The first person I ever had a crush on was a girl.
I was ten years old when I met her and I remember it distinctly. Her name was Agnes (a profoundly strange name for a ten year old of my generation) and she was starring in the extra curricular play I’d signed up for. The first thing I came to understand about Agnes was that she was perfect – in absolutely every way.
I remember watching her walk on stage with the kind of brash confidence only eighth graders could muster – laughing loudly, performing flawlessly and holding the hand of the male lead during our fifteen minute snack breaks. I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it was that drew me to her but it seemed almost magnetic. I spent hours in rehearsal training my eyes on her mop of curly brown hair, picturing myself touching it, running my hands through it, tracing my fingers down her cheekbones and kissing her perfect pink lips.
Now, the funny thing about being a ten-year-old girl is that those thoughts don’t register to you as homosexual. Or at least, they didn’t to me. I suspected there was something inherently naughty about the attraction I had to Agnes, but I brushed it off as confusion. After all, when you are ten years old, everything’s confusing. Math is confusing. Friendship is confusing. The stories they recite to you every Sunday afternoon at church are confusing. What was one more confusion to add to the docket? I dealt with my confusion about Agnes the way I dealt with most things that I found unpleasant as a child: I avoided her like the plague. Soon enough the play came to a close and life carried on as usual.
The next crush I had on a girl was a little bit harder to ignore.
When you’re fourteen years old, you have the awareness to identify your desires as sexual. I was beginning to be interested in boys in a real way at that age – giggling with friends during study hall and even sharing a first shy kiss with a boy at a school dance. My one-time attraction to a girl was long forgotten and I found myself smitten exclusively with the male species – that is, until I met Kiersten.
Keirsten was a sixteen-year-old counselor at the camp I volunteered at the summer before I started high school. She was tall and lean, with short, strawberry-blonde hair and a kind, gentle air about her. Everything she did entranced me – the way she walked. The way she talked. The hours she’d spend sitting by the campfire pit with a notepad and her acoustic guitar, smiling kindly at everyone who passed.
I wanted nothing more than to breathe in every inch of Keirsten’s being – so naturally, I spent the whole summer avoiding her.
I was beginning to see prejudices in a real way as I grew into my teen years – overhearing muttered conversations between my father and my pastor about not welcoming ‘those pedophiles’ into our congregation, and noticing the suspicious absence of my mother’s closest friend at our regular holiday party the year her teenage son moved to New York and came out as gay.
One evening, after a long chat with my liberal older sister, I remember her passively remarking, “You know Mom and Dad would love us no matter what. I mean, unless we turned out to be murderers. Or lesbians.”
We laughed the comment off – both of us understanding the ludicrousness of equating homosexuality to murder – but there was an uncomfortable truth to her words. A truth I’d carry with me through my teens and early adult years.
In high school, I fell in love with a boy. And what a relief that was. My parents doted over our relationship – inviting him over to Sunday night dinners and taking photos of us posing by the door before school dances. Though things ended when he left for college a year before me, I felt an immense sense of relief over our relationship.
I love men, I repeated to myself over and over. And it wasn’t a lie – I was attracted to my high school boyfriend. I lusted for him. I loved him. It was thrilling to be with him, the way I imagined it would have been thrilling with Agnes or Keirsten. But being with him didn’t have to be a compromise. It wasn’t a betrayal to my family and church. And so when our relationship ended, I kept on dating boys.
Because here’s the thing – I’m not a curious ten year old at play practice anymore. I am as sure of my bisexuality as I’ve ever been sure of anything.
I was sure when I moved out of the Bible belt at eighteen years old. I was sure when I fell in love with a man during my first year of college. I was sure four years later when we broke up and I wandered into a gay bar for the first time in my life. I was sure when I drank one too many vodka sodas and found myself kissing a beautiful redheaded girl long into the night.
I am sure that I love women and I’m sure that I love men. As a single twenty-six-year-old woman, both parts of me are as real and as present as the other. And yet I constantly find myself questioning: Is there any point in coming out as bi?
My friends in Los Angeles would hardly blink an eye at my confession. Everyone and their mother is queer in this city and my peer group is as liberal as they come. Even my family is ever-so-slowly moving into the current decade – during my senior year of college, Shirley’s prodigal gay son even attended our annual Christmas party. The world is changing. It’s a friendlier place for queers.
But it’s a much friendlier world for straights. And a part of me fears it always will be.
Yes, I want to explore my sexuality. I want to go out to gay bars and meet women – I want to talk to them, kiss them, be with them, find out what it would feel like to love them.
But it’s not something I necessarily have to do. I can continue to date men, continue to love them, continue to be with them and continue to make my family and hometown proud.
And so where does this leave me? Where does this leave any of the questioning bisexuals of the world, hiding in the closet because it’s easier than coming out as queer?
To those who’ve come out of the closet as bisexual, I want desperately to pose the question: Is it really worth it? Is living life as the most authentic version of yourself worth the scorn and the shunning and the potential disownment from your family – even though you could spend your entire life passing for straight?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. I only hope that somebody much braver than myself does.
Until then, you can find me in the closet.