You love who you love (and other reasons I don’t define my sexuality)

The longest relationship I have ever been in was ages 17 to 21. The relationship was emotionally abusive, draining, and going nowhere fast, but I held onto it for dear life. What followed was a string of relationships with noncommittal guys, who I become nothing short of obsessed with. I would sit and analyze every little text message. Every period, every emoji, every sentence. I would make excuses as to why certain guys only saw me late at night or why they couldn’t commit. My friends all told me they were wrong for me and that I was trying too hard and not loving myself enough. I thought I knew best and ignored their advice, after telling them I had taken it into consideration (sorry, guys). I’m not sure what exactly got into me, but one day, I decided to listen to them, and started caring for myself more. I dedicated time to myself and started working out, shopping more, and doing everything for me. I became a very independent person and stopped worrying so much about being in a relationship. I have to thank my friends for putting up with my stubbornness and dealing with my endless tears and analysis.

Fast forward to now. It’s been a year and I am in a fully committed and loving relationship. But, the catch is, it’s with another girl.

I can’t explain what “happened,” other than I stopped focusing on forcing something, I stopped grasping at straws, and everything fell into place. The fact that I fell for someone who is of the same sex was not on purpose or an accident, it just happened, and it happened to feel right.

I am the happiest I’ve ever been but I struggle with “explaining” my situation to some. While my family and friends are supportive, some of them don’t quite understand how I could be with men since I started dating and now, all of the sudden, be with a girl. The questions, of course, are all the same. Are you a lesbian? Are you bisexual? What do you consider yourself? My answers are always the same. No, I wouldn’t. I guess I am. And why do I have to have a label?

I am thankful that my family accepts my relationship simply because they have seen me struggle in the past and because I’m happy. And if they don’t accept it or understand it, they don’t say anything. But part of me is frustrated that there is that lingering question of “what am I?” I can’t blame anyone, because that is how society trains us to react. If you do something or act a certain way, you’re labeled. It happens all the time: if you’re an independent woman, somehow you are a bitch. If you cry when you’re angry, you’re weak. If you find both males and females attractive, you’re bisexual. The labels never go away.

While there isn’t anything wrong with labeling me straight or bisexual or even a lesbian, the point is that I don’t necessarily identify myself as any particular label. Yes, I am in a relationship, and that relationship happens to be with a girl. But part of me would almost feel like a fraud labeling myself as lesbian or bisexual, because really, does one relationship automatically push me into a certain label?

I guess the reality is that I don’t know how I would define my sexual orientation, and while I know that it doesn’t matter in the long run—I am who I am—society wants to give me a label, which (clearly) makes me uncomfortable. It’s not because I don’t want to be seen as a lesbian or a bisexual—I support all sexual orientations. It’s because it personally feels limiting to have to self-identify with any one label.

I have learned a lot being in this relationship from my partner. This has been the first real healthy relationship I’ve ever been in, and my partner is supportive, sweet, encouraging, and loving. I couldn’t ask for anyone better by my side. We have been through a lot. I have a fairly supportive family; on the other hand, her family is extremely religious, and while some immediate family members are supportive, others do not know about our relationship because of their beliefs.

My eyes have been opened to society, and how labels carry so much weight in the world. But I have also learned the importance of happiness and being with someone who makes me feel amazing. For me, that’s what matters most of all.

Melissa Lindsay is a South Jersey native, but don’t be fooled: she’s got the soul of a grandma who loves crafts, embroidery, and cats. That is, if your grandma was also super into serial killers, horror movies, and really just about anything creepy.You can follow her on Instagram or Tumblr.

(Image via.)

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