Exploring my own sexuality was something I’d wanted to do for a really long time. I’d done it in bits and pieces here and there, but I had never really taken the time to figure out what I was really comfortable with or who I was actually attracted to. It’s a really common story, but part of that had to do with the guilt and shame from my Christian upbringing.
Growing up, it was just me and my mom. She wasn’t as religious as some of the other people we knew but she did make sure I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday (can’t miss Bible study). The churches I went to growing up were pretty conservative so even the limited amount of time I spent in them was more than enough to instill a sense of fear and shame around sex and sexuality.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, I was attracted to boys and girls at a really young age. I felt really guilty about it because the church said I should not find girls and pretty as I did. I was taught that if you felt that way there was something wrong with you and you should pray for help. So that’s what I did.
The older I got, the stronger my attraction to girls got and, in turn, I became more involved with the church. I would go on church trips, watch the kids in children’s church, joined the church step team, joined the church choir, even joined the usher board for a bit. I wanted to do any and everything I could to get rid of this very wrong attraction and get on God’s good side. The fear of going to hell was (and at times still is) strong. All of the guilt and shamed culminated in me going to a “Jesus Camp” type of place one summer in high school. (For those of you who don’t know that reference, google it.)
It took going there and being surrounded by religion 24/7 for me to finally say “something’s not right here and it’s definitely not me.” When I got back, I started asking questions. When my questions didn’t get answered by my pastor or the older people in the church, I started looking for answers on my own. This search for answers lasted all throughout my time in college.
Moving away from my mother and to another city for college was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It was the first time I allowed myself to explore this attraction to women. I’ve always been ok with my attraction to men because I was taught that was “normal.” That’s always been a non-issue for me. The attraction to women was what needed to be addressed but I didn’t know how to do it or who to talk to.
Back then, I had no clue about the TBLG community. I knew there was gay and straight and that was the extent of my knowledge. It was my boyfriend at the time who introduced me to the term bisexual. He caught me staring at a cheerleader and that opened up a conversation about if I was attracted to women or not. After clumsily explaining how I felt, he took a second to think and then said “it sounds like you’re bisexual.”
Once I had an actual label to put on this feeling, everything sort of clicked. It felt really good to know that there was a word for how I felt and it was amazing to have someone with me who was supportive of me. You never know how important a support system is (no matter how small) until you find one.
Actually identifying as bisexual came with a whole different set of problems though. I’ve gotten some very interesting reactions when I’ve come out to people. I’ve had people assume I was doing it for laughs and others assume it was just attention seeking behavior. Others simply refused to acknowledge it, some conveniently “forget” I came out, and then there are those who think it was a phase that “went away” after I got married and had kids.
The absolute worst though is the random asshole who claims I can’t possibly be bisexual because I’ve never had sex with a girl before. That’s right, I’ve never actually gone and had full-blown sex with a woman. I’ve had some interesting encounters and a few kisses, but no sex. Assuming that because I haven’t had sex with a woman I can’t be bi makes me irrationally (or maybe in this case rationally) angry.
What do you mean I can’t be bisexual because I haven’t had sex with a woman? What kind of sense does that make? Does that mean straight people aren’t straight until they’ve had sex? No, it doesn’t because society assumes straightness until proven otherwise. In order to prove otherwise you must jump through hoops and cut through red tape until you’ve satisfied that one nosy person’s curiosity. Then you must repeat the process for every single asshole afterwards.
That is a trap that even the queer community falls into. Results may vary depending on the person, but for me most of the horribly biphobic shit I’ve heard came from white gay and lesbian people. I say white gays and lesbians for a reason. They are the group most likely to assume that because I am Black and I grew up in the South that I am (1) Christian, (2) homophobic, and (3) straight. This usually follows close after I call out a white queer person, or a fave among white queers for some racist bullshit. They never take it well when they find out they’re wrong on all three accounts. Soon after I correct them and “come out” as bisexual, accusations of me “faking it” follow almost immediately.
It’s gotten to the point where, in the past couple of years, I had just not mentioned my bisexuality at all. I’d gone back to locking that piece of me away. I thought that would make things better; I wouldn’t have anyone badgering me about it. In reality though, it made me feel kind of guilty. When it (inevitably) came up, I started to think “well, you haven’t said anything about it for so long, who’s gonna believe you now?” My own mind was my worst enemy.
Exploring my sexuality and coming out was, and is, emotionally exhausting. Not knowing who will accept me and who won’t. Not knowing who will dismiss me, who will laugh, or who will take me seriously. Hell, not knowing if I’ll find acceptance among other queer people just chips away at me. If I keep doing this, if I keep coming out to the same and different people over and over again, how much of me is going to be left? How many times do I have to keep “coming out” before it’s universally believed and accepted? Will that ever happen in my lifetime?
These are questions I don’t have the answer to; not for me or for others. What I do know is that I am bisexual. That may change in the future. Sexuality, for me at least, is not a fixed thing. Who knows who I’ll be attracted to five, ten, or twenty years from now. Even if other people don’t believe and accept me, the most important thing is that I believe and accept myself. And I do. After years of exploration, discovery, and mountains of guilt, I finally believe in myself and accept myself for who I am. That’s a wonderful feeling.