Like so many East Coast transplants, I came to California and quickly adopted the UC Berkeley culture. Five new piercings, trips to Whelans and a newfound love for strawberry milk tea with boba and mango stars. However, there’s still one campus staple I can’t seem to fully embrace, despite my apparent “vibe” and friends’ constant encouragement.
For as long as I can remember, people have assumed I like girls.
What started with a strangely close middle school best friend has progressed to an occasional Tap Haus bathroom makeout, but still, a label feels wrong.
How can I call myself bisexual if I’ve never wanted to hold a girl’s hand?
Sexuality is a spectrum, but somehow only drunk Julianna seems to fall in the middle.
How can someone so boy-obsessed possibly hold space in her heart––and pants––for girls, too?
Before coming to Berkeley , I had kissed more girls than guys, and if we’re being honest, that ratio hasn’t changed much since. Kissing your friends is normal, or so 17-year-old me thought. Kisses are silly and meaningless, which has allowed my closeted self to kiss basically every single girl I’m close to, from dorm friends to sorority sisters.
The only issue with my antics is that the more and more friends become subject to my “voluptuous lips,” a direct quote from Gabriel Ibias circa 2016, the more and more they suggest that just maybe I’m not totally straight.
Apparently, straight girls don’t make out with girls. Like it does blow and boba and that ever-so-present crippling sense of depression, UC Berkeley has normalized my queerness. I’ve been comforted by the fact that everyone around me is doing and thinking the same things, but I have failed to notice that everyone around me is out.
How do you distinguish a friend crush from a real crush? It should be as simple as thinking, “I want to kiss her sometimes,” but when she kisses you back, and everyone says she’s straight, the lines get blurry.
Maybe she’s just like me. Bisexual by practice but not on paper. Convinced that a drunken makeout at a frat’s date party was silly and meaningless. Maybe it really was silly and meaningless to her.
But this fateful first “real” female encounter wasn’t with a close friend. We had only chatted on Instagram the summer before and met up once to get Yogurt Park, but beyond that I hardly knew this girl. So why was her tongue down my throat? Kissing a female friend is a step I’ve typically reserved for the inner circle, yet somehow she made the cut straight away.
Was this more than platonic friendship?
Our night progressed as she helped me throw up in a Unit 2 sink. Again, she was down my throat, although this time neither of us was quite as excited at the prospect. She took care of me because she was my friend, so maybe she kissed me because she was my friend too.
Two years later, I’m still labelessly kissing girls. Grappling with the intricacies of my own desires, I find it hard to say I’m gay, but I also find it hard to say I’m not. I don’t think I’ve wanted to hold a girl’s hand, but it’s also not like I necessarily have a burning romantic attraction to guys I hook up with. I just assume that with time romantic feelings will grow from the sexual ones and have failed to consider that the same could be true with girls. I’ve been so blinded by the idea of love at first sight, but have also somehow only accepted that men will fall short of these standards. I’ve unintentionally set a glass ceiling for my female prospects, and in doing so severely limited my options.
I’ve always seen boys as a chase and girls as friends, but maybe I have it all wrong. I might just be looking for validation in the wrong places and with the wrong expectations. I know what to expect from guys. I know how to flirt and can tell when they’re interested. I know when I won’t be totally rejected. Girls are new and scary, and quite honestly, I don’t even know how to talk to girls I’m attracted to. But as much as I’ve tried to avoid that fear, it doesn’t make my very gay tendencies disappear.
This summer, my friends coined the term “gouch,” a sometimes literal but also metaphorical gay couch where all Berkeley bisexuals reside. After lots of pestering, one night I finally sat on the literal gouch, and I’m slowly processing its metaphorical meaning. Maybe I don’t need to dream of holding her hand. Maybe just wanting to kiss a girl is enough, even if I don’t know exactly where it will lead.
From hopeful swipes on gay Tinder to insinuiative eye contact with the cool, indie HOT girl at Hillel’s weekly BBQ, my gay thoughts persist when I’m sober. They’re just much easier to act on from the hazy comfort of a shared Tap Haus bathroom stall.