Bi the Way, (A Love Letter to My Husband)

I am bisexual. I have not said it in public before, except once at a PFLAG meeting, largely out of respect for my marriage and the man I am committed to in that marriage. I’m not even sure I actually used that word; I probably did a fine little dance all around it. Also, it has taken many years for me to own that name. One of my own children encouraged me to own it. And how can I tell that child it is great to be “out” if I am not? Children need example, not words.

What does being bisexual mean about me, about who I am in relation to you?

I have two kids I love without measure. I have two dogs. I’m Jewish. I go to synagogue sometimes to be in the company of other Jews. I don’t believe in a God, but I respect those who do. I don’t respect people who use their belief in a God to damn others. I’m left-handed, but only for eating, writing, and crocheting. Sometimes I have tremendous doubts about my life and the decisions I’ve made. Most of the time I love where I am and who I am. I love my very straight husband. Deeply. Romantically. Academically, too. Sometimes I want to hit him. (I don’t do it.) I love my friends fiercely, for they have so often been my family to me. When they hurt me, I am deeply hurt. When they show me love, I am thrilled. I often eat too little. I often drink too much. I love hot yoga. I hold grudges and try very hard not to. I want to be more forgiving. I am sensitive to criticism but need and want it. I think farts are funny. I am a terrible housekeeper. Really. Awful.

I’m in an odd position, I guess, though not an unusual one. A lot of women who like women are married to men. I have read about sexual fluidity in women–it’s more typical than not. I know only very few women who have never been sexually attracted to another woman. And most of my female friends are straight.

My sexuality is much more of a problem for others than it is for me. Like any other married person, I sometimes look at other humans I find attractive. The gender of the person is irrelevant, as far as I am concerned; I’m only looking. To do anything else would be cheating, would be disloyal, would be wrong. I am married. For some of my female friends my sexuality is a problem for them they haven’t recognized. Some might feel hurt that they are not my “type.” Others may wonder if my behavior toward them is motivated by sexual attraction (it isn’t). Still others may be hoping I’ll make a move on them (I won’t). Sometimes when things get weird between us I wonder if their knowledge of my bisexuality is somehow in the mix of emotions. I usually end up telling myself that my sexuality has nothing to do with it. It’s easier.

Respect for my husband kept me in the closet because of what others might say to him or think of him–because somehow his manhood is compromised by my attraction to some women. Because the ignorant will assume he’s being cheated on (because people who “claim” bisexuality are just whores), and that he’s a chump for staying married to me. Because some people will think that he’s married to a lesbian who’s too scared or repressed to admit she’s a lesbian. And that he, therefore, is gay. My husband does not care if someone thinks he is gay. He does not feel like less of a man. And if a man finds him attractive, he takes it as a compliment.

As I write this and read it over, line by line, obsessively, I am weighing the impact of these words on my life and my husband’s life–family members for whom this is news–other people who know me in social or professional contexts. It is a risk. It could be that some relationships will be hurt or even ended. It could be that some people I love will suddenly feel awkward in my (or our) presence. Of course, I hope none of that happens. I like to believe that at this point in my life (way too close to 50!), I have surrounded myself with people who understand me and who believe in loving the whole person, not just the parts that they find palatable. I have friends with deeply held beliefs that are the opposite of my own. But those friends are good people who aim to be a positive force in their lives and who are kind and generous. That is what I see and love in them. I hope they will see the good in me.

As a new (secular) year approaches, I find that I have reached an unexpected place. And when I have the presence of mind to reflect on that, I am filled with gratitude and joy. Professionally, I am right where I want to be at this moment, working on creative projects with “inner city” kids–the kids I grew up with–reading and writing and planning and dreaming about ways I can grow these programs to reach out to even more kids. Personally, I have a circle of upstanding, interesting, smart women friends, women with diverse talents, experiences, and opinions. My children are wonderful and daily overcoming obstacles. Culturally, I live in a city whose time to embrace the arts has come, I have a Jewish community when I want it, and I have access to a great deal of potential in the city, as yet untapped. It is exciting.

But what about my partner in crime? I do respect him. We’ve been married for fifteen years. Those years have held a startling number of difficult circumstances outside of our control. But we are also happy. We find each other interesting and funny. We like to talk with each other and also just sit quietly. We learn from one another. Our children drive us mad and amuse us by turns. We worry about them together and take turns talking each other off the clock tower. We’ve had plenty of arguments and therapy, rough patches, times when we needed some help to get back to teamwork. And we always get back. I cannot begin to imagine another human who knows me as well or would be as willing to live with me. Lucky me! It is this rock on which I stand that gives me the courage to share these words.

With gratitude.