By Mo (Monique) Balistrieri
I still remember pacing back and forth outside my mother’s bedroom door. It was 1997. I knew I liked girls and boys. I was in middle school and already had my first girlfriend, Cle (now Johnny). We would hold hands, make out, and talk all night on the phone. We’d talk about what NSYNC song was “our” song. I wanted to come out to my only parent. Seeing me pass the door many times, my mom called me in. I stuttered and then the words came out of my mouth. “Mom, I am bi.” She was so quick with her response. She said “Monique, it’s just a phase. Lots of people experiment at your age.” Little did I know that that would only be the first time my queer identity would be questioned and challenged.
When it comes to being a bi woman, I always think of the negative characters that I was presented with. A perfect example is Tina from The L Word. She was of course a cheater: she’s bi. I have felt bi erasure coming from all forms of media and from the gay bars I go to. More out of anger, I made a choice last fall to start making a space for myself. I am bi and I have every right to be in any queer space. I was 36 and knew what I wanted to do. I started going to queer karaoke at a local bar. I started making new friends. I made new goals for myself. I made the goal to dance at our Pride Fest. Thanks to a new friend Rai, I was able to reach my goal. I was able to talk to amazing people named Jinx and Micah. They manage a dance group. The Milwaukee Space Cats perform at Pride Fest in Milwaukee. I was told I could join open dance. This meant I could just go up and do my thing. I didn’t have to learn any choreography. I went to two practices to meet the members of Space Cats. I was welcomed and everyone was so kind to me. I went on to have the best weekend I can remember in a long time. Then I was welcomed onto the parade float. My youngest came along as well. It was a dream.
Since then, I have been invited to start doing burlesque. I was asked to model clothing for a fellow Space Cats’ clothing line. I have been asked to join the Space Cats next year at our Pride fest. I am now a regular at queer karaoke. I have also joined a bi women’s group in my city of Milwaukee. As my queer identity changes and evolves, I am here to remind people that we are here. I am a bi woman who is a mother and so much more. The lesson in all of this is that when you live your authentic self you will find joy. I’ve found my bi joy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Mo is currently living in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They are mother of two boys, one of whom is pan. She dances in Milwaukee under the stage name Frankie Moonshine.