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       When you’re young, everything feels black and white. The sun comes up in the morning, the moon comes out at night. In the summer it gets warm, and in the winter it get’s colder. Little girls grow up to be princesses and boys become knights. There’s a binary for everything we do, and everything has an opposite. Cause and effect seems simple. But as you get older, checking the boxes of what makes sense seems to slip more and more into the area of grayness. 

 

    When I was in middle school, sleepovers were a common phenomenon. I grew up in a large but close-knit group of girls, who were brave and emboldened through the need to grow up much quicker than the rest of our peers. We were 11 year olds who acted 14, sneaking out in the middle of the night to streak through backyards, and sipping wine coolers when no one was looking. We’d have fashion shows in our training bras and dream of who we’d be when we were older. Although I am no longer part of the girl gang, I credit them with a lot of the discovery of who I am. 

 

    At a few sleepovers in high school, the concept of sexuality came up. Would you ever kiss a girl? I’d laugh and respond quickly. “Maybe, if I was drunk.” Most of the girls said no, even with the added idea of alcohol we hadn’t yet tasted. But the question lingered in the back of my mind. It wouldn’t be until years later when me and a friend experimented for the first time, all credits due to liquid courage. All I could think for weeks was: You’re not straight. You’re not straight. You’re not straight. 

 

    Growing up, I was in a very serious relationship early on with a boy. We were high school sweethearts who seemed destined for the big happy ending. But how do you reconcile a blooming sexuality with the traditional binaries of dating, let alone a relationship that was years long? I always thought I would marry a boy. I always thought I would at least get married to this boy. How can I be gay, when the whole world expects me to be straight with him? 

 

    Discovering I wasn’t straight almost immediately led me to exploring new labels. Am I bisexual? Do I only feel attraction to cis men and women? Would I even know what I’m talking about? Am I pan? Do I fall for people, or what’s in their pants? Is it equal, do I feel 50/50? Am I still gay if I end up with a man? Do I even want to anymore? And when it comes to women, do I know what I’m doing? Would any girl want me if the only experience I have is in the basement of my best friend?

 

    I know I’m not straight. I see girls and I know the difference between wanting to be them and wanting to be with them. But I’ll be honest, I see it more in men. My attraction tends to fall higher towards women, ad my romantic interest is heavily skewed towards men. But am I really only bound to end up with a man, or am I just telling myself that, because I’m scared by the idea of being rejected by a woman? Why don’t I feel “gay enough” to be my actual self? 

 

    I’ll be more honest, I have my Bumble set to boys and girls, and I’m still scared to message the ladies. They intimidate me, with their way around the female body and their sober ability to talk themselves up. I live in fear of being the girl who doesn’t measure up, who talks about how she’s not straight until the cows come home, but ends up in a boy’s bed at the end of the night. The girl who get’s a reputation as a bicurious party girl instead of a human being on a complex spectrum. 

 

    I am a huge ally. I tell all my friends to be the most authentic versions of themselves and to never let their doubts dictate their ability to find happiness. But the more I preach, the more I realize that I am not practicing the same advice. I get in my head. I get scared. I don’t say what I mean, and I let the potential perception of me control the ways in which I see myself. I’m tired of being scared. 

 

    I am not straight. I am bisexual, or pansexual, or any label anyone else wants to give me. Who cares if one day I marry a man? Who cares if it’s a woman? Who cares if I never get married at all? 

 

    To all the girls out there who think about other girls, it’s okay. It’s okay if you never date a girl, it’s okay if you’re still too scared to kiss one. It’s okay if you know deep down you might like women, even if the other girls at the sleepover say they’d need a drink or six first. You don’t have to get drunk. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, because no one knows you better than you know yourself. And if you know you aren’t straight, who cares what anyone else says? 

 

    I’m forever thankful for the experiences I had that showed me I wasn’t who I thought I was. They made me stronger and they made me who I am today. They made me a better ally, and it gave me a chance to explore things I may not have. But even if I didn’t have them, it would still be okay for me to say I’m not straight. Because I’m not. And that’s okay. Life may seem black and white, but it’s not. It doesn’t have to be. At 22 I’m learning that it’s equally as beautiful out here in the gray. 

 

   

 

Samantha Smolko

West Chester '21

Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies student at West Chester university. Interested in the arts, writing, and being a women’s and LGBTQ+ ally.
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