Coming out to people in your life is a never-ending and often difficult process. But coming out to yourself? It’s a crisis that starts in your childhood. You spend innocent years constructing an identity that feels like the ghost of who you really are.
Your bedroom walls have boyband posters and you talk about crushes with your sister, except you don’t have any to confess. You discover that you have no interest in intimacy and that you are far too busy with academics to want a relationship. Sex is something you hardly think about, except for the fact that maybe you should be. The only kind of makeup you know how to use is mascara. And you never, ever talk about these things out loud. But you don’t know why.
You accidentally create someone who’s secrecy is inextricably part of their identity. Someone who lies to mask a secret that you don’t understand. Someone who lets society censor their conscious thoughts. Someone who learns “distance = comfort” even when you crave affection. You fixate on girls in your school, aching to become their new best friend. Yet somehow, this feeling and the feeling with your actual best friend are two different things. (But you don’t think about that.) You turn away from school dances and sports games and bonfires, and you lie about things to protect your secret. But all of this happens without you even knowing there is a secret to keep.
You waste your youth on a person you eventually won’t recognize after enough time passes. And you will re-live your teenage years far into your twenties because your teenage years weren’t yours to live. And this moment of distinction, from not-you to real-you, happens now while sitting at the desk under the loft bed of your campus dorm room, phone in hand.
You’re taking a survey, and you’ll forget the purpose quickly, maybe you’ve already forgotten it. You stare at the last question with the weight of it pressing on your shoulders, your head, your chest, your heart, your identity. A question that you’ve been on the brink of asking yourself this entire year, teetering between breaking from your handmade façade, and feeling entirely tied to it, that pseudo version of yourself.
What is your sexual orientation?
An identity is not a label you pick on a survey that means nothing to you. An identity is also not the person you create because you lacked access to the information that could’ve freed you. And now that you have this access and this information, there is only one thing you are certain of: You question everything.