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How travel helped me to fully understand my sexuality

A group of people posing in front of the Eiffel Tower.

There were giggles and gasps from the audience as the French cabaret girls suddenly reappeared on stage topless. Some girls turned away, others were too drunk to even care, but my own eyes refused to ignore these beautiful, talented dancers. Anxiety erupted: “if I keep watching they’ll all think I’m a lesbian! But if I look away, I’ll miss out on the sh – wow, that dancer on the left is so damn gorgeous…”

Introducing myself to strangers in a foreign country was a huge struggle but having been unable to quit staring at the girl who suddenly walked past was something else entirely. She was beautiful; sleek hair, a fit body, stunning makeup and soon-to-be close friend – maybe I was just a bit envious of a pretty girl? Then there was the goofy, gentleman-like Aussie guy who made me laugh and held the most intriguing conversations; a good friend undoubtedly, but maybe something more? During time I spent with him at the bar, I’d occasionally find myself searching the crowd for her. I’d watch as the tipsy, handsome German boys begged her to dance and grew jealous of both them and her. To my pleasure, she eventually escaped and found her way back to me, yet a surprise question turned my face bright red, ‘so have you kissed him tonight? I can tell you like him.’ She was right, I did like him but a part of me almost blurted out, I like you too – I choked those words back, but you’re not gay, Lauren! I took a breath, ‘…nah, not yet.’ After such a moody night, she unexpectedly kissed me on the cheek and sparks shot through my chest. Eventually, I realized I had found myself torn not just between two people, but the two sexes. These were strange feelings for an utterly straight person.

Whilst LGBT rights are growing, stigma continues to affect the lives and image of non-heterosexual people and those struggling to identify with such sexualities. Growing up crushing on boys meant I could be none other than hetero, right? I mean, ignoring the fact I found some girls in high school incredibly attractive and got excited over kissing hot ones in Truth or Dare, I was undoubtedly straight! It was this stubborn attitude and fear of homophobia that made realizing I was indeed bisexual when overseas even harder.

The moment the cabaret girls called for handsome, male volunteers I had again felt the hum of jealousy. But why?! You like boys! Occasionally, my female friends and I would pick out the hottest guys on the tour, yet something felt missing. There were plenty of handsome boys but there also were so many beautiful girls, she’s got gorgeous eyes, I love her curves – so many compliments suppressed by secrecy, if I’m straight then why do I feel like this?

It’s important to be honest with yourself and who you are. Eventually, I couldn’t deny my attraction to women and came to accept myself as bisexual, a recognition that lifted an immense weight off my chest and opened my mind to new perspectives. Being so far from normal life and surrounded by new faces created this unfamiliar sense of freedom which sought to challenge past beliefs on my identity. If you suddenly like boys, girls or both, that’s okay! When you travel, a new world of self-discovery opens for you and if it questions who you are, don’t be afraid of it like I was. Instead, embrace it.

A group of people posing in front of the Eiffel Tower.