For years as a teenager and then in my early 20s, the question of “who am I?” continually rattled my bones and ripped through my heart. I wrote poem after poem as a teenager, sobbing and gnashing my teeth in frustration because I felt so empty and crushed and unsure of myself. I didn’t know my bones were aching from the wounds of sexual abuse. I didn’t know that I had been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the religion of my childhood that I didn’t know anything was wrong with it. I knew something was wrong with my family, but I didn’t know what it was.
I wrote blog posts, pontificating about my theories or trying to force myself back into line with my parents’ beliefs. I had long pondering conversations with close friends, always pulling that string of “who am I?” along with me through every single interaction. I looked for answers in other people, I tried on their personalities and tried to mimic anything that seemed like it could be something I would like. Nothing ever fit. Nothing ever felt right. If anything, I felt even more hollow and alone.
Then I got married. After having to fight tooth and nail just to be with him. But did I actually want to be with him? Or was it because that was the only out I had? Was it truly get married or die? I got married because I loved my partner, but I also knew it was the only way I was surviving. Between his unintentionally abandoning me shortly after we got married, to my realization that I may not actually be straight, I continued losing more of me. I was supposed to be starting to find me, and discovering who I am as a person. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Then I left christianity, still in search of the elusive answer to who I am. Through that excruciatingly lonely journey, I began releasing narratives that no longer were true, and that had never been true. I was uncovering abuse and trauma, and was barely scratching the surface of those wounds. Along the way, I did start finding pieces of myself, but they were so minuscule that I could barely count them.
I became a mother, then became a mother again. I lost myself all over again as I stepped into an actually parenthood role. With heaving sobs, I fought to pull myself back, I fought to find myself and desperately wanted to know who I was. Slowly, oh so painfully slowly, I inched my way back to the surface. My health deteriorating, my mental space utterly destroyed, my relationship with my partner in pieces. I could no longer ignore the fact that I felt immensely betrayed by him, and also felt terrified of what the work I had been doing on myself was going to reveal. I had started catching glimpses of my true self, and they were dazzling, too good to be true, and I was afraid of their radiance and surety and hope.
The first time I dared to tell my partner that I was queer, I felt so sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of his response, and I was sure he wasn’t going to accept me. I didn’t tell him the truth either, I downplayed my true feelings because of fear. And unfortunately my fear was accurate and he was not even close to be ready to hear my real truth. As long as we were having sex, he didn’t care what my sexuality was. I didn’t feel seen and I also didn’t have the spoon to get into long discussions with him. He wasn’t ready to face his own queerness either.
Fast forward another four uncomfortable and broken years, we finally are in a place to start having those harder conversations and he is able to actually hear me. We dealt with the betrayals at the beginning of our partnership, and while I was still rebuilding trust, I was more confident in myself to start speaking my whole truth. I told him, I’m a lesbian, and I don’t know what that means for us, but I know that’s where I am and part of who I am at my core. While he has been doing his work, it was still hard for him to hear how much I had changed since the beginning of our relationship. I knew I wasn’t who I was when he chose me all those years ago. I also knew change is what saved me, and gave me a reason to keep living.
This time when I came out to him, he said that if there was no sex, then we were done. I was not willing to walk away from the partnership we have spent so long building and then rebuilding and strengthening. I felt backed into a corner and forced to be someone and into something I sincerely was not into at my core. The grief at feeling stuffed in a box and feeling unable to safely be my whole self was suffocating and overwhelming. It was a conversation that began to come up more and more often. it was a conversation that I saw as the starting point for our next evolution as a couple. But it was a point that we both individually had to get to, and I knew he was not ready yet. I wasn’t actually sure if he would be able to get there.
The past week has been incredibly intense turning points for us. For the first time in 14.5 years of being together, he looked at me and said that he has realized that what we have together as partners is worth so much more than if we’re having sex or not. His next sentence was that he has also realized he needs to work on reconciling with himself that there are desires he has that I will never, and have never, been able to meet.
Oh the grief, I have never felt so cared for by him than in that moment when he told me those two things. He is now finally able to see the truths about us that I have seen for a long time but couldn’t bring myself to hope would come to fruition. This is a huge step forward for us. This is truly huge and more affirming than anything else I could have asked for. It is also bringing deep wells of grief up for both us as we are actively tearing down mononormative and heteronormative structures that do not serve us or are healthy for us.
For me this has looked like leaving behind the partnership role I was prepped for all of my life and now knowing that is not my role. I cannot physically push myself into something that and lie about my feelings. Being a non-binary lesbian is not something I can change about myself. It is that bright dazzling core I caught glimpses of years ago. But I hate the feeling that there is something wrong with me, that maybe if I was just straight something would stay the same here.
But that’s part of the problem right? When we evolve and change, we are leaning into the beauty of humanhood and how we are not static creatures. We change, grow, learn, and evolve. It doesn’t work for us to stay where we have been for 12 years of marriage. We need to start the path leading forward and stop looking back. And that means letting the grief have its space so that we can release what is no longer here. Part of me doesn’t want to be a lesbian. I don’t want to be one because of the grief and the loss this truth of mine is bringing forward. But all of me wants to live wholly and fully me. I can’t do that and deny a very integral part of myself. The reality of what is changing is really just the evolution of what our relationship consists of. Which, truly, it isn’t much. I think the biggest part of this change is simply the acknowledgment that we ARE changing and beginning our next evolution.
I am watching my partner as he discovers the joy of finding a partner who sees all of him and can show up for the parts I can’t. And that makes me really happy for him, and also only increases the grief. We’ve had a lot of painful and deep conversations about what we need as partners, and how we can stay intentional with our relationship in the midst of this evolution. The past year has been the first time in the almost decade and a half that we’ve been together where I’ve felt like we are entirely partners. We are listening to each other and working through these painful parts with gentleness and compassion and taking time to hold space for each other. And that is so precious and rare and I sincerely am grateful for immense work we’ve done together and also separately.
So who am I?
I am full of grief and joy, I am sobbing as I am laughing. I can see and hold the nuance of supposedly contradictory things, and I can hold the beauty that comes when things shift and evolve. I am a person of complexities and gentleness. I am healed and healing, and constantly growing and am proud of who I am. The grief I hold today is the remaining echos of the grief I felt as a teenager wailing into the void for any affirmation they could get. I feel the closing of that chapter of grief because the grief I feel right now is the final release for those fears that I would never know myself.
I am a non-binary lesbian, I am queer as fuck, and I always have been. It is a part of me that I cannot change no matter how hard I try to force myself to. I need this stability and awareness of myself to re-ground my soul and body. I am autistic and I need the clarity of knowing I am heard for my words and not what others assume I am saying.
My heart is begging me for space to breathe and to just let the tears run. And I am going to give my heart that space. I need that and I know its how I’m going to finish this grieving period. It’s how I will be letting go of the past and the old way of doing things so that the new can be birthed and brought into being.
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