By Jini Z.
Jessica and I met when we were 12 years old in the lunch line. She complimented the shirt I was wearing and, naturally, we have been best friends ever since. Jessica is funny, blunt, brilliant, slightly hedonistic, and one of the most loyal people I know. I’m significantly more of a people-pleaser, generally more social, unhealthily addicted to change, and easily swayed by obligation. Despite our differences in personality, our values are the same and our differences work well together. We appreciate and learn from each other, and the fact that we aren’t the same is a large part of the reason I have grown so much from her presence in my life. I’m thankful for her every day.
The bond Jessica and I share spans almost 18 years and encompasses falling for the same people at least twice, making out on stage at a burlesque show impressively platonically, both of us facing significant crises in our long-term relationships, her bridesmaid-ship in both of my weddings, and a devotion to each other’s happiness that has continuously proven itself unconditional. Against all odds, our closeness has never devolved into anything romantic, which honestly makes our relationship even more special to me. I don’t have a biological sister, let alone an older one, but Jessica is as close to one as I could ever ask for, and I can easily recall at least four major moments where her assumption of that role in my life truly impacted my journey as both a bisexual and decent human being.
The first instance occurred in seventh grade. Although the details of most of the trip are hazy now, I remember us attending a school overnight camp with an obstacle course and zipline. Jessica was not into that life (although I was) and instead of trying to squeeze in a second time through the course, Jessica and I stepped away to talk. During our conversation, she ended up sharing with me that she had started getting her period. As someone who had not experienced that yet and was frightened of what to expect, I was grateful for her patience in answering my many follow-up questions and beyond thankful to have someone I felt comfortable enough to ask them.
In ninth grade, Jessica told me she had made out with Candace. Candace. Ooofdah. That was rough for me. Not because I was homophobic or upset about her ‘coming out,’ but because (unbeknownst to me at the time) I was also very, very, confusingly and completely in love with Candace myself. I’ll spare you all the details of the drama that followed (even though, yes, it was juicy) and just say that everyone should be super impressed that Jessica and I are still best friends. Throughout the whole ordeal—romantic feelings and the rest of the situation aside—I was constantly comforted and impressed by the fact that Jessica never seemed to doubt herself, her feelings, or her identity as a bisexual. Her assuredness was, in every respect, pivotal for me as I moved forward with my own “coming out.”
In tenth grade, Jessica confessed to me that she had lost her virginity. She had started dating the man she’ll actually be marrying as soon as COVID chills out, and the two of them had decided that was something they both wanted. I remember being in the cafeteria and letting my face and words ask calm and collected questions while, internally, personal judgments and opinions warred. I’m a little ashamed to admit that, honestly, but I think she would understand. I hadn’t been exposed to the idea that people could have sex responsibly and for fun and not be scumbags so, in my mind, the only outcomes I could imagine were ones laden with regret, and I didn’t want that for her. Of course, now, I can look back and laugh (or cringe) at my ignorance, but at the time it was a pretty shocking revelation for me, and it took me a little bit to process.
The fourth major time Jessica nudged me in the direction of some much-needed personal growth was after I started college. I had begun to find myself much more engaged in politics and political discussions than ever before. In one such conversation, after asserting my (obvious) support for LGBTQ rights to marriage and protection from discrimination, Jessica slipped in an idea that mentally stopped me in my tracks. It was the notion that people who are in polyamorous relationships should also get to marry whoever they want and that marriages to multiple partners should be recognized. It wasn’t something I had considered before and, since it wasn’t something I had personally experienced, tendrils of judgment snuck their way in and tainted my feelings on the topic. I think I remember myself responding unenthusiastically to the concept and rationalizing my response with some bullsh** concern about how that would work with couples filing their taxes, instead of just recognizing and admitting my own shortcoming in empathy. Once again, despite my deep desire to be a completely loving and accepting person, I had found myself snagged against judgments I didn’t even realize I had until Jessica, with her natural open-mindedness and fierce sense of justice, brought them to the surface for me to meet and challenge.
Last year, Jessica told me that she had been working through some thoughts and feelings about her gender identity and realized that she didn’t feel exclusively “female.” (By the way, I did check, and Jessica is still comfortable with ‘she/her’ pronoun). As she expressed this self-discovery to me, I realized that, even though what she was sharing with me was not something I could identify with personally, there was not even a hint of judgment or assumptions floating around in my mind. There was only curiosity and a genuine desire to support her in whatever way would make her feel validated and seen. Some of that could easily be attributed to our relationship, but the bigger truth is simply that Jessica has changed me. By being in my life, Jessica has provoked enough true personal growth that I am now genuinely able to hear and listen to people without letting my own experiences and identities influence how I feel about what they are saying.
In helping me realize, accept, and understand my own bisexual identity to affirming anyone else’s personal experience, Jessica has been an incredible role model and friend. I will never adequately be able to express how wonderful she is and how much she means to me, but sharing it here is a great start.
Love you, Jessica <3
Jini is the proud mother of a two-year-old cutie-pants-kiddo who gives her hope for humanity on the daily. For the last two years, Jini has lived and worked in Japan as a flute player in the United States Army Japan Band, but will be returning to America next year to resume her passion as a music educator and band director in public schools. In her spare time, she co-creates content and blogs on her shared website, www.mymillennialism.com, discussing issues of equity, race, and social justice.