I thought you liked guys!

I was sitting in my coach’s office when the statement was said, “I thought you liked guys!” This was a moment and experience that I will never forget. The truth is I do like men, and I do like women. I identify as a cisgender bisexual female. I have been in romantic relationships with men and women as I am attracted emotionally, physically, and romantically to both. Unfortunately, this was a concept that my coach at the time did not understand. I’m not sure if he understood the weight that his statement carried, or if he ever will.

Sharing my Story

I want to share my experience as a cisgender bisexual female with all of you for a few reasons. First, to let you know that if you have ever shared an experience that you felt discredited or shamed because of your identity you are not alone. Second, identifying as bisexual comes with an array of stereotypes and judgements that can be so incredibly hurtful and overwhelming- again you are not alone in this experience. Third, while working with Emma Schmidt’s & Associates I have been given the opportunity to speak my truth and share my voice in this blog. This is not something I take lightly as an employee, mental health counselor, individual, and member of society. I have the greatest privilege of working on a team that provides me with a safe space to speak my truth and I recognize that not everyone has this privilege.

Who am I?

Such a loaded question and thought, right? Who am I? I still do not think that I can provide a satisfactory answer to myself or others on who I am because I think I am ever-changing. My experience in identifying as bisexual is a journey that I continue to travel.

As a child I never gave much thought to who I was attracted too. Most likely because I grew up in a very small (like population 2,000 people small) town that lacked diversity in all of its lenses. The topic of sexual orientation and gender identity was taboo. There was no conversation regarding romantic relationships unless it was related to heterosexual relationships. Looking back on my experience, I realize that I have always been attracted to both men and women, I just didn’t feel that it was okay to act on the attraction I had felt toward women during my adolescent years.

After leaving the small town, I went on to attend a private Liberal Arts college and had the opportunity to play collegiate basketball (again VERY small college- population 500 students). Luckily, the campus was much more diverse than where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I made friends that were just as quirky as I was and felt that the big question of “who am I?” was starting to unravel into my identity.

I started having conversations with my closest friends about my attraction to both men and women. I recognize how lucky I was to have found these people in my life that provided me with such a safe space. Surrounding myself with people who accepted me as I was, allowed me to dive deeper into my attraction and how I wanted to identify my personal experience.

Coming Out

Quite honestly, I hate the term “coming out” because in my experience I didn’t want to, or have to “come out.” Like what am I coming out of? Myself? Or am I satisfying the needs of society? I truly believe my feelings around this relates to my experience in identifying as bisexual. I was in my first romantic relationship with a woman in my early twenties, this was years after having a couple of serious boyfriends. To me, my first romantic relationship with a woman was fulfilling, beautiful, and exciting. I finally felt at peace with knowing that it was okay to have a boyfriend and then have a girlfriend. Unfortunately, society had a different plan for what my relationship with a women meant.

For example, my coach assumed that because I had boyfriends in the past, there was no way that I could be in a relationship with a woman. Spoiler alert, I can, and I did. On a campus of only 500 students, whispers spread like wildfire. Once it was well known that I did have a girlfriend, I felt the judgements being thrown across my coach’s desk. I remember sitting across from my coach after practice and hearing him say things to me that led me to have the feeling of wanting to quit the team. For those of you who know me reading this blog, you know that basketball is my passion, and my heart will always be part of the game. Thankfully, I did not quit, and I walked right into the athletic director’s office after my previous meeting and shared what just happened. I felt defeated and at the same time liberated. I did not feel that I had to come out to my basketball coach, or anyone for that matter. I was happy in my relationship and that was what mattered most to me.

How Stereotypical

Ahh and let us not forget the comments of “oh you’re just doing this for attention” or “this is a stage.” How infuriating- someone telling me that my attraction to others is for attention, or it is just something I’m going to grow out of. For anyone reading this blog that shares this infuriation, you are not alone. I think of my attraction as mine and no one else has the right to describe or assume what it means for me to identify as bisexual. Until writing this blog, I don’t know if I gave much thought to how sexualized my relationship with a woman was. As a woman, I have experienced my share of sexualization but my experience in this realm was just as uncomfortable and so unfair. I think the way the media and society portray bisexuality feeds into sexualization and stereotypes that go with it.

It’s who I am

Yes, I identify as bisexual. I am also a woman, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a counselor, and an abundance of other identities that make up who I am. Throughout my experience in identifying as bisexual, I have only learned more about myself. I am incredibly lucky to have the people in my life that I do, who support who I am in all aspects. It was not an easy journey to allow myself to feel OK being attracted to both men and women and I could not be happier with who I have become. I know I will continue to grow, and the experiences I’ve had related to my sexuality in the past have shaped me into who I am today. I hope that after reading this blog, you know that you are supported, that there are people who can empathize with your experience, and that you deserve to be whoever you are.