Pride, representation, and personal terror
June 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m married to a woman. I love her. I think I might curl up into a ball and die if she left or I lost her. I have no interest in being with anyone else. These are all true statements.
I am bisexual. This is also a true statement.
Bisexuality is one of those things that people dismiss as ‘trendy’ or ‘self delusional’. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me I’m just gay and need to accept it. For some reason, bisexual men are always gay and bisexual women are always straight when these arguments come up. For me, bisexuality wasn’t trendy at all – it was something I fought against all of my life. I didn’t admit it to myself until I was in my mid to late 30’s.
I also have extreme body dysmorphia issues and a touch of gender dysmorphia. That’s not terribly surprising, considering my current size and build (while not massive, I’m six foot one and 265 lbs, so I’m not small either) happened in one summer. I went from 5 foot 5 to 6 feet in a few months and that kind of change will screw with your self image for years. When I was a child, people often mistook me for a girl, and because we raise boys to be revolted by anything that’s not masculine I loathed myself for it. And then I changed, and while outwardly my changes were everything I could have wanted (I even made the wrestling team and earned a medal at the freshman states tournament that year) inwardly I was horrified by them.
My body wasn’t mine anymore. It was this thick, coarse thing with hair growing on my chest and limbs. I was and in fact still am disgusted by my appearance.
So add onto that an attraction to men as well as women and yeah, I wasn’t doing well in accepting who I am. And why would I have been? What examples did I even have to learn what I was? My parents, divorcing even as it was happening? My peer group that fetishized being masculine and shunned everything that even might make you ‘queer’ as poison? Media? The media of the 1980’s wasn’t exactly chock full of stories of bisexual men being attracted to other men as well as women, at least not that I could tell from my small town Rhode Island upbringing. I think I saw The Hunger and was very confused by Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve, but they were women, and the general impression I got from my peer group was that two women were hot, but two men were disgusting.
So I shut that shit down fast.
The funny part was, I wasn’t any better at dealing with my attraction to women, and a huge part of the problem there was, I kept thinking I must be gay. I mean, I thought about men, so I must have been, right? But then I’d meet a girl, and I’d fall hard, the way only teenagers can fall, and I’d obsess over her and try and figure out a way to talk to her and maybe I would (usually I wouldn’t, but I did date two girls in high school) and it was very intense and sure felt real. One girl I thought I loved so much I was willing to convert for her, only to find out she was only dating me because of my reputation (my growth spurt had allowed me a modicum of revenge on my former bullies) and so I was left feeling more confused and alienated than ever.
My 20’s were worse. I won’t belabor them, but I finally dated seriously, always aware that there were people I was attracted to that it was okay to like, and people it was forbidden to like. And even the people who were openly into liking people of the same gender as themselves would treat my inquiries as an opportunity to proselytize on the subject and tell me that half of myself was just an act or a lie. So I stopped asking about it.
Despite my discomfort with my appearance, the fact is, I am a cisgender male, and a fairly obvious, some might even say stereotypical one. Hairy, large, somewhat hard featured, I am not and have not been in years androgynous in any way. I didn’t know back then that you could be those things and be gay, much less bisexual. Because all I had were stereotypes in a few limited pieces of media and very few personal encounters with people who lived the reality of it, I had no idea that there was more to sexuality than straight or gay. I didn’t know about gender identity issues or that one could be other than what they were told they were based on genital configuration – these were alien ideas to me.
And why were they alien to me? Because no one talked about it. No one wrote about it, or at least, no one that I managed to find. I was groping in the dark. I hadn’t read Delany yet. Hadn’t lived in DC’s Dupont Circle yet. Hadn’t experienced anything nor ever even seen hints.
I am bisexual. It’s not a trend, a phase, or a delusion. The delusion is thinking you can tell me I’m not what I am to suit some narrative you’ve constructed. People are what they are. I am attracted to men, and I am attracted to women. I met a woman, I love her, and that love doesn’t steal anything from me. It adds to everything. It makes my life better. She makes my life better, because of who she is, the wonderful surprise she presents every day.
She doesn’t make me straight. I don’t need to be straight to love her. I just need a heart, and I have one of those.
I wrote Nameless, Heartless and Faceless because I love writing. I didn’t write them to convey a message. The characters in it that are bisexual, trans or genderfluid aren’t there because I wanted to teach anyone anything or say ‘Hey, there is a valid way to be something else’ because I didn’t even think of doing that. Those characters are the way they are because all writers, if they’re writing in an honest fashion, use themselves in their work. All of the characters in the Nameless series draw from me in some fashion. They are facets of me, because as a writer and a human being I am the lens through which I look at the world. I have to be. I can’t be anyone but myself and I can’t live any other life than the one I’ve lived. I can use imagination and empathy to extrapolate, and I have – I’m not a young woman coming to grips with her bisexuality as Seri is, and I’m certainly not a young trans girl like Bry is – but I’ve known doubt and fear and confusion about who I am and what it means.
Those characters are there because I’ve lived and experienced so many people like them. I’ve taken pieces of myself and recombined them with pieces of people I’ve known and loved and hated and even just people I met, who drifted in and out of my life to pop up years later as a fragment of Jimmy Williams, a piece of Akikvasha, a shard of Mercy Brown. For a writer, the people you meet, love, know are the pigments in your portraiture.
I don’t write queer characters to push diversity. I write them because the world is far more diverse than we admit.