“Being bisexual is not all about sex,” I told my best friend of nearly twenty years when I came out to her.
She had lots of questions about what being “bisexual” meant. She felt she’d missed something, some sort of sign per say, because I had never shared with her about a desire all my life to be with women.
Afterwards, she wanted to know if I had feeling towards her (nope, never)? Did I have feelings towards any of our other friends (nope, never ever)? Had I acted on my feelings prior to coming out to her (nope, I’m lying here)? I did 25 years earlier, I lied to avoid another difficult conversation?
I have just added another layer to my already stressful life.
Coming out in mid-life is extremely difficult.
I’ve worked with my family (my LGBTQ family) forever in a variety of capacities. I’ve worked with the HIV/AIDS community. I’ve been one of the few Black females in my rural Southern area to go around talking about the needs and care of PLWHAs. I’ve been a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community from local to federal levels. I’ve been a confidante to my “out” and closeted friends, in addition to HIV positive friends and family members for decades.
I’ve seen my rural LGBTQ friends’ relationship struggles, heartaches and the challenges of finding a committed partner for companionship. I was catching hell living the hetero lie, but I wasn’t looking to complicate my life any more. I admired my family. I feared for them. I loved them, and envied them. Even with all of the pains, sorrows, joys, obstacles, oppression, neglect, and rejection the LGBTQ family endured, they were out and living their individual truths. I regretted plenty of days I couldn’t. Somehow, I sensed the LGBTQ family knew I was in the fold. We always seemed to gravitate towards one another.
The family knows its flock.
Being a Late-Blooming Queer Woman is Complex
Coming out has cost us friends. Our hetero female friends are jealous of our relationship. Instead of being happy that someone loves us and we are now living authentically, they’ve decided to make our choices about them.
Each straight friend now has to have their own “special” dedicated time (alone time without the partner present) which is a drag. It’s very uncomfortable. I just don’t get it. Why can’t we fellowship together? A few close friends my partner had acted the same way with her too.
What’s with some women? Why are we such territorial green-eyed monsters?
Although we’re middle-aged (which makes this experience so much more sweeter in my opinion), navigating the coming out process at this age and phase of life seems so much more complex than if I had done it 25 years ago.
Sex Ed Complexities
I get questions from my Black straight friends that I’d never ask anyone ever in life.
Questions like: “What does twat taste like?” My initial thought was they never asked what a dick tastes like. We never discussed what balls tasted like! Why am I being subjected to such fuckery?
To add to my sex ed adventures, my partner and I are both fems, which throws many people for a loop. “Who is the man,” or “Who is the alpha?” It’s so crazy! Why must there be roles in our sexual relationship for either of us? We’re women, duh! I must say, learning to be with a woman was an adventure. I had on training wheels for a long minute.
This is where things get tricky for me, for us. I have adult kids. I have been pretty sex positive most of my life, and I raised my kids in a similar manner. Although I have done my best to teach them about safe sexual experimentation as well as the freedoms of sexual choices, it’s very hard to tell adult children about my “new life.” So, I haven’t.
It’s been nearly two years and my feet are still cold. I’m not ready for the rejection, the uncertainty, or the questions so I’m quiet. Thankfully I developed healthy boundaries with my children, so I’m able to live my private life with minimal questioning.
As far as M’s kids are concerned, they are young kids. She’s raised them in a traditional, sheltered manner which could cause backlash (maybe) whenever she comes out. She too was married and raised her kids in church. For these reasons, she hasn’t told them. She doesn’t want to look like a hypocrite. I respect that, and I am fine with her decisions.
To them I’m Ms. Marley, a friend that has been lingering for a long-time. I help out, offer support and help out in meaningful ways with the kids. It’s cool. They’re cool. I just wonder if her kids will hate her for lying when they grow up. It shall be revealed, eventually. We all have our own burdens to bear.
I did tell my only sister. She kind of figured it out because I always talked about M and we were always traveling together. The pics I shared were quite telling I suppose. I think she’s spilled the beans to my dad and my brother even though I told her to shut her pie hole! They used to call at least once a month. It’s been months since I’ve spoken to either of them. It’s a sure fire sign she done spilled my beans. In any event, I am prepared for the consequences.
Being in a relationship with another woman is different than being in a relationship with any man I’ve ever been with. Discovering our roles in the relationship, learning about personal likes and likes, housekeeping, even learning how to incorporate personal space into our lives has been very unique and enriching experiences.
The saying same-sex, same problems saying is true, but I can say we attempt to keep those problems to a minimum by communicating frequently, and checking in often. Furthermore, trying to be “out” in some places is a problem when we are on vacation alone and little kids are around. M, who is usually pretty affectionate, may pause or gives consideration to strangers when out in public (at our expense). Just another one of those situations that queer folk must deal with that hetero couples take for granted.
The Good Parts
Life isn’t so bad right now. Age does something to lessen the bee stings of coming “out” and living “out” I would say.
M and I live near the beach, so we get to spend ample time “out” and about. Fortunately for us, we live in one of the oldest and most LGBTQ friendly counties in the U.S. It makes being “out” really nice.
The first time we traveled together, we held hands. It was so natural, so beautiful, so freeing. I’ve experienced many firsts with M. My first public kiss. My first public hand holding. My first out of the country trip was with M. I celebrated my first birthday as a new divorcee with M. We’ve celebrated many milestones together. Each one is special. M was adopted, and I was in foster care. Our time together is precious. We make sure we celebrate situations most people coming from “functional families” tend to take for granted.
Living My Truth
I feel like I’m living my best life. Because I don’t have to deal with the distractions of child-rearing, dating rituals, and superficial trappings. I am able to work on cultivating a healthy relationship with M. I have time to work on things that matter to me like being the best partner I can be, and maintaining my health in order to make my latter years my greatest years.
The one thing that I’ve learned about being Black and queer/bi.
There is no right or wrong way to be queer.
It’s my life, I make my own rules. There is no road map for this life. I am reprogramming my mindset each and every day.
You can take one of the many labels given to the queer family, or not. You can follow the pack, or walk to the beat of your own drum. You can sprint through this queer life existence quickly learning as you go along, or you can train and prepare yourself for the queer life marathon. It’s your life, and it will be what you make of it.
Being bi/queer is so much more than sex, especially for mature people. I feel like the experiences of the Black, middle-aged, low-key LGBTQ family is missing from the stratosphere. I want to change that. I’m here now, and I ain’t going anywhere!
Thank you for reading and sharing family. It’s greatly appreciated! Xoxoxo
(I’d like to thank Saoirse for sharing her story and encouraging me to share my own. )