By Anna Brüner
Growing up, I was more attracted to the Disney princesses than I was their male counterparts. Around ten years old, I started having body dysmorphia and started dressing like a boy whenever I wasn’t confined to the plaid jumper of my Catholic school uniform. People described me as a “tomboy,” so it wasn’t really a weird thing. My first real kiss was with a girl. At fifteen, I came out to my mom as bisexual. Her response? “No, you’re not.” It hurt a lot, but at the time I had the convenience of having a boyfriend, so any “queer talk” was something future Anna would have to worry about. I had a boyfriend all through high school and only a handful of close friends (including my boyfriend) knew about my ladyloving tendencies, but no one else ever suspected. Unlike the few friends I had who were openly gay, I was never bullied, threatened, or ostracized, and a huge part of me felt absolutely horrible about it. I was straight-passing, and that was all I had to be to survive adolescence.
When I came to college I started dating women. None of them developed into a relationship, but I was in love with all of them and stayed friends with a few. In college, particularly art school, no one batted an eye at the mention of being bisexual. It was a totally different energy than what I had experienced my whole life. Everyone around me was so accepting of everyone else’s sexual orientations, it was like being enveloped in a rainbow of puppies and mimosas.
And then I got a boyfriend.
“You’re just one of those bisexual college girls who sleeps with women but only has relationships with men,” a friend said to me one night, mostly in jest, but it still hurt. What if it was true?
In all of my relationships, I have always been honest with my sexuality. Sometimes it has been fetishized, sometimes used against me, sometimes beaten down with double standards, but more often than not it has been regularly accepted by my partners. When I first tell a new friend that I like all genders (I still use “bisexual” out of habit, though I consider myself pansexual), none of them are shocked. Following my freshman year in college, my mother even apologized for how she reacted when I first came out and has been incredibly accepting of me. I don’t tell everyone about my sexuality, mostly because I feel it’s not important for everyone to know, and also because I know how bisexual women are viewed in society and I don’t want to be that. But by not embracing it, by not shouting from the rooftops, by not lending my voice to the LGBTQ narrative, am I taking part in the alienation of queer people? Have I been shielded by my heteronormative relationships for too long? Am I not queer enough?
My current partner (and fiancé) is a straight man, and he knows just about everything about me. In the beginning of our relationship, I was dealing with a lot of gender dysphoria and discomfort with my body and my identity, and he was very supportive. I talked with him a lot about how I’ve never felt like anything male or female and that sometimes it made me more comfortable to be more masculine on some days and more feminine on others, but mostly I just felt comfortable in the middle of both, or even removed from the spectrum entirely. We talked about a lot of things. I decided I wanted to go by they/them pronouns. I officially came out to my friends as agender, and (accidentally) came out to my mom as well (she was cool with it). The acceptance was overwhelming.
But in a relationship that’s perceived as heterosexual, where I rarely feel or identify as a “woman,” then is the relationship still considered heterosexual? Or is it just something else that doesn’t need a label? I don’t know.
What I do know is that my partner and I will never encounter the violence, hate, mockery, or crudeness that gay couples so often suffer. We will never be denounced by our community or abandoned by our family members. We won’t live in fear when we go out in public together. Just like in high school, I feel incredibly guilty that I am not a part of the struggle...or at least as big a part of the struggle as I could have been. I could have done a lot of things differently. I could have made my voice louder, my art louder, my isolation louder, my anxiety louder, my self-hate louder, but I didn’t. I still can, though, and I will not be apologetic about it. I will be queer as the day is long. I will be the queer cousin at every Thanksgiving. I will be queer until the day I die. I will be queer enough, whatever that means, and stop questioning it or validating it.
Somewhere there’s a little girl wearing her father’s t-shirt and baseball cap, and she’s drawing mermaids and thinking about the girl who sits three desks in front of her in class, and she’s wondering if all these feelings are normal or ever going to stop or if something’s wrong with her. I don’t want her to ever feel like something’s wrong with her. I want her to know she’s queer enough. She’s enough.