We have been married a long time. A very long time. Eighteen years to be exact, and we’ve been a couple for nearly twenty one years. Our marriage has made it through the first ten years, when marriages are most likely to end in divorce, so that’s a really good start, and we’re heading towards the twenty year mark. I’m not that old either, having a couple of years to go before I hit the big 4-0, I just simply met my soulmate young and married him. It was the best decision I ever made.
Right from the beginning we faced opposition from some people because of our age. This negativity came from friends, who on the whole fell away, as their lives were going in the more expected direction for teenagers. It also came from family too, as some felt that we couldn’t possibly make such an important decision as marrying at our age. The opposition only solidified the bond we felt towards each other and made us stronger as a couple. We were a team. A great team. And we still are, even though the grey hairs are now starting to make an appearance.
Being husband and wife is the best thing in the world. The first time someone called me Mrs, I loved it. I still love it. Nothing makes me prouder than gesturing towards my better half and being able to refer to him as my husband, or having him call me his wife. It makes us a legal entity, a recognised team. It means that even though the world can be crappy and cruel, I know that I have an unconditional supporter to back me up and pick me up. And I hope I do the same for him. Life has thrown some major poop at us over the years, and yet we’ve weathered it and are still here. Still strong. Stronger than ever. That is what a great marriage can do. And that is why we have always supported same-sex marriage too. Our thinking being that everyone deserved to find the happiness that we have and then have the opportunity to declare that love publicly and legally through the institution of marriage. This desire for equality even led to us leaving the Church that we had only recently converted too (from being agnostic/atheist, but that's a whole other story). If the Church of England did not recognise a same sex marriage as legitimate, or a marriage without children, like ours, as valid, then it wasn't an organisation that we wanted to be on the membership list for.
So we knew we both supported the rights of the LGBT community to equal marriage and equality in every other way. We enjoyed shows and films with LGBT characters. And we loved Orange is the New Black. But we were definitely straight, weren't we? After all that is what being married to someone of the opposite gender must mean, right? Maybe not.
One morning, Mr M.B. emailed me a link to an article to read. This was nothing unusual, we passed articles to each other all the time. The only words in the message asked for my thoughts. The article was a written by a man about being married to a lady who had since told him she was a bisexual. It talked about how they were staying married and loved each other, and how she didn't want any other partners, just him. It was, looking back, a positive article about a couple staying together and staying monogamous. In hindsight, my husband could not have picked a better article to send me to start the discussion. Sadly, as I read, my thoughts were screaming lesbian, he is asking if you are a lesbian! I went cold and into full internal panic mode. Why have you sent me this, I asked, trying to sound neutral. Isn't it obvious, came the reply? Oh God, he thinks I'm a lesbian, my inner voice shouted. Strangely, looking back, there wasn't any mention of the word lesbian. It was all about the wife being bisexual. It's quite telling that I was so panicked, that I couldn't even read straight. No, I replied, you're going to have to spell it out. I'm bisexual came the reply. Oh, my brain replied.
It turns out that in my husband's virtual run through in his head, it had gone like this -
I read the article.
I say, why yes, what an interesting article, I am bisexual.
And then he'd reply, so am I.
And then we would agree that it is quite a happy coincidence, before resuming daily life.
It didn't play out like that. It turns out that while he may have come to realisations about himself, that he wanted to share with me, I was a little further behind. Strangely, even while being open minded and happy to watch things like Orange is the New Black, I'd interestingly never properly considered what bisexual actually meant. I would have told you some people like men and women, but I'd never thought much about it. When Piper's character was with a woman, I'd have said she was gay. When she was with a man I'd have said she was straight again, and so forth. We now know this is bisexual erasure. The idea that people don't understand, accept or acknowledge that bisexual people are able to be attracted to more than one gender, something distinct from being gay or lesbian. While somebody might be with an opposite gender partner, that doesn't make them straight. Nor does being with the opposite gender make someone gay. Being bisexual is all about attractions. Bisexuals are attracted to more than one gender, and this makes them neither gay nor straight. Sexual partners are a manifestation of your sexual orientation, not the determining factor. In fact you can be celibate or a virgin and still know you are bisexual. Society needs to catch on to the idea.
When I was sixteen I told a friend that I might be gay. She looked at me and replied that I wasn't, because I liked boys. That was true, I really liked boys, but I also liked girls too. But I wasn't gay, my friend had confirmed it, so I never really thought about it again. When I was seventeen I met my husband and we fell in love and I wanted to be with him both physically and romantically. So that made me straight. Honestly, I never considered bisexuality. It never dawned on me that it could have been a girl that I ended up with instead of my husband, but I now assume that if I had have ended up with a girl I would have called myself gay and then not questioned it. As I was married, I didn't want to spend much time thinking about anyone other than my husband in that sort of way. But he had known from comments I'd made over the years that I wasn't straight. What was obvious to him wasn't obvious to me. He had also known that he wasn't straight either, but he had tried to bury it. A long period of introspection and eventual acceptance had lead to him finally sharing the realisation. Again, the clues had been there, and given his non-conformity to male stereotypes, and some comments over the years, it wasn't much of the shock it might have been, but it still threw me. Looking back, considering we were both bisexual without really realising it, I don't think we knew what it meant to be totally straight, so couldn't see the obvious. But what would it mean for our marriage?