I was lucky enough to grow up in a pretty liberal city right outside of Nashville. At Brentwood, gay kids didn’t have to fear ridicule or isolation! We were open-minded and accepting! But for some reason, the only people who did come out were the gay guys that happened to be friends with rich white girls.
We didn’t really talk about sex or sexuality, at least not in the circles I belonged to. Straight was the norm, and gay was the punchline at the end of every other joke. I assumed that having a boyfriend made me straight, despite seriously repressed feelings for some of the girls I knew. I was straight, dammit! Because to be anything other than the norm would mean exclusion from a group to which I desperately wanted to belong.
Remember all that time I spent on Tumblr? That was how I learned about Kate or Die!, Kate Leth’s autobiographical webcomic. I had never known anyone who identified as bisexual, and I was amazed with how open and comfortable she was with her identity.
Before her series of comics on bisexuality, the only time I remember hearing the term was on a campaign poster for student elections supporting gay marriage: “Being bisexual doubles your chances of getting a date Friday night!” It was a joke. But after reading the experiences of another woman who wasn’t just attracted to men, I began wondering if maybe I wasn’t as straight as I thought I was.
Around the time I entered college I had come to terms with the fact that I was sexually attracted to both men and women. This led to a slew of labels that were quickly adopted then abandoned, progressing from straight to questioning, bicurious, and heteroromantic. For the longest time I was hesitant to label myself as bisexual because, despite feelings of attraction and flings, I had never sustained a relationship with another woman. I was convinced there was a set of criteria that I had to meet to call myself bisexual.
This was around the time I started reading Dar! by Erika Moen. While the entire comic is excellent, one page in particular stood out to me:
Surprise! There is no set of criteria and no one gets to decide what you label yourself, if at all. The queer committee I had dreamed up that holds the key to queerdom doesn’t exist. And the more I read of Kate, Erika, and other queer comic creators like them, the more comfortable I became with myself and my identity.
When I tell people I’m into webcomics, they don’t take it very seriously. Most of my friends still tease me when I go on a rampage about the latest developments in Nimona or String Theory. But for me, many of these comics told me that it’s okay to be who I am, and have introduced me to an amazing community of artists and writers who have experienced all the same stuff and come out on the other side. They’ve given me friends, role models, and a niche that finally fits.