Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day, so in the event that I can’t write it out then, I think it’s time the tale were told: I’m bisexual.
Now, as a bratty bookworm living in East Texas, the notion that I might like girls as well as boys didn’t occur to me right away. Girls were friends: Sheila Gobert, Donna Havard, Jerilee Taliaferro. Boys were cute, to be sure, but my sister, Angela, was the one crushing on the teen idols of the early 70s, like Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy. (Though at the tender age of seven, I do recall dreaming of Bobby Sherman…)
But I guess the first hint that I was not, indeed, a Kinsey Zero was the day when, in fifth grade, we all had to walk the perimeter of Anderson Elementary’s field with a partner. And I wanted Donna to partner with me, and was kind of crushed when she didn’t want to walk with me.
The second was the crush I developed, in sixth grade, on Kari Waguespack. She was confident, with shortish dark hair, lively eyes, and no inhibitions where strong language was concerned. She wanted to analyze me, figure out what made me tick. Wanted to know if I was menstruating, if my pubes had come in…
She scared the daylights out of me. And yet, I wanted to be close to her.
Seventh and eighth grades saw crushes on boys, walls papered with Shaun Cassidy posters, and the first time I practiced kissing—thanks to Beth Campos, who tutored me on how to kiss in science class.
Ninth grade: my first boyfriend, my first real date. More drama than I could shake a stick at.
If I didn’t really dwell on the finer points of sexuality in high school, that had to do with the fact that I went home to a stepfather who, when not molesting me, was verbally abusive, and even violent towards my mom.
But then, in my senior year: I fell in love. Hard. With a girl who had the most expressive, sad, beautiful eyes I had ever seen, and dark curly hair.
Nieves and I met through a mutual friend—Ivan Heredia—on a Saturday morning at Gables High. All of us were there to take the SAT, and I struck up a fast friendship with her. We swapped phone numbers, talking on the phone, enthusing over books and movies.
And then, one day, while talking to her, it hit me: I loved her. Not just as a friend. I wanted to be with her. Take care of her when she was sick (she suffered bouts of bronchitis). Hold her. Kiss her. Let her know how special she was.
Sadly—she didn’t share my feelings.
I was devastated.
Off to college, where I crushed over dudes, lusted after one or two, and then met the man that I thought was The One. (Dear 19-year-old Me: don’t get strung out…) Tall, lithe, lovely black hair, hazel eyes…and a born-again Christian.
While at Bennington, I also met a young lady, name of Donna Howard.
And I tried not to crush on her, to convince myself that I could pray myself straight, that Edward would end up madly in love with me…no avail.
He broke my heart. I think, inadvertently, I broke hers…
And even after he left my life, and I dropped out of Bennington, I fought, tooth and nail, the notion that I might even like girls on some level.
But New Year’s Day, 1989, was the final straw. Too many prayer lines, too many altar calls, rededications, baptisms…and I still didn’t get “delivered.”
I left Wayside Baptist Church that day, walked to the Rite Aid at Dadeland, and bought sleeping pills. Everything in my life seemed so bleak, so hideous.
But I didn’t take them, and I didn’t even keep them.
I came out. First, as a lesbian, then—because I still liked making out with guys—as bisexual. It took years to become comfortable with the notion that I could be attracted to men and women, and to not think of that as a sign of something abominable.
Reconciling my sexuality with my faith—now this has proven a challenge. Being a member of an Eastern Orthodox church (after years of exploring Protestant faiths, rejecting faith, wondering if Buddhism or Wicca would not be a better fit…yup, no doubt, your bratty one is a seriously, seriously lapsed Catholic girl), singing in the choir, celebrating the Divine Liturgy—the beauty of it moves me. And yet, it breaks my heart to know that, if I had a woman partner, I would be expected to break up, or lie about the nature of my relationship…