My search for self acceptance has led me to certain realizations about how I prefer to describe myself. I use the term bisexual because it’s a word that people are familiar with. Personally, I prefer the term “queer” to describe myself and my sexuality. This is because I feel like my attractions fall outside of the traditional gender binary. I understand that this term may hold negative connotations for some. So, for the sake of simplicity and in the spirit of compassion, I will use the term bisexual to describe my experience.
My bisexuality was not always obvious to me so, accepting it has always been a challenge. Perhaps that’s because I never considered my attractions to genders other than “men” to be relevant. Likely, it was the negative feedback I saw other bisexual or LGBTQ+ people experience that made me mute and invalidate my attractions. I would essentially deny these most of my adolescent life.
In my twenties I decided to reach out to other women to see if what I suspected was sexual attraction was valid. This might sound strange, questioning who I was attracted to and how, but I think for many LGBTQ+ people it happens this way. Especially for those that fall outside of the singular “gay” or “lesbian” labels.
This stage in my life didn’t go particularly well. I only dated a few women and my “straight” relationships were, at best, destructive. Only one same sex relationship was long-term and it was a pretty casual thing. I avoided getting too close or too comfortable with anyone. Which looked a lot like me playing the guy who never called you back after the first date. Even that one “long-term” relationship ended pretty messily. I figured it was probably because I was doing this bisexual thing wrong and I wasn’t going to be accepted the way I wanted to be. Or maybe, I was just confused.
It seemed easier to deny my sexuality.
Self acceptance is defined as “the act or state of accepting oneself : the act or state of understanding and recognizing one’s own abilities and limitations”.
I had a hard enough time accepting myself at all, let alone as a person who (as I was quickly learning) was considered outside society’s ideal norm. So, not long after I began my journey of discovery, I decided to end it. Over the course of those few years I experienced judgement, unsolicited and unwarranted “concern”, warnings and disgust. Directed at me and at bisexuality in general. I stopped trying to understand my bisexuality and I didn’t recognize anything valuable in it so, I stopped exploring it.
Those who are attracted to multiple genders (not strictly the same or opposite) seem to often be judged more harshly, even by other LGBTQ+ people. I’ve heard people call bisexual people “confused”, “easy” or “secretly gay”. I’ve heard that bi individuals are incapable of being monogamous or that they just enjoy sleeping around. As if this label is an excuse to be deviant. People can’t seem to accept bisexual / pan-sexual experiences as valid. As if our experiences are not fully lived yet. This must be a stage because we haven’t made up our minds. And I bought into it.
It wasn’t until this past year that I really began exploring this part of myself again. These days I’m married (twelve years now, thanks very much) to a great man. I am a parent to two amazing kids and grandparent to one grandchild. When I impulsively decided to come out last year at age 40, I started asking myself all of the hard questions I’d avoided and thinking a lot about the answers.
What’s the point in coming out?
Is my sexuality even relevant? I mean, I’m married to a guy after all. Doesn’t that invalidate my bisexual identity?
What do I stand to gain from accepting this part of myself?
Will the benefits outweigh the risk?
I asked myself all of these and many others. I had to answer each one for myself. I couldn’t look to anyone else to validate my feelings or identity. I had to decide how important this part of myself was. Who I would share it with and how that would happen. I had to have hard conversations with my husband, who knew but aided me in my voluntary denial. I had to evaluate the possible and probable risk to him if I went public. At some point I realized that I wasn’t on a journey of discovery or realization. I wasn’t searching for anyone else to love or accept me. I was searching for self acceptance.
Only after accepting myself could I be okay with my sexuality and what role it played in my life. And only after I was okay could I let it go and just let it be. I realized that my acknowledgement and acceptance of my sexual identity does serve a purpose. Even if it wasn’t something immediately visible because of my marriage.
By embracing these facts I have become more honest and open with people I encounter on a daily basis. My self acceptance has allowed me to be a better ally. It creates a space where I can have conversations that illustrate that we are capable of monogamy, should we choose it. And that we’re not confused or deviant if we don’t. That we make great partners and parents. We aren’t weak or lost or searching. Except for when we are.
Each individual journey serves to build a road for future generations to travel along as they search for their own self acceptance. Even if it takes 20+ years to get there, your journey is just as important as the next.