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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

When I was around six or so years old my family and I were watching a sitcom of some sort together. It may have been Modern Family, or maybe it was 30 Rock, but the details have gone out of focus in the last thirteen years of my life. Whatever the show was, the episode we watched had a lesbian couple in it. At that point in my life, I hadn’t even been exposed to the possibility of a same-sex female relationship. I have gay uncles who I was aware of already, but it just hadn’t dawned on me that girls could do the same thing. I was absolutely entranced by the couple and demanded that my family explain what was happening. They told me that there are women out there who love women in the same way that my mom and my dad love each other. I found this explanation satisfactory, as any six-year-old would, and was ready to move on, but the lesbians stayed in the back of my mind.

Spokane Valley is abundant with deer. My childhood home’s backyard was a sanctuary for probably thousands of them as I grew up. For anyone who didn’t observe deer as children, or who just may not know the distinction; male deer, or bucks, have antlers, and female deer, or does, do not. I was already aware of this fact when I looked out our window after watching the episode, and standing in my yard were two does and a baby. A family unit. Mother, mother, and baby. Unbothered, eating from my apple trees, moisturized, flourishing. With my newfound knowledge about women, I connected some dots and made a gleeful declaration, “They must be lesbians! Good for them!”

Apparently, the deer alerted my whole family to the fact that I was queer, even before I knew it. It took a bit of time for me to catch on, but in sixth grade, I realized that my desperate need to befriend the cool popular girl was not a normal platonic straight thing. I came out as bi to most of my friends in seventh grade, and my family in my freshman year. Later down the line, my interest in men came into question. I never seemed to care about them in the same way everyone else did, but instead sort of chose boys at random in order to seem natural. That’s why when I came out as a lesbian at the end of my junior year of high school, nobody was shocked, not even my ex-boyfriend.

That summer and the following school year I was very confident in this discovery. The thought of dating men again never crossed my mind. Everyone around me insisted that it had always been obvious that I was lesbian, it was just a waiting game until I figured it out for myself. I completely decentralized men from my life, which was honestly easy. Outside of my family and the occasional crush, I wouldn’t say I’d ever been incredibly close to a man. My identity as a lesbian felt so fitting, so right, so true. Until it didn’t.

Toward the end of my senior year, one of my best friends got a new roommate, and he made my identity falter. I spent months in a back-and-forth with myself, and honestly, everyone who would listen. Did I actually like him, or was he just a new and interesting figure in my life? Was this a real crush or just compulsory heterosexuality? Was I attracted to him, or was I attracted to the visual figure of a somewhat feminine man? In the end, I decided to shut myself up and choose the reality that it was a case of comp-het. I felt a sense of guilt though, even when I made up my mind. So much so that I took my lesbian flag off of my wall. Upon reflection, I’m really glad I made this choice because he ended up being actually insane and one of the worst people I’ve ever met. His evilness doesn’t change the fact that I was lying to myself, though. Before he revealed his evilness, I undeniably had a crush on him.

The summer after my senior year I didn’t really tell anyone that I was feeling instability in my sexuality. I just let the people who were operating under the belief that I was a lesbian continue to do so because I was genuinely ashamed to be doubting myself. Being a gay woman meant just about everything to me, and the idea of going back to a world where I could end up with a man felt like a betrayal to myself, and my community. I felt sick about the fact that I had been “lying” to my fellow lesbians, and I felt sick about the prospect of no longer belonging to the lesbian community. There was also a definite internalized biphobia thing going on as well. I felt like if I went from identifying as a lesbian to a bisexual, I wasn’t actually queer anymore. Obviously, that is not how it works at all, but I couldn’t help the irrational fears that come with letting go of something so important.

By the end of the summer, I had once again come to the conclusion that I am bisexual. Even having made up my mind, I was too ashamed to tell most people outside of a few of my friends. Hiding my identity wasn’t about wanting to pretend I was something that I wasn’t. I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to tell me I was a liar, or that I wasn’t queer enough. Basically, I didn’t want anyone to tell me what I was telling myself. When I arrived at UW last September, the jig had to be up, because I instantly met and fell for my now boyfriend. Starting a relationship with him has put a lot of my identity anxiety at ease. It’s put to rest any questioning I may have continued with because I know that I truly love him. Telling people about him was easier than I told myself it would be. Nobody told me that I was a traitor or liar or that I was suddenly straight to them.

Now and then I freak out and convince myself that I’ve lost my claim to queerness. I frequently send pictures of myself to my friends, asking if my outfits look “gay enough.” Desperate to cling on to the obvious signs that my family saw in me so early on. However, I do know in my heart that I am just the same as I would be without a boyfriend. My queerness is intrinsic to who I am. Even when I didn’t know it myself, I was growing up as a queer woman, so it is woven into the very foundation of my being. The concept is hard to verbalize, especially to those who aren’t queer themselves, but my bisexuality is more to me than just a sexuality. The love I have for women (as a whole, of course. Contrary to popular belief, being bi doesn’t mean I am constantly checking out people who aren’t my boyfriend!) is another part of what has shaped my worldview, my personality, and my life itself. Dating a man hasn’t taken any of that away from me, and it never will. I doubt I will ever completely get rid of the occasional nagging feeling that I don’t belong in my queer community anymore, but on the whole, I know that I do belong. Bisexual people are still queer, no matter what their present relationship looks like, which is pretty cool, I think.

I feel compelled to say that I don’t think that my experience is a universal one, and I don’t want to come off like I’m dissing lesbians. If it wasn’t obvious, I am a huge lesbian fan. I gave up my lesbianism with scratch marks from holding on so tight. Sharing personal experiences with sexuality is something so important to the queer community, as it allows people with similar struggles to relate to one another, and possibly find solace together. Writing this now is honestly a bit difficult, there’s still a lingering sense of guilt. Not that I’m lying about who I am or what I’ve experienced, but just that I’m taking up space as a queer woman with a boyfriend. I don’t like that I feel it, but I do, and I’m sure that others do as well. Maybe if I had someone else dealing with something similar to talk to I would have had an easier time adapting. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t. But if even one person reads this and takes comfort in the fact that someone out there (me) recognizes the fact that they are still queer even if they are in a het-passing relationship, I have done my duty.

Montanna Lovins

Washington '27

Montanna Lovins is a Freshman at UW where she is studying English and Creative Writing. Her writing covers mainly entertainment media, primarily focusing on film and literature. When she isn’t writing, Montanna is commonly found in local theaters or watching movies on her laptop in the dorm. She also enjoys reading classic literature, playing guitar, baking, and hiking to hunt for frogs.