Friday, January 12, 2007

Caution: This Door Swings Both Direction

One of the bloggers from Feministing did a review for Mother Jones on Jennifer Baumgardner's new book, Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics.

The book doesn't come out till next month, but I'm already excited to read what Baumgardner has to say about the ever-controversial topic of bi-sexual women. Reading the review, I was reminded of a conversation I had with photographer extraordinaire and all-around great gal Laurie Scavo a few months back when the subject of sexual orientation came up.

My father recently posed the question to me in multiple choice format "Colleen...your it A. Heterosexual, B. Not Heterosexual, C. A Combination of the Two, or D. You Don't Really Know Yet." My answer was not as direct as I wish it had been. My family is not the type to engage in open, supportive dialogue about sexuality (as you can probably tell by the aforementioned question format) and I didn't particularly feel like trying to start one at the time, so I said something like "It's a complicated question. More complicated than multiple choice answers allow and I don't want to get into it with you. But I do like boys." Total cop-out. This just goes to show that despite all my girl-power rhetoric, I'm still afraid of my parents.

The truth is, there's a reason I shy away from labels. Like the great Katz once said (though in regard to gender) should I "...let them fit me for a label that only half suits me?" Sexuality is not an either/or dichotomy, it exists on a spectrum with most people falling somewhere in between the two ends. I know plenty of gay men who get drunk and make out with girls and lots of lesbians who get a 7 year itch and run off to shag a man. So the "totally gay" category may not exist. I also know plenty of straight guys who have admitted to some homo-erotic experimentation in their youth and plenty of straight girls who aren't opposed to reaching 2nd base with one of their girlfriends (granted it's often for male attention, but come on gotta admit, it's kinda fun).

I never gave much thought to my own bi-sexual tendencies until my friend Stephanie pushed me up against the wall in an elevator and kissed me. I'd made out with girls before...even transcended the usual "drunk girl-on-girl action in a public place" barriers, once or twice at least. But that was the first time I'd ever had a sexual encounter with a woman that wasn't about anything going on around me. It was just about the two of us and what we were feeling. That night I experienced the beauty of real girl-on-girl lovin' and everything I knew about my sexual identity came crashing down around me in the arms of another woman.

I wish I'd been ready for what had happened. I'd honestly never considered anything happening between the two of us. I tend to miss what's right in front of my face and the whole situation was pretty obvious (we did meet in a women's studies class and all). The morning after our first night together I woke up so confused that I took a perfectly pleasant situation and made it awkward. That's what I'm good at: ruining the moment.

I was so insecure and so afraid of what the whole thing meant that I kept making things complicated between the two of us. She left at the end of January to go to Malta for a few months. It ended badly. The last time I saw her she came to a bar to celebrate my birthday and told me she loved me. She cried. I got angry. She left an apology on my voicemail the next day saying she's "just not good at saying goodbye". I meant to call her back but I forgot. The next time I saw her was 9 months later when she told me she'd met an English girl in Malta and had fallen in love.

There have been other girls since Stephanie, and I'm sure there will be more to come. But, she'll always be special because she was my first. Even if I fucked it up. If I start nullifying experiences cause I fucked them up then my whole life would suddenly be one big blank slate.

So, yes. Colleen likes girls. And Colleen likes boys. And Colleen likes boys who used to be girls and on occasion gets swoony for girls who used to be boys. I think this explains my adolescent fixation on Hanson.

But the word bi-sexual still pisses me off. I'm not equally attracted to men and women. I would wager to say I'm about 70% straight and 30% gay. And furthermore, I'm attracted to interesting people...whether they be male or female or some combination of the two is secondary to their personality and character. My friend Jake says that makes me special. I think it just makes me complicated.

For one thing, lesbian girls tend to distrust me because they think I'm just in a phase or following a trend or something. Straight guys either get too excited to hear about it which inevitably leads to a "Just because I like girls doesn't mean you can fuck me and my best friend at the same time" conversation. Or, they're surprisingly insecure and run away because they think I'll leave them for a girl, committing an unforgivable affront to their masculinity. It's tough. I'm only just getting used to being honest with myself, I'm still not sure how or when to be honest with other people.

I also hate that some of my friends objectify me now that they know I'm bisexual. While my closest friends love and support me for the unique being that I am, other friends...not so much. For example, New Years Eve I was at a party with a bunch of friends from My Brother's Bar. My friend Breanna was there and we had a thing once upon a time which managed to surface again for a night. We've always been cuddly with each other, largely because I am very much like a teddy bear, so we didn't think anything of sitting on each other's laps or with our arms around each other. I mean, it's not as if we were humping in the hallway or making out in the middle of the room or anything. Yet several of the men present made "I really like watchin' you two together...what's goin' on with you guys" remarks with lascivious grins plastered to their faces. I. Am. Not. A. Circus monkey.

There have also been occasions when to gain male attention, female friends of mine have gotten suddenly affectionate with me and even gone so far as to tell complete strangers that I am "into girls." Again. Not a circus monkey. And just because I'm attracted to a wide variety of people doesn't mean I'm attracted to everyone.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that being with a man and being with a woman are both really great, and completely different experiences. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Or maybe peaches and bananas is more appropriate. And now I wonder if I'll ever be satisfied with one person. Will I start to get restless after a certain amount of time in a relationship with one gender and start to miss being with the other? Will I ever be satisfied with a man again?

You see, one of the benefits of relationships with girls is that all the gender stereotyping I struggle with in relationships suddenly doesn't matter anymore. There's been this fantastic mutual respect and understanding in my romantic dealings with women that is so damn hard to find with men. I know it's possible, it's just rare. So do I date girls because it's easier to relate to them? Am I being fair to myself and my partners by doing so?

Sigh...when did this all get so confusing?

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