I’m super fucking queer.
I use the word ‘queer’ deliberately, in the same way I describe myself as a ‘slut’. I know it’s a word that gets whispered behind my back, and occasionally yelled at me in the street. It’s supposed to hurt me, to make me feel like every fibre of my being is odd and unwelcome. Unfortunately for queerphobic assholes, I pride myself on being contrary, so I have stolen the word ‘queer’ with my gay little hands.
When they hurled it at me, I caught it. It’s mine now.
I realised this the moment I found the language for it. Before then, I’d been weighing up my attractions, trying to figure out which gender I fancied more often, more intensely, more legitimately. I thought, for a while, that I was a lesbian who was just really bad at resisting the patriarchal imperative to have crushes on men. Before then, I’d thought I was straight, and that all my feelings of unease and fascination centred around women were a mix of admiration and envy.
I don’t remember where I found the word ‘bisexual’, but I do remember that it felt like suddenly remembering where I’d left my keys, fourteen years after losing them. As cliché as it sounds, identifying as bisexual felt like coming home.
I found the word ‘pansexual’ too, and toyed with that, but my attraction to all genders wasn’t attraction regardless of gender. I tended to have gooey, romantic, heart-eyes-emoji-esque feelings towards girls before any sexual ones, and the inverse when I fancied boys. Something indescribable separated my experiences of attraction to both of the genders I knew about at the time – and when I learned about nonbinary people, I experienced yet another set of feelings about them. (Plus, the pan flag has yellow in it, and I’m not a fan. I’d rather have the jewel-tone bi flag any day, and fourteen-year-old Morgan was very shallow.)
Armed with a word that accurately summed up how I experienced love and lust, I did what any confused autistic teen might do: I researched it. I found lists of celebrities and public figures who were (or were thought to be) bisexual. It was 2012, so I found memes. And, naturally, I found bigots. I had expected to run into homophobia, but I hadn’t expected to run into gatekeeping from the gay community itself. I wasn’t prepared to be told to ‘pick a side’ or that I was ‘actually gay’ and lying to myself. I wasn’t ready to be called ‘greedy’ when I’d had two relationships in my adolescence, one of which only featured a single, brief kiss. I wasn’t expecting to be hurt by people who knew what homophobia felt like.
And this, dear reader, is where this post becomes a love letter.
Because for every one voice that was calling my orientation greedy or fake or ‘not gay enough’, there were dozens more bi people and allies countering their bullshit. I was learning new ways to backchat biphobes all the time. I learned queer history, the split attraction model, new ways to define gender and more through the vocal dissent of people who were fucking sick of biphobia; and, more importantly, I learned that I had hundreds upon hundreds of strangers’ voices rallying around me and defending my existence. I found a community.
It was through this vocal, loving, ready-to-educate community that I ended up finding my gender identity. It took me three or four years after growing into the label of ‘bisexuality’ to realise that, on top of being super bi, I wasn’t cis – and in a lot of ways, it felt scarier. Either online biphobia had subsided somewhat in those four years, or I’d just got better at making my social media environment more welcoming; regardless, I felt very comfortable in my bisexual skin.
But even some bi people were insisting I couldn’t be nonbinary.
I was confident in my belief that there were more than two genders. I’d read plenty of material, ranging from nonbinary people’s blog posts to accounts of olden-days rejection of gender binaries to the abstracts of actual studies on the subject, so I was pretty certain that nonbinary people were A Thing™. The problem lay in whether or not I was nonbinary.
I’ve blogged about my experiences of gender before now, so I won’t repeat myself, but I will add that I was scared of claiming the labels ‘nonbinary’ and ‘trans’ for months. (I still sort of cringe when I call myself ‘trans’, waiting for someone somewhere to insist that only binary trans people ‘count’.) But, again, it was the loud, brave voices of other queer folk that comforted me, and made me realise the importance of claiming words that fit me. I realised that, being white and academically inclined, I could use my voice to legitimise nonbinary experiences; being a human being, I deserved to legitimise my own experiences too.
Again, I’ve managed to prune my social circles and my social media consumption so that a lot of cissexism doesn’t reach me, especially online. I’ve educated some of my IRL friends and given up on others, and I have done myself the enormous favour of swearing off dating straight men. I owe huge portions of my self-confidence, comfort and personal growth to the LGBTQ+ community.
We are brave. We are strong. We are loving.
We are also doing real fuckin’ badly on some fronts, like including people of colour, making Pride accessible and eliminating, among other things, cissexism, slutshaming, acephobia and gatekeeping.
I know we can do better than this, because I’ve been on the right side of it. When we put our energy into activism, into educating each other and the cishets, and into being compassionate and welcoming, we can do incredible shit. We can make kids like fourteen-year-old Morgan feel at home in their acne-prone, super-queer skin.
I guess this is a tough-love letter now. Let’s get our shit together, and make each Pride shine brighter than the last. We owe it to ourselves and each other, and I know – I know – we’re capable of it.