Questioning my identity was a long process through my late teenage years and continued up until fairly recently. And although I always expect to self-reflect on my identity, it’s no longer out of fear. Instead, it’s out of love and pride. (1/5).
I’ve written about my identity and label swaps here about a year ago, which you can read here. This post isn’t just about the labels. It’s the identity behind it, the feeling of molding my identity to fit a label when I was less sure than I am now, and navigating identity through queer discourse. This exploration touches on all my labels—even the ones I briefly considered but never used. (Post 1 of 5.)
My first conscious thoughts of not straight happened in my first year in college when I was 18. I might’ve had thoughts about being gay before this, but they were impulse inner comments and nothing I ever took seriously. I’d never considered the possibility until I began getting involved in fandom culture for Orphan Black, a show with a few LBGTQ characters. I quickly realized that almost every person I talked to through the show was also LGBTQ. As a naturally introspective person, I started carefully observing my own thoughts.
But the evidence wasn’t in thoughts at all. It never was. And maybe that’s partly why it took me so long to figure out. The evidence was in my heightened heart rate when the women onscreen kissed. It came through my sweaty palms when I sat next to a certain girl in class and shared the snacks I always brought with me. It settled in my stomach and swarmed butterflies that rose to my throat anytime a certain girl replied to my messages.
For much of the second semester in the school year 2014-15, a fear followed me everywhere because suddenly, I’d become acutely conscious of all these things for the first time. It developed into an obsessive over-examination of every present thought and every action in my past, from my sideline cheers for every extra-curricular activity a friend in high school got involved with to my incessant need to impress a grade-school teacher. Was this because–?
The marking point for all this self-investigation, between the past and the real-me, happened at the very end of university’s freshman year. The last question on a voluntary school-wide survey that asked, “What is your sexual orientation?” I didn’t know the answer. After that, I sought to find it.
Looking to Tumblr for identity labels
My small and conservative-minded hometown offered very little information on the LGBTQ community from my teenage years and had no examples that I’d been aware of at the time, likely another factor for my lengthy self-closeted period. With online resources, I built a mind-library for all the possibilities, which seemed endless. Learning about identities and labels and facets of the LGBTQ community required wading waist-deep into largely controversial queer discourse from every letter, most of which are still around today and still cause the same controversies.
I began all of this queer soul-searching on Tumblr in a queer circle that promoted an all-inclusive attitude for every member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Here, I’d been encouraged to play with labels, to bend labels, to expand labels, to change labels. It was an attitude that—at the time—I needed. I was learning what it meant to be me and scared of not knowing who I was. Yet, it had been precisely this environment that made me unsure of my identity and pushed my obsessive self-examination even further.
This series will explore the labels I’d considered for myself throughout this journey with short posts all next week. (Monday: Asexuality. Tuesday: Bisexuality. Thursday: Romantic/sexual labels and queer. Friday: Lesbian.)