“Well, if you’re not straight, what are you?” they would ask.
“Do I have to answer that question right now?” I would respond.
Sexuality and spirituality are two topics that mostly consume my scattered thoughts. You know how children are known for annoyingly asking “why” to everything? As a 21-year-old adult, I am that child. I, too, question everything.
I wonder why people fall in love. What attracts someone to another? A soul? Frequency? Vibration? Personality? Intellect? Occupation? Attractiveness? Gender? Does gender really have any influence? Do souls recognize each other from a different place? Is that why people describe having a “gravitational pull” to their partner? Maybe that’s why I find gender irrelevant.
I remember having a crush on Hunter in first grade and then Tommy in third. Hunter, my best friend at the time, and coincidentally the name of my favorite Build-A-Bear, turned out to be gay. Tommy was my first ‘bad boy’ crush (well, as bad as a boy could be in third grade). One day, as our class was standing two by two and getting ready for recess, I heard someone say, “Tommy, Alexa likes you!” and he responded, “Ew, she’s fat!” I ran crying to my best friend, Dana, who consoled me and eventually made me laugh. When my dad was dying of cancer, she was the only one who managed to make me smile in the darkest of days. She came out as bisexual four years later when we were no longer friends. I think we were both in love with one another as children.
In tenth grade, I tried to find myself again. This time through God. Every night I would read the Bible and pray to God to fix my life, to make me straight. “Pray the gay away” as they say. Things only became worse, so I thought it would be a good idea, as a recovering anorexic, to go on a religious fast. It didn’t end well and I became obsessive again. The lying and hiding became more ritualistic. One day, my school was having a blood drive and I decided that if I donated blood, I might lose some weight. I thought, What the hell? Maybe if I donate platelets, I’ll lose even more.
“Did you eat breakfast this morning?” the nurse asked.
“Oh, yeah,” I lied.
I spent two hours on the gurney under several blankets to try to keep warm, and when they tried to shove artificially orange colored peanut butter crackers down my throat, I refused to eat. The nurse walked me to class, which I blacked out in. Somehow, I made it to lacrosse practice, but then fainted an hour later during sprints. My coaches carried me into their SUV and waited until I woke up. They forced me to tell them everything and I did. That was my breaking point, my rock bottom.
I had to question why this happened to me. Why did “God” do this to me when I had so much faith in Him? Was it because He was testing me? Did I fail? I stayed strong with Him until my mother became obsessively Christian, took me to her church and to her Bible studies.
Instantaneously, my views on religion changed. The church wanted me to change who I was, who I loved, my thoughts on life, and my dreams. How could a religion so engrained in the doctrine of love not love me for who I was and who I am?
Learning to find yourself is a life long journey. It does not happen overnight. This answer is what I should give when people ask, “Well, what is your sexuality?” I pray that one day that question becomes irrelevant.
When I tell new friends my sexuality (because society tells me I am required to do so), the most frequent response I get is, “I’m okay with that.” Thank you, kind human, but I did not ask you for your approval. Whether or not they realize it, I am thrown back to a time when people were not okay with homosexuality.
What if my family hadn’t been Christian? Would I not have hidden myself so deeply in the closet, and would my self-hatred not have morphed into a nine-year eating disorder? Would I have spent the summer throwing parties on the beach with friends instead of at an eating disorder treatment center? If I hadn’t lived in a conservative, redneck town, would dating Marissa have caused me to lose as many friends?
I’ve been heartbroken three and a half times. One was a girlfriend. Yes, girlfriend. Two were childhood friendship break-ups (which, looking back now, were probably more than friendships). The half comes in when I dated Dan, who was my first real boyfriend and who was definitely an asshole. If you truly love someone, why would you break-up with them over a Facebook message?
Trying to find yourself while continually trying to be someone else is impossible. The age of Tinder rose at a time when I was hiding my past relationships from my new college friends. I convinced myself to invite a nice guy I had met on Tinder to the Jane Hotel for a night out with my friends. Once he arrived, I spent the night hiding in the bathroom from him with just a 10-minute intermission to slug down the cosmopolitan he bought me.
“He’s so sweet, Lex! What are you doing? Why don’t you like him?” my friend asked.
“I… I can’t… breathe,” I choked out as I was sobbing, sweating, drowning.
I pushed my friend aside, ran out of the bathroom, past the bouncers, and fell into an Uber that was not even mine. The driver must have seen my distress because he canceled his other order and took me home.
Tremors overcame my body, and old habits asserted their strength and power over my mind. These old habits were a way for me to forget everything that I was going through and they allowed me to focus solely on one thing: not eating. As my body began to deteriorate once more, I began taking meditation classes. These taught me how powerful the mind truly is and my anxiety soon eased. Meditation morphed into yoga, an exercise meant to strengthen the mind while learning to love the body. Through aerial yoga, I learned to morph myself into beautiful poses. Who would have thought that an ancient Indian practice would save my life?
I did find myself, but every day I dig through the ashes of my old selves to find bits and pieces of who I truly am now. Through spirituality, meditation, and yoga, I have learned to trust myself as I dangle from a silk rope held by the hands of God. Not the God Christianity told me to believe in, but the God I came to know through my heart.
Edited by August Wright