graphics by Liana Kindler
A close friend semi-outed me in June. She asked me and my best friend what our sexualities were. It was a very open environment; we were at a small grad party of about ten friends, half of whom were a derivation of non-straight. But the first thought that came to my mind was a panicked string of curse words.
What do I answer?
My best friend answered first: straight, although not 100% confirmed. I tried to draw attention back to the board game we were playing, but the other friend wouldn’t let me evade the question.
I pulled out my most honest answer: a look of distress.
“I don’t know.”
The Q in LGBTQ+ can stand for either Queer or Questioning. It’s outside the main four-letter acronym and rarely presented in media, especially Questioning. People in the media (novels, television, social media) talk about coming out, and about the problems they face as a member of the LGBT community. They talk about knowing what they are but struggling to accept themselves. However, rarely does anyone talk about having no fucking idea.
Not to blame them– it makes sense. Why remember the time in your life when you didn’t know who you were? That time doesn’t even exist for some people; they just hear about homosexuality for the first time and the answer clicks without the question ever being posed. After this stage, for those who go through it, you’re either good to go with your easier time in the world, or your answer has given you new things to worry about. The Questioning point in your life is water under the bridge.
My sexual questioning began with a jolt in ninth grade when I suddenly realized that if I had let myself, I could have fallen for my best friend. The next few years were a stretch of passive questioning and discovering that there were other girls I might have fallen for in the past. It developed into active fear in my junior year, when I started falling for her again. I came out as an “I don’t know what the fuck is happening” to my closest gay friend, and he helped me answer the most pressing problem: I did love my best friend, and a few other close friends, but as friends rather than romantically. I was confusing the two because I hadn’t realized different “types” of love could be the same strength. But with this part of the matter solved, I was able to see things in a broader light, and I realized I still didn’t know what I was.
You can say labels don’t matter, because we’re all human anyways, and I won’t argue that labels should matter but I want to know for myself. As humans, we like to define things. The sky is blue. The sky is the thing up there. Up is this direction. Gender? I am a cis female. Sexuality? I could give you evidence in almost every direction, from straight to bi to lesbian to demi. For now I’m stuck in the labelled limbo of “Questioning.”
The alphabet soup limbo
I’m neither straight nor gay. I’m Schrödinger’s cat, but I’m neither dead nor alive. I’ve hesitated to identify as LGBTQ+ because I might be 100% straight, and if so, what on earth am I doing here? Am I just some imposter in a world of people who actually have to deal with the things I only worry about facing?
I overthink every little thing that could be a clue to my sexuality. I had giant falling-outs with the last two boys I fell for – maybe I’ve just had bad experiences with boys? Maybe male genitals seem gross to me because I’ve never encountered them in real life? Maybe I’m just overthinking the fact that I think some girls look quite nice? Maybe it’s mirror neurons firing that make me think I’m attracted to them? The arguments of doubt work the other way, too: maybe all these excuses are just denial. Maybe I’m taking everything with too many grains of salt, and they’re pieces of evidence, rather than false leads.
My friends have supported me and guided me thus far, but at this point they don’t know any more than I do. One of my fears is that my friendships aren’t as strong as I think; maybe I really am just falling for them. Gay male included.
If I am straight, though, then this Questioning stage has made me a stronger ally. LGBTQ+ equality and rights are relevant to me on a personal level, and I have learned more and to some extent started to defend them. To me, being a Questioning Ally is standing up for the community, armed with both knowledge and personal experience.
I have considered myself a part of the community for a few weeks, and so far I have been welcomed and accepted. The mindset has been less “she might not belong here” and more “she is having trouble belonging elsewhere, so she belongs here.” I am grateful for it; it’s a huge relief to finally feel like I can fit in even without having my answer.
For now, I’ve accepted limbo. It’ll be easier to figure out my sexuality after more experience, but as I recently learned in a counseling session at the UCLA LGBT Center, some people never really find a definitive answer. And that’s fine. No one requires you to define yourself any more than they require you to come out. I still want to know what I am, but already I know a lot more about where I fit in: I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, as a Questioning ally. My orientation will probably change over time, but the Ally part won’t. I’m kind of new here, but I’m learning. And I’m here to stay.