As a senior in high school, I often went home for lunch. I would grab a quick bite to eat but spent the majority of the time in front of my family’s computer attempting to download whatever I could find online. These were the days somewhere between dialup and cable Internet access. These were the days somewhere between being “straight” and “gay.”
Once, despite my best effort to keep one ear out for the door, my brother caught me in between downloads. He questioned why I was looking at three Euro soccer players engaging in sexual acts.
I told him I was bisexual.
At the time, I didn’t know what being gay meant — other than it was something you didn’t want to be. Somehow, I knew claiming bisexual status wasn’t nearly as stigmatizing. I reasoned with my brother: being bisexual meant there was good chance neither he nor the rest of my family would have to deal with the apparent shame of a gay family member.
Later that summer, after graduation but before I left Pueblo for Denver, I fully disclosed my gayness to my brother and father. They digested the news gracefully.
By this point, I was still clueless as to what being “gay” meant.
Someone I cared deeply about told me being gay meant I was supposed to laugh at Margaret Cho and fall asleep listening to Rufus Wainwright and show tunes. So, when I moved to Denver, I rented every Cho concert my neighborhood Blockbuster had on its shelves and Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” became my anthem.
As a freshman in college, I conspicuously paced in front of the LGBT student center on campus countless times, hoping the next step would finally be the one to lead me across the threshold of rainbows. I eventually worked up the courage and began to meet other LGBTers on campus, online (remember the Yahoo m4m chat rooms) and around town (the Dazbog at 9th Avenue and Downing, then known as Diedrichs, and Tracks, then known as Dream).
Soon enough, everyone — and by everyone, I mean anyone in earshot — knew I was gay.
I listened to the ABCs — Abba, Britney and Cher. I died my hair platinum blond. I worked retail in flip-flops year round. My friends and I drove around Cheesman Park all afternoon. I hooked up with more men then I ever should have (none from Cheesman). And I was always the first one in and the last one out at Tracks.
I was a diva. I was a diva terror. I was a drunken diva terror. This is what being gay is all about, I thought.
Boy was I wrong.
I’d like to think my drunken diva terrorism was as much a “phase” as my bisexuality. Just as I grew into one version of my gay identity, I’ve grown into another. One, I hope is a little more respectable.
While I’m certain I still haven’t lived all the lessons a gay man needs to, nor do I fully understand what it means to be “gay,” I have learned a thing or two.
Foremost, it is very easy to reduce being “gay” to simply men having sex with other men. After all, our most primal function is to have sex. Adding primal to more primal — it leaves you with only one thing.
But being gay is so much more than that.
It is my belief that anyone can have sex with anyone else. But to be gay or lesbian is to be part of a community that is galvanized, resilient and downright fabulous. We have fought police brutality, survived a plague, demanded our rights, found a seat at the table, ingrained ourselves into the fabric of humanity and made the world a better place. We are brothers and sisters, lawyers and doctors, construction workers and restaurant servers, we are artists and poets, we are lovers and fighters. And each day we wake up knowing there are still people out there who would rather we not exist, but we put on a smile and live our lives with Pride.
To be sure, we have our own problems. There is still too much infighting, racism, transphobia and other segregation issues. But I know as a community we can do anything. And when we are ready to respect one another as we wish to be respected, we’ll have a whole community as brilliant as the sum of our parts.
Speaking of respect, one of the first things we can do as a community is to embrace the “B.” After all, it is just as easy to reduce bisexuality to a waystation, being “sexually indecisive” or “greedy.” Those of us at either end of the sexuality spectrum tell ourselves: They can’t make up their mind; they want it all.
But being bisexual is so much more than that. And our cover story dives into what exactly that is.
As with most of our cover stories about identity we learn there is commonality among our community members, but each has their own journey. While we share labels, our identities and experiences are our own. Just as I learned my identity through flip-flops and a platinum blond mohawk another may have learned his identity through high heels and a wig. And when our paths cross, we’ll compare notes and embrace our shared experiences and hope of one day living in a world where we’re truly accepted.