By Kristen G
I stood there on that large rock, with the cool summer evening breezes caressing my skin, toes clenching to the granite under them. As the water rippled around me, I felt timid and wanted to hide. My short, chubby body was more exposed than ever before in my life. Where were the clothes that covered my insecurities? My neighbor and friend encouraged me on and said, “Don’t be afraid. Stand tall. Spread your arms out wide like you are flying.”
Earlier that year marked my return to Massachusetts and on that spring day when we met, he eyed my New Jersey plates and then boldly made his first impression. “Have you ever been to Gunnison Beach?” “Oh, the nudist beach? You go there?” I replied, laughing nervously. “Yeah, I used to head down there once a year. I’ve been a nudist for over 30 years.” My sheltered, late-20’s yuppie self was both astonished and intrigued.
As the weather warmed up, I found in him an exercise buddy and we started jogging together and then swimming on alternate nights. Turns out he was bisexual too, and being a couple decades older, experimented with cross-dressing in his 20’s through acting and modeling. As someone who recently came out with no close LGBT friends, he mentored me beyond ditching the swimsuit.
“What if the police show up?” I look around me – paranoid – as we side-stroked over to the island in the lake. The water enveloped every inch of my body like a blanket and I was alive with feeling. “Don’t worry, just keep the thong around your wrist. You can’t get arrested for being topless as a woman, but you have to wear a bottom.” While I didn’t get to validate his research, I was willing to take the risk given our quiet alcove of the nearby reservoir where he had been swimming for so many summers.
He freed me. He made me realize how culture created feelings of insecurity within me. He taught me to love my body more and to embrace it. He showed me how to challenge authority and to think about my rights. For that, I am forever grateful.
Now, several years later, I think back to that discussion we had, while swimming, about the legalities surrounding topless women. I imagine what it’s like to be a male in this society, to be able to walk around topless in most locations without a glance of judgment or surprise, never mind legal rights. This mental revisit has been sparked by my partner who is transitioning from male to female. What will it be like when he becomes she and walks through this world with a new set of expectations and rules set upon her? Is it really fair that society has different rules about revealing male and female bodies? About how we should behave and not behave? About who we should have sex with and how to have sex with those people? The legal and cultural rules bestowed upon us are invasive and senseless.
I watch my partner get dressed en femme and strive to flaunt those aspects of feminine appearance so typically deemed attractive. Brightly polished manicured nails. Check. Carefully applied make-up. Check. Silky smooth legs with minimal body hair. Check. Jewelry adorned so selectively to highlight the gentlest features of the bosom, neckline and ears. And high heels to boot. That same checklist is the one I have been rebelling against all my life and makes me even question my own position on the gender spectrum. Can’t I be myself and still be attractive? Who am I trying to appeal to? Clothes and appearance are such an important part of self-expression and identifying with subcultures. They are like a large bumper sticker on your body screaming who you are and what you stand for.
On the other end, and a real driver in my partner’s need to transition, the amount of stress on men in our culture to be “manly” is absurd. The picture of that prototype is even more confining than our sexy woman checklist. It takes bravery and the ability to “man up” every given second. To be a woman is to be gentle, and to be a man is to be strong.
What I love about the bisexual movement is that we challenge all of that. We challenge binaries placed on gender and sexuality. We state that there are no rules. Be who you want to be and be loved and wanted for who you are. I am a proud bisexual who will stand back on that rock, bare all and fearlessly claim my spot in this world.
Kristen still resides in Massachusetts and continuously seeks inspiration to live freely in this world. She champions for all that she stands for and is grateful for you and our community