It was just about two months ago now that I sat down and wrote about my coming to terms with my queerness. Obviously, the journey reaches back much further than that. Part of it, I recently wrote about in my art blog where I shared some new work that I did for Pride Month 2023. Granted the vast majority of my work is city scenes and landscapes, but I have done rainy romantic art that was predictably straight in the past but never felt free to do anything that had queer or gay themes. Partly from a fear of being pushed out of the closet. Partly a simple fear of that work, and by extension, me, being rejected. In February this year someone commented they’d love to see one of my pieces with two men as the couple and suddenly I had “permission.” And as I recounted in my art blog, when I was done the next month I felt sadness that I still felt the need to point to that permission as I wasn’t quite there yet. However it did make me more determined to own who I am. It felt very hollow to not admit that my new work was deeply personal to me, too.
Anyway, two months since I started writing about it, I already have a stronger feel for who I am. Even though I’m still working my way through the proverbial list of people I want to tell, in my own slow plodding way, I’m feeling more certain and less hesitant to share.
And I’m getting more comfortable each day in what my queerness means for me. I’m even getting more comfortable with that word which is something I never thought I’d use to describe myself. But I now love the freedom that it leaves me as I question which of my feelings are genuine versus which are part of the masks I wore over the years trying to fit into the larger world.
On that point, I consider this post as kind of a new introduction to who I feel like I am today. I don’t want to re-write the post I wrote two months ago. However, just two months into being out to some people and feeling free in my own thoughts and experiences, it feels like I should revisit some of that – and this post can be the new thing I hand to friends and family who want to know more.
Are You Gay?
This question feels particularly relevant because it was a question I was asked recently by a gay man in my Instagram DM’s. For a second I thought about just saying yes. It’s simpler and the label does me zero harm. I’m finding it’s not very far from factual to be honest. I have a feeling if the first person I had been strongly attracted to years ago had been a guy I never would have had any question. I would have quite possibly accepted I was gay and simply not looked back. As it was my first deep crush was a woman and I clung to that to my own detriment for a long time. I explained how this experience mixed with fear and internal homophobia led me to severely limiting who I could love in more depth in my posts about masks. I bottled up and did my best to edit out the attractions I felt strongest for so very long. Of course, there’s a chicken and egg scenario in which all those years ago I wasn’t ready to accept being attracted to men. That brings the whole discussion to one of those circular topics that ultimately leads nowhere. It happened when it happened.
Am I gay? I’ll tell you how I answered the guy who asked, On a spectrum, I’m way more gay than bi and definitely not straight. I did elaborate that I had very occasionally had feelings for women but more often for men.
And that gets to the other part of my original post where I discussed asexuality. And this is actually the big reason I unpublished my original coming-out post. A couple of things have changed since I wrote that back in April of this year and I feel like reading it now is kind of confusing if you’re on the outside looking in. Asexuality feels less relevant than when it did then.
One of the things that happened was simply being more comfortable in my skin. Once I stopped feeling as if on some level I needed to edit myself, I started realizing I did feel sexual attraction. A second thing was I started having weekly therapy sessions a month ago. Now the reason for that was more related to ongoing challenges I’ve had with social anxiety. I had thought for some time it was mainly a result of being closeted for so long. But as I came out to more friends I realized it was not getting any better.
I’m still working through the whys and wherefores which are personal and I don’t know that I’m ever going to go into detail in my blog. But I am comfortable saying I have realized I have a lot of difficulty communicating and to some degree broadly defining what my own feelings are. I feel like that disconnect explains for me why asexuality felt like my answer. I have no doubt it’s a very real experience for others but I’ve come to recognize for me it doesn’t fit my reality the way I thought it did.
Still all of this illustrates why I like the term queer because the shifting sands of how I understand myself is a lot to get through when you’re just meeting someone. If someone wants more detail or I feel like they should know more, that’s one thing. In the end, I feel like queer leaves the door open right now for my understanding of who I am to evolve.
Being queer leaves space for me to continue to learn more about how I experience the world in the absence of the fears that held me back for so long. To me, that’s the big thing. I’m finally open to experiencing people minus the inhibitions I clung to for so long. Clearly there’s not a light switch for that but just recognizing that I have never been fully open and understanding to the feelings in my own head let alone expressing them is the first step. I’m ready to go forward wherever this new-to-me road takes me.
Thoughts On How I’m Wired Beyond Sexuality
Speaking of feelings, and I may well write a individual post on this subject in the future. But it all sort of connects in my mind right now, both to where I am in this journey and some recent posts. in which I recently mentioned that I felt like my emotions were extreme. I feel like I go from cold to hot in a metaphorical sense quickly. Deep sadness, anger, happiness, they are all within easy reach. Sad or sweet moments in a TV show can bring me to tears. Enter a new to me term that seems to really click with my experience. Enter the Highly Sensitive Person.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this may feel like a strange pat on the back. Look at me, I’m Mr. Sensitive. But that’s not the take-away here. The idea is that there’s an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the population who have brains and nervous systems that are simply wired differently. And it’s been observed outside the human species. Some may be born that way, or it may be the result of lived experience in early childhood. When I took the test for HSP I scored 24 points (14 and above suggests being an HSP).
I recently posted about ultimately deciding that I didn’t fit the picture for neurodivergence. So much of it sounded familiar yet there are enough parts of the experience missing that it seemed a poor fit. I thought I was done with that, so accidentally finding something that included what I do experience was unexpected. Some researchers think HSP may be a form of neurodivergence and some don’t. Regardless the terminology fit my personal experience so well that it then led me to search for articles, videos and podcasts about people who are queer and HSP. I wondered how those experiences fit together for others.
This was not the only thing I found on the subject and so much of it was relatable. However this is a video that I have just watched over and over. The new age and astrology parts don’t speak to me, but beyond that I resonated so clearly with so much of what they discussed. In fact, the topic of loneliness echoed more than I expected despite not being what I was actually trying to find. Both of the people in this video mentioned holding space around and “othering” themselves as a form of defense. I thought that was primarily my experience of being closeted about my queerness. And I still think that’s a huge part of it but I also think being HSP may have added to my lack of comfort letting people too close.
And I can’t help but wonder in what other ways being HSP may have impacted how I react to stimuli, experience my own feelings, etc. At this point I can’t even guess but I do think knowing this additional detail about myself helps me better understand how I experience the world in a broad sense.
So, that’s Mark halfway through Pride Month of 2023. I have more understanding of what makes me tick and am becoming more at ease with who I am and open to the fact it’s an ongoing process. I’m sure this is not my last post by a longshot on the subject of my queerness but I am happy I’m continuing to learn who I am and if you’re reading along whether because you know me or this is relatable to you, thanks for your time!