*Warning! Some adult language ahead.
As a little girl, if I encountered something to mount, I would mount it.
I couldn’t help myself. I had strong sexual energy even then and a determination to explore it—though of course, I really didn’t know what it was or what that meant at the time. I just knew there were certain parts of my body that were capable of feeling intense pleasure and I enjoyed experimenting with that pleasure.
I undoubtedly caused my mother no end of embarrassment. I don’t think she knew what to do with such a hypersexual child—and her first child, at that—except to occasionally bark at me to get my hand out of my pants or to keep my legs closed.
I didn’t know “the rules” back then. I noticed, of course, that most couples I knew consisted of one man and one woman, but that was somewhere at the periphery of my awareness. I felt attractions to objects in nature. I was attracted to some of the girls in my class, including Alison and her voluminous petticoats. And in elementary school, I always had a harem of boyfriends who would argue about which one of them got to sit next to me at lunch.
As a teenager, I was much more aware of the unspoken rules around sexuality. The adults in my life seemed to be saying that heterosexuality was “normal” and anything else was wrong—the teachers at my private Christian school were most emphatic about this. Yet my parents consistently enforced the stance that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality.
Even as a child, I had strong ideas about what was right and wrong, despite what other people told me. I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with homosexuality. But I kept my own feelings of attraction toward women to myself, but mostly because it just wasn’t a big deal to me. I thought lots of things and people were sexy. So what?
In high school, by the time my male classmates were stealing their fathers’ porn videos to masturbate to, I had found my own masturbatory outlets: romance novels and my grandfather’s Playboy magazines. Sometimes, I really got off on reading those smutty heterosexual sex scenes and playing out the images in my mind. Other times, I just needed to look at a voluptuous—or even small and perky—set of breasts.
My cousin once confessed to me that she also stole our grandfather’s Playboys (so that’s why they kept disappearing…) and I remember feeling, just for a moment, like the world seemed normal. Apparently, she and I were both getting off from looking at naked women and it didn’t feel like that had to define our sexuality.
When I was in my early 20s, it suddenly felt like people expected me to label my sexuality clearly. And preferably, to label it as heterosexual. By then, we were living in another state, in a much more conservative area, and in some ways, it felt like we had gone backward in time. Suddenly, I was back to my childhood days of trying to distance myself from voices that went on tirades about the evils of homosexuality. Bitches, please.
I started defiantly telling people that not only was I bisexual, but I was absolutely certain that everyone was bisexual. That was the only label we had at the time that I could use to describe my understanding of sexuality. In other words, I didn’t think that love or sexual attraction cared about gender and I wasn’t shy about saying so.
Of course, this offended a lot of people.
I eventually came to realize that I was overstepping to be so open with my theory. It wasn’t my business to make sexual proclamations about other people. So I shut up about it.
But that doesn’t mean I changed my mind. I still thought I was right and that heterosexuality seemed conventional and common only because our culture had taught us that anything outside that was shameful or morally wrong.
I was 25 the first time I met a woman who I actually wanted to sleep with. Her name was Megan and she was leading the study group for our history class. She had red hair cropped in a perfect bob, and a short, slightly stocky frame with the cutest, tiniest breasts I had ever seen.
But there was one thing about her that had me captivated: her lip was pierced. I have a real fetish for lip and nipple piercings. Hers was particularly hot to me because she had lost the ball that attached to the end, just beneath her lower lip, and so it was only the post that stuck out. Being worried about it falling out, she constantly pressed against it with her tongue, making the rod wiggle.
I could barely get through our study sessions. All I could think about was closing my lips around that metal rod.
I didn’t think that love or sexual attraction cared about gender and I wasn’t shy about saying so.
Unfortunately, she had a boyfriend, so nothing ever happened with her. But I shared my crush with a group of friends one night. One of them looked up from her wine and said, “Oh my god! Are you a lesbian? I never would have guessed that!”
I was annoyed by the question. I hated it when people demanded a definition around my sexual orientation. Or anyone else’s. If someone wanted to use a label, great, but did we have to expect that from others?
Around that time, I was reading a lot of Alice Walker and discovered through her work the concept of pansexuality. Finally, it seemed like I had found a label that was more suitable to me—if one insisted that I use a label.
I get turned on by wind, rain, coyotes in a field. I fantasize about women. I find men sexy as fuck. I particularly love men who have feminine facial features. I love it all.
In practice, I still preferred to sleep with men (I love a nice dick in the bedroom), but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t sleep with Eva Green if she happened to drop by, or that I wouldn’t straddle a log in the woods and press my whole body into it while listening to the birds sing above me.
Eventually, I stopped telling everyone was bi. Our culture and language were finally evolving beyond this made-up binary system. I’ve been thrilled to see this change, though I still find it odd that our culture seems to need to label our sexuality.
I’ve been encouraged to see other people speaking out about this, despite the fact that it’s such a sensitive subject. Just a few weeks ago, yoga teacher, author, and activist Jessamyn Stanley shared her thoughts over on Instagram:
“Between you and me, I kinda think everyone could be queer. I also think the binary is probably bullshit. It’s cool if you disagree—I’m just not sure I’ve ever met anyone who was actually 100% straight or gay. I mean, I kinda think everyone has the capacity to enjoy a good stroke served w/ dick & nipple sucking as well as pussy + ass for dessert soooo idk.”
Seeing her put that into the world is the only reason I am brave enough to share my own thoughts on this matter. So thank you, Ms. Stanley.
Just to be clear, I have no agenda to push here. I’m not hoping to end the use of sexual labels or to ban the concept of sexual orientation. As a writer, I celebrate the evolution of our language as we develop more terms with which to express ourselves and our sexuality. Our identity is so important and having specificity in our language that helps us express that identity is essential.
But getting me to identify a sexual orientation is becoming about as productive as getting me to label my spiritual or political beliefs. Some kind of blend of Pagan-Christian-Buddhist, maybe? Left-leaning but somewhat conservative? I mean, really. It just seems too complicated to define.
I’m a patchwork quilt of beliefs and behaviors that I inherited from my culture and my family. A peasant stew of random shit that was thrown into the pot. A Tibetan sand mandala in the endless cycle of being perfectly created, only to be swept away in preparation for the next version.
I think that’s what we all are. Just a big, bony, sinewy lump of everything and nothing. We’ll always try to define it…and we’ll never fully succeed.
And thank non-binary, unable-to-be-defined God for that.