No, I am not a lesbian. And no, I no longer identify as straight. I am bisexual- and here is what that means.
You probably find yourself attracted to people with dark hair as well as people with light hair. You may also be attracted to tall people and short people, and maybe black people and Asian people as well as white people. And no one thinks that’s weird because we, as humans, are capable of being attracted to more than one kind of person. For bisexuals (and pansexuals and a few more orientations, see my next blog post for more on that), gender is just another factor like skin color or height.
I’ve suspected I might be bi for a little while now, although up until recently I was very unsure about it and it was little more than a suspicion that I mulled over from time to time. Over these past two months I’ve been doing a lot of research into what bisexuality is, and I finally realized that it’s a label that fits who I am.
Why am I being so open about my sexual orientation? Why the public “coming out”? Because it was other people who were “out” and proud that helped me realize who I really am. They gave me the courage to stop ignoring the questions inside of me, to be open about who I am. I want to do the same for other people who might feel bad about themselves for who they are attracted too. (Also, unless you “look gay”, people generally assume that you’re straight. That’s rather irritating, as though being straight is the default setting for everyone. It’s not.)
So why did it take me until my mid-twenties to finally realize I’m bisexual? Here are a few reasons:
1. I was raised with homophobia.
While nowhere near as bad as Westboro, I still grew up around blatant and damaging homophobia. Everyone in my immediate circles was fundamentalist and anti-gay. Homosexuality was decried as unnatural, a sin, a “choice” that you were not supposed to make under any circumstances. I remember going with other Christians to political gatherings as a young child to oppose same sex marriage when it was being voted on in Vermont.
My Christian circles taught me in no uncertain terms that being attracted to someone of the same gender was NOT OK. And not only was it not ok, but it was one of the worst things you could possibly do.
The contradictory message I grew up with was this: We love you and do not judge you. However, if you do not think or act like us, then you are less of a person (ie a sinner, unnatural, deceived by the devil, abomination).
There is no kind or healthy way to tell someone that their sexual attractions are unnatural, sinful, and somehow wrong. It’s still VERY DAMAGING and hurtful, no matter how much “grace” and “love” you try to mix in. No matter how much sugar and spice you add to a bowl of dog poop, it’s still repulsive and unfit to eat at the end of the day because the main ingredient is so crappy (pun intended).
Do you think black people felt better when racist people in the 60’s said things like “We still love you and don’t judge you, we just think your relationship with that white girl is morally wrong and should be illegal.” And what about this one? “We love you- but marrying someone with different colored skin is just unnatural! Why are you CHOOSING to love a person of a different race when it’s so wrong?”
Growing up with messages like these, is it really surprising that it would take me a while to recognize my own sexual orientation and feel comfortable even admitting it to myself? Many people never even get this far because these hurtful messages are so deeply ingrained within themselves that they are never able to overcome them. Fundamentalism causes so much unnecessary shame, guilt, and social pressure to conform to one group’s narrow minded ideas- hence why I speak out against it so much. It’s directly affected me and my ability to grow as a healthy individual.
2. I was good at hiding from myself.
For much of my life I was good at hiding from myself. I didn’t do a whole lot of critical thinking back in the day, I just believed what I was taught because I trusted the people who were teaching me to show me reality and truth. When questions about my beliefs or sexuality came up, I was able to emotionally and mentally bury them before I even acknowledged that they existed at all. Questioning the church’s teachings was bad, so I did what I thought was the spiritual thing and didn’t question anything. Hence it took me into adulthood to question my both religious beliefs and my sexuality.
3. I still had options for attraction before I came to grips with my bisexuality.
I like girls AND boys. Therefore, unlike people who only identify as gay and are not attracted to the opposite gender at all, I wasn’t forced to completely deny myself the joys of being attracted to other people. It wasn’t that I was making a “choice” to only like guys, it’s that one half of my sexual orientation was being repressed. Since I was also strongly attracted to men, it was easier for me to not realize that this part of me even existed.
If you were raised to believe that dating black people was morally wrong and you liked white people too, you might never realize that you have the potential to also be attracted to black people unless you happened to fall in love with someone who had black skin. But the chances are high that, since you wouldn’t even be open to it in the first place, you’d miss opportunities to fall for someone who wasn’t white. Without first overcoming that ingrained racism and widening your mental horizons, it would be very difficult for you to ever realize your potential attraction to black people. It’s the same with people who are attracted to more than one gender identity.
4. Sometimes it takes time to realize who you are.
When I was a kid, I hated onions. I wouldn’t eat even the teeniest piece of onion because I’d convinced myself that onions were gross. Now I absolutely love them- I can’t get enough grilled onions in my food! What changed? As I got older, I tried new things and my tastes changed. Does this mean I wasn’t bisexual before? Not really. Just like with the onions, I simply didn’t realize what I had been missing out on until I actually looked into it more- then I discovered I actually liked it! I have always had the potential to love eating onions, what needed to change was my mental attitude that onions were icky.
In my next blog I will be addressing some of the common myths and misconceptions about bisexuality. I really hope that my family and friends read it so you can understand who I am and who I’m not. Please don’t make assumptions about me and my sexual orientation- take the time to find out the truth instead of relying on any stereotypes you may have been raised with.