Sexuality is not a phase. It is not a joke. It is as much of a person’s identity as their hair color or eye color, or DNA.
So why doesn’t everyone take it seriously? Or rather, why doesn’t everyone take bisexuality seriously? It’s a minor annoyance, but a valid one nonetheless.
The first time I hear of bisexuality, I am thirteen years old, at the Duke TIP program. My friend and I are walking around the campus, arms linked in one another. When we pass two boys, she separates from me, so they “won’t think we’re bi.” She giggles, and then says “Or maybe they’d like us better if we were.” The word instantly possesses a negative connotation. I don’t know what bi means, or is. I do not ask.
I am fourteen years old, watching Heathers. The second Winona Ryder graces the screen, my attention is commanded by the TV screen. I don’t want to date JD, the psychotic boyfriend who tries to blow up the high school. I don’t want to date Ram or Kurt, the football players. Oh no, I only have eyes for Veronica Sawyer. For the first time in my life, although I have a boyfriend, I wonder: am I attracted to girls?
I am fifteen years old, having heard a speech about how it’s OK to be gay. Feeling empowered, I tell one of my friends that I think I’m bi. She asks if I’m in love with her. For the next two months, whenever we go to the mall, she asks “Do you like him? Do you like her? I have to ask so I’ll know your type.” It becomes a game for her. I laugh uncomfortably, and smile. To her, my sexuality is a fun game. It’s not real, but it’s funny. Why wouldn’t it be?
I am sixteen, on a run with my father. He is discussing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I ask about bisexuality. He tells me that bisexuality isn’t real, that there is only gay and straight. My sexuality is apparently fake. Very, very, fake. I keep my mouth shut for the rest of our run.
I am seventeen, hanging out with my guy best friend. When I tell him how pretty his sister is, he kisses me. I tell him I’m bisexual. He tells me he’s not, but we can still be best friends. My sexuality is simply a part of me. We discuss who we find attractive, and realize that we have a similar type.
I am eighteen years old. I visit Grinnell. Words like “acceptance,” “sexual respect,” and “PGPs” are thrown around. I hear about performances about sexuality and open discussions about sexuality and resources dedicated to sexuality. In one night, I have learned more about the acceptance of sexuality than I have in eighteen years.
I am still eighteen years old, a first-year at college, shit-faced drunk for the first time. Another first-year and I go for a walk in which he asks if I have a boyfriend. I giggle, and say no, and that he shouldn’t assume that I’m straight. He asks if I have a girlfriend. I shake my head, and say that I don’t, but I’m bisexual. Almost instantly, he gives me that knowing glance, as if to say “Yeah right.” My sexuality is a joke once again, a phase of sorts. Like the time I dyed a streak of my hair purple. It’s a word I say, something I use to describe myself. But if I’m not dating a girl, then I’m not really bi, am I?
I am nineteen years old. I get my first kiss at a GMONs after-party. Her hair is long and curly and black, and when she kisses me, it’s like a kiss from Lorde; another one of my crushes. We are, once again, very drunk, but it’s a confirmation of my sexuality. A reminder. An affirmation, beautiful in its forgetability. I never forget it.
I am home for the summer, and attend mass with my family. The priest discusses the famous supreme court ruling, the death of America. It is, for lack of a better word, an hour-long gay-bashing rant. I come out of the closet to my parents. They receive it as if I have told them the weather. A few days later, my mother asks if I’m attracted to a famous actress. When I say I’m not, she explains that I “like dick and pussy now.” My sexuality is crude, unrealistic. Perverse. My parents, although they love me very much, do not discuss my sexuality.
I am twenty years old. I am sitting at dinner with my friends. One of them mentions Rhonda Rousey, and I mention how attractive she is. When I tell him that I’m bisexual, he freaks out. He leaves the room. It’s obviously very disturbing to him, and I feel a sneaking suspicion creep over me. One of my other friends enters, and I decide to come out to her as well. Her response is “OK.”
And just like that, my sexuality is accepted.