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I didn't realize I was bisexual until I fell in love with my wife. We worked together for two years and became friends before I finally grasped that my affection for Jen was a level higher – and deeper – than just besties.
When we met, I was busy dealing with residual guilt from cheating on my college boyfriend and punishing myself by putting up with his continued emotional abuse after we moved to Pittsburgh together for a fresh start. For her part, Jen was preoccupied with raising a toddler and coming to terms with a relationship that wasn't surviving the devastation of infertility.
We were there for each other and shared our problems at an occasional post-work happy hour. It wasn't until we both walked away from our broken relationships that we realized what had been right in front of us the entire time.
It had taken 28 years for me to come to terms with my sexual orientation. And when I became a stepmom, I began to understand it even more fully.
When I came out as bisexual, I immediately began to settle into my own skin with more confidence, but kept wondering, why had it taken me so long? My best friend from childhood is a lesbian, and she came out the summer after she graduated high school along with several other acquaintances from my hometown. The Appalachian churches I grew up in disagreed with queerness, so I supported my friends while still attending church religiously (pun intended). Yet I was grateful that I was attracted to men and didn't need to examine my orientation any further.
When I fell in love with Jen, I finally realized that in my life before, I had put people into boxes. I had felt secure placing myself in traditional boxes, too: Christian, feminine, heterosexual. Now I saw how limiting those boxes are. Still, when my wife and I first began dating, I told myself I just happened to fall for one woman. She was the exception, not the rule.
Then when we got married and I became a stepmom, my world really turned upside down. I didn't just become an instant parent, I became a queer parent. My stepdaughter now has not two, but three moms. My queer identity is visible to anyone who sees my family walking down the street, and it's front-and-center to both my stepdaughter and her friends.
One day when my wife went to pick up our daughter from preschool, she overheard her talking to a young boy her age. My wife's business attire leans towards the masculine end of the spectrum, so she often wears men's button-down shirts.
The boy asked my stepdaughter, "Is that your mom?"
When she responded that my wife was indeed her mother, the boy wanted to know why Jen was wearing a boy's shirt.
My stepdaughter simply shrugged and said, "Girls can wear whatever they want. It's not a boy's shirt. It's just a shirt."
That day, I realized my stepdaughter knew more about queer identity than I did. Boxes don't exist for children until we teach them that those boxes exist and encourage them to step into one and stay there. How liberating it must be to not feel the pressure to live inside a box (or maybe a closet, if you're queer).
After my wife told me about that conversation, I suddenly realized Jen wasn't "the exception." I have a type, but that type has nothing to do with gender. I couldn't see that until my box fell apart. My stepdaughter is a confident redhead with a fiery personality, three moms, two houses, and no tolerance for anyone who tries to keep anyone else from being exactly who they are. She sees us all as beautiful, layered, evolving, complex, unique human beings, and she helps me all the time to remember to see it, too.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.