I remember the pink brick of my elementary school. It was one of my favorite things about the place, second to the beautiful murals decorating the inside. Pink was my favorite color, and I would come in every morning ready to learn, play marbles in the schoolyard, and try and get my crush’s attention. I used to beg my mom to let me wear makeup like a big girl while I put my hair in pigtails or braids in the morning. I loved playing with my Barbies at home and had a passion for burning cookies in my easy bake oven. Needless to say, I was very girly and daydreamed about having babies and growing old with a husband, just like my mommy and daddy.
So you can imagine my complete dismay when one of my classmates ran up to me while we were all lining up against that pink brick wall to tell me that she thought I was a lesbian.
Whether it was just a childish new insult to use, or she had some real reason to assume this, I’ll never know. The memory of how I reacted is vague, but the sting of those words stuck with me my whole life. Her snide smile and laugh as she said it and her obvious intent to hurt me with this statement really cut me down deep. What had I done to make her believe this? Did I have too many girl friends? Was I overly affectionate with the people around me? Why did I of all people seem like a lesbian?
There was nothing that could have seemed more awful to me than for her to say that I liked my friends in a romantic way. That wasn’t the way it was suppose to be; I was supposed to like boys and anything else seemed wrong. So you can imagine that when I hit puberty and started thinking about girls I got really scared. Even though I believed that there was nothing wrong with other people being gay, I was terrified that this would apply to me. My goal was to find a boyfriend, and every time the possibility that I might like a girlfriend instead crept into my mind, I found my heart in my throat, scared that I was lying to myself about finding men attractive at all.
This wasn’t the way it was suppose to be. It was like a vicious cycle, lying to myself about being attracted to women made me question if I was lying to myself about finding men attractive. The fear of telling my mother that I would never have a husband shook me, and the fear of never having the stereotypical poster family I’d always dreamed of scared me, so I denied it with all my might. Despite how beautiful I found women, despite how curious I was to discover what it would be like to kiss one, I told myself strictly “No—no way.”
This refusal to accept my curiosities had a negative impact in a variety of ways. I found myself distancing myself from women of all kinds, even just my friends. I spent so much time trying to find fulfillment in relationships that I denied the relationship I had with myself. I found myself becoming whatever relationship I was in at the time, moving from one to another, adjusting myself to that person instead of discovering who I really wanted to be. All of this happened because of an idea of how things were suppose to be.
As I got older and my relationships dwindled, I wondered if it was possible for a man to truly make me happy. Maybe I was pretending to be straight this whole time because I’d left this part of myself so unanswered.
I’d like to say that one day it came to me, and I suddenly realized that I should accept myself, but the fact is that it came with growing up. It came with learning what relationships are for: Not to fulfill happiness, but to share a life with an individual who you find completely worth sharing life with. Through tough breakups and hard emotional times, just like anything else, I learned that lying wasn’t helping me. I came to the conclusion that I could never be fully certain about my preferences until I tried.
I spent my entire adolescence pretending to be someone I’m not, and when I finally went on a date with a girl, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d thought it would be. It was just like any other date. I was reassured in knowing that it didn’t make me any less interested in men, but that deep down, I had the potential to love someone of any gender. I find women beautiful and I find men beautiful, and the reason that I love someone has nothing to do with their gender but rather with their personality.
Coming to terms with this wasn’t easy because of all the ideas surrounding being gay or bisexual. Being either of these things doesn’t make you a certain way or another; it doesn’t make me any less of what I liked about myself. In fact, I found the opposite to be true: Accepting myself reinvigorated my self-confidence and reminded me of all the things that I loved about myself. The title of “bisexual” didn’t define me; I decided what defined me.
Coming to terms with bisexuality has helped relieve my anxiety in regards to my relationships. It helped me define people by more than just superficial features like their gender or whom they are attracted to, but to see them for what they love in themselves.
The stereotypes surrounding bisexuality shied me away from accepting this fact about myself, but it also helped me accept myself regardless of them and stand up against societal norms, and I am stronger for it. Being bisexual does not make me any less feminine, it is not to call attention to myself, and it is not the only thing that defines me. The journey has helped me become more whole, confident, and loving. It has especially reminded me about one side of myself that I’ve always loved: My big, overwhelming, and hopelessly romantic heart.
After all, beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.