By Lily Pratt
I want to master my words, molding anxieties that torment me into stories that'll one day help someone else.
I never identified as part of the LGBTQ+, non-binary, genderqueer community. Looking back at my life in glimpses, I’ve blossomed from a girl seeking male approval into a confident woman living each day consciously with purpose.
When COVID-19 came crashing in from overseas, life as we know it paused. As I sat at home writing, painting and doing online schoolwork, my future loomed large in front of me.
There are so many things I want for that future. I crave success and acknowledgment. I want to master my words, molding anxieties that torment me into stories that'll one day help someone else.
I don’t want to exist. I want to live.
Being an English and Philosophy major has taught me the perpetual value of self-reflection and reevaluation — change is the only constant. It was during the global pandemic when time stood still that I decided to reorient my life.
Sharp-tongued innuendos shifted harbored feelings into nothing more than a male-gaze fantasy.
I grew up happy and healthy in a loving home dreaming of my wedding day; a princess dress, poofy like cotton, swaying as I float down the aisle. The beach breeze tinged with salt, the sun’s rays strong and welcoming. A handsome, kind and respectful groom beholden to me as our gaze meets.
I’ve always been a bit of a romantic, fantasizing the men I met into some sort of false ideal. I’d do as they want, never wanting to disappoint them, denying my own desires for those of someone temporary. I noticed women, but never allowed myself to speak those thoughts into existence. I stifled the inclination, pushing it to the back of my mind. Maybe if I ignored it long enough, my repressed affinity for women would subside.
But it never did.
The first time I let “I like girls, too,” leave my lips, I instantly regretted saying it; my sacred sentiment lost on an overly ecstatic man amused by its sexual implications. Sharp-tongued innuendos shifted harbored feelings into nothing more than a male-gaze fantasy.
Broken and silenced, I never spoke my mind back then. Instead, I vented all my rage to my best friend, confessing to her the same words I had regretted uttering earlier that day. She sat there listening intently, asking about my feelings and supporting my frustration.
“You’ve never liked me, have you?” Kelly inquired, a confident smile cross-examining my face.
“Um no, bitch. You're ugly,” I teased. We laughed and joked; a wave of acceptance and solace washing over me.
One by one, as I came out to each friend, I felt lighter. I was authentic and free; they accepted and loved me, and sometimes, the declaration didn’t even surprise them. No matter how skewed my image was in the past, genuine friends knew who I was.
He took one look at me sitting on the floor, and asked, “Why are you in the closet?”
My brother is also bisexual. His response verbatim was a squealing, “twinzies,” while giddily clapping his hands with pride. He came out to our parents a few years ago, so why was I nervous to tell them? It was the same situation, but it wasn’t. I had liked men. How could I be sure they would understand?
I gained the courage to do it recently, inspired by a stress-induced uptick of anxiety related to current events. I was on the floor of my room crying, pressed against the open door of my closet when my mom — hearing hushed whimpers from down the hall — cracked open the door and came to sit with me. We talked and cried together, as we do, until I finally mustered, “I’m bisexual.”
She was surprised, and a little confused since I had never actually been with another woman.
“How do you even know then?”
To which I replied, “did you know you liked men before you began dating them?” The answer seemed to suffice.
Hearing us talking, my dad entered the room. He took one look at me sitting on the floor, and asked, “Why are you in the closet?”
After a brief explosion of laughter, I shared the news.
While I thought coming out would be the hardest part, it wasn’t. A few weeks into the pandemic a foreboding sense of losing it started filling the space between the present I wasn’t ready to leave yet and the inevitable future waiting for me.
Subconsciously, I understood that happiness would elude me until I learned to be content alone.
I won't let life pass me by pretending to be someone I’m not.
My boyfriend and I were approaching a year. He supported my coming out, as was his kind and understanding nature, and when we began dating, I was fresh out of an emotionally abusive relationship. He was my rock, helping to usher me back to my former self. But it wasn’t enough.
Even though I loved him, I needed to be happy with and by myself. He understood, and we parted ways. Ending things was painful; my love for him made me second guess my decision more times than I can count. But I knew I needed to take that step for me, and if it not now, when?
These past few weeks I’ve been talking to women and men, exploring who I am with myself front and center. I’m still writing, working and painting, and even though life is partially disrupted I have this unflinching urge to keep moving and creating. I won't let life pass me by pretending to be someone I’m not.
In the end, it’s not about being bisexual. If I want to find happiness, I have to put myself first. Only when I learn to love who I am completely and authentically, will I truly begin living.
For those who paved the way for acceptance, for making it so all love can be recognized and cherished today, thank you.