It was a feeling I grew up with.
It was a sinking feeling that would come out whenever I was left alone with my thoughts. I was never sure what it was because I never wanted to define it… because that would mean confronting it and I was terrified of what was behind those doors. Maybe as a defense mechanism, I would romanticize this empty feeling by wrapping it in art – drawing, painting, the occasional poem, and music… most importantly, music. I thought (and still think) there’s a certain beauty in sadness (not necessarily mine). It wasn’t until my late teens/early twenties that I found a phrase to describe it: “I just want something I can never have“. I knew this sadness had its roots in love, but that’s as close as I’d let myself get.
That was actually a lyric I’d found during my blossoming obsession with Nine Inch Nails. I stumbled upon it while scrounging for their songs on Limewire. Admittedly, my initial reaction to the song wasn’t pure adornment, but that lyric stuck with me.
I typically identif(ied/y) with the male perspective in love songs – admiring women, being at the emotional mercy of women, willing to be a martyr for a woman’s love* – so I’d vicariously live through music. (Songs by women where straight men are the object of affection are just not the same.) But you can only compromise being actually infatuated with so much “NeYo – Because of You”/ “Eve 6 – Think Twice”/ “Our Lady Peace – Somewhere Out There“-esque songs** before you fall back into that sinking (faux-)realization that this is something you’ll never have. Sad love songs were a temporary remedy for avoiding my own feelings towards girls.
* I am never and will never again be this full of cheese.
** It was 2005 and I had just discovered Kazaa, okay???
Since coming out, there’s been more of a release on this feeling – love and happiness don’t seem as unattainable. But the feeling isn’t completely gone; opening up the doors to my sexuality led to a cluttered hallway, with 23-years worth of overgrown vines and trust issues… and it just looks like a lot of work has to be done.
But at least I know.
Here’s another instance of me overthinking things:
When I came out on Facebook, I paid loose attention to who Liked my post as a way of noting who now knows I am queer, and thereby to whom I do not need to come out. Of note, I’m well aware of Facebook’s feed algorithm and it’s selectiveness in who sees.
So there’s this girl in my class who looks like Sky Ferreira, is into Game of Thrones, and has memes embedded in her humour. All factors for bae-ness.
But per the Constitutional Bill of Lesbians, Article I, Section I, “Assume straight lest otherwise mentioned”. Otherwise has not been mentioned.
We started texting back and forth in class (“Abort! Abort!” – distant voices from afar) and chatted online on Facebook messenger every now and then. As exam time came, I, too, came out.
She never Liked my post.
We didn’t talk for a while because exams kept us busy. Or so I thought.
I posted a link on our secret Facebook class group. She usually likes my posts. She didn’t this time.
I tried not to take it to heart. Defensive thoughts started laying bricks. “Your friendship wouldn’t have lasted anyway. The difference between you two would’ve started creating a riff anyway. She wasn’t that great… anyway”. I started getting used to the fact that some people are just conservative at the core, no matter how swell they may seem on the surface. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how some people are.
A week later, a message popped up on my Facebook. She’d sent me photos – “Dude, check out how much public seating’s in Montreal!” referencing the article I had recently been featured on that highlighted the lack of seating in Toronto. She’d gone on a quick vacation following exams. “They made me think of you haha”.
Though I’m still not sure if she saw my coming out post, it’s still clearly been a case of Much Ado About Nothing in my head. I need to take better control of my thoughts and be aware of when I’m fixating on something.
These words mark a point of realization – the realization. All this time, I’d thought June 7th 2015 was the first day those thoughts crawled out of my mind; yes, it was the first time I’d said it aloud, but I never realized I’d put it on paper before. I found these from last year, written just after my birthday party.
Certain words in here – “terrified”, “scared she likes me back”, “overthinking”, “fucked up trust issues”,… Oh, plus ça change.
But it would be a terrible lie to say I haven’t grown – yes, I still have trust issues and I’m still overthinking (all the) things – but my understanding of myself has gained so much depth.
At least I’m better at articulating my feelings?
In hindsight, my biphobia was glaringly obvious and deeply rooted in insecurity. I’d like to think I’m more confident and self-assured now.
In every sense (writing-wise and feelings-wise), this is painful to read.
Two significant things happened last week:
1.) I publicly came out on Facebook (to whom is at the discretion of its feed algorithm, but the number of Likes tells me it was at least 100 people). The timing of it all wasn’t intentional – I wrote up a blog post for a friend’s website two months ago and it was essentially a love letter to Toronto praising its diversity, the importance of diversity, and how that diversity helped me come out. It was coincidentally scheduled for publishing on Monday – the day after the Orlando Massacre – so the timing worked well.
Over 100 people liked it (probably the most likes I’ve ever gotten – I tend to overshare social justice articles that people don’t click, getting me bumped down by Facebook’s algorithm) including a few cousins whom I’d forgotten would see this – which is a point of consideration since I haven’t come out to my dad yet. WELP.
Of course, the blog was published on the first of three straight days of exams. Oooooof course. Because this summer was supposed to be absolutely uneventful and I was supposed to drop everything to focus on school. But life happens when you least want it to, or so the saying goes. The saying that I just made up. (Thankfully, I’m going in with As and A+s, and I’m confident I got at least a 90 on one of them, so my big data career is not jeopardized and I’m still on track to be a Successful Lesbian™).
On that note, if coming out on Facebook had any effect on me at all, it would be that a subtle weight’s been added on my shoulders – the weight of representation. In addition to representing women and Asians (which can’t be invisible markers), I feel that I have to hold myself to another standard – to represent lesbians well.
But I wouldn’t call this responsibility a burden. I think it’s a point of discipline – it’s a challenge that’s been placed in front of me. If I approach it well, it’s motivation to be a better person. Besides, I’m a competitive person who can’t turn down a good challenge.
2.) I realized I am slightly biphobic. It’s a devastating feeling when you’re forced to confront the fact that you’re a shitty person on the inside and have been in denial all this time. Just last week, in a post where I argued I wasn’t biphobic, I listed three times that hinted at my biphobia that have plagued me since they happened and attempted to articulate a defence for myself.
It was a Medium article that grabbed my biphobia by collar and shoved it in my face. The author – a femme-presenting bisexual who is married to a man – wrote about how her bisexual identity fell in between “not gay enough to be straight, but not straight enough to be gay”, and the internalized biphobia that brewed from subtle comments made by homos and heteros.
The weird thing is, none of this is new to me, but something clicked in me this time.
“No, I know bisexuality is valid, therefore I’m not biphobic”. But underneath my words, a part of me would visciously compare the oppression bisexuals and homosexuals face. I would bitterly hang on to “I’ve had it worse than you. You were able to find happiness”. No good comes from comparing yourself to others, but this is the shitty kind of person I am deep inside. I’m trying to unlearn and now that I’ve brought it to my consciousness and openly admitted it, I’m hoping I’m on my way to ridding myself of this habit </attempt at redemption>. Nobody would or could correct me because my biphobia didn’t manifest itself explicitly – only subconsciously (SO MUCH SO THAT IT BARELY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE OF MY OWN CONSCIOUSNESS)
So when bisexual women would tell me about their attractions to other women, I would take their word for it, but not acknowledge the fact that they might’ve faced any oppression. I was deeply convinced that “well, it’s so much easier to be with a man, why would anybody choose the harder path and be with a woman”. What I didn’t get was that with each partner, gender doesn’t matter and isn’t considered. Gaby Dunn put it best with something along the lines of “Me saying I dated Jen, Richard, then Laura is perceived differently and challenged, whereas if I said I dated Jen, Rachel, then Laura, people wouldn’t think twice about it”. People are people, why does their gender make you insecure.
Anyway, I’m trying. I don’t want to make this about me (oh wait, THIS IS MY PRIVATE BLOG), but I was so disappointed in myself when I realized I was biphobic (talk about imposter syndrome manifesting – like are you actually even open-minded, Fab?) but I think it’s nested in something deeper, namely some kinda insecurity and bitterness stemming from who the fuck knows where.
Ugh. That’s a psychological mess I’ll go through and clean up another day.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been as emotionally distraught as everyone else in the LGBT community.
At Toronto’s candlelight vigil, I saw faces deeply affected by the shooting. I saw fear. I saw disappointment. I saw tears. People were mourning their queer comrades as it was a painful reminder of why some people are closeted. It was distressing largely because it was supposed to be a celebration in a safe haven at the peak of Pride month, but the shooting took it away and forced them to re-question every safe space they thought they had.
I was saddened by the shooting. It’s unfair, it’s hateful. My stomach sank watching Anderson Cooper list out the names of all the victims. My heart broke when I read about the mother who was killed while accompanying her gay son to Pulse to celebrate his queer identity. But I shed no tears, and once the video ended or the article was finished, I would carry on, re-aligning myself with routine emotions, only to repeat the cycle when I’d come across another Orlando related tweet/video/article.
Before this, I had just started to embrace and identify wholly with my queerness and queer brethren, departing from the heterosexual masses. While the Orlando shooting caused the LGBT community to erupt in emotional disarray, it was in stark contrast to my lack of emotional reaction, which made me question my queerness and thrust me into an orphaned space in between. And I’ve been here since.
I was able to sympathize… but I couldn’t empathize. You share an identity with the victims. You should be emotionally distraught. This was an attack on a big part of you. Or is it not?
I considered the possibility that perhaps I don’t have the emotional capacity for it, but I know for a fact that I have a higher-than-average capacity for empathy – but for some reason, it wasn’t being triggered like it was for other queer people.
Then an LGBT role model of mine, Jen Richards, tweeted:
I think about that a lot. How normal it is. Our conversations move from death to bawdy humor with a fluidity I doubt others can comprehend.
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) June 14, 2016
@SmartAssJen Resilience is the identity marker underneath our “more visible” identity markers.
— fab (@aintthatfab) June 14, 2016
She agreed, but I couldn’t help but have this play over and over in my mind. It felt like I had just pat myself on the back with my response, deeming myself “resilient”. Like I had dismissed everything, let naivete get the best of me, and conveniently cloaked the absence of emotions with “I am resilient”.
It felt like humble-bragging, and on my list, humble-braggers are down there with bike-thieves.
But in the face of adversity, a challenge, a tragedy, my immediate reaction is “okay. What from here?”. I don’t linger. I empathize if it’s a friend suffering, but that’s part of my own “what from here” approach. I move on. I just don’t see the point in letting it get to me, so I don’t bother with emotions. In this sense, they’re not productive, they have no functioning value, and if I let everything get to me, I’d be weighed down to the point of immobilization by everything that’s happening in the world. I can’t afford to do that and it would take away from time that could be spent making the world a better place and preventing something like this from happening.
And still… I feel like a part of me, as a human, is not functioning correctly.
But the absolute scariest part? I don’t know if I want to fix it.
“No!” I would blurt.
“Of course not!”
“Biphobia is ignorant!”, I’d think by default, as with any other blank-phobias talked about nowadays (arachnophobia is so 2002).
Discriminating someone for being bisexual is the same as discriminating someone for being homosexual, and we all know how that story plays out/ is playing out. (spoiler alert: it ends with homophobes realizing they’re fucking idiots).
But I’ve caught myself saying (and worse, THINKING) things that might fall into the biphobic category. And that’s not cool. I’m 80% sure I’m not biphobic, but I’m going to confront the potentially biphobic 20% side of me by surfacing and addressing these terrible thoughts here. (Didn’t I just say the other day that I’m a bad person deep inside?)
Three incidents come to mind:
1.) When I was in Portland a few months back, I met up with a bisexual, married woman (I didn’t know this before meeting up with her – we met on a Femsplain Slack group and she offered to take me to the #1 brunch spot in Portland). We hung out the entire afternoon and managed to find so much to talk about. Being open about our sexualities opened up a whole host of things to discuss, but at one point, I think I mentioned that I think it’s easier for bisexual women to end up with a man. “I hate when people say that!” she said. I had offended her.
Reflect: I don’t think she took my words as carefully as I had picked them. In our heteronormative society, there’s less friction, stress, and fewer obstacles when pursuing an opposite-sex (cis) relationship, because it’s the norm. Society is built on heternormative practices. I don’t agree that this should be the case, and I think obviously we should work away from heteronormativity, but I stand by what I said regarding ease, simply because I genuinely can’t see the counterpoint when it comes to same-sex vs opp-sex relationships. Not in 2016, when the possibility of being attacked for just being a visible same-sex couple exists and families excommunicating you is still very real and very present in the back of homosexual minds.
To be clear, I’m not valuing one relationship over another, based on sexuality, nor am I invalidating a bisexual person’s attraction to another of the same sex. I’m exclusively referring to ease and “fit” (in the Darwinian sense).
This instance of possible biphobia on my part has stuck with me since it happened (I was a little hurt that I may have offended her), but I’m certain it’s a statement on heteronormativity and not an ignorant attack on bisexuals.
2.) I was texting with someone about biphobia and how idiotic it is, when I may have ironically and unfortunately exposed myself as a biphobic lesbian (dafuq, Fab). This is what I’d said: “Am I jealous that bi girls can see the beauty in both genders? Yes. Am I weary of bi girls because of my own history with them? Yes. Am I biphobic? No.”
Reflect: Yes, I’m envious that bi and pansexual people are able to fall in love with both/all genders. I think there is beauty in being able to see the beauty in everyone, irrespective of genitalia. Where I shoot myself in the foot is saying that I’m weary of bi girls (no explanation before or after can redeem this sentence). But I don’t think this is what I meant, and my train of thought departed way too early with the wrong shipment entirely. When I wrote this, I was thinking of two girls, specifically. And I was wrong to identify them as “bi girls” as a whole as their (shitty) actions are not representative of the whole bisexual population. And I am so weary of them, as human beings.
And this actually leads to my third “episode”. Ripley’s Biphobic or Not S01E03:
3.) I had a thing with two bisexual girls last year and whenever someone mentions “bisexual”, it becomes an automatic association. The first was a friend who I quickly developed a crush on and ended up being the final straw that pushed me to come out (but only after she ended up dating someone else, because I am a doofus maximus). The second was a Tinder hook-up gone straight to hell (without going into detail, she ghosted me after wrongfully assuming I wanted a relationship smfh). I initially fought feelings of resentment towards the first girl for ending up with a dude – I told myself (correctly) that it wouldn’t have worked out between her and I anyway (but I also think a part of that resentment may actually be towards myself for not being ready to accept her advances at the time). Either way and sexuality aside, she eventually became someone I couldn’t tolerate for more than an hour at a time
and she wasn’t even my mom.
Reflect: I think I answered my own question with the first sentence: it’s a subconscious association between bisexuality and those two. “Bisexual” = They come to mind and they’re shitty people. But there’s no correlation between this identity market and this characteristic, obviously. Despite clearing my mind of them soon after each mention of bisexuals, residual feelings cling onto the thoughts that follow. I guess I just have to be more aware of this unfortunate Pavlovian response moving forward, if I don’t want to incorrectly expose myself as a biphobic lesbian anymore.
Holy shit writing this out was therapeutic.
I have some pretty great bisexual friends and know great bisexual people so even the possibility of me being biphobic was deeply irritating. I’m so glad writing this out helped me realize this
because I’m not fucking paying for therapy.
I AM 100% NOT BIPHOBIC.
Edit (17th, June 2016):
This article was critical in helping me empathize with bisexual people. I don’t think I’m not 100% biphobic as I shamefully admit to being dismissive at times and clinging desperately on to “yes, but my struggle is harder than yours”. But I am learning. And I am trying. Please forgive me.
In lesbian years, I am an infant. One year and two days ago, I came out (for the first time) to a friend whilst sitting on a park bench. I said it aloud for the first time – a statement most unretractable – and I couldn’t even say it directly; something along the lines of: “I don’t know if I’ll even end up marrying a guy“. And holy shit I just realized my coming out went full-circle because that’s more or less how I came out to my mom.
Anyway, I’m glad I documented each of the first twenty-ish times I came out (that’s definitely not normal) because looking back on each post, I can recall the magnitude of emotions I was feeling leading up to coming out and the weight that quietly dissolved after. But I also realize that the more times I came out, the more the process lost its meaning – which made it easier for me. It’s not to say that coming out is meaningless, but it is a chore, the onus of which is unfairly thrown onto queer people. And it dulls after a while. Throwback to this video starring a certain blonde intersectional feminist:
And because I am super gay, I’d like to reflect on a few changes that I’ve seen in myself on my one year anniversary of coming out:
- I’m more confident. Opening the floodgates to conversations and blog entries about my sexuality has instilled in me an understanding of things – some people are born this way and there are people out there like me. By being more open to dialogue, surrounding myself with the right people, (and following the right people on Twitter), I’ve developed an understanding of something – a side of myself- that I was hesitant to approach before. I’ve since embraced that side of who I am and done the oh-so-typical thing of writing about it in a one-year-coming-out-anniversary
- I’m not scared anymore. It’s closely related to the first point but different in that whereas before, I’d be hesitant to follow through with my thoughts for fear of being confronted with my sexuality and this trickled into a hesitancy to dive too deep into anything personal, whether this was in conversation with someone or just in my head. I refused to “go there”.
- I’m more outgoing – but out of acknowledged necessity. Similar to how I became an excellent networker despite being an introvert, being outgoing and social was necessary for me to meet people… people like me. LGBT people represent about 5% of the population – if we’re being generous, we can allocated about 2% of that to queer women (bi, pan, gay). So in a room of 100 people, for the straight person, they’d still have close to 50 people to pick from as a potential partner. For me, in the same room, I’d have one. And then I’d have to like them, they’d have to like me, we have to have chemistry, etc. And given how fucking messed up I am in the head, the chances of me finding someone are slim to dim. But wow did this go off the tracks. Realizing this, I’ve put myself out there a lot more – said yes to way more social events, parties, nights out, etc. when I would’ve felt more comfortable at home. But all in all, I can say it’s paid off – I just need to control my drinking :O
- I’m more aware. The word “lesbian” was disgusting to me as recently as a month ago. Acknowledging and reading up about it (on Twitter), made me aware that my issue with the word was not isolated – this subtle self-hate was common with lesbians everywhere and confronting this was hard, but once I became aware, I pledged to reclaim the word. It’s timely that there was so much helpful content being pushed recently (Gaycation, Transparent, Her Story, etc) but I feel I receive it more loudly now, now that I have a more fitting (and open) frame of mind to process this in.
All these points build on honesty and as that stupid saying goes “the truth will set you free”, it’s not until you’re living in your truth that you really understand the weightlessness of it. I’ve had an untouched copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War sitting on my shelf for half a year, with the intent of using this material to further my career (businesses cite it all the time as an integral component to their success). When I finally got to reading it, I was so disappointed at the ill intent in this book (what did you expect, Fab?) and the amount of pretense that was advised. It taught things like “Always hide the size of your army and never reveal its true capabilities to your enemies”… I don’t care how many successful people swear by this book, I can’t imagine the “success” achieved would not be devalued by how immoral the actions are. It’s easy to dismiss this as naivete, but I believe the success of YouTubers speaks to the achievements that being true to yourself can achieve. Open internet (as a marketing platform and as an accessible investigation tool) makes honesty a much more crucial virtue to abide by. Seriously… what a time to be alive.
To be honest (hah), I’m running a little dry on content for this post. Perhaps I’ll update/edit it later, or I’ll create a part 2. I feel I have a lot more to say about my “first birthday”, but biking 12km up hills to Sunnybrook Park for a 1.5hr game of frisbee and biking another 12km back home has drained me.
edit. (June 12th, 3:10am)
Coincidentally featuring the same media, I feel less of this “Gay Phantom Limb” phenomenon I’d felt before. There really is a weightlessness in truth.
I should note that it’s a conscious decision that begs a question every time I meet someone new – “should I disclose to them my sexuality?“. Should I, to avoid the awkward “actually, I’m gay” that may come? Will it come up naturally? And, somewhat shamefully: is this a risk I need to take? (aka will them knowing my sexuality jeopardize anything?) It’s a decision every queer person is forced to make and it’s mind-clutter straight people don’t need to deal with.
It’s the second week in a row that I’ve been a day late to post. I’d love to blame it entirely on the big data course, but it’s been a busy weekend, volunteering with a community-building group.
I came across an interesting quote on Tumblr a while back and I haven’t stopped thinking about it:
“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they got”
As an uptight bitch, this is revelationary to me. I’m a selfish person and I have a state-of-the-art, military-grade defense-mechanism when it comes to feelings – which my mom has been interpreting as extremely high standards for my partner – so letting myself fall for someone is not easy. Letting my walls down is not something I can do. I overthink things. I have a lot going on outside of my personal life. These are all factors for a Hurricane-Katrina-times-President-Donald-Trump love life.
So I’ve let this sit in the back of my mind and I’m trying to trick myself into bringing it to my prefrontal cortex (assuming Wikipedia is correct in saying that this is the decision-making, personality-shaping thinger in my thinker). It could easily be confused for “lowering your standards” but it’s nothing like that. It belongs more to the virtue I’ve been touting so much lately: empathy. It’s understanding the other person, how they think, and basing their actions on that. It’s not holding another person to the same over-thought, critical standards I hold myself to.
But what if it’s not enough?
I guess that’s when it’s grounds for breaking up, but that’s nothing I should be worrying about right now aaaaand I’m getting ahead of myself (once again).
The second half of this blog pertains to something that’s been bugging me for a long time, submerged in a sea of other thoughts but just visible from the surface, and nearing:
I think, deep down, I’m a bad person.
Okay, I’m philanthropic, I volunteer – fuck, I just got featured on two of the country’s biggest newspapers for my volunteerism – , and I try. I try – I really fucking do – to make the world a better place. I can’t help but notice when someone at a party is quiet or alone, and I’ll go over and chat with them.
But I’m convinced to the core that I’m a bad person. And once people see this ugly side of me, everything positive that I’ve ever done will be tainted black.
I think I do a good job of limiting how much time I spend with people, before I lose patience and become selfish – selfish with my time, with my attention, with my tolerance. I’ll get irritable. I’ll snap.
I also see flashes of my ugly side when I’m (subconsciously) desperate to fit in. For example, when I’m in a group of bros, I tend to cover up my liberalism and my adherence to PC-ness will loosen. It’s like I’m on autopilot and also trying to adapt. At the cost of my own values.
No, it’s not right to abdicate your hard-fought, hard-learned values to “fit-in”. But I think sometimes building social rapport is necessary. Not at the cost of agreeing with a Trump-supporter, but I would let one-offs slide. We don’t have to be calling out straight white men every waking second…
Side fucking bar: I was out a few weekends ago at a friend’s concert and had met a (definitely not straight) girl, as a mutual friend. We were chatting outside the venue, getting liquored up, when she brought up a spoiled, privileged brat she’d tutored in highschool. I, tipsily (???), joked “was he whiiiiite?”. She clapped her hands, hijacked my all-inclusive cruiseship, rechristianed it S.S. Oppressed Minorities, armed it with cannons, and started firing at my straight white male friend for absolutely no reason! She rubbed his white privilege in his face and went on a spiel about oppression – while we were pre-drinking for a concert. wHy?Yyyy? He was just standing there, chatting with us, and you decided to flip shit and throw shit at him as though he was wearing a swastika tank top and screaming “white power!”. He walked away, refusing to put up with this bullshit, and as she turned to me for a high-five, I gave her my two-cents on bringing shit like this up at a time like this. After telling her off, I walked away, fuming to my friend at how inappropriate that was. Man, people like her give feminists a bad name.
Anyway, my buried shittiness isn’t getting resolved tonight. This post is going off the rails. But at least I wrote something?