When I was at Creating Change in Denver, Colorado in 2015, one of the organizations there was the storytelling project First Clue – they had a nifty booth set up where people could make little polaroids of themselves with a short quote about how they identified, and what their “first clue” was. The First Clue project describes these as
A new beginning to the narrative that starts long before “when did you know?” or your “coming out” story. It is about the small, private moments when you begin to discover who you really are.
For me, my “first clue story” starts around when I was in middle school, when my dad was enrolled in a sexual health study study called Talking Parents, Healthy Teens. On my dad’s part, that meant attending periodic workplace training sessions on how to talk to your kids about things like sexuality, safe sex, consent, relationships, friendships, and related topics. On my part, it means getting occasional lessons/games about said topics and filling out surveys every few months about when and how I talked to my parents about sex, my sexual behaviors, how I felt about sexuality, and a few other things.
At the time, I mostly though it was a great study because they gave me a $20 Target gift certificate for every survey I filled out. Plus, I thought filling out the survey and bubbling in all the bubbles was fun anyway. (What can I say, I’ve always been a nerd).
When completing these surveys, one of the questions that appeared went something like this(1):
A. Only attracted to boys
B. Mostly attracted to boys, but a little attracted to girls
C. Equally attracted to both / unsure
D. Mostly attracted to girls, but a little attracted to boys.
E. Only attracted to girls
Little me enthusiastically checked of “C”, because well, I’m definitely kind of unsure, but I also definitely don’t have a preference for one gender over another!
At the time I didn’t really think all that much of it; I was just fantasizing about what I could get with that Target gift card. In retrospect, though, that answer was kind of glaringly queer – older me would like to point out to younger me that “Oh that’s easy! I’m equally (un)interested in both”(2) is kind of not at all how most (straight) people think, and that might actually be kind of significant.
I do think it’s a huge credit to my parents and peers, though, that I was even in a place where I could think of being as interested in girls as in boys as completely unremarkable (3). I had the good fortune to grow up with an incredible open-minded family who didn’t take heterosexuality for granted and made it clear that same-sex attraction and relationships were just as normal and valid as heterosexual ones.
Despite basically checking off the bisexual box on the survey, though, I still never…made the leap that “oh, this is what people mean by LGBT”. After all, gay and even bi people are boys and girls who have crushes on boys and girls, and that’s not me!
At the same time, though, I do remember that I never went the other way and thought of myself as straight either. Instead, I was just…nothing. My identity was just “not interested”.
It would take years before I really started thinking more deeply about the whole sexuality thing, and eventually come to terms with the fact that I was ace and queer and all that. But for me, I think this was that “first clue” that something different was going down.
Followers, I’d love to hear any of your own “first clue” stories in the comments!
(1) It’s been way too many years for me to remember the details, and I can’t find it online, so I have no idea whether it was worded as like, sexual attraction, sexual interest, wanting a relationship with, romantic interest, or what. But those details aren’t really important for the purposes of this post.
(2) Which is quite binarist, yes, but at like 12 I wasn’t exactly educated on the gender spectrum yet.
(3) One of the things I will forever be grateful to my family and peers for is the fact that, as I started exploring and questioning my sexuality (and to a lesser extent, my gender) I never had to be afraid of what I might find. I was confused, questioning, unsure – but never afraid. I worried about being wrong, or jumping to conclusions; I never had to worry about losing the support and goodwill of my family or friends, no matter what the outcome might be. To know that my family and most of my friends would be equally happy with a potential partner of any gender – and that they were equally fine with me bringing home no one at all – made the whole process of questioning 1000x easier and less frightening. I can only hope for a future where an experience like this is the norm rather than an incredibly rare miracle.