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Why I've Never Been to Pride

The first time I said “I am bisexual” I was sitting on the old carpet of a shitty dorm room in my underwear, my first serious boyfriend across from me. But it wasn’t even a clear statement. I added a clarifier. Think.

“I think I’m bisexual.”

To his credit, he didn’t shame me or laugh at me or feel threatened. He just shrugged and asked, “why do you think that?” A whole slew of reasons rushed through my head. How I really wanted to kiss the alt girl in my sophomore year history class. How I found myself cycling through soccer obsessions in my teens every time I saw Blake Lively in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. How I had a crush on both Caleb and Hanna in Pretty Little Liars. But instead, I froze and said, “I like to watch lesbian porn.”

I know. I’m cringing too.

Maybe part of me said it so I could still seem desirable to my boyfriend. Maybe it was because I was 18 and stupid. Or maybe it was because I didn’t really know why ---- it was just a feeling I had. No matter the reason, my boyfriend didn’t care. Part of me is grateful he didn’t make a big deal out of it. He didn’t fetishize me or my sexuality, he didn’t make me feel bad or dirty, but he also really didn’t care. He reacted like I told him I had a turkey sandwich for lunch. Indifferent.

I didn’t bring it up to him again. In fact, I buried that confession and became indifferent to it myself. I mean... did it really matter if I was a straight-passing girl in a heterosexual relationship?

Art by Maddy Sutka

That was the first year I really heard about Pride as something that I could actually go to. My gay friend from a small city in California talked about how fun it would be to go together. I wasn’t out to him, but he still wanted to include me as a supportive friend to go with. It was no longer just a fictional party in NYC or LA. He showed me pictures and videos of Pride festivals, and I saw so much joy and certainty. People wore flags and shirts with their identities on them for the world to see. They knew who they were, and that scared me. Despite all the talk and hopeful planning, we never ended up going. It was an idea we both let fizzle out, and I was grateful for it. I was still trying to figure out who I was, and I didn’t think it was right for a questioning bisexual to take up space meant for out and proud LGBT+ people.

Six years later I realize that line of thinking is stupid, but I still haven’t gone to Pride.

I’m “out” in the fact that I don’t hide who I am from anyone. I never had a big “coming out,” but I never felt the need to. I grew up with liberal parents who fly a pride flag outside our house in the conservative Texas suburbs. I know that no matter who I bring home, they won’t care. This is a privilege I sometimes feel weird about. I’ve been told through books and movies and online articles that coming out is a fundamental queer experience. But it’s an experience I’ve never had. I really came to terms with my sexuality while in a long-term straight relationship, and it felt weird to come out as bisexual in that context. So I kept it buried. I also didn’t want to have touchy-feely conversations with people I love. I’m incredibly emotionally stunted and wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting someone down to talk about my feelings in any way ---- especially about my love life. So I never officially came out. I kept myself in the closet because it felt like my business. No one else needed to know.

I’m afraid to take up space in other people’s lives, and I think that’s why I haven’t been to Pride.

Even though I’m out now, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never hooked up with a girl. I’ve never even gone on a date with a girl. Most of the time I feel like a fake bisexual. I’m a straight person cosplaying as a queer person. I’m just making it up for attention. So why would it be my right to encroach in a safe space meant for people who are out and proud? I didn’t feel like I was queer enough to participate.

I know, deep down that isn’t true, but I’m scared that I won’t be accepted by the queer community. I see my identity slammed by both members of the queer community and homophobic people online, and it scares me. I’m afraid of not being accepted. At the same time, almost all my friends are in the LGBT+ community, and they haven’t iced me out because of my heterosexual dating history. But it’s still a fear. It stems from my own internalized hatred toward myself and my own internalized ideas of what a queer person should be. These thoughts in turn lead to another:

If I can’t accept myself as a real bisexual, how can I expect the world to?

And this is why I still haven’t been to Pride. I want to go. I want so desperately to go. I want to have fun, and dance, and drink, and be happy with my friends, but part of me still feels like I am not welcome. I don’t feel like it is a celebration for me. How could it when I’ve only dated men?

I want to feel valid and comfortable in my own sexuality, but it’s harder than it should be. Which makes me feel broken. And I know it’s not because of my parents or my friends, but my own fears and anxieties I have myself. Growing up, I literally had the most accepting home environment. Sure, my Texas hometown is generally bigoted, but at least at home, I wasn’t ever in fear of being kicked out or yelled at for loving other genders.

Art by Maddy Sutka

And this broken feeling makes it hard for me to even think about the nuances of my sexuality and gender. I realize that maybe I fit more into the pansexual category, but I feel more comfortable with the bisexual label. Part of me doesn’t even feel fully woman (in fact, I hate even the thought of being called a woman), but I don’t know if that’s because of my raging body dysmorphia or because maybe my gender isn’t as binary as I thought. I know that no matter what, if I decide other labels work better for me, it won’t be a big show and I won’t “come out.” I’ll just quietly change my pronouns to she/they and casually mention I’m pan when people ask. If those changes happen, I don’t want attention for them. And I know I would still identify as a bi woman to my family anyway, because why would I ever burden them with my confusing existence?

The whole concept of pride is hard for me. I’ve never felt proud of who I am. In any context. Being a queer person doesn’t feel revolutionary for me, but it feels revolutionary when I watch people and celebrities I admire. But with me? It just is. I would be lying if I said I was straight, and I feel like a fraud when I say I’m bi. No matter what, I feel like I have no place. And that’s scary.

I hope one day I can go to Pride, if not for myself, at least to support my friends. I know that when I do, it will be a happy experience. Maybe I’ll start to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and maybe I won’t. I do know that my identity is something I will probably struggle with the rest of my life, but maybe it’s okay if I don’t have answers. Maybe just being me, whoever that is, is enough.

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1 Comment

katie wilkerson
katie wilkerson
Jun 07, 2021

Three cheers for the confusing burden of our existence!!!!!!!!!

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