I was browsing around reading blogs about preparations for Pride marches around the country, and I came across this post. When I read this passage:
Kids learn quickly that the "ultimate" insult is to call someone a "fag" or that if something they do is deemed "gay", it should be stopped.
...it reminded me of an incident from when I was in summer camp as a kid.
A bunch of the kids were doing that old, stupid kid joke:
Q: Are you a homo?
Q: You mean you're not a homo sapiens?
A: OK, then I am a homo.
Q: You mean you're a homosexual! Ha ha ha!
And so on. So I went to my parents' big dictionary and looked up "homosexual," in part because I was not sure what it meant (I didn't grow up in one of those households where people talked about the sex lives of their neighbors). I discovered that it was the opposite of "heterosexual" (in my inability to fully grasp pronounciation back then, I thought it was het-ree-oh-sexual).
The next day at camp, I went up to those kids and asked:
Ayse: Are you a heterosexual?
Answer: No way!
Ayse: Then you must be a homosexual! Ha ha ha ha!
Then the other kid ran to the camp counsellor and told her I'd said a dirty word. Bullies are like that. But I digress.
One thing that never really made sense to me, from the first time I read it, was the definition of "homosexual" and "heterosexual." It seemed to imply a duality, that you were either one or the other. But I never was able to form a preference for boys or girls in particular. At first I figured it was because I was a kid, and that it would change when I grew up. But it never seemed to change, even as I matured. I'd get a crush on a girl and think, "This is it; I know who I am. Finally!" and then I'd find myself very attracted to a boy.
It wasn't until after college that I was able to deal with the fact that I just don't care one way or another about the sex of the person I'm attracted to. It's not one of the things that matters to me. On the other hand, if a person doesn't smile with their eyes, I can't imagine wanting to sleep with them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about bisexuality. The most common of those is that if you don't have both a male and a female partner, you would feel that you are "stifling" your sexuality, or living in the closet. I don't feel that way. I think I have a tendancy towards monogamy now that my life is so full. I have dated more than one person at once, and it's just too damned much work. I like having one partner and having free time to use for art projects, school, and The House. I'm sure there are some naturally polyamourous people out there who would feel that their sexuality was being stifled if they had to choose only one partner, but I'm guessing a lot of them are heterosexual.
Another misconception about bisexuality is that if you are bisexual, you can live as a heterosexual if you want. I didn't get to choose the sex of the person I fell in love with; that was not the way it happened. If Noel had been female, I would still be with him (um... her), as we would still have had a wedding. We'd quite possibly be packing up to move to Massachusetts right now.
Not only that, but even though I'm married, I'm still bisexual. Any time I mention that, you'd think I'd said I was intending to kill Noel and dump his body in the Berkeley marina. Nobody would think it was polite to imply that a heterosexual married person would eventually regret tying him- or herself down with only one partner for life, but people say things like that about bisexuals all the time: "Aren't you afraid she's going to want to have sex with women again someday?" That sort of thing. Good lord. I think I understood what I was saying when I made a vow of monogamy.
Being married to a man, I find myself in the unique position of being a stealth queer. Most people just assume I'm heterosexual -- which is fine; I understand the default is heterosexual and I don't think people should be required to consider all possible sexualities all the time. But because people assume I'm heterosexual, I get to hear things they say when they think they're with people just like them. It means that more often than most gay people, I have to speak up and address bigoted statements that were made to me with the assumption that I was a "safe" person to say such things to. It means that I can't let my appearance come out for me; I have to do it verbally, and I have to do it every time I feel that my silence implies consent or agreement. It's not easy to be bisexual and ethical.
That said, being bisexual has not been a huge problem for me. My family doesn't talk about sexuality, so we're cool there. I'm not flamboyantly one thing or another, so people tend to be able to ignore my sexuality, which is what I think most people want to do, anyway. I don't care who my neighbors, classmates, or coworkers like to have sex with as long as I don't have to see or hear them doing it. (I've never really gotten over this guy I worked with who was possibly one of the ugliest people I've ever met, and referred to sex with his girlfriend as "bumping uglies"; I always imagined the two of them bumping their faces together.)
I realize that I'm incredibly lucky. I live in a very tolerant part of the world. I have a partner who is supportive of my sexuality. I don't have to fear for my life or safety on a regular basis. And I'm free to be proud of who I am, without major repercussions. Happy Pride Month.