Ever since college when I slowly came to grips with my bisexual identity, I have always had a fear in the back of my mind. A little voice in every relationship has always been there, questioning, “If you commit to one gender, won’t you miss the other genders?” I have feared that having the capacity to love people all across the gender spectrum, as well as a desire to be monogamous in my relationships, would mean that I would also ultimately be unhappy in one way or another. I want to pledge my life in partnership to another person at some point, to start a family – but that means deciding to commit to one person of one gender identity for the rest of my life. Such a permanent prospect is terrifying in so many ways.
My mother’s eyes grew wide and, without a word, she turned around and walked out of the kitchen. Conversation over.
I didn’t bring up the issue again for several months. When I did, my mom stayed put and instead of being silent, she told me that she thought I was going through a “phase” – a term I would hear countless more times from her over the years.
I went on to date more people – cisgender females, cisgender males, gender queer-identified people, transgender people. I fell in love, hard, for a girl almost three years younger than me during the latter half of my senior year in college. I graduated and went right into the Peace Corps. I left for Malawi, Africa, with a promise to write to her every single day.
I kept my promise – and never got a single reply. Without the support of the girl I loved, along with several other factors, my time in the Peace Corps was cut short and I came back to the US.
I was dumped right after I got back to my parents’ home, learning that I had been cheated on multiple times over as I wrote those heartfelt letters a world away. Collapsing on the floor of my childhood bedroom, my mom came to comfort me.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea,” she told me, rubbing my back as I sobbed. “Both men and women.”
Hearing those words coming from her mouth meant more to me than she probably knew. Knowing that my mother was starting to accept my sexuality was the silver lining of that break-up – of all of the broken hearts I had nursed up to that point. Her words of wisdom and advice would only become more accepting and apropos as my dating life continued.
It was four and a half years ago at a time in my life when I wasn’t dating that I randomly reunited with my high school sweetheart, Justin. I was leaving the newspaper I had been reporting for to take an internship at the United Nations as Justin was taking a job at the paper I was vacating. We met up again after a long absence from each other’s lives at a going away party. Over drinks, we talked the night away, laughing at each other’s jokes and filling one another in on what we had been up to as of late. When the party ended, we went back to my place so we could talk more.
Justin and I officially started to date again a month after our reunion. We moved across the country eight months later to see what the West Coast held for us. A year after initially settling in the LA-area, I started to question our relationship – or, more accurately, my bisexuality and what I was missing, if anything, in our relationship.
That voice started to rear up in my head once more: “If you commit to one gender, won’t you miss the other genders? If you commit to Justin and are never with a woman again, will you be missing out on an important aspect of life? An aspect of yourself that you value?”
As a bisexual activist, I have spoken at college campuses, PFLAG meetings and conferences from the East Coast to the West Coast and back. I have told teenagers coming to grips with their own identities that bisexuality is a beautiful thing – having the capacity to love others regardless of sex or gender is a gift. As I have spoken out against the stereotypes that bisexuals are sex-crazed, greedy and incapable of monogamy, internally I have wondered if that last cliché might not, in some small way, be true, at least for me.
When I was dating one girl in college, still unsure about who I was, I hooked up with a male childhood friend, needing to know if I was going through the “phase” my mother spoke of and thinking that one hook-up would hold the answers I desperately needed. It didn’t and a phase it was not. I hated myself for my indiscretion, but I also knew that the incident did not make me a “cheater,” merely a lost and confused girl still trying to figure out who she was. Believing that being bisexual makes me incapable of being in a monogamous relationship is a self-defeating thought that I have worked hard for many years to overcome.
Considering my relationship with Justin and where it is likely leading after going on five years together, I needed to reroute my thinking on this subject. Surprisingly, the ultimate advice I needed came from the one person who, at the beginning of my sexual journey, was the least likely to understand.
It has been my mother above all others who has made me realize that, regardless of whether one is gay, straight, bisexual or any other sexual identity on the vast spectrum, when it comes to love it is about the individual. With many relationships come and gone, my mom has helped me realize one over-arching fact: regardless of my sexual identity, finding love doesn’t mean I no longer have the capacity to be attracted to anyone else, it just means that I want to be with my chosen significant other more than anyone else.