Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Time to Come Out, Juju

I don't know what I expected to happen when I officially declared myself bisexual last week. It's not like the majority of people in my life weren't aware in the first place, although to varying degrees of acceptance, and I'm not an incredibly important person as far as the universe is concerned. But I definitely had a certain paranoia that settled over me. When was I going to get that panicked phone call from my mom, asking me why I'd put such a personal factoid all over the internet? How many people would unfriend me online? In real life? Would I have to constantly monitor the sky for some freak lightning that would strike me dead? And despite all of that fear? Yeah, I'm never going into hiding again.

Like I said on the 16th, I have known that I am bisexual since I was in high school, at least on an academic level. At the time, I knew that I was attracted to both sexes, but I was already struggling in a culture that was woefully sex-negative. I went to a Christian school from grade four through graduation, so you can just imagine what that was like. Our "sex ed" was two meetings in 5th and 6th grade*, but after that, no one ever dared bring up that subject except to attack it. One year, our whole class went to a production of West Side Story, and there was a big talk afterward (or beforehand? I can't remember) about what we saw. Was it about racism? Poverty? Violence as a result of the two? Hahahaha, nope. It was all about the premarital sex between Tony and Maria. Because that's what's destroying America. Now, my parents, despite being adamant about "saving myself for marriage," were very open about how great sex was, but homosexuality wasn't really discussed, at least at any length. It was just understood that it was bad, against what God taught. It was bad enough that I'd felt guilt for desiring a man, but I can't count how many times I'd lie awake at night, crying quietly because I'd imagined kissing a woman. I didn't understand my own feelings, and so I tucked them away, effectively cutting off my sexuality for about two years.

In college, I avoided the LGBT crowd, more or less not to tempt myself. Considering my upbringing, they were the pinnacle of sin: out in the open, honest with themselves and everyone around them. I secretly admired them for their courage, yet felt disgusted that they accepted it all; I guess it was more that I was disgusted with myself for hiding behind heterosexuality and was only projecting those feelings onto them. Many of them faced discrimination and outright hate, but none of it changed their dedication to just being who they were. As college progressed, I decided to explore a bit, dating several people but only bringing home two, both of which were boyfriends. The first never knew about my attraction to women, and the second was only given hints, like when I went with him, his younger brother, his cousin, and his cousin's husband to a strip club. He was both turned on and intimidated by what he witnessed, and I can't say that the same wasn't true for me.

Once I graduated, I started to feel somewhat more comfortable with my sexual identity, but as I discussed back in my post about reading a romance novella, it was always explored in conjunction with whom I was dating. I admitted to a few people I dated that I was bi, and I got one of three responses:
  • Um, so you could cheat on me with basically anyone?
  • I'm not really comfortable with the fact that you've dated someone of the opposite/same sex.
  • Hey, so you like threesomes then! Kickass!
Naturally, I just started omitting that little fact about me. It was just easier that way, although it didn't exactly promote a sense that any relationship was going to last more than a few dates. I just don't have the stamina to hide things about myself for that long from people with whom I interact on a more-than-casual basis**. This lifestyle, however, got too tedious for me, and I declared a total dating embargo. I deeply wanted a connection with someone worthwhile, someone who wouldn't judge me and would encourage exploration within a safe environment. And then I met Three. I've said it before, but our first date was probably one of the most cathartic experiences of my life, where I laid out everything on the table, including the fact that I was bi. With his unaffected nod, I was elated and suspicious at the same time; perhaps he was just an excellent actor, only biding his time before he would try to make his sexual fantasies come true. Or perhaps I could finally start to tear down the wall I'd built around myself for protection. It would be a process - and it's still in progress, obviously - but he has shown that he is dedicated to standing by me for the long haul.

Up until this point, I have been exceptionally cautious as to whom I tell about my sexual orientation. A small circle of friends was in on my secret, but I wasn't quite ready to wear my "I'm a Bisexual. Ask Me How!" button. To be honest, I don't want to have to do that; my sexuality is only one singular aspect of the conglomeration of things that equals me. It's not like people go up to others with hands extended to say, "Hi, I'm Joan and I'm heterosexual!" Or, at least, I don't think anyone actually does this. But neither do I want to keep it in the shadows. I am done hiding, but I want this to be on my terms, defined only by myself and unfettered by other people's perceptions.

Back on September 1, I began the 100 Happy Days challenge, and that really was the impetus for all of this, as weird or unrelated as that may sound. Sure, there were plenty of other reasons that I finally opened myself up, but the challenge got me thinking about what truly made me happy. Sure, I love the beach as much as the next person born in an ocean town; riding a horse gives me the feeling of complete surrender and unity with another creature; with each bite of sorbet, my tension eases. But what makes me happy? Freedom to be who I am, despite any of the repercussions. You'd think that I'd have done all of this in college, but I simply was not ready. These sorts of life-altering realizations aren't necessarily the easiest things to process when you are younger, still trying to differentiate between what you were taught and what you actually believe. I know that there are strong individuals out there who can do such things at an early age, and I am so happy for them: unlearning hard-etched beliefs is one of the hardest tasks an adult can do. But I'm doing it.

I haven't felt this free in a long, long time. The proverbial weight on my shoulders that had become such a steadfast part of me is now only a phantom pain, one that I feel when I'm looking for comfort with familiarity. It's so much easier, at least emotionally, to remain in the dark; there I can be who I am without worrying about anyone else's preconceived ideas about me. But it's lonely in there. I once told Three that I wasn't sure if I could ever share my full sexuality with him. I saw the disappointment on his face and felt the invisible wall being silently constructed between us. But now? I won't go into any details, but we are both fulfilled. When I walk down the street, there isn't a lingering shame that hangs over me, sometimes making itself known when I see an adorable gay couple holding hands. I'm meeting people with similar life stories to mine. I am not alone here, guys. Do you know how liberating that is?

So yeah, I'm not going to hide any longer. It's not sustainable, nor should it be. It's time for me to finally just come out into the open air and take that breath. Hello, world. Nice to meet you.

* The girls were required to go to two meetings, but the boys only went to one meeting in 6th grade. We were told that the boys weren't emotionally mature enough in fifth grade to handle talk of sex and what puberty was going to bring their way. Because Christians are apparently all about making it the woman's responsibility to curb a man's natural tendency to want to stick his dick into things, with or without permission. And the educational aspect was about as extensive as you'd expect it to be. This is a penis. This is a vagina (nevermind that the comparable genitalia is actually a clitoris, but whatever). They don't ever need to touch until the wedding night. Oh, and periods! You will have them, some of you worse than others. Any questions? Okie dokie, go out there and oh, your sexual thoughts are evil. Just pray that God will take them away.
** This is only true if you don't count my parents. Up until recently, they thought I was yet another heterosexual woman, happily married to a member of the opposite sex and without sexual feelings of any other kind.
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