Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about my sexuality. Recently, I came across the term “heteroflexible” and immediately, I felt like I identified with it more than any other sexual orientation I previously knew about.
However, I continue to feel invalidated by my lack of sexual experience with people who are the same gender. I know sexuality isn’t defined by our experiences but by what we think and how we feel. But I can’t help but continue to feel like a fraud (to myself) because I’ve only ever been with men. I also feel like because I’m in a serious, long-term heterosexual relationship, people just assume my sexuality and wouldn’t take me seriously going by any other label. In a way, I feel like I don’t belong. When I’m with my straight friends, I feel like the “most gay,” but when I’m with people who identify as gay/lesbian/queer, I feel like the “most straight” person in the room.
I pretty much let my friends believe that I identify as 100-percent straight to avoid confusion, judgment, and having to explain myself. I feel very happy in my monogamous heterosexual relationship. It’s not that something is “missing” regarding my relationship. I think this is more of an identity dilemma.
How do I become more comfortable and confident in my sexuality? How do I talk to my friends about being sure of my sexuality without the experience to back it up?
— Feeling Flexible
When I first learned the term “bisexual” in high school, bisexuality was trending in whatever way that was possible well before hashtags and tweeting. While the term made me think, “Yes! That’s it!” I saw other young women performing bisexuality — typically at parties for the enjoyment of high school boys — and it made me unsure that this label was for me, after all.
I continued dating boys until college when I finally had my first ever girlfriend and I too felt like a huge phony. In a ridiculous twist of living in the liberal valley, when I came out as publicly dating this woman and formally affixing the label “bisexual” to myself, men I had dated on campus spread the rumor that I was “actually NOT bisexual.” I questioned my already questioning self, felt ashamed at my lack of “real experience to back it up,” and ultimately ended up in relationships with women for the next decade (so joke’s on those dudes).
All of which is to say, Flexible, that there are two types of validation we receive: validation from others and validation from ourselves. Both are important in identifying who we are and how we feel supported in that process. Identity is an ever-evolving process and our labels can change as we do.
Find people who validate you. Public figures who are out as heteroflexible or bisexual, media that represents you, friends who understand the difference between the straight man you’re dating and your sexuality, and even new community spaces like queer events or organizations that are unlikely to make assumptions about you at all.
Most importantly, validate yourself. Sexuality is often developed within someone long before she is sexually active with anyone. It’s only once we become horribly category-obsessed adults that we start to fret about the proof and experience of who we are.
You say you’re heteroflexible, and so you are. There’s no application or passport stamps necessary to certify you.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a blog bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.