It’s 9:45 pm here on October 11th. I got home late and am making an ambitious (for me) dinner of shepherd’s pie. So as I wait, I think back on another marginally bad day. It wasn’t horrible, it just was angsty. And most of the angst was mine. I was impatient, unorganized, forgetful and foggy all day. And it wasn’t until later in the workday, when I was beyond the point of salvaging it that I finally realized why I was so on edge.
Today was National Coming Out Day
For the past 10 years I’ve been flirting with various forms of outness, to varying degrees. And to the point where I’m essentially out to everyone except extended family. Even professionally to some degree it’s been know how I identify. Especially over the past year or so I’ve become far more comfortable with being out.
But today it was scary and triggery. It brought back memories of a workday interrupted by a call from a friend telling me that a website had posted my online journal and that it was circulating among my colleagues and the press. It brought me back to the pacing through the hallways going mad from the ringing of the phone. It brought me back to 8 months of unemployment and 10 years of trying to scrape my way back to believing that I deserved to make an earning even close to what I was making before. It brought me back to the rumors, the panic attacks during the evening news, the fear, the cowardice, the ignorance, the victimhood, and especially the punishment. It brought me back to a night where I was as close to suicide as I’ll ever get and breaking down as a last-ditch effort to ask for help before I could finish the act.
I didn’t come out on Facebook today like I had wanted to. I have family who, as well-intentioned and loving as they are, tend to call my parents over every minor quip I post. As much as I love my parents, my coming out isn’t worth them having to field phone calls from worried family members and clueless friends. The choice to come out is mine and not theirs.
So, instead, I came out on Twitter, reminding all 686 followers of who I am.
Those things are some of the easiest things to identify things about me. It’s what most people care about when they talk about coming out. But identity is such a rich and powerful blend of concepts, stories, and aspirations that simply saying I’m bisexual, polyamorous, kinky, queer, Chicana, femme, Mother, wife, lover, educator, lawyer, spiritual, and geek is just a superficial part of the story. Some of it is the sensational part of the story because ooooh—bi, poly and kinky–that’s out there. But it’s just scratching the surface.
There are other aspects of identity that go beyond the census items of nationality (American), race/ethnicity or income. There are the aspects of self that evolve over time but create the refinements of self that truly identify us closer to our core. Those aspects of ourselves are just as precious and vulnerable, worthy of being spoken as personal truths.
So tonight, I define more of who I am. Coming out as the woman I truly am at heart:
I am a public servant. I have always been drawn to government, politics, and the business of policymaking. But moire than anything I have been drawn to a life of being in service to the public in some capacity or another. Right now I provide direct services through a nonprofit,. but in the past, I’ve served in capacities that were more about the public good than my own advancement.
I am half white and half Mexican but identify as Chicana. This is very important for me to distinguish. I love both of my families, but the Mexican half of my family was the most influential in my upbringing. My dad’s family valued education but watching my Mexican grandparents’ pride when my mom earned her master’s struck a chord with me. It told me the legacy that was going to be passed to me to build upon. It is a responsibility that I take seriously. My father’s family is full of intelligence, accomplishment, and distinction–my role with them is less to carry on their legacy and more to just not fuck it up. But what I accomplish for the Mexican side of my family, like a law degree, creates a path for others to follow. I’ve already helped one family member with his law school application and LSAT prep. We rise together.
That said, I am also very privileged. Because my last name is white, my skin is light and freckled and my hair turning gray faster than my more indigenous parts of the family, I’m a dead ringer for your standard, run-of-the-mill white girl. That’s not what I feel inside and so I get somewhat defensive during conversations about race. I am so eager to relate to people that I end up ignoring my privilege, the same privilege that makes it easier for me to be heard. It has been an uphill battle for me to remember that my story isn’t more important than anyone else’s, particularly those who don’t get the benefits that come with passing for white, cis, het and able bodied.
I am bisexual and married to a man. So another privilege I carry is that I at least am always perceived as heterosexual. I’m not, of course, and that’s where some mental health issues come into play for many of us–being misidentified, ignored and rebuked within the LGBTQ community (mostly getting derision from the Ls and Gs) creates an insidious amount of hardship as we try to navigate our way through the world.
I am bisexual and I have known it since I was 12. But to the outside world, I had a fairy tale wedding and lived happily ever after. And while I love my husband dearly, part of why I love him is that he’s never had an issue with me living my life as fully as I am able. He’s always given me support and encouragement, to pursue what makes me happy–including exploring my attraction to women and non-binary/gender nonconforming folk. Ultimately this is aided immensely by being polyamorous–we negotiate the terms of our marriage and it decidedly doesn’t look at all like the heteronormative ideal. And I am happier for it.
Finally, I’m coming out as a visionary within the Catholic meaning of the term. Again, from the age of 12, I believe I was called to something powerful. This calling initially spoke to me through the images and rituals of the Catholic faith–I was strong in my devotion to the Church at the time (see, I still capitalize it). But as I grew into the woman I am, I recognized that Catholicism at its core no longer fit with the calling that I was given. It was just too large for such a narrowly-defined faith structure. So, I departed from the Church. I still miss it sometimes–going to Mass and adoration, praying the rosary, the cleansing I’d feel after confession. It is like my hometown. I’ll always have a connection to it. It’s part of my story. But it’s not where I choose to live now–I have moved on. My calling is what matters most to me, not ascribing to any one issue of faith.
With all of that said, I have an update on the shepherd’s pie: I burned myself making it last night which is why this is posted late. i’m doing better today–but I guess I also need to add clumsy to the list of identities that I have.
NYT: No Surprise for Bisexual Men: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/health/23bisexual.xml
My poly husband is Bi. I think I’ve called him “Warrior” here before. Warrior = bi? You bet. I didn’t need a Northwestern study to validate this for me…but I think this information will prove useful when discussing sexual orientation with others.
He faced a lot of opposition from the gay community in his last state when he and wife got together. Fortunately here he hasn’t seen quite as many problems, but I get these questions now and then that seem to be rather ill-informed attempts to suggest he reads “more gay than straight”.
Actually that one came from one of his lovers. I don’t think of him that way. I don’t like thinking that somehow his wife and I are the exceptions to the rule and if he would just accept his true nature then he’d be fucking every man in town. I see that statement as wishful thinking on behalf of a gay community that would like a shot at him. But for these pesky rules and expectations and marriages that these women impose he could be fair game. Deny the fact he loves women and suddenly he seems more accessible.
Except that is not the case. He experiences his sexuality like he does most things in his life…in a rather focused, clear and direct way. He knows exactly what he wants, when he wants it. He isn’t afraid to look for it and frankly it takes him only moments to find it since people throw themselves at him on a daily basis (a subject for a post–doing poly with a sex object). For him it is not about some wishy-washy confusion over whether he is actually straight or gay. It’s not confusion at all. He likes women. He likes men. He likes to have both kinds of sex in his life. Period.
For the most part I don’t see him face much opposition here with me. And if he has, he hasn’t mentioned it. If someone can’t accept him as bi, then he simply won’t be visiting their bed. And when he hears about these snarky comments, he quietly jumps back with a consistent and thorough answer.
Fact is as we grow towards acceptance of gay relationships, we need to keep in mind that there is not a binary of orientation. You are not either gay or straight. It’s not an on or off switch, but as my other husband describes it, we are on a dimmer switch where both ends are just a different brilliance of light. None better or worse than the other. Some have it turned up to high and some prefer it a little lower. And once it is turned high or low there is no law stating that’s where it should stay forever and ever, amen. It’s going to shift, sometimes because variety is super awesome. And sometimes because needs change and evolve day to day or over longer periods of time.
And maybe I say that because I believe in sexual fluidity. Maybe I say that because a number of gay men, including strangers, have asked quietly to have alone, naked time with me. Some of them to heal from past experieces…others to fulfill nagging fantasies. None of this makes them less into cock than they were before. Their preference is still turned up to high, but stepping away from that for a few minutes can give them better perspective and information useful for their growth. It isn’t self-loathing as some might suggest, but exploring curiosities and ideas that might be harder to do with anyone less than me.
Sorry, my original point is that we shouldn’t need a study to tell us bisexuality is real, particularly for men. Bisexuals represent a unifying of the orientation duality that frankly makes those who consider themselves 100% gay or 100% straight nervous. There is no less than when our sexual realities are equal to each other.