Editor’s Note: You Should Have Asked Me First is dedicated to amplifying voices that are not always heard by the majority. You may not always agree with the choices and conclusions that a person makes, but it is important to listen to what they have to say. In that spirit, please read Tessie’s story, in her words. If you have a story to tell, please contact us. – The team at YSHAMF
I fear we’re drowning in labels and stuffing ourselves into society’s boxes. I understand the need for labels – the need to fit into something that’s easily explained. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender Queer, Pangender. Some of us don’t fit into ANY label or box, and we can get lost. To better explain where I’m coming from, it’s easier to take you back in time with me.
When I was 12, I was molested by a close family member. Either my stepmom didn’t know about it, didn’t want to know about it, or simply didn’t know what to do about it. Either way, this family member had cleverly conditioned me to trust him.
As a child, I assumed he was doing all of this for a reason, and I was supposed to allow it to happen. My innocent self had no reason to believe otherwise. As far as I could tell, this was just the way it was: Men take and women give. I carried this warped, unknowingly-traumatized thinking into adulthood with me.
I was 18 when I met a man, fell in love, and got married. Something in my marriage was always off-balance. That something was me. I needed help. I couldn’t be myself. I couldn’t even find myself. I didn’t even know I needed to be found.
I always had this inferiority problem with my husband. I always felt less than him. I don’t know how else to describe it. I did everything I could to be the best possible wife. I’d be damned if my marriage was going to be anything like my parents’ marriage.
I cooked, cleaned, brought in a paycheck and, of course, was a sexual vixen in bed. I started to become resentful of my husband. He wasn’t putting in nearly as much effort as I was into our relationship. I knew I wasn’t imagining this. Still, something inside me pushed on as I continually told myself, “This is the best you can do,” and “It could be so much worse.”
I gave birth to our son when I was 24. This changed EVERYTHING. I began unfolding the layers of memories I’d suppressed from my childhood. I remembered what my rapist had done and I knew if anybody dared to do the same to my child, they were sure to feel my fury and wrath.
As I began healing my mind and coming to terms with my past, I broke ties with my parents. In turn, I also lost my relationship with my brothers. I had nobody. All my friends were my husband’s friends.
My husband and I fell out of love and for so many reasons. We both felt accountable for the demise of our union. I can admit I had a desperate need to heal. His unwillingness to do what he could to help me put barriers between us that neither of us could bring down. To be fair, neither one of us had an answer. Our son was only 3 when we officially divorced.
Starting Over Authentically Me
The years following the divorce, my life began spiraling out of control and I struggled to come to terms with the decisions I made for myself and my family. The truth was I didn’t know who I was anymore. As I plummeted in and out of bouts of depression, an old friend began reaching out to me and our friendship deepened past that of traditional friends.
She was this confident person who’d been in the background for several years as a casual associate but now she was my greatest confidant. She breathed life back into me and made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. An organic progression of love grew between us and though I’d never pictured myself with another woman, her soul intertwined with my own and I was never the same.
We fell in love fast, and moved in fast—too fast. I wasn’t healed. Her damage and my damage were parallel but never intertwined. It only amplified our brokenness and we unleashed it on one another.The thing is, she took it. She took my hurt. She took my damage and I took hers. We got help together and began seeing a counselor. A third party perspective allowed us to heal from our past traumas and create a future where we constantly exist in the present. The experience humbled me, broke me down, and enlightened me—all at once.
Now, 11 years later, I feel healed. Somehow, we took all the broken pieces in ourselves and brought them together to create this beautiful masterpiece of love, trust, and self-acceptance—a solid foundation for a strong, lasting relationship.
My labels confined me and kept me from experiencing true love and safety. So, am I gay now? I was with a man for nine years. Am I bisexual? I can still remember feeling jealous of my partner in the beginning because she seemingly had it figured out and was so sure of herself. She made it look easy.
The truth is, we’re all complex. We don’t all fit into perfect little boxes our society expects us to fit so nicely into. No, I’m not gay and if it came down to JUST SEX, I’m 100% heterosexual. Gasp! Yes, even still.
Life isn’t so black and white. Life, marriage, love, and sex are all different things. How can I love a woman but never want sex?
Forget the Labels
I love HER. I don’t want to lose HER. I can’t even imagine my life without HER. I’ve never been able to so comfortably live in my own skin like I am with HER. She accepted me and she didn’t need a label to understand what I needed in my partnership.
Now we face the world together, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m raising my son to be the kind of man I never had in my life. I know I have to be a healthier me for him. My wife is a big part of this and I couldn’t ask for a better partner with whom to evolve through life.
Sexual orientation is no more a choice than choosing your own sex at birth. My marriage is about companionship. Comfort. Trust. Loyalty. Passion. Unconditional Love. Having all of these things with my wife has made her the sexiest person I have ever met – the most beautiful heart I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.
Ridding myself of labels created a space for me and my son to experience the kind of love I could have only dreamt of. I’d be lost without her.