I know that you know it’s really not your fault that you grew up assuming you — and everyone else — was sexually and romantically attracted exclusively to the opposite gender, just as is depicted in media. Tumblr isn’t the best source of information, as we’ve learned, but it was our gateway into exploring attraction and a source of support while we were just starting out. We got lucky: our high school was heteronormative (remember all the promposals?) but not outright homophobic, and most of our close friends also identified as queer. We spent lunches talking about sexuality and activism, and being the “gay cousin.”
Which has always been a term that bothered us, though we couldn’t put a name to it until more recently. It’s not a huge deal when people use “gay” as an umbrella term, the point gets across, but bi and aro/ace erasure is prevalent enough as it is. We like girls, but we also like boys; and though I have yet to meet a nonbinary / genderqueer person that I was attracted to, it’s definitely possible.
There’s enough infighting among the LGBTQIA+ community without fighting each other over labels — stop feeling guilty for identifying as bi instead of pan. We did our research; the distinction that makes sense to us, and the one we use, is that bisexuals are attracted to multiple genders, though it may feel different (remember how hard it was to figure out, oh, this feeling I have about this girl is a crush; it just doesn’t feel like the crushes I’ve had on guys and that’s why I didn’t realize), whereas pansexuals are to people regardless of gender. This isn’t the standardized definition, but a reasonable number of people use it and it makes sense to me, so I use it too. Choosing to identify as bisexual doesn’t make me transphobic or imply that I support the gender binary; yes, “bi” means two, but language changes over time as society changes. And I know I’m not ace, but demisexual feels accurate, at least currently: I’ve never been sexually attracted to a stranger, have never felt the desire to hook up with someone I’ve just met. And no, that’s not the same as “everyone else and therefore just normal.” It’s a valid identity, and your choice to use it is also valid.
Even if it’s never been logistically convenient to go to Pride events — I’m a student, I’m not out to everyone who knows me, and transportation is always issues — it doesn’t make us any less valid. You don’t have to paint your room rainbow or even hang a flag above your bed (like your fellow camp counselor and roommate did, that one summer); if you don’t feel safe doing so, you’re not obligated to challenge every heteronormative comment you hear. At least for now, it’s enough that you’re doing your best: consciously choosing inclusive phrasing (“y’all” instead of “you guys” was a change to adjust to, but those who notice, appreciate it), introducing yourself with your pronouns to help normalize the practice, using non-gendered language instead of assuming someone’s (or their partner’s) gender, et cetera. You’re not going to change the world, and that’s okay.
Coming out to Mom and Dad was scary, but you won’t regret it. Even if they seem to think it could be a phase since you’ve only dated one person and only told them about crushes on boys, even if Mom questioned your need to find a label for yourself, they love you and want you to be happy. It may be awkward if/when I introduce them to my first girlfriend someday, but I genuinely believe it’ll work out.
Because at the end of the day, the only person whose opinion on your sexuality actually matters? It’s you. Even the person you’re dating doesn’t get to make you feel wrong or invalid, and I certainly hope I’ll never date someone who does. Attraction is a continuum as well as a lifelong journey — so this isn’t the end. I might change my mind later on, the way you discovered A-spec identities later on. And seriously, it’s okay.
Apologies for the shifts in pronouns, when writing to yourself it’s hard to tell whether to use the singular or plural first-person; I’ve done my best. My thoughts on attraction and identity are kind of all over the place, but when I write letters they’re always stream-of-consciousness: a one-sided conversation, almost, or a confessional. So this is me, and this is honest.