My first kiss was in the parking lot of Korea House BBQ. It tasted of bibimbap and cigarettes and was filmed for Snapchat. I loved it. I loved every second of it. At the end of my senior year, Olivia had decided that I could not leave for college without having kissed someone. “A real kiss,” she qualified when I contested that I had pecked a cheek or two. She promptly stomped out her cigarette and put her hand on my shoulder.

“Ready?”

“I guess.”

30 seconds later I was prepared for my bright college years.

My second kiss was a few months later during Camp Yale, under the stars and in University President Peter Salovey’s backyard (a fact which I did not realize until several months later). I used to refer to my second kiss as my first, partly because I am not sexually attracted to women and partly because it could not have been more magical. My second first kiss was a scene from a Disney Channel rom-com. It was a cool summer night with a clear sky and shining stars. I was sitting in the grass between his legs. I turned, my lips met his, his nose was salty. (How I tasted that — who can say, I was not a good kisser.) I stopped him shortly after to laugh about how I had no time to spit out my gum.

I turned around, faced him and we made out between gasps. I can only describe my first experience of romantic love as 17 years of shame being sublimated in an instant. Even now my second kiss is my first thought when I see the stars.

My first kiss was just as eager. Praying that Olivia would never pull her tongue away, I went for broke hoping for an inkling of a romantic connection. I was looking for the love, the lust, the passion, the chaos, the relief, the release that I found in my second kiss. During my first year at Yale, I told people that my first kiss happened during Camp Yale. If I mentioned my sloppy makeout with Olivia, it was only ever for a laugh and always qualified with, “Well that wasn’t really my first.”

Today I feel differently. For context, I am male, cisgender and gay, but I mostly refer to myself as queer. I had never heard the word “queer” until I came to Yale. Courtesy of internalized homophobia, I was initially averse to the term. If you weren’t straight or cisgender, couldn’t you at least get your act together and be gay or transgender? Why be bisexual or genderqueer or gender nonconforming or anything on any sort of spectrum?

My opinion changed after someone in my FroCo group asked for a definition of the term, and one of my friends explained that “queer” was an ambiguous term which can be used to describe anyone who may be questioning or doesn’t ascribe to traditional gender or sexuality labels. In that moment, I knew I was queer. Being queer was low stakes because I could be ambiguously queer instead of identifying with what I knew then as an insult, “gay.” And as I continue to struggle with internalized homophobia, I still identify as queer.

I also identify as queer because of my attempts to suppress my sexuality. I spent high school trying to crush on girls. My attempts to find women attractive became conflated with my feelings toward them. I consider myself gay at times, and there is no exclusion between the two terms, but I’ve also lived in a fluid state between denying myself romantic feelings for men and experiencing others for women. And I still don’t know if the latter were real.

Which kiss I call my first highlights an important moment in the acceptance of my sexuality. The label queer allows me to embrace the ambiguous experiences surrounding my sexuality, and the word “gay” feels too rigid for me. I reiterate, there is no objective exclusion to the terms, but to me, the term “queer” represents a chance to understand and accept my sexuality.

My first kiss was in the parking lot of Korea House BBQ.

 

Frankie | frankiegallistal@gmail.com