Although I had been attracted to girls as well as boys for the near-entirety of my life, it was not until I first kissed a girl that I mentally acknowledged my bisexuality. Girls fascinated me for years. The tilt of female hips and the curve of teeth upon woman-lips in a smile entranced me. During childhood, I studied the faces and bodies of my female friends, thinking about what it might be like to hold a girl's head between my hands for a kiss like breathing, a kiss like blowing water from the lungs while swimming. I watched women in films with cruel black eyes and powdered cheeks, imagining I was inside the skin of the men who kissed these cinematic temptresses. As much as I liked the differences between the male and female bodies, I was intrigued by the sameness of two female forms, the sinking softness of breast against breast and pelvises curved together. If kissing a man was an escape from the proverbial Garden of Eden, kissing a woman embodied the return to the mother's heartland, the womb.
When I was eight, I played a game with a close friend, Christine. One of us pretended to be a husband and the other the wife. We enacted stereotypical scenes of heterosexual marriages with strange twists. As the wife, I wore cowgirl boots and a feathered boa and claimed to have a job as a herder of misbehaving men. Christine, usually taking the husband role, cleaned the playhouse, tied an ascot around her neck, and smoked fake cigars while we imitated making dinner of cold cereal, gumdrops, and peanut-butter-and-marshmallow sandwiches. Christine and I occasionally traded places, but we were most comfortable when she was the man and I, the woman. Secretly, I wanted to engage in the familiar game with Christine and I both as wives. I did not wish to be a girl mimicking a man kissing a girl. I wanted to be a girl kissing a girl. I wanted to lean forward to kiss Christine as we feigned sleeping in the playhouse, tangling our legs and lacing our fingers together.
I never told Christine how I felt or mentioned my admiration of girls to my family. Based on my mother's severe reaction to my Uncle Frank declaring his homosexuality, I knew announcing my appreciation of girls would earn my family's scorn. So I kept quiet about thinking girls were the bee's knees and concealed a lot of guilt over what I was certain would cause alienation and disapproval. Childhood classmates used the word gay as an insult. "You're so gay," the boy in the chair next to me said when I stubbed my toe on his desk. "What a gay thing to ask," snorted another classmate when I asked what a condom was in the fifth grade. I did not even understand that gay was a word for a homosexual or what a homosexual was until I was twelve and a health class textbook informed me. All I knew was that Uncle Frank said being gay got him beaten up one weekend at a bar and that my schoolmates used the word to express scorn.
Turning fourteen, I kissed a boy for the first time after holding hands with a boy for the first time the summer before. I liked the kissing business and the firmness and fragility of a boy just learning about who he was. I liked the scent of cologne and aftershave on a boy's throat, the slight calluses on the palms of his hands, the thin scruff of an unshaved chin against my cheek, and the sharpness of hips and cock colliding against my soft thighs and concave pelvis. I liked and loved my share of boys through adolescence, discovering that boys were like snowflakes: each unique and exceptional.
As keen as I was on boys, I secretly watched girls, too. I told myself that I was just comparing my body to the bodies of the girls in the gym locker-room, but I lingered too long on the arms draped like vines across metal locker doors, the jut of asses in polyester shorts, and shadows between burgeoning breasts. Very conscious of what others might have thought, I never confided my feelings in a friend or dared to think of kissing a girl.
When my boyfriend at eighteen told me he had always fantasised about engaging in a threesome with two girls, I told him I would enact the fantasy for him. He thought I was incredibly open-minded when the truth was that I just wanted to kiss a girl and had been conditioned to think that wanting to kiss a girl was either wrong or made me a lesbian. Kissing a girl in the context of fulfilling a boyfriend's fantasy appeared safer and less threatening to the American society's conceptions of sexuality and gender. The threesome scenario never took place with that particular boyfriend, but the grain of idea lodged itself into my brain.
One night, while masturbating, instead of envisioning a boy's face and body hovering over me, I thought about a girl--not any girl I'd ever met, but a girl I wanted to meet. I had a few near-kisses in the months after the experience, and yet, I refused to define myself as bisexual. Being bisexual seemed to embody straddling two lines of sexuality. Soon thereafter, when I asked a lesbian friend what she thought about bisexuals, she said bisexuals had their cake and ate it, too. When I asked a male pal the same question, he grinned that a bisexual chick had the best of all worlds. Bisexuality on the silver screen was a ploy to bring more moviegoers into theaters and real-life famous bisexual people were treated as titillating conversation topics or carnival sideshows. I speculated on where bisexuals were in my world, erroneously thinking everyone around me was heterosexual. I played a guessing game, "Is Joanne the mail-lady bisexual? Is Hedda the yoga instructor bisexual? Who is bisexual?"
I longed for a confidante to speak to about my confusion, but I did not have anyone to offer me advice or listen to my worries. I wondered why I did not have to announce to friends and family, "I like boys and I want to kiss them" as seemed expected if I wanted to kiss girls. When has a heterosexual child ever had to announce to a parent, "Mom, I have something big to tell you. I . . . like girls. I want to kiss girls, have sex with girls, marry girls, and make babies with girls. Mom, I want to date girls." Homosexual and bisexual children are faced with the decision of whether to tell loved ones the secret that rests inside their hearts in a way that a heterosexual person will never experience. That does not make heterosexuality any less relevant than other sexual preferences; it is simply the truth of why some non-heterosexual people feel confined by what has never been a choice and simply the fabric of the person: sexuality.
Initially, I believed sexuality was a choice. Following the struggle with feelings of alienation from heterosexual friends and seeing the pain of gay friends who came out to their families and were disowned and abandoned, I decided that few people would willingly choose to subject themselves to so much emotional and physical persecution. Considering this, I realised that people--at the basic core--wanted to be loved as much as they wanted to love. Part of deciding to open myself to loving all people--male and female--was also the resolution to accept myself as an entire person and present myself to people as that person, rather than hiding and fearing that I would not be understood.
Life is a beautiful and challenging beast. Human beings face enough difficulties trying to live. The more fetters a human casts aside from herself, the closer she is to being free. For me, my first dance with freedom was the night I finally leaned to kiss the girl I had been flirting with for months. Before the kiss took place, the brief thought of who should make the first move crossed my mind. Luckily, the girl, an adorable creature who slinked in slinky black skirts and twisted her hair into the shapes of exotic plants, handled the conundrum by pulling me to her by the hair so the surrender was mutual. After kissing her, I knew I wanted to kiss more girls and more than kiss the girls, I wanted to love and pet and like the girls the way I had done with men.
The first kiss with a girl was peach sorbet in a paper cup at a county fair, violet dusk in a Southern town, spinning in a field of newborn monarch butterflies, incense sweat and ocean tears, three wishes with a genie lamp, and freedom. Kissing a girl did not change who I was inherently; however, kissing a girl opened a door for me, a door meant to be walked through and thrown wider. In kissing a girl, I stopped looking at bisexual beings as existing in one sphere or another and simply regarded them as the whole, interesting beings they were. Kissing a girl enabled me to discover I was a complete person, a person who still does not like labeling herself as bisexual when asked and says instead that she is open to possibility. I learned another simple lesson: when in doubt, kiss the girl. Nature handles the rest.
Copyright © 2003 Jewel Blackfeather Welter. All rights reserved.
About The Author:
Jewel Blackfeather Welter is a hip-kitten with a literary whip residing in Arizona and editing books for one of the world's best-known architects. She’s talked smack with Noam Chomsky, interviewed Yoko Ono while naked, listened to Floria Sigismondi’s early morning secrets, traded painting tips with Ernie Barnes, and learned about Isabel Allende’s letters from the grave for Numb Magazine. She plays more musical instruments than she can name and has been widely published in many publications. Mizz Welter believes in Billie Holiday and a new Harlem. If Jewel had her way, music would be as important as mathematics in public schools and Nina Simone would be played daily over the intercom. She's not opposed to being adopted by blues-lovers who like struggling street faeries. Her Web page can be found at http://muse.livejournal.com.
About The Essay:
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