By Malkah Feldman
Malkah Feldman: When did you discover you were bisexual?
Deb Morley: I discovered I was bisexual when I was 31. In hindsight, there was a lot of information along the way that could have led me to discovering my bisexuality much earlier, but when I came out as a lesbian at age 15, I was exposed to a very binary (gay or straight) queer community that included much bias against bisexuality.
MF: How and when did you come out to friends, family and co-workers?
DM: Coming out to my lesbian friends as bisexual was scary as I feared rejection. I was fortunate that I had recently started a graduate program that was already introducing me to many new beginnings. A woman from my program posted a query to our class email list asking if anyone was doing research on the information needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual community. I emailed her back saying, “No I’m not, but yes I am!” This woman became my first bi friend. It was like the Universe sending me an angel to help me during this challenging and sometimes confusing transition of my identity. I told my close friends and family very early in my “coming out as bi” process. I explained that I had fallen for a guy, that it was more than just sexual exploration, and that I had feelings for him. At the time I chose not to share this news with co-workers as the man I was involved with was a co-worker! Note to self, going forward: “Don’t date people from your workplace!” Since then, coming out to co-workers as bisexual has been a tricky thing. I have chosen to maintain certain boundaries between my personal life and my professional life. While many co-workers know that I am queer, as I speak openly about my same-sex partner in the work place, I would guess that most assume I am lesbian and don’t even think about bisexuality. I have had a few opportunities to mention to a co-worker when I have attended a conference on bisexuality, but for the most part I haven’t felt that there have been many appropriate moments to talk about my sexuality independently from my relationship. So while my relationship provides me the opportunity to come out as being in a same-sex relationship, it also masks my bi identity. Overall I’m OK with this because I don’t have close relationships with my co-workers, and at least they know I’m queer!
MF: What helped you to develop a positive self-image?
DM: Having a bi friend, attending bi support groups, learning to love and accept myself, and going to conferences bisexuality are some of the many things I have done to develop a positive self-image. I have also read about bisexuality, become friends with more bi people, marched with the bi contingent in Gay Pride marches. I have also been involved with BBWN and the Bisexual Resource Center.
MF: You have done an enormous amount of work for BBWN. What have you done and how has it been for you?
DM: I have written and participated in Bi Women mailings of for over eight years now and co-coordinated the mailing for about four years. I have helped to organize the BBWN brunches that many fabulous women have hosted in their homes over the last eight years. Some years I have helped with the setup and cleanup of the pre-Pride brunch that BBWN hosts. I have had the opportunity to speak on a bi panel out in western Mass where I represented BBWN. I also attend other BBWN events that others organize, i.e. a movie night, dinner out or bowling. I love bi bowling! Compared to the work done by some others, I feel my contributions have been modest.
MF: What does it mean to you to be bisexual? Does it have spiritual and/or creative energy to it?
DM: For me, being bisexual means that my heart is open to all genders. It does have a spiritual essence for me because it is a part of who I am.
MF: Deb, do you feel that there are links between the struggles to free ourselves to be bisexual and other movements like the struggles against racism and poverty?
DM: Yes. I think there are commonalities between all groups who experience oppression. Sometimes oppression is imposed upon us by others, and sometimes it comes from within ourselves. I feel that our internalized fears are most important to address. I see self-hatred and self-loathing eat away at so many people. We may look outside of ourselves for validation, and it’s great when we receive it, but at the end of the day I believe it is the love looking back from the mirror that sustains one’s wholeness.
MF: Are you single or are you in a relationship? How does your partner accept your bisexual identification?
DM: I am in a relationship. My partner completely accepts me as bi. As an undergraduate student (years ago) she supported the name change of her campus’s gay and lesbian student group to include “bisexual.” She gets it, and I deeply appreciate that she gets it.
MF: Despite being in a committed relationship, could you talk about how your spirit, as they say in Native American communities, is “two spirited,” as fully capable of bonding with either sex. Do you relate to this question, and if so, could you discuss what that special two spirit openness means to you?
DM: I do relate to this question. I feel that the “two spirited openness” that you speak of is a gift. It’s a gift of potential to love and be loved on many different levels. I had two significant realizations when I came out as bi. One was that my sexual attraction and interest in men did not lessen those same feelings that I have towards women. Now it sounds odd to me, but I can remember really struggling with this concept and wondering (because I had identified as lesbian for so many years) how could I now be interested in a male lover? Had my life up until this point been a lie? The other significant realization was that I no longer needed to carry around the weight of the anger and resentment towards men that I had felt, or at least thought I should feel. Some of the lesbian-separatist spaces in which I had spent time had influenced my attitudes towards men. Although I am still a strong feminist, the feelings of pitting men as the enemy completely evaporated when I allowed my “two spirited” self to be. I hadn’t even realized what a weight and limitation these false beliefs had been for me.
I remember going to hear Maya Angelou speak a couple of years ago and her saying, “we are born to become exactly who we are.” I think this is so profound. It seems so obvious, and deceivingly simple! Who knew it would be a life long journey?