Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In defense of Questioning: it's the journey that matters

This post was partly inspired by this piece and a very brave (possibly questioning) daughter.

I know, I know, you, dear reader might be thinking something like “Didn't people stop using that term 1998?”, “Isn't 'questioning' for teenagers?” or “Don't we use 'queer' now?”

Well for starters I'll let you know right off the bat I do identify as queer. But I also identify as questioning. We'll have to go back a few years to show how I got to this identity. So here we go.

I've always had an urge to seek out and admit that which I do not know. I registered for advanced classes high school without taking pre-reqs. I didn't mind being confused or getting a lower grade. I was gaining exposure, asking questions that excited me. In college, while studying education I articulated a long standing thought I'd had about schools. I realized they were training students to fear failure and unknowing. Taking risks, and admitting gaps in knowledge are usually punished and rarely rewarded in traditional American education. This punishment/reward system around certainty/uncertainty has been something I've consistently resisted in my life, in and out of schools; in and out of the bedroom. Sure it's more efficient to know for certain, but I'm not always looking for efficiency.

Recently I've come to the conclusion that I'm actually uncomfortable with certainty. I avoid it. Certainty, as counterintuitive as this sounds, makes me nervous. I find unknowing, confusion, and the ritual of questioning incredibly comforting. My intuition tells me it's okay to be confused.

I often talk about being a “late bloomer” sexually. Lately I've been feeling critical of this language, not because I think it is particularly inaccurate, only that it is incomplete. As a bookish teen, I grew up in a loving, crowded family where my only real privacy was inside my skull or between pages. I remember staying up til 2 am just staring at the ceiling, reading, thinking, and imagining. I thought about things a lot, got in good cahoots with my brain. Less so with my body, I was nervously curious, but I had no space or privacy to explore this budding curiosity. There were always footsteps upstairs and you heard every movement though the thin wall between my brother's and my basement “rooms”. In the world of my family there was no such thing as a knock on the door. But more than my nervousness and lack of privacy, I, as a female teenager was taught that my sexuality was only allowed to exist in relation to men. I didn't even know women could masturbate until I was 17. What went through my head during my sparse teenage sexual experiences was something along the lines of “I guess I'll try that.”“Is this what I want?” I knew I wanted sensations but I had no idea what exactly. I was inarticulately curious.

These days things are a bit less murky. I have learned that being explicit matters not just when I share my sexuality with others but that I can have a sexuality independent of a partner and even without having a physical actualization. While things are less murky, there is so much I still don't know. In a lot of ways I am still in a place of questioning an interrogating my sexuality. And honestly, I hope to never stop that ritual of questioning.

One thing I AM beginning to feel certain about is owning my uncertainty. Regardless of the consequences. I AM still questioning. And I really mean this in the good old fashioned teenage questioning. I'd be willing to bet more people than just me identify at least their adolescent sexuality as including more questioning than they felt allowed to say at the time. But questioning is not recognized as a valid sexual state to be in. It's looked at as being inbetween, less than.

The idea of being “sexually confused” holds such a strongly negative connotation in our culture that it's often used to invalidate the actual certainty of folks expressing not-straight attractions. I find this disgusting on two levels. First of course that it seeks to define and disparage another person's experience, but secondly that “sexual confusion” is seen as a temporary or transitional state. My sexuality confuses me all the fucking time and I welcome it. I don't want that to stop. Opening to it's uncertainty is what feels natural to me.

Now, just because I am happily confused, doesn't mean I don't believe other people are exactly what they say they are. I do. I deeply respect the expressed sexual certainty of others. Hell I occasionally envy it. It takes time and energy to figure myself out all the freaking time, but it works for me. I often end up feeling like I'm behind that I have to catch up with folks more certain than myself. It's not easy to know when to chase after certainty, but like any protagonist knows, it's not the destination (certainty) that really matters, it's the journey. My journeys into that which I do not know (sexually or otherwise) make me feel like me. I am questioning.

1 comment:

  1. I look at it as more of evolving. Questioning is certainly a part of that. I don't want to know; I want to grow.

    There's a great quote from Chris Claremont's original Wolverine LS that I have held onto:

    “The key isn't winning -- or losing, it's making the attempt. I may never be what I ought to be, want to be -- but how will I know unless I try?

    Sure, it's scary, but what's the alternative? Stagnation - A safer, more terrible form of death. Not of the body, but of the spirit.

    An animal knows what it is, and accepts it. A man may know what he is -- but he questions. He dreams. He strives. Changes. Grows.”