“By the by,” which signifies, as we proceed or pass, noting something interposed in the progress of a discourse which is distinct from the main subject.
I’ve always wondered about bisexuality. Mine, primarily.
Navigating any orientation as a prepubescent is not easy. When I was growing up in the sixties, being gay was generally more complicated. But, imagine raging hormones while having to handle the double-edged sword where everybody you saw appealed to you.
While I intuitively identify myself smack-dab in the middle of Kinsey’s Scale on sexual orientation, I can’t exclude certain details of my life experience that may have factored in my development. Being molested at thirteen robbed me of more age-appropriate explorations with both sexes. I’m sure this was one reason for my taking years to come to terms with using bisexual as my identity. I thought I was gay, in part, in part because my abuser was too.
It’s no secret that being bisexual is suspect in both straight and gay communities. We’re subject to the stereotypical belief that we’d screw anything that moves. The default logic by everyone was that you were gay but “you…just couldn’t get yourself to accept that fact.” It’s what gays thought. It’s certainly what straight people thought as well. And for years it’s what I thought too. So, you adapted. I went around wondering if I hadn’t been careless, too lax in not choosing one side over the other. It certainly wasn’t for lack of practicing.
During my master’s program to become a marriage and family therapist, I was a guinea pig of sorts for my classmates. It seemed everyone wanted to be paired with me doing therapeutic dyad work so they could go to town, trying to dissect what they found fascinating in me. Of course, I knew their motivation in choosing me: none of the gay or straight therapists-in-training believed I could like women and men equally. They all wanted a stab at helping me see the light!
My attraction was never about genitalia. It wasn’t about body contours. It was about intelligence, personality and wit. Make me laugh and you certainly had me wanting more. That I was open to both sexes just seemed perfectly natural. If that inclination hadn’t been there from birth, it certainly was there from my teen years onwards.
I’ve evolved. I’m no longer challenging people’s misconceptions about human sexuality but challenging my own. For a long time, I thought something was wrong with people who identified solely as queer or straight. My prejudices were no different than the ones foisted on me. Going from straight to gay relationships had its challenges, but I learned who I was from them. I grappled, explored, and came to understand everyone’s uniqueness, regardless of where they placed themselves on Kinsey’s scale.
Now, in my early twilight years, I have nothing but hope that we, as a society, are moving forward. As hard-earned rights are won and our vocabulary for gender and sexual orientation expand, I feel free to say: I am bisexual. I never miss the opportunity to correct people when they assume my sexual orientation. I state my bisexual identity clearly and proudly.
Tobias Maxwell is the author of two novels, Thomas, and The Sex and Dope Show Saga, a novella, And Baby Makes Two; two memoirs, 1977—The Year of Leaving Monsieur and 1983—The Unknown Season; and a poetry collection, Homogium. His latest memoir is 1973 – Early Applause . His website is tobiasmaxwell.com.