It’s a strange experience, trying to figure out how to tell a story that you yourself don’t even fully understand yet. Where to begin? There’s not much to tell about my childhood with regard to my sexual orientation. I grew up as most fundamentalist children do, believing that homosexuality was a very bad sin. I was taught it was a choice that revealed the deepest depravity of that soul. I never met a gay person, but there was one boy from our church who came out as gay long after he left. Since rumors had it that he crushed on girls back when I knew him, I assumed that was proof that he had chosen to be gay.
I suppose the clues that I was bisexual were all around me; I just didn’t recognize them. I thought my intense longing to be around certain girls was just a desire for friendship—not the same thing as the crushes I had on boys. I thought the butterflies I got when I saw a pretty girl were normal—that everyone could recognize beauty in the same sex (or at least that all girls could). I convinced myself that I was merely able to see those girls as a guy might see them. The achy feeling I got around them, I thought, was an indication that I knew they were more beautiful than I, more to a guy’s liking than I, and more what I should be like. I strove to force my body to conform to the look of the girls that gave me that feeling. I distracted myself from my crushes by convincing myself that I needed to look like them. It turned the feelings of attraction into feelings of disgust with myself and hatred to those who “revealed my shortcomings.”
Halfway through high school, I decided I didn’t want to get married. I’d had my share of ups and downs with boy crushes. I’d even almost dated a guy until I got fed up with the patronizing way he tried to restrain my activity. I had dreams of what I wanted to do in life, but those dreams didn’t correspond well with what I’d been taught was my duty as a wife and mother. I wanted to travel and learn and live, but I knew that if I got married, I’d be expected to be the submissive, stay-at-home mom. Moreover, I felt disgusted by the ideas I’d been taught about my sexual role—that I was there to gratify my husband and needed to be at his beck and call. Sex, I was taught, whenever he wanted it, was the only way to keep a man faithful to you. Your desires, as the wife, didn’t matter. I felt sick at the very idea of being there for “bed and breakfast” as Beneth Peters Jones so aptly put it. So I announced my intention to remain single forever.
Not long after, people started to ask if I was lesbian. I knew that I wasn’t because I was well aware of the fact that I was attracted to men. I’d had a six year long crush on Devon Sawa and Justin Timberlake. I’d even guiltily fantasized about them, even though I didn’t know what either sex or masturbation was, so my fantasies consisted more of passionate kissing than anything else. “No” was an accurate answer, and I gave it with gusto, thankful that I wasn’t in “that sin.” But still, the thought lingered in my mind, and I would often add silently to myself, “But I could probably have been had God not saved me from it.” I thought that I was also proof that it was a choice because I actually didn’t find the idea of being with a girl repulsive.
When I went to Bob Jones, I held onto my intention to not marry and added the intention to not date. Dates are hard to avoid at BJU, so that one didn’t last long. But I pretty much kept it to the one obligatory date recommended to avoid hurting the seeker’s feelings. I was lonely though. I wanted love, but I didn’t want to be tied down to someone who would take my autonomy and individuality away from me. I started to consider whether I might be able to find a friend who would also not want to marry—a girl that would join me in my celibacy and provide the emotional connection that I needed without the chains of marriage or the obligation of sex. I thought that I would be quite happy to live with a female roommate for the rest of my life, and since it wouldn’t involve sex, I thought that it wasn’t a lesbian relationship. I learned only much later that those kinds of relationships are called Boston Marriages.
I made it two years into BJU before my plans unraveled. I met a guy who became the best friend I could imagine having. Since we started as friends, I wasn’t aware of the threat to my celibate plans until after I was hopelessly in love. Our story is beautiful, but for another time. Skipping forward a few years, we got married and left BJU with uncompleted degrees. I discovered that marriage only equaled enslavement in fundamentalism. I was happy married to him, but I struggled even more with my self-image. I found being around women physically painful because I felt devastated that I couldn’t be them. I thought I was depriving my husband of something that, if I wanted that badly, surely he would want over me.
Not long after our marriage, we became friends with someone we later learned was gay. Finding out he was gay was earth-shaking for me because he wasn’t the “depraved, godless sinner” that I had imagined was necessary to be gay. He was a single man who’d striven to change most of his life. He’d refused to marry a woman because he didn’t think it was fair to her. As I got to know him, I finally started to recognize that, for him, it wasn’t a choice. There was no attraction to women. I began to shift my beliefs, first from “it’s a sin and a choice” to “it’s not a choice but still a sin to live out.” I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t in sin as long as he remained celibate.
I had enrolled in a local university to complete my degree and took a class on women’s psychology. That’s where the rest of the work to extricate my homophobia took place. Once I learned about intersexuality, there was no way I could look at someone else and tell them that their sexual orientation or gender orientation condemned them to celibacy. The issue was too complex to be so easily dictated by the church, and I couldn’t imagine a God that would create an XY female and expect that person to navigate the dichotomous view that was extricated from a handful of obscure passages in the Bible. I started to read more about the homosexuality and religion debate and found that the certainty of my prejudice drained quickly.
It was also in that class that I first heard the term bisexual. My interest was piqued and I wanted to ask more, but I kept my mouth shut. I started to think that maybe I wouldn’t have been lesbian but that I could have been bisexual if I’d had more than one partner. While I recognized that being gay wasn’t about sexual activity but about internal attraction, I failed to apply that to myself.
The night I came out to myself and my husband, we were watching The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The main character had started making out with another girl, and my husband asked if I found that attractive—if I would like to kiss a girl. I wanted to lie because I was scared to death that exploring those ideas too much would destroy my marriage and break his heart. But we have a policy of honesty—no matter how painful that truth was, so I told him that I felt I might be able to be bisexual if I’d not been monogamous to him. He responded with what I knew was true in my heart, telling me that it’s not about your sexual activity, it’s about who you are inside. After a moment of silence, I responded, “I guess I’m bisexual then.”
“I know,” he said. “I just wanted to hear you admit it to yourself.”
Although I shouldn’t be surprised that our marriage has survived just fine, even become stronger since I came out, I am surprised. I keep expecting people to disown me when I express that I’m bisexual. I should expect it from fundamentalists, but I also expect it from fairly liberal people too. No matter who the person is, I’m always afraid they will disown me when I come out to them. And I find it excruciatingly frustrating that I can’t just come out and be out. With gay men and lesbians, it seems easier. People see them with a same-sex partner and assume they’re gay. With me, I always have to clarify, and I would still have to clarify if I were with a woman. Bisexuality just isn’t on anyone’s radar. I desperately long for people “like me,” people who understand the way both a man and a woman can be wildly attractive in different ways.
Since I began my coming out process, I’ve found that many people are very supportive. But I’ve also found that I feel intensely isolated still. On the one hand, I sometimes feel that I don’t fully fit into the LGBT community—both because I’m bi and I know that some LGBT are prejudiced against bisexuals, and because I’m with a male partner and thus easily pass as straight. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating because people assume that I’m straight and don’t give me crap about my sexual orientation just by walking down the street or posting a picture of me and my partner on Facebook. But I also feel like I don’t belong in the straight community either because most straight people don’t understand the first thing about bisexuality. They think it means promiscuity or being confused/undecided. They think it means threesomes and an inability to be faithful to one partner. None of that is me.
Coming out on a BJU LGBT site is probably the last way that I would actually want to come out to the world. I’ve found that BJU students can be incredibly vicious. But I chose to express myself here, because I think it is so important for other BJU students to know what bisexuality is, that it exists, and that there are bi people out there. I don’t want anyone sitting in the dorm room, trying to decide if they’re gay or straight simply because they find themselves attracted to both men and women. You don’t have to make that choice. It’s not a dichotomy.
At the same time, I don’t want people thinking that because bisexual people exist, that it’s proof that homosexuality is a choice. I definitely didn’t choose to be attracted to both genders. And even though it was hard for me at first to comprehend that what had always felt like a natural part of me was actually not common to others, it’s true. My partner, while completely understanding and accepting, simply doesn’t grasp what it’s like to find someone of the same sex attractive in the way that he finds the opposite sex attractive. It’s not that he’s disgusted at the idea, it’s just that he doesn’t feel it. And I know many gay people who simply cannot fathom an attraction to the other sex in the way they are attracted to the same sex.
So while bisexuality feels completely normal to me, it doesn’t generalize to the way others feel. I like that I’m unique. I like the duality in me. I tease that my sexual orientation mirrors my hand orientation (ambidextrous), but in reality, I feel that it is more of a reflection of the whole of my soul. I’m bi, in so many ways, and one of those ways just happens to be my sexual orientation.