080: Passing for Straight
"Passing for Straight," Amber Harsh
When I think about my sexuality, it feels like I’m looking at another person. I don’t actively take my sexuality into account, it just is. I don’t wake up thinking about it. I don’t worry about what people will think of it. Don’t get me wrong, I often reflect on my feelings and actions. Sometimes I get anxious thinking about things I believe, say, or do. It’s just that sexuality isn’t something that I worry too much about now that I’m starting to figure myself out.
I call myself bisexual, but my sexuality is evolving. Before, like in high school, I just assumed I was straight. I liked boys and that’s what I was “supposed” to like. Whenever I felt things for girls, I figured it was because they were my best friend or because of some random other reason. I didn’t even realize that you could like both men and women. You were either gay/lesbian, or you were straight. Growing up in Eastern Oregon, most people were straight. It just was. I dated and had sex with men. Occasionally I would meet women who were lesbian or bisexual, but a lot of the time bisexuality was thought of as a “fad.”
I don’t remember when I became aware of the thought of not being straight. I’ve never thought it was wrong, I just didn’t worry about it because I assumed I was straight. In college, I had different times where friends and I would be drunk and make out. It seemed “normal” and was encouraged by my male peers, but I didn’t think I was lesbian or bisexual.
At one point, I had a sexual encounter with a close friend. I discovered that I enjoyed women and their bodies just as much as men. Something clicked. I went from thinking “I like guys, but gals are kinda hot too I guess” to thinking “wow, everyone is hot. She’s hot, he’s hot. I’d fuck both of them.” I haven’t had another sexual experience with a woman since my friend, but I flirt with gals online and when I encounter women who also flirt, I enjoy it. I have a male fiancé that I love deeply. We are best friends and lovers. But I still consider myself bisexual. I’m still attracted to men and women. I guess my preference leans towards men more than women. But I don’t doubt that had I been more “enlightened,” if I would have met an awesome woman before I met my fiancé, I might be marrying her instead of him.
I don’t actively talk about my sexuality. Talking about my inner thoughts and feelings seems weird to me. I’ll talk (I love to talk) about anything, but when it comes to my past, myself, or anything like that I get anxious. It’s something that I don’t think needs to come up randomly in conversation. It’s nobody’s business. Just like my marital status, if I identify as male or female, or my religion. Unfortunately, everyone assumes that the default is the straight binary.
Occasionally, sexual orientation does come up. It’s always bizarre.
For example, I’ve had “interested in men and women” on my Facebook profile for years now. But when people notice it, they say something. They’ll ask me about it. They’ll ask if it’s a joke or if I did it as a prank. When I tell them “no, I’ve always liked men and women. I just didn’t see the point in saying anything,” they seem…offended? And not because I didn’t deem them worthy of sharing that information. It doesn’t feel like they are upset that I didn’t tell them my life story. It seems like they’re upset they didn’t know something about me that would have changed the way that they interact with me. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m also in an “open” relationship.
My fiancé and I are in love and don’t want to romantic interaction. But we do miss the “thrill” of having sex with new people. And I have some kinks that he isn’t capable of helping me with. We are both extremely open with our communication and are on the same page with our relationship. We keep our romantic relationship separate, but we both have “friends with benefits.” This is a relatively new development, but it’s just as weird when it comes up as when sexual orientation comes up.
I’m “lucky.” I can pass as straight. My relationship looks heterosexual. I don’t have to deal with the blatant problems that others in the LBGT community deal with. Since I’m in a “hetero” relationship, I can almost pretend that I don’t like women. But I still do and some of my partners (other than my fiancé) are women.
I don’t really feel like I’m included in the community. Not because I haven’t been welcomed. In fact, I’ve never really tried to be a part of it. Partially because I’ve always thought of myself as straight. Also partially because I don’t identify with the struggles some people have faced. I’ve faced my own set of struggles, like growing up poor, my mother being a drug addict after my father died, and things like that. But I’ve always been comfortable with myself and I guess I don’t feel like I should “intrude” when the LBGT has bigger things to fight for and I’m just here.
But anyway, I’m a random bisexual woman in a polyamorous relationship in Oregon. I manage a couple coffee shops, I like pizza, and I’m always on Tumblr. I don’t actively worry about your sexual orientation, so I don’t think people should actively worry about mine.
About the art:
Amber's story covers something I've had a tremendous time trying to put into words. Identity is hard to define, and I think Amber has done a great job describing the issues of bisexual and pansexual erasure.
I found myself focusing on the word 'articulation,' and with Amber's interest in skeletons and bones, I thought a scattered pile of bones would work as a good visual for muddled words. I drew the skeleton, cut it up and collaged it on top of a mixed media ground. I feel it gives the illustration a loud, cacophonous feeling, to get across the confusing process of self-definition.