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The PRIDE Issue

Be bold. Be brave. Be proud. Be you.

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THOMAS PEEK
  • Thomas Peek

Let Me Eat Cake
A bisexual's manifesto for living life somewhere in between.
By Chase Wilson

To some, I'm gay. To others, I'm not gay enough. For a long time, I didn't know what I was. I didn't know where I was supposed to fit in. Could I fit in anywhere?

Growing up in a forward-thinking household, my mom always told me to judge people according to their character. While a good rule of thumb, this is much easier said than done. We grow up in a world riddled with conscious and unconscious biases. Harmful micro-aggressions take seed in our brains early on and spread their roots deep. Through education, representation and honest communication, we remove these poisoned roots. We begin to discover who we are and where we belong. Often, the destination we arrive at is not where we expect to end up.

As a child and through my adolescence, I never worried about my family judging me for how I presented myself, even though I found myself going through a new phase almost weekly. My family never judged me for who I chose to hang out with and I easily made friends throughout my school years despite social anxieties that resulted in overt shyness and introverted tendencies. I also enjoyed my fair share of "girlfriends" throughout elementary school. I use quotes here because I'm not sure these first interactions with the opposite sex as kids count as actual relationships, but they serve as a shallow foundation for relationship building as we grow older and begin to navigate the dating world.

Cut to any family get-together during these years, where I was inevitably asked about school and, from there, if I liked any girls in my classes or if I had a girlfriend. It always felt innocent enough. A light joke to break the ice with a kid they rarely saw, but it never sat right in my head. Questions like these, asked of such young kids before they even possess an inkling of who or what they are, plant seeds of heteronormativity—the socially ingrained belief that men and women have distinct roles in life—and that heterosexuality is the natural form for relationships.

My first real relationship began in middle school. I met a girl while working my first job in an amusement park. Things went well for nine months or so and then we went our separate ways. After this, I dated another girl, more serious than the last, which went on-and-off for around three years. Most of the details of these first relationships are irrelevant, other than they were born from the immense societal pressure that I felt (and I think most young people feel), compelled by everyone and everything around me to find a girlfriend, date her through high school, then get married and have kids. It's what we're supposed to do, right?

As this rocky, on-again-off-again relationship began to fizzle out, I knew I possessed an attraction to members of the same sex. I never thought about it as being gay or bisexual, or anything other than straight; I always attributed it to feeling comfortable with my sexuality. More often than not, teenage boys at this time in their life are hyper-masculine. Always flexing to prove who's the tough guy; bragging about who gets the most girls; who could kick whose ass. Many of my close friends filled the stereotype with ease. Most guys this age meet any sign of femininity or gayness with immediate revulsion, mockery and disgust. This ultra-masculine atmosphere does more than just make boys puff their chests and act tough; it creates a false narrative about what makes a boy a man. Living in this atmosphere day after day—filled with constant displays of manliness and revulsion at the slightest hint of anything queer—helped me unconsciously repress any sort of thoughts or feelings that weren't particularly straight.

By the time I entered high school, I quit hiding from the truth. I did myself no favors by lying to myself. I knew that I didn't fit into the straight narrative taught to me from a young age. I felt attracted to men. But I also knew that I didn't fit into the gay narrative either. I absolutely felt attracted to women, too. As a result of some poking around the internet, I concluded that the term "bisexual" defined how I felt pretty accurately. Finally having some sense of identity empowered me. However, I could not find it in myself to come out immediately. I feared that coming out with my newfound sexuality might negatively impact—maybe even ruin—many of my friendships and possibly even sabotage my prospects for future relationships. I stayed quiet about it for a long while.

Throughout the entirety of high school, I worked at Hot Topic at the local mall. I met Megan there and we began dating in my junior year. Early on, I could tell that this relationship felt different from any before it. She was, and remains, incredibly empathetic and genuine. I felt so strongly for her and trusted her so deeply that I made the decision to come out to her first. To say I felt nervous is an understatement. Up to that point, I don't think I ever felt more anxious than I did in that moment. To my relief, I placed my trust in the right person. After telling Megan about my internal struggle, much to my shock, she actually reciprocated the action and came out as bi herself. It was truly a moment full of love and free from judgment.

From there, it became easier and easier to come out to those around me. After I told Megan, I came out to my mom and sister. My sister couldn't have cared less. Her reaction came off as the most "So what?" of so-what's I'd ever heard. My mom came off a bit more cautious. She asked me a few questions: "What about Megan?" She knows, nothing has changed, I answered. "Does this mean you're just confused?" No. "It's not just a phase?" Nope. Then came a few semi-hurtful, "Are you sures?" as if I hadn't thought about any of these questions over the years. After the interrogation, the conversation effectively ended. Since then, I've felt nothing but acceptance.

Now came the part I dreaded most: coming out to my best friend. I thought a lot about this in the months and weeks leading up to finding the guts to pull the trigger. I recalled talking about LGBTQ issues with him in the past and it never went well. Repeated iterations of the same "it's not natural, it's a choice," argument had stifled any sort of real conversation. Finally, the time came when I could no longer live vicariously through the scenarios I'd created in my head. I had to make this real and accept the outcome, whatever it might be.

"I'm bisexual," I managed to mumble over the phone from behind my jumbled nerves.

"So tell me what that means," I heard him say in a flat tone.

That's how it began. If I told you this conversation went how I planned, I'd be lying. I explained what identifying as bisexual meant to me, and how I'd come to that conclusion. He asked a few of the now-standard questions, and after saying all I had to say, he paused in a stone-cold silence for a few eternal minutes. I actually thought he'd hung up. "Hello?" I said.

A sniffle. An apology.

Without going into much of the sappy details, he apologized for all of the negative comments and arguments made over the years. He told me having someone close to him, someone that he calls a brother, come out as decidedly-not-straight opened a whole new world-view to him. He made a virtual 180-degree about-face. In fact, I can't say that any of my close friends reacted in a way that negatively impacted our friendships in the years since coming out. That's the important caveat though; these were people I'd known for years, but I still wondered how people who didn't know me personally would react.

Fast-forward to the present day. Megan and I are still together, going on two years of marriage. Newsflash: I'm still bisexual even after marrying a woman. Admittedly, we don't have what is defined as a "traditional" marriage or relationship, whatever that is. We're two bisexuals in a loving and committed non-monogamous marriage. In other words, we are emotionally exclusive while allowing one another to have separate sexual partners. I'm not here to tell you this lifestyle works for everyone, or that it's an easy decision to make. It takes trust, love and most importantly open, honest communication. But in the end, this lifestyle works for us. Most interesting to me, it seems that people on both ends of the spectrum have considerable troubles comprehending this. Straight and gay folks alike wonder how, if I'm married to a woman, I could possibly still be bisexual—as if somehow my inherent sexuality switched off once I said "I do." I've experienced some people at either end of the conversation who try and invalidate my marriage because they just know that I'm actually gay and don't want to come out. They condescendingly tell me that I want to have my cake and eat it, too.

I do. And I will.

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