Lesbian Visibility: Navigating the Uncertain Waters of Life and Sexuality

The title states, Lesbian Visibility Week. Navigating the uncertain waters of life and sexuality.

For Lesbian Visibility Week, A Lesbian and Her Laptop will be releasing a series of 8 lesbian guest posts all week long! This post by Shivy C. uncovers the difficulty of finding identity amidst past trauma and newfound love. Read all identity posts here.

From the time I was five, maybe six, I always found myself feeling uncertain in my femininity. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in my skin, per se, more so that I didn’t want to wear dresses, put my hair into bows, or–God forbid–wear pink. What my six-year-old self didn’t know, however, was that this was all linked to my sexuality.

There are vivid memories of countless weekends spent at my father’s house that flash through my mind when I think back to my childhood. His place was on the bay in Queens, New York. Most of  our time was spent on his little boat or at the nearby fishing dock. My daily wardrobe consisted of sweatpants and running shoes, and when our daily shenanigans came to an end, my father returned to his default state in the kitchen, bottle in hand. It was then that I found myself in his dark red recliner with the dog at my feet. 

Spice World played on a seemingly endless loop on the TV. Every time, I found my attention was always drawn to Sporty Spice. Sure, the others were all beautiful, badass, feminine feminist icons, but there was something different about Mel C. She was strong, athletic, and unashamed to dress how she wanted. She was an unconventional portrayal of what it meant to be a woman. In essence, she was who I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say my life continued to be normal. But it was at least as normal as it can be for anyone not living in a television show. Adolescence is a hard time for everyone. Between the ages of ten to thirteen, I experienced trauma that no one should have to, carried out by someone I knew and trusted. These experiences led to my questioning my sexual identity later in life. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was a genuine disconnect from sex or simply dealing with deep rooted trauma connected to my past sexual encounters. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t simple at all.

Dealing with trauma, especially at a young age, is hard for everyone. Not everyone can go to therapy or find healthy coping mechanisms. In the midst of some unhealthy ones, I found myself escaping, once again, through the screen.

When I was 14, I began watching Rizzoli & Isles, a show that follows a Boston PD detective as she navigates love, loss, and life. I would sit, curled into bed, my old Dell laptop in hand, and watch their usual procedural drama. Jane was never without her best friend, and the Chief Medical Examiner, Maura Isles, at her side. The pair shared great chemistry that hinted that they could possibly be more than just best friends. To my young, unknowingly closeted self, I saw two people that had each others backs no matter what, and would go to the ends of the Earth to protect the other. There was never a moment that I wasn’t thinking to myself “Huh… These two should date.”

It was around this same time that my best friend invited me to her church… I was introduced to the killer that is Catholic Guilt through the pastor’s fire and brimstone sermons on how homosexuality is a sin. He preached day in and day out that if you were gay, you were on the next express train to hell. I found myself, once again, in the midst of another crisis, with many nights spent lying awake in bed, unable to quiet the warring of my mind. Nights spent breaking down over these conflicting ideas floating around inside my head. I thought I might be asexual. I did a bit of research on what exactly this identity meant. After all, the traumas of the past had left me wanting no one to lay a finger on me. And with the threat of going to hell, this sounded like a win to me. I can’t go to hell if I don’t want to have sex with anybody, right?

It was a few years later in my church years that I met a boy. (Let’s call him Jackson.)  Like many American teenagers in the mid 2000’s, I had been a fan of Disney’s High School Musical. Jackson, in all his cuteness and charm, reminded me of Corbin Bleu’s character. He was funny and kind and wanted to be around me. He gave me the attention I had been so desperately craving. We dated off and on for about four years, all the while never doing more than holding hands. (Perhaps I should have recognized my raging lesbianism then, but I suppose I was still in Narnia, drinking tea with Mr. Tumnus.)

Jackson and I eventually went our separate ways and life moved on. It wasn’t until about a year or so later that I met her (we’ll call her Chloe) and really had my gay awakening. Chloe was the first girl I wanted to risk it all for. We met at a concert in April 2017, and were instant friends, as if we’d known each other our whole lives. She became one of the most important people in my life. At the time, we lived just a few towns away from one another in New York. She was the first out and proud LGBTQ+ person I had in real life, beyond the friendships of fandom Twitter. We hung out constantly. Not a weekend passed that we weren’t up late watching movies or cracking open bottles of wine while sitting on her living room floor. 

Chloe was the first person who made me feel really seen. She made me believe I was loved, and that I mattered for who I was. Chloe helped me understand that I didn’t have to be who everyone else wanted to be. As cliche as it sounds, I could see why people liked love songs after I met her. I did whatever I had to in order to be around her at every opportunity. I wanted nothing but to talk to her and try to soak up as much of the love and validation she gave me. I still don’t know if I even believe a word of it, but when she said these things to me, I felt like maybe, just maybe it could be true. 

Slowly but surely, I began to get more and more comfortable with my sexuality. Chloe helped me realize and accept that I was a lesbian. There was nothing hanging over me that said I had to be attracted to men, or that I was going to go to hell. It was almost effortless to be myself around her. Simply put, she helped me heal.

About a year after meeting Chloe, I knew something else had to give. I desperately needed a fresh start, as the pressure of hiding my truth any longer closed in around me like a ton of bricks. Chloe was with me through it all. She showed up time and time again. But it wasn’t enough. I needed out. 

In a last ditch effort, I packed my things into a suitcase and got on a plane headed to Los Angeles, my new adventure ahead of me. She drove me to the airport that morning. Through the tears and heartbreak, I knew things would be okay. This was my chance to breathe freely. This was my opportunity to break free from my chains and experience the life I was meant to live. It was my chance to be me.

The physical move away from the ghosts of my past gave me an opportunity to start over. A new home, new roommates, a new job. This was my new normal. As time went on and the days passed, I found comfort in my own skin. I was no longer afraid to speak up about who I was and who I was attracted to. The nights spent crippled by anxiety and fear faded into mornings spent breathing fresh air, letting my colors show to those around me. Day by day, I gained confidence and comfort in my sexuality. 

Discovering yourself can often feel like you’re drowning in the deep, dark waters of uncertainty. The questions around identity and sexuality are not things you find answers to overnight. It took years of learning, digging deep into the darkest depths myself. There is a lot to confront and move past to see myself as a human. To see myself as someone worthy of love and acceptance, not as an object of someone else’s use, is so freeing. I had to learn that being gay is okay, and realize that I’m not less than or broken because my journey wasn’t exactly conventional.

It’s been over two years since I got on that plane bound for a destination 3,000 miles from home, and I’ve never doubted my decision. There was nothing more freeing than admitting to myself and to the world that I am who I am. The walls are down, and the masks have been thrown away. My life is no longer an act, molding myself to the person others told me I had to be. There is nothing but light ahead of me. And I can proudly say that I am a lesbian.

Shivy is a disaster lesbian who drinks too much coffee and feels too many emotions. You can find her petting her dog or pretending she knows what she’s doing. You can follow Shivy on Twitter and send her a couple bucks to show your appreciation!

Consider donating $3 to AL&HL’s Ko-Fi page to support the blog!

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