Note: This post is going up one day ahead of schedule because I will be a plane all day tomorrow and I like to have internet access when a new post is going up.
For months now, I’ve been mulling over how to write an essay about my experience of being bisexual. Initially, this was a struggle because I didn’t really feel all that interested in writing it, but I felt like I needed to. It occurred to me that to many people in my life, the way things look is that I dated boys for years, and then one day I just up and announced that I was seeing a woman. So people probably still have some questions. Not to mention, I’ve mentioned girlfriends and boyfriends on this blog, but never explicitly identified myself as bi, which seemed to be a rather large oversight.
After literally months of kicking around half-hearted drafts though, my feelings regarding the post pulled a complete 180. I realized that my real problem was that I had too much to say, and it didn’t necessarily all fit neatly into a discussion of “bisexuality”. I have a lot to say about sexuality in general, romantic relationships, sex ed, and yes, queerness specifically… but “being bi” isn’t necessarily central to what I want to say. For some people, coming to accept/coming out about their sexual identity is in and of itself a defining experience worth telling a singular story about, but my own narrative is… messy. And cramming it into the format I had in my head of some overarching “This is what being queer means to me” essay doesn’t really work.
So for the moment, I’m going to keep writing the stories I do feel ready to write. Some of them relate to being bi, but I’m not going to attempt to write some big epic work focusing them around that. I’m just going to let them be what they are.
I tell you all of this, because today’s post started as an essay on coming and being “out”, but it became something different. I would have kept all that writing-process-y crap to myself, except that this was a big struggle, and I almost trashed the whole thing rather than pushing through all my complicated feelings on it. In the end, I had to send the post out to a few friends just to get out of my own head. The feedback I got was really, really helpful, and this post wouldn’t exist without it. So to my lovely editors: thank you.
Now, finally, on with the show.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I enjoy being “out” as bisexual, and how I get some pleasure out of it when that makes people act awkward or uncomfortable. I do prefer to have people just be cool with it, but if they aren’t, I usually still take it as a win. I figure, I’m either shattering preconceptions, or at least ridding myself of someone close-minded. Take me or leave me, bitches.
I know this is a privileged position—and it’s one I can’t afford to take in all situations. But since I can in most of my life, I revel in that. I enjoy saying, in my head at least: “Fuck you if you’re unnerved by me not fitting neatly into any of your boxes. Eat it. I refuse to be uncomfortable anymore. Your turn.”
I feel like that’s a relevant part of my experience, that defiant attitude. But I’ve been struggling to determine how to discuss it without just coming off like an asshole.
In a way, you could argue that my delight in being “out” gets back to my basic need to feel heard, understood. I want people to get who I really am, what I really mean. I want to connect and I hate feeling fake, or like people like me only because they’re making false assumptions. And I’m drawn to people, romantically and sexually, without much regard for gender. I just am. That’s part of me, and people should know that, right?
But the thing is, it isn’t purely about being understood, and here’s how I know that: I’m much more comfortable being perceived to be a lesbian than assumed to be straight. Because though it isn’t exactly the right fit, I feel like straight people are either putting me in the “[normal] like me” box or the “not [normal] like me” box, and “not [normal] like them”, well—that’s close enough.
Because it isn’t so much about who I fuck, really. It’s about what people feel they can expect from me. I feel like as soon as people label me in their heads as any flavor of queer, they stop being able to comfortably shove me into simple categories. Once you know I’m queer, it’s harder to assume that I’m going to act like a “normal” woman. Because “normal” women are into men, and if I’m into ladies too, what else is weird about me? And as soon as I’ve given someone a reason to ask that question, I’ve won, even if they still don’t have all of the details right.
The thing is, no one is a “normal” woman, or a “normal” anything. No one, straight or not, fits perfectly into all the boxes people put them in. And so many people experience so much shame and pain and loneliness because of the ways they don’t fit, big or small. And that’s such a load of bullshit, and it makes me so angry sometimes I want to scream.
I didn’t realize that being seen as not-straight was all that important to me until I started dating a woman and started getting double-takes when I dropped the words “my girlfriend” casually in conversation, and it just felt so delicious. And you know why? Those moments always felt so fucking good because without major confrontation or drama, I got to say to random people around me: “Haha, you thought you had me pegged, and you were wrong.”
And you know, most, if not all, of the people I’ve thought that at never meant me any kind of harm. And so maybe you could argue that I’m a little bit of a dick for getting a kick out of people’s momentary confusion or discomfort. But the thing is, I don’t mean these people any harm either. I like these moments precisely because I can get my feeling of defiance without anyone coming out of the encounter needlessly damaged by the experience.
What I’ve realized after all this time puzzling is that, while everything I just described is certainly related to my sexual identity, the core of the experience is about something bigger.
I’ve struggled with, and still struggle with, layer upon layer of shame and self-hatred over various aspects of myself, though I now know at least intellectually that I should have never learned to feel that way. Because I am weird and fucked up in some ways, sure, but so is everyone else. We’re all just people, people who deserve love and understanding. We all deserve better than hasty assumptions and judgment and ill-fitting boxes.
It is hard for me to fight through ingrained habits and fucked up societal values to get to a place where I actually believe I am deserving of love and acceptance. It’s a war I’ll never be done fighting, and sometimes it’s just so fucking exhausting. Sometimes I wonder how in the hell I’m going to keep going.
So yea, that little voice in my head that says, “Fuck you if you’re uncomfortable, this is who I am, and I refuse to make your discomfort about it my problem,” does need to be kept in check. Unrestricted, that line of reasoning can certainly lead to blindness in situations where it’s ME who needs to do some questioning of assumptions, ME who should be uncomfortable. Keeping an eye on this voice, staying aware of my thought process, is definitely valuable.
But I’m also not going to try to shut that voice down, because that voice is my strength. That voice keeps me fighting to believe that I am worthy, and I fucking need that.
So maybe a defiant, “fuck you if you don’t like it” attitude can be little bit mean or juvenile. But defiance is also about taking back power. It’s about declaring strength in the face of people (maybe including yourself) who believe you are weak. Defiance is refusal to surrender. At heart, I am an independent, contrarian, pain-in-the-ass, and I can be one very defiant human.
And you know? I think I’m allowed be just a little proud of that.