The first time I came out to my parents was one of the boldest moves I’ve made to this day. I was still naive to the fact that political and religious beliefs harden over time and shape how we treat people. Sitting around the table that night, I watched as my parents consumed a second and a third glass of wine, my mother drinking white and my father red. I was itching to tell them my news, I was proud of myself, but even a 14 year old rebellious teen knows to wait until the third glass of wine is finished before opening up the conversation to sexuality.
My hormones started flooding in strong around age 12, with my first bleeding. My best friend and I would watch YouTube videos of anything and anyone we found attractive. She would watch her favorite rock stars in their insanely tight pants, drooling over their bulges and zero fucks attitude. I would simply search “girls making out”. True porn wasn’t something I would explore until college, and more out of research than using it to get off. In the midst of puberty, making out was all I needed. I would scream out of horniness, sometimes so hard I would puke. I could feel how badly I wanted sex, and how insanely aroused I was by women. I had this recurring dream as a pubescent teen, inspired by my mom’s Victoria Secret’s catalog that I snuck into my room every time she got them. Women would dance around me in their underwear, they were all fully grown women, with full and round breasts, flat tummies and cotton underwear that got moist as I did. I would wake up with my hands in my pants, feeling thrilled and intrigued, and desiring more.
I first heard the word bisexual when I was 14, over 10 years ago now. Instantly, it clicked. That was me. At the time, I hadn’t been intimate with anyone, just a few make outs with boys I thought had to make out with me because I decided they were my boyfriends. I knew I wanted women, that was very clear to me, but my complusive heterosexual behavoir led me to believe I also wanted men, on an equal playing field with women. That day, I stood up on the desk in my biology class (science being my least favorite subject and the class I was always more than happy to interupt) and yelled “I’m bisexual!” Some people laughed, most people just stared at me confused, as most of my highschool experience was. I was certainly aiming for attention, I’ve made my life very me-centric and I stand by that, but I was also aiming for validation. Not necessarily from my peers, but from myself. I needed to stand tall and yell it for me to feel the weight, and the truth, and my words. My teacher was annoyed by my interruption and made me sit outside the rest of class. I left school that day feeling accomplished, not only had I discovered a new label for myself and applied it, but I also freaked out many of my classmates in the rebellious fashion I had grown fond of since my failure at Catholic middle school.
Back at home, I anxiously awaited the family dinner, knowing I would announce my news once it was complete and there was enough wine in my parents’ bellies. To this day, I save all of my anxiety-inducing parental conversations (“I need to borrow cash”, “I’m dating a woman”, “I’m going to Berlin with a man I’ve never met but has a lot of money”) for that sweet spot after dinner and before total drunk. Now that I am 25, I partake in all of the delicious wine consumption that my parents offer and always end up sitting around the dinner table spilling all my precious beans. But when I was 14, I literally had only guts and spunk to rev my engines. I also truly believed that what I had to share with them was celebratory, that who I am is never wrong. It has taken years and layers of societal pressure and parental rejection for me to feel fear around who I am. This is something that is built in us, we are not born believing inherently that who we are or who we love is wrong, we learn that overtime.
So when I opened my mouth finally to blurt out the words “I’m bisexual”, without any sort of introduction to the topic, I thought my parents would be confused at worst. In actuality, they were confused at best. Their confusion manifested in anger. They yelled at me to shut up, they told me it was a phase, a rebellious phase, and it wouldn’t last that long. That I had no right to state something so boldly when I was so young and didn’t know myself yet, and that this household doesn’t have space for that sort of person. They believed I was doing this to spite them, that I was trying to push their buttons. They didn’t even stop to think for one second that I was seeking validation and love from the people who I loved most. I cried myself to sleep that night and kept my mouth shut about my sexuality for the rest of highschool.
Years came and went. I had my first sexual experience, with a girl I would soon fall in love with. Shortly after that, I popped my cherry with a boy, and then I had the drunkest sluttiest phase of my life for years. I wanted to fuck everything and everyone. I boldly told boys what I wanted to do to them, I drunkenly forced all my girlfriends to make out with me. I had my first threesome senior year and ran out into the party shouting with joy “I finally ate a pussy!”. Prop 8 (2008 CA proposition that deemed gay marriage unconstitutional) came and went. My first political fight, the first time I could feel my blood boil just knowing that people weren’t on my side of this, that many people, including my family, didn’t want gay marriage to be legal. I went to protests, I made shirts, and my parents attempting to stop it by taking things away and grounding me. Of course, this just drove the thick wedge between us deeper and deeper.
When I first stepped foot on the UC Berkeley campus, I knew it was my home. I couldn’t see the future of free love, drug experimentation, co-op living, naked hippies, art everywhere, but I could feel the radical acceptance, and I wanted it. Berkeley is like Disneyland for the psychedelic sheep of the family. There are no limitations or rules for self-expression, there is no tolerance for bullying, misogyny, racism and hate crimes. There are very few republicans on that campus, and I loved it. I was finally home.
Berkeley fostered the exploration that I had been so deeply craving. I found so many like-minded and like-hearted people and they became my family. We lived in huge and historical co-op houses, that had seen the free speech and counterculture movements pass through their halls and left murals to mark the passage of time. We shared organic vegan dinners every night, we had parties all 4 nights of every weekend and usually took different drugs each of those nights (Sundays were especially experimental for us). We all had sex with everyone. The combinations would change, sometimes with extra players, but was always so full of love. We did stay clean luckily as sex education in the Bay Area is pretty damn good and we understood the importance. We would take group field trips to get tested and celebrate the clean results. I was introduced to some huge ideas my first year at Berkeley: queerness, polyamory, consent, strap-ons, orgies and healthy boundaries. I had been continuously cheating on my older and insanely intelligent boyfriend back home, believing that all relationships had to be monogamous. When I finally called and told him that I don’t think I am actually a monogamous person at all, and that I need to fuck and love whoever I want, he wasn’t the least bit surprised.
The second time I came out to my mom, she was visiting me in Berkeley with her sister, sans my father. My father is very similar to me- highly opinionated and stubborn as hell, wicked smart, completely disorganized and totally intimidating. Our relationship hasn’t been one of honesty and closeness since my bitter high school years. My mother can be judgmental, especially while drunk, but was somehow always easier to connect to. She shows her real emotions, even if they hurt me, and I understand that more than silence.
We had been drinking wine all day felt emboldened by that and the fact that my mom’s sister is liberal and might actually be a good witness to this conversation. Something was brought up about my dating, and I sputtered out “I actually still like women. I identify as queer now.” My mom started to cry instantly, which was certainly not the reaction I was aiming for. When I asked her why she was crying, she asked me “why are you doing this to me? Do you want to punish me”. I was shocked and deeply saddened, of course I wasn’t using my sexuality to punish my mother and it was so hard for me to understand how she could see that. My aunt explained to me that my mom just didn’t have the experience with this, and that my rebellious nature made her doubt my truth. My mom asked me to drop it that night and not bring it back up. I said fine, “but I am never going to be straight and you should learn to accept it.”
I enjoyed many beautiful lovers for a few years, I experienced sex like never before. I started orgasming reguarly from penetrative sex, I got super into anal, jealously left my body and never returned, allowing me to share my lovers very openly and freely. I was extremely happy, the happiest I have ever been. I was identifying as queer and polyamourous, those words helping me to reclaim the way I perform sex and love in a world that wants to see my performance.
I wasn’t trying to fall in love, but I never stop myself from doing so. A queer boy with genes from the gods and a heart of pure gold just fell into my life. We couldn’t help it. We fell so intensely, completely, madly in love. I quit school for sometime just to live with him in Hawaii because I literally couldn’t do anything else but him, usually 3-4 times a day. Once there, our relationship became as close to monogamous as we could get, stating a boundary that he wasn’t to sleep with other women and I wasn’t to sleep with other men. This came after we experimented in a threesome with a male lover of his, he realized he actually didn’t want to see other men fuck me. Ironic because I actually have an intense sexual attraction to my partners getting fucked or fucking another person, but at the time I would do anything for the love of my life and I quickly agreed to our rules. After Hawaii, I decided I actually did need to finish school and convinced him to live in Berkeley with me, in a tiny apartment with a king-size bed that took up our whole room.
The third time I came out to my mom it was an accident. Years of rejection later, I am not so bold to just shout “here are all the people I am fucking, deal with it!”. I have never been actively hiding who I am, so there have been plenty of times that I have said something my mom didn’t understand, but she just ignored. This time, she could not ignore it. “Yes mom, I let my partner sleep with and date men, because I sleep with and date women.” “Well that’s just wrong, that’s disgusting actually. You are putting yourself at risk.” Then in a moment only slightly deviating from anger, but greatly appreciated by me, she says “I don’t want you to get hurt. I don’t want him to leave you for a man.” In my mind I am thinking that is certainly on the table, but not in the way she sees life. Yes, my partner could find a male primary, and that is something we supported in each other from the beginning. I was with this man for 5 years because we fully understand and left space for each other’s queerness. But we would never hurt each other in the process, we would do anything to protect the other’s heart and for them to know we love them forever. I never brought this up with my mom again, but it was clear she knew. She would look at each of my female friends quizzically, as if she could decipher lesbianess from their skin. My parents started to not so fully support my relationship, though they never stated it boldly. I continued to live my life showing everyone except my family who I really am.
Our partnership ended a little over a year ago, the time had finally come to date other people fully without the pressure or complications of a primary partner. It had been difficult to account to each other’s boundaries, to keep the other one in the loop, to stay sexually into each other when we were feeling gay as fuck. He has a steady boyfriend now, having always been the more monogamous of the two of us, and I enjoy a bounty of different kinds of relationships. I mostly date and sleep with women, and I catch myself falling in love with them often. I occasionally have very submissive sex with men as a healing container to express my deep and dark sexual desires. But ultimately, I want to partner up with a woman, make babies with her, make so much art with her, and have many lovers with her. I feel it is important to prepare my parents for this reality.
So the fourth time I came out to my family was possibly the most terrifying, though most true and honest to my heart. My younger brother, though not an ally, has always been able to handle the truth about me and my sex life. He isn’t the type to stand up for me, but I still felt some solidarity in the fact that he already knew what was up. I had been seeing the same woman for a few months, staying at her place a lot, and was going to be on a roadtrip with her for a week. I had been slightly hiding all the facts by saying “I’m staying with a friend”, “I’m going with a friend.” I could tell my mom was calculating all of my friends to see which one I was actually sleeping with, as moms usually can smell when you are sleeping with someone. I had wanted to tell her the truth from the beginning, I so desire the honest relationship of mother and daughter where I can divulge to her close details of my love and sex life, but I have chosen to keep most things to myself, and show her one step at a time. I knew the time was right when she openly, freely and lovingly asked me if my past male partner was seeing anyone, “a boy perhaps?”. She asked this without judgment, she knew I saw him as often as I could still so she must assume we still have a romantic connection, but she seemed to accept our sexualities in that moment. I told her, quietly just in case my dad didn’t want to participate in the conversation, that he was indeed dating one man and he was very happy. She seemed pleased with this answer and I felt compelled by one truth to spill the next. Once we had filled up on multiple bottles of wine, I told her that I was also seeing a woman and was going to be on a trip with her. She asked me “just one?” Awestruck that I could work up to one truth for months just to be blindsided with another truth, I lied again. I told her that I was only seeing one woman, though we both sleep with other people and are open to dating others. I couldn’t stand instant rejection after finally receiving acceptance. My mother seemed pleased again with this answer of monogamous lesbianism. It appeared that she had gotten over the hump of denial of my sexuality, and I am forever relieved to be past it.
This was about a month ago. My parents have shown no more interest in my dating life, but have started asking more and more questions about my life in general. Our relationship is changing, I am getting older and settling into myself, understanding that I will forever explore my sexuality. “Queer” still feels relevant to who I am, and I suppose “polyamorous” is accurate, but these words are merely tools to help others understand me. I understand myself without any labels, any hard conclusions to who I am, I see the discoveries I have made over time and how they shape me, and how this will continue. I know I will have to keep coming out to my family, and that in order to protect my happiness and my truths, I will take all the time I need. I work towards total understanding, not needing it to be complete, but desiring the life I know I am capable of. And that we are all capable of.
All photos from my series “Pray for Sex” which is an exploration of my luscious queerness and my sex brain on overdrive.