The Alexandria

By Libby Howard


People always ask, how exactly I define my sexuality.

I never answer this question if the person asking has never answered it for themselves. But of course I have an autopilot response. The “yes-I-kiss-her-in-the-comfort-of-my living-room-and-want-to-get-married-in-my-home-state-but-leave-the-edible-panties out-of-it” version.

Mine is this: I have been romantically and sexually attracted to women. I find femininity to be powerful and stupid sexy. I still, every once in a blue moon, find myself side-eyeing a dude. But once I begin to unpack the men I would I sleep with and unbind the women I do sleep with—my elusive attraction for what constitutes a man and what constitutes a woman shifts. I ask myself about bodies. The sharp edges of shoulders and the soft curves of thighs. I ask myself what makes a body, one I want to wake up next to. What makes a heart, one I want to know. Am I the sum of my body or the description I write upon it? “Feminine,” for me, is someone who listens, who is domestic as fuck, someone who whispers like twine around the tea kettle. “Feminine” is someone who will cry with me when the horse dies—and the horse always dies—in those good-old-American movies about a boy and his horse. “Masculine” is someone who will throw me down on the dining room table and fuck me, who drinks IPAs, someone who argues with me and will let me little spoon whenever I want to. But this has nothing to do with male or female bodies.

But everything I say now is in a language I didn’t know at 18. Being a young queer body is like being illiterate inside of The Alexandria. There is no language of self. When I was growing up, all I knew was that everyone else seemed to be getting by just fine, and I seemed to be “getting by fine too,” so I guess, maybe, this is just how everyone feels when they kiss people: slightly bored, somewhat unconvinced but really, really trying to feel good. Desire is just you, alone, dripping honey underneath the covers with the lights off. This is just your body.

Until you kiss that girl.
And your heart makes noise.
And the dictionary in your mouth burns.
Things make sense.

I came out when I was seventeen on the first day of spring. So I guess today is my lesbian-birthday–finally turning three! I’m a twenty-one-year-old human and a three-year-old queer babe finding my way through this queer, shimmering world.

I am topless in my best friend’s shower, after having drawn serious fearlessness from Hedwig and The Angry Inch (who, “hell yes!” you can answer, you would definitely fuck). Sam grabs the clippers, the two of you toast Blue Moons, and listen to Coco Rosie while your hair gathers around your feet in the bathtub. You are a woman. You have fuck-the-world-hips and freckles to match. Red lipstick and a pair of Calvin Klein boxer briefs. A flat-brim baseball hat hovering over black lingerie. Top button and heavy on the eyeliner please and thank you.

And if Hedwig can do it, then goddamnit so can you.
Welcome to the dark side, the most light you have seen in your life.

So call me a femmebot, call me a prince, a tomboi, a queen, a bad, bad bitch. Call me fierce. Call me too soft for my own good. Call me adorable and terrible until the two words don’t make sense without each other. Tell me I am the boyfriend you want to come home to every night and the only girl you will let make you jasmine tea in the morning.

Tell me to take it off and put it on for you.
Make me chase you until worship.
I am exactly the kind of woman my mother always wanted me to be.


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