Dealing with my pansexuality, and sexuality as a living void that I couldn’t come to terms with — and am still trying to understand. It’s not really just easier to say “bi”, I often don’t say anything at all.
I’m nineteen-years old and answering emails in the middle of a storm while many people I love march for pride in cities away, in a nation that has long misunderstood what it is we are celebrating. This is a nation that has granted me the privilege of silence.
My family exists with votes thrown for the yellow party; in that sense — gay people are something to be tolerated. I buy overpriced $15 rainbow socks from the middle of a crowded street in Japan and wear it when I get my hair cut for $2; the hairdresser looks at my mother and asks me if I’m “you know…” and she answers that I just wear it for the colours.
Some days, I’m still trying to figure out if I’ve actually fallen in love with m best friend. I dig up old messages where I scream about going gay for girls, long before I knew it was okay to be gay. When I first looked at porn, I looked at drawings of boys kissing each other — and enjoyed it more when they had an emotional connection to one another. During the more vulnerable days I would fantasize this scene with us in place: on shitty beds and sidewalks pushed, looked down upon, taking in the voyeur of knowing there was something so intimately wrong about every single touch.
I’ve written a lot about loving boys. I’ve loved them in the form of music, in the form of their warmth in a crowded auditorium despite never having known them outside a theater or a mall. I’ve loved them in a college dorm room before a relapse and in the dark of a field with dozens of other people, making out and feeling them next to the plastic ID in their pocket that costs us 20 dollars to lose. The premise of these anecdotes is to tell you that I’ve loved in the most fucked up (read: awkward) circumstances possible; there was no tender, forbidden love in a summer church camp, nor did I pass notes with anyone in class and receive a promposal to seal in my heterosexuality. In fact, I ended my high school career with one proposal: to a barely-friend in a Roblox map recreation of their city (read: two free modeled houses and a sign that read SUCAT), the school bus that I (not he) rode every day of senior year, and of my Catholic high school the night before the event. We barely talked the entire night, and afterwards I watched my friends get smashed up high school drunk while I remained completely sober after several drinks — doing my best impression of obnoxious tipsy girl with the scent of sweet tea all over my mouth. There was nothing fantastic or orgasmic. Until this day, I have still not orgasmed.
The other function of that was to tell you that I’ve loved beyond metaphors. I’m nineteen and haven’t been the sexual pariah I’ve told many people I was for years, but I figure that’s most people who go to Catholic school. (It also lets you know how I’m apparently not good enough at this stuff yet.) I’ve texted people that I loved them and meant it at that time. I look back today of course, and know that none of those acts could meet the standard of the love I give now. But I also look back today while crying because I just want to love something without it needing me.
When I was in ninth grade, I thought I was absolutely unfuckable. One of the solutions to this was to go to the mall and get my arms waxed off. That was the first and last time. I was then still deeply uncomfortable with loneliness and myself, and desperate to be like all the other high schoolers who received dozens of anonymous questions on their inboxes sent to themselves or had interactions that consisted of showing up to each other’s houses in gated villages somewhere in Ayala Alabang or just off Alabang-Zapote carrying a bucket of fries to post on Snapchat. This changed when I met my first high school boyfriend. We sent each other long love letters on our iPads and hid the notifications of our sexts in the middle of class. We had promised to march to a Sigur Ros song for our wedding one day. We ended our relationship by cutting each other off. If I think hard enough, I would be able to remember the patterns on his uniform and the scent of his cologne faded into deodorant in the early morning heat, rendered into nothing and air conditioning when we’d say bye to each other every day again. I no longer remember his voice. Now, we last talked when he greeted me for my eighteenth birthday and sent another sorry a month later. That was over a year ago.
I can tell you something deeper. But know that recall is a curious thing: if I could, I would largely leave the arrangement of my mind to something higher or to pure disorder – just picking things apart as needed. But memory is what has made me forget my second kiss just as I did the last, the names of people I should, tests on paper and in life; that’s it, really. What it offers me instead though, are glimpses of strangers and people I know too fondly to be able to detail so perfectly without any history of intimacy. This is how I know that there was nothing about this being a choice.
Whenever I listen to songs that deal with the common topic of unrequited love and pain, like to listen to them live. I listen closely for every inflection: the kinds of things that can’t be replicated in studios.
It’s kind of selfish to indulge in other people’s memories and feelings. I think about the people I idolize, their traumas restless on-stage heard for 20 dollars.
We like hearing ourselves in music. Or pretending to see ourselves in films. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen someone like me loving in a way I was familiar with; having to love in ways I can’t base something around is kind of tiring. Somedays I want to love easy and with reference – in a way where this can grow. I want to see commitment that I can fall in and out of easily; like convenience.
Our theory in co-educational Catholic girls school was that people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between friendly hand-holding and something deeper. Like the subtlety of a hug a few seconds too long, skin-on-skin just below the knees, and legs hanging on each other’s laps from the sun. I’m heteronormativity on pews.
Pragmatics: in the afterschool finding myself on ramps, I listen to music and try to find places where no one can. Underneath pronouns, girls, people — I want to learn that my love is something that can happen and hear songs that tell me so. This is the power of pauses, stops, hers.
I want anyone other than boys to sing about loving than girls; I want there to be more than pop punk songs and ballads about waistbands — I want to talk about string theory. I want to talk about why I can’t talk about loving myself or girls until it was too late. I talked myself into listening to music and secluding myself and not being like anyone else when it was all I wanted.
I’m listening to more music than I ever had, unlearning the billboard voices I listened to in high school and the music we played from phones in the back of buses. Living at the edge of nineteen, I’m finally finding the same voices I wish I had. Waiting for boyfriends and boyfriends and something deeper than holding hands. I pretended I hated how girls were, promising myself to never be like them; many people I believe, come to that far before they know what love or hate is. Sometimes I don’t know where to draw the line when we play songs that talk about fucking or hold someone a few seconds longer — I don’t know where to look when I say I love you without it being an afterthought. We’re afraid of being the lesbian at the party.
Michelle Zauner sings about head, breakfast, and marriage with girls on an album grieving her mother. I can picture it: uncombed hair staring down girls and wanting to be as pretty and feeling so far. There’s something I know too closely about not taking care of myself and feeling intimidated by anyone who I liked. I often felt at war with the girls I’ve loved and the people around me – not knowing what kind of person they’d want to kiss and watching everyone surround them. Upbeat and ecstatic, I like to think about how many bedrooms I’ve walked into and piled myself into — Instax film trades and wanting to be in profile pictures with girls to see myself better, and in turn, see myself with them.
Countless songs already give us the girl-wants-boy narrative. I’ve played it in every way: asking them out first, falling out of love first, getting tired and wanting to walk away. I joke with my friends about how scared I am around girls; even falling into traps and circles about how I feel I don’t click with them when I’m just afraid of talking to someone I might love without knowing how they feel in the first place.
This song has never been on neutral grounds. My love is built on jealousy and isolation. It’s easy to defy school and god with boys – it’s basic. But there’s something different when it’s internalized – when I still am unsure if what I’m feeling really is love or just lust or longing for touch again with fear. Physicality is also lying to me here. I know what it feels to touch something as friends but know nothing about giving power over myself when necessary when I’ve struggled so long with what degree of love I am allowed to have with these types of people.
Poetry allows me to compare my love to guns. I was barely a teenager when something triggered inside of me – I couldn’t love on a binary or based on measurements… I think there is something inside of me that just wants to love. Intrinsically and without measure, as I see fit. It’s that the world around me allows the discard of judgment as I do, but only when it’s convenient for their agenda. Like: in America, it’s easier for me to gauge when a girl might not just be here for giggles and we’re all open and gay and gorgeously lost. Like in the Philippines, I’m left begging in the remnants of plaid skirts and loose undershirts, struggling once again to see if my love can mean something – suspending me from acting.
I think we think the same. I tell my girl friends. I want a girlfriend. I say I want the world to stop and let me learn how to love. There’s too much inside of me that has divided things into binary and too much fear leftover from sidewalks in Manila. Girls in the summer can’t walk alone, or girls are too loud and open and I could never be with someone who was so into themselves that it scared me.
I want to feel anything means I want to be allowed to feel what I have felt for the past ten years.
Factually, I have never had to come out of a closet — maybe because I didn’t feel the need to. Until today, I’ve never been in relationships (or encounters) with anyone other than boys. Especially the boys that find it emasculating to be with a girl who knows that she could love someone other than their sex; like there’s an entire new dimension of threat and they forget that they are the replaceable one in this story.
I have the privilege of looking like an ally (doing nothing but saying some things, maybe) and wearing one earring on my right without anyone really saying anything. Folks inform me that this unneeded proclamation is furthered by my lack of trying to love in general.
But I want to fucking move. Let me find the logic in why it’s taken me over five years to realize that I truly am uncomfortable with the term bisexual for myself – as interchangeable as it may be with what I am (pansexual) – because gender has never been a factor in these feelings except for the fear of its audience. Neither term used properly conforms to the exclusionary language of only referring to two genders or anything – but I don’t know how to say that I’m afraid of specifying how I love because everyone I’ve loved has come to mind before labels – only furthering my fears out of the convenience there was to love them in public, in person, in purity.
No duogamity – no metrics; I want to make known the love I have and all the spaces in which I was not allowed to continue it.
Like I say I want a girlfriend because I’ve been in love with them and haven’t been allowed to touch them for years. We look back on high school yearbooks and laugh at how many bisexual girls have come out and how easy it is to conflate touch to meaning but it was always never anything with girls — that Manila taught me false informalities and the removal of meaning in embraces that I’ve been so desperate to find it and so wary of hooking myself on it.
Justice, I believe, is trying to erase the baiting between how I’m still fucked and discomforted over showbusiness kissing and the years of allowing myself to feel that certain types of human touch could weigh more than others. Today, I’m gay and relying on repetition to see if anyone femme genuinely wants something about me: because religious intuition has taught me that their actions are high-class formalities or at worst, mockery. My body still shuts down, prolongs responses, and carries the unbearable space of guessing what it means when a girl tells me how I look in lines. Like there’s something persistent about hands on my wrists at any age – not being able to piece together what they want from me and the fear that emanates from that because of years of confusion.
On the rooftop in the middle of a show, I lit up a cigarette for a girl overlooking the industrial dead of downtown Los Angeles, still trailed by all the ideas of love left of me from meaningless college freshmen year and what religious schooling had left on me. There are truly scars that follow you when your inception of love is so dwarfed now by what everyone around you gives: like the rush, the feeling, the intimacy that I mistake for a thank you when it also means I want to give you this. I don’t have time to be held. We practice talking on the balcony: where she goes, how the Philippines is an eighteen-hour flight, and how the song playing reminds me of all the girls I could have never loved.
“What songs do you think Mitski has written about girls?” I type this into Google and then ask all the girls I know. The touch is lost on me – but I know there’s still that divide; that different kind of delicacy and lingering when you talk about girls. We guess Once More to See You, because no woman like this writes about the necks of dead and gone boys. And there’s something about women loving women where we believe the world is in love with them – and then have to hide it all when this is us, and them.
And we are waist-to-waist in the California stars. Imagine all the black hair bleached there is left in the lines of everyone you wished you could have had.
Make this the radical act of tenderness and vulnerability. I want to love someone skin-on-skin in a time where the world can destroy us. This is secrecy beyond hearsay and fear; it’s the ultimate act of destruction – maybe, to love in a time where love can lead me to be disavowed.
There is as much power as there is security in love — no matter how disjointed it could be — in illegal times. I harbor all my feelings for you and know that beyond this, everything could kill me.
In my room, folding papers in one of my last summers. Asking people out to coffee and tea. Going to church with family on Sundays.
Perpetual war has no clear conditions that would lead to its conclusion. Maybe I am scared because I don’t know if to touch means that the love I have would lose its build-up, just like loving boys in junior high or be as unspecial as the last. But this is something I’ve felt over and over again; something I can’t dictate to stop or forget – like anything else. I’m unsure what the term for it goes.
It’s nothing until you can feel it, I believe. And I want to know what it’s like to feel. I’ve never imagined myself in this position again, but it happens. My hands cupped for communion, looking up at concrete ceilings and the world there is to love, walking back down the aisle afraid of what it means to hold a hand.