Standing amongst the rows of trees I stared across at my partner. She was smiling, grabbing apples from the trees with an excited exclamation as if each one was a new find, a sparkly treasure, with that same childlike wonder that made me first fall in love with her.
Every time I see it, it makes my heart ache with how happy I am these days.
Rotting apples and hot grass will always be the smell of that memory and I will treasure it because it was the first time I’d ever gone to an apple orchard but not the first time I felt truly okay. A year ago if you’d told me that this is where I would be, with this beautiful woman and a mostly happy life, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Now, I finally understand. I get it. All my struggles have led me to where I am and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of that turmoil because it shaped me into the type of person who does not take even the smallest of things for granted—I’ve fought to have the freedom to express myself and I will continue to fight for everyone to have the same.
Being bisexual is just a small portion of who I am as a human being, but it has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced with my identity, reflecting the struggle I’ve had throughout my life to be comfortable being me—a proud, transmasculine, bisexual advocate, writer, and passionate home cook that laughs louder than anyone I know and sings off key with the least amount of shame, whether it’s in the car or in a grocery store surrounded by strangers.
At thirteen I took my first step into the queer community by coming out as lesbian.
During that time in my life, I didn’t know what being transgender meant, or even the word, so being a gay woman was the closest to expressing my inner masculinity as I could get. Internally, though, I knew that wasn’t quite right. I’ve known I was bisexual since before coming out as liking women, but growing up in a rural community and a conservative family meant I had to oftentimes take an “all or nothing” approach to my identity.
At fifteen, I met a short guy with sparse facial hair and scars on his chest. Getting to know him, I learned his story, learned the word “transgender,” and suddenly, it clicked. This was me.
Or, at least this was a part of me, a piece I had been looking for, a reason for why my voice never sounded like my own and why I hated when people took pictures of me. Within months I came out, diving head first into an identity I knew very little about but still had enough understanding to be certain that I would never regret my decision. It’s been almost six years and I still haven’t regretted it, not for a single second, even though my interpretation of my identity has evolved over the years as I’ve learned more about myself and the community.
When I first came out as male-identifying, I also reassured everyone that it now meant I was “straight.”
There wasn’t really another option. In Montana, being transgender was a big enough deal. Having to then explain that I was transgender and bisexual?! It would have caused more problems than anything else, and all I wanted at that point, between the extensive family conflict and a history of being kicked out and rejected, was to make things as easy on myself as I could.
I had to be as masculine as possible. I thought a single feminine interest or action would be seen as “proof” that my transgender identity wasn’t valid, that I didn’t really “mean it.”
Despite being more settled and happy now that I could express myself better, the victory was bittersweet. It would take me years to finally tell people outright that I was bisexual. And even after being out, proud, and settled in my skin for the first time in my life, there’s still the erasure of who I am in every aspect of that life.
My fiancé is female-presenting, so when people see me with her, they assume that I am straight. That’s the only option, right? I either have to be straight or gay, and that identity depends on my relationship. Right? Wrong.
My bisexual orientation is valid, regardless of my relationship status.
On the same token, my gender identity and expression is in no way affected or devalued because of my sexual orientation. I do not have to be overtly masculine to identify as male. I do not need to be in a relationship with men to be attracted to men, and the same goes for women.
It’s a sad state of affairs that even within the lesbian, gay, and transgender community, the same people that should be the most accepting are just as likely to demean me or say that I’m just “confused” because I’m bisexual. Even sadder is when I hear of gay women and men saying they would never even consider a relationship with someone that identifies as bisexual because they consider them “dirty” or think that liking both men and women means they can’t be trusted to stay committed to a single relationship. It’s no more okay to sex-shame someone who identifies as bisexual than it is to do the same for anyone else.
Yet despite the hate I’ve faced, the discrimination and rejection, I can honestly say that while it still frustrates me, I am happy with who I am. I can appreciate a good cup of coffee the same way I can appreciate a neatly trimmed beard or the soft curve of someone’s hips. More importantly than the other people I love in my life is the love I have for myself.
I am just as beautiful, unique, and extraordinary as anyone else.
At the end of the day, being bisexual, for me, means being free. It’s a freedom to make my own decisions and love whomever I want to love. And in America, isn’t freedom what it’s all about?
Photo provided by Bentley Burdick