The world came to a stop — and I discovered I was queer.
It wasn’t a sudden realization but the accumulation of three months worth of reflection. At first, I told my friends that I was “attracted to men.” Then I was “questioning,” followed with “bi-curious,” and finally, a month after classes went online, I looked inside myself and found the words ‘bisexual’ and ‘queer.’
As the ordinary fell out of the world, I found myself.
I am newly queer but unable to go outside and find my community, who might be able to help me make sense of this unfamiliar identity. But as paradoxical as it seems, being isolated from other people actually saved me a lot of pain.
The value and pangs of being isolated
The quiet of physical distancing has been immensely valuable for my journey into accepting myself. After in-person classes were suspended in March, I went inside to work on the last few assignments I had. The time to think deeply wasn’t just useful for schoolwork; it allowed me to centre in on my queerness with an insistency that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
I would be washing the dishes, and the thoughts would absent-mindedly come up. They would walk into my blank mind when I was out for a walk or circle round and round deep into the night.
With so much time to think, the timeline for acceptance was drastically reduced. If I had still been distracted by classes and friends and work, I might not have come to accept myself as quickly as I did.
Moreover, I managed to get ahead of the fear and doubt that can accompany queer realizations. Every queer person’s journey is unique. Some people take years to find the courage it takes to come out, even to themselves. But COVID-19 actually cut me some slack and let me do all the hard work in one short, intense burst. Once the fear was gone, there was nothing left staring at me in the mirror but my true, authentic self.
The major loss has been community. As soon as I started developing new feelings toward men, I wanted to reach out and find other queer people who could help me understand. I wanted to know — at what point do you know you’re actually queer? Was it hard for you, the way it’s hard for me?
Sometimes I feel like less of a man because of my sexuality. As a man, you’re never taught that liking boys is acceptable. It’s a sign of weakness; it’s something “women do.”
The most affirming conversations I had in the early stages were with a friend who is gay. He showed me by his own example how the strength that supposedly makes a guy lies in self-acceptance.
Because of work-from-home flexibility, we were actually able to have more discussions about unlearning heteronormative masculinity and finding new, gentler, better ways of carrying ourselves as men. Of course, virtual connection is never the same as the real deal — you can’t deliver a much needed hug through a phone — but I had the time to think through what I was experiencing, and that definitely lessened the burden that I was carrying.
I’m still struggling though. I go through periods of wondering if I’m really bisexual or just kidding myself. Even now, I look at the words on this screen, and I feel like a fake — like I’m not who I say I am.
But overall, I’m happy that I got something so salutary out of this pandemic. It’s changed my life forever — now everything’s in colour.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still desperately, achingly hungry to find queer folks to share this joy with. I’ve been starved of my truth my whole life, so this wanting makes perfect sense. But I’m holding back and staying indoors.
It’s not just the socially responsible thing to do; it’s my way of honouring my history.
Using freedom for freedom
The more I learn about the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, the more anguish I feel over the cost of freedom. Today, I have the freedom to love and marry a man in this country, but that invaluable joy was won by many, many people in the community fighting and suffering through the years.
They shouldered trauma, stigma, abuse, police brutality, and family abandonment. Even now, the freedom I have is a precious right that many don’t have in this country — regardless of what the laws may technically stipulate — or around the world.
I want to use that freedom for freedom — use my freedom to stay inside, safe, and financially privileged to help protect the freedom to live for those who are vulnerable in our society. I can’t see how I could do otherwise when I have the luxury to be patient until the lockdown ends. A history of triumph and cost is part of my world now; it’s burrowed into my bones. I can’t take from its benefits without doing something in return.
My friend tells me that since the LGBTQ+ rights movement is a fight for the right to love, everyone who benefits has a duty to love. Not just loving oneself but loving others. Staying inside is how I can fulfill that duty right now.
I see now that I have always been a bisexual man. It’s a new and welcome revelation, but it’s not going anywhere. My queerness will always be a part of me.
For now, I can be patient.
For all those who came before and those who are still fighting, I can love.
Editor’s Note: Due to safety concerns, the name of this article’s author was changed to a pseudonym.