynamics and sexuality without the influence of heteronormativity and the patriarchy on my interactions. 

It’s something I could never truly hide because not only is it an intrinsic part of me that comes out in my mannerisms and opinions, but I have a nose piercing, I wear a mushroom necklace everywhere and I exclusively wear flannel during the cold seasons. Like, c’mon. 

I’m learning to recapture the part of myself that glares back at a world that is so willing to stare down people like me. 

It is the least I can do when the entire LGBTQ+ community is being actively criminalized, whether it be through the 18 states prohibiting gender-affirming care for trans youth, the widespread societal policing of gender or the banning of books depicting anything other than straight cisgender people. 

I have the privilege of being able to pass as straight, and I’m still a cisgender woman. But no matter how much of me I hide, when the LGBTQ+ community is attacked, I feel it viscerally. 

There is no talking about the community as them. For me, it will always be about us

It almost feels like I’m coming out for a fourth time, but, this time, it’s to myself. This time, instead of asking other people to accept me, I’m only asking myself. 

And I am so grateful that I am my biggest barrier, and not the law. Knowing that is like having a sigh of relief stuck in my throat. 

I guess for me this is the second iteration of the way being queer is supposed to make me challenge myself so that I can challenge the world around me. 

A younger me did it. I can do it again. 

Chrissa Olson is the lead housing and transit reporter. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter

JUNE 29, 2023