As I was coming out bisexual, one of the things I really struggled with was putting together a concise and cohesive narrative as to how I had arrived at this identity. This was both humbling and embarrassing. I had been working with LGBTQ folks for upwards of a decade. I had easily heard hundreds of different coming out narratives before I embarked upon my own coming out process. But these narratives all had something in common, they were predominately Gay & Lesbian narratives. And they usually revolved around a single story.
I was so familiar with this narrative pattern that I lovingly dubbed it the “I fell in love with Susie story” in the case of lesbians, or the “I fell in love with Sam story” in the case of Gay men. Whether the story was an “aha” experience that happened in an instant or a more a gradual realization, the coming out narrative usually revolved around some critical event, some specific personal relationship, or some specific epiphany that defined the narrative. It became the single story.
Where as my own narrative felt more like this. A bunch of random and disconnected events, experiences, and several different types of relationships with all different types of people.
Only much later, and by that, I mean three decades of my life, only as I started to slowly take a step backward did this brand new picture emerge and begin to come into focus for me.
This is a painting in the style of pointillism. It’s a painting of the Eiffel Tower by Georges Seurat.
In other words, I did not have a “single story.” I actually had lots of stories. So many different stories. So many different relationships that had meant a great deal to me. So many different people that I had loved. People that had opened me up to different shades and colors and nuances of what really love is. People who had introduced me to different kinds of love. Romantic love. Sexual love. Platonic love. Familial love. Sacred love. Self Sacrificial love.
So when people would ask me to give an accounting how I arrived at a bisexual identity or to quickly tell my story, I would scratch my head and think to myself, “which story?”
I would usually look at my watch, and if I had less than 20 or 30min to talk to someone, I would usually shut down. I would contemplate email and if I thought I would be judged or if I thought I would be restricted to only 2 or 3 paragraphs, again, I would completely shut down. I kept myself locked up. This was a huge obstacle for me. I was in a “stuck place” for a very long time.
In an attempt to make me feel better, people used to tell me, you’ll gain control and then you won’t need to tell your stories anymore. They were absolutely wrong about that. As a monosexual (gay, lesbian, straight) people can look at your partner and they have some sense of who you are. Part of bisexual experience is that sense that anytime you walk into a room, you’re only partly known. You’re known based on the one detail people are seeing right now. You’re single. You’re in a same sex relationship. You’re in a different sex relationship. Storytelling is a critical mechanism for me to feel known. Or at least for me to feel known beyond the most superficial level. You can’t look at my current partner and “see me” or “know me.” I have to have the time and space to tell a couple of stories for that to happen. But that being said, with practice, you do gain a measure of control over your own narrative.
Some people have a uniform story that they tell in all places, to all people, at all times. I do not. In any given space, I will select a couple different stories out of hundreds that I have, and stories that give people a glimpse of me. Given the time constraints levied upon me, I’ll tell these stories. If people hear me speak in multiple spaces, they may hear me tell totally different stories on every single occasion. The tie the binds and the connective tissue for all of these stories is the fact that they will highlight some of the diversity in my experience, fluidity, and an expansive capacity to love.
So here are three stories, three pieces of a large patchwork quilt that helped me come to understand myself as a bisexual woman.
When I was in high school I had a massive crush on a girl. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t have a frame of reference for it. But I was a smitten kitten: palms sweating, heart beating like wild, I used to wait by my phone for her to call me every single day. I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew that I really loved and cared about her and that I longed to be near her. And it never would have occurred to either of us to take the relationship in a sexual or romantic direction. So we didn’t. This is one of my stories. But this is only one story, it wasn’t my full truth. Yet it’s a story that would linger on in my mind into adulthood. It would become a patch in my patchwork quilt.
In college, I had a few dates with a young man that had klinefelter’s syndrome. Klinefelter’s is a chromosomal disorder which results in an XXY. The young man that I dated could not have children, and he took hormones to keep from developing female breasts. And I remember having a flash of insight and asking myself some introspective questions, “What is essential about manhood. What is it that makes a man? Is it his fertility? Is it what’s on the outside. Is it the fact that his physical body is distinct and different than mine–because his unique blurs the boundaries? Is it his genetic makeup–because his unique genetic makeup blurs a few boundaries? And then I asked the most profound question of all. Does any of this matter to me? Did I like him for his outside parts, or did I like him for his heart? As it turns out, I liked him because he was kind and funny and we had a lot of similar interests. I liked him because he had a good heart not for any of his particular parts. That relationship was short lived. This is one of my stories. But this is only story, and it wasn’t my full truth. Yet it’s a story that would linger on in my mind and it would follow me into adulthood. It would become one more patch in my patchwork quilt.
In my twenties I almost married a couple different men. One in particular. I was over the moon in love with this man, but we were young. Too young to be contemplating marriage. I was 21 and he was 19. He was studying english literature and had aspirations of becoming a teacher. He was an unapologetic romantic. He was progressive. He was a person of faith. But we were growing and maturing and ready for responsibility at different rates and speeds in our lives. At 22, I was ambitious. I was determined. I was ready to graduate in four years. I had a career lined up after school. It took this young man about 8 years to find his way and finish his degree. And he really solidified and developed a vision for his life in his 30s. We couldn’t weather those different rates of growth and different life stages. So we broke up. But not for lack of love. To this day, he remains a very close friend. He’s married with children. He’s an amazing husband and father. A few times year I visit with him and his family, and occasionally I get to exercise my sacred role as pastor in his life and the life of his family. This brings me tremendous joy. This is one of my stories. But this is only one story, and it wasn’t my full truth. Yet it’s a story that would linger on in my mind and follow me into adulthood. This is another piece of my patchwork quilt.
Bisexuality came to me as the right label, because it was a generous enough container to hold all of my many stories. Because it was generous enough to accommodate growth and expansion. And my journey toward bisexuality really felt like growth. It felt like being stretched into a brand new space. Like this is something my life was expanding into–not necessarily something I was born into. Even though I would concede that a capacity to love all kinds of people probably was innate for me at birth. Nonetheless, it unveiled itself in my life very slowly over the course of hundreds of stories, and hundreds of experiences, and hundreds of people so that when I finally stepped back, I began to see a this grand pattern emerging in my life. And that pattern was growth. That pattern was expansion. That pattern was an impulse to invite a life long experience of “becoming something new” of “creation” of “motion” of “fluidity.” First I identified as straight, and then that wasn’t a generous enough container to hold me anymore. So I then started identifying as straight(ish) or fluid, and that was okay for awhile. I rated myself a 2 on the Kinsey scale, and then a 2-4. And then I got frustrated and decided I shouldn’t have any labels and I should just be able to love whoever I wanted. And then I finally found my way to the word Queer. And that was a game changer. I was queer. I was a queer woman. This was a generous enough container to hold me, and I slowly and methodically worked my way with ever more precision to this word bisexual. I was a queer woman. I was a bisexual woman. I had finally found my way to a place I could put down roots and call home.
I don’t know what your stories are but I know they are unique to you. You are beautiful and beloved and blessed.