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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Ode to Questioning

From the first time I came out, there was an air of pressure. Pressure to be sure, certain, solid in what I was saying as though once the words rolled off my tongue to hang in the air, once my thoughts were laid open for others to see, they became something immutable. Permanent. I had from a young age picked up on two things about declaring an identity in our society: one, that it would not be without consequence, and two, that people who changed their minds about their identities were ‘attention seekers’ and ‘fakers’, and held in poor regard by gay and straight people alike. 

Now, if we’re speaking from an educated standpoint we know that there’s more to it than that, that gender and sexuality can be fluid and there are many people for whom labels will change, but in the broader cultural context there is not nearly enough appreciation for the process of questioning.
This not only adds to the difficulties some folks experience in coming out, but can be particularly damaging for certain identities- as a bisexual person, I have noticed that many negative stereotypes about bisexuals seem to stem from a loathing for uncertainty. 

For example, many times I have heard bisexuality stigmatized as being confused, a stepping stone to coming out as gay or lesbian, being unsure what we want, or more likely to cheat because we can’t ‘choose’ one gender. Now, I could go on ad infinitum about all the things wrong with these statements. Today though, I want to focus in on a common thread that runs through these assumptions: the idea that a choice must be made. It frames uncertainty as the enemy. Now, bisexuality itself is not uncertain- it’s as solid of an identity as any

I’m bisexual regardless of the gender of any partners I have had or will have, and I have no need to choose a single gender to be attracted to. My question is why the idea of uncertainty is weaponized against identities, as though there’s something wrong with continuing to explore yourself.

Why should we allow the potential for growth in our self-understanding to be used to hold us back or as a smear campaign against identities? For a lot of people it’s natural to be averse to questioning- it can be a painful time, and the certainty of belonging to a group can be a great comfort. However, questioning is not inherently bad. If we truly want to embrace our rich spectrum of gender and sexual identities, we have to knock it off with our insistence on being certain. If someone changes their label, that’s great! They’ve found a new understanding of themselves! Give folks the ability to try on labels and see what fits without judging the person (or the label for that matter) if they experience changes.

If you’re still questioning, be gentle with yourself - allow yourself the room to breathe and grow. Some of us are on a quick trip and others might be traveling their whole lives, and that’s alright.

Blog submitted by Dana Lund