I came out as gay to my mother on a Post-it Note, which I hurriedly smacked on the front door as I left for school one morning. I was 16, and it felt so definitive. I remember forcing myselfnot to turn around, walk back, and do away with that note before my mother woke up.
That was it.
From then on, only men would truly arouse my feelings. In my mind, I had it all planned: I would fall in love with several men, marry one, and, when the time was right, adopt kids with him (a girl and a boy, of course). Despite the intense nausea I experienced out of nervousness for the rest of the day, my future prospects seemed set in stone. Except for one small detail: I had feelings for a girl.
She was a year older than me and a very close friend of mine. She was an avid reader—tearing through 100-plus books a year—and had impeccable taste in music. I had signed up for Goodreads and Spotify (both of which I still regularly use) just so I could understand her preferences. We had gone from acquaintances to friends so quickly that the only reason for that is that I was just too eager to be a part of her life.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't tell my mom I was gay just for kicks. At that time, I also had feelings for a guy (also a year older than me, but not at all an avid reader). My attraction to him was overwhelmingly physical, while the girl had more of an intellectual grip on me. I found her absolutely stunning, but with him, I felt weak. I caught myself daydreaming about him during class, lost sleep thinking about his eyes and his *cough* chest *cough*, and had one or two very lucid dreams about him.
Knowing all of that, it seemed logical at the time to assume that I was homosexual. After all, I was pretty sure I was only sexually attracted to men. Maybe I was biromantic, or maybe I just loved one of my best friends so much that I thought I was in love with her. Anyway, I decided I would deal with the romantic aspect later; right then and there, I needed to make a statement for my future life. Don't they say we find out if we're gay in high school? I did, didn't I? It was about time I revealed that to all those close to me.
I think my eagerness to live up to that revelation resulted in me suppressing my feelings for the girl. When the end of that year came and she graduated, I attended her prom as a great friend with absolutely no other intention. It still took me a while to get over the guy, and when I finally did, I had met several other interesting gay men. I felt comfortable in that space. As I began to explore more, the prospect of being in a heterosexual relationship shifted from "Why not?" to unlikely to absolutely inconceivable when, right after graduating from high school, I was kissed by a girl at a party. It felt so wrong.
That is why, when I found myself falling for a woman again, I had a crisis. It was my first year, and I went into JJ's at 3 p.m. to grab a snack with a friend. I sat down with her, and she introduced me to a girl I had never seen. At first, I thought she talked a lot, but I always found what she had to say to be important. I was amazed and a bit overwhelmed by her knowledge, but I did my best to keep up with the conversation. She smiled with her eyes and laughed with intention. And man, was she gorgeous. I left JJ's three hours later, instead of the 30 minutes I had planned.
Over the next few months, I went through a great deal of questioning. Not only did I question my attraction to the girl; I also questioned whether I'd be good enough to be with women at all. As a man used to being with other men, there is so much in terms of civility, respect, and understanding that we don't practice (Yes, I'm talking about you, the gay male community!). And then there was the physical aspect: Although I felt completely physically attracted to her, I was afraid of letting her down for not fulfilling certain expectations she might have of me.
The story of my infatuation with this woman is too long and private for me to share with all of you strangers, and also not the point of this piece. The point is, if you've ever dismissed the sentence "Sexuality is a spectrum," I'd say to give it some more thought. What I can say from my experience is that I don't think I will ever know for sure where I am on the Kinsey scale, and I'm fine with that. Throughout my youth, I have learned, unlearned, and learned again how to see myself romantically in relation to women.
Lately, the queer community at Columbia has helped me scrutinize these issues more closely. The openness of queer students here makes it easier to rethink my own stereotypical views on sexuality. I am now on an internal journey to reconstruct my own notions of heteroromantic and heterosexual relationships. I am taking the time to fight my expectations around gender roles in these relationships and valuing my degree of femininity while not letting it discourage me from being with women. If that makes me bi, so be it. It also makes me happier.
The author is a junior in CC double-majoring in political science and Latin American and Caribbean studies. He believes in the power of self-discovery and advises everyone to doubt their own assumptions of themselves every once in a while. If you want to reach out to him with thoughts on this piece, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.