Everyone shares their experiences of coming out to family and friends and we all know how difficult it can be but what you don’t see a lot of is the stories of how people came out to themselves. Everyone’s journey is different, some people have always known their sexuality and accepted it, others have known but been in denial, some have known but have been too afraid to acknowledge it and then there are the people like me who spent years just not knowing until one day the ball finally dropped. The trouble with the latter is you’ve spent all these years thinking you’re straight and now suddenly you’re questioning everything.
When I realised I might be bisexual I felt nothing but relief, it was the answer I had been looking for, it explained this longing I had for women without invalidating the relationship I had with my then boyfriend. The first few days were spent on cloud nine until I realised that actually my problems weren’t solved, that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something wasn’t quite right was still gnawing at me. What followed were intense feelings of guilt and wanting to change; I wanted so badly to not feel this way, to live out the life my boyfriend and I had imagined together. When you’re with someone it’s hard not to feel guilty about your feelings changing, I felt like I had robbed him of four years, I felt like I was taking away his chance of happiness, ruining his hopes and dreams for the future. The thing I learned from this is that you have to be selfish when you’re coming out; I couldn’t help that it had taken me until twenty-five to discover who I was and I shouldn’t be punished for it. I’ll never know exactly why I didn’t realise sooner, compulsory heterosexuality definitely played a part but I can’t help but wonder if maybe I’d have realised sooner if I had acknowledged my trauma and got help when I needed it. The fact is I’ll never really know. I thought breaking up would feel freeing but it didn’t; I was miserable. I had walked away from something safe and stable and thrust myself into a world I knew nothing about. I faced a lot of self doubt in the beginning, I questioned if breaking up with my boyfriend was really the right thing to do, I questioned if I was really attracted to girls, I questioned if I could ever be fully happy with anyone. Maybe I was the problem, maybe I was just damaged, maybe I’d never enjoy certain aspects of a relationship. The thoughts tormented me, I’d have dreams where I was lying next to my ex, we’d be chatting and laughing but then he’d try to touch me or kiss me and I’d go completely still, I’d zone out and let things happen and feel nothing but misery and emptiness. I hated those dreams. I hated them because they weren’t just dreams, they were how I’d felt for years, they felt more like memories replaying every night. I started to worry that the issue wasn’t my sexuality but rather that a part of me was just broken. I got past this stage of self doubt, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t until I started going on dates with girls that I started to feel like I was right, that the problem had been sexuality. I don’t think I fully accepted that I was a lesbian until after I had slept with a woman. Everything felt better, I wasn’t wishing it was over, I wasn’t making myself numb to avoid the negative feelings I associated with sex, I wasn’t performing to live up to someone else’s warped expectations, I was just enjoying myself. Revelling in every little moment. It felt how I had always imagined it should feel. After this I felt certain I was a lesbian, to the point that the idea of sleeping with a man again is just completely unfathomable to me now.
So great, I’ve done the whole questioning phase, I’ve accepted my sexuality, fab, job done! Sadly, I’m now experiencing something I never expected to happen. I feel distant from my old self; I can’t relate to who I was as a teenager, I question everything. That boy I thought I fancied, did I ever really like him that way or did I just think he was a nice person? That girl I really wanted to be friends with, did I like her as more than a friend? Were any of my celebrity crushes real or did I just like their personalities? Were my female idols my actual celebrity crushes? Did I waste my teenage years pretending to be someone I wasn’t? The frustrating thing is the realisation that I’ll never really know the answers to these questions, so while people sit and reminisce over their childhood crushes I sit and wonder who did I actually like? It’s obvious from reading my diary that I wasn’t happy with the relationship I was in during high school, there are pages upon pages about how guilty I felt for not loving him the way I should have. At the time I just thought that I was mean, a wee bit heartless but now I wonder if maybe a part of me knew I could never love a man. I wonder if I would have saved myself a lot of misery had I worked it all out back then.
However, I didn’t work it out and the misery that was my early twenties very much exists. I feel disgust thinking about that time in my life. What were once funny sex stories now feel shameful. The thing with coming out in adulthood is that you have to examine why you didn’t realise sooner. A lot of people say they just never got in relationships with men or actively avoided sex with men but in my early twenties I done the opposite, I actively pursued it to the point that I was quite reckless with it. I never looked too deeply at this before coming out, I told myself I was a young woman, enjoying her freedoms. But I didn’t enjoy my freedoms, I hated every sexual encounter I had with a man, so why did I keep doing it? The answer to this was quite hard to swallow. I found myself desperate to prove my worth after being in a controlling and abusive relationship. I developed such a complicated relationship with men, I despised them all the while being desperate for their approval. It was a bad time and I made a lot of stupid decisions, some that I now deeply regret. It’s tough to look back at your life and realise how many decisions were driven by trauma, how much of your life you’re now ashamed of. I joke a lot about my terrible sex life pre-coming out but the truth is now when I look back all I can see is how much pain I was in, all I can see is how many times I relived the same trauma just hoping the next time would be different. It’s been a pretty upsetting realisation but I guess that’s why people tell you not to dwell on the past.
Most of my posts are reflective, they’re accounts of how I dealt with coming out and what the outcome was. But this one is written very much in the moment, I don’t have answers for how you get past this stage, for how you accept who you once were and the upset you now feel over it. So I guess maybe further down the line I’ll sit down to write out the answers to these questions but for now, I’ll just keep working through it.