Trying to Be Seen: Bi Visibility Day 2015

Wednesday was Bi Visibility Day. It seems to have crept up and gone by fairly unnoticed, even by my fellow queer people. If I did not follow the bisexual subreddit, I probably wouldn’t have known about it. But I’m glad I did. This was the first year I knew about it at all! Even though it was a work night, I wanted to celebrate in some small way.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with some former coworkers for drinks. None of us worked at the old company any more, and it was nice to catch up and poke fun at the less-than-stellar workplace we had all survived. After some crack at the attractiveness of a person in the office, it came out that I was bi. Most of the table was already aware of this fact except for the girl sitting right across from me. It’s getting easier and easier to say or hear the words out loud, but something still catches in the back of my throat whenever someone new finds out that I like anything other than straight men. Especially a woman. Thankfully, Monique immediately gushed that she too was interested in women, but was having trouble locating the “scene” in the area and finding girls who liked girls to date. In the bar, we downloaded the app Her. It had nothing but rave reviews from the queer women forums I frequent, but I had been hesitant to set up a profile as a bi woman in a non monogamous relationship with a man. I didn’t want to invade on what I perceived to be a lesbian-looking-for-monogamy space. When I viewed the profiles in our area through Monique’s phone, however, I saw that this was not the case and took the plunge myself. I also offered to show Monique the gay bar in our area and take her to the Lady’s Night that happens every Wednesday. She enthusiastically agreed, and I felt a small amount of pride for being able to help another bi woman find her way into the queer community. I don’t know any other women who identify as “bisexual.” I know a few who choose “queer,” as well as a few lesbians, but having someone on my team made me feel less alone.

We made plans for the first Wednesday we both had available, and I realized on Tuesday that this would align with Bi Visibility Day. I excitedly reminded her of our plans, and she confirmed with me. Come the night of the 23rd, however, she cancelled, citing tiredness from work. The bubble of excitement I’d been inflating all day popped. I had worn my subtlety pride-colored shirt and the pink-purple-blue necklace to work, but didn’t feel like I had made myself any more visible today than usual. The shirt is in my normal rotation of work clothing, and I wear the necklace with regularity since receiving it in a recent Reddit gift exchange. I opened up the Her app to see what other women were posting about their Bi Visibility activities. I was gladdened by the official Bi Visibility Day logo at the top of the app feed, but did not see much else about it. I was considering posting about the bar’s Lady’s Night when I saw that someone else already had.

“Anyone down for girls night at [bar] tonight? It’s 18+” – Catarina

I replied, and we made plans to meet at the bar. From her profile, I saw that she was a lesbian studying abroad from Australia with soft, inviting eyes and brown, straight hair framing smooth olive skin and a playful smirk. She was five years my junior, but I was intrigued. I ordered my ride on my phone before I could convince myself out of it.

At the bar, I got a drink and settled in at a table, trying my best to exude confidence and total comfort in being at a bar by myself. The dance area behind me was empty, but there was a few groups milling around the bar. I slyly investigated the people around me, but in the dim light it was hard to tell who was who. In my last message, I had told Caterina what I would be wearing, so I waited to be seen.

After twenty minutes, I decided to take a lap of the place. As I was headed towards the door, I heard my name being called from a table fifteen feet from where I had been sitting. I turned to meet Caterina and her roommate Alex, who Caterina introduced as “the supportive straight friend.” I joined them at their table and ran through the general getting-to-know-you questions as the place began to fill with people.

I couldn’t help but bring up the fact that it was Bi Visibility Day. If I couldn’t say it aloud here, to another member of the queer community, who would I be seen by? Neither women knew “that was a thing,” and I admitted that I only knew because of my subscriptions to various bi media.

“The Her app had an official feed question about it, but that was pretty much all I saw,” I continued. “A lot of gay men and lesbians don’t like to include bisexual people. Or like them at all.” I was taking the chance that Caterina was not one of that group. I figured she had glanced at my profile, and she had not recoiled on the reveal of my bisexuality.

“I don’t understand why people in the gay community insist on being against on of our own!” she said with feeling. “We get enough shit from the rest of the world without throwing it at each other.”

“Yes, thank you!” The small amount of empathy in her automatic inclusion touched me. I wondered if the gay community was different in Australia. Perhaps biphobia wasn’t a problem there. Or maybe she had just not encountered it as a lesbian. I told her a bit about coming out to my mother recently and becoming more comfortable in my identity. She shared her experience of total rejection from her parents. They had deeply snooped in her life to “catch” her as a lesbian only to reject who she was only days before she came to America.

“When you come out as bi, your parents can still can hope that you’ll end up in a straight relationship,” she sighed. My heart went out to her. I wanted to brush her hair back from her face and hug her close, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so in front of Alex, who was listening intently. A small, petty part of me wanted to tell her that I was just as likely to marry a woman as I was to marry a man, but I couldn’t. I had known others to say the same phrase in an attempt to point out the privilege I have in being able to “pass” in some of my relationships, as if I could choose who to love. As if I could shrug off my same sex attractions just to convenience myself. But she did not speak from that place. She spoke through the lens of her own recent pain of total rejection, as if she wished she could give her parents any hope at all of being the daughter they had wanted to raise.

Before I could ask her more about it, she shook off whatever emotions she was feeling and looked up to see a couple walking through the door in front of our table. They were in their mid to late forties, and dressed for a club. They entered confidently, in a way that drew attention. The woman was petite with Latino curves that were emphasized by her well fitted dress and low neckline. The man was tall and dark, wearing a black suit. His skin, eyes, and hair were all a deep brown, except for where the last greyed at the temples. His companion gently pulled his arm, and he leaned over to hear what she had to tell him. He nodded, and she made her way into the crowd of the dance floor without him. After scanning the bar area, he approached our table.

I sucked in my breath, waiting for a lecherous line. The last time I had come to this very bar on a Wednesday, I had been approached by an aggressive, pungent older man, and I was expecting more of the same.

“Do you mind if I stand at your table for a minute? My wife is using the bathroom.”

“Uh…” I started, not sure how to say ‘no.’

“Sure!” said Caterina. She leaned forward on the table, friendly and open.

‘I used to be like that,’ I realized with a slight shock. When did I get so automatically defensive? Somewhere between the fifth man not taking a hint and the fiftieth, I imagine.

The man turned out to be Danny, a pilot from New Mexico. He and his wife were just visiting the area, and had chosen this bar because of his wife’s interest in women.

“We’re swingers.” he said unabashedly.

“I’m also in a non monogamous relationship!” I blurted. It was rare that I met anyone offline that had made this sort of relationship work.

We continued to chat as his wife danced closely with multiple women on the dance floor. He revealed himself to be the same age as my mother, but I didn’t see fit to share that with him. The only time his age became a real part of the conversation was when he began asking Caterina and I about how women have sex with each other.

She patiently explained how sex can be performed without a penis, emphasizing the importance of oral sex.

“I don’t really go down on my wife any more. Is that bad? She says she doesn’t need it.”

“That means you’re bad at it!” Caterina proclaimed, laughing at him. I nodded in agreement. “What exactly are you doing?”

“Well, you know, I just go down there and lick around the outer labia, then start kissing her thigh…”

“What?!” Caterina exclaimed.

“The OUTER labia? Around…it?” I repeat, puzzled.

“How can you be forty-eight years old and not know how to give oral?” Caterina continued, sharing in my state of mystification.

“She gets off plenty!” Danny said, trying to regain some of the esteem he’d lost.

“I mean, I believe you,” I said. ‘At least I believe she tells you that,’ I added in my mind. “But you could really improve her experience if you did that…differently.”

“How?”

Caterina began to explain with such a tone of authority that I found myself leaning in to hear her explanations better over the music.

I added in the name of a video I had seen mentioned on several sex forums in which a porn star teaches the audience specific tips and tricks, and illustrates them on another women.

He listened to us, enthralled, and thanked us for our help. His wife emerged from the crowd of dancers, flushed and out of breath. Danny went to join her, thanking us again for our help and handing Caterina his card.

After dancing ourselves for the better part of the night, we waited outside for our ride-share cars. I had suggested we meet again to go to West Hollywood, a gay destination she had been wanting to visit while in America. Though I warned her against being too cavalier with her possessions, I told her of the good experiences I had there even before I turned 21. The events of the night had me seeing things through newer, less cynical eyes. I wanted to see and explore West Hollywood with someone who hadn’t before, someone who had travelled thousands of miles to see it. When their ride arrived, I hugged Caterina goodbye and waved to Alex before heading towards home, grateful that I’d decided against spending the night on my couch.

The First Girl

Woah, time flies. Between a kidney infection, wisdom teeth removal, and applying to new jobs, somehow all this time has passed! I’m working on a couple posts more about general feminist bisexual nonmonogamy, but for now I thought I’d just share my “first same sex crush” story. Every queer person I know has that crush, that first person who, by their very presence, reached into you and pulled to the forefront that part of you you’d been trying to ignore, forcing you to face that part of yourself. For some, it was their pre-K teacher. For others, it was a middle school best friend. For me, it was much later, in my third year of college. And it took the form of Natalie.

The first. All those firsts stick with me. First crush, first kiss, first “real” kiss, first date, etc. For me, I got two of each of those firsts. I explored boys in my adolescence. Then I had to go through the whole process of puberty-level awkwardness to cool, sexually confident woman again in my early twenties, when I realized that I also liked girls.

I remember my first sex dream. Both of them. My first sexual dream involved Captain Jack Sparrow in a ditch down the street from me, and was generally quite bizarre. In line with my extremely vague understanding with male anatomy and sex in general at the time, his penis sprouted out of him like a sped up version of a flower growing out of the ground, blossoming into this thing. That’s about all I remember of it. I’m not even sure if I actually fucked him, or just stared in horror.

My first intimate dream about a girl, however, was much more vividly accurate. In this dream, her and I were in the closet of my childhood room. Little did I know at the time how deeply I was in there. The dream involved a girl I knew from school. In the time before the dream, we had become rather close with despite the fact that she was a deeply involved Mormon, while I was Catholic enough to get my mother off of my back. I woke up in a sweat, reeling from the imagined memory of her lips on mine and her fingers in my hair as I moved against her. I found it hard to look her in the face for the next week without thinking of myself between her legs.

I wrote it off as a phase and told no one. Not even my diary was private enough to even play out the thought that I could like girls. I had a boyfriend, and felt genuine affection and attraction to him, so that dream was just…I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I shoved it to the back of my mind. I played the part, acting appropriately appalled at the idea of a threesome with my boyfriend, then super duper casually telling him I would consent if he could manage to find a third. I knew that he would not be able to in our small, conservative town, but I secretly wondered if it would be anything like the continuing dreams that haunted me. When the thought of a woman would enter my mind, I would promptly shove it to the back of my mind.

It continued that way until my escape from my small hometown. In college, I met Natalie. I would say she’s the one that got away, but it still brings me embarrassment to think about how much I tried, and how much she utterly confused and attracted me in my attempts to win her over. Natalie was unassuming in the beginning. A year younger than myself, we met when she joined my sorority in the flurry of new member welcome night. I am not one to remember faces well, but I took note of hers the moment our eyes met. They were blue like mine, but lighter and clearer, with a stark openness that caught me off guard. She flipped her hair out of her face, and her dusky blonde hair softly flowed down her shoulders as she introduced herself to me.

We hit it off, and she seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to me. I felt a connection that I immediately attributed to benign friendship. Natalie was an instant hit in my sorority, and her sociable personality and blue-eyed blonde prettiness made her a popular new member and vyed after choice for a “little sis.” I told myself her social blossoming was why I felt so happily affected whenever she cheerfully called out my name upon me entering a room and came to hug me. She offered me her phone number to arrange a meet up at a fraternity party that evening, and I couldn’t help but tell my roommate Addy that the pretty new member who everyone liked seemed to be going out of her way to hang out with me. “I’m sure she’s just being social,” I rationalized aloud, “but you should have seen the look on Laura’s face. I know she wants her as a little.”

“Mmhm,” Addy agreed, not quite looking up from her chemistry textbook. “She probably thinks you want her too.”

And I did. But I didn’t quite know yet to what extent.

This realization came to a head when talking to my boyfriend at the time. As was my habit, I recounted my last few days to him that night in his cramped, badly kept studio. Jim was completely aware of my general fascination with women and part time, shallow musings on my sexuality, but didn’t seem to think much of it. At the time, I thought this was because he simply accepted me, but I now wonder if he thought I was making up the whole thing to arouse him. That is, until he heard me talk about Natalie over several weeks. He had met her after week at our date party, and had been less than impressed with her drunken debauchery with her date as well as with my defense of her freedom to express her sexuality and to be a drunk college freshman.

“You know, you talk about that Natalie girl a lot. Do you like her or something?”

“No, what are you talking about?” My reflexive answer came too quickly, and I was alarmed to feel a panic rising in my throat that I only feel when I’m lying. But how could I be lying? “She’s in my sorority. She’s just Natalie.”

“You’re lying. You’re such a bad liar. You like her!” He was teasing now, poking his fingers at my sides. “That’s why you talk about her all the time! You like her!”

While he grew more lighthearted in his teasing, I became more subdued. Natalie…even in my mind the name brought forth her laughing eyes, soft hair, and the feel of her hugging me close.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I halfheartedly laughed. “A huge crush. I just got a huge lesbian crush for a girl in my own sorority.” It felt wrong to say aloud, forbidden.

Glad to see me laughing with him, Jim moved on to some other topic, but I brooded more on the subject, continuing into the night after he had fallen asleep next to me.

Nope, can’t happen, I thought. It just wasn’t a thing. What, am I bisexual or something? I don’t think I know anyone who is bisexual, and I read that thing saying our university was one of the most gay friendly colleges in the country, so I would have met someone who was bi by now if that’s really a thing. Right? Besides, she’s in my house. That has to come with some sort of bond of trust that says you can’t creep on your sorority sisters. You can’t have unrequited crushes on them. Natalie probably already gets that from guys, just like you do on occasion. And you aren’t half that pretty, so she must get creeped on twice as badly. Leave her alone.

And that’s how I proceeded. I watched Natalie with what I labeled as jealousy at her pretty face and fit body mingled with an annoying desire that I took every opportunity to crush. The more bits and pieces of her personality that I collected through our casual contact, the more I wanted to be in the same room with her, and the more I wanted to stay away.

Natalie does gymnastics. Makes sense, that’s why she looks so good in crop tops. I bet that means she’s super flexi…no. Not going down that road. It’s just a cool hobby.

Natalie likes country music. Me too! It’ll be good to have someone to talk to about possible music festival lineups. I wonder if we could gang up and subject the rest of the house to some country at our next event. We’ll probably be drunk…and dancing. But nothing will happen. Because we are just friends.

Natalie joined the the committee to help set up the philanthropy event. Well, I was going to sign up anyway, right? I mean, it’s for the women and children, not for her. Sure, she’ll be there, but it’s not like we’ll be the only ones there. I can do that.
Then there was That Night. We were drunk. Very drunk. It was an event our house was having with a fraternity. The dance floor was packed with sweaty bodies, and I squeezed my way through it, trying to find the friend I’d left a moment before. That intention melted away as I almost ran into Natalie, whose lips were locked with those of another girl.

My breath left me in a soft woosh. I stared dumbly and was promptly noticed by the pair. Natalie broke away and sloppily leaned in to yell at me over the music.

“I’m bi curious!”

“I’m kind of bicurious too!” Oh God, did I just say that out loud?

“Really?”

“Yeah!” I said, laughing as if it was no big deal, as if it wasn’t the first time those words ever came out of my mouth.

She turned to see that her previous partner had already started dancing closely with a nearby guy. When she turned back to me, her eyes held a mischievous flirtatious look. Grabbing my hand, she pulled me close to her and began dancing with her body pressed against mine. The warmth of her body made my insides whirl, and I breathed in her smell as I moved my hips to match hers. Emboldened by her first move, the alcohol, and the alcohol sloshing through my veins, I ran my hand down her side as our bodies found a rhythm. I felt her slow intake of breath, and she looked up at me. When our eyes met, I recognized that look. The look of an impending kiss. I felt a thrill, and a sense of astonishment that any of this was happening. It had come so out of nowhere. The back of my mind flickered doubt, trying to tell me that I was just convincing myself that she liked me because of the feelings I had for her. But then she leaned into my lips, and I let myself go.

That night led to a lot of introspection (in ways I will later go into), but that was the moment I knew for sure. Before that, there had been a fear that my bisexuality worked for me “in theory,” but that maybe I would hate the real thing. Maybe I was just struggling to make myself more interesting, or maybe I was simply confused. When I felt the softness of her lips against mine, however, I knew it wasn’t. Something clicked for me in that moment. Girls could excite me just as much as boys could. And I have been confident in my bisexuality ever since. I didn’t start shouting it from the rooftops the next day or anything, but in my heart I knew. The feeling of coming out to myself was more wonderful than even being accepted by others. It was like I had been struggling to find the puzzle piece of my sexiality, and had finally triumphed in slipping it into its proper place. Though my feelings for Natalie continued to devastate me just like any crush, my feeling of self became just a little more complete.