My day starts like millions of others. I wake to the sun, or the sound of my screaming child. I get up and brew a cup of iced coffee, drink it with a splash of almond milk, and begin work. I log in just before 8:00 a.m., but today, there is an awkwardness in my house. Despite the open windows and my cool beverage, the air is heavy and my throat is tense. I have a feeling coming out during quarantine and telling my partner I’m bisexual has something to do with it.
I told him I wanted to be with women.
While it was certainly news to him, this was far from a newfound revelation or discovery for me. When I was a teenager, exploring my identity and developing body, I was always drawn to women: in the park, on the streets and in the scrambled pornography I watched on our living room television. In my 20s, I used drinking games as an “excuse” to see my girlfriends. To touch my girlfriends. We giggled as we lifted our shirts and locked lips. My fantasies have always been full of beautiful, confident women, but this was the first time I had ever voiced my desires to another. It was the first time I let my husband in on “the secret.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we knew it and I found myself quarantined with my husband and two children. My fresh start was put on pause, and I didn’t know who I was or what to do. I felt trapped. Stuck. My future was at the mercy of medicine. My happiness was on hold.
My future was at the mercy of medicine. My happiness was on hold.
This time at home has forced me to confront a bevy of emotions. More than anything, I’m confused. I love my husband. He is a kind man. A good man. A sweet man, and our marriage is full of comfort. There is security, trust and warmth between us. But he is a man, and I’m not sure that is what I want anymore. I’m not sure he can give me what I need.
I’m sad. My family may fall apart because of me, or I will continue to fall apart because of my family, and the weight of either reality feels overwhelming. My limbs feel heavy, and my heart breaks each time I hold my son or tuck my daughter into bed at night.
I’m lonely, too. Coming out is scary and isolating under normal circumstances, but doing so during the COVID-19 crisis has been particularly tough. Distance has separated me from my friends, and the situation has kept me from moving forward with women, with myself and with the fate of my marriage.
I feel an immense amount of guilt. In my vows I said “for better or worse,” but now—during the worst—I want to leave. I feel an overwhelming need to leave. And because of this, I’m afraid. Despite my husband’s support, I worry about my future. About our future. About what this may mean for our family and my happiness. I am afraid to stay put and remain unfulfilled.
In my vows I said “for better or worse,” but now—during the worst—I want to leave.
Of course, I am not alone. Millions of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or bisexual, and many others are struggling. Most are trying to discover who they are and what it is they want, and according to Dr. Gail Saltz—an associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and the host of the Personology podcast from iHeart Media—reanalyzing your life, wants and desires after coming out is normal.
“Allowing your mind the space and time to explore sexual thoughts about identity, gender, activity, fantasy life, and desire without having to act is very useful and important,” Dr. Saltz tells me. “Self-exploration done by allowing your mind to wander, and having self-awareness as well as reading about topics of interest is a great beginning.”
If you want to explore your sexuality in greater detail and in more depth, Dr. Saltz suggests working with a trained professional, if you can swing it. “Consider speaking to a person who works in an exploratory style, and consider a professional who has expertise in the area you are questioning: sexual orientation, sexual dysfunction, transsexualism, etc.,” she advises, recommending one-on-one meetings as opposed to group therapy at the start.
I took her advice, and I am working with my psychiatrist to discover who I am and what I want. The good news? My husband took it in stride. He told me he loved me and would support me no matter what. He said that he wanted me to be happy, that I deserved to be happy. He encouraged me to explore my desires, with or without him.
Does that mean I have all the answers, or any answers? No. I’ve still made zero decisions about my future or my family (though I’ve had dozens of panic attacks while attempting to do so). But I am acknowledging my feelings. I am owning my feelings, and today, that is enough. This is just the beginning for me, and soon enough, I will get to experience the fresh start I am owed.
I’m here. I’m queer. I exist.