Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Was a Teenage Bisexual

When my step-brother and I were high school juniors we each made an announcement one night at a family dinner. “I’m bisexual,” I told “the parents” as we called them then. “And I’m dropping out of high school,” said my step brother. “Oh! Well isn’t that wonderful?” they exclaimed, my dad launching into a story about hitchhiking to Florida from rural Virginia, finding work in an orange juice factory and returning home to make straight A’s after the acid ate away the soles of his boots. Later, my own mother stopped just short of rubbing her hands with glee. She’d already introduced me to her friends who wore short hair and flannel: she was prepared. My brother did want to pursue a life of unadulterated freedom and I was as curious and nervous about girls as I was about boys; however our parents’ reception knocked the wind out of our sails. After graduating high school, my brother went on to college and in the end, I married a man.

But not before exploring my options first. My friends were smart, beautiful, creative, funny and kind, making them obvious choices over, say, the hairy boy who reeked of Drakkar that asked me to accompany him to Red Lobster. In high school, I did date boys and even had a boyfriend--- although I refused to name it that then, shunning labels like the pledge of allegiance. I didn’t want to be easily pinned down or classified— none of us in our rag tag group did. Banding together, we created a category of our own— just like millions of other suburban fringe kids around the country. Just as soon as I tried on one identity I outgrew it, like a haircut or jeans. A part of me secretly longed to be the cheerleader adored by the football team, but falling just short of that, I did a 180. Bleached dreadlocks and a girl one week, crimson curls and a long-haired boy the next.

For me, one size did not fit all.

And then, my junior year abroad in Italy, along with my first apartment, I had my first girlfriend--- I think it was a course requirement at our particular liberal arts college. I still refused to use labels, but after moving out of the homes of our host families and in with each other, we were more than roommates and more than friends. We shared not only espressos and homework assignments but living expenses, and beds. I wrote poems for her. She painted me. We gave each other jewelry. We took weekend trips to remote villas, exploring both the country and largely hidden sides of ourselves. It could have been that we were young and in a foreign country, but I count it as one of the most romantic and devastating relationships of my life—certainly one of the few that has taught me the most. It was far from perfect, but that’s why it fit perfectly into my life.

A few heartbreaks and (mis)adventures later, I’ve chosen—at least from the outside and compared to many of my friends-- a fairly straightforward life, one that includes marriage, motherhood and a mortgage in the suburbs. Most days I feel lucky to have found another person I want to spend my life with; I can’t imagine not having been allowed to do so based on his gender or mine.

Yes, my parents made it more difficult to rebel, but I am infinitely grateful to them for their acceptance of my choices regarding not only who to be, but who to love. I have little doubt that I would have done everything I was going to do anyway, but doing it with their blessing went a long way.


  1. Love you and this post, Valley. My parents had a similar approach, and when I dyed my hair purple at 13, my mom said "it looks awesome! Maybe I'll do mine too!" I hope I can be as cool with my own kids and let them do things because they want to, not as rebellion. (of course, don't you know that Henry and Ruby will be college republicans to rebel against us?)

  2. henry already told me that he is part of the LGBTQQIAA crowd

  3. Beautiful, bold, wonderful. Thank you for sharing so deeply, Valley. You make the world a better place.