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Colton Underwood and heterosexual conditioning

On Wednesday, April 15, former “Bachelor” and Washington, IL resident Colton Underwood came out as gay on “Good Morning America.”

Several of my friends were shocked by the news, and I heard several statements along the lines of “I can’t believe he led all those girls on,” or “Why did he even go on the show in the first place?”

Unfortunately, a lot of heterosexual individuals don’t fully grasp the complicated issue of sexuality. As a lesbian woman, I have gone through several crises in sexuality over the course of my life.

As a child, I assumed I was straight; in fact, I didn’t even realize that being gay was an option. Because heterosexuality is seen as the “norm” or the “default,” many gay kids struggle to identify the feelings they have toward members of the same sex.

When I developed crushes on my best friends, I used to tell myself that my feelings were merely an intense desire for friendship and camaraderie.

I can’t speak for Colton, but as someone who grew up in the same area and in a similar sort of religious upbringing, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it took him this long to realize his attraction to men was more than platonic.

Considering that Colton was a virgin on “The Bachelor,” it makes sense that he hadn’t fully understood or recognized his attraction. It took me multiple sexual experiences with men and only one sexual experience with a woman to realize that I didn’t hate having sex — I hated having sex with men.

Again, upholding heterosexuality as the standard for relationships and viewing queerness as an inexplicable variance from that standard is what keeps LGBT+ individuals in the closet.

No gay person is born straight and turns gay later in life; we are conditioned to be straight and have to overcome those years of conditioning before realizing our true sexual identities.

I hope that Underwood receives positive responses from “Bachelor” fans and friends alike and that his family is able to support him through this time. If he redefines his sexuality in the future, I also hope that fans are able to recognize the difficulty that comes with defining one’s sexuality and are able to offer support in that time as well.

In the end, Colton wasn’t “hiding” his identity intentionally from the women on “The Bachelor”; he had to discover it for himself.

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