When I was 28 and living in New York, I learned quickly the difference between sexuality vs sex.

I started dating a man I thought might be gay. He dressed really well, gorgeous body, loved to shop, and he had certain effeminate mannerisms. “Count the number of shoes that he has, “my friend Marina said, “If it’s more than 7 then he has to be gay.” This is how I found myself in the ridiculous position on the floor of his closet, while he was in the shower, wondering if snow boots counted.

It never occurred to me at the time why I was really on the floor. It never occurred to me that he was comfortable enough with his own sexuality that he did what he liked without regard to how he would be perceived. Instead, I questioned his sexual orientation based on stereotypes; I challenged who he was based on how I thought things should be, and I was projecting because I was uncomfortable with my own sexuality.

When I mention the word sexuality, all too often people think that it is synonymous with sex or sometimes they think it means sexual orientation.

Sexuality explained

Our sexuality encompasses so much more than that; it is an expression of ourselves. It is a vibrant myriad of emotions, love, relationships, body image, sexual health, gender identification, sexual orientation, and, oh yes, sex is an important part of it too, but it is interwoven throughout our lives. We are sexual beings from birth to death, regardless of our sexual activity.

A strong sense of sexuality leads to healthier relationships with partners, friends, and family. It allows us to take charge of our sexual health. It allows us to filter out the messages about sexuality from the media. It boosts self-esteem. Our sexuality even affects our children by the messages we send to them about how we feel about ourselves and others.

Learning about and defining our sexuality is a complex and very personal process. When writing this, I did extensive Google searches looking for articles from reputable sources on how people learn about sexuality. I used the words sexuality, sex, women, and men in various ways in the search phrases. The results yielded many articles about sex, with some addressing the emotions stemming from it, some porn, and a few things on sexual orientation but very few that spoke to the other areas of sexuality.

Sexuality
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Are we as individuals and as a society too oriented toward sex and not in exploring how it affects the rest of our lives? I hope not. The awareness of it fluctuates with time but its importance of it is ubiquitous.

My sexuality evolves

My understanding of my own sexuality took a leap when I experienced what I like to call my “Kimono Moment” After the shoe guy and I had been together almost a year, and our sex life had blossomed, we met one night for dinner. When I walked into the restaurant, he slid his chair back and stood, as he always did when I walked in, the veritable gentleman, and I saw he was wearing blue and white cotton, a man’s kimono, and jeans.

It was the Village, a primarily gay neighborhood, but he didn’t care about being mistaken for gay. He was wearing what he liked and what he liked was style and he pulled it off. He carried himself with such confidence that night, it was the most masculine I’d ever seen him. Not only was I more attracted to him than I ever had been, but I also found myself admiring him.

My sense of sexuality had been elusive most of the time and at that point in my life, I was finding it difficult to feel comfortable in my own skin. That night I realized it was okay to feel that way and that all my questioning feelings were temporary. When I looked back I saw that being comfortable with my sexuality had fluctuated over time and would probably continue to do so.

I decided that as long as I had someone in my life that was on such an upswing, I would join him. I was inspired to be more confident and open and be the girly girl and the womanly woman I wanted to be. And not surprisingly, we had great sex that night too.

I am still grateful for my Kimono moment. After two years we broke up and I am so glad he was a part of my life. I learned a lot about myself from him, which is always ideal in a relationship, and incidentally, he had exactly seven pairs of shoes, snow boots included.