Originally published on intomore.com
One drunken night in the May of 2011, I told my friend Heather I thought her friend had a nice ass.
“No, I actually meant Matt.”
“Matt? You mean…? Are you…?” She smiled, squealed, and gave me one of the biggest hugs I’d ever gotten.
The next morning, when I realized what I’d done, I begged her not to say anything to anyone. She told me that I didn’t need to hide it, but agreed to keep my secret.
The good thing about being bisexual was that I was attracted to women, too. I could live a normal life. I was in college, finally able to admit to myself that I was bisexual, but other people didn’t have to know. I’d already kept this a secret for twenty some-odd years.
I like to think of myself as an open book of sorts, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy, but I know enough about myself to be able to say that that isn’t true. So, for the sake of full disclosure, I’m just going to lay out the essentials for you now: I’m a cat person, a coffee lover, a curry fiend, and an amateur runner. I also happen to be bisexual.
Though I can nonchalantly and unequivocally say it now, that final sentence above wasn’t always an easy thing for me to accept about myself. Despite the fact that I knew for a long time that I found both men and women attractive—all the way back in middle school—I didn’t want it to be true. As a shy fat kid with a lisp growing up and unruly hair, I was different enough. I didn’t want to add this into the mix too.
And so, I explained it away to myself. When that didn’t work, I tried ignoring it. And when that didn’t work, I tried finding other labels. I wasn’t bisexual—I was mostly straight.
Over the next few years, my thinking evolved. I was no longer ashamed of the fact that I was bisexual, but I had lived so long as a straight man that I couldn’t see my life any other way. What was the point in telling people now? Why rock the boat?
But then Obergefell v. Hodges happened in 2015. I remember being at work and getting a “breaking news” notification on my screen. Seeing what was going on, and needing to excuse myself to my car. The widest grin I’d probably ever smiled breaking across my face, and then tears. I knew that people could cry tears of happiness, but it had never happened to me until that day. I resolved myself, that day, to stop hiding.
As the next few months followed, I began telling a select few people in my life. A cousin that I was close with. My best friends. My ex-girlfriend. And then, determined not to let 2015 pass without unburdening myself, I made the announcement to the rest of the world on New Year’s Eve, to my mother and brother in person, and to everyone else on Facebook. I was officially bisexual.
But was I, really?
In my heart of hearts, I knew that I was bisexual, but I had never had sex with a man before. Hell, I’d never even kissed a guy. This isn’t to say that I had never wanted to. I just never did or pursued it because I was afraid of breaking the image of a straight man that I had played since middle school. I felt a little bit like an imposter, like someone who claimed to be a vegetarian but who ate meat on the weekends. Was I really bisexual if I’d never actually done anything with a man?
And so, however misguided it may have been, I decided that I need to dive right in, take the plunge, and earn my rainbow stripes, so to speak. I needed to find a hookup. Naturally, I turned to Grindr.
What followed was about a two-month process of me learning not only how to flirt with men (yes, it is different!) but of learning what, exactly, I found attractive about certain men. I had never given much thought to this before—I just knew when I found a guy attractive—but now that I was actually in a position to act on my attraction, I was able to look at it more deeply. I was able to say, “I like his smile” or “I like his strong arms” or “I like the little swoop in the small of his back.”
Just as important as the physical traits were the personality traits. I realized that while I tend to be attracted to coy women, I like direct men. I realized that a good joke can go a long way. And I realized that I wasn’t willing to tolerate hate or bigotry, even for something as short term as a hookup.
I know what you’re thinking, though. “Did you say it took you two months to hook up with someone?” And the answer is yes. Things came close a couple of times, pretty fast. But I was scared. Scared of the physical dangers that are possible when you’re talking about meeting a stranger for sex. Scared to take the plunge. You have to remember that I was new to quite literally all of this.
But one night it happened. I was talking to someone, they made me laugh, we swapped pictures, and we agreed to meet for coffee, just so we could both be sure that the other wasn’t a serial killer. It was almost like a date. And because I was comfortable with him—and only because I was comfortable with him—we went back to his place and it happened.
The awkwardness of first time sex is a topic for another essay, so we won’t get into that here. What I will say is that I left the encounter finally believing that I belonged, that I was no longer an imposter, and I am happy for having done it. But I do understand now (and a part of me understood even then) that whether or not I had actually slept with a man didn’t matter. The act didn’t change anything about who I was. But at the same time, it did validate something for me. I was able to prove to myself, if no one else, that yes, I was right: I am bisexual.