Having A Sr. Moment
Where to start?
I watched “Sr.” a documentary about RD Sr. that was directed by Sr. & Jr. It was significant to me in the way they didn’t shy away from things that weren’t acceptable now. They didn’t gloss over topics about things from the past. Neither of them were apologetic to the audience for what happened. It’s just what it was. It happened.
Whether any writer comes out and says it or not, our books, no matter how outlandish, how fiction or non-fiction, show bits of our own narratives. They can be a glimpse behind the curtain.
I often wonder if my therapist has read my books. She writes too. Early on in our professional relationship, she asked me to leave a writing group that she was already established in due to a professional conflict of interest. I very much respected her for that and it cemented our relationship because it was the first example of someone creating a boundary. Asking for space to be themselves, to protect who they are, and protect me in doing so. I don’t know if she knew that for me, it was a profound moment. It was very simple, but meant so much to me. That’s when I really started to trust that my therapist had my best interest at heart. Sounds weird, I know, but seriously, I couldn’t have had a better example of what it meant to create a relationship where certain things were off limits for very clear reasons.
In the timeline of my life, I remember very early on that I was different. I had what my parents and family often described as a kind heart, and an open heart. Someone very innocent, with a need to please, and keep the peace.
If you’re queer, you might recognize all of that. A lot of us grow up with such innocence and kindness, only to have that trust, that kindness used in some pretty awful ways. (Hello – there’s a reason I’m in therapy. LOL)
Being queer and being fat are a hell of a combo. Growing up, one was allowed way more than the other, but just-just barely. I’ve been fat since I was born. My newborn baby picture is hilarious in that I have double chins. And the family had some very derogatory phrases about it.
My mother used to talk about feeding me to shut me up. Whether she knew it or not, her response to me was a response to her own mental health issues. It’s only recently that I’ve connected stress and large feelings to food. Decoupling all of that has been a bit of a nightmare and I still have a long way to go.
My books, all of them, published and unpublished, are part of that. They also represent how much I missed out trying to understand myself as a sexual person, and as a queer person when I was younger. Growing up in a very religious household will do that to you.
People had always thought I was gay from very early on. I kept to myself a lot. Wore dark colors. Gave no shit about hair or makeup. Hung out in the music and art wings of the public school buildings I would inhabit and generally gravitated towards ways to express myself that were allowed.
The problem was, while gays and lesbians were a thing, and something I understood. I had no idea what I was. While the word “bisexual” existed, it wasn’t common vernacular in any of the spaces I inhabited. And in the way of most kids in the time I was growing up, everything was very binary. You were either gay or you weren’t. Period. So, in my head, it was a very either/ or situation for a long time. Even though I knew in my late teens, I had more of an “and” thing going on, but I didn’t have a name for it. Hell, I wasn’t even sure how to explain it.
Looking back, the moment that really crystalized that something was different in my head was when I got caught openly staring at another woman in a locker room. She was absolutely beautiful in a way that captured my brain and held it. I think no one would have noticed except for two things. The woman caught me, and then, because I wasn’t embarrassed enough, I was with my mom at the gym. And she caught me. I know I turned some kind of beet red, then to explain myself, I said:
“You’re very beautiful.”
As if that’s something an 18 yr old should ever say to a full grown, married woman half dressed in a gym. At that moment, I was having big feelings and had no clue what the fuck to do with them.
My mom didn’t help. She jumped in and immediately apologized and said that I was a photographer and an artist, which was why I was admiring her.
Sure. Yes, and. . . she was very beautiful. I never went back to the gym with my mother. Come to think of it, it might explain something else that happened, but I won’t get into it here. Nothing bad, just my mom’s weird way of protecting me, sorta.
College happened. Guys happened. Lots of guys happened. Lots of friends with benefits. Lots of benefits, then friends. Then a word entered my lexicon. Two words, in fact. Bisexual and Polyamory.
My official coming out happened on a podcast with my two gay roommates. (You’d think living with two gay men would have been a huge clue, and it kind of was, but again, wasn’t. Life happens while you’re figuring your shit out.)
Anyway, at thirty-three, I finally had words. The words were liberating, and yet, and yet, I felt like I was starting from square one. AND to add to that, I was in my thirties. That was, back then, three years past the gay expiration date. “Gay death.” I used to joke with my queer friends that I got an extra five years because I was bisexual and we’d all had a good laugh.
AIDS had an impact on everyone, and most queer folks just “assumed” at the time that our number would be up a lot faster than our straight peers. Which, by in large, was actually true. To “out” yourself was to put yourself in danger. To go to a club was to invite harassment. Though I have to admit, those times seem much easier than now. If you gave me a choice of taking a random beating by a stranger vs being shot, I’d take the beating. At least then you could fight back.
I went with my gay friends to clubs a lot. I even DJ’d at one for a few months before it folded. What was different for me during that time was that coming out did two things: affirmed who I was, and then also made me look like less of an ally, less of a queer even. I was more queer hanging out as the straight fat pal gal than I was as the bisexual woman exploring what that meant to me. Admittedly, that hurt.
Lesbians turned me down because I had been with men. Gay men saw me as competition when I wasn’t before. The few bisexuals I did meet were all complicated, much like myself, and weirdly not interested in each other or were too scared to step out of the cover they had created for themselves in their relationships whether those were with queer partners or not. (And the gender didn’t matter as a bisexual. Based on my experiences we’re complicated lot. We enjoy more privilege than we realize at times, especially if we’re white.)
Oddly enough, it was the one space that I felt was the safest to express my desires as a bisexual. As a large woman, I was more accepted, especially as the hook up or the weekender between two people. This is where I learned another term: “Unicorn.” I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with this term. A friend of mine made a drawing where he incorporated the Bi flag into the ridge crest of a triceratops and called it a bi-ceratops, and I’ve called myself that since he came up with it.
I have a hypothesis that there are a lot more bisexuals in the closet, if only because we can hide better. We’ve learned to hide ourselves not only because of what we see our other queer peers deal with, but also at times, what we endure from our queer peers for not “picking a side.”
It has improved as more people have become openly bisexual. Though I think polyamory was more openly accepted first, which I think has helped a lot of bisexuals figure some things out.
But you’re here for the books, right?
My books, my characters are absolutely reflections of me. Of experiences. Of things I’ve seen. Of places I’ve been. Of people I’ve met. Of relationships I’ve had. Of things I would love to see in the world. Of others that I wish would have never happened.
Humans are messy. Queer people are no exception to that. Maybe some day I’ll write a couple or throuple that don’t have messy lives or their pasts don’t matter and all that matters is the present. (It’ll probably be a really old couple, or throuple that find each other late in life. Staring into that Autumn of life myself, I like the idea of it. We all die alone, but it’s nice to have a few friends, family, or lovers to count on at the end, or just to say goodbye to, say ‘see you next time,’ etc.
And that brings me back to Doe. “Sr.” was good. I highly recommend it.