I don’t know about you, but for me, when God/the Universe wants my life to go in a certain direction, I start getting nudges. These nudges are small messages and signs that I’m ready for a new course, and I should start adjusting accordingly. Being me, I usually ignore and deny these signs, not wanting to deal with the course changes being laid out for me. Inevitably, the nudges turn into sledgehammers, and I am beaten down enough to surrender, usually with a fair amount of bitterness and resignation. The last six months have been filled with sledgehammers, and I vowed I would start listening earlier to avoid being whacked over the head again. I wrote my last post four weeks ago in response to a series of those nudges, when I realized that I would be unable to live with myself if I didn’t take some action to make our society safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In this post, I came out as bisexual. Shortly after writing it, I realized it would be quite rude to come out to my loved ones via Facebook, and I needed to delay posting it and meet with everyone close to me to tell them in person. This post is the story of my own discovery, the coming out journey, and the fascinating topic of perception.
I didn’t talk a lot about sex prior to my energetic healing in November, because I didn’t want anyone to ask me why I wasn’t having any. I had a lot of shame about experiencing childhood sexual trauma, and I certainly didn’t want to explain this to anyone, so I avoided the topic as much as possible. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been attracted to men and women. I have always assumed that the entire world is bisexual, and we’re not talking about it, because of the threat of stigma and shame we might have to bear if we did speak of this. I’d heard references to studies saying 80% of the population is bisexual – and I’d always assumed that those 20% were folks who couldn’t face all aspects of their sexuality, even on a private survey. Not wanting to risk the topic of sex – and the possibility of talking about my trauma – I didn’t check out this belief with many people. I didn’t expect truthful feedback anyway. Sure, you’re straight. Yep. Me too.
What I discovered last month was not that I am bisexual – that happened when I was 21 and met the first woman I found attractive – but that straight people exist. I didn’t believe the first person I asked, despite knowing her to be an insightful, honest and open person. I did believe the second person who told me the same story, who shares that honesty and openness. You cannot imagine my shock at this. The best analogy I can come up with: we talk about Santa Claus to kids, but – obviously! – we know he doesn’t exist. Sure there’s tons of ‘evidence’ for his existence, but we all know it’s fake. Picture discovering, at 36, that Santa is real, and you are one of the few people who believed his existence to be a culturally accepted myth.
This radical worldview shift left me reeling. I looked up the percentage of the population that is bisexual, and first found a statistic of 1.8 %. I had two reactions to this – 1. YES! I have won the sexual orientation lottery! 2. ACK! I’m part of a heavily stigmatized sexual minority group! The elation of the first thought was equal to the terror of the second. The thing I would like to note here – nothing was different. My sexuality was the same as it was last month. So was everyone else’s. The only thing that changed was my perception.
I scheduled a bunch of holiday meetings with friends and family, hoping to come out as quickly as possible so I could publish last week’s blog. (“Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! I’m bisexual!”) The experience of coming out of the closet one week after discovering the world wasn’t in it with me was a roller coaster, to say the least. Terror, shame, joy– all bubbled up and faded in rapid succession. I want to say here, publicly, to my friends and family – thank you for your easy, loving acceptance of me, and for making the whole process so safe. And thank you for sharing your own insights with me.
As a huge chunk of this ‘reveal’ for me was explaining my previous belief that no one was straight, I received a lot of interesting feedback. Here’s a random sample: “You’re kidding! I’ve never been attracted to anyone of the same sex!”, “Please! The entire world is bisexual. Explain prisons to me otherwise.”, “I can’t believe you thought that…what made you think that?”, “Anyone who tells you they are straight is unable to look within themselves and see the truth.”, “I heard 80% of the world is bisexual.”, “I think you are confused.” The winner for me was this last statement – I AM confused. Is Santa real or not? I don’t know!
The confusion got deeper. “Well, you know, my psychologist friend says that sexual orientation is not about who you are attracted to, but who you fall in love with. There is a whole subset of men who only fall in love with women, but have sex with men, and are straight.” Wait…what?? You can bet I checked that out with my psychologist friend, and my own therapist. Apparently “who you fall in love with” is a more common definition that “who you are attracted to” or even “who you have had sex with.” So…if we’re going with recent sexual activity, I’m asexual. If we’re going with who I’m attracted to, I’m bisexual. If we’re going with who I’ve fallen in love with, I’m heterosexual. Fantastic.
I looked for more information online. It didn’t help. (For a boggling array of statistics on the bisexual population, from 0% to 80% with numbers all over that range, check out this article. ) In the end, I decided to go with my therapist’s view – “it’s how you define yourself.” Those who say they are straight are straight. Those who say they are gay are gay. Those who say they are bisexual are bisexual, and that includes me. Whether studies show that I’m joined by 1.8% or 80% of the rest of the world is unimportant. What is important to me is that these discussions were some of the most fascinating of my life. So now I’m curious – why are we so uncomfortable talking about this?
My questions for you, personally, are
-What in your life is “the obvious truth that we all know” that might benefit from a perception check?
-Is there an area of your life where your definition of yourself is limiting you?
I haven’t believed in Santa for many years, but that did not diminish my delight that he filled my stocking last Christmas. Is he real or not? I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. I’m content with knowing my own truth, and to leave others knowing theirs.