By Lily Crawford
Being a woman who identifies in the middle of the sexuality spectrum is hard. You’re constantly running into people who think you’re either straight or gay, but not both, or who refer to your identity as a phase. At least this has been my experience.
I started to question my sexuality at a very young age, though I didn’t understand it completely until later. In high school, I dated this amazing girl; so entering college I decided to label myself as a lesbian because it made sense, at least in my awkward freshman mind. I would walk around telling people I was lesbian. I tried to meet girls, and I cited that one high school experience when people questioned me, but it still didn’t feel right. I didn’t think I was a lesbian; the term felt awkward to say, and it just didn’t sit right, but I liked girls sometimes, so that meant I had to be gay, right? As I continued through my next two years in college, I decided I was questioning. I didn’t think I was straight—obviously I liked girls—but I wasn’t gay either; I had plenty of romantic experiences with men, too. At the time, I was under the impression that being bisexual meant you liked men and women equally, so I tossed the term out of my mind the minute it entered.
This summer, however, all of that changed in a big way. In July, I was fortunate enough to have won a scholarship to Camp Pride, an LGBT summer leadership conference for college students. For one week in Nashville, TN, about 75 student leaders gathered to build community, attend workshops on identity, power, privilege and effective leadership strategies, and listen to lectures by leaders of the LGBT movement including Mandy Carter, Robyn Ochs, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington and Janet Mock.
One part of this program was breaking out into caucuses, where people of similar identities could gather to talk. At first, I was lost choosing a caucus to join. I knew I didn’t want to go to the lesbian caucus—I had already determined that I wasn’t a lesbian—so I decided to go to the middle sexualities group. It was the best decision I ever made.
The first night, we split off into small groups of three and told our personal stories. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in because I hadn’t really labeled myself as bisexual, even though I knew the two ends of the spectrum were not me. To my surprise, the two other individuals in my small group were just like me.
We shared the same struggles, were feeling uncertain about our identities, and had been trying to find a bisexual community to be a part of. For the first time in my life, I felt a part of a queer community and I was proud to be bisexual. Talking with my small group and with the larger group, I realized that bisexuality is so much more than the exact middle of the sexuality spectrum: it’s the big chunk in the middle with an amazing community I had been missing out on.
Being at Camp Pride and choosing to go to the middle sexualities caucus gave me an opportunity to meet more bi* identified people, and I didn’t feel alone anymore. I knew this was where I was supposed to be. Even though we all identified a little differently, we shared the middle of the sexuality spectrum and having this bond allowed us to open up, grow closer together, and think about ways to improve our respective campuses. I know that this year, my university, the University of Notre Dame, is definitely going to pay more attention to the middle sexualities, and I already have ideas for programs, social events, and educational materials that I hope to begin working on when I get back to school in the fall. Camp Pride not only taught me how to be an effective leader, it gave me the tools to do so, a network of people to help me and the confidence to cause real and lasting change on my campus.
I still face those people who tell me being bisexual is really just a questioning phase on the way to being a lesbian, but now I’m able to be a strong, confident, bi*sexual women and leave my doubts behind. The feeling of validation Camp Pride gave me truly changed my life and I’m excited to begin my journey in the bi* community and in my Notre Dame queer community as a leader, activist and role model.
Lily is a junior at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, studying Anthropology with a minor in Gender Studies. She is the current Vice President of PrismND, the university’s LGBTQ student organization, and a FireStarter peer educator for the Gender Relations Center.
(Note: Bi* is a term used to describe the constellation of identities that exist between and outside of the binaries.)
You can find out more about Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp at www.campuspride.org
Featured Image Credit: The Billings Gazette