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:
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.
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
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.