By Pekky Marquez Divya
It is amazing how hard it still is to talk about it after three years of coming out and with a president who does not support us.
I remember being attracted to women as early as five or six years old. I noticed women’s bodies and had crushes on actresses, cartoon characters, and even female classmates, even though I was not able to articulate my feelings. (I was a kid, for God’s sake!) I had simultaneous crushes on male classmates, male cartoon characters, and male celebrities, but because of heteronormativity I was more able to identify them as crushes. Compulsory heterosexuality aside, the feelings I had for men and women were similar.
However, I grew up in Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s. I was already experiencing bullying, as people who are different do. (In this case, my salient difference was my autistic traits, but that would go to another page.) I had to lie to myself to survive. Also, I sought solace in the Catholic Church, which deemed desire for genders similar to my own a sin. You can imagine the difficulties I went through at the time. But even if we take religion out, gossip about two best friends being “lesbians” (which might or might have not been true), or rumors about celebrities in Venezuela (which again, might or might not be true) was done with such malicious intent that staying in the closet was the better option. And bisexuality also was seen as a stepping stone.
The first time I saw an article about bisexuality was in a Newsweek magazine my mother brought from a trip to the U.S., in the mid- to late-90’s. I was still in Venezuela and my English was still too limited for complex articles, so I could not read the whole thing. However, I saw people I liked in that article as examples of bisexuality: Billie Holiday, Michael Stipe, and Sandra Bernhard among them.
I remember very clearly at 15 having an intense crush on a girl at my Catholic group. This disturbed me no end, not only because she had a boyfriend, but also because I was in a group that emphasized same-gender desire as a sin. I fought it and did not accept it, and found relief that I was still capable in crushing on boys. It was awkward because it was too obvious and at the same time I had to hide it so much. But before that I had a genuine crush on a guy who broke my heart. When we kissed, I felt tingly. I had crushes exclusively on men for a while after that.
In late 2000, with enough English and alone, I rediscovered Morrissey and his queer lyrics, and that opened in me something I had long repressed. Inspired by this, I created a character based on me, but inspired by him, and wrote a novel. Of course, without having a community of people who were like me as a reference, it was easy to fall into stereotypes, so I bought books for research (but also to understand myself). This did not bode well with my family, who at the time, did not know better. My mother questioned why was I buying books that had nothing to do with “us” (in Latin American culture, families tend to be an extension of our own identity and this is especially true with mothers), and my sister told me that even though she supported my novel she did not believe in bisexuality, and she accused me of “wanting to be bisexual.”
I went to another university in 2001 in another city with a bigger international community and some LGBTQ groups. Even though I met two bisexual students, I had to negotiate what part of my identity would gain me more friends. I had to choose between the overwhelmingly white and monosexual LGBT group or the overwhelmingly straight international community. Knowing that I would fit in by virtue of being an international student and that in some of the cultures same-gender desire was frowned upon, I chose to repress my attraction to women and focus on men. Contributing to this were three factors: Sex and the City’s episode disdaining bisexuality; groups implying that if I was a good bisexual feminist, I should prefer women or else I would fuel the patriarchy; and that sneaky and prevalent notion that “all women are bisexual,” (or variations like “it is normal for straight women to enjoy lesbian porn/have f/f fantasies, etc.”)
The repression lasted until 2009. I hit rock bottom, and my depression turned severe. It damaged a potential relationship with a guy, and it strained my relationship with my family. I started sleeping with women, and it took me a while to accept that I was enjoying sex with women as much as I enjoyed sex with men. Then, I met this wonderful lady who lived a few buildings down from me and who showed me that I was capable of loving women as well. But because my depression was severe, I decided to pull the plug on that relationship. I didn’t want another relationship damaged by depression. I dated a few men afterwards, but this time, I was out to them.
Forced to move to Chicago a few years later, and starting with a clean slate, I took a long hard look at myself. Morrissey and Maria Bello coming out around the same time, made me make the final decision. I was also approaching 35. I decided to seek a bisexual community and embrace my bisexuality. I am so glad that the bisexual community in Chicago has been welcoming and diverse. It is thanks to them that I am able to stay out.
So yes, this is how my journey towards embracing my bisexuality took place.
Pekky is a Venezuelan asylee who has called the United States home for 19 years, and a social worker currently writing a novel series with bisexual characters, as well as a blog.
An earlier version of this essay appears at writtenbypm.wordpress.com.