How It Feels When Your Girlfriend Tells You She's Your Boyfriend
We were lounging on the couch late on a Wednesday night, watching a riveting episode of My 600 Lb. Life (one of our favorite reality shows, coming in right under My Big Fat Fabulous Life). She was sitting with her feet up on the recliner and I was lying with my head on her lap. She was on her phone as usual (she has a hard time NOT multitasking). The show faded to commercial and one of the Sonic ads came on; these are our favorite commercials and there isn’t a time we don’t laugh hysterically at them. I was shaking and snorting with laugher when I noticed that she wasn’t making a sound. I leaned back to face her and instantly noticed several gripping words on her phone; “transgender”, “female to male”, some photos of a college friends of ours in the middle of their transition process.
“Why are you looking at him?” I snapped, immediately becoming defensive of our lesbian relationship that I suddenly felt I worked so hard to embrace and show pride in over the past five years.
She said nothing. She stared at me with a paralyzed look of trepidation, tears obviously welling behind her eyes. I was fuming.
“Well? What are you doing?” I asked with absolutely zero intention of actually listening to an answer.
Again, she said nothing.
I never felt confident in my sexuality growing up. I didn’t know any gay people and it wasn’t exactly a topic that organically came up at the dinner table. I was never taught any negative connotations around homosexuality, but I also wasn’t ever really exposed to it. I remember feeling a different way about my Barbies than my friends did when I was little.
Not just Barbie though. Ken too.
I got a bit older and when my friends and I had sleepovers, we showered and slept in the same bed together like any other six year old girls. I was curious and interested at those sleepovers.
But I drew hearts around Andrew’s yearbook picture too.
I got even older and naturally noticed the relationships around me; mom and dad, aunt and uncle, grandma and grandpa. I didn’t think twice about it, but I still looked forward to those sleepovers. And the next day, I still smiled shyly at Travis in our reading circle.
I had my first boyfriend when I was seven. We got married in his backyard.
When I was 13, I had my second boyfriend. We called each other on the phone every night and talked about how crazy yesterday’s episode of Room Raiders was. I hyperventilated over the thought of talking to him in person.
When I was 14, I kissed my best friend in a dark bathroom. We decided it would be good practice for when we had real boyfriends. I told her I thought I might like girls more than normal; she laughed and said “I know.” I gained a lot of confidence that night from her comment; I don’t think I ever shared that with her.
When I was 15, one of my friends and I had a sleepover. It turned out the same way my six year old sleepovers used to play out in my head. Maybe a little more advanced, but you catch my drift. We decided to maintain the relationship, but not to let anyone know. This continued for three years. We were in love until I wanted to be in love in public. And she didn’t.
I went to college and I remained single. One night over beer and Red Lobster cheddar biscuits, I told my roommate that I just came out of a secret three year lesbian relationship. Once I said it out loud, I felt an immediate sense of self. I was proud of that sentence and it was a massive part of who I was. “I’m a lesbian” I thought. I had a group; I was a member of club, a society, a minority. I had a label and I was ready to embrace it. I was everyone’s one lesbian friend.
I loved that title; I felt different and I’ve always relished in being just a tad different (must be the Leo in me). I played into this role, jumping at every chance to make a dramatic comment about how the male anatomy skeeved me out, or posting a Facebook status about my anticipation of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. If I was going to be everyone’s one lesbian friend, I was going to be the best damn lesbian there was.
It was Halloween 2011 and I was about 14 shots deep, my inhibitions somewhere in northern Egypt. Apparently the music wasn’t the only thing I was feeling when I snapped back to reality around 2am with my tongue down Daniel’s throat. I pulled my shit together, my skirt down, my shirt up, and raced to my room; confused and ashamed. Who was I? What was I?
I spent the next year focusing on school. I didn’t date, I didn’t kiss, I didn’t glance. I was nun in engineering school.
I knew that bisexuality was a thing, but I didn’t think it was my thing. I am not a grey kind of person, I like black and white, I like facts, I like math. I didn’t write poetry and consider joining the Peace Corps. I was too busy organizing my closet and calculating exactly how much time I needed to get ready in the morning so I could optimize my sleep schedule. “I’m not bisexual” I told myself. I like girls. I am a lesbian. That’s my title.
Another year passed and I met Jess. In typical lesbian fashion, we started dating and moved in together after approximately two weeks. Four more years went by and I had a permanent address on cloud nine. She proposed, I proposed (it’s a lesbian thing, everyone gets to be the girl) and that was it. I was getting married to a woman which was no surprise because, as everyone knew, I was a lesbian. I mean, of course I gave Ryan Gosling the up and down during the torrential downpour scene of The Notebook, but who doesn’t?
I knew that if I didn’t say it now, I never would.
“Do you want to be a boy?”
“I don’t want to be one, I am one” She said, tears rolling to the tops of her cheeks and puddling.
“Let’s just go to sleep. I don’t want to talk about this right now,” I replied.
And we did.
I spent so many years deciding that I was a lesbian. That was my identity. That was my thing. I literally introduced myself as “Hi I’m Mercedes and my girlfriend’s name is Jess.” I wanted people to know, I leaped at the opportunity to bring up my sexual orientation. But why? Why was I so uncomfortable with the thought of being bisexual? Why was it okay to like girls, or boys, but not girls and boys?
I’ve always had such a strong confidence in every aspect of myself outside of my sexuality. I could rattle off my convictions for you in five seconds flat: the death penalty is wrong, we should not eat animals, global warming is real, OJ is guilty. I have several solid opinions and rarely do I say something like, “Oh I don’t know, maybe its ____ but it could also be _____.” I like to make decisions, I like closure, I like finality. The idea of being in the middle of the gay/straight spectrum was none of these things. I felt like it made me a person who couldn’t make a decision. A person who was confused, who couldn’t make up her mind. A person who was unsure.
I spent the next couple of days mulling things over. I was lost; after all this time, I created a label for myself and in four seconds, it completely unraveled. Now what was I supposed to do? Are people going to think that I’m not a lesbian anymore? Do I have to tell people that I’m straight now? Do I have to recreate myself? I put so much effort into making this person. This certain, decisive person. Black and white, no grey. I fell asleep Saturday night, not having the slightest idea of how I was going to move on from this.
Sunday morning came and I woke up by light of the sun. I opened my eyes, and before I could even construct a thought of my own; my brain hit me with a colossal, truth facing sentiment:
You spent half of your life avoiding a sexual orientation because you felt that it made you appear self-doubting and unsure. Jess has spent her whole life avoiding a gender she wholly identified with, fearing it would make her weird, insane, unloved, abandoned, afraid, abnormal, unwell, perverted, unworthy.
I got out of bed with a sense of confidence and certainty that I had been chasing for the past decade. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and sat down on the couch.
"Okay. How do we start?" I asked him.