Growing up in the Midwest, I knew about lesbians. They had short hair and wore flannel with Doc Martens. I didn’t. Therefore, I was straight. I was a certified Ally and wanted other people to be free to express their sexuality, but I was straight. I had boyfriends!
This didn’t change once I went to college. I was involved in the campus Center for Social Justice, but the out lesbians that I knew still fit stereotypes that I didn’t. Even if one was femme, her partner was butch. None of them looked like me or tickled all my buttons. They were edgier, while I was basic. When a friend came out at twenty, I was impressed that she was brave enough to come out despite her advanced age. I thought that people knew at puberty which way they went. While I recognized that I thought some women were attractive, again, I had boyfriends.
Am I A Bisexual Outside of My Dreams?
Even now, when I’ve told a few friends that I like women, I still struggle with whether the term “bisexual” applies to me. I’m happily married to a man. I haven’t kissed a woman, though I’ve definitely thought about it. In a recent dream about Kate McKinnon, I was so impressed by 1) how easily she got off, and 2) how clear her instructions were. She told me what to do to her, I did it, and sparks flew! I, on the other hand, take at least half an hour to orgasm, and I can only do it with a vibrator.
Learning To Be Comfortable With My Sexuality
As a person who grew up in the rural Midwest in the last century, learning to enjoy sex, to enjoy enjoying sex, and to communicate about sex has been a process. Part of that has been about learning to recognize my needs. It’s not that I actively squash them down; it’s that they don’t even bubble up to the surface to be examined or squashed. The repression runs deep.
It’s not that I’m uncomfortable in my marriage or with my current sex life. It’s that I’m uncomfortable in my own process of coming out post-thirty. How do I explore being an older baby gay while remaining faithful to the vows that I made to a person I love deeply? The answer, so far, is that I read Autostraddle and talk honestly with my husband.
The Road Not Traveled
I do get cases of the “What Ifs.” What if I wasn’t married, got a job at a small liberal arts college, met a woman who conveniently worked there too, and fell in love? What if I had tried kissing other women in undergrad, figured out whether I actually liked it or not, and then still married my husband? What if I’d had examples of lesbians who looked like me and were vanilla with a twist, say, of lemon, when I was young? Part of me wonders if I required the safety net of heterosexual marriage and vows of fidelity to fully explore my sexual identity. I had inklings in undergrad but never acted on them. Same in graduate school, though in both phases of life I declined invitations because of the sheer newness of the idea. I couldn’t imagine what taking that first step would be like.
This Ring On My Finger
Now, with a protective ring on my finger, I meet women and wish that I didn’t have the ring on—that I could pretend that I was single and try to date them, because I can so easily and excitedly imagine that first (and next) step. The fact of the husband hampers my flirtation, both in terms of ethics and in terms of identity. I’ve read about people who think that bisexuality isn’t legitimate (my straight-passing privilege shields me from that mostly, though I’ve obviously internalized plenty of it) or about lesbians who don’t want to deal with people who are beginners. I don’t want to have someone else be my experiment either. I’m coming around to the idea of late-blooming lesbians and bisexuals, though, and have started opening up about my appreciation of women. I do believe that visibility is important. While I’m not talking about my imaginary sex life with children, if my husband and I do have kids, I want them to know that I like women too, and that it’s okay if they like people of various genders.
How Do I Figure Out What’s Next?
My husband and I have discussed the possibility of opening up our relationship, if I really feel like I need to explore this part of me. That scares me. Our marriage is new and wonderful, and I don’t want to hurt him. At the same time, I’d love to flirt without feeling guilty, to see where things go, and to feel more like an out and proud bisexual woman. I wonder if the crushes that I have, the women who are vanilla with a twist, if they’re aspirational crushes: I want to flirt with these women, spend time with them, and get to know them (kiss them, have-sex-with-them-maybe-but-that’s-scary).
And, I suppose, that’s where the discomfort comes in. I have growing pains. I’m growing into someone complex, someone brave (recognizing the complexity and braveness I’ve had all along), and figuring out how that works within and without my marriage. As I learn to identify my needs, to express them even if they displease others, I’m turning into the woman I want to be.