I’m Not Straight (And Other Discoveries)

In the conservative evangelical homeschool culture in which I grew up, things were simple and clear cut. There were men, and there were women. You grow up, you get married, you have kids. Men are attracted to women, and women are attracted to men. Men marry women, women marry men. The end.

Of course, I knew there was something else out there, that there were people who didn’t fit into this neat little paradigm. Those people were disordered. Or, that is what I was told. “There are some men who want to kiss on other men. Isn’t that gross?” I readily agreed. Perversion. Evil. The work of Satan.

There were many things I knew, as a child and teen. For instance, that sex is the most wonderful thing that you can imagine, but only between a husband and a wife. Or, that virginity is the most beautiful gift women have to give to their husbands. Or, that thinking sexual thoughts was dirty and sinful.

Puberty is only more difficult than usual for those who are, like I was, taught that thinking sexual thoughts is the moral equivalent of actually engaging in sexual intercourse, and that both are sinful.

Push the thoughts away. Don’t go there. Surely I can control my mind.

And as I found, I could.

Sexual thoughts be dead. Sexual feelings be dead. Sexuality be gone. Don’t think about it, don’t go there, make my mind blank. Shut it all off. Make it go away.

And as time went by, I did.

I was pure. I was holy. I was protecting my virginity, both physical and emotional. Someday my prince would come riding, and I would present myself to him, pure and holy, a gift. Our marriage would be blessed by God because I’d kept myself pure. We would have a passel of children, be financially secure, and become one in body and in spirit. Oh, and our sex life would be out of this world.

And then I went to college. Little homeschooled evangelical girl with pigtails and jumpers, off to the big wide world of a university campus. It was there I found him. Sean. A young man with hopes and dreams for the future, a heart for fellow humans, and an openness and honesty that could not help but be appealing.

We started dating. I called it courtship.

While I was attracted to Sean’s personality, love for others, and intelligence, I was not sexually attracted to him. He seemed to think that was a problem. I didn’t. I felt no sexual attraction for anyone else, either. I had shoved my sexuality in a box, locked it up tight. He seemed worried. I wasn’t. I was keeping myself pure, avoiding sin.

Sean was fine with letting me set the physical boundaries in our relationship. We didn’t kiss, and even holding hands took me a while to become comfortable with. That wasn’t what worried him. It was a word. A possibility. Asexual.

Asexuality (sometimes referred to as nonsexuality), in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex.

Would my feelings change when we married? Would I suddenly find myself a sexual being? I thought yes. Sean feared no. He was concerned. But I knew better. I was merely keeping myself pure for my future husband. It was normal to be able to turn sexual thoughts and feelings off completely like that – a good thing, actually. Right?

Fearful, I took the lid off the box, wondering what I would find. Months went by. Gradually the feelings re-awoken. Gradually the urges came back. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. And with relief, I found myself indeed sexually attracted to Sean. My relief was mirrored by his. I still believed in purity. I still viewed the world in binary. Grow up, marry someone of the opposite sex, have children, in that order. It’s just how things were.

That summer I married Sean.

But there was something else. When my sexuality came back from the grave into which I’d pushed it, it wasn’t always predictable. I’ve shared a bit of that before, but there’s more.

The time I suddenly had the urge to put my hand on my friend’s breast. The way my gaze would linger when an especially fit woman jogged by on the sidewalk. This thing about where a woman’s hips meet her waist.

I told myself it was just appreciation.

The time I almost leaned forward and kissed a friend while we were sitting close and watching TV. The way I could name more female actors I felt attracted to than male actors. This thing about women’s curves.

I told myself it was just appreciation.

When we had only been dating for a little while, Sean told me he was bi-curious. I cried. He protested. I yelled. He explained. I was afraid. I was disgusted. I felt sick inside. I came within a hair’s breadth of breaking up with him.

And now, here I was.

Black and white. Black and white. Everything was supposed to be black and white. Men were attracted to women, and women to men, end of story. People who were sexually attracted to those of their same sex were disordered.

Mentally ill.

Sick.

Perverted.

Twisted.

Living in darkness.

Deceived by Satan.

But I didn’t feel disordered, or sick, or twisted.

Somehow I had always imagined that people who were perverted and deceived by Satan would be able to feel the oppressive darkness with which they were surrounding themselves. I had been taught that they would feel dirty and miserable. The scum of the earth, crying out for help, in desperate need of salvation.

But I felt, well, normal. Happy. Whole.

After telling myself for years that these feelings were just appreciation, or jealously for physical beauty, or anything other than what they were, I finally let go of the denial and admitted the truth to myself.

I am sexually attracted to women.

There was such freedom in just admitting that to myself. I could let go of the confusion and just be me. I could let go of the questions and just accept myself for who I was. I could let go of the questions and just embrace life.

When I told Sean, he was not concerned in the least. I knew he wouldn’t be. He knew, as I had come to realize, that what mattered in terms of our marriage was not that I only be sexually attracted to men but rather simply that, regardless of who else I am sexually attracted to, I be sexually attracted to him. And it just so happens that I am.

For a time I tried to work out just where I fell on the spectrum. Was I just bi-curious? Was I 30% attracted to women and 70% attracted to men? Or was I maybe more attracted to women than to men? Did it have to be 50/50 for me to be bisexual? What if I was only 20% attracted to women? Did that mean I was technically straight?

The reality, of course, is that without actually ever being with a woman it’s probably impossible for me to know. Being raised in the purity culture and the getting married to the first person I ever had a relationship with, there’s a lot I simply can’t know right now, and may never know. This is part of what kept me thinking in circles for so long. But what I finally realized is that I don’t have to fit my sexuality into any one label or box. There are men I find sexually attractive, and there are women I find sexually attractive. I don’t have to figure out a ratio or obsess over what label I should use.

There’s also the fact that I’m in a monogamous relationship with a man, so I don’t look anything but straight. I’ve long felt that I have no right to claim an identity that doesn’t concretely affect my life. I don’t have to worry about whether people will recognize Sean as my spouse, or whether he is legally permitted to make medical decisions for our children. But one thing I’ve realized is that humans’ sexuality is incredibly diverse, and that we need to move away from trying to force things into a binary or into neat boxes created by religion or culture. Admitting that I’m not straight is just one part of that. Whatever exactly I am, I’m not a fake. I’m me.

Everything may have been black and white growing up, but at some point the floor dropped out from under me and the world shattered into a rainbow of color. And you know what? The world is a much more complicated, interesting, and fascinating place than I had ever realized. The simple sexual binary I was raised on has proved itself false, and I’ve stopped worrying about fitting myself into it. There is no way I would ever go back.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • “Rebecca”

    Wow, this is extremely similar to my story. I’m grinning right now.
    Like you, I married a more “worldly” man, who was the first person I ever dated, and though he had far more liberal views on sex than I did, we followed my boundaries and abstained from intercourse until marriage. Shortly before I dropped my faith, I realized that my thoughts about women were undeniably sexual.
    I definitely know the internal questions like the ones you describe- “Wait, are these attractions really sexual?” “Maybe I’m just *jealous* of her body, yeah that’s it,” “I just think, theoretically, if I were a straight guy, I’d find her very hot,” “Do I *count* as bisexual, since I’ve only ever been with a man and will likely never be with a woman?” “Should I tell people I’m bisexual?”
    And, oh, the mortification when I remember all the unkind things I thought about LGBT people back in the day… If only my younger self could see me now!

    • Nimue

      It’s so similar to mine too. Before I got married, I just thought I was really good at abstinence. Which was true-I was really good at abstinence. Because I was never sexually “tempted”, LOL. Being asexual and all. I’ve always lacked sexual desire (well, to be picky about words, I shouldn’t say “lacked”, as I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out on anything), but I didn’t realize until recently (read: three years after getting married) that most people don’t feel the same way I do.

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

    I didn’t even know homosexuals existed. I looked up the word lesbian in the dictionary when I was about 16. Thanks mom and dad.

    • Carys Birch

      You know, I’m surprised I knew what lesbian meant… after all, I thought “condom” was an alternate short form for condominium. You know, like condo.

      • Liberated Liberal

        :D

        That made me laugh!

      • Silent Service

        Shit, I just giggled out loud. I thought I’d been kept in the dark. :)

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        lol, I remember a kid in my 6th grade class who thought that! The poor thing, it took him MONTHS to live that down!

    • Rebecca

      I didn’t really know too much about homosexuality besides the fact that by my circle’s standards “sodomites” were the most perverted form of sinners in God’s eyes. One night when I was 16 I looked up “homosexual” in our encyclopedia and had the misfortune to leave the volume open to that page on the kitchen table where my stepfather found it – he was outraged and demanded why was I reading about such sin! And had I read any of this to my sister Melody (two years my junior)?! I couldn’t believe he was implying that Melody and I were involved in a steamy lesbian affair – he was a bit TOO much obsessed with incest as I look back – he never allowed us to be alone with our boy cousins as “it doesn’t matter that they’re your cousins.” He told me that he would to my mother about this, that this wasn’t the end of the discussion, thank God I had left the book open so that he could help the evil urges within me. What’s hilarious is that he did tell my mother and she couldn’t have cared less – I think he was quite disappointed with her lack of proper shock.

  • Doe

    My background was not as repressive as yours, but I can relate. Going to college and dating someone who wasn’t a virgin, who watched porn and had no intention of stopping, who was bicurious and later definitely bisexual, who wanted to include all manner of transgressive practices in our relationship. I accepted a lot over time and still look back on that sexual relationship without judgment because it gave me license to try out some transgressive things of my own (like experiencing attraction to women). But there were still days where I didn’t want to go any further because I was afraid of the next thing I would discover about myself.

    I’m marrying a man soon, but we try to stay informed and advocate for LGBT issues. With people at pride or whatever I usually just identify as an ally so I don’t look like I’m appropriating. I’ve managed to avoid coming out to family (my biggest concern, friends are pretty supportive) so I don’t feel the right to claim that identity either.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      I’ve waffled a bit on the self-identity thing myself. When I was in college I identified as bi, though I’ve never actually had a romantic relationship with another woman. These days I tend to think of myself as straight, though if you pushed me on it, I’d switch to ‘married’ (I’m probably a rarity, but since being with my husband I haven’t wanted to flirt with anyone else–that drive is just gone. Not that I miss it.) I do tend to feel like I’d be appropriating the label since I’ve never had a same-sex relationship, and these days my relationship status supersedes my sexual orientation anyways.

  • http://tinygrainofrice.wordpress.com Kristycat

    This.

    This describes so well the slow gradual process that was my own realization that I was attracted to women – and the questions (70/30? 80/20? Am I “really” bi? If I’m married, do I “count”?) that followed.

    The difference, of course, being that I was never raised to think homosexuality was wrong, and I was pretty confident that no one I cared about would judge me for it.

  • Meyli

    Thank you for this post! I wasn’t raised evangelical, but my relationship with my (almost) husband is almost identical. Slowly I’m starting to feel less…abnormal.
    Ever heard of Laci Green? Look her up on youtube – she makes awesome sex-positive videos, many of which are about sexuality.

  • ronalon42

    I similarly didn’t really think about the possibility of being bisexual until after I was in a serious relationship with a man. My sexuality was damaged by far more than just a repressive religious childhood however and so I always assumed my lack of attraction to men in general was because of that. And while I am certainly attracted to women what really caused me to realize my sexuality is that I *love* women. The feelings I had for some of my girl friends often bordered on romantic. I remember when I first saw Titanic, which was at a neighbor’s house as my parents had forbidden me to see it, I was completely 100% in love – with Kate Winslet, not Leonardo DiCaprio.

    But I didn’t really know what being a lesbian meant, just that it was bad to have sex with women which I wasn’t doing so I felt safe. I also figured everyone felt strong feelings for people regardless of gender they just didn’t talk about it. “But I’m a Cheerleader” is a movie that is both funny and relateable to me.

    Now I see that I am attracted to my husband, and more importantly I love him very much, but were I single again for any reason I don’t think it is likely I would look for male partners. I place myself at a 4 or 5 on the Kinsey scale. I am not sure what it means for our marriage, but my husband and I talk about our same sex feelings (he is I suppose more bi-curious at the moment while I have stronger feelings) and I hope we can work through them together. We try not to limit each other’s emotional or sexual expression though we are committed to each other. I’ve seen that blow up in people’s faces though so we are treading carefully.

    I do understand the hesitation with taking on the label of “bisexual” when in a heterosexual relationship and never experiencing same sex relationships. I don’t think it is wrong either way, just that living a heterosexual life gives one the privileges so there has to be extra understanding there. You know that of course :).

  • J-Rex

    If I want to put myself in a box, I’d say I’m 99% straight and 1% bi-curious. I feel like this actually made me less understanding of LGBT people, unfortunately. Being told that it was a temptation that some people faced and that it was sinful, I felt like I could relate because I felt the “temptation.” But since it was very easy for me to push it out of my head, this felt like I was overcoming the temptation, so that proved to me that it was a choice. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why so many of them stick to the idea that it’s a choice. It would be hard to deny someone else’s experience when you have no experience with it, but if you think you have some sort of small experience with it, it’s a lot easier to deny it based on your own experiences.
    Honestly though, I wish that the debate revolved less around choice vs. born this way because even if it was a choice, it does no harm to anyone.

  • Kaboobie

    Libby Anne, I always admire the honesty of your writing. I know that people raised in a setting similar to yours must get a lot out of your posts, but I also wanted to let you know that I appreciate and relate to your blog even though my upbringing was nothing like yours. I was raised secular, and while I can’t say my parents were overwhelmingly “sex-positive” (we just didn’t discuss it much after “the talk”), they didn’t impose any notions about purity or “saving” sex until marriage. Nevertheless, I think everyone must struggle at some point with some questions about sexuality, no matter the amount of education and acceptance they were given, and that’s where your writing is universal. Above all, your honesty and compassion shine through.

  • thalwen

    It’s amazing how ingrained this in in our culture. I’m a product of a liberal and understanding family and plenty of gay friends and it’s taken me over a decade to finally admit I was gay. I considered myself bi, and had long periods of celibacy because there was no man I was attracted to, and when I was in a relationship, the lack of sexual attraction quickly killed it for me. It’s an amazingly freeing experience to let go off all that. I hope in the future, there is more exposure of the variety of people’s sexuality. That’s why it made me so mad when here (we had a same sex marriage referendum) the antis kept harping on the “they’ll teach homosexuality in schools” bit. They should teach it, it would save a lot of LGBT youth a lot of grief.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I also spent a lot of time thinking if it counted if I was attracted to women as well as men if I had never been with a woman and didn’t intend to being a in a committed monogamous relationship.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Also my only knowledge about bisexuals was my mom joking that bisexual were gay people who wouldn’t admit it which I took seriously so when I was attracted to men I never even gave it a thought to if what I felt towards certain women was something more than close friendship.

      • Twist

        I was told growing up that bisexual men where gay men who couldn’t admit it, and bisexual women were straight girls looking for attention.

      • Twist

        * were

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

        It’s not uncommon for people struggling with their homosexuality to come out as bi at first.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    Studies actually show that the majority of women fall toward the middle of the Kinsey scale in terms of orientation (whereas men tend to cluster more at the ends, or at least so they report–bi men are discriminated against enough, it’s possible most of them will publicly identify as straight or gay). A good minority of women report that they identify as bisexual (about 10% or so), and women are more likely to move from one orientation to another during their lives (I variously identify as straight or bi, again, depending on my feelings at the time). Studies also show that women’s physiological arousal is about equal when viewing gay/straight porn.

    This is to say that your discover of non-binary sexuality is more common than you’d think, particularly among women. My experience is extremely similar to yours, by the way. My upbringing ensured that I didn’t actually *do* anything about my attraction to women while I was single, and now I’m married and monogamous and been so for a long time, so I pretty much signal “completely straight” to those who do not bother to ask.

    cite: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/handy-psychology-answers/201102/does-sexuality-differ-men-and-women — a starting point for looking at these studies.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Hey Libby Anne,

    I’m bisexual and legally married to a man. I discuss some of my ambivalence about that status here:
    http://www.alisoncummins.com/2007/09/23/im-it/ It’s interesting where experiences intersect even among people with different backgrounds.

    I always knew I was *very interested* in girls (later, women) but I didn’t link that to being lesbian until much later, when I had my first girlfriend (who pursued me). I’d read coming-out stories and they were all about girls who’d had painful crushes on other girls in high school, knowing they wanted sexual contact with their best friends. I didn’t have that conscious experience. (I didn’t have clear-cut sexual desire for boys either, but I sort of didn’t notice that. I wanted them to want me, but that’s a little different.)

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      (My discussion of ambivalence is actually in the comments to that post I linked, by the way.)

  • Chrissy

    This is weird for me to think about as well, considering that I am in a monogamous relationship with my husband. In the past few years my sexuality has matured and I definitely have started having sexual thoughts towards women. I sometimes think that had I not been so thoroughly indoctrinated AGAINST homosexuality by my family, and pushed towards marriage while I was still young, things might have turned out differently. I don’t know where I am on the sexuality scale, but I know that it is not 100% straight.

  • Judy L.

    Dan Savage frequently quotes studies that show that women demonstrate a greater ‘bisexual’ arousal response to pornography and erotica than do men (i.e., far fewer men than women respond to both straight and gay porn). But arousal isn’t necessarily attraction or desire. Even the urge to touch another woman’s breast or kiss her doesn’t equate to wanting to make love to her or being able to fall in love with her. And what arouses and/or attracts you changes over the course of your life and even over the course of a menstrual cycle (oh, those happy hormones!).

    It is important, however, to be out about your self-identity, especially to those who might automatically assume that you’re straight (an appropriate time to bring it up might be when a friend or colleague or family member says something hateful about LGBT folk), because one of the most influential forces for changing people’s homophobic attitudes is to be aware that they know people who aren’t ‘straight’ and slowly come to the realization that those people aren’t pedophiles or perverts (although I grant you this might be harder among Evangelicals who genuinely believe in things like demons). For those of us who are cursed with being completely, overwhelmingly straight, we can be an influential force in changing homophobic people’s opinions by refusing to collude with them, challenge their positions and beliefs and encourage them to think rationally, and when all else fails, simply let them know that their bigotry isn’t acceptable in polite heterosexual society. It’s like being out as an atheist even if you’re not involved in an atheist or humanist or skeptic organizations or wearing your lack of faith on your sleeve (or the bumper of your car) — it’s vitally important to disabuse people of their assumptions that everyone believes in God and that faith is a virtue.

    • thalwen

      You are spot on. Arousal and attraction aren’t the same (otherwise we wouldn’t have some very, very gay men fathering children). I know, for me, I could become aroused around a man with enough kissing, etc. but I couldn’t have genuine attraction, it did make things quite confusing though. And yes, absolutely agree – calling out bigotry is one of the best ways to defeat it.

    • Watry

      Happy hormones indeed. Most of the time I’m asexual, but that 3 days-1 week of every month? Hoo boy.

    • Hilary

      Thanks for being a great ally. Rock on!

      Hilary

  • Frank

    This is quite a story of someone falling away. How sad.

    • http://salami-orchids.blogspot.com PlumJo

      The world is so much bigger, and richer, and more beautiful than you have the ability to perceive right now…I feel so sorry for you. Please try to broaden your horizons, you’re only seeing a fraction of the beauty around you.

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      ? What’s the sad part? Who fell away from what?

    • pagansister

      Frank, what does “falling away” mean? Seems just that she is “finding ” her way, and that is so NOT sad.

      • Watry

        In conservative parlance, “falling away” means someone has left the oh so perfect path. See also “backslidden”, also ‘wayward’ and ‘lost’. (Open to correction if I’m wrong, of course, but this is how it was used in my church.)

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

      What’s “sad”, Frank, is how you and yours try to place everyone inside boxes they don’t fit. You try to get people to ignore their nature and forget who they are because it makes you feel “icky.”

      Want to know what ignoring your nature does to people?

      It makes a person like me – 28, seriously questioning everything about myself, locked into a reality I want no part of. I’ve gone through a puberty that leaves me hating parts of myself, jealous over parts of other women, and crying myself to exasperation because of it. It leaves me a ball of anxiety ready to explode at a moment’s notice. It leaves me with a family who already is bothered by my atheism and liberal activism quite likely to take this as the last straw and hate me forever.

      And all because it doesn’t fall in line with your god’s supposed plan.

  • http://ramblingsofsheldon.blogspot.com Sheldon Cooper

    Libby Anne, I admire your courage in talking about this, and about your past fundamentalist life in general, you’re an inspiration.

    Though I know for certain that I am straight, getting to know LGBT people online on in person dramatically changed my perspective on homosexuality, I too was raised up fundamentalist, and to finally realize that I had been lied to all my life, that the people I thought were evil were in fact people just like me was quite a revelation.

    Being OCD and having depression also gave me a different perspective on life, and on people that are often rejected by our bigoted society. I’ve had people tell me that the illnesses that I was likely born with are nothing more than the result of “guilt” , and I’ve had people mock me over my OCD habits, or act like I’m a completely different person when they found out. It’s the worst in fundamentalist circles, but I’ve encountered it in the outside world. Our society has a long way to go in progressing.

    I love your blog, keep it up

    –”Sheldon”

    • Ashton

      Do you really think that you were born with depression? I too grew up fundamentalist and deal with depression. I used to think that it must just be something that I was born with since I was raised in the “ideal ” Christian home, but the older I get, the more I’m quite sure that it wasn’t something that I was born with. I can now see many things in my childhood that have contributed and now I’m pretty much at the opposite end of things in thinking that it’s just about entirely due to my childhood that I”m depressed.

  • smrnda

    Thanks for being open about the bisexuality; bi-erasure can be a problem because sexual orientation is too often thought of as a binary either/or type category. I also think it has a lot to do with social approval; when there’s strong social pressure to be straight, a person with some attraction to the same sex will fight or minimize it.

    All said, when religious people demonize homosexuals or anybody else who doesn’t follow their rules they’re shooting themselves in the foot. It’s hard to view people are repulsive and disgusting once you actually meet them in real life and find out that, morally, there’s no significant difference.

    I agree that purity culture creates problems in marriage. Anybody with sexual feelings is going to be attracted to many people – you can’t really actually be exclusively attracted only to your spouse, and by making ‘feeling attracted = adultery’ (perhaps the most destructive teaching of Jesus) you create standards that nobody can meet, so everybody seems like a disappointment. When people accept that yes, your partner will probably experience attraction but isn’t going to act on it, people are much happier. I think religions want couples to have problems since otherwise, they’d be out of work. Keep people dissatisfied so they keep coming back.

    On myself, I’m a lifelong asexual and I’ve never been sure why (and don’t bother to speculate) , and what bothers me the most is when people assume that if you’re asexual you don’t need to be in a relationship, or you get your relationship disparaged because there’s no sex. Relationships are more than just sex.

  • Rilian

    I thought I was asexual for a while, even though I seemed like romantically interested in some people. But now I’ve found someone I am actually sexually attracted to, and they’re not the gender I expected. Meh.

  • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    Thank you for sharing this and welcome out of the internet closet, at least in detail. I can only imagine how much more difficult these questions were for you, but it’s awesome that you’re being honest about your journey. I went through a lot of the same things as well. I especially relate to not wanting to take on a label if you haven’t done the physical action that those desires drive you to. When I was first coming out as bi, I was afraid I would insult other bisexuals if I claimed to be one having never been with a same-sex partner. It wasn’t until after I felt comfortable taking the label that I realized that it was as much about accepting a part of who I am as it was about being part of the community. There are always people who claim that you aren’t enough of whatever you claim to be, but it’s important that you find the description that best fits your perception of yourself.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    Welcome to the dark side – we have cookies. :D I must have really good online gaydar (bidar?) because this doesn’t surprise me at all. Congratulations on coming out to yourself and to the internet!

    Btw, have you seen this blog? http://fliponymous.wordpress.com/ It’s one of the best online resources on bisexuality that I’ve found.

    • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

      That’s one of my favorite resources, too.

      • http://fliponymous.wordpress.com Patrick RichardsFink

        Glad you find it useful!

        I enjoyed Libby Anne’s piece quite a bit. Very well-said.

    • Charlesbartley

      Thank you. That is new to me.

  • Rosie

    Saw this on FB today; thought you might be interested. http://www.danoah.com/2012/12/over-the-edge.html?fb_action_ids=10151382607037018&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=246965925417366
    (Sorry, I’m a luddite when it comes to much beyond copy/paste, and I guess it shows. I don’t know how to make the link all pretty and hidden in my text.)

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      I can never remember if this blog uses HTML or BBcode, so don’t feel bad. Even when you know what you’re doing, it can be confusing knowing what you can do where.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Like this: TEXT

      See, easy! If you can remember that, of course. It took me a while to stop having to look it up every time. :-P

      • Rosie

        Er, I can see the end result, but I still know nothing of the process. The link gives me a 404 error. :(

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        HAHAHA Okay that was funny. I tried to show you how to do a hyperlink and ended up … creating a hyperlink. But not a real one, since for the url I just put “URL.” Here, I’ll do it again:

        insert the text here

        And just close it up around the url.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Um. Wow. I can’t show you without creating a hyperlink. Sorry. This link will show you how to do it.

      • Rosie

        Thank you. It still looks like greek to me, but I’ll give it a try.

    • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

      I think that the agonizing in the Single Dad Laughing blog clearly shows how much tougher coming out as bi is for men than women.

  • Little Magpie

    Bravo Libby Anne for speaking up. <3

  • LadyCricket

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your posts on sexuality. As a young atheist woman still living with her Mormon parents (though thankfully not fundamentalist) they’re such big eye-openers.

    Despite my upbringing being modern Mormon, I can relate to quite a few of Libby’s stories about her past. I grew up believing down to the bottom of my heart that my parent’s religion was true. Friends would comment on my strong testimony. I was a good little girl who never broke the rules. I avoided boys for fear that they’d try to defile me or make me uncomfortable, and I never dated, even when I was “allowed” at 16.

    And now I wish I had been a little more adventurous.

    Well, okay, so I don’t regret that I never got pregnant in high school or got addicted to drugs. But now I wish I’d at least talked to boys and girls my age! I wish I’d asked boys out on dates (I’m glad that’s acceptable)! I wish I’d been more curious about other orientations! I wished I’d tried a motherlovin’ cup of TEA! Through a combination of natural social anxiety and a very conservative upbringing, though, I grew up a social and sexual hermit. To this day, at the age of 20, I’ve never had an orgasm, self-induced or otherwise.

    For these last few years I too have believed myself to be asexual. But a post I read by Libby Anne … can’t remember the name… about how her whole life she was taught to believe that if she was a complete mental and physical virgin and remained pure right up until the wedding night, her sex life would be mind-blowing from that point on? But it turned out that you can’t turn sexuality on and off like a switch, so Libby’s early married sex life was troubled? Yeah. It speaks to me.

    I still don’t have a motherlovin’ clue what my sexuality even is. I’ve been turned on before, but not enough that I really know what kinds of things turn me on. But thanks to Libby, I know I’m not alone.

  • http://omorka.blogspot.com/ Omorka

    My third big crush ever was on a girl. I was twelve, and while my parents weren’t P/QF, the church we were in was definitely fundamentalist and my mother had kept me incredibly sheltered. Despite a larger-than-normal vocabulary for my age, I didn’t have the word “bisexual,” or even the word “lesbian.” The words I *did* have – “pervert” and “unnatural,” in particular – had, um, baggage.

    My ratio’s still about three-to-one male-to-female, at least where attraction is concerned. I still haven’t come out to my parents. And I steal deal with the baggage more often than I’d like, even though my name’s not on the tags anymore.

  • Ryssa

    Wow, I am so relieved to hear that other people have experienced this! I could’ve written this myself, except that my sexuality was not killed so much as just turned very far inward. I had an incredibly active sexual imagination and I let myself go crazy with fantasies but was very strict in regard to actual sexual contact (no kissing, cuddling felt wrong, etc). I remember when I confessed to my mom that I sometimes “pretended to kiss other people” (ie: masturbate), she said “that’s fine” and I thought “oh, what a relief!”. Then she continued “…as long as you aren’t pretending it’s with other girls” and I thought “oh……..oops.”

    It didn’t even occur to me that I was bi though, because homosexuality was so far off my radar that I just assumed I was a straight girl with a silly imagination or something. The possibility of being bisexual didn’t click until after I was married to a man and no longer had the opportunity to date a woman or sleep with a woman. So I often don’t know how to identify myself, since I’ve never slept with or had a romantic relationship with a woman, because I don’t want to appropriate anything and I readily acknowledge that I have straight privilege because I’m in a committed hetero relationship. But on the other hand, I think people usually know long before actually dating or having sex what sort of people they are attracted to. I mean, lots of gay and straight people knew they were gay or straight when they were kids, long before they actually had sex. So I don’t think bisexual people should have to satisfy different qualifications or checkboxes in order for our orientation to be considered legitimate, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, thank you for this post!

  • Isaac

    Thanks for writing on this issue, Libby. I have a very similar story and it was nice to hear someone else speak out.

    IMHO, you have every right to call yourself bisexual. It’s what you are, even if it’s not an even 50/50 (it isn’t with me either- I generally find women more attractive, but not always). After all, the average straight-identified person doesn’t have to “justify” their attraction to the opposite sex until they’ve slept with or had a relationship with another gender. There’s no need to buy into binary conceptions of sexuality any more than there is to accept binary beliefs about gender (it’s no coincidence that the two are inexplicably linked).

    I actually think that bi people should make an attempt not to be victims of bisexual erasure. Since most of us are nominally straight, in my experience there is a large and latent group of people who fit into the bisexual spectrum but choose to keep quiet because of the hardships we have to endure when we’re out- open questions about our legitimacy, stereotypes about infidelity, etc. We can’t combat this through hiding, even if it’s easier to do so.

    I mean this as humbly as I can though, since I am doing the same thing at the moment, and probably for the same reasons most of us do.

    To stand up as ourselves, wherever we are on the spectrum of sexuality, seems to me the only solution to a culture of binary archetypes that has trouble asking itself the hard questions that our very existence demands.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      This!

  • http://kathrynbrightbill.com Ryn

    As a former poster on the NLQ forum (before it migrated to FB and I never figured out how to join), I just wanted to say welcome out, isn’t it great to not have to keep an aspect of yourself secret?

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    As someone who has moved away from being taught (and believing) that homosexuality is sinful, I find this discussion really interesting. I see learning new things as a process made up of steps. For me, it was a step to realize some men like other men and some women like other women. I eventually figured out that was fine although baffling. The next step was to realize there was something in between simply liking men OR women. Some people like both. That’s three flavors. It has been a recent discovery for me that there are also more than three flavors. Perhaps infinite. It occurs to me how complex and beautiful sexuality must be. I was not as stifled as some, but definitely had the idea of what a good Catholic girl does and does not do. I still have some difficulty in relaxing in the bedroom. I assume I am straight, but knowing absolutes are rare…it is at least possible I could feel for another woman.

    • Carys Birch

      Tracey, I feel pretty much the same. It’s been a little longer for me since I started seeing the “flavors” in between, but I haven’t questioned myself much. I generally feel about as straight as a person can be, but I must lean a little to the center, because like (I guess) most women I respond pretty much the same to all porn regardless of what combination of genders the actors are. In real face-to-face life though I’m only attracted to men.

      • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

        Physiological arousal and sexual orientation are not the same thing–women who identified as totally straight did physiologically respond to all kinds of porn (including bonobo sex), but I think we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t listen to the part of us that makes us certain about our orientation. The mind being the most important sex organ of all.

    • Isaac

      Joy, you brought up some important points.

      First, while I certainly agree with you that the conscious mind is an important component of orientation, it’s imperative to remember that the mind can be led astray by demonization, narrow views of sexuality or various irrational breeds of sexual ethics. This is especially true for bisexual people, since unlike broadly homosexual or transgender people we always have the ability to maintain part of our sexuality while ignoring the rest.

      I’ve experienced it. And I’ve known people of lesser willpower who have never discovered their own natures, simply because of the ideas they were taught. I was brought to realization about my sexuality through precisely that carnal and subconcious element you were referring to, and without it I could’ve done just fine with females alone and probably never understood that part of myself. It’s a complex issue to be sure, but leaving the unconscious mind out of it isn’t wise in my opinion.

      • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

        My thought is that if you’re truly repressing a key aspect of your sexuality, it will out–whether it is in dreams, in drunkenness, or a night reading poetry by candlelight with a gorgeous lesbian…but I digress…. If you are something like 99% straight and 1% gay, what does it really benefit you to try to realize that or act on it? It doesn’t make you a good/potential partner in a same-sex relationship. All it does is make you marginally more open to what can never be more than experimentation. I have actually heard some women say, “I thought I’d like it, it kind of turned me on, I tried it, and it did nothing for me.” So, anyway, what I think I was trying to say is that if a woman is sure she’s straight (and not in denial, although there are those as well), I don’t think this study shows that it’s a good idea to try to persuade her otherwise. I think the study shows that women have more flexible sexual *potential*, but it doesn’t really shed a lot of light on the orientation of any individual.

  • Rebecca

    I also appreciate your candor, Libby Ann, unmitigated as always. I relate completely to your statements on checking out more women than men. I completely and openly appreciate the beauty of other women. I think objectively that women’s bodies are more attractive than those of men. BUT I’m not gay at all. My best friend from the little Christian college I went to is the same way and we joke that we wish we were lesbians so we could run off into the sunset and get married and it would be so much easier than dealing with MEN. But since we live in the deep South where people are rather ignorant and biased, it probably wouldn’t make it all that much easier.

    • http://findingsnooze.blogspot.com Lina

      Everything about this comment is me and my wife, except that we ended up discovering that we were magically okay with actually running off into the sunset and getting married (and then moving out of the south) – we slowly came to appreciate women’s bodies, and then that started to slowly turn into more of an attraction, for each other (then came guilt and all that) – not saying that it’s the path for you, but still, it’s eerie – little Christian college and all!

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Thanks for this post Libby.

    I’m technically pansexual (which is being bisexual with fewer caveats) and throughout the entirety of my college life I knew that I was strongly attracted to a guy friend of mine (he had a South African accent, and he was super-nice… *girlish sigh*) Add to that the fact I’ve always struggled with my gender identity and you have one messed up adolescence. I was similar in an Evangelical family, so I had to question everything – from the crossdressing to the interest in my same sex – and discern it was all Satan’s lies.

    Of course now I’m a pansexual, transgender atheist so yah.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      If someone identifies as pansexual rather than bisexual I certainly wouldn’t try to persuade them otherwise, but I want to point out for the benefit of readers not as familiar with queer jargon that not everyone who identifies as bisexual has those caveats. I generally use the word “bisexual” because people outside queer circles actually recognize it, but I am open to partners who are transgender, androgynous, or anywhere else on the gender spectrum.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

        Yea, that’s a true statement – I was perhaps a bit too exact in my wording. Apologies to those who call themselves “bisexual” while not having the binary caveats.

  • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

    I was going to comment on how much I related to this, and then I read the previous comments and realized that it’s apparently not unusual at all. Clearly most people’s thinking about sexuality is way too binary and simplistic, but it took me way too long to figure that out and I too spent a lot of time worrying about what was wrong with me.

  • Slawjack

    Sexuality is not set in stone. Our sexual urges and preferences are determined by a number of factors, including culture, hormones, and genetics. To say that people must neatly fall into one of the categories that define sexuality is simply not realistic or compatible with how sexuality actually works.

  • sara maimon

    My feeling is that sexual orientation altogether is a cultural construct- whether homosexuality or heterosexuality. I believe that on a strictly biological level, our sexual instincts are rather amorphous and that we have the potential for developing sexual interests in a variety of genders and objects.
    Most human cultures have intensely promoted opposite sex marriage and children- rather necessary for the propagation of the group. However this was not understood as contradictory to having same sex attractions and even relationships.
    In our society in which it is felt as contradictory, most people will become heterosexual but a minority people will veer towards the equally natural but less socially acceptable homosexual.
    It seems to me that because you grew up an a forced asexual culture you somehow escaped the socialization requiring to choose. I feel you are in line with predominant human culture- your primary sexual life is with a male with whom you reproduce and propagate the society, but your sexuality is open to other things as well.
    BTW I know other people who grew up in sexually repressive cultures who first found themselves masturbating thinking of objects, not even people at all.

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      Sara, I’m not sure that it’s quite that easy. If sexual orientation were something that needs to be taught, all animals would be bisexual and nobody growing up in a homophobic, gender-differentiated culture would be gay. But we know that neither of those statements is true.

      While there are many things around sexual attraction that are *learned,* they generally aren’t *taught.* Fetishes, for instance. If someone with a predisposition to develop a fetish is strongly sexually aroused for the first time at age ten, and happens to be holding a balloon at that moment, they may associate balloons with sex for the rest of their lives. Boys raised in families of smokers are more likely to grow up to fetishize smoking even if they don’t smoke themselves. When women covered themselves almost completely, foot fetishes were common because it was a body part that might be exposed, if one were lucky.

      Different people have different predispositions. Men tend to be either straight or gay and to know this about themselves quite young. (People with fetishes are typically men and fetishes are independent of orientation. A man with a balloon fetish will likely want either a woman *or* a man to rub a balloon all over them.) Women tend to be spread a little more evenly along the continuum and to figure this out when they’re older — somewhere between their late teens to mid-fifties.

  • Sophie

    My first crushes were on girls and I was 17 before I was sexually attracted to a man, I spent my adolescence absolutely terrified that I was gay. Not because I feared any backlash, my parents aren’t religious but because I felt that I was already enough of an outsider and I desperately wanted to be more like my friends. I am socially awkward and was much worse as a teenager, I also have suffered from chronic pain from an early age which meant lots of hospital appointments and lots of strong analgesia and that made me very different. It didn’t help that I went to a Catholic school and we had little to no heterosexual sex education and the only mention of homosexuality was that was how you got AIDS.

    I had a boyfriend at the age of 16, and in an attempt to try to kick start my straightness I agreed to have sex with him. When it actually came to it I was absolutely terrified and I told him no, and he raped me. So I got even more screwed up about my sexuality. The boy I developed a crush on at 17 was a long time friend and we did have a relationship but every time he tried anything more than kissing I would freeze up, not because I didn’t find him attractive or what he was doing not pleasurable but because of what had happened to me. The relationship didn’t last long. I was 19 before I managed to have sex again, and I say managed because I had tried previously but I would get scared and tighten up.

    All through this time I was predominantly attracted to women but still steered myself towards relationships with men. Then I met F and we became best friends. I was away at university and lonely, and I lived for her phone calls. We started visiting each other and got closer, there was intimacy but nothing sexual. After a year of us being friends, I realised that I had feelings for her and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. She also had feelings for me and we kissed and held hands when we saw each other, but we lived half the country apart and couldn’t see each other very often. A year later, I got scared when I realised I was in love with her and I threw myself at a man who had expressed interest in me. That relationship bombed, mostly because I wasn’t particularly interested sexually and also because my heart was broken. My relationship with F was irrecoverably damaged and she spent a long time hating me.

    Fast forward seven years and I am in a straight relationship and have been for six years. But I’m happy and very much sexually attracted to my partner and also very much in love with him. I would class myself as bisexual even though my relationship with F is the nearest I’ve had to having a relationship with a women. I would also say that I’m more attracted to women than I am to men, even though all my relationships have been straight ones. My celebrity crushes are all on women, it’s women that I notice when I’m out. I just happened to fall in love with a man at the point that I was finally comfortable with my sexuality.

    Thank you, Libby Anne, for this post. It’s been a long time since I really have thought about this and reading someone else’s journey has been helped me put mine together.

  • Jessica

    I will be forever thankful that despite my parents’ narrow, bigoted views of sexuality, they also thought that homosexuality was a subject unsuitable for discussion in front of small children, which meant that when I finally realized that I was attracted to girls as well as guys when I was about thirteen or fourteen, I was able to find information on bisexuality from neutral sources like Wikipedia, instead of being told from the get-go that I was twisted, perverted, or sinful. Now, I still have to contend with them saying hateful, homophobic things in front of me, unknowingly tossing daggers into my heart, but I also have a community of online friends that I can turn to for advice and comfort and companionship.


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