In a previous post I’ve mentioned my struggles with religion. A heartfelt atheist, I often find myself right at home in certain religious settings, even though I suffer a complete lack of belief. What I don’t lack is faith.
I have faith in many things. I have faith in my family to always love me, my partner to never really leave me, the enduring goodness that can be found in mankind, that music will always find new ways to speak to me, and that things happen as they are supposed to. I may not have faith in any god or deity but I do have faith in my own choices and decisions–which makes questioning any part of those decisions particularly tricky. Anyone who knows me well knows that I like things set in stone. I like plans and goals to be solid, utterly stable in my ability to believe in them. It’s not a very realistic way to live and I’m working on going with the flow more, but it does allow for faith in absolutes.
One of my early absolutes was my sexuality. I grew up being told I was straight because I had a crush on various male tv characters (but I’ll save my diatribe about the ills of sexualizing the interests had by a five year old for a later time). I was told that since I thought it was awesome that The Rock had arms bigger than my head and that James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen that it meant I was attracted to men. The fact that I later declared by beloved Spike with his leather and cheekbones second only to Scarlett Johannson didn’t matter. It had been decided. I was straight.
I had absolute faith in this throughout my schooling. I protested adamantly in 8th grade when I was voted the “group lesbian” by my friends (because middle school is a weird time). How could I possibly be the group lesbian? I was obsessed with the popular asshole-smart-jock who was dating my friend. Besides, in high school it would come to be known that of this group I was the only one who was (to my then knowledge) actually straight. That’s right. I, the only “straight” one of the bunch, was voted group lesbian by a gay guy, two bisexual girls, and a lesbian. Oh the irony. I’m still a bit pissed that they put it all over my yearbook and on my photo, but I digress.
The first quivers of questioning about my sexuality came during high school where I went through a handful of boyfriends in relatively quick succession, breaking hearts as I went. Looking back it was actually the aro-spec that I was beginning to form ideas about, as the moment affection was returned I started to feel incredibly claustrophobic in the relationship and lost all interest in the boy. Unfortunately for teenage me, I didn’t have internet access and wouldn’t know about aromanticism for years to come. Because I only had my diary and one friend to discuss it with, the questioning was roughly pushed aside. My faith in my heterosexuality was shaken, but I made a point of ignoring the tremors.
Then a friend dared me to kiss her the night after Douchenozzle McHornypants (boyfriend number four from a previous post) dumped me. That was…distressing. However, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but because I found the idea somewhat exciting. To be fair, this friend had a secret reputation for seducing straight girls and getting them into bed that the males of our school were not familiar with. I’m pretty sure she actually made her way through most of our rather extended friend group in 10th grade, which in itself is impressive. And lord knows I love to be impressed. This event was eventually repeated a few years after, our first year of college, when the same friend and I, who had never spoken of what happened openly, decided it would be fun to go to Guilty Pleasures and then play strip poker at home after her mom went to bed. It was like a bad cliche of what boys think girls do at sleepovers–sexy pillow fight included.
Needless to say, this sent my worldview for a loop. for weeks after the first time I would squirm whenever someone said both of our names in one sentence, certain that the entire lunch room was moments from learning what happened that night. The resulting panic over whether or not I was actually attracted to girls sent me into a bit of a tizzy for a while, finally coming to it’s conclusion with my acquisition of a laptop and wifi connection after many hours of intensive google searching. Long story short, I learned the different types of attraction that one can feel and the meaning of the terms aromantic and asexual which brought many things into focus.
With the discovery of these communities and a better understanding of myself, I thought that my questioning would be over.
Oh, the arrogance of that thought!
Self-discovery is a continual process, not something that can be tied up in a bow and set aside as finished. Questioning my sexuality opened the door to questioning other things I’d always had the utmost faith in; for instance, my painstakingly drawn out life plan. From age 12 I’d been certain that I would go to college, get my BA, MA, and PhD in history and then teach at a university. Well, I ended up with a BS instead because I was afraid of the French teacher at Lander and that seems to have set in motion the wheels of questioning. Bad experiences in grad school with an ableist and emotionally abusive professor, combined with a clearer understanding of the kind of research historians are now supposed to do, caused me to call off plans for applying to doctoral programs. It is slowly becoming clear through questioning my faith in my life plan that maybe academia isn’t all I believed it to be. But you’ll have to wait til I finish my treatise on it to know more about my breakup with academia.*
*Since beginning this post I have begun the process of withdrawing from my MA history program. It was a difficult decision and cost many tears for the loss of my written-in-stone plan, but it is also a weight off my chest and an albatross taken from around my neck that I am glad to be free of.