Sydney & Ryan
"So tell me something about Ryan..."
Sydney: “Ryan is from Pearl River, Louisiana and what is very interesting about her is that she grew up very religious. She grew up baptist evangelizing to people. She really didn’t consider the fact of being gay until she was 21 and in college. Thats where it finally clicked for her. Her journey with her religion and her sexuality is very interesting to me. It was around the same time where she realized that she wasn’t a religious person and realized that she was a gay person. Though they weren’t things that happened together simultaneously for her, which is kind of bizarre. Since then she has started removing the mantle of “I’m a religious person” and started embracing that “I am a gay person”. It’s almost like she is equally enthusiastic about being gay as she was about being an evangelical christian. I always ask her about how she feels about that, but for her it was a very natural transition. It was something that was holding her back and now she is embracing something that will help her move forward.
Q: Ryan, did you find it necessary to step back from religion in order to find yourself and accept your sexuality?
“Well, no, not really. I kind of gave up religion. Like Sydney said, I am from Pearl River, and bless my heart I just thought that Jesus was the only way, and then I got to LSU as an international studies major and learned that buddhists believe what they believe in as firmly as I do, and so do muslims, jews, hindus, everyone. So if they believe that as much as I do and there is ‘x’ amount of people who believe what they believe, who is right? Are we all wrong? The more I would ask myself that, the more I would tell myself that we were just all wrong. However, I also think religion is good, because it gives people fulfillment and purpose in life.
I never thought about sexuality before college that much. Once I gave up religion, I realized that the physical intimacy I wanted and needed was for a female. So religion didn’t have a whole lot to do with me realizing I was gay, my first sexual feelings just happened to be for a woman and then I was able to make that connection, “Oh, I’m gay, this makes sense”. I do believe in a higher power though, I don’t know what they’re doing up there, but I don’t want to piss them off.
Q: What is it like for you to be non-straight conforming?
Sydney: "We all grow up in a very heteronormative society, and all of our influences in everything we read and watch is reinforcing this image of a marriage between a male and female, a 2.5 kid household. and when you are part of the LGBTQA+ community, you’re the ultimate other. When you have that feeling of “I am other”, and you accept that feeling, you are able to almost shed the mantle of heteronormativity. Once you do that, you realize it’s really anyone’s game. You begin to call into question everything you believe in, like marriage and societal systems. You begin to tell yourself, 'this doesn’t make sense for me, so why do I continue to do it?'
Recognizing myself as LGBT allowed me to say that my relationship can be exactly how I define it. It can be monogamous, we can live together, we can live in two separate countries. Your relationship can be whatever you define it as and is not bound by any rules that you don’t determine.
It kind of bothers me that gays and lesbians tend to follow this structured path into increasing their intimacy. We’re engaged, married, children, house, car, whatever, it’s a very linear journey. As someone in the LGBT community, the blueprint doesn’t exist for us. There is no book that tells me exactly how to be in a lesbian relationship, there is no book that I can read that will tell me how to date women. I mean, there are books that have tried. It’s just such an individualized experience, and that’s beautiful. Realizing that helped me grow as a person. Everything that I thought I had to do or had to be a part of, I was able to transcend in a way and figure out what exactly I wanted to do. I want a relationship with communication, where we have boundaries, where the person respects that I don’t want to have kids. I want someone that can just simply be on the same page as myself. There is something unique about being LGBT. Once you identify that way it opens up a whole new sense of freedom. Freedom from the system, society, heteronormativity, etc. Again, it’s beautiful, but it’s hard. Hard because there is comfort in that normalcy. Normalcy feels good to people. There is something that is very confrontational about being gay because you are rejecting that said normalcy, it’s rebellion.
I tell my straight friends that their relationship can be what they want it to be. I tell them that your straight relationship doesn’t have to follow that pattern either. We can all be happy and all meet our goals. We can all do our own thing, and it’s no fucking big deal. It was hard for me to identify the way I identify. For a long time, I identified as bisexual. It was truly how I felt. I was very much interested in men, interested in women, slept with both back and forth. But now that I am in this relationship with a girl, people always ask me, “Did Ryan make you gay? Did she flip you?”
Ryan: “On the opposite side of that, straight women would be talking about attractive men and then look to us and say, “Oh, Y'all wouldn’t be interested in that right?” We would just be like, no, we see beauty, we can recognize beauty. We just don’t want to date them or sleep with them."
Sydney: "That’s the thing, sexuality is nuanced. As I’ve gotten older and realized what I wanted in a relationship, I can recognize that I am still sexually attracted to both men and women, but I do not want a relationship with a man. I’m just not interested. That is kind of where I am now personally. I pretty much identify now as queer, gay if you’re a thirsty straight boy asking."
Q: How has your journey in self-exploration of sexual identity changed throughout the years?
Sydney: "I was very much a person who identified as bisexual, and was also very vocal about it. I wanted there to be some representation for bisexuals, because there isn’t any. I’m still very passionate about bisexuality too."
Ryan: "I think it’s a comfortable transition for a lot of homosexual people to use the label of ‘bisexual’ when they are first coming out. It’s a weird comfort for them that is almost natural when you’re still figuring out who you are. It’s just a natural step to take. It just sucks for those people who truly do identify as bisexual, because a lot of people don’t believe in them and take them seriously, they are told that it’s just a part of a phase."
Sydney: "I sometimes find myself wondering if I do still truly identify as bisexual, I just don’t know. It’s a journey that I am on. You know, I will shout out the editor and chief, Riese Bernard, of Autostraddle. She posted an article years ago that I wish I would have read sooner basically on her identifying as bisexual, and how strong her love for those men really were. She kind of described it as saying “ I identify as a lesbian, and queer, and bisexual all together, because they all represent me, none of them were lies, and they are all who I am.” I may identify as gay now, but I was in love with those men I dated in the past and I’m not going to deny that part of me."
Me: You know, the way I see it is that our past relationships like that represent our growth. They reflect how we identified ourselves at that point in time. It’s all a part of our own journeys in sexual identity and we can’t take those relationships for granted. We learned something about ourselves in those relationships, and you wouldn’t be the person you are today without them. No matter who it was, or who you were at the time. I value my relationship with women now, and I believe that is the reason I have so many strong friendships with the women in my life.
Ryan: "I have a weird relationship with men. I don’t trust any straight man, but I don’t hate them. I haven’t had any bad experiences with them either. My best straight white friend told me, “Don’t trust men, we are pigs. We are disgusting.” I just get a lot of really shitty handshakes with men at work. I am constantly knocking on doors, and introducing myself to men. They always give me the delicate woman handshake, or the “I am better and above you” handshakes. So, I told Sydney I don’t care if a man doesn’t shake my hand, I always push for a handshake with the women, I can care less if all the men shake my hand, because I want to be respected by that woman, not the man."
Sydney: "That reminds me, men, I can take or leave. I love women. I am the most feminist, because, I love ALL women. I want them all to be happy, successful, amazing, I want them to flourish. When I was bisexual, everyone was always like, 'If you had to choose, which one would it be?'"
Ryan: "Yea, but on a physical level, would you rather the flower, or the stem?"
Sydney: "You know, I may make the jokes about choosing a penis or vagina, but It’s not really a genitalia thing for me. I just love women SO much. I’ve explored both men and women, and just love women so much more. I can never give them up."
Ryan: "I just relate so much to men, and their physical fitness and fashion, and that’s why I find myself attracted to men at times. But, I do not ever want to have sex with them. I follow so many male models on Instagram and as a very masculine woman, when I look at them all I am thinking about is how I need to start doing my pushups and get on their level."
Me: "I love my gender too. I love men. All men. Gay men, straight men, trans men. I am just very attracted to men. Growing up, there were several straight men now who are engaged and married to whom I’ve come so close to doing something intimate in nature with. I have always loved men, and my gender and sexual identity have always been hand-in-hand. That being said, I sometimes push too much with straight men, and can be too open with conversation topics. At this point in my life I can finally say that I am comfortable and secure in my sexuality, including its fluidity in evolving over time. Not many queer people can say that at 23. There are certain systems in play that work, only because they work in a heteronormative world. Sexual exploration is looked down upon as we get older and people, especially sexually active gay men, are criticized for not following that system, but in reality, it’s just not fit for who they are. It’s something that not a lot of LGBTQA+ teenagers get to dabble in because they are too scared to act on their feelings and urges out of fear of being outed."
Sydney: "I have slept with both men and women. I am 23, I am still young and still have a lot of things I haven’t explored. Ryan, on the other hand hasn’t had a lot of sexual experiences, and it’s something I worry about a little bit. It’s something we don’t really talk about. We are very happy with each other right now. If we are ever not happy, or it’s ever not fun and fulfilling, then that’s it, we won’t be together. A part of me feels like I want to be cool with us having an open relationship, but another part of me is just made ill thinking of anyone touching her, but me. We are both very flirty people, but when people ask if we are open, we are taken back for a second and have to tell them no."
Me: I like to call it situationally open.
Sydney: "That’s fair. There are always situations. #SophieThatcher
We have our lists, as does all couples. It’s weird though, there is this false notion that being polyamorous, or being open, is more evolved and more positive."
Ryan: "It’s just different..."
Sydney: "There are people who are wired that way. When they enter into a relationship and find other people like them, they can both fulfill all those things they need to fulfill, that’s beautiful. But, not everyone is going to be that way. I think polyamory is like being gay, or bisexual, or lesbian. You have to be wired that way. I beat myself up a lot because I just want to be so modern and open minded at times, and cool with everything, but, fuck, you have to trust what feels good, what feels bad for you. I am not going to let someone take advantage of me, or allow myself to be manipulated, just for the fact of being so “open minded.” I won’t do it."
Ryan: "I don’t know that we can do like a three-way…"
Sydney: "Would you have sex with someone without me there?"
Ryan: "I can see us very much in a situation where we both take control and dominate in a situation."
Sydney: "That’s just what is so hard about navigating polyamory. Everybody has their own rules and everybody has their own circumstances. You already have to be so strong as a couple together, and if that moment comes and turns out you’re not okay, then you’ll have to be able to say, “hold up I’m not comfortable, I am not okay.” Polyamory means something different to each individual. It is something that has to be navigated and agreed upon together. It’s a lot of communication, a lot of checking in with each other."
Why do Y'all think polyamory is so common in the LGBTQA+ community?
Sydney: Cause you already shed the rules...
Ryan: Cause we’re already sexually deviant…
Me: Dynamics change everyday. Especially with open relationships. People are comfortable with certain people, because of the way they relate to them.
Sydney: Yes, everyone is different.
Q: So Ryan, as a very masculine identifying woman, do you find it almost your duty to uphold that stretch of masculinity? Or, is it totally just something you let happen day-by-day?
Ryan: I don’t feel any sort of pressure to uphold my masculinity, I think that there are a lot of parts of me that are inherently masculine that I don’t think of. You know, I don’t know, what do you think …..
Sydney: Maybe I can say a sentence and then you can bounce off of me, I feel like I have a lot of thoughts about this…
Ryan is the most bizarre mix of Masculine and Female and I am so into it, I am so attracted to her and just so about her vibe. She’s so half-hazard and unintentionally her. She’s just her. That ‘her’ is a super tomboy. That ‘her’ likes to workout a lot. That ‘her’ has a lot of masculine attributes, but she is also very feminine identifying. She identifies as a woman, she struggles as a woman having those female exclusive experiences. There’s a part of me that comes off very masculine, you know kind of on the butch spectrum. You can play both so well. That is something I don’t have. I don’t fuck the way with gender like you fuck the way with gender. You’re just so you...”
Ryan: “I am just so me, I don’t know anything else. My friends freaked out when I wanted to wear a bikini to Pensacola Pride. I got nice tits and a great ass, of course, I am not going to cover up like every other lesbian on the beach."
Sydney: "You’re just so comfortable with your body, your gender, and yourself. It’s been amazing being with you, because you’re so very much accepting of your femininity and embrace it, but you have those rough edges that are interpreted as masculine. You know, you typically like traditionally masculine shit."
Ryan: "Yea I am pretty masculine when it comes to things like dress. It’s been kind of weird for me in the professional world. Working in publishing, when they expect a female sales representative is coming speak to them, they expect a very traditionally feminine heterosexual woman. They always tell me, “you don’t look like a sales rep,” because I wear a button down and slacks. I just fire back with, “well, you better get used to the face, because that’s me.” People in the South just sometimes don’t know what to do with that. If there is something people don’t get or understand, I use my friendliness and personality to force them to like me.
I grew up working on the road with my dad, doing handy work, installing chlorine, just doing some butch ass shit. I never thought of it any type of way. I love basketball and soccer. I don’t normally think too much of my masculinity. I do exclusively only wear men’s cologne. I love scents, just as much as gay men or European men. Now is when I get all feminine and animated ‘cause I love scents. The trick is you put on lotion, essential oils, deodorant, and cologne. People always tell me I smell good. For my clothes, I just don’t fit in many women’s clothes. I would bust out of a woman’s shirt."
Q: So, where do you see yourself going in the future, and if you have any, who have been your role models?
Ryan: "You know, as J. Cole said, “no role models to speak of”
Sydney: "I wish I had more role models. I desperately searched for representation when I first came out. I wanted so badly to find those people, I had no one in mainstream media who I looked up to at that point. Discovering Autostraddle, was a huge turning point for me. I realized that there were other women like me , and who had these nuanced feelings about things, and who had the same feelings as me and were willing to talk about it. Now, I am still desperate for women mentorship, both professionally and personally. I want older lesbian friends who want to tell me what they’ve learned and what they know. I didn’t have a lot of that when I was first figuring out who I was.
You know, one of the first things I did when I came out was watching every season of the L word back to back. I thought that was the only way I would be able to figure it all out. I will say though, I did have a sort of “lesbian guru” in my life. It was my first girlfriend who is actually transitioning right now FTM (Female to Male). When we were together, he very much showed me the way on how to date women. It was a new thing for me, I didn’t know anything. He very much taught me those things because he was very lesbian identifying at the time. He held my hand through it all and showed me how the ways on how to approach women, and talk to women, and do all the things that lesbian women do. I am very blessed for him and am looking forward to seeing where his new journey takes him."
Ryan: "This may be reaching, but I would have to say, Ellen DeGeneres. She teaches people that it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, all that matters is that you’re a good person and that you are contributing to the better good of society. And of course, to dress well."
Q: Any personal goals that you have at the time that you are looking forward to?
Sydney: "As a writer, I would like to use freelancing as an opportunity to explore these feelings in writing more. Me helping contribute with Autostraddle has helped me with sorting out my feelings through my writing. Also being endlessly patient with myself is definitely something I need to do as well. I have to remind myself that I am only 23 years old and that I am still figuring it out. I don’t need to have an answer for anybody, not even to myself. As long as I am comfortable and happy, that is all that really matters. I am on a personal journey to accept myself the way that I am and accept the journey that I am on and that it is different from everybody else's."
Ryan: "My personal goal is more career oriented. I have always wanted to learn this software training called Facial Analysis Coding System by this author Paul Effman. It basically comes all the muscles in the face like a human lie detector. It’s a software that you purchase and take the test as many times until you pass it. It’s what the FBI and the CIA train off of. I have always wanted to do that and soon I am going to be in a financial and time situation where I can start that. Also just trying to be financially independent and helping out my family with their finances, because you know they raised me so I want to be able to help them out when I can. Pay off my student loans. I am personally very happy, I don’t have relationship goals, because I think we are going to just keep doing what we are doing and make it up as we go along, although there is a big anniversary surprise in the making for July 4."
Sydney: … yea we’ll figure out scissoring within the next year…