Apparently people think you can choose to be straight.
Why wouldn’t they? Do you know how many queer folks marry someone of the opposite sex, start a family and pretend everything is okay all along knowing they’re not straight? I don’t know how many either, but I’m willing to bet it’s A LOT.
People do this all the time. They think they’re supposed to be straight, it’s “easier” to be straight, so they play the part. That’s what many anti-LGBTQ+ people think. They don’t necessarily think being gay is a choice, but they do believe acting on it is a choice. So as long as I keep myself in a hetero relationship and pray a lot, I’ll be just fine.
This is compulsory heterosexuality (comphet). It’s the status quo. Everyone can be straight if they choose to be straight. It doesn’t matter what their sexual identity really is.
If you grew up in the church and tried hard to be a “good Christian,” knowing all along, something about you was different, and therefore “wrong” you’ve likely experienced comphet, though there are many scenarios outside of this one.
I didn’t want to be gay, not because I was told I shouldn’t be gay, but because I thought I’d be shunned socially for being a lesbian. I thought my friends would abandon me or I’d get bullied. I also thought some boys were cute, so maybe that meant I was actually straight? (More on that later). I thought being anything but straight meant there was something wrong with me. So I decided to be straight.
I pushed my queerness so far down, I barely knew it was there.
So, why come out? I managed to meet a few good men. I had a couple long-term relationships. But the entire time, and I do mean the entire time, I felt like I was broken. Defective. I felt like something was missing. I dreaded having sex, and I internalized every single one of these thoughts and feelings.
I threw myself into personal development. I kept changing as many things around myself as I could - jobs, locations, living situations, my wardrobe, my hair, you name it. I read all the books, I went to therapy, I obsessed over any and everything I thought I could control, and some things I couldn’t.
To some extent, my personal exploration was, of course, normal. I was in my 20s, that’s when you’re meant to explore who you are. But it was more than that. I watched my friends fall in love, talk endlessly about their sex lives, and start getting married. I kept asking… Why don’t I feel the way they seem to feel? Why does there always seem to be something missing in every romantic relationship I have? Again, I thought there was something wrong with me.
“Didn’t it enter your mind that you might be gay,” you might ask?
Yeah, it did. My best friend asked me if I thought I might be. My mom asked me if I thought I might be. I kept shrugging them off. Shaking my head. Meanwhile, in the privacy of my own apartment, Google searching, “How to know if you’re bisexual.” The prospect of being bisexual freaked me out enough, I couldn’t even entertain that I might be a lesbian.
I’d been playing the role of straight girl for so long, it took until I was 29 to feel confident enough to finally fully embrace who I am.
It took me until I was 29 to realize no matter how good I’d gotten at pretending to be straight (which was probably a subpar act anyway), I’d never be straight, and until I accepted that, I was never going to find the kind of love I’ve been lusting after since I was a young teen.
So, when people ask me if I’ve always known I was gay, it’s a loaded answer. Part of me knew, but when you’re young and you desperately don’t want something to be true, it’s entirely possible to shove that knowing so deep, it can take decades to make its way back to the surface.
Being able to release myself from the heterosexual trap I’d stepped into, freed me. I could’ve spent my entire life living a lie, but I would’ve missed out on some of the greatest loves of my life. I would’ve missed out on the opportunity to be wholly, and wholeheartedly myself.
*Comphet = “Compulsory Heterosexuality” — the idea that heterosexuality can be adopted by people regardless of their personal sexual identity.