Until recently, I thought I was straight.
I still am straight. Well, kind of straight. Mostly straight. On the Kinsey scale, I’m probably a 1, or possibly a 2. But for most of my life, I thought I was a 0.
For most of my life, I thought I was the default. I was what everyone told me I was: straight and cisgender. I liked girls, I was teased about girls, I talked about girls with my friends, and most of my sexual/physical/romantic experiences were with girls.
But not all of them.
I had a handful of sexual/physical/romantic experiences that didn’t involve girls. They involved boys.
But I never saw myself as gay. After all, I liked girls. A lot. There was no mistaking that. Heck, I’m not sure, looking back now, that I really understood what “gay” even meant. I don’t think I knew any gay people. I mean, I had gay classmates in high school, but I was so oblivious to what “gayness” was that I had no idea they were gay until several years after graduation.
As time went on and I grasped what “gay” meant, I still never saw myself as gay—as I said—because I was still very much attracted to women. But those experiences—as memories—occasionally surfaced, requiring me to rationalize them somehow, while still being true to the performance society, religion, and family expected of me. And the only explanation I could ever concoct was that they were nothing more than experimentation: youthful frolicking, uninhibited by mores. Each time the memories returned, I swept them under the rug, justifying them as undefining experiments.
Yet I never gave thought to why I thought that the experiences I had with boys were experiments but not the ones I had with girls.
I was 21 when I got married, so I never had same-sex experiences as an adult. My sexual experiences as an adult have been almost exclusively with Mary, and so heterosexual. Which made it easy to continue to dismiss some of the experiences of my youth. I’ve been in a straight relationship for over 25 years, and that relationship has defined my own sexuality significantly. Who I am sexually today is so intertwined with my relationship with Mary. After all, I’ve been married to her for most of my life. And what awareness I had of my own sexuality prior to my marriage was only a few short years. Less than a decade, really.
Today, I try to exercise fidelity to Mary. As part of that, I try to control how I look at other women, trying to avoid seeing them as someone to be attracted to. And while occasionally, I’ve had to do the same thing with men, it was never the same. If attractive men crossed my path, I never found their presence a threat to my fidelity to Mary, but rather a threat to my sexuality. I shook off the attractions not to protect my devotion to my marriage, but to protect the sexual role I had been assigned by my society, church, and family.
And since they rarely occurred, I rarely thought much about them.
As someone who’s interested in strength training, I’ve watched a tonne (get it?) of weight lifting videos. And plenty of times, I looked longingly at the bodies of the men in those videos. But I always thought it was admiration I felt. Their bodies were what I wanted mine to be like, how I wanted to look. But now, I wonder if that admiration wasn’t actually admiration after all, but something more.
Recently, for some reason, all of this has been on my mind. The experiences of my youth, the occasional attractive man, the weightlifting videos, and all the other ways—as infrequent as they are—that men have interacted with my sexual self. All of it.
For some reason, I finally realized that the experiences of my youth weren’t fleeting experiments. They were foundational experiences. Both experiences I had with girls and experiences I had with boys. I finally realized that these weren’t experiments; they were expressions. In all cases, I was expressing my sexuality.
So where does this realization leave me now?
Well, I’m not straight. But I’m not gay. And I don’t really see myself as bisexual.
So, I guess, like I said at the outset, I’m kind of straight. Mostly straight. But not just straight.
Since I’m still very much attracted to women, nothing changes for my marriage. I’m still attracted to Mary physically, romantically, sexually. Like I said, so much of my sexual self is intertwined with my life with her. I’m more attracted to her today than I was 25 years ago. So functionally, not much changes.
Except I guess I have some things to work through.
Like how do I, as a queer person, confront the homophobia of my past? How do I deal with the ways I internally dismissed attraction to other men with disgust rather than fears of infidelity? Now that I finally acknowledge my complex sexuality, how do I accept it? How do I embrace it? And how much does it ultimately matter?
You might also be interested in my article Conversion therapy isn’t the only way we force others to be straight, which explores my experiences growing up in a heternormative society and how I internalized those experiences.