I remember sitting next to my soon-to-be in-laws’ pool with my then-fiance, three days before our pandemic backyard wedding was supposed to happen in July 2020, realizing before I entered into a marriage, I needed to address something.
I had wrestled with the discomfort of the “straight” label for years and had always managed to push the entire issue into the back of my mind so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. For some reason, it bubbled to the surface once again that morning as soon as I opened my eyes and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
As much as I wanted to examine what I wanted and how this colored my life, I still felt like I had a counter argument for all the evidence I was accumulating regarding my conclusion. Most of my experience with sex and relationships were with men.
At one point of my adult life I even asked myself if I wanted to date women. But when I had dated women, I felt as if I was starting from square one in dating and relationships and, having no confidence in myself to relearn dating, I decided against it.
Also, I was in my mid-thirties, and shouldn’t I know by now what my sexuality is?
Needing some clarity, I messaged two friends, both members of the LGBT+ community and told them I was highly suspicious that I was pansexual. Both were incredibly supportive and dispelled my fears that I was too old to make this realization now or that I had to have dated a certain number of people of different genders in order to be pan.
I realized after I signed off with my friends that there was something else at the back of my mind. When I was 12, a boy who lived down the street made up a rumor that I was a lesbian. The rumor spread throughout the entire school effortlessly. What followed was years of school yard homophobic bullying.
It had so deeply ingrained in me that being LGBT+ was so wrong and awful that I could not be a part of it. In school I had to act straight, think straight, be straight all the time or even a stray comment about how a girl’s hair looked twisted into more proof of how depraved I was.
When the bullying started, I had no concept of my own sexuality. I wasn’t particularly interested in the entire concept at the time anyway. But when I was fed the idea “straight is normal” and normal is what it takes to fit in, I knew what I wanted and I wanted to fit in. So I had to be normal. I had to be straight. Anything else I could stuff down so far into my psyche I could pretend it didn’t exist.
At the age of 15, I thought to myself open and honestly, am I a lesbian? Everyone else seems to think so, maybe they can see something I can’t? Because of course, there was only the binary. I could only be gay or straight.
It would be years before I ever heard the term “pansexual.” I came to the conclusion, I did want to pursue relationships with men some day, therefore I could not be a lesbian, therefore I was straight.
I remember when I came across the word “pansexual” for the first time. I was reading it on a definition list of sexualities in college for a gender studies class. I remember clearly thinking, That’s awesome. If I was LGBT+, I would be pansexual. Yet no connections were made that day.
But the term took root in my brain and stayed there quite comfortably. When I addressed my sexuality out by the pool on that sunny July day, there was no doubt in my mind who I was.
I felt as though I was accepting something I had known for years, but always kept at arm’s length. A kind of panicked relief flooded me while I turned the idea over in my head. I was finally in a place where I could not only examine who I was, but I could accept that person, too.
On the drive back home with my fiance, I told him I needed to talk to him. He asked me what it was about and I started rambling so wildly my attention to the quiet country roads started to drift.
He finally asked me to get to the point and I blurted out that I think I’m pansexual. I added that I wanted to tell him because it was important to me that he knows and understands. My now-husband took my hand and gave me the acceptance I had been needing for a long time.
We got married three days later in front of our tiny gathering of immediate family and two close friends.
Nine months later, I know I’m glad I came out when I did and finally accept who I am as a whole person. I’m glad I told my husband so he can accept me for who I am as well and truly be my partner in all things. I’m also proud of myself for not letting my past experiences control me and keep me from becoming who I am today.
I came out on social media on National Coming Out Day 2020. My friends, family, and those who I have chosen to surround myself with interacted positively with my status and the day moved on. Knowing that my feed was filled with LGBT+ allies and members of the community, I felt there was no better place for me to come out at that time.
Coming out is a multifaceted process that can look different for everyone. For me, it’s been a positive experience that has helped me see myself as a whole person who doesn’t have to be trapped in the past. No matter what the future holds, I am ready to engage with it, learn from it, and handle everything that comes my way with pride.
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