There must be some sort of cheat code for being about to understand what it is that we are. Surely? Or something that at least comes with age? Experience?
Sorry if that’s crushed anyone’s dreams of being able to self-identify with a thousand per cent confidence or foresight of the future. That’s just not how these things work. There will always be doubt or insecurity or fears that you’ve made the wrong decision or ‘come out’ prematurely before you fully know what you want. Well, sucks to that, because to ‘know what you want’ relies on you knowing ‘who you are’. Not only that, it requires you to know ‘who you will be’ in the future, where there is a pressure to somehow be able to predict and label your life before it has happened.
You don’t expect authors to write the chapter title before they’ve written the chapter.
How can we really be expected to self identify and self-label with confidence when it has become such a politicised overwrought anxiety for many? Speaking for myself (as I wouldn’t wish to erase the countless individuals who take pride, solace and security in embracing a title), I find the whole thing extremely stressful. Not only the commitment to a label for the rest of my life, but the notion that in going public, everyone else gets to/has to bear witness to how I live my life according to that declaration. Do I live my life ‘gay’ enough or am I ‘straight passing’? Do I do enough for the community? Am I denying a part of myself by not always shouting about my sexual identity?
Am I a bad person for not always being fully comfortable in who I am?
These are questions we all inevitably ask ourselves and there’s no right answer to any of the questions, just like there’s no ‘right’ way to do ‘be’ gay. This difficulty in self-identifying and the pressure to ‘come out’ and then ‘be true to who you are’ often caves in on the weight of its own importance. This is more of a compulsion or feeling of responsibility to other people than making me feel more at ease with myself. This is particularly true of the various social and cultural implications of being bisexual.
So many TV tropes have individuals who are flighty, cheat on their partners, have gratuitous threesome sex scenes, and generally aren’t respected or given dignity in their portrayal has made it difficult to know where you stand within that reception of bisexual people. Am I ‘bi enough’ or does the fact that I’m in a relationship with a person of the opposite gender mean that I pass as straight and don’t experience bisexuality in the same way as those with same sexual partners?
All of these anxieties and self comparisons are tied up in the notion of permanence. The threat that we might have made a mistake isn’t the recognition that our feelings aren’t valid at this moment, but it’s the awareness that sexuality is fluid and things change. We understand this more than most.
We all ask ourselves this. Am I ‘gay enough’.
Do I ‘pass’. Should I ‘present’ a certain way now that I’ve come out? Gender politics and titles and all these things that are becoming more and more constrictive and politicised.
I can already tell that you guys are rolling your eyes at me. And yet, you clicked on the article, so you’re ready to be convinced. Well, I’m only too happy to oblige in reminding everyone represent that there is a Person for everyone out there. Not necessarily a one-size-fits-all soulmate that aligns perfectly with every aspect of your being, you don’t even know yourself yet, how could we expect someone else to?
What I’m saying is, we’ve all been so enduringly taught to subscribe to the need to find flaws in ourselves.
Basically, any deviation from what has been established as the norm (straight white, rich male) is painted unalterably as a flaw.
Sometimes, the flaw can be fixed; solved with some capitalistic consumption and confidence. Other times, however, we absorb into our personality a defence mechanism whereby we can protect ourselves with self-deprecating humour and a tendency towards isolating ourselves when things get hard. As a result of all of this, many of us have been conditioned to view our flaws as things people can use against us. Weaknesses that make us unloveable or undesirable, or fundamentally unworthy.
Hang tight, dear readers, because I’m about to go on a deep dive into everyone’s diary entries from 2012 to present… “I’m not good enough. Attractive enough. No one will ever know me. No one will ever love me”
I suppose that the point I’m building to here is that everyone feels worthless at some point in their life. Maybe it’s because we don’t feel productive. Well, what does being ‘productive’ even mean? It’s just a way for capitalism to keep us in place and organise our leisure time and convince us that our problems can be solved by consuming more goods and services. A means of control therefore, is convincing us that we aren’t good enough.
Here’s the kicker though.
If everyone feels rubbish and loveless and incapable of love, how are so many people happily in relationships? The reality is that everyone is insecure about themselves, but we’re all much more complimentary and forgiving to everyone else around us. Therefore, with some simple maths, if everyone is willing to forgive the perceived ‘flaws’ or imperfections of people around us, then we’re all worthy of love. We all know if we’re ready to be in a relationship, or fall in love, and yet we don’t recognise that other people are the same.
They are ready to fall in love with us, we just need to give them the chance.
Having or avoiding labels is not something that makes you a better or worse person. You cannot operate by degrees or be ‘more’ or ‘less’ gay, trans, bisexual, asexual (and so forth, with respect), than another person. We don’t have a number next to us that tells us just what and who we are. Sexuality is a spectrum and gender is a social construct, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to people.
Or a trap for others.
Having these anxieties or doubts doesn’t make you a bad person. Identity isn’t permanent, in any form.
Coming out to your parents remains the gold standard of stressful, alienating and bewildering experiences. No matter what the media says or glittery sitcoms that resolve everything in 20-minute episodes, no coming out experience is ever perfect. Half the time it still feels like a question. Or like a performance. Only because everything before has been a performance, so it’s hard to separate the two. Indeed, the threat of becoming ‘who I truly am’ when I say a few words is very much too much pressure.
People forget that. Parents forget that.
I think even I presumed that telling my parents would allow me to be my ‘authentic self’, ‘more me’ or the killer, ‘happier’. Sorry pals, that’s not how it works, even if the coming out is relatively painless. You still have to flinch at your aunt’s incredulous story that a guy hit on her son in the chippie, or sigh that your cousin’s bio on Instagram is still ‘its not gay if no one sees it’. Your mum will still occasionally forget you’re gay when she makes small talk at the dinner table.
Embarrassed, you will not correct her. No one will and you wonder if they even noticed the Freudian slip.
I did come out in the end, but only really as a courtesy; just some vague ‘I probably should’ knee-jerk reaction that I felt I ‘owed’ them.
Sure, coming out opened loads of doors but I fell through most them before I could see what was inside.
In one respect my parents were the one ‘coming out’ that I couldn’t take back, that I had to stick with, but also it was the most meaningless in the sense that we didn’t talk about my love life before and we certainly don’t know. It wasn’t an event horizon, I just assembled the family after a watching a football match in the living room and had it out. My parents are trying to relearn much of what they and everyone before them were taught, which I appreciate but also resent, somehow. I need to figure myself out first before I let people in.
So when I talk about heartbreak, I’m talking about the moments you give your heart to someone else and expect it safely returned to you.
I don’t blame anyone for this specific type of heartache. I know that I have my own emotional self defence barracks that stop people getting too far in.
But that doesn’t really apply to parents. Even if coming out was relatively painless.
Something still came loose and I’m not sure it wasn’t my heart.