“I don’t think I have a bisexual or gay bone in my body,” Kendall Jenner told Vogue earlier this week. “But I don’t know! Who knows?! I’m all down for experiencenot against it whatsoeverbut I’ve never been there before.”
Most queer people, including me, can look at those words and shudder, because we’ve uttered them before many times, pre-coming out. I remember a series of my own “admissions” as such, exonerating myself from any anticipated gay speculations.
Now, I want to clarify up front that I’m not speculating about Kendall Jenner’s sexuality, because it’s that exact behavior that suffocated me for a decade before I was even able to come to terms with myself and what I wanted. Speculating about someone else’s sexuality sucks, and the way Vogue straight up asked the model if she was gay also sucksthese are things you just don’t do, and the fact that we still have to continually explain this to people in 2018 is absolutely bananas.
But I do want to talk about my own experience, in reference to her words. It’s hard to resist letting out a snicker when I hear someone vehemently denying “gay” rumors, because often, the response that comes is a dramatic, hyperbolic, adamant denial. It’s not enough for a straight-identifying person to say, “I’m not gay.” They always have to take it a step further with some bizarre, over-the-top, metaphorical rejection, like “I don’t think I have a bisexual or gay bone in my body.” One time, a straight woman told me after I came out that she was the “straightest person you’ll ever meet.” We get it, bitch, you watch The Bachelor.
But the only reason I’m able to find a sliver of humor in this today is because once upon a time, I was that girl.
The lengths I went through to make sure people knew I wasn’t gay still haunt me today. I didn’t fully realize I was gay until my twenties, and now, many of the things I said and did prior seem laughable. Whether I was defending my choice to fill a sketch book with drawings of Baby Spice at age 16, or declaring my celebrity “girl crush” was the only person I’d “go gay for,” I was an embattled gay mess, tangled in a cluttered web of carefully spun protestations about my straightness.
Throughout college, three womenall of whom I’d developed close relationships withcame on to me, and each time, I went crying to my best friend, wondering why they thought I leaned that way while trying to articulate how wrong they were. I’d even say things like, “Maybe I should stop wearing denim,” or “Maybe it’s my combat boots.” I pushed myself deeper and deeper into a hole of denial, always attributing it to the way I dressed (tomboy-ish), or some other non-sequitur that offset the blame. I would find any explanation as to why I was “giving off the wrong impression,” rather than examining my actual behaviors, and what I may have actually really wanted, deep down.
The third time it happened, something in me changed. It was like I had found the easter egg needed to unlock the final level in the gay video game puzzle coded in my head. For years, I felt like people saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myselfand I feared that. There’s nothing more petrifying than being the last to know something about yourself, especially if that something is a giant chunk of what makes you you.
That’s why the Kendall Jenner Vogue interview is so completely bone-chilling to me, because people feel like they see something in her that she believes isn’t there. Again, maybe it’s notand quite frankly, I don’t care if it isbut for me, it was there. Plus, I wasn’t dealing with it on a worldwide scale. It was just me, my butch-as-fuck combat boots, and my fear.
I can’t imagine how it felt to be asked, point blank, if the thing everyone thinks to be true about you, is true. I would’ve spiraled out of control, and probably wouldn’t have known why. I cried each time a girl came on to me in college, but couldn’t place why it was so triggering. I cried in high school when girls called me a lesbian as a joke, but I didn’t think it was because I associated with the word.
As queer people, we bury ourselves so deep in this dark, abyssal hole of denial, trauma, and rejection of stigma, that sometimesespecially for womentakes years to crawl out of. I think we can universally agree that coming out is scary, especially in a time when homophobia is running rampant in the White House for the first time in nearly a decade. So it’s always disappointing when I see LGBTQ people speculate about a person, like Kendall, in the very way that once tortured us.
Kendall Jenner should be able to naturally come to any sort of conclusions she has about her sexuality on her own, without pressure or harmful, speculative hearsay from the public, and we should give her the space to do that.