I’m a black, bi, and female scientist: My struggles of identity and rediscovery outline Part 4

Identity Formation

I thought going to college would be the time that I get a fresh start, reinvent who I was as a person. However, life will show me that things were still the same. If anything, new challenges to who I am as an individual and professionally appeared. Those experiences would be ones to shape who I am today.

Getting into college was not hard to do. Figuring out what I wanted to do was a challenge. Initially, I wanted to pursue microbiology. Luckily, something in my head told me to not commit to one specialty. My 18-year-old brain decided that the best way to learn science was to study it all. I chose General Biology as my major. I knew I had to take math classes as part of my curriculum, but I should have anticipated old problems would arise.

My standardized testing scores did not reflect my abilities again. The college adviser said I couldn’t jump into calculus. I was frustrated because I already took high school honors calculus and passed. I avoided taking AP calculus because that would force me to take another standardized test. I realize now that my lack of self-confidence in my abilities caused this. Since mom wasn’t there to fight my battle this time, I listened to the adviser and took algebra instead. I was bored out of my mind, but I passed the class. Despite having consequences for taking this class later, it provided an unexpected benefit. During that math class, I had my identity challenged.

For my first year in college, I didn’t have many friends. I did meet a girl I partially hung out senior year in high school. I met her through one of my inner circle friends. In college, I spent a lot of time with her. We shared the same math class went to an anime club together on the weekends. One day during our math class, a guy class asked us if we were lesbians. That earned a hard no from me. It left me with a shock that I wasn’t expecting. One, I wasn’t attracted like that to her and two, I couldn’t “be like that.”

In my childhood, there was one time where I had to get a talk. I wasn’t scolded but told not to “be like that.” No one said what “be like that” meant. Things were implied, given the context of what happened. Following that conversation, I suppressed my feelings. Consequently, I never understood why I would have heartbreaking attachments to girls. The only time I saw that brought up was watching Anne and Diana’s separation in Anne of Green Gables, but no one talked about that. Growing up, I felt joy seeing Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship on Xena Warrior Princess. This joy I also felt when watching Mulder and Scully on X-files. I found nothing wrong with either of those relationships, but I never thought to apply it to myself until college.

After being shocked by the lesbian comment, I had a second chance to see a form of me I never imagined. Another person I met in high school also went to my college. We initially hung out because he dated my friend. Eventually, they broke up, but we all remained friends. In college, he decided to join me at the anime club viewings on the weekends. There was a show we watched where there was a one-sided romance between two girls. I never saw something like this accepted by anyone before. It was refreshing and cute. That’s when it dawned on me that I felt the same way about a woman. One day, I had told him that I thought I had the same feelings as that anime girl with my friend, his ex. We both liked the same person. I wasn’t in his head, so I don’t exactly know he felt about that. I do know that we became closer friends after this confession. Still, I took this admission as an unusual event and continued thinking I was straight. I couldn’t “be like that,” could I?

In retrospect, it’s almost like he was the first person I came out to even when I didn’t know I was coming out. Maybe things happened for a reason. If it wasn’t for that math class, then I might not have started to question myself. I might not have been so open to what I saw in that anime. Either way, there was a lesson to be learned. I reinvented myself, but I was oblivious to see it.

Links to other parts are below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



I was born and raised on the West side of Chicago. I earned a BS in General Biology and a PhD in Neurobiology. Currently, I’m a medical/science writer. LGBTQ+

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Natasha Wadlington

I was born and raised on the West side of Chicago. I earned a BS in General Biology and a PhD in Neurobiology. Currently, I’m a medical/science writer. LGBTQ+