Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - REAL LIFE -

in a can­dlelit apart­ment, I kissed a girl. It was in­stantly my favourite thing to do. I wanted my boyfriend to go away forever. ‘Oh my God, I’m a les­bian!’ I thought. As Jes­sica be­came my first girl, my boyfriend be­came, for quite some time, my last boy. Sex with him had al­ways felt pre-con­fig­ured. Sex with Jes­sica was a dark for­est, a fairy tale to get lost in. I re­alised that, with men, a part of my heart was al­ways on high alert. An es­sen­tial part of me was not at play in the sex I’d had with my boyfriend. Yet within mo­ments, Jes­sica – this stranger – had ac­cess to it all. I was whole.

I wanted to build my life around this ex­pe­ri­ence, and I did. Re­vis­ing my het­ero his­tory, I de­cided the eye­liner-wear­ing goth boys I pur­sued in high school were sim­ply the clos­est I could come at the time to a girl. I got rid of my lace dresses and got a peak cap with ‘Dyke’ on it. I hit the mall in search of T-shirts to wear with cut-off army pants. I shaved my head. There: I was a dyke, I’d al­ways been a dyke, and I’d al­ways be a dyke. Now, buzz off!

Com­ing out in the early ’90s, at a time when the fight for gay rights was gain­ing ground, a solid, even con­fronta­tional sex­ual iden­tity was de­manded. Any­thing less was seen as wishy­washy, smack­ing of in­ter­nalised ho­mo­pho­bia. For gay women, an in­ter­est in men marked one as a traitor to queer­ness and fem­i­nism. Peo­ple who iden­ti­fied as bi­sex­ual were schemers with one foot in the world of het­ero­sex­ual priv­i­lege. As for those who opted out of a sex­ual iden­tity, well, they were quite pos­si­bly in­sane. There were rea­sons for the mil­i­tancy. The first thing most peo­ple heard when they came out to fam­ily was that their at­trac­tions were a phase, like a cloud pass­ing over the sun. The en­tire world was des­per­ate to in­val­i­date ho­mo­sex­ual de­sire, and if you ad­mit­ted to even a sliver of am­bi­gu­ity, it would try to make you live there. Af­ter all, queer­ness was de­viant, dis­eased, fa­tal. If you could per­haps ex­pe­ri­ence love with a mem­ber of the op­po­site sex, why wouldn’t you? The only stance to take was an un­wa­ver­ing, in-your-face dec­la­ra­tion of to­tal ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. So chanted Queer Na­tion, one of the big ac­tivist groups of the time: ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!’

Fast-for­ward a decade or two, and watch as Kristen Ste­wart, Mi­ley Cyrus, Cara Delev­ingne and Lily-Rose Depp refuse to sat­isfy the pub­lic with a neat ex­pla­na­tion of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. In­stead, they are ‘com­ing out’ as pan­sex­ual, sex­u­ally fluid, un­de­cided or some­where else on the spec­trum. ‘I be­lieve in gender flu­id­ity and sex­ual flu­id­ity,’ said Grammy-win­ning singer St Vin­cent. ‘I don’t re­ally iden­tify as any­thing.’

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