Nine. That’s when you first realise it’s wrong. Your friends ask you, “Which boy do you want to kiss?” their answers ranging from the decent-looking boys (as decent as they get in third grade) to film actors. You nod, say the name of a boy you’re friends with, and end the conversation. Later that day, you realise that in your head, when you see yourself kissing someone, it’s not a boy; it’s a girl. An uncomfortable feeling settles in the pit of your stomach. The image is wrong, you tell yourself, you can’t kiss girls if you’re a girl. Only boys can kiss other girls.
You don’t think about it.
Ten. You’ve convinced yourself that you like this one boy, and that you’d like kissing him, and you’re happy because he’s not a girl. Yet, you can’t deny the part of you prefers girls, because when you’re trying to sleep, too tired to control coherent thought, you think about what you’ve been avoiding: you think about a girl’s body, you think about her touching you and you think about her skin, and then you can’t deny that it made you feel something, a weight in your chest that leaves the rest of your body hollow, this strange satisfaction that has you holding your breath. You don’t know what it means.
However, you assure yourself that it’s a phase, that you’d be willing to kiss a girl in college just to see how it feels, and that’s all it will be. An experiment. It won’t mean anything to you. You don’t want a girlfriend. You don’t like girls like that. You hit your head against a wall and tell yourself, “I don’t like girls like that.”
Eleven. You finally understand exactly what feminism and misogyny are now. You read about them on a blog, and come across this other acronym, this new acronym – ”LGBT”. You look it up and remember all those stories you’ve read earlier, cautiously hidden under the covers, stories about two girls falling in love and pleasing one another and kissing, and you don’t think about it.
Twelve. You realise you find a sense of belonging within “LGBT”. You also realise there’s much more to it than those four letters, there’s a “Q”, “I”, “A”, “P”, and “D” and so many others you’ve forgotten. One sticks out to you, though. The “B”. There was never any doubt that you liked boys — thanks to one Benedict Cumberbatch — and you were always glad you had that option, to feign what you considered normalcy. You learn it’s natural and normal to feel the way you feel about girls, but you don’t allow yourself that privilege. You’re convinced it’s minimal, an ephemeral feeling, and you will grow up to build your life with and around a boy, not a girl. But you take a liking towards this new identity. It makes you ‘different’. You like being different. You want to claim it as your own, but can’t find solace in it.
Thirteen. You choose to identify as bisexual, you like the word. Then, you like a girl. She’s smart, and funny, and you think she’s a good friend. You like her, you tell your friends you like her, and you tell her that you like her, too. She doesn’t feel the same way. It doesn’t matter. You like the word bisexual more — to the extent that you feel superior identifying with it. Your friends notice, but this urge to be different gets to your head. You’re bisexual and proud, you say, you’re ever so proud of it.
Fourteen. Things have changed. You’re different, mellowed, you’re not as loud and open about yourself. Your friends have changed, too. They notice the changes in you, but no matter what they say, you don’t open up to them. After weeks of prodding, you begin talking about how you were never comfortable with who you were earlier, and you feel better, now. You feel positive. It takes more weeks and more months, and you realise those “superior” feelings you associated with your pride in your sexuality were actually a mechanism to cope with your insecurity towards it. Sexuality, you realise, isn’t some quirk that makes you fit the “not like other girls” complex. It’s difficult, it’s emotion, it’s your body, it’s your desires. It is not what defines you, or makes you different, you come to learn. It’s merely a part of who you are, and there is much more to you than that. You begin to find solace in it.
Months later, there’s a boy. You’re both smart, and he makes you laugh, and you get along well. You ask him out. It’s not awkward even though he’s an awkward person. It lasts three months, because while he was a great boyfriend, he’s a better friend. It makes you realise how much stronger your attraction towards girls is, compared to boys.
During these months and after, there’s a girl. She’s from a different city, and you don’t meet her often enough. You think about her hands and her lips, you think about kissing her, over and over, and now you can’t seem to focus in class and or fall asleep at night. You think more about this girl than you did about your boyfriend, and some part of you registers that you were never actually attracted to your boyfriend, at least not romantically. You realise, eventually, that this doesn’t make you any less bisexual. While you did doubt this label and question whether you were bisexual in the first place, it would’ve been nice to have someone to tell you that labels don’t matter, you are who you are, and that doesn’t need to be catagorized.
Fifteen. You’ve learnt more about sexuality than you’d ever known before. There’s this girl you know vaguely, and you think she’s pretty. If you were asked to pick out the prettiest girl in school, you’d pick her. She asks you, one day, how you knew you were bisexual. You answer to the best of your abilities, because honestly, you’ve always known, though you took some time to accept it. There was no sexual awakening, or incident, or turning point. You’ve always known.
Months pass. The pretty girl gets a haircut. You think she’s absolutely gorgeous, and when she asks you if you have a spare hair tie the very day you snapped your own hair tie, all you can tell her is that you like her hair. She thanks you, and you can’t take your eyes off her. You don’t dwell on it.
Weeks later, you see her again, but this time, it feels different. You decide to talk to her. She laughs, and you get a text later that day, and then you’re texting everyday. The summer goes on like that, you’ve made a new friend, and you realise soon enough that you have a crush. It feels good. You talk to her on the phone for the first time and there are butterflies in your stomach. You really like her.
When you kiss, it’s surreal. It’s over too quickly, you think, and you dive back for more. Kissing her is exhilarating, it is new, and it sets your entire body on fire. You love it. You realise that you love her, too. When you finally get around to telling her this, you’re happy. You’re happy and in love, and even better, she loves you back.
The relationship gets rocky, you stop to take breaks. That’s fine, you think. It happens. Your love will be enough — until it isn’t. You break up. Heartbreak is a new kind of pain. You want to cry but you can’t. You remember how she looks under the glare of the sun, her eyes squinting to look at you because she loves looking at you. You remember the warmth of her hand wrapped around your cold one, you remember kissing the back of her hand just because you could. You remember how she tried to fix a flower in your hair and called you beautiful and how she always, always made you smile. You don’t have it in you to move on from that.
It takes you weeks to accept that it’s over. You’re not over it, even after months have passed. That’s okay, you think, she was worth it. It’s only after you talk to your friends that you realise it’s normal. Your friends who have dated boys. Your straight friends. You realise your sexuality doesn’t make your experiences different, because at the end of the day you’re all still human, and just because the gender was different, the feelings were not. Sexuality is fluid and it never had to set you apart in the first place.
Sixteen. You’re older, wiser. You’ve never felt more in touch with your sexuality. Your experiences make you comfortable with it, and even though you’re still not entirely sure if you’re bisexual, you know that your label can always change, or you could simply go without one. You take pride in it — the whole idea of pride starts making sense to you, and you understand why people fought the way they did, all those years ago. They did it for love, to live their truths, and you decide you would fight that battle too, everyday. Even if it would hurt you, scar you, break you down. You finally understand how it feels to not be alone.
Samara from the REDefine Team
Featured image by Anaanya Poddar.