I’ve wanted to write this for a really long time. Most of my life, actually, now that I think about it. I’ve wanted to be upfront and honest and open about who I am for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t something I wanted, but life has this funny way of preventing this level of honesty. You worry about what people will think, you worry how your truth will affect other people, you question yourself on every level.
But ultimately, here I am. Being honest and open, and I hope that after you, dear reader, finish with this post, you’ll still stick around and love me (if you do love me; if you didn’t to begin with, it’s all good) as much as you did before. If you don’t, if you’ve changed your mind on me, I’ve reached a point where I’m okay with that, okay with people who can’t accept me for who I am seeing their way out of my life, because at the end of the day, I’d rather be authentically myself than keep up an act.
In that vein, rather than just beating around the bush and leaving you to read the whole post and be like “BUT WHAT ARE YOU??” like this is some vague Facebook status where I say that I’m HARD TO GET ALONG WITH and I’ll ALWAYS FIGHT FOR MY FRIENDS because I’m a SCORPIO WHO LIKES ELEPHANTS or something like that, I’ll get the big revelation out of the way first, as a sort of thesis statement. That way, if you don’t like it, you can stop reading now, unfollow me, walk away, and not worry about the rest.
But I hope you’ll stay. And I hope that you’ll read past this point, where I tell you that I am bisexual, I always have been, and I always will be.
But how do you know??
Do you remember the first time you saw someone who took your breath away and reset your brain to factory settings? And all you could do when it happened was just stand there and blink and wonder what had happened and when you were going to get back to normal?
I remember. I was fourteen years old, and I was in typing class. There was a girl in my class, whose name I absolutely forget, and one day, even though I’d seen her hundreds of times before, she left me dumbstruck. I was the teacher’s pet in typing class (thanks to Mavis Beacon and having a college boyfriend with whom I chatted on AIM all the time), but I don’t remember doing very well that day, because it was all I could do to kick my brain back into gear and stare at the passage we were supposed to be typing instead of that girl.
Now, I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian household, and as I’d neared puberty, the main thing I’d learned about sex was that doing it outside of marriage was Bad and Wrong and would probably result in me getting pregnant with AIDS. To my parents’ credit, this wasn’t their messaging, by and large. They put their collective foot down when it came to my love life overall (still let me date a guy five years my senior, mind, but their rules about physicality were strict enough that they got me grounded at least twice over kissing), but the hellfire and brimstone didn’t come from them so much as from the culture of conservative Christianity at the time.
My awakening, as it were, happened right as purity culture was finding its footing. For the uninitiated, purity culture was (maybe is, I don’t know what churches similar to the one I grew up in do with their adolescents now) this obsession with not only not having sex until you were married but not getting into emotional entanglements either. It often involved things like purity rings and girls getting compared to things like chewed up gum, tape that’s lost its stickiness, shattered glasses, etc., if we were “loose.” Nobody much talked about sex itself… it was more the idea that having sex outside of what the Bible condoned (i.e., one man and one woman in marriage, however the current culture defined it) would absolutely ruin you. You’d turn into a sex addict, you’d get pregnant with AIDS, you’d be worthless, your future spouse (assuming we’d all have future spouses) would be the Bigger Person for accepting you in your gross, already-did-the-nasty-ness.
And anything outside of heterosexuality? Don’t even think about it. Being gay was a sin, being attracted to anyone outside of a cisgender “opposite” sex spouse was a sin, and a bad one. Almost as bad as abortion.
So I had this moment of “KAPOW, beautiful girl!” but I had no idea what to do with that feeling because bisexuality just wasn’t on my radar in the slightest. Sure, we had internet, but it was the baby internet, a wild west without real search engines, and anyway, even if Google had been available, the idea of my parents finding out about me researching this perversion terrified me. I had no label for myself, and all I could think, when I was trying to sleep and fantasies about that beautiful girl and other beautiful girls danced through my mind, was that I must be addicted to sex.
(mind, I’d gone no farther than kissing my boyfriend at that age, I only just barely knew what sex entailed, but there I was, fourteen years old and an obvious sex addict)
This was, in retrospect, the wrong conclusion, but I had no way of knowing that. Shame over my apparent sex addiction consumed me, and some nights, I’d lie awake all night, begging God to help me not give into the temptation of wanting to have sex with a girl (the temptation of wanting to have sex with a guy, mind, was perfectly fine–after all, being a good Christian girl, I’d definitely be doing that eventually) and to forgive me for letting things get this bad. I was particularly terrified after one sermon brought up that Jeffrey Dahmer had Jeffrey Dahmered because he saw porn and, therefore, sex outside of acceptable parameters could naturally lead all the way to being a serial murderer and cannibal. I wasn’t there yet, but that sort of thing gets into your head when you’re autistic, and I was convinced that unless I repented for being attracted to other girls, I’d be there soon enough.
This particular theme played itself out many times over the years. I’d have these bursts of being okay with myself, somewhat, followed shortly thereafter by all night repentance fests, right on through college.
Some things did change. When I was sixteen, I found out that bisexuality existed, thanks to religion message boards and an improving internet. Further searching led me to the term “bi-curious,” which I adopted for myself–I wouldn’t ever actually have sex with a girl or date a girl or fall in love with a girl, I told myself, but I was awfully curious about it.
Warring with yourself that long, however, is exhausting. All those sleepless nights took their toll. Acceptance finally started to come to me when I spent a semester abroad, studying theology and Christian history at Oxford University (which makes me sound super smart, but y’all, I barely passed). I was there a hundred days, living with people who seemed really comfortable with who they were, more than almost anyone I’d ever met. And living with them, I had to be mask-off with my autism because it was exhausting not to be.
Not only that, but being in Oxford introduced me to more liberal forms of Christianity than I’d known my entire life, different interpretations of the Bible that looked at words in Greek and Hebrew and said, “but is that what it meant historically?” and “can we apply this literally to our lives today or do we need to sincerely consider the historical and cultural context in which it was written?” I studied Plato and Aristotle and fell absolutely in love with Plato’s Symposium and the idea of Forms. And all of that combined so that by the time I was on the plane home in April, I knew that even if it was a sin to be so, I was bisexual. It was my cross to bear, and I’d have to bear it.
And I felt guilt over it still, so much guilt, but the sleepless nights grew less and less. And then one day, when I was a few years out of college, I connected with this amazing guy from Texas, and while I still wasn’t wholly guilt-free about it, I told him early on: “I’m bisexual.”
And he said, “oh.” And loved me just as I was and just as I am, and the guilt started to go away. Eventually, after we left the church altogether (that’s another story for another time), the guilt was gone, as if a huge weight had been around my neck, and I could finally live knowing who I was–who I am–and not hating myself for it.
It did take me longer to be open about my orientation with others in my life, mostly because I didn’t know how they would react, but as I’ve been inching out of the closet, everyone has been so loving and accepting, and it’s such a good feeling.
So to answer the question: I know that I’m bisexual because I’ve tried to fight it for so long, because I spent the better part of nearly twenty years at war with who I was, and in the end, I decided to let myself win. If I weren’t bisexual, some of that warring, that repenting, that begging would’ve worked. But none of it did. And I’m so glad.
But what does it mean??
A fun thing in the LGBTQIA community is dissecting labels.
I realized, after watching the Blue’s Clues Pride parade with my kids (hurrah, hurrah, oh you want to hear it again, Isaac? 42 times in a row wasn’t enough? Alright) that nearly every sexual orientation and level of attraction has its own label. It’s very convenient on some level, but if you’re not super immersed in the community, it can also get pretty confusing.
Bisexuality is something that’s become particularly contentious to define lately, with a subset of the community saying that it’s exclusionist towards nonbinary people or trans people. This is, of course, bullshit–bisexuality has always included nonbinary and trans people, and it always will. Still, those who aren’t comfortable with the “bi” part of “bisexuality” have tended in recent years to identify more as “pansexual” or “polysexual,” rather than bisexual.
I use my own definition of bisexuality, thanks to some message boards I’ve poked around and articles I’ve read. And this might be its own microidentity, but listen, I read the word “bisexual” first in 1999. It entered my identity almost 30 years ago. I’m not giving it up, thank you.
So anyway. For me, bisexuality means that I’m attracted to and can fall in love with people of my gender and not of my gender but that gender identity does play a role in how that attraction manifests. For example, when I’m attracted to another woman, I cannot talk, I become an absolute idiot, and flirting is 100% out of the question. Good-bye, Abby’s brain, I hardly knew ye. When I’m attracted to a man, however, I’m able to turn on the charm, flirt like crazy, make wonderful jokes, and just be naturally fun.
(in theory, at least; it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve been in a position to really flirt with anyone except Kyle, and our flirting mostly consists of teasing each other through the house while trying to be a functional pair of adults, key word: trying)
I find different things attractive in men than in women, different things attractive in enbies than in trans people, and so on. Gender absolutely plays a role in my attraction to people, not in the sense that I’m not attracted to certain genders at all ever but in the sense that how I’m attracted to someone will change depending on their gender.
It’s hella confusing, of course, but that’s the bisexual life for ya.
But wouldn’t this mean you’re just a slutty mcslutface??
Which brings me to the other part of my identity: demisexual.
I fought this one for a while, too. Basically, being demisexual means that you’ve got no interest or sexual attraction towards a person until you’ve developed a deep bond with them. For me, it mostly translates to me being perfectly content to flirt with people (when the opportunity arises or arose), but having an actual intimate relationship with a person requires at least a 5th level friendship and constant reassurance that yes, we’re on the same page.
I had my slutty mcslutface days in college and right afterwards, but nowadays, eh. Kyle and I have a good relationship, and I’m honestly too tired to throw myself at anyone else, even if I did have the inclination.
But you married a man, so doesn’t that mean you’re just straight??
No more than getting married means that you never look at your celebrity of choice and think, “daaaaaaaamn.”
Look, I’m married, not dead. I’m not exactly running around and dropping trou for every warm body I come across, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t fanning myself through the entirety of Thor: Ragnarok (Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, AND Jeff Goldblum? Um, yes please?).
I get gobsmacked by people who hit my every type, male or female or neither or both or somewhere in between. I’m not swiping around on Tinder (even if I were single, just… no.), but I didn’t stop being attracted to people just because I got married.
Bisexuality is weird in that I constantly feel random pressure to prove that hey, yeah, I’m still attracted to women and enbies and trans people, even though yes, I’m married to a man and, from the outside, you’d probably think we’re just your friendly neighborhood heterosexual married couple. But while my marriage, being absolutely wonderful, changed a LOT of things about me, it did not change my sexual orientation in the slightest.
I feel like I could probably write a TON more on the subject, going into years of that warring with myself all the way up to getting my first Pride flag this year (because it was free! which is my favorite price for things). And I probably will write a TON more about this eventually.
But for now, I really just have one real conclusion, that being the wish that I hadn’t warred with myself for so long and that I’d come out sooner. I know and I love who I am, a bisexual woman, and I hope that you do, too.