Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Tale of a Mask

This is Amber reporting. I’m a bisexual woman that just graduated from college with her BA in Anthropology. I post on Tuesdays. Like Tiff, I’m also interested in writing fiction. I’m also an epicure and love researching all sorts of different kinds of storytelling—whether it be film, art, comics, or just the personal stories and gossip that we tell each other.

Growing up, my family moved from place to place almost constantly. I was used to packing up and moving on after three to six months of living in one place, and it was not easy to really discover what it meant to have friendships at a young age. (Being mildly autistic certainly didn't help either.) I was very quiet, shy, and introverted for all of elementary school, and it gave me a lot of time to read and to think out a few questions. I couldn't live without that constant introspection, and even as a college grad, I wax spiritual and philosophical if ever given the opportunity. With that disclaimer, I apologize for the abstract notions that may flood my posts.

Being bisexual is something that has pervaded my life. I've noticed that many people tend to have one set of issues that concern them for most of their early lives--and growing up, I was much more concerned with being autistic than the fact that I liked both men and women. It did give me more challenges, but as the years pile onto my shoulders, my bisexuality has been more and more of a social challenge than my own social quirks. It has required me to remove another mask that I put on often while growing up--that I was a straight-laced straight girl, hiding behind glasses and books. It was the mask of the academic that merely fought to cover perceived faults in the self, to shout against the ideas that they harbored but desperately wished to dispel from their hearts. It was the mask of feigned ignorance about LGBT experiences. Above all, it was fear and discomfort rolled into a social sheen that covered my emotions and my true feelings.

As a kid, I remember having crushes on girls. My first was for a black girl from the south side of the train tracks in Collierville, Tennessee. She was a great friend and I never understood why I tended to blush around her. There was one point where she hugged me, and my face flushed madly and my breathing got faster. I blamed it on feeling sick and being a redhead--we ginger types flush easily. There were multiple points in elementary school and middle school where I stared at a girl for too long or grinned like a moron as I created a character based on a girl that I knew from class.

However, I was known (everywhere I went) as the girl that had a crush on every boy. Intelligence and sensitivity have always been the biggest points of attraction for me, and I'd almost always crush on the smartest guy in my class. I can't count on my fingers and toes all of the guys I've crushed on. I believe the count is around 60-75 people over the course of my life. Nearly all of my friends at college know about a redhead that I crushed on for four years, and at this point, he's still a good friend to me. 
I currently have a wonderful boyfriend that fulfills all of the aspects of personality that I look for in both women and men. For the aspects that I sarcastically label as feminine in my head, he's sensitive, careful of my emotions, and easy to communicate with. For the male aspects, he's level-headed, protective, and strong. His dedication to finding truth and sticking to his morals are the two things I'm most attracted to--no matter if he was male or female. Delving into that more would be a topic for a different day, however.

Bisexuality for me is partially being confused at why people can't fall in love with other people due to a difference in gonads. It doesn't make a difference to me. I realized this when I had my first serious, head-over-heels crush for a girl in high school--right when I had peaked in obnoxious douchebaggery when it came to LGBT issues. I was homophobic and kept building arguments against LGBT lifestyles and rights--all of which were immature, nearsighted, and lacked all sense of empathy or reasoning outside of a Christian neoconservative point of view. I had covered up my feelings for girls with multiple excuses, and focused on guys instead because I did find them and still do find them quite attractive. I went so far as to tear down people that acted on those feelings instead of pushing them away. The funny thing was that I had more LGBT friends in high school than straight friends. It really should have been a hint, in hindsight.

A black girl joined my friend circles in my sophomore year, and I could never take my eyes off of her. She's still one of the most attractive women I know, and my crush on her at 15 years old forced me to stop avoiding the question. I passed her one day between passing periods, and all of the memories of crushing on girls came to mind, along with accompanying memories of how I had felt for guys in the past. At that moment, I felt the mask that I had been wearing, and realized that it was not who I was at all. I was much more, and I had to figure out who I was. Was I a lesbian? Was I bisexual? Was I just a scared straight girl with a poor sense of boundaries?

My straight friends encouraged me to date women and see what it was like. I was terrified of the idea, and being in the family I was raised in, such a thought was out of the question. I was raised LDS and there are no paths to salvation for LGBT people within the church unless you remain celibate (automatically putting you to a lower level of the afterlife than heterosexual couples)  or silently deny your feelings and enter into a mixed-orientation marriage. Personally, I wouldn't wish that on anyone that felt the slightest shade of uneasy about the idea.

I was hesitant to talk with myself about it, let alone other people. My parents got me to a LDS psychologist who was helpful with a few issues, but not on the topic of bisexuality. After attempted reparative therapy, I knew that there was no way that I could say that I wasn't bisexual. Despite this, I decided to live a straight lifestyle. A little bit of the mask had come off, and I knew that I couldn't hide behind the word 'straight' or 'heterosexual' any longer. I knew that I wouldn't be able to face myself in a mirror with that false mask on my public face. 

Throughout 2008 and 2009, I became more and more open about letting people know that I was bisexual. In 2010, I went forward with full acceptance of myself in many ways, and especially on this matter. I tossed the mask aside almost entirely when I came out on Facebook earlier this year, albeit most of the people there knew I was bisexual anyway. 

I love the fact that I can love both genders and play for both teams. Being bisexual on one level does mean that you don't automatically think of saying "Oh, eww..." when the idea of loving someone that's one gender or the other. There's no gut reaction against either gender for me. They're just human, and that's great. 
It gets me the best and worst of both worlds, such as jokes from both straight people and gay people, "You're just a (lesbian/straight) in disguise. You just need to choose. You're a lesbian in training. You're just a straight girl that can't get any action from guys. You're just a lesbian that's kidding herself." Those jokes and those quips can be the best and worst of both worlds. The worst--because you feel that your feelings aren't being validated for what they are, as if they need to change for something, someone, and/or society at large. I know other people that lean toward the same gender have felt that way many, many times. It also can be a good reminder that things do need to change. It can also be a great opportunity to break up the notion that gender is always a solid basis by which to check your sexuality. It also provides a chance to ask yourself what you're really feeling for others, even if it's the same thing as it's always been.
As I'm currently living with family that does not accept my bisexuality, I tend to keep my head bowed and my mouth shut when the matter comes up. There is the matter of appropriateness with sexual topics, whether you're LGBT or straight, and I respect that. However, it's a very important matter to feel loved, and it's essential to have acceptance in your life from those you love most. For those of you who feel trapped by people who just can't understand you, this is what I have to say.

I love myself enough to work and save in order to find a place where I do not have to wear the mask just to get by. I take every possible chance to take that mask off, see myself for who I am, and show love for myself. The world is too harsh and life is too long for us to not love ourselves for who we are, and to love ourselves enough to become better, even more loving people.We don't need more standards and restrictions on love in this world. We do need to be careful and watch ourselves since there are hurtful people out there, but as Shakespeare said, "Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none." That includes you. You're worth this struggle and you're worth the victory that you're fighting fate for.

I have many more things to say about this mask, love, bisexuality, LGBT issues, and sexuality in general, but I believe that this is a sufficient introduction. I'll see you guys every Tuesday, and good luck with your lives in whatever you may be doing.

All the best,


  1. Awesome post!
    I think this really helps put things into perspective for me. I've definitely heard people make comments about bisexuals and how they just can't make up their minds or that they're just really horny and want whatever they can get. But, I have grown up seeing how natural it is for men and women to love each other, and I've felt how natural it is for me to love other women; I can see that there are definitely those who are capable of loving both men and women, and I think that's a wonderful gift.

    I think you'll offer a great perspective to the blog!

  2. As one guilty of some of those comments, I feel the need to apologize. It's because of you and others that are bisexual that I have worked to change how I see things and try to be more respectful of how people are. I love this post :) Thanks, AKB!