In her first Fumble article, Corrie Clapsaddle talks navigating sexual identity
I’m six years old and I know I like to kiss girls. They have soft lips, pretty eyes, and hair that smells like strawberries. I never thought there was anything wrong with kissing girls until I was told so by the first girl I ever locked lips with. I don’t blame her for quickly believing what her conservative parents told her, but her sudden rejection still made me feel like sh*t. She said what we had been doing was wrong. I just thought we were having fun; it wasn’t like I had a master plan to damn us both to hell.
I’m seven years old and I know that Michael is the cutest boy in my first grade class. Also maybe the entire world. He has a big smile, blonde hair, and a general kindness the other little boys lack. If my Disney VHS tapes taught me anything, the fluttering I get in my stomach whenever I see him means we’re getting married. I try to sit next to him every day and answer as many of the teacher’s questions as I can. Does he like smart girls? He’s the childhood crush I can talk about with my family and only have them gently tease me for it.
I recently turned 22 and I know I’m not straight because saying so would feel like a lie. I do have a heterosexual cisgender boyfriend, but my love and attraction towards women has never disappeared. It was put on the back burner because I was told through a variety of cultural messages that it was only ok to be heterosexual. But I’m past that.
At first I decided, “Ok, this must mean I’m bisexual because I like both men and women.” Seemed easy enough for me. I went to Pride 2016 to display my bi-pride. Then several months ago my boyfriend brought up that maybe I was pansexual.
I am attracted to androgyny and I don’t care about a person’s packaging, I care about what’s inside. I wouldn’t think of limiting my romantic or sexual attraction to other genders, gender nonconforming individuals, or transgender people if I felt a connection with them, so did I have to adopt a new identity? Now I’m in unfamiliar territory.
Ok I’m going to throw you some definitions now. Read them a few times if you need to. Please by no means assume I am an expert on all things LGBTQIA +, because I am not. I’ve only recently openly joined the rainbow community and am still learning. We all are.
Bisexual: “Anyone whose attractions are not limited to one sex. The term comes to us from the world of science and describes a person with both homosexual (lit. same sex) and heterosexual (lit. different sex) attractions. It is an open and inclusive word that describes a diverse group of people with a wide variety of experiences around same-sex and different-sex attractions.”
Pansexual: “Describe a person with homosexual and heterosexual attractions, and therefore people who have chosen those labels are also bisexual. By replacing the prefix bi – (two, both) with pan- (all), poly- (many), omni- (all), ambi- (both, and implying ambiguity in this case), people who adopt these self-identities seek to clearly express the fact that gender does not factor into their own sexuality, or that they are specifically attracted to trans, genderqueer, and other people who may or may not fit into the mainstream gender categories of male and female.”
I had been describing myself as bisexual for a while because it was the term I had heard before. Technically I did fall into the pansexual category and just didn’t really think about it. And even though I know that now, I still don’t immediately use pansexual as my dominant identity. I flip flop between using bisexual and pansexual to describe myself often based on how comfortable I am in a given situation.
When I’m around friends, I use pansexual or queer because that’s what feels right at the time.
When I’m talking in somewhat unfamiliar company, I’ll revert to using just bisexual because that’s probably the term people are more familiar with.
Recently I’ve been describing myself as queer because it can be used as an umbrella term for multiple sexualities. And it works well for those days where I don’t know what I am but straight ain’t it.
And that confusion is completely ok! Labels are tricky and can be harmful or limiting, but they can also help people discover their identity and feel more secure in their sense of self.
There is no right way to be queer. It’s a personal experience, not an exact science. Everyone is going to feel a different way and that’s wonderful! I actually think that’s kind of the point.
For more LGBT+ information, check out the Brook website