Am I Gay Enough? Self-Doubt As A Queer Teenager
The world through the teenage eyes of a "gay ass daughter of two vicars"...
Looking back, the signs were there from the beginning. At six, my first ‘crush’ was Princess Leia in that bloody bikini. At ten, Hermione was more appealing than Krum could ever be. At twelve, I received a text from a friend explaining that she didn’t want to talk to me anymore because she thought I was a lesbian.
I didn’t think I was a lesbian. Ellen is a lesbian, k.d. lang is a lesbian, Aunty Edie with her cat and her short, short hair is a lesbian, but I’m not. I have long hair, and cats make me sneeze, and even though it was a dare my first kiss was still with a boy!
Nonetheless, by fourteen the question cropped up again.
Then I found out that one of my friends didn’t want to get changed in the same room as me for P.E. because she thought I was checking her out, and suddenly the simpler, less embarrassing option was simply to do as my decidedly straight friends did. Look at Joe, check out Daniel, ooooh Oscar!
And yet despite my best efforts, in late 2016 I came out to my two best friends as bisexual. And some months later, boys had been renounced altogether.
While I didn’t exactly flaunt my new status as “the gay ass daughter of two vicars”, the fact that it is so damn fun to joke about being “the gay ass daughter of two vicars” and that, courtesy of a few shots and some bi-curious companions, I’d snogged my way from the art hoes to the alt-punks in front of a fair number of friends really didn’t help matters. My antics were only encouraged by the fact that the only homophobia I had experienced thus far had confined itself to a straight-boy-asking-to-watch shaped hole.
But while twelve-year old Clara may have been relieved to find that it would all work out in the end, even if it didn’t involve Joe or Daniel or Oscar, sixteen-year old Clara still had a slight dilemma.
Nights upon days upon nights were spent worrying over whether I was lying to myself and everyone else. What if I turn up in ten years’ time with a very much male husband on my arm? Was I forcing myself to be gay because it was cool and hip and different? Had I simply not found the right boy yet? Did boys my age not interest me because, for heaven’s sakes, they’re sixteen and immature and a bit gross? Would they hit puberty and suddenly become wildly attractive to me?
I knew I could have sex with a girl, but could I really, truly enjoy it? What about sex with a girl who doesn’t have a vagina? Or are you just in to vaginas, not girls? And beyond sex, could I fall in love with a girl? Could I marry a girl? Raise a family with a girl? Spend my life with a girl?
Exhausted by doubt, I had no choice but to flip the tables completely, and ask myself why not?
We have all grown up in a phenomenally hetero-normative society: ‘loving relationship = cis-man + cis-woman’ has been thrust upon us since day one. Even my liberal, feminist mum called my first best friend, a boy, my first ‘boyfriend’ until asked not to. Upon thinking about it, I realised that I have never been taught anything different than to date, marry, and eventually have and raise kids with a boy.
The complete lack of healthy, realistic, queer female representation I had growing up undeniably stunted my horizons when it came to who I thought I could love.
But the fact is: no one but me should be bothered about who turns my head. In the deeply unlikely event that I do end up spending the remainder of my life with a man, no one is going to be attacking me for lying to them. They might be surprised, but no one would ever mind enough to resent me for it.
After ten years of maybes and almost as many months of intense self-cross-examination, I concluded that having doubts is okay. It’s okay not to put a label on it, and it’s okay to put a label on it even if you’re not totally sure. Identify as LGBTQ+, but don’t beat yourself up over ‘straight’ thoughts. We all have time to either consolidate or change the way we identify, if we choose to identify as anything at all. ‘Gay’ isn’t a hot iron rod that will brand me forever more, it’s a way to understand how I feel and how to go about navigating those feelings. It’s a gateway to a community and a better understanding of myself, but while, at the moment, it seems pretty solid to me, I will never call it an absolutely non-negotiable label, and there is nothing wrong with that.
There is no such thing as ‘gay enough’, and no one has any right to tell me, or you, otherwise.
Credit: Clara Breidt