November 6, 2013

5 Suggestions to Live Bi (or Whatever). ~ Alex Hamby

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”

~ Bhagavad Gita

For the sake of this discussion I am going to use the ‘bisexual’ label. Though these suggestions could also apply to anyone (gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, heterosexual too), or any other who might not fit into the black and white constraints of what’s considered the societal norm sexually.

I stumbled and fell a lot during my “coming out” process, which I didn’t do when I was a teenager or a young adult but rather in my late 30s, married and a father, which you might interpret however you see fit. I made mistakes, people were hurt, and things got messy. All that because no one knows how this shit is supposed to work.

Well, I might not have it all figured out but I’d like to share a bit of what I learned along the confused path to being a more authentic me.

So, I present to you my not five rules, because rules, well, they suck, but instead—five Suggestions to Live Bi (or whatever):

5. Tell Someone, Anyone Who You Really Are

Masks keep us untouched and untouchable. Secrets eat away at us. The combination makes for feeling sad and lonely even when surrounded by people we love.

I know this because I lived with a huge secret, behind a thick and concealing mask, for most of my life. By never telling anyone the truth of my (bi)sexuality I’d created a world where I felt isolated and that isolation made me feel defective, like one of those people. I was this way only because I knew that I found both sexes attractive in a “she has a nice butt and so does her boyfriend” kind of way, in a “if I might the right guy first” kind of way and believed my life would fall apart if I ever said aloud these so-very-harmless thoughts.

As the years went on these harmless thoughts merged with shame and metastasized, eating away at my identity and self-confidence. I deflected my truth with derogatory gay jokes, the upturning of my nose at a man’s effeminate behavior, and repeated denial, most often to myself.  If I’d told someone early I might’ve saved myself many years of unnecessary self-loathing.

We all have a partner, friend or friends we can divulge our truths to. Take a moment and sit down with that person and start out nice and easy, “I’ve got something to tell you.” Move at a pace you’re comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be a single conversation. It can be, as it was with my wife, a weeks’ long discussion that is entered in to slowly and lovingly.

Yes, there’s a risk in this. Not everyone can accept people who are different than they are but those of us who don’t fit the mold can’t go on living in fear of those people. Best to know who your real friends are now, determine if new friends are needed, and then go about interviewing some new candidates. It’s far better to go through the temporary hurt of letting go of a someone who doesn’t agree with your authenticity than to live in agony by trying to fit in.

Just tell someone. You’ll be happier when you’ve found the people with whom you can be yourself with. Because Lady Gaga is right, you were born this way and there’s not a thing wrong with you.


4. Ask Yourself What You Really Want

Admitting you’re bisexual (or gay or whatever) is only the beginning. What comes after that?

My greatest mistakes were born from trying figuring myself out by reacting to various situations. I’d not prepared myself for anything beforehand because I didn’t have a clue what to prepare for. Going out into the world as yourself, whatever form that may take for you, not only affects you but so too does it affect the world around you and the way you want to interact with it. It’s unfortunate that there’s not a lot of resources for coming out as bisexual (especially for married fathers).

Perhaps, in my case, if I’d started reading up on what it’s like for gays and lesbians to come out to friends and family I’d have had a start but still would’ve lacked the ever so important “and then what?” knowledge typically gleaned from those who’ve gone before.

Truth is, porn isn’t a resource for information that’ll help you figure out the big questions. You’ll want to know in advance about your levels of interest are in both genders, how you’ll feel when people try and tell you you’re confused or transitioning, and what role you want to play sexually. No, seriously, your sexuality actually is about interpersonal dynamics and…yes…sex! Just because, on occasion, you enjoy watching two men, two women, or any variation of male/male/female/female sexual entertainment doesn’t mean you’ve determined your interests in being a top, a bottom, versatile, or neither. And you’ll want to seriously consider your views on monogamy, polyamory, open marriage or any other variation of relationship dynamic in the world, even if not widely talked about, because cheating and being cheated on sucks (trust me).

And while you can’t prepare for every possible situation you can and should invest in a bit of soul searching as early on as possible all the while knowing that if you meet the right girl (or guy), but still feel a certain inclinations, that conversations can be had and/or toys can be bought. Just sayin’!


3. Stay True to Yourself

Being bisexual, despite how appealing Angelina Jolie makes it appear (and she does), is to be a minority within a minority (and if you‘re anything other than a fit, white, female you can count on having a harder time finding where you fit in). That means a serious possibility that you’ll never really feel as if you belong anywhere despite an ability to blend in everywhere.

Along the way people have made all types of assertions about me. The most common of these, spoken by both my straight and gay friends and acquaintances, to my face and behind my back, is that I am transitioning (or confused). bullshit! I call “bullshit” because, hello, I’m in here, inside my own head, and I know who and what I am. You’ve the same insight for yourself! You know yourself better than anyone else does, secrets and all. And, given that you’ve put forth a decent amount of effort into Suggestion 2 (see: above), you’re the only person on the planet who truly knows who you are and can’t be told otherwise.

Refuse to be what others want you to be; to do this is to live inside a cage others have created for you. You’ve only one life to live (or at least you should try and live as if that’s true) and you don’t want to spend whatever precious time you’ve got on this rock being what others want you to be. Deny them that power over you. No one, not your Mommy and not that random drunk guy at that gay bar that one time, can tell you anything about yourself. Ever!


2. Have Good Intentions, Do No Harm

Heterosexuality has clear behavioral guidelines, provided by popular culture, that we all know by heart, no matter how flawed they might be. You grow up, do well in school, get a good job, meet a nice guy (usually someone like Matthew McConaughey) or gal (typically portrayed by Kate Hudson), get married, have kids, buy a house, retire…and die (in some sweet yet tragic scene best played by James Garner and Gena Rowlands).

All pretty cut and dry with a lot of established morality built into the Great American West Grand Life Plan (brochures available in every movie, on sitcoms, in greeting cards and dysfunctional family gatherings). But what if you’re bi (or whatever) …?

Gay culture, of which you might consider touring (as I did) is very, very different. I recently had a conversation with a lesbian acquaintance who explained the mystery to me this way: “We bounce around a lot because we’re looking for the love we didn’t get from the people we needed it from, like our families. So we bounce around from one relationship to another using sex as a substitute for love.”

As is evidenced by phone apps or visiting the various ‘Casual Encounters’ listings on Craigslist, sex is easy to come by and is often times a replacement for something missing, most likely authenticity. And some people will lie, steal, and cheat to get it. This seems like a viable resource for countless men and women, more than anyone might even realize, who are trying to satisfy a secret need. Say what you want, sex is a need that is more often than not separate from love. So, get over your uptightness and accept that.

But this method of finding the kind of sex you want is dangerous, especially if it’s to satisfy a hidden aspect of yourself, both for its potential health risk factors and too because it can bring a great deal of pain to others that you actually do love. Not to mention, it has the possibility of devastating your self-esteem, especially if you’re the type that can’t separate the ideas sex and romance.

So, be honest, be honorable, and do what’s right no matter how hot and horny he/she might be. And be doubly so if there’s someone out there who trusts you to do the right thing by them.

Rather than play these silly games after you’re already in a relationship, which the above does suggest, why not consider your truths before making a commitment? Look beyond the initial moments of passion and sweet nothings toward the future moments that have yet to unfold and face all the multitude of possibilities. Then, with that insight, be honest about who you are and what you really want.

If you fall in love and choose to settle down, don’t think you can keep your secrets forever. All of those phone apps and craigslist posts are filled with men and women who I am willing to bet never believed they’d be hunting for someone of the same or opposite gender outside of their relationship. They went into a relationship or a marriage with a secret and now they’re clumsily causing harm to themselves and others while trying to maintain it.

But if you decide to go the route of the shamed scoundrel, at least wear a condom. K? Thanks!


1. Just do you

Look, I know a bit about this. I have loved a woman in blissful openness and a man in dismal secrecy. Yet both of these adorations came with a huge degree of shame attached. My wife, whom I’ve loved since before I ever met her, was kept at an arm’s length from me so as not to accidently let her see the truth I was ashamed of.

The man, well, he was married and unable to accept who he was let alone who I was, and this caused me great shame too. In the former instance I fought feeling vulnerability, withheld my authentic self so as not to cause myself shame. And so I felt ashamed, full-on, self-inflicted and hurtful shame.

In the latter, I was made to feel ashamed, as if the something magical that we had found was in fact wrong, deviant, and undeserving of living in the light. Sure, I landed on my feet, but neither instance had a default requirement that I live with such self-contempt.

Our world is evolving. True, there are countless voices speaking out against subjects like equality. Those voices want those whose sexuality doesn’t fit nicely into the Tea Party’s ideal of a 1950’s television show starring Ozzie and Harriet Nelson (as opposed to Ozzy and Sharon Osborne) to change, to be 100% heterosexual, get married, have kids, and do, please, go to church and pray your bi (or gay or whatever) away! Oh! And pay your taxes. Those people can’t handle the evolution of our modern thinking that is trying hard to finally shed old and useless prejudices.

But those people, adults and the children they send to school to be bullies, are still out there and are scary enough that a still unknown number of men and women remain afraid to just come out, to be themselves and live their truth. It’s sad that it was ever like that and sad still that it continues to varying degrees around the world no matter what successes we might be celebrating.

What we all need to realize, closeted or no, bi (or gay or any other color of the rainbow) or no, is that we all have to live this life for ourselves. So many lives go on unlived, are left unfulfilled, and ultimately are wasted. If that weren’t true then not a one of us would give a second thought to those quotes that keep resurfacing on social media from Bronnie Ware’s book, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.’

For whatever reason, we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel the sun on the skin of our real face, to speak words of love with our real voice, or the opportunity to just do us. We do this with regret and not realizing the opportunities for happiness our authentic, unmasked self might bring to others.

No, it’s not easy. Not saying that it isn’t a huge challenge for some to just be themselves. But the world needs far fewer people pretending to be something they’re not and a whole lot more openly being themselves be that bisexual, gay, transgender, queer or straight.

We need to raise children in a world where they can see artists creating art, yogis practicing yoga, and people loving people, no matter their gender.

It’s time to stop living someone else’s life with painful perfection and instead living the one you’re meant to with beautiful and loving imperfection.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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