* Queer v.s. Binary in relation to sexuality, not gender.
Ever since I was very young, I've known I didn't identify as heterosexual. Though I was too young to really know what this meant in the grand scheme of things, I knew it meant that I was different to most of the other boys and girls in my class. As an eight year old, different didn't automatically equate to bad like it unfortunately does for some people, and I decided my sexuality was something that could be saved to think about for another day - there was play time to focus on, after all.
With that train of thought came the ultimate form of procrastination, so at aged 14 I was struck with the realisation of "Oh. Yeah, that makes sense." when I found myself way more attracted to Buffy than Angel. Unfortunately my procrastination gave society time to indoctrinate me with all the usual persuasions towards heteronormativity, and I found myself watching Fingersmith and I can't think straight with my earphones in, hunched protectively over my laptop as if being caught watching LGBTQ+ films would make my family realise I wasn't the picture perfect straight child they thought I was.
During my teenage years I went through a long period of not being physically or romantically attracted to anyone, boys or girls, and with society's lack of diverse education, that made me think that perhaps I was broken. My classmates would tease me about fancying the boy with curly hair, and out of fear and uncertainty I went along with it. We ended up dating for nearly six months, and though I was comfortable with him, there were no butterflies and no urges to become as physically close as Twilight had once lead me to believe there should be. It was around this time that I discovered that the pin up girls my brother attempted (and failed) to hide under his bed made me feel far more things than an actual real life boy had, and my internal freak out simply heightened. Deep down I told myself that maybe I was bisexual, but maybe it was also a phase - loads of girls go through that, don't they? Only it wasn't. I was terrified that I was secretly gay, because sometimes society can make you feel as though that's the worst thing in the world you could be.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself being incredibly relieved as I began developing a crush on the boy I walked home from school with. Because liking a boy meant I could never ever like a girl. Because every single person in society conforms to the binaries of gay or straight, male or female. At least, that's all I'd been taught up until then. Suffice to say that relief didn't last very long. My crushes on boys were always fleeting and I found myself uncertainly using the term bisexual in the back of my mind, thinking about it only when I was alone and tucked up in the comfort of my duvet. The word bisexual is taboo even today; back then, it was something that wasn't taken very seriously at all. My family and friends had been very clear that 'it's just weird!' and they didn't 'understand it at all. Like, it makes no sense'. I was young, scared, and felt completely alone. And then I joined Tumblr.
Now say what you will about that website - mostly that its members are often way too extreme in their views and that people are more often than not just looking for an argument - but I became educated. I learnt the value of self love, I learnt labels that I would have never understood without the patience and acceptance of the queer community online, and I learnt one of the most valuable phrases that has stuck with me for a very long time: It's okay to change the way you label yourself. It took a while, a lot of late night crying and desperate searches for queer representation in the media so that I had someone to relate to, but eventually I found myself growing more comfortable under my own skin. I still had a problem with labels, but at least I wasn't terrified over the prospect of being anything but straight. And sometimes it's the small victories that matter the most; some people go their whole life without worrying over their identity, others wake up every day terrified. I was neither of these people, and fortunately I was born in an environment that allowed me to have comfortable (if occasionally queerphobic) spaces in which I could come to terms with who I am.
With time I fluctuated between saying I was bisexual, pansexual, sexually fluid. I came out to my friends, leaving behind the ones who refused to understand and growing closer to those who smiled, nodded, and said it was okay. Life was improving a great deal, but I was still uncomfortable with my labels and terrified of telling my family. I had met a girl whom I absolutely adored, and was fortunate enough that she liked me back. We communicated - she knew that I was not in the right place to be in a relationship, and though I knew that we could be great together, I also knew that it would incredibly unfair to introduce her to a life of sneaking around and never meeting the family. How could I expect her to like every part of me if I didn't even know what certain parts of me really were? Although the discussion and ultimate not-breakup was painful, the supportive friendship that she had given me was a huge factor in me pushing myself to figure out who I was.
One of the difficult things about our society is that the world is so concerned with fitting people into neat little boxes. Gay, bisexual, pansexual, straight? Awesome, there is always a box for you. I don't fit neatly into any of those boxes. A few months ago I was toying with the idea of being a grey-sexual hetero-demiromantic, homosexual-romantic... you can probably see why that didn't last long. There are so many labels out there, and while they're so incredibly helpful for queer people who are still figuring out their identity, many of them did nothing but confuse me and make me feel inadequate for not having myself figured out. The only things I knew for certain were that I was definitely sexually and romantically attracted to women, and that my younger self had been romantically attracted to men.
After one drunken night out with friends, I decided it would be a wonderful idea to write 'bisexual and proud' on my bar crawl t-shirt. What's University for, if not taking leaps of faith? Unfortunately the pictures ended up online and my family had quite a few questions for me. Namely, 'please tell me this is a joke'. After an incredibly awkward conversation with one family member, I ended up confirming her theory before locking myself in the bathroom of my student house and crying until two very dear housemates found me. Later, another family member told me that no matter what it meant, they were proud of me and would support me no matter what. Mixed responses weren't what I imagined when I fantasised about coming out to my family, but knowing that there was a support system in place for when I finally found myself was incredibly relieving. Until, of course, that very same family member had one glass of wine too many and told me that he doesn't 'mind you being a lezzer for a while, Dani, as long as you marry a man'. Evidently there's still some work to be done there.
Although my family's comments hurt immensely, I'm fully aware they could have been so much worse. Their phobic remarks to sexual minorities, however, only spurred me on to learn so much more. I want very much for my own children to come home one day, tell me they like a person in their class and know that regardless of gender and sexual identity, I will support them without pause. The past few weeks I have known that, at least at this moment in time, 'bisexual' is not the right label for me. Despite previous confusions, I completely believe that sexual fluidity is a viable option. If not currently, then maybe one day. It has taken a very long time, years of development and personal growth, but I think I am finally at a stage in my life where I know who and what I am. I am a queer woman in a society that attempts to uphold archaic binary structures.
Queer is a label that is evidently suggestive of a sexual minority without holding connotations of personal preference. Queer is a label that the LGBTQ+ community have successfully reclaimed. Queer is a label that I am finally comfortable with using to define me. I hope that any person reading this who is going through the same struggle I did has found a small amount of comfort in these words. I hope that if you take anything away from this, you take away the message that you are not alone. It's okay to be unsure of labels, it's certainly okay to mix and match, and change your mind. It's okay to let yourself be happy.
Maybe one day I'll update you on the status of my family, and whether or not I've managed to convince them that I'm happy, and most importantly that who I am is not strange. But for now? Now i'm going to love myself, and accept that who I am is a person I really don't want to, nor should want to, change. We are all the way we are for one beautiful reason, and that is the fact that there is nobody in this entire world who can live your life better than you. Only you can craft your own future; make sure it's a good one.