This is the first time I've ever written about my sexuality. It's the first time I've ever processed it through written words.
By Sharena S
When I was 16, I used to write fanfiction. I wrote a story about how Angelina Jolie and I became best friends, then lovers. She was my “girl crush”. I also created a binder full of photos of different celebrities that I thought were beautiful. There were cut-out pictures of Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortenson (during my obsessive Lord of the Rings days, of course) that were bundled together and pasted onto school paper. I had a full page dedicated to Angelina Jolie.
After discovering that I loved to write, I began to create characters that were parts of myself that either I've yet to unfold or have not fully fleshed out yet. My 16-year-old self thought having a crush on Angelina Jolie was because obviously she was beautiful and “everyone” had a crush on her. I told myself that every girl found another girl attractive at some point in their life. It took me until I was in my early 30s to realize that liking women, the way I liked Angelina Jolie, meant a lot more than I realized. Before I came out to my closest friends a couple of years ago, I wrote a screenplay about a young girl who had a crush on a girl but figured every straight girl has gone through this. With my writing, I chose to gaslight myself into thinking that I was something that I wasn't. I didn't want to see myself, so I shoved who I was into something or someone that wasn't real. Soon, I drowned in my own misery, erasing myself from friends and family by blocking out a part of my identity. I unhealthily dissolved and blended into everyday life, functioning normally as if I wasn’t completely detached from myself.
The loneliness of not being able to unfold my true self weighed on me. One day I had a conversation with my closest friends that split me open. They told me they thought they might be non-binary. They said it casually and with ease as if they weren’t exposing anything at all. It was simple, which allowed me to be simple and effortless about it too. Once I told them, instantly, there were parts of my body that felt as if I can move in a way that it hadn’t before. These parts, when I was 16, were stuck. Unmoved, hidden underneath, and compressed inside of me, nestled in-between and under my heart, in the back of my throat and the cracks of my hands, like splinters that were never pushed out. I never thought of myself as bisexual before. Identifying this, and waking myself up to the thought of this being who I am now, helped me inhale and exhale so deeply that it nearly knocked me over. I wonder if hiding parts of yourself can cause your brain to become unclear about who and what you really are. Your heart knows but your brain becomes stuck too. I've heard when traumatic things happen your brain chemistry is forever altered. Maybe it's similar? Maybe living life in a constant state of confusion, an internal fight within yourself, causes your brain to alter, which in the end, is traumatic.
Becoming unstuck means when I look at a woman I'm attracted to, I'm allowing myself to feel the tickling in my stomach after I swallowed the lump in my throat, instead of burying it deep in the core of my gut. I’m allowing myself to feel emotions deeply across the board now, instead of halting my attraction, stopping it before it can bloom anytime into something brighter and bolder. It feels like I can hold space for myself as I had never done before. I feel healthy in a way that I've never experienced before.
What feels even more healthy is that I still question my sexuality and I still believe that I'm unsure of where I am, as I do know sexuality is fluid, especially now in my life where I have yet to connect with a man that I want to. Being queer, and being open to allowing myself to be fluid, makes me happy about being where I am. The ability to fully be aware of how I’m feeling, and allowing me to feel that way, has helped me both mentally and spiritually.
Being someone who now identifies as a Black Queer woman is also a space I'm learning to navigate, as I know that this specific space is a community in which I have yet to involve myself in. I think this aspect of myself still feels stuck. There is also a lot more language and openness to sexuality that I didn't have when I was a teen and in my 20s, and I’m still hesitant to enter this space. I’ve processed why this could be scary, as being in my 30s now, I don’t feel as if I can completely relate to the younger crowd. This is the first time I've ever written about my sexuality. It's the first time I've ever processed it through written words. As I've always done creatively with all of my feelings, writing it down feels like the best way to express myself.
I know my journey is my journey, so I'm trying not to beat myself up for not realizing that I've always been attracted to women. It feels obvious. It feels blatant. But I couldn't see it. Nevertheless, being stuck does not mean you're unaware, it means you're not sure how to get out of what you've always known or what you have no examples of. I didn’t grow up around many lesbian or bisexual women, or if I did, I didn’t know. This current generation enabled me to open myself up in ways that helped me breathe again and helped me love others in ways I hadn't had the tools to do before. Having written this makes me want to keep writing about my sexuality, to keep unfolding myself, so that I'm never stuck again.
Sharena (she/her) is a film critic, screenwriter, and filmmaker from Chicago, IL. As a lifelong learner, she strives to align herself with her passion for listening to others and learning about them. Through her writing, whether it be a screenplay, blog or film criticism, she seeks to find a way to explore the visibility and representation of Black women and Black people's experiences.