Bi The Way...
I want this message to reach you. You - the one person who needs to hear this.
Imagine we are at a coffee shop.
You are the person sitting across the table from me, looking me in my eyes. Or you are the person at the table next to me, overhearing the conversation, realizing it might be more relevant to you than the work in front of you on your computer screen.
You’ll figure it out rather quickly. Either way, please keep listening.
To the person overhearing our conversation:
Hey there. I see you, seeing us. Don’t worry - I don’t mind. In fact, I’m talking loudly enough so you can hear this. Because you need to hear it, too … but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable by directly bringing you into the conversation.
To the person across the table from me:
Hey there. Thanks for joining me! So…it’s June, right? Pride month. (Can you believe it is already June??)
There’s no better time than now to bring this up (again, in case you’ve read my blog), but I identify as bisexual. (Want more coffee?)
I know, it would be easier for us to chat about the weather or the kids or this delicious coffee cake. But you joined me here for a reason.
This conversation matters. I matter. You matter.
When we don’t talk about parts of ourselves, we tend to forget about those parts or, worse, to believe that they don’t matter.
(And we help others to believe the same.)
Over time, you internalize that those parts are shameful or embarrassing or that those parts of yourself are unnecessary to your daily life. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, here - let me tell you a super-shortened story of my own. Then I’ll tell you why this isn’t just a self-serving story.
I’ve known I was bi since my young years.
I would sneak glances at Playboy magazines (but - when caught - it was just for the articles, promise mom! * blush *) and feel the same funny feelings inside I got when I accidentally brushed hands with that boy in my class.
I never questioned the arousal because there was nothing to question. I didn’t really know there was any way of being other than liking boys OR liking girls (and in the early 80’s, the latter wasn’t widely discussed). It just was this secret part of me that lived in my fantasies and every once in awhile, in my journal.
I knew that I was attracted to certain people and not to others, and that it didn’t matter what their sex / gender was. Body type, personality, eyes (oh goodness, how I could get lost in some people’s eyes), … there were so many factors I could name if asked. “Boy” or “Girl” was never a constant.
Because there wasn’t a term with which I was familiar (no representation of a very real reality), those feelings attached themselves to odd definitions in my mind.
When I was attracted to a particular girl in school, I thought it was because I wanted to look like her. So I’d try to dress like her, act like her, spray my bangs 2 feet high like her. (Aqua Net in the 80’s?! High five if you are willing to admit you attempted that.)
Flash forward to college.
Indiana University. Kinsey Institute. Major in Psychology, Minor in Human Sexuality. (We study what we want to understand, right?) “Bisexuality” became one of many newly-common terms to grace my vocabulary and my understanding.
And. But. It wasn’t something that graced conversations in my social life. When we’d go to parties, I’d scope out the boys and react to the boys who were reacting to me.
Because that is what everyone expected, that is how I acted.
I still noticed women, I still had fantasies and desires, but other than the occasional oh-we’re-drunk-now-so-this-is-ok situations, I followed the status quo both in body and in mind (but certainly not in dreams).
Flash forward to marriage.
I found someone with whom I fell in love. This person happened to be a male. We - by desire and probably by a bit of socialized default mode - graduated college, got married, got jobs, bought a house, had kids, and …. flash forward to now … find ourselves in midlife in contented lives.
To the person overhearing our conversation:
Hey there…still ok? Sorry to distract you from your work. Are you surprised by this?
After all, I look pretty “normal”. That’s part of the blessing and the curse of being a bisexual woman married to a man. I could go to my deathbed with never having to feel the stigma, the hate, the suffering that a bisexual woman who fell in love with another woman - or a gay person or transsexual person or…. - is so unjustly cursed to feel from people around us. (Hopefully not by you.)
I sometimes feel guilty about this. But that’s why I’m speaking up (and asking you to listen in). I might be able to pretend and to be protected, but my bisexuality is still a very deeply rooted part of who I am and something I want to openly acknowledge.
If for no other reason than this, I speak up:
I want every single child and adult to understand that “bisexuality” is a term, a reality, a way of being. I don’t want any school girl to have to live by default as I did.
I want us all to feel free to explore LOVE in any way that we choose.
I want those who are attracted to those of the opposite sex or gender to understand that love exists in many ways, and that your way of loving and feeling desire is just one path in a glorious ocean of feelings.
To the person across the table:
So that’s my story.
I know you joined me today because you have your own story, and God, I am SO HONORED that you made this choice.
You don’t have to say a thing, or you can and I will sit here as long as you would like and listen with rapt attention. (I might need to take a bathroom break and refill this coffee, though.)
What I want is for you to discover something more about yourself because you came across a label or a term or a story or a quote that makes you go, “WHOA - YES! That! That’s what I’ve been feeling!”.
What I want is for you to feel free to express whatever you discover, in however way you choose.
What I want is for no one, ever, to judge you for that expression, so long as you are not harming another.
What I want is for you to breathe more fully and easier because I shared my story with you, to walk away from this table feeling a bit lighter about your own story.
To BOTH the person sitting across from me and the person overhearing us:
What I want is for all of us to feel this way.
It starts with being able to look inside your own mind and body sensations with a sense of curiosity, not judgment.
And through that awareness, we breathe. We laugh. We cringe and cry and change course and start all over again. We strive for happiness and a little less suffering in daily life.
And we glance at the person at the next table and realize that they are doing exactly the same … no matter how odd or how normal they might seem.
Thanks for being here today.
I could write books both on my own experiences with bisexuality and on the topic as a whole, but the former is more for one-on-one conversation and the latter has been extensively done by those with more scholarly research under their belts.
For more information on the varying definitions of bisexuality and organizations that study / support it, try this resource list by Robyn Ochs.
And for those now curious about me, let me offer these final notes of clarification based off of previous experience:
No, I’m not hiding behind a relationship and just afraid to come out as a lesbian. I’m attracted, most importantly, to my husband, and also to women and other men. (I’m married, not dead.)
I am currently still in a monogamous, married relationship with my husband. Men, this is not an invitation. Women, I’m not after you. Everyone can relax and - if you’re cool knowing what you now do - we can still have exactly the same friendship we had before you read this post.
Join me for another coffee?