Being an eighteen year old college freshman lacking self-identity can be, well, frustrating. Walking along sidewalks or helping customers throughout your day of minimum wage slavery can be complicated when you wonder, "Am I attracted to her or him? Maybe both?"
I always assumed sexuality was one of the simpler things in life -- something one simply "knew" and instinctively understood. Yet, I have begun to realize that sexuality is a much more complex issue, and I did not come packaged with that instant understanding.
I have memories of leaning against the fence in the sixth or perhaps the seventh grade with my best friend. This was "our spot," a place I will always remember vividly, where we spoke together about this and that. I remember one day, standing at that fence alone, and crying. As I felt the tears stream from my cheeks, I murmured, "I'm different." This was the moment that marked the beginning of my sexual confusion that, though lessened, still remains today. The issue became buried after that moment. I was always good at that -- shutting away those thoughts that haunted me. I remember very few instances when I thought of this "difference" again until I reached the tenth grade, and I was introduced to a word that described this difference: homosexual.
I learned what being gay was, and I was certain that could not be me. Me? Gay? No, that wasn't me. Being gay seemed like some exotic idea that existed outside of my small world. Yet, I began to see what a part of my world this idea was.
I expressed my confusion to a friend, a girl I had heard of year before that I knew was bisexual. I told her I had something to tell her, and after days of avoiding her, I finally told her that I didn't think I was heterosexual. She smiled, put an arm around me, and comforted me. She was part of the "freak clan," a group of rebels that I never seemed to be able to fit in with. She, as it turns out, was just as confused as I was, which didn't help. I decided to put a label on my feelings. I was always prone to adopting labels. I chose "bisexual." It seemed to fit at the time. I was energized by my new sense of self, and I told everyone. I even began dating a girl for the first time.
I was a naïve girl. I didn't see that not everyone would be so excited about my newfound self. People I thought I trusted were not quite so trustworthy, and before I knew it, my sexuality was a hot topic. I had suddenly become a vicious, lesbian slut, who slept with many a female from both high schools in our area, though I had yet to kiss a girl. I was paralyzed by fear. Everyone knew! I had even tried to tell my mother of my new self-realization, but she simply dismissed it as confusion, stating that I had developed in a "heterosexual way" and that bisexuality was not real. I was devastated. My short relationship with my first girlfriend came to an end. I broke up with her, not wanting to wrap her up in my confusion. She was deeply hurt, and we never really spoke again. So, as I had before, I locked the issue away, swore to all my friends that I must have been confused, and hid in the shadows for the remainder of my sophomore year.
My eleventh grade year began, and I was energized and ready to start again. I had hoped that the rumors about me would be mostly "yesterday's news," and I could begin again. This hope was mostly a reality, though I was still known in some circles as "that gay girl." I began again -- a straight girl. I even had a boyfriend that year. Most of my other boyfriends in years past had only lasted a week at most, because after a short time, I found them dull or even sickening and broke myself out of the relationship. My current boyfriend was one of my best friends, and I was determined to make it work and not let that icky feeling that plagued my other relationships with men conquer this one. We talked about my sexuality once, since he had been one of the first I had told. I swore to him that it was a dreadful mistake and that I regretted it. I wanted him to approve of me. I wanted someone to love me.
It was great at first, being the girl with the boyfriend several girls wanted. He was my first kiss. I was sixteen, about to be seventeen, and I had never kissed anyone, not with my tongue involved. We kissed, and it was odd really. I didn't like it that much, but I knew he did. He was the first person to touch me, which I enjoyed, though my eyes were shut tightly through most of it. We never had sex, and our encounter never went below the waist. After that night, he disconnected from me, and our relationship was over in exactly three weeks. As I look back, I remember that feeling, that icky feeling surfacing, though I pushed it away. I wanted things with him to work. The whole ordeal was very emotional, and it took me almost a year to come to terms with it. We never really spoke again. I couldn't face him after that. I felt inadequate -- the first person who had seen my body ran. Sheesh.
Since that relationship, I haven't dated men really. I've gone out with a few, and though they wanted to start a relationship, I never wanted to. There wasn't any attraction there. I looked at myself and realized how much of myself I was censoring to gain acceptance. By the end of my eleventh grade year, I was ready to begin to face my sexuality.
I worked throughout that summer. My self-exploration was mostly a mental-based journey. No one (and I mean NO ONE) knew. It was quite frustrating. I was trying to fit into some label: lesbian or straight. Bisexuality was not an option in my mind, because my mother, being a key figure and inspiration in my life, had told me it wasn't real. I still thought it could be real, but I didn't want to be something my mother didn't approve of. At least she thought being a lesbian was at least a real state of being. I was thrown into turmoil. Who was I?
I began my senior year, certain that I would have no romantic excursions. It was my senior year, and I knew what college I planned to attend, which was three hours away. I planned to spend all my time with friends and not worry about romance. That could come later. I also planned to better understand myself -- specifically my sexuality -- but I wanted to do this internally without involving others. Then, I met her.
She (who we will call Jen) was new to school, ravishingly beautiful and captivating. Jen was gorgeous, but I was certain she was straight. So, I just pursued her as a friend. She was super chatty, loved movies, and was quite elegant. I was drooling over her. Then, something happened. It was Halloween, and I was going out with a friend in her new Mustang. I invited Jen along, and she accepted. Another friend joined us (we'll call her Tina). There were the four of us. Jen was the only person in the car not identifying alternatively as far as sexuality was concerned. (I deemed myself label-free!) Jen was spending the night at Tina's house that night. And that night, Jen had her first lesbian experience, and she and Tina have been together since then.
I was devastated. I was completely infatuated with Jen, and now she was at least bisexual and not with me?! She told me later that if I had been upfront with her, it could have been me. Less than a month later, we were in my room, and I said that I always wanted to "figure things out" with a close friend. We've "worked on figuring things out" a total of five times to date. It certainly wasn't the best thing -- being intimate with the girlfriend of one of my friends. I regret it, but it happened. The end.
So, here I am today, beginning college within the month of August, and still unsure of myself. I guess the social pressure to label myself adds to my confusion. I'm learning, though, that my self-identity is what matters, not my identity to the outside world. I've begun to look within for answers versus looking around me. I've learned that lesbian or bisexual could apply to me, and that's okay. I've learned that I am a work in progress.
Bio: Calliope is an 18 year old label-free college student living in Tennessee and planning to double major in journalism and photography. She can be reached at email@example.com