Name three things you have felt the need to hide or lie about in the past that you’ve had to overcome in order to move forward.
- My sexuality. This one I was hiding even from myself for a while, in a number of ways. Now I can comfortably call myself queer or a “babyqueer,” but this has been a long journey, pit-stopping along the way at “straight,” “straight-identified,” “bi-curious,” and “heteroflexible,” before landing here. I’m not sure if here is where I will stay in terms of labels, but the truth of the matter is that I experience attraction to women. Embracing that led me to discover that I enjoy sex with women, that I enjoy going on dates with women. Who knows where discovering those things might lead? But exploration in terms of my sexual orientation and my sexual preferences leads me to feel more authentically me, like I’m moving in the directions I want to go so that I and my loved ones know me fully. And in terms of preferences and behavior, I used to try to stifle or hide my sexual desires. I didn’t feel like I was allowed to have sexual agency. I used to let the men take control in the bedroom all the time. I used to be quiet. I used to be ashamed of, or at the very least uncomfortable with, talking about sex with the people I was actually having sex with. Overcoming those things (which, to a degree, starts anew with each new partner for me) has greatly improved the quality of my sex life overall.
- The fact that I have needs I can’t fulfill alone. I thought for so long that independence was the greatest quality a person could ever develop. I didn’t want to have obligations to anyone. I didn’t want to be held back or forced to give things up for a relationship: I didn’t want to combine living expenses, and changing cities because someone I’m with got a new job seemed absurd. MPW and JA especially tease me whenever I talk about JJ now, because pretty much everything about our relationship goes against everything I’d ever said about how I wanted to organize my life. But I started realizing that independence wasn’t a realistic goal long before I fell in love with him. I started asking for help. I had already been helping the people I cared about when I could. He and our relationship challenge me to talk about my needs on a deeper interpersonal level, to get comfortable discussing each others’ emotional needs as well as the practical ones. My understanding of interdependence has been completely reformed.
- My emotions, generally. If I’m not careful, I can be The Minimizer, the Queen of Downplaying. It’s not entirely intentional. I strive to be quite emotionally available. I don’t want to not talk about things. But it’s scary and hard and feels so much easier to wait until something is “really wrong” or “until the right time.” After all this time, putting myself out there doesn’t always come easily. I usually try to sit with my feelings until I can make sense of them, weave the things that have happened and my emotional reactions to the things into some sort of semi-coherent narrative, and then deliver them to the person I need to talk with (or to the internet) in a way that feels conducive to productivity. I have been told that this is helpful, even though to me it sort of feels like I’m dropping Emotion Bombs out of nowhere when I do this. Talking about my feelings helps so much — I often say that the only way to get through an uncomfortable feeling is to let yourself feel it — and yet I am on a constant quest to figure out precisely when an emotion is worth talking about and when I can shrug it off without hurting anything.