Being Bi

I knew from a fairly young age that I was different than other girls.

Growing up, I never heard the word “gay” unless it meant “happy”, and even then, it was pretty rare. I was never exposed to same-sex couples. I had no idea this part of life even existed. I think the first time I ever heard the word was in the mid 80’s, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, and even then I had to piece together what it meant. I thought that only men could be gay, based on what I was seeing and hearing. It wasn’t until the last couple of years of high school that I heard the word “lesbian”, and I had to ask what that meant.

I don’t think that my parents purposefully kept this info from me; I think that they just didn’t have much exposure to it, themselves, so how could they open up this topic of conversation? My parents were great about talking to me about sex and protecting myself from unwanted pregnancy and disease! I was given a series of books by Peter Mayle, which started with “Where Did I Come From?” and went to puberty with “What’s Happening To Me?” (both of which I’ve passed down to my own children).

Before the age of 7, I had already had a sexual experience with a female friend of mine. I won’t go into detail, but there was a closet involved. Which, for me,Β  makes hearing the phrase “coming out of the closet” a little funny, and a lot poignant. I was also a somewhat avid browser of my father’s Playboy magazines, that he thought were hidden so well under his bed. The naked female body elicited some physical reactions from my body that I did not understand, and was too embarrassed to ask about.

Between the ages of 7 and 10, I had one experience with a boy and one with a girl. Both of which filled me with a sense of shame, because I was old enough by then to know I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing. I felt no shame by having sexual encounters with girls, just that I had been taught that sex was something for adults. I wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, having sex, but I was touching (and being touched) on body parts that were meant for adults only.

Between the ages of 10 and 21, my attraction to both girls and boys grew pretty strong. If it weren’t for my best friend, I would have never known there was a term for that. I had confided in my best friend that I was attracted to some girls, and she explained to me what that meant. It was all so foreign to me. I never said a word to anybody else, and she kept my secret like a best friend is supposed to do. I didn’t have another sexual encounter with a female until my 21st birthday.

I eventually grew more confident in myself and with my sexuality. I finally tried out the “coming out” part to my first husband, and needless to say, he was ecstatic, though hesitant. His head filled with plans for a MΓ©nage Γ  Trois, then reality snuck in and he started to worry about the possibility of me leaving him for another woman. We talked a lot about what my sexuality meant for us as a couple. Of course I was open to having fun with it, in fact I was the one suggesting it in the first place! And no, I never once thought about leaving him for a woman.

After he and I divorced (it had nothing to do with my sexuality), I ended up in a long term relationship with a guy who was told up front about my sexuality, and who, of course, had the same thoughts of fun that most guys would be thinking. During the early years of our relationship, we were careful not to clue in the children (his 2, our 1) to either my sexuality or our lifestyle. We both had a number of girlfriends – some separately, some jointly. Some of our friends knew our situation, but our family was kept completely in the dark.

I think, eventually, my father had an inkling that I was bi, but never said anything directly to me. He knew that I was going to a nearby strip club on occasion (because I’d ask him for driving directions), but never asked why I was going. I didn’t officially “come out” to him and my step-mother until my mid 30’s. And even then, my step-mother was only mildly surprised, and my father seemed completely unsurprised … almost apathetic … as if I’d just told him it was my birthday (which it was).

My mother … that’s a whole other can of worms. Some day I’ll get into the story of coming out to my mother. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s downright ugly and difficult for me to recount. Suffice it to say, she was not happy, and it was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Eventually, the children came to realize that I was bi. I just couldn’t hide it from them any more. I tried, though, because I didn’t want them to be embarrassed to have a (step) mother who was different than their friends’ mothers. I didn’t want them to be teased or bullied. Turns out, my worries were completely unfounded. My step-daughters weren’t fooled at all; they claimed to know long before I officially told them. My Son was still fairly young at the time (about 7 or 8), so my bisexuality was a non-issue for him. In the years since, he’s not only not been embarrassed by me, he’s embraced it as something that makes his mom stand out from others! He makes me proud to be his mother.

Shortly after I came out to my mother, my relationship with my Son’s father ended. I married a guy who was a bit hesitant about my sexuality, because he’d been taught that it was something that was wrong, but accepted me for who I am nonetheless. He’s definitely become more comfortable with it over the years, so comfortable that it’s natural to him now. So natural for everyone that knows me, that it’s not uncommon in conversation. It’s just a part of our everyday lives now.

And there are also perks to being married to, or the child of a bisexual woman. How many husbands get to sit and people-watch with their wives, while comparing each others attraction to women walking by? How many boys get a lesson from their mother about how to discreetly check out a female?Β  πŸ˜‰

My sexuality is something I would never dream of wanting to be different. I’m proud of who I am, and I’m fortunate that the majority of people in my life accept me for who I am, and also would never dream of me being any different. I’m proud of having children who accept others for who they are inside, and don’t care what their sexuality is. I’m fortunate to have people in my life who will defend not only me, but every member of the LGBT community, against discrimination and bullying by bigots.

For me, being Bi has been a mostly positive thing. It’s part of who I am.

Being Bi means being Me.

  1. September 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Absolutely wonderful blog, Shelli. I am so glad for you that the negative stuff associated seems to have been the minority. I Yam what I Yam!

    • September 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks Temy! I say that a lot, myself. Grew up watching Popeye. πŸ˜€

  2. September 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    What a great article Shelli! Great insight.

    • September 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you Georgia! β™₯

  3. September 6, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Shelli, I’m bi, too. I told my immediate family, parents and siblings, all at once when I was 21…whether they *knew* or not* because I was living with both a girlfriend and boyfriend (who were not seeing each other) and my son was on the way. I had bigger fish to fry, which was more important at the time, and wanted everything out in the open. πŸ™‚ It was “get on board” or not, I’m moving on! lol! I tend to be blunt like that. πŸ™‚ I honestly don’t care what people think of my sexuality because, like you said, it is ME. I can’t change that any more than someone who’s hetero or gay can change *that.* I’m not asking for acceptance. People can take or leave it. I’m okay with that, too. πŸ™‚ And it’s a shame that it takes “courage” to just be who you are when straight people don’t even have to think about it… See you in FB. Much love. GFW

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:01 am

      That’s the way I feel about it, too. If someone isn’t ok with it (only 2 people in my life so far!) they can just fuck off, because I don’t need them. So, how did your family take it?

  4. September 6, 2011 at 5:14 am

    My mom and dad were…taken aback would be right (lol!) because I said it in front of my brother and sisters. They’re 4, 7 and 10 years younger than me. The kids asked what it meant, and I just explained that I had a girlfriend and boyfriend, and they all were okay with that. As it turns out both of my sisters are bi. πŸ™‚ My family is liberal, as far as that goes My mother has a gay brother and sister (twins!). Perhaps someone should do a study on us. πŸ˜‰

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:45 am

      That’s great that your family was so understanding! Kudos to them! LOL on the study … hmmm, maybe! πŸ˜‰

  5. September 6, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Well, people always want to know if things are nature or nurture. None of this was nurture, of course. I think for everyone, if the opportunity arises, there is some experimentation, but beyond that? If we’re not born this way, it’s magic. LOL

  6. September 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Wonderful post. There was in the news recently study findings that men can be legitimately bi, this supposedly being shocking revelations (ha) because it was previously thought that men who claimed to be bi were just gay men in denial. Personally I was glad to see this because it confirmed I’m not crazy. Although my thinking I’m bi is linked with all sorts of confused feelings about my sexuality from my childhood sexual abuse. It’s all fucked up, but I *think* I’m ok with saying I’m bi.

    • September 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm

      Be ok with whoever you are! I accept you for who you are, no matter how you define yourself. β™₯

      And of course men can be bi! That study probably elicited quite a few *facepalm* moments from men all over the world! πŸ˜‰

  7. Roger Barr
    September 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Wonderful article, Shelli! Great that you can be so open about your life. Maybe one day everyone can be judged by their character and not their sexual preference. My son had a heck of a time coming out to us but I had already figured it out a long time before that. I’ve never had a problem with it myself.

    • September 10, 2011 at 6:46 am

      I hope so, too, Roger! Kudos to you for being the parent your son needs! πŸ™‚

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