I want to tell you a story. It’s about a life, and it’s true.
There was a boy. Teenager, in high school: bookish; liked magic cards and role playing games; he was into comparative theology and classical philosophy; he was good with computers. He didn’t like sports, other than martial arts. He knew he liked girls, liked them a lot. But he also liked boys, maybe not as strongly but enough to feel different. It’s hard enough being a weird kid in high school though without being a bisexual weird kid. And at this point he probably wouldn’t have even thought of calling himself that. So he didn’t mention it. He buried it deep. One person, somebody pretty close to him, guessed he was gay (he wasn’t) and used this as an emotional cudgel; this made him less inclined to tell anybody anything about it.
A few years later, the young man, now in university. He got into LARP and from there he found his way to the goth scene. Loved it. Dated a few girls. One was just wrong timing. Others didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. In this scene though he also kissed a guy for the first time. He liked it. But he was drunk, so was the guy, and he really didn’t know exactly how to process the feelings in the kiss so he said nothing and put it out of his mind. Mostly he still dated women, except for the occasional dalliance.
The young man graduated and moved overseas. His boss was openly bisexual and had taken some flack for it in the past. Things began to change in North America. Gays and lesbians were on TV enough that they weren’t oddities anymore. Canada was talking about legalizing gay marriage. Bisexuals were still kind of not talked about that much. Being not one nor the other seemed awkward. Like some people would hear bi and think, “It’s just a phase,” or alternately, “oh, you’re gay but not quite ready to come out.” And the truth is he wasn’t ready to come out. Not by a LONG shot. But it wasn’t the same thing. Around this time he met a woman, fell in love, got married. Being bisexual was, at that point a distraction, unimportant. It wasn’t that he’d changed. But having celebrity crushes of two genders instead of one wasn’t the sort of thing it was necessary to share, and since he was happily monogamous and very deeply in love he didn’t bother.
The man moved to Canada, got a dead end job and lost it. He moved to Toronto, his career started in earnest and his social circle exploded. He met all kinds of amazing people. Some were gay, or bi, or genderqueer or a variety of other orientations. He was married, to a woman and had been closeted for his whole life. It was easy to just play the good hetero ally. So he did that. He came close to telling a few close friends a few times, but always chickened out at last minute. He felt rather guilty for that, but he just didn’t see it as being anymore important to his self-identity than the fact he liked Jackson Pollack and Picasso, shirts with cufflinks or really spicy curry.
Time went by. His daughter was born. Around this time a young adult cartoon called Legend of Korra ended. He liked the cartoon a lot, he was a fan of wuxia stories, and the Avatar world captured many of the tropes of wuxia much better than any other western tv show or film ever had. The finale of the series closed with the titular character entering into a same sex relationship. She’d previously been in a heterosexual relationship, and unlike the Buffy dodge this wasn’t presented as a change in her orientation. She was a bisexual protagonist. She was the first one he’d seen on television. Now he was introspecting a lot about how he wanted to raise his daughter. The world was changing, and for the better, but it wasn’t there yet. He’d looked back over his past and regretted not having been more open about that one little quirk of his. After all, plenty of his friends knew that he liked Jackson Pollack and Picasso, shirts with cufflinks and really spicy curry. So why shouldn’t they know this too? It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, there was just so much inertia behind the decision to keep silent.
So he started slowly. He told his wife, then his mother. Then a few friends, slowly, carefully. Mostly friends he knew to be bi or otherwise queer themselves, not even very many of them, because it was a little easier. It wasn’t that he was unsatisfied with his wife (she was still entirely the love of his life) nor was he likely to be signing up for Grindr or going out to bear nights; he was happily monogamous. When female co-workers at work joked about how cute Thor was and then apologized to him, he wanted to say, no, honestly, go ahead. I agree. He still hadn’t quite gotten that far.
But his wife accepted him, knowing he loved her.
And the friends he told didn’t make it a big deal, didn’t change how they interacted with him, which was good.
The one co-worker to whom it slipped out almost by accident felt him out for a week, possibly treating him more like one of her gay friends, and then they settled back into patterns of work and she seemed to forget all about it, which was just fine.
And the funny thing is that all of this really wasn’t any more important than Jackson Pollack, Picasso, shirts with cufflinks and spicy curries. But even though he’d been able to hide this little detail, this unimportant detail, from everybody he’d loved for nearly two decades, he couldn’t countenance living in a world where something like being not gay, but also not straight was a problem, a world where having two celebrity crushes was something you hid out of fear that somebody might use it as an emotional cudgel against you. He wanted her to live in a better world. One where a cartoon character could be allowed to love indiscriminately without “changing teams.”
It seems like such a little thing.
And then some jerk comes along and calls people like me “a sexual aberration.” He calls two creators whose only wrongdoing, even in his eyes, was to admit that bisexuality was something that existed, “disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth.” He calls them, “termites,” and expresses a desire to, “exterminate them.” That jerk is now up for five Hugo awards because a few conservatives with sour grapes didn’t like all the women on the ballot two years ago.
I spent twenty years of my life being a little dishonest with the people I cared about because I didn’t want everything in my life to center around ducking attacks from shit-sacks like him. When I became an author I CERTAINLY didn’t want my career to be defined by that anymore than it is by my fondness for Pollack, Picasso, cuff links and curry. Well congratulations to the Sad Puppies. Because what they accomplished was to make a man who was effectively silent on this part of himself finally build up the courage to say, “fuck you,” and to speak out, publicly, to whoever happened by.
I can tolerate that bigots still exist. The tide of history is against them and they’ll fade eventually. I’m patient.
But while they’re fading away, I can’t tolerate the community that I’m a part of honoring them. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where these things aren’t shameful, where people understand the only thing confusing bisexuals is a lack of role models reflecting our experience. And where even that is history. So, yes, I know that ultimately the Hugo awards aren’t much more than a popularity contest. I know they don’t confer much beyond bragging rights.
But it still matters to me. Because I’m through tying myself in knots just to duck the bigots. I owe more than that to my daughter.
3 thoughts on “Why these things matter”
From on bi writer to another, love and respect, understanding and even more respect. Thanks for being honest. Thanks for being you.
I’m so proud of you Simon. I’m glad you are finally able to live your life not hiding this part of you anymore.
As a Catholic priest, I’m sorry to hear that people such as JCW exist.