For the past two years, June has been an awesome month packed with performances with my improv troupe at the Del Close Marathon in NYC and pilgrimages to the pride parade with one of my besties. We’ve made a point to stake out a spot right in front of the Stonewall Inn and watch as the Dykes on Bikes open the parade and the fun begins. I’ve been trying hard to combat my feelings of gloom over the fact that I can’t attend the festivities this year. It’s become an important tradition and I’m pretty bummed to be missing out.
My friend had just come out as trans the first year we went and I went to support her at her first pride parade. I was deemed “the relentless ally.” We met up with two of her friends and claimed a spot right at the front of the parade route. We all laughed when a woman on the parade route came over, after spotting our transgender pride flag with “Don’t forget the T in LGBT” written on it and decided to hug me, the cisgender woman in a group of trans individuals and tell me I had a beautiful soul. My friend leaned over to joke, “Damn, she must think you’re passing REALLY well!”
It was a spectacular time and I felt amazing being there to support my friend. But, as usual, I hid myself and allowed all comments about being an awesome straight girl to slide. When we attended the parade last year, I made an off-the-cuff comment about having been involved with a woman. My friend responded, “I didn’t know you were bisexual! I just thought you were an amazing ally!” We both had a good laugh.
In my experience, coming out as bisexual has, essentially, been one, years-long argument about what qualifies as girl-on-girl sex and how many times you must have this super-specific type of sex in order to exit the realm of heterosexuality. But wait – don’t get too excited! You gotta pump the breaks and make sure you don’t have sex (very specific girl-on-girl sex that abides by the rules of what counts, remember!), or else you are now a lesbian. Unless you are pretty and desirable to men. Then, you are just performing for them. I tended to fall into this category – being a young, thin blonde with blue eyes and big boobs.
As you can imagine, these arguments became tedious, exhausting and frankly, so infuriating. (Making matters worse, since I am one of the “fake, hot” bisexuals, my anger was just another turn on. It was futile.) So I just became silent. My three major relationships have been with men, so I felt there was no point in having these arguments. If I ever brought it up, there was always push back: “Well, if you are attracted to women, why are you with HIM?”
I didn’t have an answer. So I just shut up. And that’s how my identity, and that of so many bisexual women and men, gets erased. And I’m pretty sick of it. I’m a woman. I’m engaged to a man. I’ve been sexually attracted to, and involved with, both men and women.
I’ve been in love with several men, though I’ve only been interested in seriously dating one woman. My sexual identity is complex, nuanced and not for anyone but myself to define. I am bisexual, and I am allowed to celebrate that with pride just like everyone else this June. Yes, even though I am planning my wedding to a man. It’s still who I am.
At age 27, after three years with a very supportive and committed partner, I feel I can confidently say that. But it took a really long time to get there. For a good chunk of my teen years I just struggled in silence trying to figure out if I was straight or gay because, at 13, I had so many crushes bouncing around to different boys and girls I could barely keep count.
In 2003, the pervasive message I was still seeing was that bisexuality was just a pit stop on the way to gay town. I knew it was okay to be gay. My parents always made that clear to me and my brother. So when I wanted to kiss my beautiful Indian friend, also named Molly, I thought, “Great! I’m gay! Find a good time to tell mom and dad, and then find a good time to kiss Molly!”
But eventually, that crush wore off, and I learned my friend Matt had a thing for me. It was amazing, a cute boy liked me and I liked him. But I didn’t quite know what to do. At 13, your thoughts and feelings move so fast, I decided I must’ve just been in a weird mood and, since I now liked Matt, I was DEFINITELY straight. I washed my hands of any homosexuality (a practice Mike Pence still endorses to this day), wrapped my arms around Matt and proceeded to have my two week, eighth grade relationship with him.
This vacillation between sexual identities continued throughout all of my high school years and early twenties. I was lucky to attend a magnet arts high school where the idea was that “everyone is a little bisexual.” It’s an idea that I reject because, frankly, I’m not a fan of putting a sexual identity on other people when only they can define it for themselves.
But when you’re 16 and attending your gal pal’s hot tub party and somebody decides that all the girls should start kissing, well, your rejections of that notion go out the window because, for fuck’s sake, you’re gonna get YOURS.
But then you start dating a boy, and that boy has some serious issues about sexuality. That boy’s mom came out later in life and left his dad. She told her sons that men can’t sexually satisfy women as well as women can. And that is the first boy you have sex with. And when you tell that boy that you also like women, he tells you that you’re crazy.
Then his mom tells him that you’re really a lesbian. Then that boy starts abusing you. Then you really don’t know who you are, who you’re attracted to or if you really want anyone or anything. If he catches you looking at women at a party, or just thinks you are, he goes and sleeps with them. He does this a lot. He does it for revenge.
Eventually you get a little bit of freedom. You meet a girl and become friends. You guys are so similar it’s almost disgusting. You can’t tell if you want to be sisters, best friends or lovers. As with most of these situations, alcohol comes into the mix and you figure out it’s the third option.
You have a secret. You have sex. Well, you think you do. Nobody really knows because you still haven’t figured out what the super-specific rules are about girl-on-girl sex. But YOU are pretty damn sure you had sex.
What you know without question is that you really like her. You like her more than you’ve liked any other girl you’ve been involved with. You want to date her. You even invite her over for a sleepover at your parents, where you are temporarily staying because you are trying to escape your horrible abuser who revenge-fucks girls at parties in order to make you feel bad.
You let your parents meet her. They like her. You imagine your big, overwhelming Polish family meeting her and imagine her reaction to all of them. This makes you feel good. You put on a movie and kiss a little bit. You fall asleep holding hands. It’s the first time you’ve felt pure joy in a very long time. You imagine how you can work up the nerve to ask her to be your girlfriend.
You wonder, again, if you’re really, truly gay. You realize that you don’t care. You just want to have another night like this.
That doesn’t happen. Everyone, including your abuser, finds out what happened. The girl isn’t ready for what your offering. You talk about the night you had sex. She brings up the super specific girl-on-girl sex rules. She doesn’t think it qualifies.
You know that this means she is scared. You feel invalidated. You back away. You get roped in by your abuser, again, because that’s what happens.
“I guess you’re straight, Molly,” you think as you lay in bed and smoke more cigarettes than anyone should be able to inhale in one sitting. But you need a distraction. Then he says something that paralyzes you. “I had sex with somebody. And you’re not gonna like it. But she told me not to tell you.”
You know who it is. You get up to leave. You don’t need this torture. Eventually, you and the girl talk and she tells you, through tears, about how scared she was of everything happening between you. And how your abuser was at a party. How he got her very drunk. How she woke up with him, but doesn’t really remember what happened. She just needed an outlet.
You know the deal. You don’t blame her. You apologize. You tell her to stay away from him. For her own good.
You don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone at this point. You just feel heartbreak. You think of the men, because it’s almost always men, who hooted and hollered at you when you kissed girls at parties before moving to bedrooms to do whatever you wanted to do. You wonder if they ever thought of this part. Of course they didn’t. Because you weren’t real to them.
Of course we all moved on and grew up. I left my abuser. I don’t know where he is. (Joel likes to imagine he’s dead.) I honestly have no idea. Eventually I sorted out my sexuality. Mostly through reconnecting with friends from high school and realizing we had crushes on each other and then, as adults, doing what we felt like doing.
I started going to pride parades. I went to support friends and family. Often times, I ended up in tents, dancing under sprinklers while shaking my hips and trying to figure out if I have a type. I’m still not sure if I really do.
I’m more attracted to personality than physicality, in both men and women. But I’ll dance with most anyone if you get enough booze in me.
Pride was a fun place to try to figure out who I was and meet pretty girls. Sometimes I met terrifying women who bit my lip so hard when kissing me that they nearly tore it off. Then I had to try to escape having sex with them because, holy shit, if you do that to my mouth I’m not letting you go anywhere near my vagina.
I learned that bisexuality meant having just as many awkward sex stories about women as I do with men. There’s a myth (as purported by my ex’s mother) that women are inherently better in bed than men. I can tell you, this is just not true.
When I met Joel, I knew I had met my match. It really didn’t matter if he was a man or a woman. It never has, and by that time, I had learned that. My love came in the form of a 6’4 man with long arms, an adorable smile and very sweet eyes.
I would’ve taken that love in any form, but this was the one I got. That feeling I had with my girl when we had our sleepover, that feeling of just being happy and wanting it to last, was the same feeling I had every moment with Joel. It didn’t matter that he was a man or she was a girl. That’s a pretty big part of who I am, and I’m proud of that.
It’s taken me 27 years to start confidently saying, to everyone, without apology, that I am bisexual. That I am attracted to both men and women. That I have been intimate with, loved, lost and yearned for both. That shit is hard. And, even though I am in a long-term heterosexual relationship that I hope to be in for the rest of my life, I am allowed to be proud of my bisexuality.
It’s real and valid. I am allowed to take up space at pride events. I am a part of it.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Los Angeles. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.