The Labeled Closet

This not an erotic story, it’s a thought about my journey and what being bisexual means to me. I’ve heard stories from others and seen tv shows that tell you what it’s like for people who are discovering that they are gay or what it’s like for them coming out of the closet. My story feels different to me. Perhaps, I’ve just not met someone who’s had my experience, perhaps it’s everything else that contributed to a hard childhood that overshadowed that one aspect of me, or perhaps I was just lucky on the topic (in a way). Please be aware that I’ll be talking about some really hard topics that include child abuse. It’s very personal stuff that I am sharing with you, but it’s relevant to how my experience was colored.

First, I will say that both straight and gay people have labeled me in ways they would not want to be labeled.  On my journey, people have said that I was not bisexual because I had not had sex with a woman. However, I had not had sex with a man either… did that make me not straight? It was hard being labeled by self proclaimed lesbians and gays that I was not bisexual or gay, only to be ridiculed by straights for being gay… but it was not “confusing” and you’ll come to understand why. I didn’t fit in perfectly into either world and it was lonely often. I challenged the logic of the individuals with colored views of what it is to be bisexual or not bisexual. In my eyes, bisexuality and being gay doesn’t reference who you have sex with but who you love and whom you are attracted to.  I knew who I was attracted to and who I loved, and I was passionate about it. There was no confusion. As you will find, my journey lead me to a man who openly encouraged me to explore and accept my bisexuality, and for this we fell in love. We have been married for 13 years… but I am no less bisexual now, than I was before I married a man.

So let’s talk about this journey more. Family. Often the hardest topic I hear or read about. It’s true that I often exclude my family from “gay topics”, but it is not because I’m hiding being bisexual or that I’m afraid. I do it simply because I don’t care to hear anyone whine, complain, or God-thump about it. Those who matter most to me know. My mother once said it was a phase, because my best friend was bisexual, but she also said she’d not love me any less. As much as she disagrees with it and doesn’t understand it, she never stood in my way. She didn’t stop me from being with Maria, or Trisha, or from going to the strip club (when I was of age) when I brought up the topic of being bisexual. My mother has always loved me, and has been supportive and tolerant. I feel like I have a lot in common with my brother, and I know that he loves me regardless of my sexuality. As opinionated and forceful as my sister is, I’m sure she couldn’t love me less either. This is where I know I am lucky.

Here’s where the unluckier aspect of my journey affects the gravity of my closet. Not all of my family knows that I’m bisexual, but maybe some are in denial. However, if those family members were to “disown” me, I’d have no issues writing them off. Their absence could go easily unnoticed. I know that seems cold, and don’t get me wrong. I would be angry and hurt… but the distance is already there, regardless of my sexuality. My childhood was hard. There was physical and sexual abuse. My mother took me far away from the physical abuse when I was ten, but that meant I was far away from all of my family. I am no stranger to distance and loneliness, but it has nothing to do with my sexuality. This is how other aspects of my life overshadowed the closet.

Here is where I  challenged the views of gay/bisexual people I have encountered on my journey. I’ve had so-called friends get angry and hateful about “tolerance”, directed towards me and my tolerant family and friends. They preach that it’s not enough to be “tolerant” but that you have to be “accepting”. I wouldn’t call my mother (and other family and friends) accepting of my bisexuality, but I do call her supportive and tolerant. She didn’t encourage me to be gay, but she did not discourage it either. Despite disagreeing with it, she feels people have to right to choose for themselves and she believes that people can love who they love. Why should she have to agree with it in order to be supportive? To me, “tolerance” vs “acceptance” is like saying we won’t accept your willingness to grow, because we want you to believe in what we believe. I don’t feel that those who feel different should be forced to accept things just because we want them to. It’s no different than anti-gays telling gay people they shouldn’t be gay. Personally, I view “tolerance” as a way for someone who doesn’t agree, to show willingness to grow toward Acceptance. They tolerate it because they know we have the right to be gay, and perhaps deep down inside they know there isn’t anything wrong with it. It’s hard to change your mind on something so radical, and we should be accepting of that. As long as you are not actively interfering with our right to marry and love who we want, then I will defend your right to feel the way you feel. I have been outcast from otherwise decent friends, who just didn’t see me as “gay enough” to be on “their side”.

Not everything about my journey is so different than others. I look back and I agree that I was always bisexual. I do feel that I was born this way. When I think of the term “coming out of the closet”, I picture a gay man or woman who’s hiding it out of fear, and coming out of the closet means they are going public. For me, I was never hiding or afraid or confused about my sexuality. I’ve always felt like a woman. I’ve always been attracted to and fantasized about men and women. I’ve never questioned whether it was right or wrong, or whether I should or shouldn’t be with someone. I have always pursued who I wanted, male or female. But you could say that I was confused by the labels. When I asked myself “Am I gay?”, it wasn’t about whether I liked women or not, it was questioning whether I was gay enough to be accepted by the gay community. It sounds strange, but it happened. Having gay people tell you that you aren’t gay when you know you are, is like your parents insisting that you are straight when you know you aren’t. This experience thought me two things: 1. You can be discriminated, labeled, and outcast by anyone, and 2. You don’t have to label it, just love who you love and be who you are.

When I was younger, I was withdrawn and didn’t have much in the way of friends (usually just one good friend). In these times, I was too young for sexuality and wasn’t around many people. We ran away from violence, but found ourselves in places just as bad. We stayed with the “5 M’s” and their household was as abusive as the one we got out of. Our stay there ended when the “man” of the house beat me black and blue. There was another house where neglect and bad parenting created a life of turmoil for their three children. I remember the time their house burnt down and the mom and one of the boys was burnt. I remember him screaming when his bandages were changed, and for that I often fear fire. They returned the kindness to us, but it wasn’t a very healthy environment. I was stuck there for a long time until I couldn’t take it anymore and I cried for two days for my mother to come back… and she did. We left this place too.

There was another place of sexual abuse I ended up in… our first home that wasn’t us staying with other people. This place was the first place I had any experience in bisexuality. None of this was normal or right and it had nothing to do with actually being bisexual. It was wrong to have a ten (or eleven) year old cornered by a teenaged boy and girl. I liked her kissing me (more so than him kissing me)… but it was wrong because I did not consent to these activities. I said no and I fought back, but I didn’t win. Yet, I liked her touch (as much as his). These feelings are normal for sexual abuse victims and it’s okay that I enjoyed her lips even though it was forced on me. I wasn’t okay with being forced, but I dealt with it. I was used to being in unhappy situations. I was used to accepting good feelings where it was limited in bad situations.

Don’t dare disparage my mother! I never told her about this. I was lonely and used to these sorts of crappy situations, and in my own mind, I justified not telling her about it. As we ran away from all the abuse, she struggled to provide for us. I was neglected and alone an awful lot, but my mother was in a hard situation. I don’t blame her. She tried so hard and did the best she could. In my young mind, this was nothing compared to all the rest we’d suffered and I didn’t want to ruin an otherwise good place. That didn’t stop me from getting into fights with my mother and stepfather the way kids do. I weighed the importance of it and sadly, I felt she wouldn’t handle it well. We did eventually move away from this place too.

There was more abuse, but by the time I turned twelve, I was growing more and more intolerant of abuse. When we moved to Michigan, an old dirty man (an in-law) came on to me and tried to get me to touch his penis. I threatened to cut it off and he backed off. I told my mom and she said to ignore him. This is  one mistake I’ll admit that she made and she inevitably paid for it. I went to war with my mother and everyone else around me, but not because I wanted to punish them but because I was tired of being abused and tired of being lonely. The random abuse did eventually stop, and I think this had to do a lot with my age and ability to fend for myself. The amount of child abuse that finds its way into children’s lives, moving from State to State, makes me angry and defensive of children. You’d be surprised at what your children won’t tell you. Be protective, be skeptical, and pay close attention.

In our final destination, where all the violence and sexual abuse ended, this is where my mother found a good man to marry and love. This is where it all broke down. My teenage years were hard. Unknown at the time, I was very sick. I felt ill all the time, but didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until adulthood when I almost died and had emergency surgery, and recovered, that I realized for the first time that I felt good! That the terrible illness I felt was not normal. I mention this, so you understand how life overshadowed even the thought of being bisexual and any hardship of coming out of the closet.

My mother’s boyfriend had fled in the night, like a coward, and for the year that he was gone, mom was a wreck. I hated her trashy friend that she was out partying with. When he came back, I got angry. My hormones, as a teen, were raging. My illness made this far worse, not that we knew this at the time. I had been in bad situation after bad situation, and now we were in a safe home in a nice little town, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I’d been alone for so long, and making my own decisions for so long, and I was used to being in these fucked up situations. It was hard when mom wanted to play house and my step dad wanted to be a dad. Mom made her second mistake in my eyes (at the time), by taking back this man who had hurt us emotionally. I went to war with them. Being sick didn’t help me make good decisions.

I began staying with my girlfriend. I look back now and I admit, she was my girlfriend in every sense of the word. At the time, I was on a wild and carefree binge. I was angry, hurt, and refused to go home… even when she moved to another house and tried to get me to go with her. I didn’t have the emotional time to consider the fact that I was gay or the fact that I was living as a lesbian, I just did what felt good to me. Though, I wouldn’t say I was completely happy there. Trisha was so very close to me and supportive, and understanding of my pain and anger. We used to sleep so close together, hold hands, and snuggled often. We use to dance close and would kiss in front of boys. We enjoyed each other, but mind you I was still a virgin (for all intent and purposes). Someone at school asked if we were lesbians and we said no, that we were best friends, because we hadn’t had sex with each other and that was what defined “gay” at the time, and truthfully they were being bullies, so we said “no” more to be spiteful.  They were awful to us and we shrugged because we didn’t care. They didn’t like us before, so who cares what they thought now. We weren’t friends with anyone else and that wasn’t healthy – not because we were lesbians, but because we both had so many problems that it eclipsed any notion of being gay. Never the less, labels aside, we just were and it felt good a midst all the crap we were dealing with that had nothing to do with sexuality. Truth is, we were in a lesbian relationship and I loved her.

This came to an end when she betrayed my trust and cheated on me. We had a knock down drag out break up. It was one of the biggest break ups I’ve ever had and it hurt a lot. At this point, I was tired of being reclusive. I went back home and my mother and I made up. I eventually forgave my step father and I do love him very much as my father. I still struggled with my health and my emotions at that time. I reached out to the other lonely outcasts and gained many friends. I partied with boys and girls alike. We played our little naughty kissing games, and I was not shy nor conservative with the ladies. I had had boyfriends, but it was different than my girlfriends. Society very openly labeled my male relations as Boyfriends and my girl relations as just friends. Often times, these relations overlapped. My boyfriend didn’t argue, but I’m sure you can guess why not. None of my friends ever used the words lesbian or gay to express my relationship with anyone or their relations with other same-sex “friends”. For me, I wasn’t in denial just because I never declared the words “gay” or “bisexual” … it just was. There was no label for me. I didn’t separate my love by gender… I just loved who I loved. I talked about girls that I liked the same as the boys, but people saw it as admiration for girls and a crush for boys. Society was in denial in my opinion, but back in those days that was probably a lucky thing for me.

I was strange for many other reasons that had nothing to do with my sexuality. I’ve always been eccentric and I had an identity crisis, but it had nothing to do with my sexuality. There were people who harassed me, were mean to me, and not very accepting of me. Strangely enough, my sexuality played virtually no part in these discriminations. I fought with myself and often questioned myself. I tried to suppress myself and be “normal” and again it had nothing to do with my sexuality. I had to learn to let go and just be myself. I had to learn that it’s okay to not care what haters think of me. At the breaking point of misery and yet clarity, I finally stood my ground – I fought with everyone – and I don’t regret it. I am strange, I am different, and I like me. I am who I am and if you don’t like it, piss off. The eccentric nature of who I am may have completely eclipsed the fact that I was bisexual growing up. Perhaps this is why I was never repressed or hated for my sexuality, because I was being degraded for just being different at all. The way I chose to fight it was to have as much fun as possible and flaunt it openly in the face of haters. I was unhappy a lot of the time, but I had a blast fighting it, and now I’m very happy. I know that I wouldn’t be happy now, if I had not fought for it.

Despite all the fun I was having, and the debauchery, sex was a sore subject in general. After all the sexual abuse, I had issues with sex in general. I didn’t understand why people needed sex to express love, because for me, sex was a terrible thing that motivated people to hurt children. Emotionally, I was not interested in sex. Hormonally my teenaged sex drive was battling with me. I wasn’t having sex with anyone, male or female. My friends were screwing everything that walked. Labels had the most impact at this time in my journey. Having not had intercourse with a woman had outcasted from the “gays” and my behavior and attraction to women outcasted me from the “straights”. Why couldn’t I just be me and live on both sides of the fence?

In high school, I became very close with a girl. Later on, she confessed to me that she was bisexual. She had first confessed to my boyfriend (at the time) and said she was afraid of what I would think. I told her I was offended that she had not come to me first, but the offense lasted all but a minute. I welcomed her confiding with open arms and a smile. This was the first time I’d ever had anyone close to me who admitted they were gay or bisexual. She confided in me that the reason she sought out my friendship was because I was attractive. My love only grew for her. I was rather excited and happy at such a flattering declaration. She was the first person who genuinely was interested in my sexual orientation. I opted to say no to bisexuality because by the time I met her, I was in a place of denying my sexuality with anyone. If I had said yes, it would have been hard to deny sexual relations since she was sexually active. Harder so because we were so damned close. It was hard enough denying sex with boys. The topic of sex in general angered me.

I know this caused her confusion. She would often ask “Are you SURE you’re not bi?” and rightfully so the time we made out, or the time we were dancing all sexy on the dance floor a the goth club together, or the time I was making out with another girlfriend, or the assorted number of times I did very “lesbian” things. I was a tease in that regard. Sure, I denied being “bisexual” but no one ever asked me if I was straight. I often proclaimed that I was non-sexual. This girl friend that I speak of is still someone that I love to this day, but the cards were never in it for us. By the time I confronted my issues with sex and then was free to declare that I loved all, she was taken and so was I. Perhaps if I hadn’t been sexually abused, perhaps if my abuse had been addressed with more care, or if I had dealt with it sooner, or had just let go of the past sooner, we could have had something more. Despite that we did not end up an official “lesbian couple”… but we had plenty of fun together as bestfriends.

When I moved out on my own, just shy of my health debacle coming to a head, things got wild with a certain man in my life. I met this man who encouraged me to explore my sexuality. I ran away with him… and by that, I mean that I decided to leave everyone behind and explore a different life. We had a crazy young life together and he helped me deal with a lot of my issues. He encouraged me to work through the affects of my childhood abuses. When I became sexually active (we were an adventurous couple) and stopped repressing myself, I was non-discriminate. I decided that those small minded people, in that small town, were wrong to label me. I labeled myself as bisexual and free loving. We fell in love and this just happened to be how fate met us on this journey.

I remember telling my bestfriend “By the way, I AM bisexual. I love women.” My friends were accepting. They always were. It was just never spoken out loud. I lost no one to “coming out”. I am fortunate to have had such accepting friends through all this time. I sometimes wonder if my unusual approach to love affected them in good ways. I hope it did.

When I say that I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere… I meant it. I wasn’t straight enough. I wasn’t gay enough. I wasn’t cool enough. I wasn’t nerdy enough. I wasn’t rich enough. I wasn’t poor enough. I’ve always felt like I was a little bit of everything but too different to fit in with any one crowd. I have since learned that I fit in a little bit everywhere and that’s okay not to define yourself solely in one place. I am still who I am. I still flaunt it. My life is far better this way and I love myself. I think everyone should too!

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