A question that I get asked a LOT when I disclose to people that I’m queer is:
“Were you always attracted to women or do you think is it a result of your trauma?”
I find myself wondering what the answer is. Was I born this way? Or did I become less and less attracted to cisgender men as a result of experiences of sexual assault? Does it matter? And why do other people care about the “cause” of my sexual orientation? Is it really anyone else’s business?
Is my sexual orientation any less valid if I wasn’t born this way?
As a result of recent world events, I find myself feeling less self confident and proud of being queer. I’m afraid that it might make me more of a target, or be perceived as more different. I already feel like I don’t fit in, and being queer sometimes feels like one more way that I’m not “normal.”
I came out gradually to people in my life after 3 decades of living the straight lifestyle. I bought into the “straight agenda” of heteronormativity. Grow up, get married, have children, live happily ever after. But it didn’t turn out that way for me. After dating men for my entire adult life, and after being in a serious relationship/marriage with a man for 13 years, I was single and I had the freedom to explore what not being straight might mean.
I honestly don’t know if I was born this way. Because as a young person, I don’t think I even knew or understood that being gay was an option for me. I did know a few gay guys, but I didn’t know any gay women (or at least I thought I didn’t!). I don’t remember ever having a conscious thought that dating women was something I could explore. I don’t remember NOT being attracted to women, I just remember it not being on my radar. Does this mean I wasn’t born this way? Or does it represent a lack of knowledge that I could explore options other than the heterosexual path.
I have survived a lot of sexual violence perpetrated by men. Because of this I have flashbacks and triggers related to men. There is no doubt that experiencing sexual trauma at a young age impacted my sexuality. But did it “turn me gay?” And again, does it matter?
For me, neither answer rings true. I wasn’t 100% born this way, and it wasn’t entirely trauma either. Most of all, I don’t think it’s important to figure out exactly why, in my 30s, I came out and identified as a queer woman. Maybe for some people there isn’t a clear path. Maybe for some people sexuality is fluid and develops across a life span. I don’t think it makes me any less queer just because I came to the realization in my 30s.
I do know that when I identified as straight, nobody ever questioned me about it. Nobody ever asked me if I was “born that way.” Nobody asked if I’d been abused by women and thus was only attracted by men! Hetero-privilege means that you don’t get questioned about your sexuality.
I do know that my sexual orientation isn’t a choice. It’s not something I can ignore and it’s not something I’m ashamed of. Whatever the reason, I’m not straight. And as much as I’d sometimes like to return to my hetero-privilege, I can’t. Once you come out of the closet, you can’t shove yourself back in there.
I’m here, I’m queer and I’m made this way!