What Can a Question Do?

I grew up in Southern Indiana, between cornfields and neighbor goats. I loved my childhood, and spent all my time outdoors, reading, and making things. I assumed I had a normal life—everyone has a sick parent, right? Everyone’s mom cooked healthy food and always had leftovers. And I’m pretty sure everyone grew up with the trees.

Obviously, as an adult, you start to realize that not everyone has your lived experiences. When you start living with roommates and boyfriends, you learn people have a lot of wrong ideas about where to put the plates and glasses. I moved away from home and started intentionally questioning everything I had known (except where the dishes belong), filling my life with new experiences and people who have radically different perspectives. I changed my mind about a lot of things. I grew up and grew past basically everything I had once held dear.

When you grow that much—in such a short time—you end up on a plateau, surveying your life, and feeling rather accomplished. There also isn’t a clear next step; everything feels like revisiting.

If you’re on your own, it’s easy to sit down, rest, and bask in how far you’ve come.

But what can a question do?

“I’ve never really thought about it,” I found myself saying out loud while inside wondering how this one had escaped me. I had done so much work stepping out of systems I had opted into without knowing. How did I miss this?

My mom hates women. Not consciously, and not on purpose; it’s just what happens when you grow up in a society that also hates women. I grew up knowing I had less agency than the men around me. I was supposed to be more mindful, take up less space, and make damn sure I didn’t cause them to stumble. I am an expert in coddling the egos of men with penises. You smile and laugh, make sure you’re giving them enough attention, but not too much; you can’t give them the wrong idea. Mixed messages were foundational to how my mom wanted me to exist. “You should wear things that are more flattering,” while also carrying the entire burden of the male mind.

I didn’t hate my body, but I also didn’t love it. I just didn’t want the attention. When friends joked about me making a home in the library, I longed for that to be a reality. That was the same year they showed “the video” and my mom sent a note saying I could go to the library instead. My best hope of learning about sex ed was if someone accidentally returned a copy of the Kama Sutra in a Shakespeare dust jacket.

It took me 26 years to learn I wasn’t actually responsible for the thoughts of men around me and that my sexuality didn’t exist for them.

It took months of therapy to know I’m safe in my body. It took one friend casually asking me if I “identified anywhere on the sexuality spectrum” for me to ask that of myself.

There wasn’t a single out person in my entire school district. It just wasn’t an option; I didn’t realize that my hometown had made a choice for me.

After he asked, the question kept rolling around in my head. Of course, I think people who aren’t cis men are attractive, but doesn’t everyone? I’ve never dated anyone who’s not a cis man, why am I questioning this? I’m married to a cis man, what does that mean? Can I be something else? Am I?
We were on the M train when I very tentatively told my husband, “I think I might maybe be bi.” It took about 8 months for me to tell him (and myself) “I am bi.” I cried with relief—I had no idea how much claiming this part of me was going to mean. It felt like finding an old, musty pair of favorite pants in the back of the closet, squirming your way into them, and realizing they fit better than ever.

The catalyst of all of this was just a simple question—that one question made so much space for me to be myself.

Are we ever done?
What can’t a question do?