I had lunch with a lesbian acquaintance the other day. We’d met half a dozen times at various work events, and each time we’d start chatting with each other, finding commonalities in our relationships and world view, only to be interrupted.
I hadn’t seen Kerry in about a year, and she reached out, saying that she and her girlfriend were having some issues and she wanted to talk to me about it, specifically because I mentioned in one of our previous conversations that my wife and I had a long separation before getting back together and then eventually (finally) getting married in 2013 (SUCK IT, DOMA!).
So we met, and it was a little awkward at first, because as I mentioned, we’d never really hung out. But then we started talking, and she told me intimate things about her relationship — that I won’t share here, because I’m fairly certain she didn’t sign up for her love life details to be splashed, however anonymously, across my blog — and I told her some of the more salacious details about mine — like the time we ran into my wife’s ex and her ex’s girlfriend at a baseball game, and my wife and her ex talked to each other for thirty minutes while the girlfriend and I made awkward small talk.
Kerry and I had been talking for an hour and a half, way past the initial awkwardness, when I mentioned a past relationship, carefully editing the pronouns (like I still do when I mention my “spouse” to people I don’t know.) I danced around the details before finally admitting, “I’m bisexual.”
Did I hold my breath a little? Did my stomach clench? Possibly, because admitting you’re bisexual to a lesbian can sometimes be like admitting to a Republican you’re pro-choice.
There was a pause, and then she said quickly, quietly, “My girlfriend’s bisexual, too.” I recalled that she’d done the pronoun dance earlier in the conversation. And even though neither of us said anything more about it, there was a sigh of relief, because immediately we both kind of figured out that we weren’t going to have to have the argument. The one where a lesbian tries to convince a bisexual that, “Well, technically you’re a lesbian now, because you’re in a committed monogamous relationship with a woman.” Or the “you’re twice as likely to cheat, because you’re not getting what you need in one relationship.” That one’s a blast.
And it was funny to me, and kind of sad, because we talked about a lot of loaded things — racism, abuse, religion, politics — you’d think bisexuality wouldn’t be one of those.
But it still is.
And I still do a lot of my own bi-erasure. I self-censor. I self-censor around straight women because I already feel awkward enough about being The Lesbian in the Room. (I told you your hair looks pretty because your hair looks pretty, not because I’m coming on to you.) I self-censor around straight men because I dread the way their eyes light up at the thought of a threesome. I self-censor around lesbians because I really, really don’t want to argue with them about how committed I am to my wife. I self-censor around my religious parents because they can’t understand why, WHY would I choose to be with a woman when I could be just as happy with a man? And I self-censor around my wife, because even though she tries not to be, she’s still kind of hung up on all of those misconceptions, too.
So that moment between me and Kerry, where we both breathed a sigh of relief? Maybe that wouldn’t have to happen so often if I were braver, more willing to admit my truth. Maybe I should stand up for myself as vocally and vehemently as I do for trans people, for black people, for immigrants.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be my dirty little secret.