Chloe Silverado - It's Complicated
This week marks the beginning of Love Les Anonymous Interviews. For anonymous interviews, we'll now also be able to host interviews over email (though we'll still continue to meet up and interview folks in person too). This week, we'll be featuring an interview with a woman who asked to be called "Chloe Silverado" (The Mindy Project anyone?). "Chloe" shares with us some of the confusion of her journey and helps us remember that "it’s complicated."
Tell me about yourself.
Well, I’m a girl and I’m in a relationship with a dude. We're together and very much in love. I’m a graduate student and he is a young professional. And my pronouns are she/her/hers.
How do you identify?
I’m in a state of contemplation over the complexity of human sexuality. I like to say I’m a woman who just casually happens to have crushes on other women.
Do you feel like you fit into the LBGTQIA+ acronym?
I think that politically it makes a lot of sense to have a really distinct set of categories for LBGTQIA. It’s politically advantageous to represent a community that is clearly defined.
But I think this becomes tricky for someone like me, as it’s a hard space to enter. For my friends who are openly and categorically identified as bi-sexual, a lot of them have experienced a sense of feeling marginalized by the LBGTQI community. They’ve felt like their identity is perceived to be seen as “not that oppressed” so they haven’t suffered enough to enter this space. It’s almost like, only those who have crossed the lines into “suffering enough” are allowed to take up space in queer communities and if you haven’t, you’re taking up someone else’s space.
I see this a lot in women like myself who are bi-sexual but in relationships with men. So they’re privileged in a sense. But their identities also don't conform to heterosexuality.
How do you feel in queer spaces?
I always feel like I shouldn’t be there and I’m intruding. I feel like I don’t fall into the right categories to belong. When I’ve been in them, in like Pride Parades, it’s always in the capacity of an ally.
Can you share some of the reasons you don't want to share your identity?
My mom is the first answer to come to mind. Both parents actually. They wouldn’t believe that I could have casual crushes on women without being a closeted secret lesbian. They would think, “Oh you don’t actually like your current boyfriend.” When in fact, I love him. They belong to the generation that largely saw homosexuality as the husband who came out later in life, left his wife, and is now in a gay relationship. They believe that if you’re questioning or bi-identifying, then you’re confused and in hiding. They just wouldn’t accept where I am.
Do you find yourself more attracted to one gender or the other? Walking down the street, who do you notice?
I think objectively it’s pretty easy to tell, for me. Guys don’t catch my eye. I don’t really care. If I see a guy walking by, I go, “Eh. It’s a guy.” But when women walks by, I go, “Ahhhh. Look at her!” Recently I actually had a conversation with a friend who falls similarly on the spectrum. We talked about when we notice women - it’s not a “Wow. Look at her hair. I wish I my hair looked like that.” type of situation, but more of “She’s so pretty. Oh man. I want to buy her flowers.” So, usually walking down the street, it’s always women.
When did you have your first lady crush?
It’s been happening since elementary school. Not in ways that I affirmed, but in ways that I’m realizing now. It started for real for me in middle school; I was in 7th grade. I’m still nervous to say her name out loud in public. I wasn’t thinking along the lines of “girlfriend” - that wouldn’t have happened. This would have been just around the time Obama was getting elected. Even he at the time he wasn’t affirming the LGBTQIA community or giving straight answers about whether he supported gay marriage. Even for progressive democrats, there was still a lot of stigma.
Anyways, there was this girl and I just wanted to hold her hand. I would do these odd things like if she missed class, I would write a separate set of notes for her. We weren’t even friends in the slightest. We didn’t even talk and yet, I would write an entire set of second notes. It was just something I did for her because I was enthralled by her.
Did you have any friends at the time who were out?
I had a couple of friends who would kind of speculate a little bit. Like, “What if so and so is… gay?” But it was a real insult at that time. It was the kind of thing we would shut down and say, “shush, that’s not nice!”
At our school, there were a few students who came out. Mainly, they were white male gays. I didn’t know any girls who were having those feelings. It was always white dudes.
Tell me about your crushes and relationships with men.
I can remember in elementary being interested in boys and wanting to have that. But then in middle school, I just wanted boys to notice me. It was a romantic thing but it was also because boys were so treasured. Boys seemed so much more important than girls - like, you wanted to be noticed by boys because boys were the important ones.
I didn’t really think about it much until later, but I didn’t really form crushes on boys unless we had such a strong connection and I could already tell he liked me too. I never really liked boys from afar. It wasn’t really a thing for me that actually happened like the classic “Oh. I’m so crazy about this boy.” I would only have feelings for the people who liked and pursued me.
My past relationships have all been solely with dudes. I didn’t start thinking about or affirming my feelings about women until fairly recently.
Tell me about a time that helped you wrestle with your sexuality.
In college there was one girl who was a really close friend of mine and had recently come out. Let’s call her S. Mutual friends kind of alluded that S might like me. But I was like, “No, no, no, I have a boyfriend.” There was also this other part of me that was like, “It’s nice to be pursued by a girl and she’s really cute so I don’t know.”
The climax of that, not the good kind of climax, was that one night I had a party at my apartment and invited a bunch of girls over. Most of my college parties were like that. All girls. Well, by the end of the night S kept insisting, “Come back to my dorm with me and we’ll cuddle.” And I would start to say, “Yeah. I want to do that.” But then I would stop because one of our mutual friends kept gesturing for me not to.
And I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t 100% wanted to dissuade her, but at that point I hadn’t affirmed any same-sex feelings within myself. So I started to tell myself, “You are queerbaiting her. You’re straight and in a relationship and you’re just stringing her along because you like the attention. This is wrong.” It was a tricky space to navigate. I had a lot of queer friends who had experienced queerbaiting. They had girls tell them, “Maybe. I don’t know. We can try it.” But they would only experiment and then leave my friends and it always caused a lot of damage. I didn’t want to do that to someone else.
When you picture the future, can you picture yourself cohabitating with a female?
Not sexually. Mainly because this is such a recent thing. There have been multiple times where I have easily pictured myself with multiple women that I’ve wanted to be around and could easily picture myself living within the capacity of a roommate but not a roommate. It’s complicated.
With one of my former roommates, we spent almost every night in the same bed together. Nothing happened sexually, but it was also this relationship where in the mornings we would say, “Do you need anything, Sweetie?” And at night we would go out for dinner together. Even without any sexual dimension, there was still an element that went beyond the basic model of friendship.
Our senior year of college she made out with a girl and told me. We were both going through similar questioning. When she told me, I was too ashamed to even admit my feelings to her. Now I go through her Instagram and check out what she’s doing and I’ll encourage her to go on dates with women. I think secretly because I wonder what it’s like to go on a date with a woman. It’s a confusing thing. I’m kind of living through the freedom she’s had. As a single woman, she’s had more freedom to really experiment.
Where did you find the confidence to start claiming your feelings?
In college, I experienced sexual assault by someone who I was very close to. After that, I’ve learned to have patience with my body and my mind. I needed to accept that my body and mind were complicated and experienced uncertainty, doubt, and pain. Like I would start crying at different points for no reason and I had to allow myself to experience that and tell myself, “This is ok.” There is no good way to experience the aftermath of sexual trauma, but the positive consequences that came out of it are that I started to view myself through a lens of empathy. I’m just a human experiencing normal human things and that makes me complicated.
Tell me more about your journey of contemplating your sexuality.
When I first started really contemplating my sexuality, the boyfriend I was with at the time really hindered that. The partner I am currently with now is helping a lot more. He’s more open and understanding and has really allowed me to work through my sexuality. The other thing that has helped was moving to a new city. I’m living in this new space without worrying what other people will think.
Have you found any helpful resources?
So, I have an answer but it’s not going to sound that enlightened. You know how in How I Met Your Mother, Lily has this established ongoing attraction to Robin? It’s not treated like a taboo - it’s just something that’s there. Her husband doesn’t treat her any differently because she has this crush on Robin and none of the characters make a big deal about it. Just having this character who is causally attracted to women but was also in a relationship with a man allowed me to be like, “Yeah. I get that.”