I wasn't sure if I was bisexual for a long time. And after I realized it, I wasn't sure I wanted to identify that way.
Homosexuality was not an appropriate discussion topic. Ever.
Gays were icky, and we should just pretend they don’t exist at all. Especially if you’re Catholic, or pretending to be. By the time I was born in the late 70s, church wasn’t really a thing in my family. I’d describe my family as “culturally” Catholic, in that we really only practiced our faith during holidays, weddings, funerals, and most importantly when our old aunties came to visit.
But the essence of Catholicism lingered like a fart in an elevator. And that included avoiding the very awkward conversation of any kind of partnership that wasn’t strictly heterosexual. Not that they advocated for any kind of hate or violence towards homosexuals; you’d have to actually acknowledge their existence to do that.
So for all intents and purposes, my early opinions and feelings were formed not by conversation, but by a dismissive side eye or frown at the mention or sight of someone who was not obviously straight. Well, and jokes, there were a lot of jokes.
So until I was around 15, gays were icky, which made the funny feelings I got when I discovered girl on girl porn at around 13…rather problematic. But, I was totally boy crazy, and was able to pass off those feelings as simply the excitement of watching something dirty.
It wasn’t until I had my first job at a small lesbian-owned sandwich shop, that I confronted the ick. Or really, the utter lack of it.
My mother and I moved to a tiny foothills town in California when I was 10. She still identified as Catholic, but after my father divorced her she had mostly divorced herself from the most harmful and bigoted beliefs of that faith. She hated the way that her body, sexuality, and sex were shamed and made sure that I didn’t suffer the same hang-ups and insecurities that she had. Along with having open conversations about sex, she was the first person to tell me that gay people were just people who loved differently.
But it wasn’t until I sat down with my very first boss that my misconceptions and biases were completely erased. She was just another person. Imagine that. A real human being. Not a punch line. Not some weirdo, just a human being trying to figure out how to live her life like everyone else.
I kissed a girl, and I liked it
When I started as a stripper in the late 90s, I was of course surrounded by beautiful and very naked women. I wasn’t so much attracted as I was intimidated. And curious. A positive consequence of being a stripper is that, being on the fringe of society already, exploring things that were once taboo is much easier. Because you’re already going to be judged, the risk and fear of judgment are quickly erased. So when the opportunity arose, I acted on those problematic feelings I had as a teenager, and found they weren’t so problematic anymore.
They were wonderful.
But the strip club is a place to perform. So because my first experiences with women were in that environment, it never crossed my mind that I might be bisexual. It felt more like a performance—because it literally was. Getting showered with dollar bills and applause colored my perception.
When I married my husband in 2000, I considered myself completely straight, with an occasional caveat, like a wild night at the bar, or an occasional performance at the club where I played around with women. I was hesitant to identify as bisexual.
It wasn’t until becoming involved with the atheist community that I started to reconsider my orientation. I was invited to a Pride event in 2019 where I was able to have an even better understanding of what the LGBTQ community was all about. I bought a rainbow boa and a tank top that read, “Kiss more girls.” Don’t mind if I do.
What struck me most about the event were the older men and women wearing shirts that said, “Free mom or dad hugs.”
I had gone there in my Pride gear thinking I was a part of the festivities. But as I watched people get their free hugs, I felt like an interloper. I had been ready to identify as bisexual. I was ready to be part of this community. But as I watched, I realized that I would not be rejected by my family for being bisexual. I didn’t have to tell them if I didn’t want to; I was married to a dude. Coming out wasn’t really a risk for me as it was for so many.
A new discussion
As I prickled at the idea of including myself in the LGBTQ community, I had also prickled a bit at using the phrase “coming out” in regards to my atheism. I understood the road it took for many LGBTQ to find acceptance and I didn’t want to take away from that. Sure I’ve dealt with the stink face that comes with telling people I was a stripper or atheist, but I’ve never faced the things that some have. I didn’t want to dilute their struggles with my own relatively mild ones.
As it happens, my Freedom From Religion Foundation local chapter president, muse, and mentor is a lesbian. And like my former boss, she sat me down and had a long discussion about the importance of coming out as an atheist. What mattered was that I was being honest about myself, and helping to provide support to others. As she is about so many things, she was right. I needed the support of the atheist community to speak up. Finding that support was a life changer for me.
I have come to understand that other bisexual people have felt the same way about coming out, and feeling like they aren’t quite included in the LGBTQ community. But I think that it is changing as more people identify as bisexual, so it is important for others to know that they aren’t alone.
I am married to a dude, but I am attracted to and intimate with women.
I am bisexual.