As part of an initiative to build bisexual and pansexual solidarity and visibility, I posted an ongoing call for contributions, asking for your stories of life in the middle of the sexuality spectrum. This blog series is currently in the process of becoming a book, which you can find all the details about here. This story is from Kierstyn King. All images are Kierstyn’s original artwork and are reproduced here with permission.
I’ve always tried to fly under the radar, to exist in the shadows, and to be invisible. I spent my entire childhood perfecting that skill, trying to go as unnoticed by my parents as I could, because being noticed always ended up going over poorly for me.
Simultaneously, it’s all I’ve ever wanted and needed – to be noticed, and sometimes the fact that I am so good at becoming invisible bothers me, even though there is a safety in it.
I’m a married bisexual non-binary agnostic with no kids and no desire to have them.
Every bit of that last sentence (well, except the married part) flies in the face of everything I was raised to be.
Growing up, I didn’t know that bisexuality (or anything besides gay/straight) was a thing, the concept of being transgender was scoffed at and passed off as fake. I was assigned female at birth and raised to be a good christian homeschooled girl, I missed out on opportunities and things I would have otherwise been interested in (or later found out that I’m good at) because of being born with female genitalia.
I was told that my glory was to be feminine, and get married to a suitably masculine man, and have (oodles of) children, and be a good little housewife who never did anything more interesting than crochet, cook, and homeschool.
Despite the amount of everything telling me this is what I should be and do and like, I never did, I never felt particularly “feminine” or like a girl – but I never felt particularly like a boy, either, though my more “masculine” tendencies did lead to years of feeling broken because I wasn’t supposed to feel that way.
My parents tried to tell me that “being a girl is just better” because life is supposedly so much easier for women (who don’t have any independence).
I was supposed to be content being a helpless damsel, not become a protector.
It wasn’t until recently that I stopped feeling broken because of who I am, it wasn’t until recently that I had words to describe how I felt, or more accurately, didn’t feel. I don’t really know how to explain what it feels like to grow up feeling wrong or broken for something that’s innate, and you, and that you can’t fix but are being told is wrong or not normal or acceptable.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I was bi. In actuality I’m pan – gender isn’t really a thing I notice or take into account. I call myself bi because that takes less explanation, and I tend to opt for what’s easiest understood.
I had a lot of awkward moments as a teenager when I would notice people’s faces and like them only to realize that it belonged to a girl and I quickly buried that with shame, and fear, and guilt.
The thing about being sheltered and also heaped with guilt and anxiety about being impure or lustful is that even though I masturbated and felt that was wrong I reasoned I wasn’t really lusting, because I was fantasizing primarily about girls (I only knew of gays, lesbians didn’t exist). I had a guy in there, as wallpaper, but he was just sort of…fully dressed and I wasn’t really into my imaginary dude as much (at all).
I spent a lot more time thinking about female bodies than male bodies. I never thought that was weird, but I never ever said anything about it either. It wasn’t until I came to understand myself as a bi/pansexual that all of that part of my childhood and adolescence suddenly made sense.
It wasn’t until I was able to give names to how I felt or didn’t feel that I started being able to express and accept myself. Before that I just felt this vague sense of being different (wrong), and faking my way through normalcy even though it killed me inside.
I came out as bisexual publicly on my blog in 2013. I didn’t hear anything directly from my family, but I heard through the grapevine that they flipped out and decided, yet again, that I was doomed to hell. My sisters unfriended me – at the demand of my parents, no doubt – shortly after my family got word.
On vacation with my inlaws that summer I learned that my bisexuality was a cause of great distress to my mother-in-law who said “not that she was questioning my faithfulness or anything” and had apparently spent nights crying over it.
I’ve felt judged by the people I’m related to by blood and by law for my existence – I’m not the delicate, submissive woman they wanted me to be, I’m not straight, I don’t know what the fallout will be if/when they learn that not only am I not feminine enough, I don’t identify as a woman either.
When I tell people about my sexuality, or my gender identity, or that I also have lady-sex with a friend sometimes, I either find a lot of support and understanding and it’s beautiful, or…I run into people who think I’m into anyone and should totally tell them everything about what it’s like to have had sex with both a male and a female at different times, or people who find passive-aggressive ways to imply that I’m lesser or broken or just bitter because I’m not womanly or consider myself a woman.
My existence seems to break the brains of people who don’t understand the concept of life outside the binary or in the middle of the rainbow. People who still think women should like womanly things (or want children) and maybe if you don’t you’re just not with the right partner, or bitter, or rejecting of your nature – as opposed to embracing it.
See the thing is, sometimes I do like to paint my nails, and sometimes I want to make myself a loaf of bread and then eat it because bread is my favorite food group – but these sometimes expressions of traditional femininity don’t define me, and who I am as a constant human being who lives and loves and has human traits and doesn’t want to have to classify them as manly or womanly. Because they’re just human, and humans are all different.
It hurts to feel unaccepted or misunderstood by family, and friends, and society-at-large. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but learning to accept myself, and embrace whatever it means to be me – to be human, and fluid, and alive – is so much more freeing than trying to shut down all of the parts of me that never fit in the boxes I was given.
Being myself – and finding out what that means – is hard, but it’s worth it, and it’s a battle I’m willing to fight.