What works best for me.

I’ll start right off by saying this may be one of my most mega-personal posts.

Ok, so since I started this blog back in the summer, I’ve written some things. I like to write, and that’s why I created this blog. And I feel like some of the things I’ve written have culminated in this post. Here’s what’s come before that’s lead to this:

I’ve written about my love for LGBT YA novels, and in that post and this one about bisexual visibility,  I talk about my process of self-discovery–how I came out a bi at 17 and later came out again as gay, because that felt like the better label for me. In the bisexual visibility post, and in my recent double review of two of Bill Konigsberg’s wonderful books, I talk about labels and how we all have the right to choose our own no matter what anyone else tries to force on us.

And those things are things I’m going to touch on in this post too: my continual journey of self-discovery, and labels.

As I said above, I first came out ten years ago at 17. For the first five years post-closet, I called myself “bi”, for reasons I’ve already discussed in the posts linked above–basically, I was with a girl at the time, and bi felt like the right choice then. For the last five-ish years, however, I’ve called myself “gay”. That is the label I’ve chosen to use, because that’s felt like the best, most-accurate option.

However, something I don’t talk about very often (which I’m clearly changing right now) is that even “gay” has never felt 100% right to me. And there’s several reasons for this. As I said, “gay” has felt like the most-accurate option, but I feel like “gay” is limiting. Like, by calling myself gay, I close myself off to only being interested in other gay, cisgender males. But I’ve always said that I will never 100% tell you that I’ll never fall for a woman. After all, my first real relationship was with a girl; she’s the first person I came out to and we were together for another year after that.

However, I honestly don’t see that happening. But never say never. Furthermore, I feel like “gay” also implies that I’m not open to being with someone who is trans, genderqueer, non-binary, etc. I have always believed sexuality exists on a spectrum.

But even more important than that, I believe that when we fall for someone, it is the person that matters, not what parts they have/what gender they are. I don’t want to feel like my chosen label closes me off from anyone, because I believe in love, and I believe that love can transcend anything. You may think I’m naive, and that’s entirely possible.

So, you may be reading this and saying, “Ok, so is he actually bi? Is he pansexual?”. And believe me, I’ve wondered the same thing. However, to take things a step further, I feel like terms like “gay”, “bisexual”, “pansexual”, etc., all imply a sexual interest.

To be completely honest, I’ve never actually had sex with a guy. I’ve fooled around, but never more than that. And while I do think about sex, sometimes the idea of actually having it freaks me out. Which has caused me to wonder, does this mean I could possibly be asexual or demisexual? I don’t think I’m ace, because I do think about sex, and it’s definitely something I want to try at least once. But it has to be with the right person, I won’t just jump into bed with anyone because that’s not who I am.

So you can see, none of these labels make any sense to me. None of them feel completely right. And sometimes I’ve wondered, do I actually need a label? But then, without one, how do I identify myself?

I’ve said this before, and now that Donald Trump is President-Elect of the U.S., I’m sure I’ll say this again and again and again in the future: the reality is, being out in this world is sometimes still a dangerous and defying act. And in this defiance, I want a label. I am damn proud of who I am. And I want a term I can freely and easily use to describe who I am, and one that others can use to describe me. Because I have nothing to hide and I am perfectly all right with others knowing who and what I am.

And here is where my struggle to find the right label culminates in this post. “Gay” is pretty accurate, but still doesn’t feel 100% right. “Bi”, “pan”, “ace”, “demi”, etc. all don’t feel right either.

So I’ve chosen simply to use “queer”. Queer has, in my opinion, moved past the derogatory meaning of old. Our community has embraced the term again, and I frequently use LGBT+ and queer interchangeably. Like many, I see queer as the perfect catchall term to describe those that fall into the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

And going forward, “queer” will be my label of choice, because I think it’s finally the one that makes the most sense. It still lets me identify myself as being different, something I am damn proud to be. It still lets me be open and defiant and loud and proud. But also, it lets me feel like I’m not closing myself off into a label that has never fully felt right.

Queer just feels right. It’s the one I’m choosing, and I hope everyone in my life will respect this choice and use it from now on. If you still call me “gay”, I will probably correct you. Please don’t be offended if I do, and I won’t be offended by you saying “gay”. It’s still a mostly-accurate description, but going forward, queer is better because it’s what works best for me.

Thank you. ❤

Bisexual Visibility!

Some sort of flagThis week is #BiWeek2016, a week all about celebrating bisexuality!

I believe it’s so important to raise awareness of, and talk about, bisexuality, not only because of the instances of bisexual erasure and invisibility that occurs in the LGBTQIA+ Community, but because of my own experiences too.

I identify as gay. That is my chosen label, because it’s the one that feels most right for me. But I wasn’t always this way. When I first came out at the age of 17, I said I was bi. I wasn’t lying, something I was often accused of. Back then, bisexual felt like the right term for me. I was my last year of high school, and I was dating a girl and had been for a few months, though we’d been close for a while and I knew my feelings for her were real. So bi felt right to me, then.

After we broke up, the next person I dated was a boy. This confirmed what I’d felt, debated, and tried to deny, since I was 12: that I am very much attracted to the same-sex. But again, I still said I was bi, because I believed I still felt that way about girls too.

From my late teens into my early twenties, I kept bi as my chosen label. Yet, looking back, things never felt the same with girls. Not since the girl I was with when I first came out. This lead to me doing a lot of thinking, and I eventually came out again as gay. Gay is the label I choose now, because it’s the one that feels most right.

I would never with 100% certainty tell you that I will never fall for a woman again. I believe that all sexuality is fluid to some extent. I also believe that it’s the person we fall for that matters most, not their parts. So who knows? But as I said, gay is the label I choose.

Yet, when I first came out, when bi was my chosen label, countless people tried to tell me I was wrong. I was told that I wasn’t bi, I was just too scared to come out as gay. I was told I was greedy because I wouldn’t choose boys or girls.

This is what the community calls bisexual erasure, which Wikipedia defines as, “the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, news media and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists.”

In short, these are all things I experienced when I chose to call myself bisexual. I don’t regret that choice. Like I said, at the time it’s the label that made the most sense to me, just as gay makes the most sense to me now. My labels are my choice, and no one else gets to tell me who or what I am.

I feel very strongly about the fact that people who try to erase bisexuality. While I no longer identify as bi, that’s just me. Bisexuality is very real. People who identify as bisexual are very real. That’s why BiWeek is so important. We need to keep on raising awareness and talking about bisexuality until bi erasure is no longer a thing.

I don’t want any other teens to experience what I did: being told that their chosen identity isn’t real, that they’re lying or that they’re greedy. You are not. You are human. You are beautiful. You are perfect as you are. And no one has the right to label you besides yourself. You get to decide who you are, not anyone else.

For more information on BiWeek, click here. For more information on bisexual erasure, click here. And for a list of twelve Young Adult novels with bisexual characters, click here.

Happy BiWeek!

The books that changed my life.

boymeetsboyNote: A similar version of this post originally appeared on my other blog, Scattered Thoughts. Since it’s about my love for LGBT YA, I decided to share it here as well.

I’ve read many books, and I believe that many of them have changed my life. For example, if you were to ask me which books have had the greatest influence on me, I’d tell you it was the Harry Potter series without thinking twice. I grew up on those books. I learned from them, lessons of friendship and the importance of doing good, lessons of embracing and welcoming everyone despite their differences.

However, it was only within the last few years that another genre of books has started to change my life as well, and it all started with David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Until that point, I can’t recall reading any other books where the storyline focused on two boys falling in love. Sure, I’d read books with gay characters, but not like this. Not where the gay characters were the central part of the book, where there story was about them and their lives and their love. Mostly I’d just read books where gay characters were secondary, or even less––the best friend of the main character, or just a casually mentioned character whose story is never discussed.

Now, I’m not saying that those were bad books. I’ve loved, and still love, many books whose characters aren’t gay, lesbian, bi, trans, etc. But David Levithan changed things for me. Boy Meets Boyfilled a void in my life that I didn’t know was there. Books like this one are the kind that I wish I had had when I was a teen.

When I was twelve-years-old and first started to question my sexuality, I think that reading a book about two boys falling in love would have helped me immensely. But I didn’t know these books existed. I’m sure there were some of them out there (probably not as many as there are now, but some nonetheless), but I didn’t know about them, didn’t know where to find them.

So instead I spent the better-part of five years trying to convince myself that being attracted to boys was wrong, that if I kept those feelings buried deep inside that they would eventually go away. They didn’t.

When I was seventeen, I finally told someone I liked boys. But I still said I liked girls too. After all, I was dating a girl at the time. And, while I really did love her, I think she may have been an exception to the rule. I think the biggest reason why I told everyone I was bisexual was because I wasn’t willing to let go of the option of liking girls too, because even then when I was opening myself up and admitting that I liked boys, I think part of me still believed that it wasn’t right, so I wanted to leave the option to take it back and stick with girls.

I continued telling people I was bi for another five years. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, after I had started reading books like Boy Meets Boy and other young adult novels along the same lines that I finally fully accepted myself and started identifying as gay.

Part of me often wonders, if I’d had books like these when I was a teen, would I have accepted myself sooner? Maybe, but I also know that I can’t go back and change the past. What matters most is that I finally got to that point where I am not ashamed of who I am, where I am proud to call myself a gay man. And I like to think that it all started with David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, and other books like it.

I’m currently in the process of putting together a proposal for my major research essay for my Master of Arts where I will focus on researching identity formation in Young Adult novels with LGBT themes. I think these books are so important that I want to study more on them and look at them, not just from a personal and emotional viewpoint, but from an academic one as well.

Looking back, I can’t help but think about how much I’ve changed, how far I’ve grown since the first time that I read Boy Meets Boy. Books like this have changed my life, and I’m sure they’ve changed the lives of others who have enjoyed them just as much. That’s why I love LGBT YA so much, why I love to talk about it and tell others about it. I think spreading the word about these amazing books is so important since I truly believe they can be influential on someone’s identity.