What many of us may not know is that sexuality is not direct, and has different components that define it. There are actually four parts of sexual identity: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Although sexual orientation is a large part of one’s sexuality, it requires an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to a specific gender/s. For people who respond to emotional or romantic attraction this pattern may only form later on in life or after such a connection has been made. This means those people may not realize their sexual orientation through just proximity with their intended gender/s.
Ironically, knowledge of one’s sexual orientation does not mean fully realizing the scope of your sexuality. Why? Because sexuality is fluid and one’s gender identity and expression are not necessarily static. Terry always thought she was straight because that was what society told her she should be. It wasn’t until she met Rita* that she knew she wasn’t.
The Broken Bird: Terry’s story
I am an only child of a single parent. Not that it really points to anything, but it made me a fairly independent person with a little bit of a savior complex. Actually, a lot of a savior complex. Which is why trying to be the one and only hero in my first love story introduced me to myself. For context: I went to an all-girls school and had plenty of girlfriends growing up, but I was never attracted to any of them. In fact, I knew that I was straight just like everyone else - because why wouldn’t I be? Growing up in a relatively rural area meant my upbringing was traditional and steeped in culture. I say all that to say, I was brought up to follow the path most taken, and I did so with pride.
Then I went to university and there I was- a 19-year-old living near campus, working to sustain myself and my education. It was a lot for me, being that young and having so many responsibilities, but when you reach for a better life, it is often a hard and sometimes painful journey. It is in this state of laboring and studying that I met Rita. She appeared with her broken wing and as if it was purposed, I was hers. To be honest I can’t remember the particulars of the meeting itself, but I remember every bit of her being in my life. She was slightly older than me, but her turbulent home life meant that she had been on her own for a while, and when I met her, she was homeless. Of course I took her in, shared my little bedsitter with her and did everything I could to keep her safe and happy. It all started innocently enough; I knew I had strong feelings for her, but I didn’t immediately guess that they went past friendship.
Then one day she left and didn’t come back for days. I was crazy with worry and every time I thought she wouldn’t return I knew I wouldn’t make it. It seems silly now, but teenage angst has a way of convincing you that the world is in a perpetual state of ending. She came back though, nonchalant and with no apologies. That’s when it all crystallized for me- why I felt what I felt for her. I was hopelessly and madly in love with the best friend I ever had in the world. Turns out I was playing catch up because she had known all along that she loved me. Which is the reason she left how she did. After almost a year of us living and hustling together she just couldn’t take the proximity both literally and figuratively of her unrequited love.
It’s odd that once I embraced this love, I knew it was who I had been all along. I hadn’t fancied the droves of girls that had passed through my life because I hadn’t been attracted to them. That’s how sexuality works. You will not be attracted to every person you meet of the gender that is meant for you. Sometimes it takes a broken-winged bird to show you how you were meant to ride the wind.