The first time I kissed a man, I was twenty years old and at a party. I’m more than a little ashamed of the fact that I don’t remember his name, but in my defense there wasn’t much about him that was worth remembering. He had that dull-witted personality that comes from liking weed a little too much, he favored the kind of angsty tee shirts usually reserved for people who consider Avenged Sevenfold “deep,” and to top it all off he was engaged to a woman. The kiss itself was only memorable for having been the first of its kind; it was really just a mushy, stubbly mess, less of a kiss and more of an intoxicated collision.
The catch with being a bisexual man in the Deep South is that you’re a bisexual man in the Deep South. Straight people either believe you’re actually gay or going through a phase, and gay people, at least the younger ones I dealt with in high school, consider you something of a poser, an uninvited guest popping in to test the water. You hear the phrase “fully gay” a lot as well, from everywhere, as though you can level up in sexuality like some prurient version of Super Mario Bros.
These issues are less frequent now, of course, though they’re still evident in small degrees. I’ve never been threatened with physical violence, but I have been unintentionally insulted in bars, by homophobic drunks who assume everyone around them shares their opinion. I’ve had women who previously expressed explicit interest in me cool in their advances once they learn that my orientation isn’t an exclusive thing. One woman told me she wouldn’t be able to deal with the fact that she was only satisfying half of my desires, assuming, I guess, that I was the adulterous equivalent of a 7Eleven Big Gulp. I get questions about my sex life that come off as some sort of categorization exercise; honestly, I answer fewer questions when I’m trying to figure out my tax bracket.
I’ve never actively gone out of my way to hide my feelings, which until lately I always took to be a sign of independent indifference. I’m much more attracted to women than I am to men, and the one major long-term relationship I’ve ever been in was with a woman, and we were genuinely, romantically in love. Practically speaking, I could very well identify as straight. LGBT rights could crumble tragically and it would likely affect my love life very little, if at all. Truth be told, sexual identity hardly matters to me at all, but it’s ignorant to insist it isn’t of crucial importance to our current society. I notice this when bosses make homophobic jokes to me about others, like I’m some kind of captive audience for their facetious bigotry. I notice it when my orientation alone makes others more or less attracted to me, regardless of my personality type. I notice it when lawmakers ignore their constituents, and pass discriminatory laws to please special interest hate groups.
And while, like most Americans, I would rather say that my orientation is my own, like everything else, the human being in me knows that there are issues in the world that are greater than myself, issues that I am intrinsically connected to by virtue of just being human. And lately, though it hasn’t happened often, I’ve occasionally been purposefully quiet about this aspect of myself, and that lack of honesty and integrity, however small, galls me. There are aspects of ourselves that simply aren’t ours alone.
I don’t plan on actively announcing myself as bisexual whenever I’m around those who are unaware of it, but I can’t call myself truly honest and allow myself to actively hide my sexuality, either. I never really came out so much as I just didn’t care if others knew, and high school was just the time when others found out about me. I have a lot of contempt for my adolescent self, because in most respects he was an idiot, but I think he got something really spot-on regarding honesty. So for his sake and mine, I won’t stop myself from mentioning something that I should be able to say in passing, without the quick looks over my shoulder that I’ve shamefully noticed I’ve adopted.