So I’ve been thinking a lot about my sexuality lately – specifically, the bi part of it. (Personally, I blame Janelle Monáe, at least in part – I mean, have you seen the “Make Me Feel” video? Hnnngh. *heart eyes*)

See, I’m bisexual but heteroromantic. I’m in a monogamous relationship with a man. I’ve only ever dated men. I only want to date men. I don’t have romantic feelings for folks who are not men. That does not, however, hold true for my sexual feelings.*

*Note: I know there’s been a lot of discussion in LGBTQIA circles about whether or not the term “bisexual” enforces the gender binary/is transphobic/should be replaced with pansexual/etc, and I have feelings on that – but that’s not what this post is about. In short, bisexual is the label that I feel best reflects my sexuality, but trans and nonbinary folks are not excluded from my sexual attractions.

Because my queer feelings are rooted in sexual attraction rather than romantic feelings, it took me longer to recognize them. It wasn’t until I was watching porn regularly in college – I had watched porn and read erotic fanfic all through high school, of course, but it was almost always surreptitiously on our family desktop computer, which was not the most conducive environment for thorough and thoughtful reflection upon my burgeoning teen sexuality – and talking more openly with my female friends about our sex lives that I began to realize that not all of them found women as hot as I did.

But even after these revelations, I was still in a long-term monogamous relationship with my college boyfriend and had yet to have any romantic inclinations toward women, so I continued to identify as straight…mostly. I wasn’t bi, I was just heteroflexible. A little bit crooked. A Kinsey 1.75. I felt like saying I was bi would give the wrong impression: to queer folks, that I was just a straight girl co-opting a label in an attempt to get attention from men in a sort of “I Kissed A Girl” era Katy Perry sort of way, and to cishet men, that I was just automatically down for a threesome with anyone at any given moment (and given that I was coming into my kink identities around this time, this was an especially likely scenario). So even after my breakup with the aforementioned college boyfriend, I continued to identify as straight to the general public and only divulge the more complicated nuances to my partners and very closest friends up until a few years ago, in my mid-20s.

Enter Twitter.

Because I was seemingly one of the few people in the Harry Potter fandom in the mid to late 2000s who didn’t make the jump from LJ to Tumblr (because I hate Tumblr’s entire interface, but that’s a rant for another time), it wasn’t until I created my anon account and waded into the sex and kink sides of Twitter that I was introduced to the concept of separate romantic and sexual orientations. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me before; it seems so obvious now. But the moment I saw the word “heteroromantic,” it was like a gigawatt lightbulb had turned on in my brain.

“Wait, that’s a thing?! Oh my god, it’s a thing. Oh. OH. This is what I am. Everything makes sense now!”

I wasn’t weird or broken or “not gay enough.” I wasn’t a straight girl making out with girls in bars for the benefit of the male gaze. I wasn’t confused or lying to myself about my “true” identity.

I was a heteroromantic bisexual, and that’s a completely valid identity to have.

Now, I won’t lie. I still sometimes struggle with feelings of inadequacy re: my level of queerness. I don’t generally hang out in predominantly queer spaces – unless you count sex bloggers, I suppose, as many of us also identify as part of the rainbow community – mainly because I don’t need the safety they provide, especially IRL. I am white, I am cis, and I appear as completely straight to the general public due to my relationship. I am miles away from being the most marginalized of queer folks, and I don’t want to center myself or take up space in a movement where the voices of others who are exponentially more oppressed should be amplified. But this also leads to some inner turmoil in my less confident moments. I’ve kissed folks who aren’t men, but I’ve never gone any further sexually – though I absolutely want to, given the right circumstances. I’ve never been to a Pride event, in part because I dislike large crowds, but also because I don’t want to be mistaken for one of “those” straight people. I know that I shouldn’t have to prove my identity to anyone to validate it, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that pressure sometimes.

One way I’m working to combat these impostor feelings is by more intentionally identifying as bisexual in casual social situations. For example, I was at a party several months ago hosted by a longtime friend and fellow bisexual in a relationship with a cis man (*waves* Hi E, if you’re reading this) where I was wearing sweatpants and a roller derby t-shirt, and I made a comment about it being my “comfy bi aesthetic.” Later, she told me that she loved hearing me identify as bi out loud, and I was deeply touched that she noticed. Having other queer friends helps in this immensely, of course; I realize I’m privileged in that way, as not everyone is able to have these discussions with folks offline.

I even told my mother a few months ago. It was a very casual conversation – she was very supportive but I wouldn’t call it a coming out or anything – and she didn’t seem terribly surprised, but still, it was just nice to be able talk about it with her. It’s an integral part of who I am, just like loving dogs and quoting The Simpsons.

Hi. I’m bi. Nice to meet you.