This is a guest piece from Erin, who decided to share her story, in hopes that it will help others. Well, I’ll just let you see what she’s got to say 😉
Hi, my name is Erin! The reason I’m writing this column is because I’m bisexual (with my predilections a little more oriented towards women), one who is gradually “sneaking” out of the closet, so to speak. I say “sneaking” because this coming-out process has been quite difficult for me. Even though the road has been difficult, there have been many who have been more than willing to give their love and advice, and I’m completely grateful to them. I hope my story can help someone through their coming out process just as others have helped me start to come out.
I grew up in a very conservative home; in fact, I call my childhood household “philosophically Mennonite.” We did not dress in skirts or wear the head coverings that are trademark to that faith, but in every other aspect, my family identified very closely with the Mennonite ideals. My family homeschooled me and my sister, and while I got a rigorous education that I’m still proud of, that education was also centered around the Mennonite faith. After I started attending University, I was more than prepared academically (in fact, until my junior year, I was a bit bored with college), but was immersed in an extraordinarily diverse culture that included those who openly celebrated their sexuality. I experienced what many would call culture shock and my initial thoughts were of disgust: “How can they do that and still have respect for themselves?!” But when I saw that these people (which the culture I grew up with would have called “heathens,” even today) were people just like me, my disgust dissolved and over time, I found myself wanting to be included in those groups, even if I didn’t actually join.
Of course, while I was growing up, sexuality and expression of that sexuality was strictly frowned upon. Most of what I learned about sexuality came from books that I read at the library – I didn’t feel comfortable enough to read them at home. I even managed to sneak the occasional romance novel; I remember feeling so titillated at the sex scenes, yet inexplicably drawn in.
Soon after my freshman year at University began, I discovered “flash fiction erotica.” For years, my expression of my sexuality had been tamped down, and suddenly, the door began to open. Not only did I read the “flash erotica,” I began to write it using my imagination and reading others’ “flash erotica.” Before, I had been writing small, short stories, but then I latched onto “flash erotica,” something that was entirely new to me. I remember being thoroughly surprised when positive reviews began to come through in response to what I had written. My writer’s ego was stroked and I continued to write “flash erotica.” I attribute reading and writing “flash erotica” to starting to open myself to my bisexuality – gay and lesbian erotic stories abounded on the particular communities I was attached to at the time, and I discovered that they were more fun for me to read than the straight erotic stories.
When it came to my sexual orientation, that door was firmly shut until December of 2010. However, I had been wondering since I was thirteen why I felt the way I felt. I was still attracted to men, but I felt more easily attracted to women. For almost a decade, the bisexual/bi-romantic attractions were little more than abstract feelings in a part of my heart that I didn’t dare talk about to anyone, much less express.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to say, “Bottling up emotions and feelings doesn’t help anyone.” Eventually, those emotions and feelings become unbearable to the point of bursting. When I was sixteen years old, I began having thoughts of death. I mentally committed suicide on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis, picturing grisly deaths for myself. This went on for almost eight years, so it became habit and it happened automatically.
I continued to write “flash erotica” for a variety of fan communities and I found receptive audiences practically wherever I went. In 2007, I wrote a piece about a pair of lesbian lovers who fall in love with one another. Their love is tested almost beyond their limits and one lover dies so that the other may carry on their mission (but that’s not how the story ends 😉 ). At the point that I wrote this story, I remember closely identifying with both my fictional lovers. To date, it is still one of my favorite stories.
Of course, before I began coming out, several women that I enjoyed being around started to hit on me. I was flattered by their attention and turned them down, but a very secret desire in me wanted to respond to them and say, “When can we go out together?” Of the dates with women I had, we both knew we were on a date, but it was the kind of thing we didn’t talk about out loud. Later, I had a woman ask me directly (we had known each other for quite some time before she asked), “Are you gay?” I shook my head and replied, “No,” but I knew in my heart and mind, as I was saying it, that I had just lied through my teeth.
In 2010, a variety of events came to a head and in the process, I made myself sit down with a therapist. While I didn’t come to discuss my sexuality, the topic eventually came up, as we were trying to find ways cut the mental distress I was feeling. I don’t remember what led up to the question, but at last, she asked, “Have you considered the fact that you are bisexual?” Instantly, the abstract questions I had been facing for over a decade became a concrete answer: “Yes, now that someone has asked the question, yes.”
For about a week, my emotions were off-the-wall, out-the-roof crazy. When I mentally told myself, “I’m bisexual,” over and over, I couldn’t help but cringe. On the other hand, for the first time ever, I felt a sense of freedom that was almost crushing. It felt as though I hadn’t been breathing for years and I was suddenly allowed to take my first breath. Something inside me had ripped open and it was more than welcome. But what stunned me most of all is that the moment I admitted to myself that I was bisexual, the suicidal thoughts evaporated without any further action on my part. I had no idea that sexuality had anything to do with one’s mental health, but there it is.
Of course, the foremost question in my mind was (and still is), “What am I going to tell my family?”
I’ve told most of my closest friends that I’m bisexual and if I’m not given hugs, kisses and a round of beer, then I hear, “Oh, really? Yeah, I’m not surprised. It fits you.” I get a laugh out of the fact that most of the people around me knew, but I was the last one to know!
I still tend toward being shy about saying that I’m bisexual, and being a little more oriented towards women than men. I’m terrified of the day my family will find out and it’s hard work getting past that terror. I still have a lot of questions, but those are being slowly answered as I go along in my journey towards full expression of my sexuality. I tend to hold back because bisexuality seems to have a bad connotation in many ways in the US. Movies and tv shows seem to show bisexuals much less frequently than gays, lesbians and transgenders. I grew up with the notion that bisexuals are “just promiscuous people who want to have their cake and eat it, too.” And then there seems to be a movement amongst teenagers to call themselves “bisexuals,” whether they are or not, just for a bid for more popularity – it seems to cheapen the sincerity of the truly bisexual population.
It’s not easy being bisexual, though so far, it has been a rewarding journey. I expect there to be hurdles in this rocky path, but I also expect to overcome them. My greatest comfort is that I’ve done very little of this process on my own. Advice and kindness has come from the most surprising corners, and I will be eternally grateful to those who have given me a hand up and out.