Yesterday I confessed to the world that I am bisexual. Yay me! I love this part of myself and it is such a relief to be able to share it with you. It is this aspect of who I am that gets the credit for my willingness to accept everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. It is this piece of my soul that is home to my love of new and often strange things. It is this side of me that encourages me to look at a situation from all sides before passing judgment. It is this facet of who I am as a person that allows me to deeply and truly love everyone for who they are on the inside, whether they are male, female, transgender, gender fluid, or anything in between.
I didn’t always love this part of me. In fact, I don’t think I ever fully accepted that part of me until yesterday when I came out. I was raised in the LDS Church, or Mormon as it’s frequently referred to. The church’s stance on homosexuality at the time I first realized I was attracted to women was that it was a sin to even think about some one of your same gender that way. They did make the distinction that there was a difference between thoughts and actions, and allowed that thoughts were lesser sins but that they led to the greater sin of acting on those thoughts.
My attraction was unconscious and unforced. At first I told myself I was simply comparing my body to the bodies of other women, but when I was talking with one of my female friends and I couldn’t stop staring at her lips, I knew it was more than that. I enjoyed watching the way they moved, and it made me feel excited. I realized that I wanted to kiss her. I made up an excuse to leave and privately I berated myself. How could I let such an evil thought into my head? How did it even get there? I didn’t know, but as I continued to have thoughts like this I eventually came to the conclusion that I must be evil to the core.
I heard talk after talk in general conference, and in sacrament meeting about how marriage was the most sacred ordinance, and condemning those people who would defile it by having sex outside of wedlock, or with someone who was their same gender. They said time and again that homosexuality was the devil’s most powerful tool, meant to destroy the family, and send us all to fire and damnation. Because I didn’t chose to be how I am, I believed that I was an embodiment of that tool. I convinced myself that at the point I was supposed to receive a soul in the womb, the devil had instead implanted a demon in my body, so that I would one day bring about the down fall of mankind.
I decided that I would not let Satan prevail. I suppressed that part of me for as long as I could, but when I failed, I decided that the only way to save the world from my darkness would be to kill myself. I had seen it done in the movies, just one clean cut across each wrist, and then lay back and let the blood seep out and take your life with it, along with all the pain. I climbed into the empty bathtub with my pocket knife and slid it across my wrist. It didn’t even break the skin. Well, that didn’t happen in the movies, but I thought maybe I just needed to press harder. That was a little better, because there was a thin line of blood and torn skin that time, but it started to sting, and it still wasn’t deep enough. I figured I’d let it rest for a bit while I tried the other wrist, but as I sawed back and forth on it the pain was too much and I gave up. I remember thinking that it would be a lot easier to do God’s work if my parents had a gun.
I cursed myself for being too weak to do what needed to be done, but I was also glad that it hadn’t worked. You see, although I thought that I was doing the right thing, the thought of the afterlife terrified me. On the one hand was God, who I was sure would cast me into eternal darkness the moment I pierced the veil, but on the other hand, what if the atheists had it right and there really was nothing that came after death? My shame that day was twofold, both for not being clever enough to kill myself, and for being greedy enough to want to live.
If I could go back in time I would hold that angry, sad, and frightened little girl in my arms and tell her that no matter what the church said, she wasn’t evil. She had a soul, and it was beautiful, and loving, and that by her willingness to sacrifice herself rather than see others suffer she proved just how pure that soul really was. I would tell her that love is never wrong, and that God doesn’t make mistakes. God made me the way I am, so how could any part of that be wrong?
Now, this was not the first time I tried to kill myself, but it was the first time I tried it with a knife, and the first time that my sexual orientation played into it, so I won’t talk about my earlier attempts here. Not too long after my botched attempt, there was a seminar at my junior high school where they talked about the warning signs, and how to spot someone who was really trying to kill themselves versus someone who just wanted attention. I hated that differentiation the moment I heard it. Shouldn’t we take all suicide attempts seriously, regardless of whether the threat is real? You can never know what is going on inside another person’s head unless they tell you, and it’s stupid to try and guess when it’s something that important.
The assembly had the added bonus of making me question whether or not I had been serious about my attempt. I hadn’t shown any of the signs. I hadn’t given away my favorite things, said a heartfelt good bye to anyone, or left a note, unless you counted the poems I had written about bright red blood flowing across cold, pale skin. I was also informed during the assembly, I don’t remember if it was by a speaker, or by a classmate, that only attention seekers cut “across the street,” and everyone knows that if you really want to die you have to go “down the lane.”
I started digging at my veins with my mechanical pencil, after that, always going down the lane, as suggested. I still never gave away any of my stuff, I didn’t want people to know how I felt on the inside. I was too ashamed to talk about any of it. I never told anyone about how I felt about women, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone that I wanted to die and risk them branding me an attention seeker. I also started using pain as a deterrent for my homoerrotic thoughts, jabbing needles under my finger nails or into my skin whenever I started having impure thoughts about another woman.
Now I know, looking back on it that my thoughts were never truly impure, at that time. While it’s true that I had already started exploring my own body, the idea of actually groping, pinching, or squeezing someone else or having them do the same to me hadn’t really entered into it. I wanted to have a date to the school dance, and go out to dinner and a movie without my parents. I wanted to write love poems and read them to the person I loved as I gazed longingly into his or her eyes, and yes, I wanted to know what a real, grownup kiss felt like. That was it. Sex never even entered the equation.
I tend to gloss over this, because for some reason I have a tendency to feel that my feelings for men are somehow invalid in all of this, but for once I am going to force myself to acknowledge that I had a boyfriend in eighth grade. He wasn’t pretty, like the girls I was crushing on at the time, and his face was full of acne, but I loved him all the same. He was fun, and full of life. He loved filmography, which I thought was so cool. I fell hard and fast for this boy, and it broke my heart when my parents said I couldn’t see him. He had gone on vacation to Mexico, and told me that he had brought me back a souvenir, but because I would have been meeting him on my own instead of with friends, my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to go, and he eventually moved on to someone who was more available.
The church had this unwritten rule at the time that you were not allowed to date at all until after you turned sixteen. At least that’s how it was in Salt Lake City, I believe that it might have been different in other places. So when I finally got to be sixteen, I pounced on the first guy to ask me out. He had been dating one of my friends, and she warned me that he wasn’t a good guy, but I ignored her, and when he proposed to me at Christmas, I immediately said yes. Gone were the thoughts of being evil because of my attraction to women, I thought that now that I had a husband I wouldn’t have to be tempted any more.
He was two years older than me, and that fact made my parents very uncomfortable, but I ignored them, branding them hypocrites because my dad is five years older than my mom. I liked the way he made me feel all grown up, almost always using toungue when he kissed me. The thrill of electricity that ran down my spine when he kissed my neck or even just held my hand was intoxicating. I would have been happy to go on like that forever, but then the touching started. That was amazing too. Always over the clothes, he was very respectful at first, but once that ring was on my finger he decided he owned me, and I was too afraid to say no.
Now I wasn’t afraid that he would hurt me, despite the way that he beat on his brother. I was afraid that if he left me then everything we had been doing would be a sin, and I would never be clean in God’s eyes again. I truly thought that this boy was my only chance at salvation, and this was amplified when my mother told me she had had a dream where she had seen our future children. Because of this fear, I let him violate me anyway he chose, dispite the fact that it made me feel dirty, and he wasn’t as gentle with me as he had been in the beginning. I wore a lot of turtle necks to keep my parents from noticing the hickies, and when there was blood in my panties I always blamed it on my period.
The shame of what we were doing seemed to roll right off of him, but for me it was my constant companion. I felt dirty all the time. In church they have this ritual where they pass around trays filled with little bits of bread and cups of water meant to signify the body and blood of Christ. When ever it came to me I said a silent prayer for forgiveness because you weren’t supposed to partake if you weren’t pure, but the shame of rejecting the sacrament where my parents and the whole rest of the church could see was too much to bear, and I took part anyway.
I made a few frenzied attempts at suicide while I was with him that fell way off the mark. I tried to use scissors, but the skin pinched together and didn’t even bleed, itching fiercely instead of doing any real damage. I tried jumping off a cliff, but it wasn’t tall enough, and all I did was sprain my ankle. I still didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling. Even if I had wanted to, I had already pushed all of my friends away because they didn’t approve of my relationship, and I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my parents. I cried myself to sleep most nights because I felt so alone, and because I was afraid of what would happen when he left me to go on his mission. I was afraid that he would leave me for someone he met wherever he was going, and although that wasn’t technically allowed, I knew that sometimes it did happen.
I could go on all day about the hell he put me through, the hell that I allowed myself to be put through, but I won’t. In an effort to keep this post from becoming another of my novels, I’ll leave it at this: When he left for his mission I was devastated, but it was also very freeing. I started spending time with friends again, and I developed a crush on a different boy, who was nice, and respectful, and even though we never dated I think he loved me in a way. I know I loved him. My friends all welcomed me back, even though they still thought I was making a mistake, and right around the time he was sent home from his mission, I had decided that they were right.
He stalked me, threatened me, and tried to manipulate me, but in the end my friends helped me to make it through that awful situation. If I didn’t thank you at the time, and even if I did, I’d like to thank you now. You all gave me your strength, and I would be nothing without you. I love and appreciate you all so much, there aren’t enough words in the world to describe it.
I dated a lot in high school, some of the boys were noble and kind, others were despicable and venomous, but ultimately when I look back on the experience, the only healthy high school romance I ever had was with a girl. She was quiet, and just as broken as I was, and I loved her fiercely. Homosexuality had lost some of it’s stigma for me by that point, and I had finally opened myself up to the idea of having a relationship with a woman. We were both raised Mormon, so we were able to feel each others pain, and we had so many things in common, though I won’t go into that in order to respect her privacy. It took us months to feel comfortable enough with each other to confess our feelings, but only moments for me to ruin it forever.
You see, I was afraid, and as I had done so often in the past, I let that fear control me. Here was this wonderful, beautiful, mythic creature, who promised me the world, the sun, the moon and the stars. Her touch promised to heal all of my wounds and make me feel whole for the first time in my life, and her kiss foretold years of happiness and loving acceptance into a world I had only ever dreamed of. It was too much. I knew I would ruin it, and I loved her too much to let my darkness destroy her light. I told myself that it wasn’t real love, that I was just experimenting with homosexuality, despite the fact that I had been thinking these thoughts and having these feelings since I could remember having any thoughts or feelings on the matter. I broke up with her after only one kiss, and I’ve hated myself for it ever since.
After high school I finally started really getting to see what it was like to truly own your sexuality. More and more people seemed to be coming out as homosexual, and it made my heart race with joy and love all around. I went clubbing with my friends, and sometimes we went to Club Sound, which was a gay club downtown. My friends were straight, at least as far as I knew, although in those days I often heard the phrase, “All women are bi,” and we would make out with each other in front of the men we were dating to get them all hot and bothered. They liked going to gay bars because it was nice to enjoy the company of men without having them fall all over you. I liked going because there was so much freedom there. If I wanted to flirt with a girl it was all fun and games, but the minute they asked for my number I always shot them down by saying, “No thanks, I’m straight.” I felt bad about that, but my friends were watching, and I wasn’t ready to come out to them.
For the first time in my life it was the other half of my sexuality that caused me shame. Because I also liked men, and could potentially pass myself of as “normal,” I was only ever a visitor in the gay community. Phrases like, “Being bi just means you can’t make up your mind,” and “Bi people don’t have the balls to admit that they’re gay,” made me feel for the first time that liking men was a sin, or a crime against humanity. I would laugh it off, and say, “Being bi means I don’t have to decide,” but those callus remarks cut me to the very center of my being.
So I played the part of the bi-curious straight girl, and had sex with any man who came my way. I drank, I smoked, and I tried pot a couple of times, though I never really understood what the fuss was about. I never used condoms, I was too shy about it to ask the guy I was with, and they never offered. Eventually my high risk lifestyle came to a crashing halt in the form of a baby. I didn’t even know that I was pregnant for the first three months, and it was almost too late to get an abortion when I found out. The father was really supportive, telling me that he would back my play which ever way I chose to go. We talked it out, and I told him that despite my prochoice stance on abortion, I didn’t think I could live with myself, so we decided to keep the baby.
We talked about marriage a little, although we were never formally engaged. Eventually he left me to chase after a high school crush. I let him go because I didn’t want him to stay out of obligation, and he promised to be a part of our child’s life. After I gave birth I began desperately searching for a father for my little guy. The thought of raising him alone was terrifying, but I limited my search to men. I think it was instinct by now to ignore the other part of who I was, who I am, when selecting a partner. I’m ashamed to say that the thought of raising him in a same sex household didn’t even cross my mind.
I ping ponged around at an alarming rate, bringing up marriage as early as the second date, after all, I always put out on the first, and after that nothing really seemed taboo. This time at least I started using condoms, and the men I was dating were now a bit classier. Sometimes I didn’t even have to ask. Fortunately I eventually bounced into a truly decent man who made me see that between dating, work, and school, I really wasn’t spending any time being a mother, leaving my son home at my mom’s place where my seventeen year old sister bore the brunt of the responsibility for his care.
I still did not consider the possibility of giving him up for adoption until I was driving with him in the car and got lost about two hours north of Salt Lake City. I was contemplating how fast the Suburban would need to be going to break through the cement barrier that separated the two sides of the freeway so that I could drive into oncoming traffic. I realized that even though I would rather die than give him away, I needed to get my head on straight before I could be any kind of mother to the little angel in the back seat. So just before his first birthday I gave him to a nice couple who already had two kids but couldn’t get pregnant again and desperately wanted another.
The kind and gentle man who talked me through that painful decision, stuck with me through all of the suicide attempts that followed, taking away my knives, and holding my head to his chest so that I would stop banging it against the wall. He is now my husband, and although he is anti-religion, and he doesn’t always understand me, he loves and supports me through everything that I do. I couldn’t have found a better match. He isn’t mired down by sexual norms, letting me paint his nails, and braid his hair, or even dress him up in women’s clothes if the mood strikes me. He accepts that I like women as well as men, and he has helped me to accept it too.
So in the end, my message for you today is this: It’s okay to be different, and don’t let other people dictate who you are. That is something that only you can uncover, and it doesn’t matter who you love, you deserve to be happy and free to express that love in whatever form it takes. If you are feeling afraid, or alone, please don’t hurt yourself like I did. I am available through email if you want to talk any time, day or night, or there’s a hotline called the Trevor Project that is open 24/7 for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults. Their number is listed below, along with the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you don’t feel comfortable calling a line dedicated to LGBTQ+, or you don’t fit inside that box. I love you all, even if I never meet you, and I truly believe that the world is a better, more colorful place with all of us in it.
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255