“I Was Straight But Then…”

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images: Will Koeppen at Arctic Entries
Rion Iverson tells her story at Arctic Entries. (Image credit: Will Koeppen for Arctic Entries)

This story comes to us via Story Works Alaska and the Alaska Teen Media Institute.

A lot of people say that they don’t like labels. I understand why they don’t want to label themselves, they don’t want to be shoved into some box based on how society sees them.

While I do understand this, I am definitely not one of those people. I love labels. I love labeling myself. I love labeling things. I love labeling other people.So my love of labeling combined with my terrible stubbornness is what kind of gave me pause when I began to first start questioning my sexual orientation.

When I was growing up I ended up getting the “it’s okay to be gay” talk quite a bit because I grew up in a very liberal household. For a period of time I actually thought that my mother wanted me to be gay. So this led to a fourth grade me trying very, very, very hard to like girls despite the fact that I was not attracted to anybody at the time.

When my mom saw what was going on she was like “okay we need to clear something up here.” So I became probably one of the only kids in the world to get an “it’s okay to be straight” talk.

When I was in sixth grade I got my first crush and this just so happened to on a male person. It was Billy Joel.

I’m not really sure exactly what I was thinking but it made sense at the time.

That was kind of the end of my whole phase of trying to be gay.

I didn’t really ever give much more thought to it until the summer between eighth and ninth grade when I saw Thelma and Louise for the first time. Being the angry feminist warrior I am, it spoke to me very deeply and I quickly became obsessed with it. I was watching it every weekend whenever I could. I was making all my friends watch it.

Around the fourth or fifth time I start watching it, I started getting like this  urge to kiss Geena Davis who plays Thelma. It probably should have occurred to me around then, maybe I’m not as straight as I thought I was.

But it didn’t.

I kind of just disregarded it. I was like, “Okay that’s weird and I’m pretty sure I’m straight. I don’t know what that was about.” And I completely forgot about it even happening and I just kept pushing it away.

I really didn’t question it until one time in late October of 2014.

Since it was almost Halloween, the Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice was on TV.

Now I had not seen the movie Beetlejuice since I was like seven or eight years old. I really didn’t remember a whole lot about it, and one of the things that I did not remember about it was that Geena Davis is in it. So I saw her on the screen and was like “Oh cool it’s Thelma” and that was pretty much all I felt at that time.

Halfway through the movie I just had this dawning realization: “Oh, I am not straight.”

I was really kind of confused and doubtful. I was pretty sure that I’ve established that I’m straight. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Part of me was kind of worried that it was my fourth-grade self coming back to haunt me. That I was just trying really, really hard to be gay for some reason.

But after about a couple weeks of a lot of reflection, I finally came to the conclusion I was bisexual.

I didn’t really have to come out to anybody in my family as I knew that I would be accepted no matter what. In that sense I was very lucky. I didn’t have to go through what a lot of LGBT kids have to go through with the stress of coming out to their parents and their family wondering what they’re going to say.

Then around January of last year, I got my first crush on a real person. By real person, I mean somebody who is not a celebrity or fictional character. That real person was a girl. Even though it didn’t work out, it ended up being a confirmation that I’m on the right track.

A couple months after that happened I realized I really don’t feel any more attraction to guys at all. I think it was just like a one-time thing. Billy Joel just has a way about him.

The label bisexual didn’t fit me anymore, so I decided that I’m was going to identify as a lesbian. It took me so much less time to transition from calling myself bisexual to calling myself lesbian than it did the first time when I first started questioning it. Which just shows how far I’ve come in terms of realizing that labels are not permanent. Especially because I’m 16 right now nobody’s expecting me to stay with the decisions that I make at this point in my life for the rest of my life.

I learned that labels are fluid and in addition to that I also got a really cool story out of it:

I was straight, but then I watched Beetlejuice.

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Rion developed this story in her English class as part of a Story Works Alaska workshop. She shared this story with 700 people at Arctic Entries, a monthly storytelling event in Anchorage. Original recording  provided courtesy of Arctic Entries and the Alaska Teen Media Institute.

Since the performance Rion’s  been approached by many people who attended the show as well as those who heard it on the radio: 

“It’s just overall been a really cool experience. So far I’ve not received any negative feedback, but I understand that putting my story out into the world could elicit that. Having never experienced homophobia, I don’t know how I’d respond. What I do know is that I want to reach other LGBT+ kids who aren’t used to hearing about other people like them. And I want to tell them it’s OK to wear any label they choose.” 

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