I once feared I was a straight woman liable to use queer women to get away from men. Turns out I’m actually a queer woman myself.
A Netflix thumbnail photo of a leather-clad, sword-wielding Xena kicked off my journey of questioning my sexuality, in 2016. But that journey was drawn out by overthinking – particularly, I fixated on the idea that my “sudden” interest in women was just a product of my experience with men. I felt like a fraud, and I feared hurting queer women with ingenuine exploration.
After all, at the time, I was disappointed that I’d had too many unsatisfying sexual encounters with men, and that I hadn’t even gotten relationships out of them. I was sick of being single, and had even made the “I’ll turn lesbian” joke a few times over the years, when things didn’t work out with one guy or another. Underlying that joke was an enduring loneliness, and since I knowingly felt that at the same time as my curiosity about women, I couldn’t help thinking those two things were connected. I wouldn’t feel authentically queer until I knew that they weren’t.
But so many questions filled my head. Was I just desperate? Were my sexual encounters with men unsatisfying because I wasn’t actually straight? If I had enjoyed some encounters, doesn’t that mean I couldn’t be queer? Do straight girls think this hard about experimenting? Do they only talk about it, and never act, so if I acted on it, that would make me definitively queer? What would it mean if I did have a positive experience with a woman, but had only tried out of frustration with men?
Never mind that I could like sex with both men and women, or that queerness isn’t only defined by physical experiences. I wasn’t thinking about nuance. I was relying on my sexual past to give me a binary conclusion that yes, if things had been better with men, I wouldn’t be thinking of women. This notion mired me in uncertainty about my identity, which I didn’t escape until I lost one woman, and met another.
I met the first at a queer event in 2018. She had curly brown hair and a warm smile. We hit it off and stayed in touch. But when the texts stopped coming, I suspected it was because I’d presented uncertainty and she’d bolted for fear of being played by a straight girl. After all, I didn’t flirt as explicitly as I always had with men, and throughout our interaction, the possibility that I was indeed misleading her lingered in my mind.
However, a few months later, I decided if I didn’t fully explore my potential queerness, I would languish in confusion. Sure enough, soon after that decision, during another queer event, I found myself sitting on a couch talking through the night with a brown-haired femme in a floral dress. In a wordless moment, she intertwined her hand with mine. It set off a wave of enlightenment through my body that shattered every remaining doubt about my bisexuality. Right then, I let go of that notion that my unsatisfying dynamic with men was driving my interest in women. I simply liked both men and women, period.
But to this day, I wonder how I could have gotten that clarity sooner. Maybe I should have trusted that queer women can distinguish straight women vacationing from men from baby queers working toward self-realization. I should have at least trusted myself. Deep down, I knew my intentions were pure.
There were signs of my bisexuality long before I laid eyes on Xena on Netflix, and regardless, I am conscientious enough to have found a way to explore my curiosity with queer women without exploiting them. I just let my overthinking – and maybe internalized heteronormativity – get in the way. I hope others can avoid the same. Don’t let your hetero past keep you from your queer truth. Be careful with others’ hearts, but don’t be afraid to explore— to figure out what’s right for yours.