It was Spring of 2004, I was ten years old and seeing Mean Girls with a friend and her older sister. Just a crowd of preteen girls hovering on the edge of puberty, eager to see Lindsay Lohan’s newest film. Unknowingly, we were all about to be exposed to hilarious and risqué jokes, the rules of girlhood, and for some (me), a sexual awakening. Witnessing Regina’s snarky attitude, her glamorous diamond “R” initial necklace and tank top that read “A Little Bit Dramatic” was so goddamn cool. It did something to me, but I didn’t quite have the words just yet to describe it.
Regina George was (is) everything to me. The hot mean blonde powerhouse originally portrayed by the lovely Rachel McAdams became an immediate icon to the girls, gays and theys everywhere. Quoting lines from the movie every day for the next twenty years. My middle school friends laughing over the plot point of Janis being a lesbian (“I mean RIGHT, she was a lesbian!”) and having a crush on Regina. Hilarious! I’d laugh along at the movie’s witty quips and pretend I too was only attracted to Aaron Samuels. Mean Girls not only drop kicked me into a world of sexual confusion and feminism but also influenced my desire to become something even more taboo than gay. A comedy writer.
It wasn’t that I was confused or suppressing my sexuality necessarily, I just wasn’t giving it much attention. I avoided dating anyone of any gender at all costs, instead taking pride in my independence and focusing on my career. In retrospect, there were so many signs I was queer. Like all the times I got excited seeing scenes between Santana and Britney on Glee or when I fell down a rabbit hole on YouTube of fan made videos shipping Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller as a couple. When Youtuber Jenna Marbles released a video breaking down the logistics and levels of girl crushes, I felt seen. I related to her explanations of confusion around admiring women. Do I want to be friends with you? Do I want to be you? Or do I want to be with you?
One of the things that made me nervous about admitting my attraction for girls was that 1. Everyone would think I was dating one of my friends, or 2. One of my friends or former friends would think I had a crush on them. All my female crushes growing up were celebrities or unattainable attractions of that level. There were the classics, like, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus, Hayden Panettiere and Taylor Swift. And then the more niche, like that one model from the dELiA’s catalogue I would eagerly flip to. I had genuine crushes on boys throughout school and “dated” some of them, and I don’t doubt I felt some type of way at the time. Maybe it was because I had never been in love with someone I liked, dated, or slept with that it felt so muddled. Now, I think a big part of it was a lack of chemistry. Or that yeah, I was gay.
I had only pursued men until I was 25, but I became aware in my early twenties after moving to New York and being around the queer community that maybe men weren’t my only option. In 2019 I saw Mean Girls: The Musical on Broadway probably ten times. The final time was when Reneé Rapp played Regina George. I was sitting in the back row of the theater and once she belted the last note of “World Burn” I suddenly noticed I was standing up. I didn’t remember physically standing up or even consciously making the choice to stand. It felt like a full circle moment, the character of Regina George had once again enlightened me. This girl (me) was undeniably not straight. So yes, it was my raging crush on Reneé Rapp, who identifies as gay herself, that helped me discover my queerness (that and a lot of the men I had tried to date and never actually liked). Finally, we had our answer, Regina George was indeed gay, and suddenly it all made sense.
Growing up the only bisexual person I knew about was Tila Tequila who had a reality dating show on MTV and happened to be a tragic hot mess. Now, thankfully, there is so much more representation. But for a long time, I was too afraid to label myself as anything other than “uninterested in dating.” I thought I wasn’t sure, or maybe “not gay enough” to identify as such. But I feared coming out would bring extra attention around me that I didn’t necessarily want. I wasn’t ashamed, but I didn’t want to let others attach their own stereotypes. When I first started to call myself queer, I was insecure. I felt like I didn’t present queer. I didn’t look queer enough, therefore I was not queer enough. Being surrounded by the queer community of Brooklyn is wonderful and sometimes overwhelming. You could tap one hundred women on the shoulder from behind at a bar in Bushwick and realize it’s yet another cool queer girl with a shaggy mullet and not your friend (or girlfriend). I felt like because I didn’t “look” queer no one would know I was, and I couldn’t decide how important that felt to me. No, I don’t have a septum piercing (I have chronic sinusitis), but I wear a lot of rings. That’s something, right?!
Instead of seeing it as “coming out,” I just slowly told the people in my life that I also liked girls, and no one was shocked, which felt validating. Still, I worried they would immediately hear it as “I am going to get a buzzcut and never wear makeup or any feminine clothes ever again.” Some queer women express themselves that way and that’s wonderful. Everyone should dress and style themselves in a way that feels authentic to them and makes them happy. In trying to explain to my parents that there isn’t one way to “look gay” I also freed myself from worrying I didn’t look queer enough. I consider myself a femme bisexual girlie, and I’m usually most attracted to others who identity the same way. But who knows! Having representation like Reneé Rapp and other femme presenting gay girlies helped me feel comfortable dressing the way I wanted to. I don’t love how I look in a long dress, so when friends from my hometown started getting married and having fancy weddings, I found some fun colorful suits to wear. At this point I was only out to a few of my friends, and I knew I might get some looks as a woman wearing a purple suit in a church. But I felt so much more comfortable wearing something I liked myself in rather than self-consciously drowning in a long dress that I would be awkwardly adjusting all night long. It took letting go of my own internalized homophobia and stereotypical ideals to fully accept myself as a queer femme identifying woman who sometimes wears a dress and other times wears a suit. It depends on the day.
After my gay epiphany, it was listening to queer girly pop music that truly helped me find myself. Artists from all different backgrounds, presenting their queerness and femininity in their own ways. I found comfort in being queer as I listened to artists like Girl in Red, Fletcher, Haley Kiyoko, Chappell Roan, King Princess, Reneé of course, and so many other pop girlies that helped give me confidence. As a Swiftie, Taylor’s music has played a huge role in my life as well. Growing up singing her songs about love and finding trouble associating them with who I supposedly had a crush on at the time. But she writes about so much more than just love and breakups, and I scream sang her lyrics with the vigor of someone who had been wronged, heartbroken and misunderstood; experiences we’ve all had no matter who you are attracted to. I don’t think it’s fair to publicly create speculation around a famous person’s sexuality. You can take what you need from her music and create your own narratives around what it means for you. She or anyone for that matter doesn’t owe anyone an explanation of their sexuality. Her songs helped me connect to other Swifties in the queer community and I’m grateful for the joy her music has brought into my life, helping me find myself in more ways than just my sexuality.
In 2021 I made the huge step of listing that I was interested in both guys and girls on my dating app profiles. I’d always secretly aligned myself more as someone who was just “open to whoever.” As long as they didn’t think they were funnier than me. A huge red flag. Well, that and anyone wearing a shark tooth necklace. Or a pucca shell necklace. Or really any kind of hemp string jewelry. Either way, it was more about the person than their gender identity. I knew the types of women I’d felt attraction for in the past, but I was still having more luck matching with men. I wasn’t sure what women wanted from me, or what I wanted from them either. I was nervous, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was using them to prove whether I’m gay or not. I went on some dates with women and immediately noticed a level of comfort I’d never felt on dates with men. Besides the obvious being that I’m more worried of being killed by a man than a woman, it was just easier to talk to women. On the way to meet up with a guy from Hinge for the first time I texted my friends “I hope I get hit by a car.” Now I realize that that isn’t normal. There was overall less dread before a first date with a girl. Some dates went well, some were duds, and others I was left wondering if it felt more like a friendship. My attraction to women felt deeper than just looks. I wanted to like them as a person, whereas with men the bar was a lot lower. He’s attractive and doesn’t want to kill me? Hot. With women I found myself having deeper conversations faster, which was great but also terrifying. The emotional intelligence in women often shows up earlier on, and I wasn’t used to that. Working in the entertainment industry offers the perk of having good stories to tell on dates. When it’s not going great, I can always lean on my celebrity stories. It’s usually what people ask me about the most. It’s always, “who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?” or “what’s Pete Davidson like?” When I started going out with women, I found myself talking less about work, which I loved. Yes, I’d had emotional and deep conversations with men, but I’ve always felt it was easier to connect with women. Yet as I was starting to date women, I still found myself leaning more towards hooking up with men. Maybe because it was familiar, or maybe because I needed to further prove to myself that I wasn’t always into it.
Around this time, I met Brandi Carlile at an SNL after party and had a lovely conversation with her and her wife. I took this as a sign that I owed it to myself to explore this, for real. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my first sexual experience with a woman, but it was hard not to. I had high hopes that it would be a way better experience. But meeting a woman out at the bars was terrifying for me. I can’t flirt, and when it comes to flirting with women, I’m a wreck. I went to a lesbian bar in the west village with some friends once and the only girl I talked to was behind me in line for the bathroom. The DJ was playing “My Humps” by the Blackeyed Peas and we were trying to remember what year the song came out. She made a joke about being raised by the Blackeyed Peas and then our conversation ended abruptly when I took it too far and said, “Fergie gave birth to me.” I went home alone that night.
For me, dating will always be a scary, confusing, awkward, intimidating, exciting, gray area in my life. For so long I was comfy in my little non-dating bubble; maybe having bad sex once a year with someone I didn’t like, putting all my energy into my career, and internally dissecting my attraction for any hot blonde girl on a TV show. It was an easier time, but it wasn’t really me, and it left me unfulfilled and disconnected.
I know that I’m attracted to more than one gender and if you want to get super-duper technical, you can call me bisexual or pansexual, attracted to the person not the gender. I don’t know, but I’m not straight. A lot of people still view bisexuality as a “phase” where some men think it’s hot that you have sex with women, and some women claim they can “turn you” into a full lesbian. As a white cis woman, I know I still have it so much easier when it comes to labels, stereotypes, and prejudices in the spectrum of sexuality. But let’s just let people be who they are.
It’s been hard for me to label it, because usually I just hate everyone. I like calling myself queer, bisexual, or gay. But it was a journey to becoming comfortable identifying as such. I still dig men, but right now in this moment I like the ladies more. And maybe in the future that will change. That’s why it’s a spectrum. What I do know is that when it comes to any portrayal of Regina George, it’s without a doubt absolute pure gay panic for me.