An Open Letter to My Younger, Questioning Self

Hey you,

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.

Love always,
Isabelle

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.

25 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Younger, Questioning Self

  1. I love this post! I really enjoy writing letters to my past self, even though I know she won’t receive them, lol.
    I really appreciate the way you approached your identity. I’m 29 and I’m just now kinda coming to terms with the fact that I’m actually demisexual – and it took me until I was 21 to even come to terms with being bi. I’m really trying to be kinder to myself about the fact that it’s okay to be still questioning, even now, and it’s enough to just be queer in whatever sense. Thank you for sharing this with us ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for your kind words, Christine! identity is definitely a lifelong journey, and I always find it encouraging to hear from others and be reminded that no one is alone in being unsure or having difficulty understanding / accepting their identity 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really wish that more people were open about the fact that identity isn’t always a one-and-done kind of thing. Being in a heteronormative world definitely affects how we come to an understanding of ourselves as queer – and labels don’t always fit all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww that was a sweet letter!

    We all have our own definitions; it doesn’t need to always match up with the ones other’s have. I recently discovered the a-spec too (about last year, so I was 23). And while it does make sense to me, i’m not sure i’m “allowed” to wear that label. Or atleast i’m not yet comfortable to do so. Because while the feeling of being ace is there (not necesarely needing sex, though I can still do it nonetheless – i’m not sex repulsive) It can still be linked to an absence of libido due to my medication 🤔 Which iknow it’d still be valid nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. gatekeeping and concerns about being “valid” or “allowed” to use a label is definitely an ongoing problem I’ve noticed in the LGBTQIA+ community; I personally think that if you want to identify as something, it’s your right, and if you’re not sure that’s okay too – but of course it’s a very personal decision, and as you mention there can be external variables (as if it wasn’t difficult enough already 😕). thank you for sharing 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah.. :/ I was speaking with one of my old coworker who was MEGA aro about that and she was like « well. Speaking as an aro errr id be okay with that either way. The ones I know are all super chill and will welcome you to our gang! »

        Hopefully I’ll figure that out soon.. Alex is already identifying himself as demisexual and that’s it xD

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah Izzy ❤ I wish 14 y/o had this letter back then I was a confused mess and I mean, I’m still a confused mess but I’ve finally figured some things out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. honestly from talking to other friends it seems like we’re pretty much all still confused messes, so you’re in good company there 💕 of course having some things figured out is better than none, and you know i’m always here if you want to talk / rant about anything, anytime!

      Liked by 1 person

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