I’ve never been the trail-blazing type. I tend to stay on the path, head down, one foot in front of the other. I’m not exactly a follower, but I don’t tend to wander far from the path either, even when I feel like I need to get off it for a while.
This is probably why it took me so long to figure out that I’m queer.
Looking back, there were signs. My first kiss was with a girl at a sleepover in elementary school (we were just practicing). Not wanting to touch my female friends (touching felt invasive). Always looking at the woman being kissed in movies–never the man (I was just enjoying what I wanted to look like when kissing). Enjoying sapphic stories and feeling thrilled every time a queer couple kissed (I was just exploring other people’s lives). Daydreaming about having a girlfriend (daydreams don’t mean anything).
It felt voyeuristic at the time. Like I was enjoying things that weren’t for me, because I was a straight gal, just maybe a little late-blooming, and I truly believed every excuse I gave myself for why these things didn’t mean anything. I was just a tourist, looking into a world I knew I wasn’t a part of, but yearning to belong there anyway.
It’s hard for me to be something I’ve never seen before.
Things changed over the years. I discovered words like asexual and biromantic that settled into my bones like they’d been there forever. I read other queer people’s stories; stories that mirrored mine, even when our lives were completely different. A bunch of my long-time friends came out as various flavors of queer. I wasn’t alone anymore, I could see what I could become, and that changed everything.
I was allowed to be something I never thought was possible for me. I’m still unlearning a lot of internalized homophobia I picked up over the years, but as I grow into my identity, I feel stronger and more whole. It’s thrilling, but also strange to be going through this as an adult.
There’s a popular narrative that queer people figure their identities out early in life, but that wasn’t my experience. I had buried these feelings so deep I didn’t know they were there until I gave myself permission to explore in my late 20s. It’s only in hindsight that I can see the signs.
I’m proud of who I am, and who I’m becoming. I’ve stepped off the straight path, and while I’m still not exactly trail-blazing, I’m finally on the rainbow road I’ve always belonged on.