When I was 8 I was obsessed with Disney’s Aladdin. Not just the original movie, but both of it’s poorly made sequels too. I watched them everyday after school while I drew pictures in our basement TV room, simultaneously fixated on their adventures and creating my own on paper.
I remember being absolutely in awe of how handsome Aladdin was, but also of the beauty of Princess Jasmine. They were the most attractive people I could ever imagine existing.
When I was 10 my mom gave me an American Girl book all about puberty and the female body. I only read through the whole thing once, but I left it close to my bed because of the one page I looked at nearly everyday.
It was one of the sections of the book on bodily changes throughout puberty– body hair, periods, etc. At the bottom of was a picture of several girls in front of a mirror, completely naked, to illustrate the different sizes and shapes of breasts. I was absolutely fascinated by these girls: the soft curves of their hips, their round and full breasts, the way their thighs came together. Despite their cartoonish nature, this was the closest I’d come to seeing a grown girl’s body. It was foreign and beautiful to me.
Somehow, I knew this wasn’t normal, so I always hid the book after I was done in case mom asked why I still had it.
When I was 12 I found my self distracted in classroom discussion circles looking at girls chests and lips and thighs. Every time I caught myself I’d immediately look down at my lap and blush. I’d learned by now that it wasn’t normal for girls to look at other girls like that, what it meant to be gay. But I’d eventually find my eyes wandering again, my thoughts focused on how beautiful one of my female classmates was.
I remember walking down the hallway one day mentally reciting “you can’t be a lesbian, you like boys… every girl must look at each other like this.”
When I was 13 one of the girls that I clung to during PE (because they were just as repulsed by physical exertion as I was) told us she was bisexual. This was the first time I’d been told someone could be attracted to boys and girls at the same time. It was confusing and enlightening at the same time.
I remember she put her arms around my shoulders once, during badminton week, her face inches from mine. It made me nervous, but in a way that I’d never felt before. My stomach had dropped, and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t like the fear I’d felt from scary movies and my dad yelling at me, but it wasn’t quite like when I felt exhilarated from riding a rollercoaster or binging on sugar with my friends… it was something in between, and entirely new.
I’d told my mom about it and she immediately wanted to call the principal and make sure the girl didn’t touch me like that again. That scared me, her reacting like that. I started acting repulsed by the girl afterwards, telling my friends she had flirted with me even though I wasn’t entirely sure she had, how weird it was and how weird she was.
Looking back, I probably wish that she had been flirting with me.
When I was 14 I was acquainted with the first queer couple I’d ever met. They were in theatre with me, and I’d been wanting them to start dating for months. At this point I’d stopped acting weirded out by gay people and claiming that bisexual people were “selfish and should just pick a side already.” I openly showed my support for gay people, citing my theatre friends of examples of how “normal” they could be.
I walked in on the couple in the dressing room one rehearsal, shocked to see them making out. I stood in the doorway a moment, then walked out without either of them seeing me.
I thought about their kiss for the whole day, wondering how their relationship worked, what it was like to date someone of the same gender as you. I was dating a boy at the time, my first boyfriend and the one that would create fear and an inability to trust for my entire high school career when he started abusing me. I wondered if this couple’s relationship could be anything like ours.
When I was 15 I joined Tumblr. I’d just moved from Michigan to Alabama, had my heart broken by my abusive boyfriend furthering the pain he was inflicting by cheating on me, and was just beginning to realize that I had an eating disorder with no idea how to feel about it or whether or not I wanted it to go away.Tumblr became a place for me to escape all this into “fandoms” and “fitblrs” and personal posts from strangers I didn’t know but whose lives intrigued me. It was on Tumblr that I first encountered the word “pansexual.” I was 16.
I was intrigued and slightly obsessed with the concept of it, pansexuality. I’d only just begun to learn about transgender and heard rumors of other genders outside of men and women, and being attracted to all of them or being “genderblind” seemed impossible, but incredible. I spent months randomly researching sexual orientation and transgender people before finally adopting the term as my own.
Though, it was only in my head that I claimed pansexuality as my own. I didn’t want to tell anyone… not because I was ashamed so much, I’d forgotten that stigma several years ago, but more because I was afraid that I only wanted to be pansexual, not that I actually was.
After all, if only ever been in relationships with boys at that point. How could I know if I was actually attracted to other genders if I’d never dated them?
When I was 17 I got my first crush on a girl. I didn’t recognize that that was my motive at the time, but I was constantly staring at her in the two classes we shared, payed special attention when she spoke, and the day she announced that she had a Tumblr I made it my goal to be a part of her life.
By winter we were best friends. By summer I’d begun to realize the extent of my feelings for her. The first time I got drunk at 19 I blurted out that I thought about making out with her all the time. I told her how I felt at 20, 3 years of pining later.
She told me she didn’t feel the same.
When I was 18 and in my first year of college, I binge watched all of Laci Green’s videos on YouTube, deciding that it was time I figured out how my body and how sex worked. Through her I found not only the courage to masturbate for the first time, but my first confrontation with “third genders.”
I obsessively studied nonbinary genders, claiming to just be interested in them, giving speeches and presentations on them for class, messaging nonbinary people to ask about their experiences. I came to accept that I identified with this term the summer of my sophomore year of college.
When I was 18 I also came out to my dad. I’d already come out to my close friends, sisters, and mother at this point– all giving me generally positive responses. This was not the case with my dad.
We were fighting in the kitchen, something that had become a regular thing since I’d started expressing my feminist and liberal beliefs. He was making homophobic comments and I guess I must of have been very clearly upset by this, because he asked, “do you have a problem with that?”
To which I responded, “Yeah, because I like girls, dad!”
My outburst led to two and a half years of him telling me that my identity was fake, a scheme to get attention, that all I believed was a result of my being brainwashed at college and my own self delusion. The full force my panic, bipolar disorder, and depression came out during this time. The first time I thought of killing myself was when he threatened to kick me out and cut me off from my sisters if I didn’t stop with this “feminazi LGBT bullshit.”
When I was 19 I started dating one of my best friend from high school– a boy, but pansexual like myself, I felt like this was the first queer relationship I’d been in.
He told me he didn’t want a monogamous relationship, that he identified as polyamorous– which I knew because this was one of the reasons his last relationships hadn’t worked out. Thinking I wouldn’t fall as desperately in love with him as I did, I agreed to an open relationship.
Two months into the relationship and much research and self reflection later, I’d come to accept that I was also polyamorous and I never wanted a monogamous relationship again.
When I was 20 a girl on Tumblr reblogged a set of selfies that I’d posted, exclaiming in the tags about how handsome I was. I took one look at her blog, saw the profile picture of her staring directly at the camera with intense blue eyes and an expression impossible to read, and immediately followed and messaged her my thanks.
We started messaging frequently, talking about such expansive and random things, things I’d never talked about with anyone. Soon we were messaging everyday and I began to realize how hard I was falling. I wanted her, I wanted her so badly.
I hadn’t had a crush on a girl that’d worked out in my favor and I was constantly pining for a girlfriend. I loved my boyfriend, I was still attracted to men and non-feminine genders, but I felt not only “too straight” to be queer at that point, but also like I was missing some sort of affection in my life that only a feminine partner could fill. And I was beginning to wonder if this girl was the person who could finally end my wanting.
The only problem with this girl was that she lived an ocean away from me, in Denmark to be specific. But my feelings became so strong that I couldn’t just be silent anymore: I told her I liked her.
She said she felt the same.
Today, March 2nd, 2017, Hayley Kiyoko released the music video for her single “Sleepover.” It wrecked me.
Hayley has become someone that I not only admire, but someone who makes me feel so validated in who I am. A mixed, Japanese American, queer girl in love with art and comfy clothing. Before Hayley, I’d never felt like there was anyone in the media who was even remotely like me. With great music and a connection I’d never felt in any other celebrity before, I became an avid fan. So naturally, when the video for “Sleepover” was released it only took me minutes to find it on YouTube and watch.
The music video was so much more than I could have anticipated, actualizing all my experiences as a queer feminine person, admiring from a far, living in my head with my fantasies and no hope of ever being able to experience them in reality. With this video I was thrown back into all the years I spent confused and afraid of how I felt and who I was, all the girls I wanted to be with but knew they couldn’t work out, or didn’t work out even when I tried. And as melancholy as these thoughts were at first, it pushed me to the realization:
I love who I’ve become. I love that I’m queer.
And despite how grueling the process of it all has been, I wouldn’t trade all that heartache for a normal life if I could. I wouldn’t give it all up to be the straight girl with no struggles or worries about who she loved as I once believed I would. Even with the pain that it had brought, becoming queer has made me the person I am today.
And I love that person, even if there are still rough edges to be smoothed, I am finally unafraid of who I am.