My bisexuality is obvious to me. I just have to consult my fantasies, the way I look at women, and my standing opinion that sister wives are missing out by not getting romantic with each other. But to most of the people I encounter, my sexual identity is not at all obvious.
People have always tended to assume I’m straight. That’s just how heteronormativity works: We’re all straight until proven otherwise. But after marrying a man, and especially since having children with him, I feel like my sexual identity has become completely invisible.
At first, I didn’t think too much about it. I was settling into my new role as wife and then mother, and I didn’t have time to worry about the way others perceive me. Lately, however, I’ve been a lot more uncomfortable.
I’m not one of those people who had a clear and distinct understanding of my sexuality right from the jump. This isn’t a story about how I knew at a young age that my romantic and sexual interests transcend gender. Even getting horny and hormonal after hitting puberty didn’t clear things up for me.
In my defense, I came of age during sexually confusing times.
I grew up with the assumption that I was heterosexual—in large part because my family and everyone else around me sort of implied that I was (no one was woke enough to ask what kind of woman I would like to marry someday). Some things about me, however, should have challenged that assumption.
By my late teens and early adult years, I couldn’t deny my bisexuality any longer. I had more than just a mild attraction to women.
I found women attractive—and some women really attractive. I liked seeing women undress in movies (first the soft-core stuff in whatever movie rental my parents left lying around and later in the porn they thought I wouldn’t access on their satellite dish).
But none of that felt unusual. Our culture sexualizes women. Every magazine spread, every movie, and just about every clothing ad I saw conveyed the message that women were meant to be looked at, and I was supposed to admire them for being ravishing or sexy. I figured that enjoying a good gander at a pair of tits was perfectly in keeping with being 100% hetero.
Then there were parties. It was a few years before Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” was practically on loop at the mall and gave every straight girl permission to lock lips with her BFF just for the hell of it. But with a lot of alcohol and no supervision, we didn’t need a pop song to encourage us to push a few boundaries. After a couple of cheap beers and sickly sweet wine coolers, we’d often end up making out with each other—always in clear view of the guys we were hoping to impress.
But sometimes I sort of forgot about the guys. Making out with other girls was fun for its own sake. I would’ve done it behind closed doors, with no one to show off to other than the girl I was kissing. I think I enjoyed it more than most of my friends did. It was tender and hot at the same time, and I always wanted it to last longer.
But this was just what girls did. It didn’t have to mean anything. And I figured I enjoyed it more because I always seemed to like naughty stuff more than my friends did.
Looking back, it seems odd that I didn’t figure it out until my late teens. All the evidence was there, but I always found an explanation that let me hold on to the identity I was given.
If I had been a lesbian, it probably would have been more apparent. But I liked guys—a lot—so it took a lot of self-awareness to break out of the hetero mold.
By my late teens and early adult years, I couldn’t deny my bisexuality any longer. I had more than just a mild attraction to women. I could picture myself having relationships with women. I looked at some of my female friends and wondered if I thought of them that way.
For a while, my boyfriend worked the late shift and I killed some time watching porn. I watched the lesbian scene in Vivid Alt’s Skater Girl Fever quite a few times, and I dug the Couples Seduce Teens series — not just because of the daddies, but also because of the MILFs eating out girls who were about the same age as me.
I also ate pussy and I liked it (top that, Katy Perry).
But I felt uneasy about broadcasting my bisexuality. I hid it from most of my friends. I told the few who had the most progressive attitudes—and then only in whispers.
I hid it entirely from my family. It’s not that they would disown me or do anything dramatic. They’ve never expressed any hate or overt disgust toward lesbians. But I knew they would be weird about it, and I really wanted to avoid that—they were weird enough as it was.
Going to college didn’t help. While others were experimenting with and freely expressing their identities, I still kept mine under wraps. When a classmate complained that bisexuals were “greedy because they can’t just pick a side” (whatever that means), I spoke up and said it wasn’t fair characterization. But when another colleague countered with “Why? Do you know one?” I just said yes and decided not to out myself.
I know how to read a room. And that one didn’t exactly have a welcoming vibe.
I never realized just how invisible my bisexuality was until just a few weeks ago, when I was speaking to my daughters. They’re both at the age where they talk about getting married, but still don’t understand why they can’t marry their baby brother.
I’ve always made sure to let them know they can marry a person of any gender. But when they said, “Mommy likes only boys, that’s why she married daddy,” I felt a little bit erased.
Being bisexual isn’t just about sex. It’s about attraction, love, and romance. It’s about the kind of person you can see yourself decorating a Christmas tree with.
It’s not their fault. They’re young and they know only what they see. Just a few months ago, my youngest daughter believed grown-ups don’t sleep—we go to bed after and wake up before she does, so she had no evidence to the contrary.
But coming out to my daughters made me realize just how few people I’ve come out to. My husband knows. A handful of my friends know. The women I tried to sleep with (both successfully and not) know.
But that’s it. To just about everyone else, I register as heterosexual because I decided to settle down with a man. It might seem silly for me to make such a fuss over this. I opted to spend my life married to a man, so should my bisexuality matter at all? Yes, it should.
First, my views on monogamy are on the looser side. I’m a committed and faithful wife, but I haven’t entirely foreclosed the possibility of having group flings or bringing someone else into the relationship. If I ever met the right person, I’d be open to it.
But, even if I wasn’t, being bisexual isn’t just about sex. It’s about attraction, love, and romance. It’s about the kind of person you can see yourself decorating a Christmas tree with. It sets the parameters for who can get you flustered, even if they’re just being friendly. It’s about all the what-ifs you go over in your head when you’re thinking about your life before marriage.
But more important, it’s about community. It’s about sharing an outlook and experiences. It’s about identifying over this one important little characteristic you share. It’s about having a category of people you consider your people.
And that’s why it feels isolating that almost no one sees this part of me. But unless I become really vocal about it or get a pink triangle tattooed on my shoulder, people will continue to assume I’m straight.
I know I give everyone too little evidence to nail down exactly where my sexual orientation lies. I’m married to a man, so that means I could be straight or bisexual (or a lesbian who is really committed to her beard).
What bothers me isn’t that people don’t know I’m bisexual. What bothers me is that they assume I’m not. I’d much rather be a question mark than have people put me in the wrong category.
I wish I were stronger than this. I wish I could brush this off and feel like my authentic self—just live my truth and not give a damn what anyone assumes.
Being boxed in feels uncomfortable, but I’m making a promise to myself. I’m going to be more open and honest with myself and others, and I’m not going to let the box I’ve been put in define who I am.