This hasn’t been an easy post to write. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder for a while now as I go through the exploration process of figuring out my identity.
Before I hit puberty I figured I was a normal enough girl. A little behind in the physical growth department, a bit of a tomboy, a bit of a nerd–yay science!–but other than that, I was normal.
I had to be normal. If I didn’t fit in I was wrong. So to be right I had to be like everyone else around me.
That mindset thoroughly screwed me up when puberty hit.
My emotions didn’t cooperate with me. I was moody but I didn’t want to be “that moody girl” which made me even more moody (go figure). I had crushes on boys that were rarely reciprocated, and though I desperately wanted those feelings to be reciprocated, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with a boyfriend. Hold hands and get lots of hugs, maaaaybe kiss. That was it. (FYI, I’m a hug fiend. I’ll take ALL THE HUGS.)
I also had raging impostor syndrome. If I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t good enough. If I wasn’t getting As, I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was told I was smart. I had to live up to those expectations. But trying as hard as I did, working as hard as I did, meant lots of stress and anxiety and sleep-deprived nights and randomly crying at my friends’ houses over the dumbest things. Plus, I always wondered what about me might get anyone to like me (as a person, not romantically) and whenever I felt like I wasn’t living up to the expectations of “a good friend” I thought I was failing at life and deserved to die and that’s enough of that memory lane.
(I had awesome times too. I had steadfast friends who somehow put up with all of this. But right now I’m focusing on the things that felt off or wrong.)
Some of my favorite memories are of times when I was one of the guys. Playing video games, throwing footballs, being the only girl or one of a scant few girls who could respond to sports trivia during a Battle of the Sexes match (I’m not going to go into my newfound issues with that game right now likjsdlfkjsdfg).
I also lived in the age when the Internet was becoming more of A Thing. My life changed when we got cable internet and no longer tied up the phone line to get online. Why? Because I discovered something I’d been Warned Against: chat rooms.
I won’t go into detail what happened in those chat rooms. You’re welcome to ask me about it in a private conversation though. (If relatives find my hidey hole in this corner of the internet, I don’t want them learning about it this way. This post is exposing enough as it is.) But I found some good friends there. I lost one to suicide. I was talked out of considering suicide myself.
And in those chat rooms I got my first hint that I might not be straight. (For example, they introduced me to fanfic and made me realize the silly stuff I wrote was fanfic too.)
That was high school. Fast forward to college and meeting my husband and getting a series of degrees (BS, MS, PhD). I didn’t think about my sexuality so much during those years–I fell in love with a man; look how straight I am!–but I still had a deep-seated, nagging sense of wrongness due to my femininity. Or, you know, lack thereof.
I’d longingly stare at the guys’ section when I went into Macy’s or Old Navy or wherever to find clothes. (I still do.) I deliberately bought shorts that went down to my knees and were practically the female version of cargo shorts (good grief were those hard to find sometimes). I wanted to buy guys’ button-up tops because the ones made for women either hung too loosely or had the hey-your-boobs-don’t-fit issue. I wanted to look like the models who wore the shirts. I never could.
I still remember a time in high school when I was waiting outside the counselor’s office to ask a question about my schedule. A friend of mine saw me and stopped by to chat. We were having a friendly conversation, yet I couldn’t help but notice how his eyes kept straying to my chest. It made me profoundly uncomfortable. “My eyes are up here!” and all that.
Ever since that moment I’ve had a see-saw relationship with women’s shirts. Do I get the v-neck or not? Do I want guys to stare at my chest or not? I wanted guys’ attention but did I want that kind of attention?
No, I really, really didn’t. I wanted to be a person first, a maybe-once-we’re-good-friends-and-we-both-like-each-other-we-can-do-physical-stuff second. Or third. Or fourth.
I was pretty sure I wanted sex. Eventually. I loved characters getting together in books and movies and whatnot. I wanted that for myself at some point. But I didn’t want it with just anyone, and I had a hard time understanding the people around me who would talk about wanting to sleep with Such and Such celebrity or So and So classmate or whoever. I’d talk like I was on the same page as them–and believe me, my mind is a dirty one–but I knew I would never act on what I said.
Many of you reading this can see where I’m going at this point, but it wasn’t until recently I had a word for it. “Demisexual.” Not broken, not stupid, not prude, just someone who wants the emotional connection before the physical one.
Okay, so there’s facet one of my identity. Facet two came to fruition when I finished the first draft of my first novel. It featured a lesbian MC, and writing her was the most cathartic experience I’d had (up to that point). But I laughed at myself. I liked guys. I couldn’t possibly be identifying with her. I was writing her as a lesbian because she was a lesbian and couldn’t be any other way.
Lots of soul-searching and reading and writing a second novel (and joining Twitter) later, I accepted the fact that I’m biromantic. Another label that wrapped around me like a warm blanket saying “Welcome home.”
After the euphoria of discovering that wore off, I still felt incomplete. Sure, part of it was from self-doubt: I was married to a guy, was I really queer? (Thankfully the Twitter community validated the hell out of me and continues to do so to this day.)
So back to the soul searching, the reading, the writing.
My current WIP features a biromantic/demisexual female MC. It also has a nonbinary character. The words weren’t flowing, so I started writing some scenes in first person from the nonbinary character’s perspective.
Words exploded onto the page. Snark, personality, biases and preferences and idiosyncrasies.
Okay, step back, this can’t be happening, I can’t be identifying with this agender character like I am.
I looked in the mirror one day last week and mouthed the word “nonbinary.” I looked at myself as a female and then as a person not quite female.
I liked my reflection a lot better when I saw her as not quite female.
I played a game of horseshoes this weekend. They had marks set up for women players, a shorter distance, but I threw from where the men threw. I wasn’t good at it, but it felt good to claim the position I felt should be mine rather than the position assigned to me by my physical gender.
It felt right.
So there’s the other facet of my identity. I’m biromantic, demisexual, and nonbinary but mostly female. Good grief it feels amazing to type those words and claim them as mine. I’m still claiming she/her pronouns, but I certainly don’t–can’t–identify as 100% cis female.
One day I might say “panromantic” instead because I’m hugely binary-averse right now, but it’s also a freaking huge step for me to claim a nonbinary gender in any sense of the word, so I’ll cling to the still-somewhat-new-to-me biromantic label until I’m more comfortable with all these changes.
Hi, world. This is who I am. It’s nice to see you as me.