I confess to a certain odd challenge to reality in my waking moments. There are sometimes things about which I am completely certain. I mean that I have absolutely no doubt about events or experiences having happened in reality. Then some time later – even weeks or months later – I wake from a dream and realize that the thing I knew with such certainty was in fact a repeated dream. When I would tell my late husband about these episodes, he would sometimes begin a litany of things about which we disagreed in hopes that I would acknowledge that my perspective on those was also a fantasy. “No such luck!” I would assure him.
Last night I was reminded of the shakiness of my certainty as I looked for a Time Magazine cover from 1983 that I was sure existed. The issue, at least in my head, announced the reality of a bisexual identity. I use that issue as an anchor for arguments I have made about bisexual identity for at least a decade. Fortunately I have not fantasized this issue of Time into being. I have just been off the actual date of its issue by nearly 10 years; it was 1974.
In the 40 years since that article appeared, I have been a student of sexual identity and sexual orientation. While I was heading education programs for a Planned Parenthood affiliate, I not only went to sexuality attitude readjustment seminars (SARS), I led parts of them. For twenty years, I had developed a public health organization anchored in a deep understanding of sexual identity. I teach about it in psychology classes at the university. I have reviewed research articles and book chapters. I ask questions. I read and read.
In my university class I sometimes have students engage in an activity in which they silently form a continuous line, taking positions along it ranging from complete monosexuality (100% consistent erotic attraction, fantasies, and behaviors toward a specific gender whether it is masculine or feminine) to complete bisexuality. Because it is a silent activity, students have to make random judgements about where others would be on that continuum. Most semesters a handful of students immediately head to the bisexual end of the line. A much larger group forms a mosh pit of sorts, shoving to be on the monosexual end – lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual people all scrunched together. It seems to me that the monosexuals mostly want to know about the bisexuals than about each other. The people on the bisexual end of the continuum in the exercise as often as not identify as heterosexual or lesbian/gay.
These classroom exercises seem to me to be a microcosm of the odd and oppressive context of sexual identity in the U.S. We too often fail to consider our sexual fantasies, attractions, behaviors, orientation, or identities. Our understanding and decisions based on that understanding are frequently foreclosed prematurely. We defend them without thought. As the context of the world, our own experiences, and our lives change, we don’t consider re-opening the decisions we made in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.
In childhood, I knew myself to have same-sex attractions and fantasies. My early sexual behaviors were with males and females, but like many gay and lesbian people who developed their identities in the 1960s, I understood it to be unfair to people of the other sex (in a binary system of gender) to be “indecisive.” So my public gay identity of 50 years is not completely consistent with my self-identity, who I know myself to be. In my own classroom activity I would be somewhere between monosexual and bisexual in my orientation.
In one way, my circumstance is likely confusing to many. Some may read the previous paragraph slowly or more than once because it seems confusing to them. But to me, it is quite clear. I have a somewhat bisexual orientation, but identify as gay because of the political era in which I developed my identity. I am completely sure that others are adding up similar data and coming up with different decisions for themselves. To this, I say, “Well done!”
For this and many other things, I am proud of my bisexual family. I know that Gerard, Marilyn, Tony, Cherise, Davon, Mack, and others are generally more concerned about how they are moving along in the world, how they are supporting their families, and how they are deeply relating to others. It is awful and crushing and unacceptable to have other people’s beliefs about infidelity and dishonesty smeared on them or any other bisexual persons. My best efforts to date to end this harsh thoughtlessness have not moved the needle on changing it. I will continue to work on it because I love and respect you for connecting the dots in your lives and for digging for love where it is to be found. I am proud of you.