We’ve spent a lot of alone time this past year. While it has separated us from each other, it has given a lot of us that chance to get in tune with ourselves. We’re not distracted by social events or forced to put on a face (unless we’re told to turn on our camera in a Zoom meeting). I’ve seen trends on TikTok (this year’s primary source of large-scale human interaction) of people posting what they looked like before quarantine and how they look now, and some of them are vastly different. In the same vein, I’ve seen way more exploration of sexuality and gender expression in my personal life as well as on the interwebs. I wanted to know why this was, so I reached out to Twitter to ask if anyone had discovered something new about themselves while in quarantine and how they think being in lockdown helped them come to this realization.
This is what my lovely participants had to say:
“I’ve learned so much about myself this past year while being isolated from many different social structures that are centered around straight people. Mostly that I’m gay as fuck (lol) and a part of me always knew. But I’m an ex-sorority girl, and with that comes a lot of expectations and social norms (i.e., formals, date parties, frat parties, literally the whole college bar scene) that reinforce heteronormativity. This past year, being so isolated from how I used to live, I was finally forced to confront parts of myself that I kept hidden. I got a job in a city I’ve never been to, joined an office where the majority of the team is gay, and immediately fell in love with one of my coworkers. Coming out during a time of such isolation was definitely challenging. A lot of conversations that should have been in-person, particularly with my parents, were on FaceTime. It’s a shame, but I also feel like there hasn’t been another time in my life where I would have had this much time on my hands to really discover who I am and was always meant to be.”
— Olivia O., she/her
“I already came out a few years ago as genderfluid. That step of the journey began after I went to therapy. My mind felt disconnected from my body. My gender router was unplugged and my soul was getting no Wifi. It took only three weeks of therapy to admit to myself and my therapist I was more than genderfluid. I was trans. I am a woman. I went to the LGBT Center for hormone consultation and they started me on a low dose of estradiol and spironolactone. A week after I got my prescription, lockdown happened. The first night of lockdown is when I had my major epiphany. I had a bag of mushrooms my co-worker sold me and I figured I should eat the whole bag before they spoil. An eighth does the trick. My night started well enough. I was seeing grids, divine matrices, vibrant colors, and the swirling faces of my laughing roommates. Once they went to bed, I experienced a drop-off. My mushroom brain darkly clicked into disassociation. I didn’t understand what reality was anymore. I felt I was drowning in a temporal tsunami. It took three separate conversations with friends to calm me down and help me see that I was where I am meant to be. I felt at ease. I laughed about how wild this all is. As I got off the phone and sat in my bed, my renaissance painted itself in my vision. I felt like the router plugged in again and I lit up.”
— Savannah, she/her
“Looking back, I definitely considered the idea of being non-binary, but I put off thinking about it too much. Once quarantine hit, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I spent a lot more time alone. I ended up contemplating my gender identity at almost every hour of the day and eventually realized that cisgender people usually don’t think about gender this much. I started experimenting with my expression, cutting my hair, and dressing more masculine when I could. I spent a lot of time getting to know myself without suppressing that part of me as I had been before the pandemic started. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s come with a lot of anxiety and fear, but I also feel more authentically myself than I ever have and I’m really enjoying it!”
— Olivia, she/they
“When quarantine began, I was still in the mindset that I might one day, eventually, seriously date a guy. I identify as bisexual, and during the beginning of quarantine my relationship with my girlfriend of 2.5 years was coming to a final close, so I figured why not go on a few dates and see if the next one might be with a guy. After reflection during many nights alone in isolation, I began to realize how disenchanted I was with the few stale, socially distanced dates I went on with guys from Tinder that I thought were “sort of cute”. I realized that even though I may have some physical attraction to men, my heart truly does lie with women, and realistically, I should save myself the boredom of attempting to date men at all. Realizing that I may never seriously date a guy or even be with a man casually was a mental adjustment for me. When I get an idea stuck in my head, it tends to stay stuck, and so challenging these previous beliefs and accepting that I can still have some attraction to men without wanting to be with one is something that really opened my eyes and my heart.”
— Alex, she/her
“For most of my adult life, I identified as a cis male crossdresser. I am married to a woman that I met in college, we have been together for almost 12 years, including 3 years of marriage. I came out to her about crossdressing about 5 years ago, and it has been something she came to tolerate and somewhat accept as holding an important place in my life. Over that time period, I have built up a small wardrobe and makeup collection. My wife has rheumatoid arthritis which makes her immunocompromised, so we have been extremely careful throughout the pandemic and essentially staying home 100% of the time and seeing friends very minimally. All this time at home gave me more opportunities to “crossdress” and practice makeup. At first, I thought, this is nice I think I just need to dress more often and come out to more people so after the pandemic, I can find more opportunities to do so but over time after taking off my makeup and switching back to boy clothes, I began to get more and more despondent about how I looked and felt while in boy mode. This very much opened the door to questioning my gender identity in a way I hadn’t done since I was a teenager when I learned about crossdressers and decided that’s what fit. That decision at the time came from both a place of ignorance of transgender identities in general and fear of how my family, friends, and the world around would react if I embraced how I really felt. I spent time reading about the experiences of other trans women, I learned that not everyone has the ‘I was born in the wrong body’ feeling that I never truly connected with, and gender dysphoria can rear its ugly head in a lot of ways that aren’t as crystal clear as ‘I hate my genitals.’ What I was reading and experiencing and feeling started to become more and more apparent, and after talking everything through with my therapist, I knew I only had two options. One was to accept myself and start mentally preparing for the consequences or continue to repress and end back in a place of worsening depression and a lot of regrets. So here I am a few months later, I’m out to my wife and a small group of friends and I have appointments to begin HRT and laser hair removal! There is a good chance my marriage will not survive transition and I am still wrestling with that loss, but I feel like I truly have direction for the first time in my life!”
— Claire, she/her
So it seems like now truly is the time to try something you’ve always wanted. Change your Bumble settings, even if it’s just to window shop. Get that haircut you’ve been thinking about for years. Go food shopping in that outfit you’d never dare to leave the house in. The more you get to know yourself, the more beauty you bring to the world. And the world could really use some of that beauty right about now.