Here's something you probably didn't know about me: I'm bisexual. I wouldn't bring this up at all, but I keep seeing discussions about GLBT issues in which someone complains "Why are we talking about this? How many of Those People can there be, anyhow? This can't matter that much, can it?"

And so:

  1. I am one of Those People, and always have been. So, if you didn't think you knew very many GLBT people, now you know that you know of one more.
  2. There are rather a lot of us in the world. I know a lot of bisexual men and women in heterosexual marriages because, well, that's the kind we're mostly allowed to have here in the U.S. But a queer person in a heterosexual marriage is pretty much rendered invisible. Few are willing to stand up and be counted as something other than straight. This is me standing up.
  3. If you've read a lot of my fiction, this will not be shocking news.

It did take me a long, difficult time to come to grips with this. I got pretty good at talking myself out of desire: "Nah, you don't like women. You like men just fine! You don't even get along with most women! You wouldn't know what to do with a woman."

I grew up in a conservative military town in Texas. I knew one kid in high school who was out as gay, and it's a miracle he survived to adulthood. I don't know any lesbians who came out then. It just wasn't accepted. And bisexuality wasn't a concept anyone discussed. It was a black-and-white world. Either you were straight, or you were a homo, and if you were a boy who kissed just one boy you were a homo for ever and ever after.

My parents were raised in conservative Christian environments and although they rejected a lot of that, they internalized much of the social/sexual dogma about GLBT people pretty much without question and passed it right along to me. My upbringing was strict. My father was a psychiatrist trained in a time when gays and lesbians were treated as potentially dangerous sexual perverts who needed curing. All his books said so; it had to be true!

So I was fucking terrified of being a lesbian. When I started having some "Hey, she's cute" type feelings when I was young, I squashed those suckers down as far as they would go. This, of course, affected things. Badly. I became standoffish, and afraid of touching anyone or to be touched lest There Be Feelings. I kept to myself, and felt totally isolated.

I went through my first suicidal depression when I was 12 years old. I spent most of my teen years struggling with depression and anxiety. Not just because of this -- being female in a culture where girls were told at every turn that they were inherently less capable and worthwhile than boys and that their only true value lay in being decorative is pretty depressing if you're a female with an ounce of ambition.

Even more depressing and anxiety-inducing? A pervasive rape culture: when I was 18 I realized that all (not some, not many, all) the girls and women I knew well enough to have earned their confidence had been raped or forced to perform oral/manual sex. My mom. My two best female friends. Their roomates our freshman year of college. A lot of the girls who'd had their mouths forced down on a rapist's junk didn't think of themselves as having been sexually assaulted, because it wasn't "really" rape so it didn't "really" count, and so their PTSD nightmares were happening because they were somehow weak. If you were a girl who suffered sexual harrassment, you were just supposed to take it as some kind of compliment, or you were supposed to feel ashamed because clearly you had brought it on yourself by how you dressed or what you had said or where you had chosen to go.  I remember a bully in 6th grade who would follow me and try to corner me and touch me when nobody else was around. His behavior made me nauseated with fear. I told my mom -- who clearly figured the little creep was too young to be any kind of credible threat  -- and her reaction was "Oh, don't take it so hard, it just means he likes you!" Finally one day I hauled off and slugged him and we both got dragged into the principal's office, both got in trouble (me more than he, since nobody saw what the big deal was and I was the one who threw a punch). But at least he quit after that.

We kids got told that rape was bad, of course. But rape was some maniac grabbing you off the street and assaulting you. Stranger Danger! If it was a boy or man you knew, a neighbor or a classmate, well ... surely you had done something to lead him on, right? You shouldn't have worn that dress. He didn't really hurt you. Nobody needs to know. Boys will be boys.

And I liked and admired boys, even when I feared them. I wished I could be a boy; then nobody would be telling me how I had to talk and dress and behave to avoid nightmares and shame.

So, yeah, my depression and anxiety were way more complicated than me having to constantly suppress my emotions. But that was certainly a factor. The teen years are hard enough without feeling deep down that nobody could possibly accept you as you truly are. Feeling that no matter how hard you try or how well you do in school or in music etc., you're still defective.

To cut to the heart of this: I wish I had known then what I know now. I wasted so much energy on unncecessary angst, and I had so much trouble relating to people ... argh. Just, argh. I won't say that my depression magically went away once I got a good grip on my own orientation -- the depression is more entrenched than that -- but I've felt a whole lot better than I used to.

My husband, who was raised Catholic, was initially a little worried when I sat him down and had the "Darling, you should know that I'm bisexual" conversation. When I told him that I wished I'd known all this when I was a teenager, he replied, "But then you never would have married me!" Whereupon I whacked him upside the head. Discovering you like butterscotch doesn't mean you've stopped liking rocky road.

Discomfort guides my tongue
And bids me speak of nothing but despair.

William Shakespeare, Richard II (c. 1595), Act III, scene 2, line 65

At lunch yesterday, a close friend gave me a copy of a recent Rolling Stone. He wanted me to read the article on climate change, which I did after getting home from work. That article capped off a frustrating day which I in part unloaded into a write up last night. In the article, the author examines three key numbers related to climate change. First, he identified internationally agreed-upon limits on how much carbon the global community can allow to increase in the atmosphere between now and 2050. Second, he identified how much of that wiggle room actually remains. Finally, he described what the remaining margin equated to in gigatons of carbon, and then calculated how many gigatons of carbon are already available for consumption and held by the top 200 energy companies in the world.

This approach was intentional because the author attempted to move the climate change discussion beyond political or even environmental talking points and instead focus on some relatively simple math. In doing so, he created a less than uplifting depiction of the current state of affairs. Finishing off my day with this article seemed like that last kick in the gut after someone has pounded you to the ground.

At this point you may be thinking this write up is about climate change, or some kind of personal despair with the left or the right, but it is not. I certainly am concerned about a willingness in the United States to selectively choose when a 300-year-old established scientific method is and is not applied, and absolutely feel a sense of despair over the complete ineptitude of politicians on both sides of the aisle to have an intelligent conversation, but that is not why I am writing now.

Put simply, what I want to know, what I want to ask, is how do you remain positive and upbeat and filled with gladness in our current society?

Despite strong efforts to the contrary, the United States remains a very literate society. Our access to information is astonishing. But the price we seem to pay for that is almost constant disdain and distrust for reason and anything that hints at intellectualism.

Now that is a strong statement, one which probably many of you will not agree with at face value. But as members of the site, a place devoted to reading and writing as well as a certain cavalier attitude about social conceptions, surely many if not most of you have encountered this intangible, oppressive sentiment here in the States against the world of the mind. Historical anti-intellectualism has time and again been demonstrated, and as people like Richard Hofstadter have shown, that aspect of the United States reaches back to the 1800s.

So how do you do it? How do you remain optimistic about our future?

This is a serious question. For me, life is amazing and beautiful and I am thankful every day. But I also face a constant struggle to remain upbeat when I see religious fanaticism grinding reasonable discourse into the dust. And I worry about my daughter. I worry about how to deal with the frustration so that it does not poison her worldview as she grows up. I worry about the world she is inheriting and what place she will find in it. In our area, there are many churches where the belief is that women are not supposed to speak in church. The friend who I referenced at the beginning of this, his father-in-law was furious this last election because a copy of the ballot was not printed in the newspaper. In the past, he had always removed it and filled it out so that his wife could carry it with her and vote according to his direction. And you probably read that and think this is some kind of science fiction, or I've been reading too much Margaret Atwood.

At the previous school where my wife worked, significant funding shortfalls led to the release of many support staff, special ed aides, library staff, and some teachers. One of the individuals selected was an assistant football coach who had repeatedly been moved from position to position due to ineptitude. At one point, he taught American history. He described the Mexican-American War to the students as the "wetback war". In his last position before the cuts, he was supposed to be a special ed aide who traveled from class to class with certain students and assisted them. This did not happen. Yet when he was selected for release, the head football coach threatened to leave and take his entire football staff with him. And football is important here. The school won the state championship a few years ago, and in the fall football dominates the social life of this rural area. So what did the school do? They kept the assistant coach, of course. The school is older, and many of the classes are packed with students, but one of the classrooms is used as a coach's lounge. You can't make this up.

So what is your secret? How do you shepherd your family forward without feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders?

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