Sexuality. I’ve had the desire to write about the subject for some time, and haven’t been able to find the words or know where to start.
I am a woman without a sexual identity- or so it feels. More accurately, I am a woman without a clear understanding of my sexual identity.
I’m happily married to a man, but I’m not heterosexual.
I’ve fallen in love with and made love to women, but I’m not homosexual.
When I tell people I identify as ‘bisexual’, I don’t have a strong feeling of identity towards the word, the description. Mostly, I use the word because it is the most widely accepted way to express that I am not exclusively attracted to the opposite sex with which I identify, and that is not the experience that I carry with me.
Yes, I’m attracted to both men and women- but it feels so much deeper than that. That description doesn’t fully describe my heart. When I speak the words, I don’t feel moved or connected to the definition in any way. What I feel most strongly is that I’m attracted to people.
For me, what’s going on under the clothes doesn’t have much effect on me. If there’s mutual attraction, I want to show my love & intimacy in the way that best suits my partner- and because I’m attracted to my partner, I’m attracted to their body- in whatever form that may take. Energy, personality, chemistry- these all play a part in my attraction to another person. The gender they identify with does not.
I recently learned of the term ‘pansexual’, and it’s the first time that a sexual identity rang true to me. Except very few people seem to know what it means, so it’s not very useful in everyday conversation. So, for those reading this who may be new to the term, I’ll take a moment to define (thank you Wikipedia):
“Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others.
Pansexuality may be considered a sexual orientation in its own right or a subset of bisexuality, to indicate an alternative sexual identity. Because pansexual people are open to relationships with people who do not identify as strictly men or women, and pansexuality therefore rejects the gender binary, the “notion of two genders and indeed of specific sexual orientations”, it is often considered a more inclusive term than bisexual. To what extent the term bisexual is inclusive when compared to the term pansexual is debated within the LGBT community, especially the bisexual community.”
I do pay special attention to the last sentence, and understand that some people within the SOGI community feel it’s a matter of semantics. However, when I read the definition, I find myself for the first time relating and connecting to the words. I feel a glimmer of hope that perhaps there is a category where I can belong.
More often than not, however, I find myself wishing that there wasn’t an emphasis on labeling my sexuality at all. Thinking about my sexual identity brings about a tremendous amount of shame, and I believe that is in part because I don’t feel a clear connection to a community. I find myself feeling envious of people in the queer community that identify strongly with a group, and can find support within.
Among my heterosexual friends, I often feel a strong sense of shame. I’m only ‘out’ to my partner, closest friends & colleagues, and don’t often feel open enough to discuss my sexuality outside of that select group. The shame is twofold. Firstly, because I’m married to a man, it is very easy for me to ‘pass’ in the hetero community. If I’m in a situation where I don’t feel safe coming out, I feel I’m not only betraying myself, but betraying the LGBTQIA community by remaining silent. Secondly, by not feeling safe to be myself, it’s a reminder to me of the stigma and ignorance that still surrounds the queer community. Intellectually, I know there is nothing ‘wrong’ with me. However, the feeling of stigma & shame is rooted very deeply, and I cannot always separate myself from it.
Within the Lesbian community, I find similar difficulties. I identify more with the lesbian community than with my hetero friends. However, as I’m married to a man and do not identify as lesbian, I know that I do not truly fit into this community no matter how strongly connected I feel, and don’t often feel welcome.
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you will know that I’m also in recovery from an Eating Disorder. I’ve very often in my life wondered what role the shame connected to my sexuality plays in my ED. I do know that once I started to come out to my friends, I simultaneously made a lot of progress in my recovery. I know that there is a connection- I just don’t know yet to what extent.
I have asked myself over and over again, why I feel the need to define my sexuality? I am happily married- why do I feel such a strong desire to explore this other side of myself? It won’t change anything- I have no plans to leave my partner, and feel truly happy in our life together. Finding a definition for my sexuality won’t change anything tangible. Why then do I continue to search? I don’t have an answer, but I do know it’s a part of myself I need to understand. It continually amazes me how far our heart will go to discover the truth within ourselves.
At the very least, as I continue on my path towards self-discovery and understanding, I’m deeply grateful for supportive friends, a loving partner, and a platform with which to share and express my thoughts.