Born this Way?

 

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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!

 

Mansplaining.

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I’m single right now.  Single enough that I sometimes frequent online dating apps, despite the peril and the ridiculousness involved.

I’m also queer.

This is the term I use to self identify my sexual orientation.  Key word being “self” identify.

Recently, I’ve been hoping to meet another woman or anyone who doesn’t identify as a cisgender man.  I haven’t met anyone.  There are fewer people online who are also not straight, and so today I switched my profile to show me everyone (men and women).

I messaged briefly with this guy, he seemed interesting and apparently we were a 92% match.  That was BEFORE the train wreck of mansplaining that derailed the conversation.

Dude: What’s the difference between bisexual and queer?

Me: It’s just another word for not straight. I’d be open to dating any gender, including trans folks, so bisexual doesn’t seem to quite fit and I just like that way of self identifying.  It seems to fit.

Dude: Isn’t that pansexual?

Me: (silently thinking is this actually happening?)  Yes, that’s true. pansexual, but I identify more with queer. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it gives a decent explanation of it:

Because of the context in which it was reclaimed, queer has sociopolitical connotations and is often preferred by those who are activists—namely, by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities; reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight; or see themselves as oppressed by the homonormativity of the politics of the broader “gay” or “LGBT” community. In this usage, queer retains its historical connotation of “outside the bounds of normal society” and can be construed as “breaking the rules for sex and gender”. It can be preferred because of its ambiguity, which allows queer-identifying people to avoid the sometimes rigid boundaries that are associated with labels such as “gay”, “lesbian”, or even “transgender

….so… I like it for those reasons.

Dude:  I get that but, assuming the purpose is to indicate who you’re (sexually) attracted to, selecting “queer” seems unnecessarily vague. Especially given that queer could meant that you’re gay, bisexual, pansexual or everything in between.

Me:  That’s what it means..and that’s okay.

Dude: silence

What the actual f#@k just happened?  This complete stranger,who I’d known for about 5 minutes online, decided that my sexual orientation was “unnecessarily vague” and that he knew a better word (pansexual) for me to use to define myself more clearly.

This is a terrible example of mansplaining and oppression rolled into one.

In my experience, folks choose words to define themselves based on how they feel and how they want to express themselves.  The words marginalized groups use to define themselves are important, and often have historical or political significance.  Nobody has the right to tell someone else that their identity is incorrect or inconvenient.

This is the type of binary thinking which problematically excludes so many people.  People don’t just exist in boxes: gay or straight, man or woman, black or white, disabled or able bodied and so on.  There are beautiful spectrums of folks in this world, people who identify all along those spectrums and don’t identify with binary concepts.  Self identification doesn’t exist for the convenience of others.

When it comes from outside it’s a label and labels are for jars, not people.  When it comes from inside, self identification can be liberating and empowering.

Please, ask questions from a place of curiosity if you do not understand a word or concept.  Better yet, educate yourself first.  That’s what google is there for!  But don’t assume that you know a better, more accurate or clearer word for someone to use to define their own lived experience.  It’s not cool, it’s oppressive and it is certainly not attractive.