The Answers (for Now) - Mo
When did you start to question your sexual orientation? What in particular made that question arise?
When I was 14 years old, I started to have the vague idea I might be attracted to other girls, but thinking about the idea was almost like looking at a star: if you look right at it you can't make it out, so you have to look at it from the side of your field of vision. I couldn't quite focus on the idea that I might not be straight, so even though I had idle fantasies about kissing friends or "jokes" about being the "forbidden love" of one close friend in particular, I couldn't find it in me to take any of these as signs of queerness. It feels a bit obvious now, but at the time I just pushed it all aside.
I started questioning my sexuality in a way I was ready to admit when I was about 19. I'd started to notice feelings for a friend that felt more like a romantic crush than platonic friendship, and that was enough to make me seriously question my orientation. By this time I had made a few friends who were openly gay or bisexual and hearing their experiences, and where they aligned with some of mine, helped as well.
When (if ever) did that question resolve itself?
I was about 20 when I felt pretty sure I wasn't straight. A complicating factor is that I realized this around the same time I realized I wasn't a woman; I found it hard to know how to describe my sexuality when my gender felt so up in the air as well.
How would you describe your sexual orientation as you understand it now?
I describe myself as bisexual or queer pretty much interchangably. People still like to pull out the old "bisexual as a term is reinforcing a gender binary and ignoring nonbinary genders" chestnut but that's something bisexual activists discussed and refuted decades ago, so sometimes I make a point of being explicitly nonbinary AND bisexual.
How do/did you feel about being questioning? Positive? Negative? Something else entirely?
It was a little scary. That first wave of questioning that I could barely admit to myself, which resulted in me just saying "there's no way I'm not straight" and pushing those feelings away, was definitely uncomfortable.
When the question arose again, it was distressing to feel so confused; it was like I couldn't trust my feelings. I kept second-guessing myself! I developed a pretty intense crush on a friend but even as I told some other friends about it, I remember trying to minimize those feelings and saying "I think I like her, but...how can I even be sure?" I'm sure some of the stress this second time around was linked to the fact that I was questioning my gender at the same time.
What is or was the most confusing? When you thought "maybe I'm [x]," what made you feel unsure or second-guess yourself?
I think it was confusing partially because I had no real understanding of what being bisexual was supposed to be like. I was having idle daydreams about kissing or slow-dancing with friends when I was in my early teens but somehow I just didn't realize that was because I had developed crushes on them. I was aware of queerness and bisexuality in an abstract sense, but because I had no friends with those identities, no media depicting them, and very limited internet access at the time this all happened (the mid 90s to early 00s), I couldn't connect those orientations to my own feelings.
Was there a defining moment that clarified things for you, or did you come to a more gradual realization?
I kind of laugh about this now, but it was the film But I'm a Cheerleader, which I watched a couple years after it came out. There's a romance scene near the end that's beautifully shot, with dreamy music, and something about the emotion in it made things click for me. When I watched it I was riveted to the spot. I couldn't sleep that night, and wound up talking to a friend about my feelings and admitting, for the first time, that I was pretty sure I really did have intense attraction and romantic feelings about women.
Did you talk to other people about being questioning, or compare notes with other people of an orientation you thought you might be?
I had a few close friends I talked to a little bit about this, mostly in relation to the friend I was slowly realizing I had a crush on, but my process was primarily internal.
What would you say to past-questioning-you if you could send a message back in time?
It's ok to take your time in figuring things out. Trust your feelings; there's no need to explain them away or assume you're lying to yourself.