How To Be Queer In A Straight World
You know that familiar narrative, “I knew I was gay since I was four years old”? Okay, for some reason, probably a strategic political one, everyone seems to have it in their heads that sexuality is some finite thing that you just know and you know it pretty much as soon as you popped out of your mom’s vagina and take your first steps on earth. The whole “born this way” narrative, of course, has been super helpful in regards to convincing super conservative hetero people that gay people “can’t change” themselves, ect. But I am here to suggest something slightly different…and that’s, that sexuality is actually a really complicated thing, that can take years to understand or grapple with for some people…yes, even straight people.
I didn’t know I was queer when I was four years old. I didn’t even know what the word meant. I’m not sure if I knew what it meant to be straight. What I knew was, that I had a mom and a dad, and that most of my friends had a mom and a dad, and so, that was what was normal, right? Growing up surrounded by heteronormativity made it really easy for me to construct what I understood to be my life path… grow up, find a boyfriend, get married, have a child. Before I knew anything about sexual desire, about attraction, about the sex whatsoever, I knew about heterosexuality– I just didn’t know it as such, I knew it as “the things I will do when I am an adult”.
All of that is to say, being immersed in heterosexuality can sometimes make it easy to ignore the tell tale signs of queerness that I experienced as an adolescent. I’m going to be real with you all. I didn’t know I was queer as a child. I didn’t even know I was queer by the time I was in high school. I didn’t know I was queer until I ended up in one of my best friend’s bed one night, and suddenly we were making out, and I was like “holy shit it all makes sense”. Sure, I’d watched my fair share of lesbian porn in high school, but that didn’t mean I was queer right? It just meant that I didn’t like ugly creepy dudes jerking off on women’s tits. And sure, maybe I was a little bit more serious about my “girl crush” on Rosario Dawson than anyone else was, but that just meant that I was “kinky” right?
I’m going to pose a question now, and it’s this: why are we so attached to understanding sexuality as finite and unchanging? If I had understood that sexual desire, and preference with regards to what gender I like having sex with, as something that was more fluid and informed, not by what is “normal,” but by an actual experience of what I like versus what I dislike, than I probably would have been able to understand myself as queer a lot sooner, and I probably could have been having the type of sex that I wanted to be having a lot more often.
Being queer in a straight world isn’t as simple as just being born and “knowing” you’re queer. Being queer takes time. It takes personal experience and reflection. It takes building a support system of people who will be there for you when it’s time to “come out”. And, it takes being in a community of other queer people, where you have actual dating/sexual prospects. All of these things might not come together when you’re a child, when you’re in high school, or when you’re in college. Hell, some people don’t realize they’re queer until they’re middle aged, in a heterosexual marriage, and have kids– that doesn’t make their queerness any less valid. And, when you do finally realize you’re queer, don’t expect everything about being queer to be easy, accessible, or just automatically imbedded in your gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer brain. There’s a reason Autostraddle has an entire section of their website dedicated to “How To Be Gay”. The most useful way to approach being queer? Understanding that there’s always going to be so much to learn– whether it is what you like in the bedroom, or how to use a strap on… This shit is confusing. But that’s okay.