It’s not unusual for anyone to look at an attractive person and recognize that individual is objectively beautiful. But there’s always been so much more to it wrapped up in that admission for me.
For a while, as I struggled with my eating disorder, admiration was colored with jealousy from a lack of self-esteem. Acknowledging another woman’s beauty in some way diminished my own: she was prettier, thinner, sexier, whatever-er. The negative self-talk hid a lot of things.
Coming to love my body changed everything for me. I no longer spent energy hating myself, I could focus it on discovering myself.
I began to accept and love who I am in other ways. Including my sexuality. Once I stopped hating myself for the way I looked, it was easier to simply appreciate another woman’s beauty instead letting it detract from how I felt about myself.
Accepting your sexuality is different for everyone. For some, it’s always been obvious. For others, it’s a process, one of both development and discovery.
For me, once the veil of *something* had been lifted and I no longer viewed other woman with jealousy, I realized I was looking at them with something else. And that I had always looked at them that way; I just didn’t allow myself to see it.
“Wow, she’s gorgeous.” I was saying the same words as my friends if we were looking at the same woman. But I became more and more aware that for me, it meant something very different. It was more than admiration or objective analysis.
I wasn’t just seeing that she was beautiful—I was seeing that she was beautiful and I wanted her. Wanted to talk to her, to flirt with her, to kiss her. When I looked at certain women, I felt all the things: the butterflies, the nervousness, the beautiful trepidation that comes with any crush. Whatever magic comes into being whenever you realize you like someone, want someone—I was feeling that with women.
Yet it was a feeling I shut off and shoved down for the longest time. Part of this was the eating disorder, and the way viewing myself through its lens forced me to view other people.
But there was more to it, so much more. Like so many of us, I thought it was wrong. Not necessarily wrong in the absolute sense. But for me. Wrong for me to feel it, to want it, to want to feel it. And especially to express it.
I was influenced by my Catholic upbringing, and while I wasn’t exposed to what you’d call overt homophobia, I was being convinced to think that ALL of my sexual urges were wrong. That I should want to be with just one person, one man—for the purpose of getting married and having children.
Contrasted with this, I had an experience watching a same-sex relationships. After my mothers divorce, my mother began dating a woman. In our conversations during that time, though she never referred to herself as bi/queer/pansexual etc, she revealed to me that she’d had other relationships with women throughout her life. While that should have in some way made it easier for me to accept and declare my own sexual identity, it had the opposite effect. My mother’s relationship with her then-girlfriend—the first same-sex relationship I’d ever really experienced up-close—was incredibly toxic.
Witnessing this had it’s own effect on me, but there were other factors: my biological father criticized her for it constantly, implying the relationship itself was wrong, and that the wrongness of it explained the toxic relationship.
A clear picture was being painted for me. I internalized it, and subconsciously came to believe being with a woman was wrong, inappropriate, and difficult.
These beliefs lasted a long time, and guided some of my actions, at least in that they prevented me from exploring in ways that were desirable.
Owning my sexuality in a powerful way—abandoning negative attachments to words like “slut” or what it means to have a certain number of sexual partners—was liberating in so many ways. Being able to enjoy sex and not judge myself for wanting to be with more than one person was a learned practice. As I got better at it, being comfortable with myself in one sexual context allowed me to carry this comfort and confidence to another: my interest in women.
My fantasies about threesomes began to focus more on what it would be like to be with a woman, rather than what it would be like to be one of two women with a man. And so on.
By 2017, I was at a place in my life where I was actively working through childhood trauma, unpacking beliefs I had, and learning let go of an image that society wanted me to be.
All of which led me to meeting and creating absolutely beautiful friendships. I was surrounded by people who supported me, accepted me, and made me feel comfortable with exploring this piece of my sexuality.
From there, it was a matter of time before I was not only accepting of my interest in women, but ready to explore.
Through Instagram, I connected with someone, a man whose work I’d admired for years. To put it bluntly: I slid into his DMs. We developed a (mostly) professional dialogue, and when the opportunity presented itself to go to a seminar he was speaking at in NYC, I jumped at the chance.
Before I booked my flight, he said that he wanted to be clear and that he was enjoying developing our friendship, but currently had no desires or expectations beyond that. I’d had a crush on him for years, but agreed that keeping it professional was best.
At this point, he revealed two things to me: firstly, that he had a partner with whom he was completely in love; and secondly, that they were polyamorous and the relationship was open.
My weekend in New York was amazing. They were kind and generous, we had fun and built a strong connection.
For the next few months, I visited them and learned more about their relationship, about polyamory, and about sexuality.
The woman in the relationship, was (is) amazing in every way. My crush on her was instant. By the time I met her she was openly bisexual, but it turned out that she’d had an upbringing very similar to my own. The Catholicism, coupled with having been raised in the south, led her to shut off or ignore her desires. For a long while, she felt intense discomfort with the idea of exploring with women. And because we related on that level it made it even easier for me. I felt like it was okay that I had all these feelings, like I wasn’t the only one who went through this and dealt with this.
Shortly after meeting these two, things ended with the person I’d been dating. The rest is reasonably predictable: the attraction between us had grown, as had the comfort, and I had my first sexual experience with a woman and my first threesome in the same evening.
That woman became my girlfriend and that man became my boyfriend. And I learned more about myself in that relationship than I ever thought possible.
I interpret my sexual identity as bisexual, but I’m aware that may expand to something else as I continue to explore myself. And where that once would have filled me with fear and shame, now there is only excitement and curiosity.
I want to end this by letting any of you who are struggling with their sexual identity: it’s okay that it’s scary and uncomfortable and troubling. But you are not alone and there is a community of people out there who are willing to help you work through it.