I’ve been bisexual since I first learned it existed. I was thirteen. Someone told me they were bisexual and, “That’s an option?!” was literally the thought that ran through my mind. In that moment, I knew clearly that bisexuality was part of who I am. At thirteen I was far removed from any real-life dating, political implications, or the social stigmas that go along with bisexuality. In that moment, I felt peaceful and powerful to have learned this great truth about myself.
Fast-forward to my late teens and early twenties, aka the dating years, where I received a cold, hard dose of what being bisexual meant in real life. I didn’t belong anywhere. There were straight people and there were gay people. These were relatively safe, socially acceptable boxes with which one could identify in my progressive California life. Bisexual people? We were considered confused at best, and deviant at worst. I’d hear over and over that bisexuality isn’t really a thing—it’s either a stop on the way to gay town, or I was just a threesome-loving slut. Potential romantic partners viewed bisexuality with concern and distrust, fearful that a bisexual mate would leave for a partner of a different gender than the one they were currently with.
my first true love was a woman
Identifying as bisexual made me super uncomfortable because of the social stigma, but I knew for sure that I couldn’t be straight, so I tried to just be gay. I thought it made more sense. I was attracted to women more often than I was attracted to men. And I loved the lesbian community. Beyond relationships and sexuality, lesbians are women. For me, the lesbian community was an amazing, understands-without-having-to-explain fit for my feminist self. I felt safe, strong, sexy, and supported. I was protected and understood by a community of fierce women. I had found my place in the world, and I loved it. By then, my sexual identity had taken on a life of its own. When people met me they thought I was gay because of my appearance, my friends, or where I went dancing on Saturday night. And I was just fine with it. I never thought I’d be in a serious relationship with a man again.
After my first true love and I broke up, I took a hiatus from any serious dating. I’d thought I was going to marry her, so I needed time to heal and get to know myself when our relationship ended. After almost three years of single fun, I was ready for a partner again. I dated and dated. I had a lot of fun, I kissed a lot of girls, and I liked it. But nothing clicked.
… and then I met him
Then one day, the love of my life and my future spouse literally walked through my front door. I was in college living in a house where the front door was always open and friends dropped by unannounced. These were pre-iPhone days, so my best friend was stopping by to use my Internet to get directions to a party. And he brought his best friend from high school with him.
He introduced us to each other. “Devon, meet my homosexual life partner, Amy. Amy, meet my heterosexual life partner, Devon.”
His introduction lives on in infamy. In two sentences he let us each know how significant the other was in his life, and let Devon know I was only interested in friendship. It’s still hilarious, especially given the outcome.
Devon was in the Marine Corps and had just gotten back from a deployment, which was why I’d never met him before. The click between us was practically audible. We first tried to figure out if we’d known each other as children or something, the familiarity between us was so strong. Elementary school? Summer camp? …Related?! We determined it was indeed our first meeting and decided it was just because we were both so close to our mutual friend. They convinced me to go with them to the party, and Devon and I spent the night in a corner by ourselves, talking, talking, talking. The makings of a great love were there on every level—intellectual challenge, emotional connection, and physical attraction. Seven years later, we count our anniversary as the day we met.
Figuring it Out
From the outside it looked like the contradictions between us would make our relationship a quick fling at best. A feminist, peace-and-love, outspoken “gay” girl with a tech geek, fresh-from-deployment Marine? My friends didn’t know what to make of it. Frankly, neither did I. When people asked what the f*ck was going on, I simply said, “We’re happy.”
My simple answer worked for a while. In fact, our plainly visible happiness made it pretty easy for our friends to accept. But eventually I had to untangle and unpack questions of identity for myself and figure out how to be my not-straight self in a heterosexual relationship.
Figuring out how to be bisexual in a monogamous opposite-sex relationship has been an uphill climb. Devon is amazingly empathetic, intelligent, and radical, but when I first met him he’d been in the Marine Corps for almost eight years and had some, ahem, reevaluation of his vocabulary to do. I’ll be eternally grateful to the series Makers: The Women Who Make America, because it gave him a speedy and thorough feminist education and helped him understand me in a deeper way. We are still figuring out how to manage an egalitarian household together, something I have found to be much easier to do in a same-sex relationship. My bisexuality even shows up in our sex life—not as the cliché threesome, but in how power is shared. Having sex on equal physical footing—having the same anatomy, and being about the same size and strength—makes it a lot easier for there to be more balance in the bedroom. Fortunately, figuring out how to have the same equality in our opposite-sex union has been one of the fun challenges.
How To Be out… With A Man
The biggest struggle I’ve had, and continue to have, is deciding how to be “out” on a day-to-day basis. You can no longer see my otherness from the outside. I’ve been really conflicted about how to plan a straight wedding as a bisexual girl, especially because weddings are so steeped in heteronormative tradition.
Devon and I are committed to being advocates for equality and have led campaigns and donated money, but we don’t want our wedding to feel like a heavy-handed political statement. Yes, the personal is absolutely political. And if I were marrying a woman, our personal commitment would appear externally political. But how do we do this as an opposite-sex couple? I don’t have an easy answer, except that we will be ourselves. And like everything else we have done so far, we will figure it out together.
This post originally ran on APW in October 2013