As part of a movement to build bisexual and pansexual solidarity, I asked for story submissions about life as bi or pan person. This story comes to us from a friend who you can find on twitter @CourgetteAubgne.
A few months ago, I marched in a Pride parade. I wore cute boots and danced to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, rainbow feather boa flapping in the breeze. I keep dutifully up to date on LGBTQ news and post important or happy or heartbreaking stories on Facebook without fear of bigoted responses. My parents have a Human Rights Campaign sticker on their car. Whenever a celebrity comes out, especially a female one, my coworker is always excited to talk to me about it. I can text my friends about my crushes, recruiting them to help with the does-she-date-women detective work. But dating isn’t as high a priority as sitting in my quiet, cozy living room with a book, indulging in my introversion.
This is my life, but only the surface. The truth is, I have this freedom because two years ago I broke my husband’s heart.
I can’t give you the whole story. Not even a condensed version. It’s not that I can’t recall, because I can. I remember each fight. I remember each time I had to leave the room to not break down in front of my daughter. I remember thinking I could fix it, and I remember the moment when I realized I couldn’t. I remember every painful thing I said, and the way I had to force each word out of my mouth, already bracing myself for his tears. I remember the way I started to disassociate, because being present in those moments was more than I could take. I couldn’t form the words and feel them too.
So, I do remember. But I can’t write it. I can’t even think about it for more than a few moments at a time. Even now, I’m writing in vignettes. And while these sentences are true, they are also safe. They allow me to keep my distance, recalling without reliving.
On National Coming Out Day, I came out on Facebook. Everyone I actually interact with knew already, but they all cheered and liked the post and congratulated me. I thought all day long about whether I deserved to be congratulated, considering the pain I’d caused. And I wondered how my husband felt seeing those comments.
I don’t know any coming out stories like mine. Maybe if I did, I would feel more authentic in some way, less lonely, less like the bad guy. Maybe I’d be able to reconcile the person I was with the person I am. Maybe I could understand—or, if not understand, accept—how I could be so happy and so in love and then suddenly…not, without any tangible changes occurring.
That’s the key difference between my story and the others I hear. I was happy, really happy. I was in love with the same man for 12 years. There was no closet. There was no denial. There was no conscious deception. I knew I was queer, I just didn’t think I was that queer.
Now, I see it all reframed. I can look at my life in that 20/20 hindsight way, and I can see all the things I should have seen: all the mountains I disguised as molehills, the crushes I never acknowledged, the disinterest I chalked up to low libido. It’s amazing what we can ignore when we put our minds to it. But there was joy, too, and it’s more painful to remember the joy than the sadness. It feels like something that was ripped away from me, like being violently awoken from a good dream.
A few weeks after I came out to my parents, my mom asked, “Are you really bi, or did you just say that to soften the blow?” I’m not sure how bisexuality could soften any part of losing her son-in-law and watching her daughter painfully dismantle her life. But she’s right that I don’t know how to identify. Calling myself a lesbian feels like a lie, not only because I’ve never dated women or slept with women, but also because it erases all the happy years I spent with my husband. From that perspective, bi seems closer to the truth, but still not quite right, since I have no intention of dating men after this. Becoming educated about trans issues complicates things even further. Within a more sophisticated definition of gender, what does being attracted to women even mean? More and more, I am grateful for the vagueness of the word ‘queer’.
So, where does this leave me? Am I better off than I was? People talk about “living authentically” like they’re throwing all the windows open to let in the sun. Maybe someday I’ll be able to bask in my decision. For now, the light hurts my eyes and illuminates the neglected, messy corners of the room.