This is it, for now: I’m mostly attracted to women but can be and have been attracted to men as well. Depending on mood, time or weather conditions, it feels like I’m somewhere in-between heterosexual and bisexual (you could say I have a Kinsey score of 1-2). I have no idea what term(s) I should use to describe my sexual orientation(s), and I really don’t know how I’ll feel about my sexuality and desires and the whole self-labelling thing in the future. The future is an open question. It’s dizzying sometimes. Yet I am not lost: I am very much fine.
It’s the first time I formally write about this stuff, but it doesn’t feel like writing a coming-out piece (I guess), for a bunch of reasons:
- I’m really at peace with my desires, and mostly at peace with not knowing how they might evolve in the future.
- I don’t feel like I’ve been in any kind of closet. Well, not on that topic. Granted, being closer to the “straight” end of the spectrum helps.
- I believe that sexuality is not binary (straight/gay), and that it’s not even one-dimensional (the Kinsey scale is an over-simplification for statistical purposes). Sexuality and sexual orientation are multidimensional and hard to grasp, let alone to define. The very notion of sexual “orientation” feels wrong to begin with — human beings don’t have built-in compasses for desire!
So yeah, it feels like “coming out” doesn’t apply here. I happen to believe — or at least I’ve been toying with that idea and it feels right to me — that human beings are pansexual by nature, and that more restricted sexual orientations happen through culture and education and example. That we unconsciously choose — sometimes very early on in our lives — to follow a given model of sexuality and sexual orientation, or rebel against it, or look for something different. Maybe I’m wrong. I can’t prove this idea and I know that it makes many people flinch. But for now this is what I’ll go with, and I’ll just add one thing: nobody has to be pansexual or bisexual if they don’t want to. Even I don’t have to: my mind might be pansexual, but I won’t force my feelings and body to catch up with it.
And yet, this is a coming-out article after all. Because I’m not alone in the world with my ideas and beliefs to live by. Because an awful lot of people believe that any homosexual act or desire is a sin. Because people close to my heart believe that homosexual desires are a kind of neurosis. Because a lot of straight and gay people believe that you’re either one or the other, and that bisexuals are faking part of their desires or are just “in transition”. Because half of my friends and distant relatives believe, for a bunch of reasons, that I’m a closeted gay, which wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t for the binary thinking: you’re straight by default; unless, you know, you show some “signs”: then, you must be gay. Really?! Get a grip, your worldview is invalid!
So yeah: Coming Out, Part One. One of many, perhaps. Here’s a simple idea: sexuality is not binary and your sexuality is yours and doesn’t belong to some other person’s worldview. As long as this simple idea remains strange or even intolerable to so many people, it’s an idea that will have to come out, again and again. There will be speaking up to do and freedom of the mind to gain.
There’s one thing I’d like to add. It’s the story of how I came to feel that “bisexual” or “pansexual” are terms that might apply to me, if not now then maybe someday. It starts like this: I’ve known since my late teens that the idea of homosexual sex didn’t put me off. I mean, most guys I would talk with were like “I have nothing against homosexuals, but it’s not for me, yuck!” I wasn’t like that. A few years later, I knew that I actually had homosexual desires, though I felt that they were not as strong or frequent as my heterosexual desires. To myself and then to friends, I would say that I was 80 percent straight and 20 percent gay (a rough assessment that’s pretty much valid even today), but then I’d add: “well, but I’ve never been in love with a guy, only with girls, so I guess that settles it”. Basically I had no romantic attraction towards men.
In 2012, marriage equality became a hot topic in France, with the freshly elected president putting it on the political agenda. I was a gay-friendly feminist already, so I dived in. I read a lot of arguments for and against marriage equality, listened to a lot of testimonials and watched documentaries. I wrote a few articles (in favor, as you might guess). In the process I was exposed to many stories of homosexual couples and families, from personal accounts but also from works of fiction. Stories of love and companionship, the kind of story which had been almost exclusively heterosexual in my life until that point.
Then one day I was in my favorite café and there was this guy, roughly my age, who I thought was really cute. And I wondered if I could get to know him and how I could start conversation and whether he was into guys or not and that kind of things. I had a crush.
And then I knew. I knew that I might fall in love with a guy one day. That it might happen and that it would be okay (I guess?). And it wasn’t a “coming out to myself” moment, it didn’t erase or weaken my desires for women (romantic, sexual and more), or my desire to maybe have kids with a woman I love someday. It was just something that now existed in addition to everything else. Something which could go away or strengthen itself, who knows?
What I did know for sure at that moment: that culture shapes our desires and our lives. That not only our sexual orientations but also our romantic orientations and our life’s aspirations are shaped by the examples we see and the stories we tell. This is how we make sense of the world: we tell stories. I’ve been changed, even if only a little, by the stories told by many people, people who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or transexual and yes, straight too. And those small changes, well it’s the good kind of change.
I don’t know what the future will be like, but there’ll be a little bit more freedom in it.