By F. Withe
We live in an amazing time; one where following your own path to sexual awareness is not limited by social stigma. Well, okay, it still can be, but it is way more permissive than when I was a girl finding out about me. Today you can and should explore to find out what works for you. Some may have known all your life that you weren’t like the other girls around you that swooned at the latest male teen idol. Or, like me, you may have liked the female teen idols just as much as the male teen idols. You are able to explore what makes your heart sing; my life didn’t always offer me the same options. I grew up, married and had a child because that is what society said you were to do if you were a girl. Never mind that I felt that something was missing in my life. Life was only gray with no splashes of color until I met her.
I came to realize my sexual orientation later in life. I’m almost 50 and just discovered that I am bi. What I want to touch on is how important it is to know who you are and be very happy in your own skin.
Being an English teacher in China has certainly been an interesting time to discover my sexuality. Living life as a non-heterosexual in China is often a challenge. The country doesn’t prohibit a gay lifestyle – not now, at least – but finding others who share my lifestyle is difficult at best. For me, coming out of the closet happened when another teacher let me know she was bi and she found me attractive. I was curious and wanted to see if having sex with a woman would appeal to me. While growing up I didn’t explore, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Many of my friends and co-workers have come out to me and I wondered if there was something that I was unconsciously putting out, like pheromones, to attract women to me and reveal my true sexuality. The lovely lady I met told me she didn’t think there was a foolproof way to find other bi or lesbian women, but others have said there is. Who knows if there is? Have I been repressing my sexuality and this ability? That doesn’t really matter here. I loved being with my lady friend and I look forward to more encounters with other women.
What I would like for all girls and women to be able to do is to explore what makes them happiest. A teacher from college once said to me that sometimes we try relationships with women and men to find out what we like. This is normal and natural but I thought she was crazy: remember, I was taught a woman has to be with a man. No exploration of any other way was allowed. I’ve felt for years that men didn’t always understand me or fulfill me, and while I enjoyed sex with my boyfriend and then with my husband, I really enjoy being with other women. As women we have a shared bond; even if we grow up in totally different places, we go through similar types of things and that commonality is a very strong bond. I feel like I can be more authentic with women. I wonder what my life would have been like had I known this years ago. The only problem is that my child would not be who he is if my life were different. I probably would not be writing from China if my life were different, so I don’t wish I’d known before. I’m glad I’ve lived my life as I have lived it and look forward to this new chapter as it adds more color to my life, another layer to me.
Please take advantage of the world we live in today and find out what you like. I was just on a trip with my family. Our Chinese tour guides, two girls from a local university, were very obviously more than just classmates and best friends. I’m sure they were lovers; they couldn’t keep their hands off one another as we rode the bus around town. They would pat and rub and hug and it made me jealous; they are young and free to explore their feelings for one another. I was also missing my lady friend and wishing I could be with her exploring a new city and then sharing the night.
For me, my location here in China and my age are challenges. Other women from the U.S. who are my age were taught similar things I was taught: that a girl grows up to get married to a man. Women from other parts of the world may be more open sexually. That is the gift of living here in China. I can meet women from all over the world. I am eager to see where this new layer of myself takes me and what I can learn. For you young ladies, explore in this new world that embraces change and see what makes you happiest and where your heart leads you.
I am even more fortunate in that I am married to a man who not only knows I’m bi but he accepts it and has even encouraged me to find what makes me happy. My wish for you is to have people in your life that will allow you to explore as you need to: people who will support your choices and help you to grow.
F. Withe is a 49-year-old mom and wife. She is also bisexual, a classical pianist, writer and a teacher of English in China.