For the record, I am estatic that New York State is now allowing any committed couple to legally wed – gay or straight. It’s been a hard fight and a sweet victory… and yes, there are still many battles for LGBT rights left to fight (repeal of DOMA, federal marriage equality, etc.) but..it is a sweet sweet victory.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of days viewing pictures of newly married couples, some who have waited decades for the day to come. I’ve read their stories, heard their cheers. I have cheered with them. And I’ve cried.
And not all the tears were tears of joy.
This seems to be giving me an opportunity to talk a little about my own history… to explore a rich piece of who I am, and begin to find language to explain where I have been and where I am now without people freaking out. I am, as it happens, one of those people – like Holly Near and Anne Heche – who have loved both men and women, and after many years being actively and happily labeled a lesbian, now consider myself bisexual. No, I didn’t “get cured.” No, it wasn’t “a phase.” As a teen, I was attracted to men and women… and in my early 20s, after some meandering, found that I was most comfortable identifying myself as a lesbian. I had a couple of great (and a handful of terrible) relationships. I embraced my phsyical and emotional attraction to women. I fought for equality. I marched in parades, protested with the Lesbian Avengers, even appeared on local news, and was on the front page of several state-wide newspapers, me kissing my girlfriend in front of a parade banner.
In other words, I was out, I was proud, and I was active.
In the mid-90s, I had met the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Tricia was vibrant and brilliant – she lived life large. She was passionate, funny, earnest. And she loved me fiercely. In 1997, we decided to make steps toward as legally permanent a relationship as we could have in North Carolina. We were beneficiaries on as many policies as would allow us. We had medical power of attorney for each other. We were on our way to buying a house together and working with a gay attorney to ensure we were as protected as we could be, even as we began to talk about plans for a ceremony.
Parallel to this, I was completing my bachelor’s degree at Meredith College…. and Tricia was slipping back into a narcotics addiction I thought she had beaten in the late 80s. Using debilitating migraines as her excuse, and not telling her several doctors about the previous addiction – or in fact, even about each other – she amassed a stockpile of narcotics and used them to “help” her headaches.
I should have known, the day she got a new doctor to give her methodone as as way to manage the pain. But I didn’t. I didn’t know about addiction, about prescription drug abuse. I hadn’t had any experience with it. So I trusted her doctors… trusted her… and on April 7, 1998, Tricia had a heart attack, likely induced by the narcotics, and died that afternoon.
Now I tell you this because for a long time after she died, I was convinced I would never love again. And then, as I crawled out of the cave of blinding grief, it was men who offered the kind of comfort I seemed most to need. Women seemed harsh, or overbearing. Men were more measured, giving me space, and time, and a rather appealing kind of support.
Several years later, in considering relationships again, I found I was turning toward men – something I hadn’t done since my early 20s. It wasn’t that I suddenly found women revolting – it was just that, well, something had changed. I went from looking for women, to “if it really is about loving the person, not the gender, I have to be open to it being male or female”, to simply knowing I wanted a relationship with a man.
Since Tricia’s death, I have had a small handful of relationships with men – all were what I needed at the time, although I think I spent a few years learning the things always-straight women learned about men in their early 20s. I also spent a few years learning how different relationships with women and with men can be. This is NOT a judgment on either one – both are great, both are terrible, both are what they are. I am blessed right now to be in a great relationship with a man who is kind, open, funny, brilliant, and charming. I am unsure where the relationship is heading – but it is steady and positive, and I feel loved and supported. I still have moments when I miss Tricia, but they are fleeting, and I – like many young widows and widowers – have moved on to a new phase.
But I have cried the last few days because I wish she was here to see these pictures…to have the chance to marry me, legally, in my home state… I wish she was here to see that the work we did in the 90s was NOT in vain… I wish we could have been part of that celebration.
But it’s not reality.
It’s just bittersweet.