Me, Authentically

A couple years ago, I didn’t believe in marriage at all. To fully explain my reasons for not believing would take much more space than I have here. Part of it was because I was a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of a boyfriend many years ago, so romantic relationships scared the hell out of me. But part of it is because my romantic feelings never felt quite valid.

I grew up ignorant about homosexuality. “Gay” was a punchline, a joke. I didn’t know what it meant to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but I knew the slurs. And I knew I thought boys were cute, so it didn’t seem to matter.

Until I got older and realized that I thought girls were cute, too. But even after I figured out what “homosexuality” was, I didn’t know what it meant to like boys and girls. I thought it meant something was wrong with me, or that I was confused about my feelings. I mean, “gay” meant liking people of the same sex, and “straight” meant liking people of the opposite sex. And because I wasn’t gay, I had to be straight, right?

I met some people like me in high school, and I learned what bisexuality meant, and suddenly everything made more sense. But once there was a term for who I was, it meant that there was something different about me. And different felt very, very wrong to a girl who just wanted to fit in and be liked. I remember sitting in church pews and hearing that homosexuals are damned to hellfire, and I remember quaking in my seat in fear. The fear didn’t change me—it just made me hate myself. So I pretended it didn’t matter.

Some of my friends came out, and I was happy for them, but because I predominately dated boys (even though there were some girls in there, too—I just didn’t talk about them), I figured I didn’t need to come out. Some people knew. Close friends, some boyfriends, but not many, and definitely not my family. I never brought girlfriends around—hell, I barely called them my girlfriends.

And then after the abusive boyfriend, it definitely didn’t seem to matter. I mean, if I had decided that romance was not for me, then what did it matter who I was involved with if it wasn’t going to end in anything serious?

Don’t get me wrong. I have always supported LGBTQ rights, and I’ve always been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality. I just figured my own story, my own struggle, didn’t need to be added to the noise. But, if I am honest, a big part of my silence was because of the hate I heard from those closest to me. The continuous message of sin, damnation, perversion, evil, dirty… I felt dirty enough. I didn’t need to hear those messages directed at me.
Almost two years ago, I met Jason, and I fell in love with him. For the first time, I started to reconsider my feelings on love, romance, and marriage. And rather than not believing in marriage, now I actively look forward to planning a wedding. I even have a dream wedding pinterest board! So I stayed silent even longer. I mean, he’s a boy—obviously!—and I’m planning to spend my life with him, so what does it matter that I find girls attractive, that I have been involved with girls in the past?

Around the same time, I started working on a memoir, and some of the chapters deal with my own sexuality. I saved those chapters in a separate file, figuring I’d handle them eventually. And while I started sending many chapters out for publication, I did not send those chapters out. I wasn’t ready to hear the backlash. A couple months ago, I decided to not include those chapters at all.

But the times, they are a changin,’ and so must my silence. After SCOTUS approved marriage equality yesterday, I saw my friends celebrating, and read their messages of engagement with joy, and with tears rolling down my cheeks. Some of those tears, though, were from posts from those I love, my family, some friends, who shared a lot of hate. And then I read a post from a friend about how hurtful her family’s disapproval was to her growing up, how it led to her hating herself, and I realized that I felt the same. I realized that I have been wearing a scarlet letter of shame for far too long.

If I am going to be an authentic memoirist, then I must write the truth. And if my struggles with my sexuality have been an integral part of my story, then that struggle must be included in my memoir. And if I am going to be an authentic human being, then I must accept and love myself for who I am—all of me, not just the parts that are acceptable.

I can no longer hide who I am. Even though I plan on being with a man for the rest of my life, my sexuality still matters. It is still a part of me. It can no longer be a secret.

My name is Karyl Anne, and I am bisexual. And it feels really good to finally be open about that.

Pieces of Me

A personal essay about body image, “Pieces of Me” Received first place in so to speak: a feminist journal of language and art’s annual competition, and was published in the Spring 2015 issue. The essay is unfortunately unavailable online; however, the journal can be purchased at http://sotospeakjournal.org/

Judge's comments for "Pieces of Me"

Judge’s comments for “Pieces of Me”

I love the cover art for the issue! (please excuse the lack of cropping)

I love the cover art for the issue! (please excuse the lack of cropping)