*It is 3:21am at the time I am adding this little note here. This all just sort of spilled out of me as I went back and forth between this and trying to make myself go to fucking sleep over the course of the last two and a half hours or so. There are going to be typos o’ plenty but if I don’t post this now I will probably just end up tucking it away in my documents. For better or worse, here goes.
When I am upset my “go to” is writing. Not necessarily writing about what I am upset about or showing anyone what I have written, just writing. My works in fiction are where I truly release my inner daemons, but I wouldn’t even know which of them to conjure onto the page right now. I actually have no idea where I am going with this or if I will share my thoughts. I just know that I am tired both physically and emotionally. I haven’t been sleeping well for about two weeks now.
I wanted to blame my husband keeping me up with his cold, or my tremendously painful foot injury for starting this bout of insomnia, but I don’t believe I can. The truth is this started the day one of my oldest and dearest friends called to tell me she has breast cancer. None of that is what this is about though. I am here for her and she knows I will be her constant comedian and I will cry with her, and swear with her, and fight with her. She is young. She caught it early. And as upset and scared for her and her beautiful children and grandchildren as I am (and myself because I would be utterly lost without her), I absolutely 100% believe she will beat this shit and we will be old, weird bitches together (mind you, it has taken me two weeks to arrive at this state of mind). No, what weighs my heart down now is the thought… No. The fact. It is a fact that there are 49 best friends utterly lost without their other half tonight.
It was my insomnia that had me up after 3am checking Facebook on my phone in the dark while sitting on the toilet having a good piss Sunday morning. I am very glad I was sitting when I scrolled past the BBC post about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando because my knees were instantly hit with that unpleasantly tepid, squishy feeling one gets when they have, in fact, become weak in the knees. I had to force myself to go back to bed before I dared open the article and read the horrific details. The only thing I could do was cry. I just laid there in bed and let the giant, hot tears “plop, plop” right off my cheeks and onto my pillow. I am still crying three… well at this late hour it is now four days later. So here is where I find myself. Crying and writing because writing is the only other thing I can think to do in what will surely be a failed attempt at getting this sick heaviness out of my guts.
I can’t even be political about this right now. I am stunned by how quickly this has become a social media shit storm. I am sickened by how few people realize that they are being told what to think by our politicians and main stream media, and I would very much like to fucking slap myself in the face for typing those words. But I can’t because it is true (and a little bit because I don’t like being slapped… even by myself). I feel a bit like a lost little kid. No, I feel like a little kid who has been sneaking to watch an R rated movie through a crack in the stairwell door and has seen something entirely too violent and frightening, but there is nothing to be done for it because you can’t unsee things like that. More than anything, I do not understand how or why anyone’s reaction to this would be anything other than tears and heart break and anger at the act that has been committed and the man who has committed it. I just want to hug everyone who matters to me and tell them all how much they are loved.
What really gets to me about this is how specific and personal it feels. It wasn’t a generic religious extremist from one country killing people from another country to make a political statement. This wasn’t some seemingly mentally ill person with a crazy axe to grind and a need for publicity (not that I am lessening the impact or tragedy of either situation, or saying that this doesn’t have things in common with the others). This was a U.S. citizen, who was born and raised in the same god damned state as Bruce “The Motherfucking Boss” Springsteen. And this man targeted a group of people in the place they feel safest and killed them because he presumably hates them just for being who they are. That hurts me so deeply it is just unfathomable and I don’t know what to do with the pain.
What I want to do is lay down some heavy personal truths; truths that I have been afraid of for decades. I am not sure why I feel compelled to do this now, after all these years, but it feels like it is the only thing I can do. So here begins the unraveling of close to a 35 year lie (or series of lies) I have been telling myself and almost everyone I know. But I am going to have to start at the beginning…
I was raised in a very small, working class town that is smack in the middle of a very small, working class county. To paint a picture because some of ya’ll have a different idea of what constitutes a small town than I do, my town had just under 1000 residents and was one of the larger towns in a county of around 20,000. People worked hard at hard jobs. The biggest industries in the county were logging, fishing, farming, and a blazing three month shit show of tourism in the summer. There was one black family in my town and there was one Hispanic family. Our family was one of the few Catholic in predominately Methodist and Lutheran, but wholeheartedly Christian community. I didn’t meet a person of Jewish faith until I was a Jr. in high school. I was a child of the 70s and 80s. And in this small town I was very discretely being taught to become a bigot.
We made race jokes we didn’t understand because the adults made race jokes. We made religious jokes we didn’t understand because the adults made religious jokes. And we made “gay” jokes we didn’t understand because the adults made them too. And we laughed because if the people in charge of us were laughing they must have been funny. Mind you, I don’t believe that the majority of the people making these jokes felt hate or even mild dislike for people who were different (though there were some for sure), I just don’t believe they really gave thought to how hurtful those jokes were and how wrong it was to pass on that way of thinking.
As I grew older we of course called each other “fag” or said stupid things other people did were “gay”… all of the kids we grew up with did. But here is the silly thing. I had no idea what that really meant. I mean on a basic level I knew it was men having sex with each other, but I was in grade school and we didn’t talk about sex in our catholic-ish house I had no idea about the reality of that act and I certainly lacked a larger understanding of what being a homosexual meant (in fact, there was a lot of shame surrounding sex and bodies in our home, but that isn’t relevant to most of what I am saying). I was just a kid learning to be a fully formed person through the examples being set for me. And those examples were telling me that being “gay” was very bad.
One missing piece of the big gay puzzle for me was the fact that men weren’t the only people who could be gay. Which is a good thing, because by the time I was eight or nine, I had moved past making out with girls to putting my little fingers in holes and touching would be boobies. By the time I was 11 I was very much experimenting with the oral sex acts that I read about in my dad’s Playboy stash. Now, I had immense guilt and fear over this little hobby of mine, but only because I was being taught sex was a dirty, filthy activity that should only be done to make babies and that vaginas were especially dirty and filthy and should be kept hidden in your underpants at all times. It never occurred to me that I was in fact, doing something “gay”.
I “experimented” with the occasional friend, but I did have one friend in particular who not only found these activates as worthwhile as I did, but also excelled at them. We were inseparable. I loved her to the moon and back. We drew each other pictures of the two of us with our pets as “one big happy family”. I adored her and she adored me, and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. We were almost caught countless times (in fact, I am pretty sure her older sister did catch us in the act once but nothing ever came of it). By all rights, I only left elementary school a “virgin” if we are being all technical and qualifying losing one’s virginity as having a penis inserted in one’s vagina.
By the time we were 11 or so boys started to interest us as well, but we didn’t end our “experimenting” until I got some unsettling news. You see, the HIV epidemic started when I was in elementary school and as anyone who lived through that time knows, the homophobic fervor in our country escalated to new heights. It also happens that the band Culture Club was hitting the US right around the same time. Naturally, since Boy George “looked like a girl” he must have been an “aids spreading faggot”, right? The problem is I liked him. I thought he was great! I thought he was beautiful and was having some slightly confusing feelings about him. I loved the music. But because all the other kids and adults around my community were calling him a “faggot” I got saucy and made a comment at home, in front of my dad. And that is when my dad looked me dead in the eyes and said “you know your cousin Debbie is gay, right”.
HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE! What??!?!? Girls can be “gay” too? And my cousin Debbie, my favorite cousin of all time… she is gay? This changed everything for me. First and foremost it put a face that I loved very much on this whole being gay thing and I stated taking great offense to anyone putting down anyone who was gay. But secondly, and most serious in my 11-year-old mind, did this mean that I was gay? But I liked boys too! I started noticing that both Marsha and Greg got me all tingly in the pants, and I didn’t know what to do with that. I couldn’t ask anyone in my family, let alone my community about that, so I abruptly stopped all possible “gay activities”.
As I grew older and entered middle school and high school I had just as many crushes on girls as I did boys. I dated boys and “officially” lost my virginity at 16. I had unrequited loves for girls. There are one or two who I still think of every once in a while. But in my community, in the 350 person high school I went to (that is 7th through 12th grade), with all the heavy metal, punk-ass, vomit heads I hung out with, I could no more have admitted I liked girls as much as I liked boys than I could have admitted I had mental health struggles. So I kept that part of me a secret. I continued to keep it a secret when I left home.
I fell in love with a girl when I was 19. I didn’t realize it then. I couldn’t even admit that to myself until about three years ago. I fell hard and deeply and she never knew. It terrified me. It terrified me so much that I eventually stopped hanging out with her. She was beautiful and wild and hilarious. She was also kind, and gentle, and loving. We use to hang out at an underage gay nightclub together. Those of you who are from Portland will remember The City. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once. I fit in there because that is where all the “weird” kids, gay or straight, went to dance and smoke (and drink, take drugs and have sex) because it was where being a misfit was cool. I was still deeply in denial about my feelings for girls, especially Juliah, so I started sleeping around with lots and lots of boys.
There were other girls I admired from afar. I eventually fell in love with a boy and had a baby with him. Things didn’t work between us but we have worked together to raise a pretty great son. I never told that boy about my feelings for women (I am in my late 20s by this time… I think I should start calling them women and men). I tried to talk to some closer friends about my confusion. By this time I knew the term bisexual but was still terrified of it. I tried bringing it up in weird, hypothetical ways. Sometimes friends were just weirded out and thought I was hitting on them, or were just too uncomfortable with the topic. Sometimes friends thought I was inviting them to “experiment”, sometimes I slept with them, and sometimes I didn’t. I tried talking to gay friends about it but I think the late 90s were pretty wrought with the “bi isn’t gay enough” attitude and those conversations never went far. I tried to talk to my then best friend about it and she became furious with me. So I dropped it.
It wasn’t until I met my current husband and started dating him that I felt like I could talk to someone about it. I was starting a new relationship and I wanted it to be honest. I told him everything about me and he still liked me. So I spent the tail end of my 20s and the entirety of my 30s telling myself that it was OK for me to be attracted to women because it was “sexy” and somehow more acceptable. By this time in my life I had long since let go of any preconceived notion that being gay was somehow bad. I had shaken off my upbringing. I was very vocal in advocating for gay rights. But I couldn’t admit to myself that being attracted to women was anything more than some sort of kinky fetish I had, only to be let out at fetish balls I attended with my husband because it gave him a boner. I told myself I could never fall in love with another woman. I told myself a lot of things.
It was a conversation I had with a close friend about four years ago that made me admit the truth to. I told her most of the lies I had been relying on for all these years and she turned to me and said, “Yeah, that is what I use to tell myself too… then I met my wife.” I actually tried to argue that I was somehow different. But I went home and I thought long and hard about it and I realized that all those years ago I had loved a woman (actually two) as deeply as I have loved the two men I have loved in my adult life. The only difference was that I felt it was somehow forbidden to love a woman. Even though I never in a million years would think being gay was forbidden, I felt I was forbidden. That I wouldn’t be excepted or loved by my family and friends… it is only in that moment I realized I had been “living in the closet” about my bisexuality for decades.
Boom! There, I said it. This is the first time I have admitted that this publicly. Yes, I have talked about it. I now identify as bisexual to those who matter to me (those I feel comfortable with). I have wrestled with the fact that I don’t feel like I owe any explanations about my sexuality. It is private and truly none of anyone else’s business. But then I realized what a fucking cop-out that is. I only feel that way because I get to. I married a man. I get to look “normal”. I can hold his hand while walking down the street without the slightest concern for my safety. I get to love who I love without being questioned. Everyone should be able to do this. Everyone.
I guess I now know why I told this very long, drawn out story. Not to feel a part of a community I have never tried to be a party of in a emotionally charged moment (which is what I feared at first), but to make people understand we are all one community. Most of the people who read my blog know me personally or from long-term internet friendships. I am very open with my feelings and ideas so I would assume most of you believe you know me well. But only my inner circle really knew this about me. You have all loved me; laughed with me, cried with me, supported me endlessly, and have never judged the personal things I often reveal in this blog. Has any of that changed now that you know this about me? If it has I think ya’ll know me well enough to know what I have to say about that, but I don’t believe it has changed anything and I am trying to make a damned point here.
You still love me. You will still laugh with (and at) me. But will you still support me? Will you still leave judgment aside? Do I deserve any less in life because I have loved women in the same way that I have loved men? Can you honestly read what is basically a truncated version of my life story and tell me that being bisexual was a choice for me… that I lived without pain because I denied myself this part of who I am for most of my life? Am I any less, whatever you think I was before, now that you know this? I didn’t have to do this. I could have lived the rest of my life in privacy and continued to peacefully slip in under the radar… truthfully, my life would be easier because I am married to a man and people will just make the assumptions they make, but I wanted you out there to know this about me because it is who I am. I wanted you out there to know this about me because just maybe putting the face of someone you love/admire/care for/like might give you a more empathetic view of the tragedy that happened in Orlando (and in all of the vile atrocities that are committed against the LGBTQ community). Most importantly, I hope that you realize this isn’t just “their” community this happened to. It happened to our world community and right now we all need each other. Love is love. Spread it around. And reach out to your LGBTQ loved ones to let them know they are loved and not alone in this.