Image: by incredible illustrator Lydia Ortiz. Image Source.
Giving advice is really hard. I think that’s possibly why I don’t really write about my queerness all that often; if you’re queer, you’re sometimes expected to be an advocate, or automatically able to provide great support, sometimes at the cost of your own emotional stability. I turned thirty last year and still find myself learning unexpected lessons or shying away when I should probably be getting entangled.
Google’s frequently asked questions are often the exact things that can’t be easily quantified. ‘How do I know if I’m gay’ is high on the listed of one of the most asked, and it remains one of the hardest to answer. I’d love to be in a world where we didn’t have to, often anxiously, drop this into an Internet search bar to help us figure it out. Ideally, the hashtag ‘love is love’ would actually be true, rather than the actuality that we’re still living by intensely heteronormative standards.
When I came out, the Internet wasn’t something I was using much. Facebook was still a kooky, university-only idea and most people I know would have laughed if you’d explained the concept of Instagram. So out of interest, when sitting down to write this article, I sifted through the heap of links that proffered advice when dealing with the first inkling that you might be queer. The results were weird.
Mostly, the first few pages of advice that come up on Google seemed to require you not to panic, or to assume ‘the worst’. The worst, it would seem, would be being gay (queer is still a word, curiously, that rarely appears where it is needed most). The rhetoric was cold, and so neutral as to be negative. I found that often, readers would be requested to suppress the same-sex feelings as fantasy; just normal consequences of being straight. I guess I can appreciate the sentiment, but where are the pieces that celebrate, or congratulate, or are just don’t add to the shame that was the reason you had to ask your computer the question in the first place?
So I’ll start here. Hi! It’s so cool that you’ve had thoughts outside of the heterosexual standard that’s forced upon us! Please don’t judge what you feel by societal idea of ‘what’s normal’ and what isn’t. Just experience it. Dominant cultures have remained ‘dominant’ not because they are necessarily a majority, but because we’ve been told there’s right way, and a wrong way, to be. Which isn’t true. The way you feel, especially sexually, will be a thing that never stops changing and it’s so important that you’ve already checked in with yourself, and what you might want. You’re tuned in.
There hasn’t been an easy answer to this question, because the world hasn’t made it an easy one to ask in the first place. But honestly, I don’t think you need to know if you are gay, or not. We’ve known for a really long time that sexuality is sliding scale but that doesn’t get enforced in our education, or societal conditioning, because queerness pretty much evades all the shitty pigeon-holing that keeps capitalism in place. So chill, I know! You don’t need to be ‘sure’ of anything to identify as queer. The strange, hetero prerequisite that you have to ‘know where you stand’ – be it bi, or 80% or only in movies, or when you masturbate, or 20% – only exists because of the pervasive, dangerous fear of the ‘other’. Going back to dominant cultures: they have to label everything because if it isn’t immediately ‘understood’ then it doesn’t exist. This is BS. You don’t need to be ‘sure’ of anything. Be mutable! Fall in love at will, in big and small ways! All ways! Remember: no one is ever asking straight folk to prove themselves.
I guess it looks like my first piece of advice is: don’t worry. Not because you’re probably not queer (statistically you actually probably are anyway tbh) but because you don’t ever have to decide anything. Focus on other questions, like who you makes you feel really great about yourself, and who doesn’t. Learn how to recognise shitty, dangerous behaviours like love-bombing and gas-lighting, and how to separate them from love and trust. Don’t worry about knowing who you are, and instead focus on hearing what your body and brain are telling you. Be your own good listener.
Following on from that, don’t worry too much about other people’s comfort with who you are. ‘Social acceptance’ or as I understand it: reducing who you are to be palatable to dull normalcy, can also be a form of queer erasure. Locate your safe spaces, whether that’s friends or family you know you can talk to, or communities you’ve found on or offline. Only expend energy where you know you’ll get energy in return.
Maybe you clicked on this article hoping to get a list of signs that you’re queer. I don’t really have anything to say, except: you clicked on this article. Something I do come across a lot, that I think I can speak to a little, is the idea that if you’ve presented as straight for a while it can be scary to consider the mechanics of hooking up with somebody who doesn’t identify as the gender you’ve been intimate with for years. Maybe your whole life. I get that fear. I can only recommend two methods: 1) mine: a couple of tequilas (not so great) or 2) only consider getting close to someone who makes you feel like there’s room for laughter, sexiness and trust. Also, everyone is anxious about sex. ‘Experience’ is a myth. The people who are best in bed are just those that genuinely give a shit about other people.
Anyway. I’ve probably answered none of your questions because you need to go out there and uncover them myself. In my humble opinion: queer love is the best. Queer love is the future, even. And if you’re feeling worried, or ever want to talk to anyone in more detail, you’re more than welcome to email me, too: firstname.lastname@example.org or better still, get in touch with the superpeople at Reach Out.