By Faith Cheltenham
While reading A Year Straight: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Lesbian Beauty Queen by Elena Azzoni, I kept wishing I had read it a decade ago when I began college. Like Elena, I was originally socialized into lesbian culture though I was unsure what exact slot I fit into. With my desire for comfortable shoes and workout gear I was too sporty to be a lipstick lesbian, but my gauzy hippy skirts and peasant blouses made me too fem to be a butch stud. I read book after book looking for my definition, assured by my new peers and my lady-friend that my attraction to men was just a residual effect of my religious upbringing: once I fully committed to pussy patrol it would simply float away on the wings of my newfound freedom. Even though the word lesbian did not fly easily off my lips, my girlfriend had much experience shepherding the formerly straight into LaLaLez land; as long as I read some books we figured everything would eventually feel right.
The sex felt right, the love did too but not being able to even appreciate the hotness of men felt like an unbearable weight of wrongness. It turned out my girlfriend and I didn’t have enough in common anyways. She said she was fine breaking up with me, since she knew I was just one of those straight “girls who went gay for college,” an incredibly hurtful statement I took to heart and carried about like a personal designation. How many of us bi, pan, fluid, queer and label-less women have felt so similarly misunderstood? A Year Straight was just the book I needed to make me laugh out loud at how strange my past insecurities now seem.
Back then I looked for love like a lighthouse searching the sea for fish, but I often threw people back because they didn’t fit what I thought should fit an undefined self. I spent a lot of time looking for the Jerry Maguire moment, someone to “complete me” and therefore ID who I was and was supposed to be. In retrospect, I was shackled by inexperience reinforced by internalized biphobia. I had to let go of the idea that someone else could define me. Unchaining myself was just the first step. Accepting that love doesn’t – and probably shouldn’t – look like what you expect was another. If my identity had broad boundaries, my heart could too. Any limitation of my ability to love was only a self-drawn line.
That’s one of the more important messages the author of A Year Straight relayed when we spoke this past December over Skype, both rubbing pregnant bellies. “Passing up potentially loving relationships” is something Elena was risking by saying to herself that love could only come in one form. It’s not just about sex or gender, our choices are too often based on fear of what others think. Someone can be too old, too young, too broke or too fun. Someone else can be too vanilla or even too together for us to consider. Even we bisexuals who battle invisibility with every breath, can risk letting love pass us by if we prioritize definitions before ourselves. The fight for acceptance is only strengthened by happiness and hearts fully satisfied. When I asked Elena what she would say to a young person today on her own journey, she replied: “Be true to yourself. It’s the hardest thing to do in this life, and we need to support each other’s missions.” Elena Azzoni’s book, A Year Straight, does a remarkably funny job of showing us how to live wildly beyond our own previously undefined expectations.
Faith is the current president of BiNet USA, a bi advocacy, networking and outreach non-profit. Currently pregnant with her first child, she works as a social media and web consultant.
Purchase A Year Straight: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Lesbian Beauty Queen on Amazon.com. For more Faith’s conversation with the author check out the BiNet USA blog interview: http://binetusa.blogspot.com/2011/12/living-bi-thoughts-on-year-straight.html