By Jodi S. Rosenfeld
When I was in my 20s, being a visible bisexual woman was easy. Even if I were dating a man at the time, I always had my backpack with its buttons. So many buttons screaming “This is who I am!” My favorites were “VisiBIlity” and the one with the pink triangle that said, “CHOICE” across it. I wore Pride t-shirts and Freedom Rings, and was flanked by my gay friends in Davis Square. It didn’t matter with whom I was in a relationship at that particular moment. I was queer. I was defined.
And then I married a man and moved to a suburb of another city. I built my career. I had babies. I didn’t think so much about my sexual identity in my 30s. I was consumed with the stuff of young motherhood – buying a home, finding the right preschool, worrying about stranger danger and Lyme disease. I was always out to friends – being sure that if I were building a new friendship with someone that she or he knew the important things about me: that I was Jewish, that I grew up on a farm, that I was not straight. Others saw what they saw – a young woman with a diamond ring and wedding band, a toddler holding her hand and a baby on her hip. I told myself that was okay. I was too busy to care about things like identity politics anyway.
And then I turned 40, and I woke up one morning not to the wrinkles in my mirror or the ache in my shoulder, but to the fact that half of me was missing. I felt invisible, like I had left a part of myself in Boston 20 years ago and she’d been riding the Amtrak train up and down the Northeast Corridor ever since, looking for the rest of herself. I blamed my husband for being male. I blamed my kids and my suburban house and the soccer team and the PTA. But mostly, I blamed myself for choosing privilege, for passing, for letting myself disappear.
And then some amazing things happened. I put a Human Rights Campaign equal sign on the bumper of my car. I came out to my kids. The four of us started going to marriage equality rallies together. On our family vacation to California last summer we spent an afternoon in the Castro and loaded up at the HRC store on buttons and stickers and t-shirts. We all started watching The Fosters.
In my 40s, being a bisexual woman isn’t as easy as it was in my 20s. I have to make a conscious effort to be fully seen, and to feel a part of the community I love. Many people don’t know what the equal sign on my SUV means, and they see what they see – a woman who is married to a man, with two kids, in the suburbs, dropping off snacks for the school holiday party.
But the thing is, queer also looks like this.
Jodi S. Rosenfeld is a 41-year-old psychologist living in the Philadelphia area. She studied with Robyn Ochs while an undergraduate at Tufts University in 1993, and is writing her first novel about a 20-something bisexual woman in 1990’s Boston.