Two weeks ago, the equivalent of a bomb exploded in my life.

I’ve had personal problems of various sorts for 30 years, and daily migraines for 22 of them. Three years ago, I finally realized my symptoms were those of trauma. I didn’t know what happened to me, but clearly something had.

I began therapy for trauma, and it’s been gradually helping. Then, out of the blue, two weeks ago I realized what the original trauma was. When I was six, I had just learned about female anatomy, and I was saying my new favorite word over and over.

A lot of kids go through a similar phase, and the parent’s job is to teach the child what’s appropriate — and what’s not. Whatever was said to me instead was so shaming I experienced it as a trauma.

Once I realized this, I began to put the puzzle pieces together about my own life. I basically shut down my entire sexuality when the trauma occurred. Now it’s starting to come back. I’ve always assumed I was straight — but am I?


Honestly, I don’t know. My hunch, however, is that I am not. I think I am probably bisexual. I just didn’t realize it till now.

Once upon a time, we had no concept of being “straight,” “gay,” or “bisexual.” There weren’t sexual identities, just behaviors and preferences. Back in those days, conservative Americans distinguished only between two kinds of sex: sex between married heterosexuals for the purpose of procreation, and sinning.

But in the late 1800s, that changed. We began to see “homosexuality” as an identity. It’s not just something you do, it’s who you are.

Which means that once I’m fully healed from my trauma, once I’m able to access my full range of emotions and desires, I might have a different identity from the one I’ve inhabited for decades.

I’m almost 37 years old. I don’t want a new identity. I’m just me. If I happen to like women, I will still be me.

To say this has thrown me for a loop is an understatement. I’m shocked. I didn’t expect this was a possible outcome of healing my trauma.

Our culture expects anyone who isn’t straight or otherwise gender-conforming to “come out.” But the idea of coming out presupposes a culture where that might get a hostile reception.

I’m fortunate that for me, it’s not a big deal. I have exactly two friends I might lose if it turns out I like women. For everyone else in my life, whom I date or marry makes no difference to them. (Unless, of course, they want to date me.)

The notion of “homosexuality” was first created by psychology to diagnose the “mental illness” of being gay. Thankfully, we’ve moved away from that harmful and wrong idea.

Why can’t people just be people and love who they love?

Can we move into a post-homophobia world in which dating someone of the same sex as yourself is no longer strange or taboo, and because nobody needs to fear rejection by friends and family for being themselves?

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Jill Richardson

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by

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