jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

True Confessions of This Bisexual

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I had no idea I was bisexual for many, many years. How is that possible? I’ll tell you, of course.

My very first “celebrity crush” was on Sharon Gless.  If you’re a Burn Notice devotee this might confuse you, but at the time I was, like, 10 years old. It was still Cagney & Lacey days. I dare you to do a Google image search and not be entranced by her smile and sparkly eyes. Double dare, even.

I actually remember the confusion this caused. I thought about it for years. What were these strange feelings? Why did I feel some connection to her? Was it because the character she played shared some significant traits with my mother? Was she just an epically effective actress? What was going on?! (Yes, 10-year-olds are capable of this level of introspection)

Yeah, so the thing is…I had no idea homosexuality was a thing. And not only did I have no idea women could be attracted to other women, but I also had no idea people could be attracted to multiple genders. This was just not part of the little world that little me lived in.

Even when I became somewhat aware of queerness in high school, bisexuality was still not on my radar.  And I knew I liked boys.  Ergo, I was straight. And the sorrowful longing for the pretty girl in my class with the fluffy blonde* curls? I just wanted to be friends, right?  They should have captioned my yearbook photo “clueless.”

Then came marriage and the baby carriage and then divorce, single parenthood, exhaustion, and the Evangelical culture of if-I-just-love-Jesus-enough-some-good-Christian-man-will-want-me.  Apparently I never did love Jesus enough.

Five or ten years ago I began acknowledging to myself an occasional attraction to women. I was still confused by this. Oh, by this time I knew about bisexuality in the abstract, although it confused me. But I didn’t find it personally applicable. I was straight. Just sometimes I liked women.

“I know!” I thought, “Our culture is rife with the sexualization of women. I must have just been brainwashed into seeing them as sex objects.”

And some of that is certainly true. As a society, we don’t see women as autonomous humans, but as pleasure-givers. But…it seems most women don’t suffer the same side-effect. Eventually I found myself saying things like, “I’m mostly straight.” I gave it a number: 95%.  I arrived at this number via a fairly mathematical method of counting up women I knew I found attractive, and men I knew I found attractive, and estimating the ratio. I was 95% straight. And I was okay with that 5%, you know, in a theoretical sense. It was who I was, but it wasn’t a big deal-after all, it wasn’t like I was going to actually date a woman.

So that’s where I was at when I was moved by compassion and, I sometimes think, the Holy Spirit, to really dig into the theology of homosexuality. Not only did I expect to come out the other side of that excavation with the same mindset I went in with, but I didn’t really see it as impacting my own life. I mean…I was 95% straight. That’s like, almost 100%!

After coming to the conviction that God’s cool with same-sex relationships, a surprising and incredible thing happened: I found out that I really, really, really like women. I’m almost proud of the level of talent I seem to have for self-suppression, because I have spent months now walking around thinking, have people seen women? There are so many beautiful women. So many. Why doesn’t everyone love women? Of course, it seems they’re all straight. But still, at times I wondered if I was just gay. Did I ever truly like men, or did I just convince myself to like them because I was supposed to?** Fortunately this confusion has been cleared up by the appearance of one or two attractive men (thank you, Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

All that to say: If I’d had some freaking representation when I was 10, or 25, or 35, all this confusion could have been avoided!

Wonder Woman is bisexual. Wish I’d seen *that* in the TV series of my childhood!

 I don’t even want to think about how different things could have been, or whether the pretty girl with the fluffy blonde curls might have liked me too. But seriously, representation does matter. ‘That person is like me’ is important, as is ‘Hey, maybe I’m like that person.’  And this thing where bisexual people are rendered imaginary or represented as using their sexuality to manipulate people is just not cool. And really, aren’t you glad we’re here, thinking all y’all are cute?
*If you are sensing a pattern here, you are not alone.
**Okay, so self-doubt might be an even more recognizable pattern as my affinity for blonde women.


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