Opening the doors of a closet can be as difficult as opening your chest to a stranger.
The closet. The deeply dark, claustrophobic space at the back of the room. The vault where your truth hangs beside rusty coat hangers and winter coats. The crack between the door and the floorboards let light in for brief and fleeting moments- but your truth deserves to live in the sun.
Sexuality is fluid- that is to say it is malleable and ever-changing. Fully understanding sexuality at a young age is like reading a graphic Steven King novel in the first grade- incredibly daunting and almost impossible to understand. As I head into my sophomore year of college, I can say with clenched fists and slight disappointment that I still do not fully understand the vast complexity of sexuality.
As young adults in the millennial age, we are fortunate to be given more acceptance and tolerance of our sexual orientation than we would have been given in the past. The willingness to tell our stories has become both a blessing and a curse.
I started to come out as a gay woman between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years old. Telling my story set me free of oppression and fear of discrimination. Being a member of the LGBTQ community has saved my life. I have gotten the opportunity to work alongside incredibly prominent organizations and meet wonderfully inspirational people. I have found an international family of tolerance and undying love with strangers who share similar stories. I am proud to identify as being a gay woman.
However, being gay is not my whole identity. When I was younger, I thought it was.
For a long time I thought that being gay was the most important part of me. While I find pride, strength, and incredible love within my sexuality- it is not all that I am. It does not have to define me. It is not everything.
In my freshman year of college, I met a man that changed my perspective. He and I shared an emotional connection that was beyond what I had found with anyone in the past. I found myself developing feelings for him- which frightened me. How could I be myself attracted to a man when I'd built up my entire identity around being gay? What was I? Who was I?
I was terrified of the prospect of coming out "again". What would my friends and family think? Would I be confirming the stereotypes that I was only a lesbian until I "met the right man"?
No. Absolutely not.
This is when I learned the fluidity of sexuality and the importance of freeing yourself from shame. It does you far less good to refuse your own feelings because you THINK you should not have them.
I know that I was born gay. Identifying as a lesbian is the sexual orientation I've chosen to label the way in which I was born. I also know that I was born with an open mind and a deeply powerful spirit that is not always understood. If I meet a woman (or man) who I feel connected to- I will open myself up to the prospect of that love despite the fact that it contradicts the label of my sexual orientation.
Many would say that this would make me bisexual, or sexually fluid. I still choose to identify as a lesbian. However, I refuse to put myself in an inescapable box. While I certainly prefer women, I will allow myself to love whomever comes into my life who loves me back.
I used to define myself by a label. The pride and passion that I have within myself and my sexuality is undying. It is perhaps the strongest part of my spirit.
However, what I've learned along the way, is that identifying yourself solely on a basis of sexuality is just as suffocating as being in the closet.
Be proud of the many aspects of who you are. Be unafraid if something different comes into your life. Allow yourself to be constantly questioning what comes along your path. Allow yourself to be open minded and open hearted. Always choose to love, even if it is not what you expected it to be. Love anyway.
Inspired by the spoken word poem The Lesbian Reevaluates by Blythe Baird.