I’m 19 years old, and over the past year and a half I’ve been trying to figure out who I am. I started out thinking I was an ally after binge-watching Rizzoli and Isles and finding AfterEllen. After taking a Kinsey Scale quiz online that scored me as a 2 I figured I was bi. But lately I’ve been wondering if even that is true. I don’t have a lot of romantic experience with guys—a couple of dates and a few kisses, to be exact—and I have zero with girls. I know that I’m attracted to both genders, but lately when I think about being with a guy, I feel really uncomfortable. And I didn’t enjoy any of the four times I’ve kissed guys, all of whom were very attractive.
I know that’s not a lot to go on, and it could mean a number of things. It could mean I just didn’t have a connection with those four guys, or it could mean that I don’t like kissing in general (which would suck). So I guess what I’m asking is, how do I know if I’m bi, or fluid, or gay? I know I’m still young and I have a lot of time to figure this out, but I really want to fall in love, and I don’t know how to do that when I’m still so confused. —Identity Crisis
Anna says: Unfortunately, there’s not, like, a glittery magic unicorn that shows up to announce, “You’re finally queer!” (Although there should be. Who wants to start that business?) Some people know they’re gay from as far back as they remember. Some people are straight for a while and then figure out with much angst and thoughtfulness that they should be on Team Bewbz. Some people change over and over throughout the course of their lives. Some people end up with a monogamous partner, but still have attraction for other genders. Some gay people remain closeted for life. Some people are straight only while Republican. It’s all a big clusterfuck, basically.
And in some ways, it gets easier as you get older and start dating and getting naked with people. There’s a process of elimination thang that happens where eventually, you’ll be like, “Yes, more of that” or “No, I’d rather bathe in a trash bag than do that!” Or, “I like that, but only on Tuesdays and in Montana.” For me, I was straight until I was 20, then was like USGAY! Until I got dumped by my first girlfriend, then became bi, and then gay again, then SUPERGAY, with a few accidents, then bi again, and now I’m only straight while intoxicated. That took about a decade to sort out and honestly I think it’s probably going to keep changing, maybe microscopically, maybe just on a fantasy level, but change it will.
This isn’t to say your experience will be so topsy turvy. Like I said, some people figure it out relatively early and it’s smooth gaylings from there. I admire those people. For many of us, though, and this is also judging from the amount of questions I get from people just like you, it takes us longer to figure out where we fit in this great, bubbly rainbow stew we call sexuality.
So, chillax. You’ve got time. And for the moment, I would remove yourself from the existential questions of what you might become and focus instead on simply becoming. Find yourself attracted to a person? Pursue them. Develop a crush? Act on it. Worry less about what such a crush might “say” about you or your identity. Permit yourself to be curious about the outcome without getting mired in the “BUT DOES THIS MAKE ME GAY/STRAIGHT/A KATY PERRY FAN?” line of thinking. Kiss a lot of people. You’re not going to feel magic butterfly tingle earthquakes every time you kiss someone, even someone you’re desperately attracted to. Chemistry is just as weird as sexuality and just as complex. You can’t know whether you have it until it shows up. So fret not about whether the act of kissing itself is to blame for your lackluster smooches (it’s not, probably) and tell yourself to try, try again.
Same with falling in love. It just happens—BAM!—a great unstoppable force. Love doesn’t stop to ask whether you identify as straight, bi, or fluid before knocking you on your ass. It just does. And then you either freak out or act accordingly. But your uncertainty won’t be the force that holds you back, I assure you. Embrace the unknowns and question marks. Make peace with them. For they are you.
Best of luck, Identity Crisis. The ride may be bumpy, but that’s half the fun.