By V. F.
A couple of years ago, I broke up with my girlfriend and prepared to be devastated for at least the next year. I knew I had made the right decision, but I had a hard time believing I could feel such passion for another person in my lifetime. It was a difficult time for me, but all of my friends were there to support me. My straight friends reminded me of the aspects of our relationship that were problematic, and applauded me for making the right decision. My lesbian friends consoled me by reminding me that there were many great women out there in the world. In this respect, I was fortunate: I had all of my friends to rely on during a trying time.
Not long after my breakup, I went out one evening and a charming man asked me to dance. I smiled, in that “I’ll humor you” kind of way, expecting to be disappointed and go home missing my ex even more. But my assumptions were wrong. This handsome and fun-loving man swept me off my feet that night, and before he said goodbye, asked if we could see each other again. I gave him my phone number, and chatted away into the night with my girlfriends, trying to figure out whether he would call.
The next day, he did call. I remember the palpable flutter of my heart when I answered the phone. I liked him. We went on our first date, and the energy between us was electric. He was smart and funny, thoughtful and kind. I felt on top of the world when I was with him. I soon learned that he was about to move out of town, and I reluctantly accepted the time-limited nature of our romantic relationship. I thought I would make the most of my time with such a wonderful person, and I did. We spent several wonderful summer months together and then, despite my efforts to be “sensible,” I was quite heart-broken when he left. I couldn’t believe I could feel love for someone so soon after losing my girlfriend. But it was true: I was again feeling that pain of losing someone with whom you feel connected in an indescribable way.
But this breakup turned out to be different. I hadn’t had the courage to tell my lesbian friends that I was dating a man, for fear that I would no longer be seen as “one of the girls.” So, consequently, they didn’t know the joy that was suddenly ripped from my life when he left. My straight friends, because they had been out with me the night I met this man, knew what he had become to me and consoled me through my loss.
While I took comfort in most of my friends’ encouragement and support, I became increasingly upset about the fact that I had hidden this aspect of my life from my lesbian and gay friends. One evening stands out in my mind, when I felt the shame and frustration of being a closeted bisexual person. I had just had a difficult day, feeling sorry for myself that I was pining away for a man that was not coming back, when a lesbian friend asked me to dinner. I said yes, thinking it would be nice to spend the evening with a good friend.
But as we sat down to the table she asked, with the sincerest interest, “So how ARE you, my dear?” And without hesitation I said, “Good!” And with that one word I realized instantaneously that I was denying my authentic identity and integrity as a person. I became disheartened during that meal, and many others, because I was afraid to tell my gay friends that I was upset and broken-hearted over a man. I felt torn. I wanted to tell them the truth, but I thought I would lose the inclusion and support of the gay world that was so important to me.
My inability to tell the truth about my life and my loves has been a reflection of my own process of self-acceptance, but it is also a mirror of the gay community and the message it often sends to bisexual and transgender persons. I have heard enough disparaging comments about people who are “not really gay” to know that if I want to be part of the club, it is better that people think I am a lesbian.
But I am not a lesbian. I find myself attracted at times to both men and women, and can have fulfilling relationships with people of any gender. This issue of Bi Women is about me and so many other women who have hidden their authentic selves for fear of being left out and misunderstood. Even more importantly, it is about the choice to make ourselves visible so that others like us may feel the power of understanding and community. Harvey Milk said that the greatest political action a queer person can take is to come out of the closet. I believe this to be true and I am proud to say that with the publication of this short essay, I have decided to personally come out to my lesbian and gay friends. Who knows, maybe I can still be part of the club, with a few changes to the bi-laws.
V.F. is a social worker in Chicago, Illinois.