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.’