Monday, May 13, 2013

to bi or not to bi

I have a problem with boxes. Ever since I busted out of the Perfect Mormon(TM) mold and began constructing a life from that wreckage, strict definitions make me claustrophobic. But sometimes I contemplate checking the box next to "bi." As Lady Jonathan writes in this rad blog post, it's a pretty fraught term.

[Disclaimer, especially for those who know me in real life: contains explicit sexual content. If you don't want to think about me naked or having a sex life, don't read this!! Save us both the embarrassment! Ok? Ok.]

Backstory for context: When I was a student at BYU in Utah, I slept with my female roommate. We had both served Mormon missions. I felt incredibly guilty and was terrified of anyone finding out, since I would've been kicked out of school, had my church membership put on probation, and been incredibly shamed by my religious community. So I never told anyone. And in my mind, what we were doing was not sex, because I was definitely not gay--I was just lonely, and screwed up, and...something...

Fast-forward 10 years. I've left the church (for reasons other than my confusing sexuality). I've only dated men, despite having crushes on women, and fell in love with a particular male and thought we would end up getting married and making babies and building a life together as a straight couple. That relationship went up in flames, but that's another story.

The juicy part of this post is that I recently met a woman I'm incredibly attracted to: she's funny, sweet, intelligent, witty, absolutely gorgeous (yes I'm a shallow Libra), ambitious, and I feel awesome around her. We talk for hours. I'm utterly twitterpated. And, because this post is inevitably leading to this: the sex is fantastic. Mind-blowing. I get full-body tingles when she texts me.

So now I'm confronting that sticky question that I put on the back burner all those years ago and left to simmer: What am I? Gay? Bi? Shouldn't I have figured this out before 30? Sigh...

For a brief moment after the Devastating Breakup of 2012, I made an OK Cupid profile and listed myself as "bi." Unfortunately, this was interpreted as "I have no type! I will sleep with anything that moves!" when, in reality, I've had fewer partners than most gay and straight people I know. (Not to be shame-y; this is just a fact.) I felt terribly awkward being approached by dudes who wanted me to seduce their straight girlfriend, or a couple wanting a threesome. So I deleted that account.

Even in offline life, there seems to be a lot of pressure to be either gay or straight. Both male and female partners I've been with have expressed worry that they "can't satisfy me." [Insert tacky joke about my dream partner being a hermaphrodite.]

I was discussing this with a friend over lunch the other day. He and I had slept together in the past, in a weird moment of consensually "using" each other that didn't ruin the friendship. (I know, miracle.) I was telling him about my new lady love. 

Me: So this is awkward, but you and I slept together, and, you know [insert gesturing toward myself to indicate that I clearly had a physical response when we were together] so how can I pick a side?

Him: I think the fact you feel like you have to pick a side is the answer. Straight people don't feel like they're picking a side, nor do gay people. But you do.

Clearly I have genius friends.

I also have friends who are not shy about asking me how I can vacillate between male and female partners. Or, more bluntly, one friend asked, "How does sex feel good without a dick?" She didn't mean this offensively--she understands that plenty of female cisgendered couples (translation: both women were born with their lady bits and identify as female) have fulfilling sex lives. But she knew I had enjoyed sex with men and was honestly curious about how I could be "satisfied" by both.

I thought about all this for quite some time, and my answer is rather indelicate: I like it when a person I'm aroused by and feel an emotional connection with puts part of their body into my body. And I like touching their body--whether they have "innie" or "outie" sexual organs--in ways that feel good to them. I don't feel like anything is "missing" when I'm in bed with a woman. I get just as much pleasure and feel just as much of that terror/exhilaration of emotional connection. (Reason #4 why I'm not very promiscuous: I tend to fall for people I sleep with.)

Why do we get so hung up on body parts, anyway? All of our bodies are different. Even within the general categories of "male" and "female" there is a LOT of variation. There are "man boobs" and flat-chested women. There are V-shapes and hourglass shapes and pear shapes and apple shapes. Ok, I have to insert this here:

I love that.

These body parts I find attractive: eyes, hands, smile creases, full lips, not-cankles, and dark hair. My biggest conundrum is that I find both beards and breasts attractive...but not on the same person. ;) But seriously, I look for plenty of physical attributes when it comes to who I want to sleep with; just not one specific type of genitals.

A much more significant part of my attraction involves how a person takes up space in the world: how they interact with others, how they use body language, and how we spark. Falling in love is not picking a side: it's picking a person. And I don't pick someone as a man, or a woman, but as an incredibly specific individual AND someone largely composed of what we all have in common: a body. A heart. A personality. A soul.

I would honestly hope that someone would consider a lot more than my uterus, vagina, and boobies (sorry, third grade humor sneaks in) when deciding whether or not I'm attractive. Even for being a six-foot-tall blond with long hair and a curvy body who wears dresses and earrings, I'm not 100% girly girl.

Par exemple:
I love wearing stilettos and short skirts, and I also own ties, a suit, and suspenders.
I love sewing and also using power tools.
I'll spend hours baking gourmet desserts, but my idea of a weeknight dinner is often popcorn and beer.
I love being called "doll" by the person I'm intimate with, and I adore having an androgynous name.
I love wearing make-up and going on fancy dates, and I love getting sweaty and dirty playing outside.

I'm sure all of us could come up with "gender-bending" paradoxes. The world is not black and white. It's no mistake that "gay" and "rainbows" go together like chocolate and peanut butter because the strongest rallying cry I can find that unites the GLBTQ community is acceptance of diversity. Now THAT is a revolutionary concept.

And finally, if I feel the need to be with more than just my primary partner, that would be called polyamory, not bisexuality.

So yeah. I'm setting up residence on the goddamn fence.


Just Jill said...

Thanks for the courageous post Mel. Life is truly not black and white. Life happens in the gray and gray matters.

You've likely heard of the Kinsey Scale. This seems to make sense to me. Like you, I don't particularly care for labels but I do like to make sense of things.

TGD said...

Don't feel bad it's taken you this long. Honestly, I was in my late 30's before I started to realize something was "off".

Mel said...

Hi, Just Jill: Thanks for reading! It's true that life is gray, and this has taken me a long time to understand.

I'd heard of the Kinsey Scale but never looked it up. Sexuality definitely happens on a spectrum, and though I probably couldn't put a number on it, I think I fall in the middle.

TGD: Aw, thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one in my 30s who is smacking my forehead muttering, "This was so obvious..." ;)