Who am I?
That question gets more and more difficult to answer as time goes on because of its intricacies and complexities, and yet my identity it is slowly crystallizing before me.
I am turning 30 in a month and ten days.
I am newly divorced (3/28/16, ya’ll.)
I was in a same-sex marriage for one year and seven months from wedding to finalized divorce.
I married my first girlfriend.
I am attracted to people of all gender identities and expressions.
I am vaguely-genderqueer-but-mostly-female.
I have had severe battles with depression and anxiety since high school. I am just now pulling myself out of a pit I had found myself in for at least three years.
I have shaved my head for over six years, and I feel my most attractive and confident when I do so.
I have lost 50 pounds over the past year (initially due to stress, anxiety, then a healthier diet and exercise and a healthy dose of Wellbutrin.)
I was rendered completely asexual by Lexapro for years.
I grew up homeschooled in a very conservative environment. I am now extremely liberal, but I still seek faith and spirituality, as long as I can find a place of worship that I feel welcomed into.
My senior photo, Fall 2003. To those who know me now, I would be
unrecognizable in every single way from who I was then.
Some may call me the ultimate conundrum.
When I think about all of my identities and their strange conflicting aspects, I realize it’s probably pretty difficult for many people to wrap their head around.
But here I find myself in a new job, in a new state halfway across the country from everything I have ever known, having to “explain myself” to an entirely new batch of people.
And here I am, faced with the prospect of dating again…something I never thought I’d ever have to do.
And here I am, faced with the societal stigmas of divorce, queerness, bisexual erasure, gender identity and politics.
One of the last things my ex wife told me before I left our home together in Chicago was, “If the next person you date is a guy, I think that will be the most hurtful thing you could do to me.”
One of my initial thoughts after the reality of the divorce set in was, “If the next person I date is a guy, some people are going to assume that I’m ‘straight after all.'”
These “threats” are ridiculous. I fell in love with my ex-wife not because she was a woman, but I was attracted to her as a person. And that is always how I have viewed my partners…not by their gender identity, but as just a person with whom I wanted to be.
My journey to unraveling my sexuality has been a long and gradual one. I can honestly tell you that I didn’t know what “gay” was until I was far too old. High school, maybe? I learned in college that my next door neighbors growing up were a lesbian couple, and it blew my mind. I just thought they were great friends from college or something who just never got married and decided to live together.
But homosexuality was wrong. I liked boys, I was attracted to boys. Looking back upon my youth with what I know now about myself, I suppose that I had some sort of crushes on girls, but it never really occurred to me as such because attraction was binary as far as I knew. You liked boys or you liked girls, and I liked boys. And that was sure lucky, because I didn’t want to be a sinner. I wouldn’t be, because I was the best Christian I knew.
In college, I met my first gay friend. His parents were missionaries to Africa, and yet he was gay. They didn’t know yet. How could someone whose parents were missionaries CHOOSE to be gay? I wondered. That seems like an awful life. Why would anyone choose that? And to be here at a Christian college.
I love this guy. It’s amazing what actually knowing a person can do to change
one’s mind about preconceived notions of an entire group of people
Then it dawned on me. Of course he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would anyone choose to be gay? People hated gay people. And as I got to know him as a person, with all his dreams and fears and loves, my views and beliefs that I had been taught for nineteen years began to become a bit…squishy. Mushy.
Okay, so I don’t think that being gay is wrong…but boy, is it a tough road, I thought. So I became a vocal LGBTQ ally, attending demonstrations on campus, talking with anyone who would listen about it. I felt so personally invested in it.
But I liked guys. A lot.
Fast forward to grad school. I was dating this guy I thought I was going to marry. He was great, we were both rather heretical Christians, both self-proclaimed badasses. I thought we were perfect together.
“Is it weird that…like…I don’t really think of you as a guy?” I confessed to him one night.
“Yeah. It’s really hard to explain, but whenever I’ve dated someone, I don’t really think of them as a guy. I just think of them as a person. Who happen to be guys, I guess…but…I don’t know, this is stupid.”
“No…I think I kind of get what you’re saying.”
It was around this time when I began to learn more about the nuances of sexuality and gender identity. I learned the term “pansexual” and it was a revelation.
“Pansexuals have the capability of attraction to others regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. A pansexual could be open to someone who is male, female, transgender, intersex, or agendere/genderqueer.
Pansexual identified people have the physical/emotional/spiritual capability of falling in love or being with someone regardless of their gender. This doesn’t mean they like everyone, and some Pansexuals do have physical preferences. The identity is used merely to express the openness and fluidity to people of all genders.” (http://www.stop-homophobia.com/pansexuality.htm)
Yes. This described me! I had finally begun the process of coming out to myself. I had begun to acknowledge that I was attracted to women, and also trans people and people who fell outside of traditional gender norms.
For years, I had thought “Okay, so it’s fine that they’re gay, but I just don’t think I really should be. Because what if it is actually still a sin…anyways. I like guys. So that’s way easier. Plus, I’m going to be with this guy forever. We’re going to get married, so I guess I dodged that bullet and will never have to come out, because I’ll never really completely know, because I will never be with anyone else besides him. Life is just easier this way.”
But then part of me began to wonder more and more.
If I did marry this guy, what if I never knew? What if I never truly explored all of my facets? I would always wonder…would I ultimately be unfulfilled?
And then my storybook relationship–my life I thought was going to be my path forever–wasn’t any longer.
I signed up for OKCupid and listed myself as “bisexual.” (That was before “pansexual” was an option.)
Oh man. Don’t do that. Just don’t.
Everyone’s looking for a bi girl “Unicorn” to join them in their threesomes. Every guy wants “to watch.”
I began talking with this guy I eventually learned was transgender. We began a relationship, and…I realized that I was going to have to come out to my parents. I have always been brutally open with them. I told them the first time I smoked weed. I talked with my mom about all the guys I was dating. I didn’t talk about “physical intimacy” because OF COURSE I DIDN’T DO ANY SUCH THING, but I felt that the time had come for me to tell them.
But pansexuality is way confusing, and explaining “transgender” to them was even moreso.
“But you still like guys, right?” Asked my dad. (Ignore the semantics in this…trans guys are guys, I know this, but that’s how this discussion went down.)
“Yes, I still like guys, Dad.”
“I don’t get this at all.”
“I know, Dad. It’s a lot. But I want you to know that, down the line, I may date girls.”
“But you may still date guys too, right?”
My dad will be seen in public with his queer daughter even if she’s
dressed as a woodchuck for Halloween (2009)
My parents ultimately took it very well. I knew they would. I knew that it would be difficult for them, and a process and a journey, but I never had any fears of being disowned.
That relationship only lasted 5 months or so, but I knew that my next step on OKCupid was listing myself as “Lesbian.” Not because I was, but because I wanted to stop those obnoxious messages from guys. I was over them for a while. Been there, done that.
A week after my last relationship had ended, I got a message from this charming butch lesbian named Carmen. I was immediately smitten. She lived in Chicago, where I was planning on moving within the month. We made plans to meet up my first weekend there.
We were so excited to meet each other in person, I actually called her the night I moved in and we went out for a walk and a drink.
We had our first kiss in front of a cemetery, which delighted my little dark heart. I was struck by the difference in kissing a woman. Women are so much…softer. Sweeter. More tender. I was struck by what it was like to be with someone like me.
Within a year, we had moved in together. We treated each other as “life partners” and decided that, when same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois, we wanted to marry each other.
Around a year into our relationship, depression wrapped its clawed hand around my throat more tightly than it ever had before. I had tried being off antidepressants for a while after grad school, but I realized that I was just better when I was always on them. I had been off and on Lexapro since high school, but by this point it had been nearly ten years of using the drug.
In hindsight, even though I was religiously taking my medication, it wasn’t really working anymore. All it was doing was making me gain weight (70+ pounds) and had completely eliminated my libido.
I was not a good partner at this point. I fully acknowledge this. I slipped within myself. Sleep was my escape. It was a struggle to be around people. And yet, Carmen proposed to me anyway.
I felt so…lucky. She was so wonderful and sweet and sensitive and caring and she adored me. I didn’t know why. I was a useless lump. I wasn’t capable of feeling much of anything anymore, I was so deadened by my antidepressants.
But she wanted to marry me anyway. I promised I would get my depression under control, that I would be a better partner.
We were married August 16, 2014 in a small ceremony officiated by our best friend. I had pink hair, a black pin-up dress, and wore studded Converse high-tops. My engagement ring was a black princess-cut diamond. I was the epitome of “non-traditional bride.”
Getting ready for my wedding, August 16, 2014
I was so relieved I never had to go on random dates again. I was so glad my life was figured out. I was so glad to have a partner with whom I could go through my life. It had all fallen into place, after years of struggle, confusion, and some truly harrowing relationships.
But I was so miserable. Not with her. With life. Exhausted. I wasn’t living, I was just existing.
The following May, 9 months into our marriage, I left for my usual summer job in Central New York. Things were normal…Carmen was going to miss me, but she loved me and was excited for me to get back after my three month contract. I was going to arrive back home a few days before our first wedding anniversary and fourth anniversary of our relationship.
By June, she had stopped talking to me completely. Out of the blue. It was a sudden, marked shift and I didn’t know what was happening. I contacted her friends and tried to get all of the insight I could from them.
All she could tell me was that she was really unhappy with us and had been for a while. She shouldn’t have ever married me, she said. She wanted to see other people. And then she did. “There’s no point in coming home early. I’ve made up my mind.”
She wasn’t even interested in counselling. But she left it all just vague enough that I didn’t know if I was still going to have a wife when I got home.
I made it back to Chicago days before our first wedding anniversary.
She was a different person, so cold to me.
On our one year anniversary, we went out for dinner to IHOP , of all places. Classy, right? She told me there that no amount of counseling would change her mind, and she wanted a divorce ASAP. And then she brought up her Tinder app right there at the booth and asked me to swipe for her, if I wanted.
It was over. My life’s plans were now completely changed.
I had begun to realize my time at my job of 4 years had run its course, and I was interested in moving on from it. And my entire existence in Chicago had been with Carmen.
There was truly nothing keeping me there any longer.
I finished my last show at my job and made plans to move all of my belongings back to my parents’ house in Michigan. I spent every waking moment packing and applying for jobs.
Carmen couldn’t understand why I was so upset that she wanted to bring girls home to our apartment we made our home.
I moved out one month later.
So here I am, less than one year after all of this began, newly planted in Delaware in my first salaried job with benefits.
I have lost 50 pounds.
I have found the right medication and dosage.
I am legally divorced.
I’m finally unearthing who I used to be before the fallout.
I’m glad I didn’t lose any important pieces. I think I gained a few in the process.
And I am legitimately happy.