Personal Essay: ‘Am I gay enough?’

Queer shame in a binary world.

Celebrating pride when I’m in a “straight” relationship feels fraudulent. Like somehow I’m not gay enough to be here. I know I still get to celebrate pride as a queer person, but somehow I feel like I don’t really have anything to celebrate. 

I thought I was a lesbian for four years and for those four years I felt like I had all the pride in the world. I used to tell people “June is my favorite month even though my birthday and Christmas are in December.” I knew it was silly but it was true.

I can feel the joy in the air at Pride. I stand among the crowds and watch the people all around me with their big smiles and the love just radiates off of them.

Then I fell for a man and my queer-world turned upside down. Clearly, I can’t be a lesbian. So who am I? I’ve primarily avoided trying to find a new identity for myself so that I don’t have to be wrong and come out again.

So I tell people I’m queer. That works. It’s an all encompassing word, or at least I use it that way, and I’m taking back a word that was once fueled by hate. “Yes, queer. I’m just queer,” I would say to myself as if I need convinced. But now June has arrived and I don’t find myself wanting to shout to the word that I’m queer and I’m proud! What happened to my pride?

I let the binary view of the world take over. The binary world insists there is a right and a wrong way. A right sexual preference, a wrong way to be gay. I won’t let this binary view of the world steal my pride. I live in a queer world, I fight for a queer world, where there is no right or wrong way to love and to be proud.

I am reminding myself that I am not alone in this. I am not the first queer woman to feel ashamed for dating a man. I will not be the last. But I will not be ashamed of my love.

This is what we’ve all said, that no one chooses who they love and that ‘love is love,’ no matter who it is with. That still stands. I am queer, I am in love, and I am proud. I must be proud in order to fight for a queer world. That’s what I get to celebrate. My pride. Our vision of a queer world. 

My Morning Cup of Coffee

My right-hand holds the warm mug in my crossed-legged lap as I sit on the end of my partner’s twin bed. My back slightly hunched, sitting up straight when I remember, inhaling deeply, focusing on my breath, when I remember. 

Breathe in

smell the coffee

breathe out.

The clanking and banging sounds of constant construction come in with the breeze. 

It’s late February, the sun is out and the snow mounds are nearly gone, the largest of the piles holding on, covered in dirt. I gaze out the window, admiring the city I’ve lived in for the past three years and drinking my morning cup of coffee.

As I sat, watched, and sipped, I thought about all the other places that I had sat. watched. sipped. 

On the porch swing of my family home where I pour from the hefty, family-sized canister that my stepfather and I have no problem finishing on our own, mostly his own. 

In my dorm room, listening to my morning podcasts. Where I learned to use a French Press for smoother coffee, with whatever milk was on sale that week, usually almond, and a pinch of sugar. 

On the screened-in balcony, of the house we rented in South Carolina where my stepmother and I watch the water, hoping a dolphin will emerge if we’re lucky enough. 

On my grandparents’ leather couch, admiring the forest beyond the sliding glass doors, where we drink strictly Dunkin’. 

On the balcony of the apartment that we sublet for the summer during the pandemic, where the neighbors below sat and sipped their morning coffee at the same time. 

When I’m here, I drink Tim Horton’s Instant Dark Roast, with a splash of milk and sugar. 

When I have my coffee, I have no other responsibilities. Yes, sometimes the mornings are rushed and I take my coffee in the car or to class. But most days, I try to wake up early enough to have my coffee, a privilege, I know. I came to realize that my morning cup of coffee was my favorite part of the day because it was time I took to just be. I could read if I wanted to, scroll through my phone if I wanted to. But over time I stopped doing anything and just sat, watched, and sipped. Because I could. 

I’ve had coffee nearly every day since I was 17. When I think about it, there are few things that I’ve done every day for that long, that I choose to do. Most of the things we do every single day are things that we have to do or are expected of us. How many things do you do for yourself in a day? What would our lives be like if we spent more time in a day doing things for ourselves? 

Having my coffee can be almost like a meditation, or sometimes it can be a time to schedule my day, reflect on a situation I haven’t had time for, or set an intention for the day ahead. 

Whatever it is I choose to do during that time, it’s time I’ve allotted for myself and nothing else. 

It’s a time that makes me look forward to getting out of bed the next day.