Advocacy is vital to the LGBT community. Allies are the single most important factor when it comes to the overall education of society. Of course, one of the most effective ways to change hearts and minds is to share personal experiences. I had the chance to speak with two dear friends about the issue of LGBT advocacy. What makes this couple unique? They are in a heterosexual marriage, yet both of them are bisexual. They could choose to obscure their orientation—to hide behind their marriage license. No one would be the wiser. But they choose advocacy. They choose to openly support the rights of LGBT folks. I thought their point of view was well worth hearing. Without further ado, meet my wonderfully bisexual friends, Fred and Carrie.
Mandy: Is your bisexuality an important part of your identity? Why or why not?
Fred: I would say, in a private, personal sense, yes, as it relates to my wife and I. Publicly not as much. I don’t publicly identify as bisexual (such as on Facebook or the like), not out of any sort of fear of reprisal or shame, but because I feel it would be somewhat disingenuous. I have never had a romantic relationship with another man, although prior to meeting my wife, it wasn’t something I would have considered completely out of the question. I suppose the best way to put it is that I am emotionally relatively straight, but physically relatively bisexual. I do find myself occasionally attracted to men, as my wife does towards women. We are romantically and emotionally attracted to one another, but appreciate the physical attraction that we are capable of harboring towards people of our respective genders.
In that respect, I don’t believe my capacity/tendency for physical attraction to other men terribly important to my self-image (when compared to the things that more definitively make me “Me”, such as my love of music, the films, movies, and books which I love, my hobbies, my history and accomplishments, et cetera). On the other hand, though, my cognizance of my own internal compass of physical attraction highlights and puts into greater relief the struggle that (I suppose what I would casually call) “true” bisexual, gay, lesbian, and trans-gendered people endure. I could not possibly recognize the potential for same-sex desire within myself and simultaneously call homosexuality or any non-hetero sexual identity “wrong” or shameful. Adding to this, seeing the many varied expressions of homosexual behavior in thousands of other animals throughout nature, the entire moniker of “unnatural” proves laughably false. It is no more “unnatural” than the rarer-than-average expression of a recessive gene, or red hair, or predilection for a specific type of food or music.
I suppose it could be said that my own personal attractions inform my beliefs and opinions, but as they distill into a sort of “straight with exceptions” rather than a true “bisexual” (meaning, romantically and physically interested in both genders equally), I do not publically identify as one, except while having these sorts of conversations with friends who ask.
Carrie: My sexuality is an important part of my private life. Although I’m physically attracted to other women, I’ve only experienced romantic inclinations with men. I embrace my sexuality and don’t consider it a source of shame; in fact, I frequently discuss it with close friends.
Mandy: Why do you choose to identify as bisexual, even though you happen to be married to someone of the opposite gender?
Fred: Well, see above for part of this answer. I married Carrie primarily because we are best friends who happen to share a physical attraction to one another. We emotionally innervate one another, and function as one whole. We enjoy many of the same things, and share many of the same views (though we still argue like anyone else, haha). The emotional component is much more important to me than the simple, primal one of “am I solely and wholly sexually attracted to her?” I doubt anyone could say that about their spouse. While we are faithful to one another completely, we are still human, gladly so, and still experience attraction towards others of both genders. The most important thing to me is that we love one another for who we are, that we weather the storms and springtimes together, and that we HAVE these kinds of conversations in order to best understand one another.
Carrie: My husband and I understand and support one another’s sexuality. I don’t feel insecure because of who he might be attracted to, because these feelings of attraction are normal and natural.
Mandy: When did you first discover your sexual orientation?
Fred: I experienced the physical attraction to both genders from a very young age. Through years and years of conditioning, I suppose, I grew into being “straight” for the most part. However, as I grew older, and especially as I discovered the many and sundry nooks and crannies of the more adult corners of the Internet, I realized that I had never truly dealt with my internal attraction to males or accepted it as a part of myself. Now, of course, I know it’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, and it has done me a world of good to move on as a more “whole” person, one that can acknowledge who I am without issue.
Carrie: When I was a teenager, I never seriously considered the possibility of being anything but straight, as my entire social circle constantly reinforced that “straight” was normal and moral. It wasn’t until I was in college and studied the psychological aspects of human sexuality that I realized there are many varieties of sexual orientation beyond simply “gay” or “straight.” I then began to accept my feelings of attraction to both genders.
Mandy: You take advocacy very seriously. According to most people, your lifestyle would be considered “heterosexual”. Could you tell other straight people why it’s so important to advocate for full-inclusion of LGBT’s?
Fred: Well, I tend to liken it to what our nation went through around 60-70 years ago. Why should white people care what happens to other races/ethnicities when it doesn’t concern them? My answer is the same to both: because the folks concerned are human beings with worth and value who deserve dignity and respect. Today, like then, I think we who are not exclusively gay, bi, lesbian, or trans have to ask ourselves- “What side of history do we want to be on, here?”
As for myself, I want to always be on the side of the oppressed, on the side of the underdog, on the side of those who are fighting for truth and fairness and egalitarian equality. Sexual preference should not determine our treatment of other human beings.
Carrie: Sometimes people struggle to empathize with others whose lifestyle differs from their own. However, they need to stop measuring people’s worth by their sexuality, just as we shouldn’t measure someone’s worth by their race or gender.
Mandy: Do you think we will see full marriage equality in your lifetime?
Fred: I sure as hell hope so. Like the prior question, I believe this shift should occur as soon as possible. Every day that we don’t institute full, open-armed inclusion and respect of others is a day that we allow more Matthew Shepards to occur. It’s another day that hospitals may not allow partners to say their final goodbyes due to angry, unaccepting families and lack of Power of Attorney. It’s another day that full insurance benefits may not be available to who would otherwise be a spouse. It’s another day that children in foster care go without loving parents because agencies won’t recognize the legitimacy and love present in a same-sex home, as if it would be different than a heterosexual household. Both my father and my wife’s father walked out on our families, and I and my sister are adopted. Now, while the plural of anecdote is not data, that still (to me) says something about the purported strength of hetero families over same-sex ones (it’s nonsense).
Carrie: I certainly hope so. The tide is shifting in that direction. While ultimately the decision lies in the hands of lawmakers, there is much that citizens can do in terms of advocacy.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••Each of us have a unique opportunity to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. The sooner we engage in life-giving conversations, the sooner all people will be liberated from the bonds of discrimination, prejudice, and intolerance.