My recovery is a practice of radical honesty. That’s what it says in my mission statement. “Honesty is my spiritual practice.” And it’s true. Anorexia is a practice of radical dishonesty. You can’t be honest with yourself about your physical needs, let alone your emotional ones. Logically, recovery is the opposite.
I’m in recovery, and it’s great, but it isn’t always easy. Honesty, while simple in theory, is not always easy in practice. It’s not always easy to speak from the heart and trust that you will be fine.
Beyond radical honesty, recovery is a practice of radical acceptance. Self-acceptance is recovery’s end goal – the “destination,” if you will. Radical honesty paves the way for radical self-acceptance.
That’s my talk. I can talk my talk. The question is, can I walk my walk?
Most of the time, yes. Some of the time, no.
Lately, I’ve leaned towards “no.”
I’ve been in a funk – a crisis of identity – and I haven’t been fully honest. I’m compartmentalizing – I mean, rejecting – I mean, neglecting – I mean, ignoring – one specific aspect of myself. It’s subtle. It’s nuanced. But it’s strong.
I’ve reached a point where I can’t ignore it anymore. I feel overwhelmed, lost, and disconnected from my center. Disconnected from myself. Unsure of who I am.
These are normal feelings. Human feelings. Sometimes I fear they’re privileged feelings, “rich white girl feelings,” and I’m reluctant to voice them, hesitant to take up more space than, in this society, I already do.
But this particular space, this blog, is my space, so it’s appropriate for my voice to get loud. I can’t drown any other voices out if I’m the only person writing.
Again: I have to walk my walk. I have to voice my truth. It’s what I’d advise my friends to do. I know that radical honesty will bring me back to self-assuredness.
So here goes.
I’m facing conflict and insecurity about my sexuality.
I’m afraid I’m not a lesbian.
I’m afraid that, though I’m attracted to “girls” (I put “girls” in quotation marks because gender is a construct), I might actually be bisexual. And I don’t want to be.
I’m terrified by the possibility.
But I’m also terrified of lies.
I’m scared that I’m lying to myself.
I’m scared that I’m living a lie.
The name of this post is “Sexual Confusion,” as in, I’m not sure that I’m living a lie, but ignoring this confusion is eating at my insides, keeping me up at night (watching The L Word – at least I know I’m not heterosexual), so it’s time to open the floodgates of possibility. Time to ask myself hard questions. Questions I hoped I’d never again have to ask.
What if I’m not actually a lesbian?
What if I’m actually bisexual?
What if I’m bisexual but I want to live my life as a lesbian?
What if I’m a bisexual lesbian?
What if I’m a lesbian bisexual?
Can I be a lesbian and bisexual at the same time?
Is it in my highest interests to experiment?
Is it in my highest interests to choose?
If I admit there are aspects of my sexuality I haven’t explored and might need to or like to, am I turning my back on my queer identity?
Am I turning my back on my lesbian identity, on the identity I cling to, the identity I love, the identity I’m attached to like “white on rice,” a phrase that makes no sense and seems racially insensitive given the existence of red rice, yellow rice, basmati rice, and brown rice, but seems to fit here?
Identifying as a lesbian lights me up.
It makes me feel certain and strong.
Quite simply, it sparks joy!
Eat your heart out, Marie Kondo.
” L e s b i a n ”
The very word turns me on.
I want to put the word on a stick and lick it like a lollipop.
I want to lick it, put it in my mouth, run my tongue all over it, and let the liquid residue glide down my throat.
I want it to burn, just a little – to feel hot, and good.
I want to ingest it, digest it, live it, become it.
You are what you eat. I want to eat lesbians.
I want to taste the rainbow, to eat sexual skittles.
I want to be gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, forever.
But what if I’m not? What if I’m bi?
I have no doubt that my lesbian identity was truthful, but what if I’ve outgrown it? What if it’s too rigid for the person I am now – the whole, expansive person I am now?
Am I clinging to the label lesbian longer than is healthy, keeping it in my pantry past its expiration date? Am I stunting my evolution, development, and growth?
What if I’m violating Aparigraha, the Hindu principle of non-possessiveness? Non-grasping? Non-attachment? What if I have before me an opportunity to let go, and I am choosing to ignore it? I am choosing to fight it?
What if I’m taking my anorexia and applying it to my sexuality, restricting the boundaries of my sexual attraction?
Maybe I’m not…
” L e s b i a n ”
” F l u i d “
” B I “
Identifying as a lesbian brought me power and pride. And it was true. But perhaps I put too much pressure on it when I expected it to fit me for all of time.
According to Aparigraha, when we live in a state of attachment, we expect the objects of our attachment to give us the same experience every time we engage with them.
We expect our meal to taste as good as it did the last time we ate it. We expect our partners to give us the same amount of pleasure they gave us last night. We expect our favorite song to remain our favorite song.
But songs get overplayed. If we remain attached to our favorite song as the excitement fades, we rob ourselves of the chance to find a new favorite song.
The same is true with our identities. I expect the word “lesbian” to bring me just as much joy and pride today as it did when I claimed it for myself three years ago, but there might be more to my identity.
A few months ago, I saw a short play. It involved four dancers doing a strip tease to a Lil Nas X song. The first time around, all the dancers were masc. The second time around, half were femme, and half were masc.
I viscerally remember loving the balance – calling it “real nice.” I viscerally remember both identifying with and desiring each dancer.
Am I afraid that admitting I’m bi will please certain figures in my life, certain figures I had to battle to convince of my sexual preferences?
Am I scared that after fighting – FIGHTING – to express my sexuality – after shouting “YES, I’m a LESBIAN! NO, I’m NOT BI! GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD, GOD DAMMIT, I WILL NEVER BE BI!” over and over – that saying “I’m bi” will shatter my credibility?
That these people will decide they were right? That it was a phase? That they know me better than I know myself?
Will accepting my fluidity “undo” all the work I’ve put into individuation? Will it tarnish my sense of self? Will it place my identity in someone else’s hands?
Does living my truth, as I understand it in this moment, equate to letting them win?
No. My sexuality is none of their business. But it’s difficult to know that, especially when I recall their suspicion and condescension.
What if I like flirting with men but I don’t want to act on it?
What if I like acting like a man itself?
Could my all-girl education and subsequent life-long discomfort around men have contributed to my romantic preference? I thought my sexuality was a result of my nature, but what if it stems from nurture?
Will my friends see me differently if I ditch the L word?
Will I forgo my status as “queer icon,” a nickname I love, even if it’s a joke?
Will my obsessions with Melissa Etheridge and Ani DiFranco (who happens to be bi) lose their meaning?
And what about my past relationships? Will I discredit the feelings I had for my girlfriend, my serious girlfriend of 9 months, even though I was obviously in love with her?
Does the fact that I flirt with women daily mean nothing? Does the fact that I stop women on the street – or in the aisle, if they happen to be my flight attendant, as was the case last Sunday – to tell them they’re beautiful, that they sparkle, that I like them, mean nothing?
Don’t I feel more inspired by attractive men than aroused?
Don’t I feel more kinship than desire?
Don’t I have a few male crushes, like Taron Egerton (when he portrays Elton John), and Neil Patrick Harris, and Jim Halpert from The Office, but still want to be with women?
When I watch Taron Egerton *make love* to Richard Madden in “Rocketman,” I feel extremely aroused, but I don’t imagine myself having sex with either of them. I imagine myself in their positions, playing out the scene with another woman.
I relish all I can learn from them. I fantasize about being them, rather than being with them. I look for their qualities in myself.
I love being rubbing up against a similar body, a body with my body’s architecture, a body I understand and know how to operate. And I love boobs. I love boobs. Boobs make me lose my mind.
But am I actually a lesbian, or is that label a safety net? Might I also be interested in men? Can I participate in the fun that is noticing a male ass? Can I giggle with my heterosexual friends? Do I maybe want to try having sex men, but maybe not – I’m not really sure?
Do I want to potentially have sex with everyone I can get my hands on just so I can get to know myself better, while still hoping and planning to one day marry a woman?
Am I sexually attracted to both sexes but romantically attracted to one?
Am I romantically attracted to both sexes but sexually attracted to one?
Could I be attracted to people on all points of the gender spectrum? Could I be gender fluid myself? Deep inside, do I feel more like a “they” than a “she?” Sometimes, do I feel like a him?
Is it possible that my soul has neither gender nor sexuality, but that my body has both? That my soul is a genderless actor embody a gendered person?
Could it be that my life is one big play, and I’m simply playing a role? Is my personality – my ego – just a character I’m playing, “Bella Florence” just an avatar I’m controlling?
In that case, don’t I get to make a character choice? Don’t I get to pick how I present myself to society in terms of sexuality and gender?
Can’t I choose to emphasize certain traits and leave others dormant? If I get to choose my political affiliation – a construct – don’t I get to choose my sexual orientation – another construct – ?
If I get to tell the universe what I want in a partner, can I specify that it be female?
Do I decide my type, or does my body decide for me?
Is it more nuanced than that? Is my sexuality more complicated than my base instincts, than my primal, animal attractions?
Is it more complicated than my physicality, than my biology?
Is it, like all other self-actualizing pursuits, a collaboration between my mind, body, and spirit?
In addition to nature, is it informed by life experience? Is it informed my intellect, a gift that human beings have that distinguish us from other creatures, and thus a gift I should use?
If in fact I am bisexual, is it possible to manipulate my nature? To rewire my sexuality to make myself a lesbian? To “uninstall” all attractions to men whatsoever? Can I hardwire myself that way? Can I make my body do what I want? Is that anorexic? Is that control?
Am I obsessing about my sexuality just as much as I used to obsess about my eating disorder? Should I call this post “Chapter Two” considering that my first blog post, “Chapter One,” was a similar series of existential questions all related to my anorexia, like the following ones in italics?
I have a question for all my friends out there. Do you really love me? Would you really notice if I disappeared? Would you still be drawn to me if I weren’t the smallest person in the room? If I succumbed to the pressure and ate a piece of cake?
Do I need to rephrase these words and apply them to my current issue?
I have a question for all my friends out there. Do you really love me? Would you still be drawn to me if I weren’t the gayest person in the room? If I succumbed to the pressure and ate a piece of D___?
If I wear the bisexual label for a little while, trying it on for size, will you – friends, family, lovers – welcome me back to the lesbian community with open arms?
Am I just crazy? Am I just horny? Do I just need some good gridding, some pelvis-on-pelvis, clit-on-clit, vagina-on-vagina?
I used to be as confused spiritually as I am currently confused sexually, but in my recovery program and yoga practice, I discovered a higher power of my own understanding and learned to cultivate a relationship with it.
Can’t the same rules apply? If I can have a god of my own understanding, can’t I have a sexuality of my own understanding?
If I can create my own relationship with God, the relationship with God that I want, then can’t I create my own sexuality, the relationship with my sexuality that I want?
Is my life purpose finding balance, abandoning extremes? No over-eating, no under-eating, and no polarizing sexuality? Must I embrace all aspects of myself, including my sexuality, and embrace its duality within me? Must I balance my masculine and feminine sides?
Sometimes I feel gay. Sometimes I feel bi. I’m stuck on the limitations of the word lesbian. I want to remain open to all possibilities. I want to be sober from all forms of restriction. I’m on a journey to get to know myself. Why assume I’ve reached my limit and have nothing more to uncover?
Perhaps I can be bisexual by nature, yet choose to live my life as a lesbian. I can be both, if I want to. If it feels true. I can fantasize about men occasionally, but limit my bedroom endeavors to women. Perhaps I’m a less-disturbed Jenny Schecter with a huge thing for Shanes.
Perhaps I can have male urges but choose not to act on them. Perhaps I can allow myself to feel a full spectrum of sexual attraction without acting on all of it. No matter how much I feel, I still get to choose who I share my body with, and if that means women, then that means women.
I sobbed in my recovery meeting this morning, voicing the content of this post. At the end, a woman turned to me and said, “Bella, living your life and living your truth is not letting someone else win. Even if it looks the way they want it to, it’s still not letting them win.”
She was right. Living my truth isn’t “letting them win.” Living my truth is letting me win.
So maybe I’m bisexual. Maybe I’m a lesbian. Maybe I’m just confused. All three of those, together, can make up my truth. Today, I’m brave enough to live my truth. I’m brave enough to let myself win.
Thank you for reading.