My mother, when I was in the seventh grade, once pulled my leg saying that if I ever had a boyfriend, she would send me to boarding school. She didn't say that if I was in a 'relationship' or 'with someone' then I would face consequences. She had never asked me about my sexual orientation. Why did she assume that I was attracted to boys?
It is now that I realise how this assumption is what makes a lot of us hesitate in discussing sex and sexuality with our parents. In our adolescence, no one mentions same-sex love, or the possibility of liking both the sexes romantically, or even none at all. The thought of being gay or bisexual never crossed my mind. I never thought if I was pansexual owing to the concept being alien to me at the time.
When it came to the whole LGBTQIA+spectrum, I knew nothing, when I was growing up. I, like many of my friends, simply assumed that I was straight. The reason for this is the social rejection of the sexuality spectrum. For most people, even today, everyone was heterosexual. In fact when a person tries to understand their sexuality they are met with social resistance. Often what people don't understand is that this journey is not about changing something about yourself. It is about finding yourself. It's a process of discovery that takes time.
No one mentions same-sex relations, or the possibility of liking both the sexes romantically, or even none at all.
In ninth grade, I realised that there was a possibility that I may not be straight. Five years ago, this wasn’t typically a coffee chat I could have had with my friends or a conversation with my parents over dinner. I didn’t even know if they were accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community. Just the thought of telling them that I wasn’t sure of my sexual preferences gave me an itch.
I felt like I could not discuss this with anyone I knew. There was news about the hardships people had to face in India and elsewhere too, for not being heterosexual, and as a young person that scared me. I felt clueless about how I could be sure. How do I understand what my sexuality is? It was frustrating to not know or be able to figure something so crucial about myself.
So naturally, I did what a teen with no practical resources and nobody to ask to would do. I went online and googled because it was the only thing that made sense. Reading people’s stories, their confusion when they couldn’t understand their feelings, and how they found themselves fascinated me. I even read funny stories of people coming out to their families and friends.
But you find out only a little about such critical issues through the internet, that too in a week’s reading. I came to understand that it won’t be of much help. Most pages gave layman definitions of various sexual orientations and asked me if I fit in any of these brackets of preference. It only raised more questions than answered the ones that I had in my mind. Someone had written that you have to introspect and figure it own in your own time. It struck me then that it’s not like you sit with a cup of tea and decide in a day.
It was probably a week or so after that, that I "decided" that I was straight. I accepted my sexual orientation and closed the chapter. I was, after all, happy that I had found out something about myself.
Then in college, I began to find some girls as hot and attractive. Could I be bisexual as I never stopped being attracted to men? This time, I spoke to my friends. The correct term for what was I back then is bi-curious. Later, I realised I never wanted to be with a female partner. There were never fantasies about them nor did I think of them romantically or sexually. It was just the appreciation of who someone is where the ‘who’ was sometimes not a man.
Now, I can say with certainty that I am heterosexual. I came out of the closet to my friends. If the LGBTQIA+ community has to come out of the closet for being themselves, so do straight people. My belief is that the most incredible part about this spectrum is the ‘+’ at the end because it is an expanding community full of acceptance and love.
I know I had it much easier because I fit the so-called standard of sexual preference that society has stuck us with. Throughout my life, I have never been subjected to shaming or mockery for my preferences. But I do wish this journey of exploring my sexuality was not hush-hush and didn't happen over internet searches. I wish there was someone whom I could talk to openly while having all these thoughts and feelings.
It was difficult for me, but we can ensure that it is not difficult for our loved ones. We ought to make sure that we let our friends or loved ones or anyone, know that regardless of their sexual identity, they are cherished and loved the same. And that it is okay to not assume what your sexuality is.
The views expressed are the author's own.