The Invisible B: Faith Beauchemin’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Faith Beauchemin’s blog Roses and Revolutionaries. It was originally published on February 2, 2014.

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Being bisexual is freedom, and it is invisibility.

I flip-flop between calling myself bisexual and pansexual.  Bi is the word everyone knows. Pansexual doesn’t leave anyone out.  And you see, I don’t care what your gender or lack thereof is.  I’m attracted to people, not genders or genitals.

That doesn’t mean I’m attracted to every single person.  It doesn’t mean I have crushes on everyone I hang out with.  It doesn’t mean I’ll go home with just anyone.  All it means is that I could potentially be with a person who lies anywhere on or off the gender spectrum.

To be quite honest, I didn’t know pansexuality even existed up until very recently.  When I was a fundamentalist, the “being gay is a choice” narrative sort of made sense to me.  I mean, everyone had the ability to be attracted to everyone, right?  I read a Christian modesty book which claimed that everyone is “drawn to the female form” because it is just objectively beautiful.  So I figured I must be straight because I knew I was in fact attracted to men, and any pleasure I found in female beauty was artistic, it had nothing at all to do with sexuality.  Besides, all the Christian dating books had a tiny appendix tucked in the back that warned of the dangers of predatory college lesbians.  So, I knew lesbianism existed but all of my associations were totally negative.

Even when I was less naïve, even when I started thinking people were born homosexual and that most gays and lesbians (like most straight people) were not predators, I still didn’t realize that bisexuality actually existed.  “Bicurious” was a term I was aware of, but I thought it was a descriptor of an in-between phase, a transition between heterosexuality and homosexuality.  So therefore, since I was definitely attracted to men, I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian.  Simple as that.  There was no other option.  Monosexism was all I knew.

And that is what I mean when I say bisexuality is invisibility.

We get erased a lot.  The biggest problem is what I term “Schrodinger’s bisexual” which is that a person is perceived as either straight or gay depending on who they’re in a relationship with.  I’m dating a man right now, therefore everybody assumes I’m straight.  You can’t typically determine bisexuality by just one interaction with a person, by one specific point in time.  It doesn’t help that a lot of people talk about bisexuals as though they are “switching” between heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Of course as a woman especially I am sometimes permitted the total opposite of erasure, and that is performance.  Men like the idea of a bisexual woman because their first thought is often of having a threeway.  One night in a bar, a girl kissed me, and immediately a man walked up from across the room and said, “Mind if I join in?”  Visions of a porn-worthy fuckfest dancing in his head, no doubt.  Later, I tried to say something to a friend about how frustrating it is that no one thinks you’re bi unless you’ve actually had a homosexual experience, and he just jokingly spun a scenario where I and another woman would have sex and he would film it.

This goes back to the overarching issue of female sexuality being owned by men.  If we are not having sex with them, we must at least be performing for their gaze.  That’s why most threesome porn is FFM.  That’s why a lot of men think that bisexual women exist to have threesomes with them, and that lesbian women could be “cured” by their magical dicks. And that is all such bullshit.  My sexuality, whatever it is, is mine.

But the seemingly fluid pansexual approach is in fact deemed everybody’s property.  More than anyone else’s, my sort of sexuality is approached with doubt.  Everyone makes assumptions and gets to speculate about the causes and motivations behind my sexuality (no, I am not just “greedy” and I am not going to try to fuck you. No I am not disease-ridden or commitment-phobic. No I’m not going to cheat on my partner).

It’s a reminder to everyone of how truly queer-phobic our society still is. 

We’ll (grudgingly, gradually) accept gay people as long as they want to be just like straight people.  We might potentially on a good day accept one or two trans people, as long as they have had whatever surgery we deem “necessary” for them to pass as cis.  But anyone who is genderqueer, agender, or pansexual is met with flat-out denial of their self-identification.  “You’re lying.” “You’re confused.” “You just want attention.”

Do I though? No more than anyone else.  I hate the fact that being honest about myself means I’ll get extra attention.  But we haven’t reached a truly all-point-on-the-spectrum accepting utopia yet. In fact we’re pretty far from it.

So what’s it like being pansexual?

I’m not exactly sure.  I’ve never been anything else.  What’s sexuality like for all of you out there who are monosexual?

It was truly liberating, though, admitting it to myself.  It was truly liberating learning that pansexuality exists.  I used to fight my attraction to women, not so much because I thought it was “sinful” (because yes the story of my sexuality is also concurrent, though not especially related, to my deconversion) as because I thought if I gave in to it I would have to get rid of my attraction to men.

When I understood that it is possible, acceptable, and even (for me) normal to be attracted to all types of people, it came as a great relief.

For the first time, I was no longer trying to fit my sexuality into any mold that society had built for it.  I could like what and who I liked, without feeling guilty or needing to repress anything.

Due to circumstances and the timing of me finally coming out to myself, I have never had sex with anyone but men.  It’s not really a point of bitterness for me, I don’t have to experience sex with all types of people to know my orientation (much like virgins often know their own orientations before ever having sex of any kind).  Right now I’m happily in a relationship and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  If I die never having had sex with anyone but men, I won’t feel like I was robbed, and I will still be pansexual.

Of course there is a lot of work to be done, to make this world a better and more accepting place for those who are not heterosexual or cisgender.  But “they” are right: coming out is the first step.  Coming out to yourself, to embrace freedom, and coming out to everyone else, to combat invisibility.

This is me taking that first step.

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Faith has an open call for stories on Roses and Revolutionaries for individuals that do not fit in the gay/straight binary. If you are interested in participating in that series, read more here. 

None Dare Call It Education: Anna’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

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Hello, my name is Anna.

Like many who write stories for Homeschoolers Anonymous I grew up in a legalistic, controlling, and abusive homeschooling Christian household. When I saw that Homeschoolers Anonymous would be posting a series on sex education I knew I had to write something. My story may be appalling to some, but to others I know it will sound all too familiar. I hope that my story will give you insight and encouragement, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

My sexual education was completely nonexistent.

I remember that there was a book on one of the living-room bookshelves entitled “Preparing For Adolescence.” I don’t know if the book was intended to prepare parents or children, but neither my parents nor I ever read that book. At 11 and 12 years of age I had long since learned to be ashamed and scared of my body; the lectures on modesty and roles of women had made sure of that.

When my body started changing I didn’t know what was going on, but I stayed silent. My parents were not people I could go to with my fears and questions. My period started without me ever having heard the word before. I had no clue what was happening, and it was probably the most horrifying experience of my life. Again, freaked out as I was, I didn’t tell a soul. My mom noticed the blood when doing laundry weeks later, and she had the only “talk” she ever had with me. Her little discourse included only what do about the “problem” and nothing else.

I got the message: another female attribute to be hidden and feared.

Because my mom seemed oblivious to my needs, my older sister gave me her old bra and bought me my first razor and deodorant, and even these items I felt the need to hide. I was always too scared and shy to ask my mom to buy me anything of an intimate nature. I would use the same razor and wear the same bra for years at a time. My fears were somewhat justified; I remember the time that my mom found a receipt for tampons in my purse and asked me severely if I had bought some. I panicked, lied, and said that I had accidentally picked up someone else’s receipt.

Mom let me know that tampons were strictly off limits.

Throughout my teenage years I gained knowledge about sex years by various covert means. I looked up words in dictionaries and read the books about pregnancy that I found on our bookshelves. I found some answers on the internet when I was able to use it without my mom monitoring me, but I always felt like I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I went on a research binge and learned the complete picture, including things I should have known much earlier, like the names for my own anatomy.

Though my parents never talked about sex directly, I picked up on their attitudes and beliefs, and sexual thoughts and questions were always accompanied by fear and shame. We were told to save our first our first kiss for our wedding day, that women should never make men “stumble” (I never even knew what that meant, hell, I still don’t know what it means), that dating was giving your heart away to strangers, that to Your Future Husband the most valuable thing about you was your virginity and your pure heart. A fear that consumed my life for years was how I would explain to My Future Husband that I masturbated (at the time I didn’t know the word). I knew he wouldn’t want me, and that it would always be my biggest secret.

I felt I wasn’t a virgin, I was sullied.

I was strange, surely no one else did this. Above all, I was letting God down. I began to lose my faith, because I knew I couldn’t think these thoughts and feel these feelings and still be a Christian. Almost the entirety of my teenage years was spent severely depressed and suicidal, and the overwhelming shame attached to my sexuality certainly contributed.

My mom once told me that when a woman looks at a person, she first looks at their face, but when a man looks at a person, he first looks at their crotch.

Hence, the need for women to wear skirts, (can’t let those men “stumble”). This lovely piece of wisdom made me feel even dirtier, because I began to realize how much I was noticing other people’s bodies. When I saw a person, my eyes would travel up and down their body and linger on their butt and (if a girl) her boobs.

I was clearly some sort of freak, only men were supposed to be this way.

Good grief, was I “stumbling?” I hated the girls I saw walking down the sidewalk in tight jeans. How could they flaunt themselves this way? And how could I help but stare? Deep down though, I envied them. When I was around 15 or 16 I was noticing women’s bodies more and more, and women began to enter my fantasies. In a year or two I was thinking about women in a sexual context just as much as I was thinking about men.

I now had another secret to keep, and this one was absolutely damning.

I heard the sermons and speeches; I read the blogs and articles; I listened to the conversations happening around me. Christians hated gay people. God hated gay people. I knew I could never admit my attraction to women and still be accepted by literally anyone I knew. It hurt me every time someone would talk about gay people as if they were evil beings bent on destroying everything good in America. They were a problem that needed to be fixed, and they were certainly not welcome in a church. I felt better because I knew I wasn’t completely gay; I was still attracted to boys. But then what was I? Where did I fit? Would I always be an outcast?

Today as I have left homeschooling physically as well as mentally, I finally have the freedom to discover and embrace the person that I am.

For the first time I am perfectly happy and confident in my sexuality. I am attracted to the entire range of sexes and gender expressions; masculine men and feminine men, femme women and butch women, androgynous and genderqueer men and women, and everything in between. Would I take a magic pill that could make me be attracted to only masculine men, one color in a whole rainbow? Fuck no! I love my orientation.

I don’t know if I believe in God, but if there is a God who made me, he made me the way I am and he doesn’t have a problem with it.

I have yet to tell my parents or anyone in my old homeschool circles about my more fluid sexuality. It’s really none of their business. But I feel the desire to throw it in their faces. I want to say, “Look at me! A real live non-straight person. Tell me to my face that I’m going to hell. Tell me that I am destroying the moral fabric of America. Fight to keep me from having the right to marry a woman if I wish. Shove a Bible in my face and lecture me about the morality of who I am. Give me pat answers and tell me to pray more. I’m a person, right in front of you, not an ideology or an obscure Bible verse. Do you want to cut all ties to me and keep me away from your children? Am I any different now than you always thought I was?”

But I know I can’t look back; I have to look forward. I can’t worry about how my old acquaintances might view me; I have to focus on making new friends. Vibrant, fun-loving, intelligent, creative, accepting and open people, like me.

As for what I wish to say to my mother, the cause of my thoroughly shitty childhood, “You told me what it meant to be a woman. You were dead wrong. You told me what my future would be. You were wrong. You told me what was right and how to please God. You were wrong. You told me who I had to be. You were wrong. You were wrong to deny me an education; never giving me basic information about my body and sex caused me a lot of pain for many years. You created an absolute hell and kept me prisoner there, but I have come out beautiful and strong. I am now one of those “femi-nazis’ that you spoke about with such derision. I will forever be exactly who I want to be and love who I want to love.

“I no longer follow any of your rules or subscribe to any of your ideologies, and I have never been happier.”

My sister has also written about her sexual education experience; the link to her story is here