I meet his eyes across the silent room, and look away quickly at being caught looking. I laugh at myself and tell me – inside my head because I know that it seems mad to talk to yourself outside – this;
You don’t fancy him, you idiot! You’re gay!
I laugh to myself again and focus on my Kindle, the article I’m reading, the means of procrastination from the reading I need to do. I can’t help looking again though: he’s beautiful. I know that he is beautiful even though I am gay, and that makes me question, which in turn leads to frustration- if you’re not gay, then you’re bi. Pick one. Choose.
All these words have meanings that I don’t feel:
Gay You love the same sex, go to bars, march at pride, have a lifestyle and shared experience.
Lesbian You like women, only women, no one but women. Ever. The end.
Bi You love everyone and anyone, are open and adventurous, maybe you lean towards liking girls, maybe you don’t.
Queer An identity and culture that I don’t understand in any way, seems out of reach.
Pansexual You are Captain Jack Harkness.
I tell people that I am cisgendered, I like the idea and freedom of gender-nuetral pronouns but use ‘she’. I am a lesbian and middle-class, white-Brittish, single. I’ve been filling in job applications and they ask these questions. I have started going to social gatherings where I have to answer the unasked question or let it become a secret. Once, at work, a member of the company came in and started talking to the staff. As the shop was empty and looked to stay that way, I joined the group just in time to hear her talking about a gay couple that stayed at her B&B last summer. I smiled, thinking she was going to talk about equality. The beginning of her sentence was ‘you have to let them in’ and I froze. ‘Them’ – me. What came next was ‘I wrote to my MP and asked him; would you want them in your house?’ She was an important member of staff, so I went to have a cup of tea and seethe in the staffroom, waiting until she left to emerge.
That’s my only story. I have a friend who talks about ‘collective gay angst’, collective experience and difficulties, oppression of ‘us’, but that’s my only story. I never told people at school that I was gay or that I fancied them, but I could have. My family didn’t bat an eyelid when I told them, barely even registering it as more than ‘oh, huh, okay’. I don’t have a collective conscience with other people, brought about from shared experience. Does that mean I’m not a ‘proper’ gay?
I sometimes feel like I understand people who were born into the wrong body, are one gender inside and another out. I enjoy the company of men, I sometimes feel more able to identify with them than with girls, I sometimes wonder if perhaps I would do better as a man. I like being female, though, so I pick cisgendered as the easiest option, the closest to how I feel. I know I like girls, so I have to choose one of the identities above and not ‘straight’. But I have had crushes on boys, at school I was head over heels for one boy, my first three kisses were with boys. I am sexually attracted to girls, though, the other things were friendships and crushes, not lust.
I choose lesbian because I like the sound of it, I like being that, I like who it makes me and that it makes me part of something. I choose lesbian because it’s the best of the bunch. My identity, then, is not clearly defined by my sexuality, and sometimes something in me, something apart from that, will react to someone who is male. I may even fall in love with him, because love, for me, is something very different than sexuality.
So I look away quickly when the beautiful man looks up, caught looking. Does he know I think he’s beautiful? I wonder…
Featured image: Dennis Brekke