The Stepping Stones to Self-Understanding by Marina Peralta

Barriers-to-Love_coverThe Stepping Stones to Self-Understanding
by Marina Peralta

“I never understood you, Marina,” my mother told me in her old age. Her mind was befuddled, losing its battle with Alzheimer’s but she had occasional streaks of clarity. “First you wanted to be with women, then you wanted to be with men, and then with a woman again.”
Her words reflected a common misconception about bisexuality—that it’s gender confusion. Most likely my mother never thought of the word bisexuality in relation to me, equating it more with degenerate or kinky, another common assumption. In fact, to this day many people believe there is no such thing as a bisexual identity, only heterosexual, gay, and lesbian. No in-between.

As a psychotherapist, I have asked myself if incidents in my childhood—sexual abuse, death of my father, illness—might have influenced my choice in partners. Or if it was a choice at all to love both women and men. To what extent did my mother’s controlling ways influence my partner decisions? Or were they as much a display of independence from her as a personal choice?

“Better to be a whore than a lesbian,” she said after finding some love letters from a lesbian friend. At nineteen I had no idea that a woman could love another woman in the same way as a man. That kind of love was considered unnatural, forbidden by the Catholic Church and society. My friend, also nineteen, had told me she loved me and kissed me, but nothing beyond that. Her letters and a book about lesbian love that she gave me to read were enough to damn her. My mother saw her as corrupt and wanting to seduce me, and fearful of social repercussions from what she considered my lesbian inclinations, she destroyed my friend; then she packed me off to a convent to repent my sins and teach me the consequences of loving another woman.

That incident served to arouse my curiosity enough for me to go to a lesbian party. These were held in private homes—who would suspect a bunch of ladies getting together?—so that no one, including husbands, would realize their true nature. Hypocrisy was rampant, as was the double standard for both men and women. I became part of it, hiding my five-year lesbian relationship with a woman while my divorced husband continued to live in the same house “to keep up appearances.”

I’m honest by nature, and living a lie, hiding my true attachment from everyone including my children went against all my principles. It undermined my self-esteem, cut into my emotional well-being, and when this relationship ended led to my decision to go straight. The alternative, to come out of the closet at a time when lesbians were considered freaks, degenerates and disgusting would have been tantamount to a public flogging and a sentencing to the stocks. So I made a conscious decision to go straight. Life was hard enough without the added complications of having to hide out of fear of social censure.

By the time I reached middle-age I was ready to take on the forbidden, and come out from my self-imposed heterosexual cave. I was married when I met my great love, another woman. She was married as well, but both our marriages were in bad shape. Perhaps the more liberal climate of the nineties enabled us to be open about our relationship. Or that my children had grown up and would not be tarnished by my lesbian reputation. Or I’d evolved beyond my mother’s warnings about lesbians becoming a social pariahs. By that time I was proudly aware of being a bisexual though it was not something I would consider talking about in public.

What made me change my mind and come out as a bisexual? As I wrote my memoir, I reflected on the ins and outs of my life and how my mother was right—I had loved both women and men, loved their spirit and their person regardless of their gender. As a psychotherapist, I was able to see the different facets of my life and the many steps I’d taken toward self-understanding. In the years since my mother made her cruel statement about lesbians, I’d advanced little by little, stumbling a bit on the way, to the moment when I wrote my subtitle: Embracing A Bisexual Identity and came out to the world.

Marina PeraltaAbout the Author: Marina Peralta was born in Mexico City, Mexico where she studied at Colegio Tepeyac. She attained her BA in Psychology from San Diego State University and her Masters from National University. She has lived in Mexico City, San Diego, Tijuana and Los Angeles. She is a well-regarded psychotherapist practicing for over 20 years, specializing in family counseling and abused children. Marina also owned two successful dance schools for 20 years where she taught her passion for dancing.

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  1. A good blog, Marina. What holds for bisexuals also holds for women who have been heterosexually married but are late-discovery lesbians. Many gay women today simply can’t imagine the imprinting that went on three or so decades ago, to the extent that many who knew they were “odd” or “different” had no idea why until well into adulthood.


    • I like your comment Suzanne, very true if you read my book “Barriers to Love” you
      will understand the struggle I went through to be able to love whoever I want.


  2. “I had loved both women and men, loved their spirit and their person regardless of their gender.” I love this! My daughter, who came out as Bi when she was in high school, said to me, “Mom, for me its about love not about gender.”

    As a person who lived and loved as a het woman my entire life, I accepted this, but it took a while to understood what she meant.

    However, after reaching menopause (and I have my own ideas about the why of this*) I opened to the possibility of loving a woman and later met, fell in love with and eventually married my wonderful wife. And, I couldn’t be happier.

    * I believe that in menopause, an opening is created through which a formerly straight woman, may choose to step. Here, they just might find, that loving a woman is not only possible, it is, at this point in their life, preferred.

    For some, it requires this kind of opening, for others, like my daughter, being Bi is how she has always been wired. Her lesbian partner, on the other hand, has always been wired to prefer girls…

    We are, each one, uniquely capable of Loving.

    Blessed Be!


    • I liked your story SD. Young people are very free today and very open to explore their
      sexuality like your daughter. I like to hear this in my practice. In my time I didn’t have
      that freedom. Culture and religion plays a big influence. If you read my book “Barriers to Love” you will understand all the struggle I went through to be myself.


  3. I was, or I thought I was, heterosexual, now I know I am lesbian and couldn’t imagine sex with a man ever again…. but can I a bi-sexual, if you are in a relationship with a woman, do you still yearn for sex with a man.. and if you are with a man, do you miss women… or are you genuinely committed to whoever you are with until the relationship ends, in which case you might start a new relationship with a person you are attracted to regardless of their gender? I honesltly mean no disrespect in asking this?


    • Hi Penny:
      When I was in a committed relationship with a woman I wasn’t thinking about men.
      However when I was with a man, I had some crushes with women, but never acted on it. Only when I was married but my husband knew and approved. If you read my book
      “Barriers to Love” you will find this story very interesting


  4. I’ll take a stab at this, until Marina checks in. 🙂

    I think that could go for anybody, Penny, regardless of sexual orientation. Do you yourself not choose to be committed to someone? That doesn’t mean you don’t have crushes or physical/emotional attractions to someone else while you’re in the relationship. And ask any partner in any committed relationship whether they’ve had sexual thoughts about someone else. If everyone’s honest, the overwhelming answer is going to be “yes.” It is entirely possible to be deeply in love with someone and be in a long-term (ideally permanent) relationship and still, every once in a while, feel stirrings for someone else. That’s part of the human condition. What you do with those stirrings depends on the strength and health of your committed relationship and the people involved in it.

    Someone who is bisexual, like anybody else, works out the boundaries of his or her relationship with whomever he or she is partnered with. It sounds, too, as if you’re assuming someone who is bisexual can’t have permanent relationships with a partner. Again, this depends on the people involved in the relationship — regardless of sexual orientation — whether the relationship will endure or not. Bisexual people, like straight or LGBTQ, live and love just like the rest of us, and work out the parameters of their relationships just like the rest of us. And if you think about it, all the people you’ve dated or been with in the past prior to your current relationship were all relationships that ended, yes? Unless you are currently with your high school sweetheart.

    I’ll leave it to Marina to respond in greater depth. And if I’m really off-base, my apologies. As Penny said, no disrespect intended.


    • Hi Andi.. I wasn’t insinuating that a bisexual person can’t be faithful, more I wondered if whatever gender relationship they were in, if biologically they yearned for the physical side of the other. Not sure that makes sense! And certainly no disrespect to a bisexual person, I wondered if it caused tensions within themselves. You are right, we all have yearnings occasionally, I just wondered if that might a greater need. Penny


    • Andi I agree with you 100% very well explained and very honest. In my book “Barriers to Love” I write at the end therapist’s notes what Freud said long ago. Innate Bisexuality (or predisposition to bisexuality) is a term introduced by Sigmund Freud based on his work by his associate Wilhelm Fleiss that expounds all humans are born
      bisexual but through psychological development(which includes internal and external
      factors) become monosexual, while the bisexuality remains in a latent state.


  5. Reading her words I felt my own life displayed on a canvas reaching high up into the clouds. Bisexual, no…touched by the stigmata of being unaccepted? Yes. This recovering lesbian catholic thanks Dr. Peralta…



    • Lyn in my book “Barriers to Love” at the end I have Myths and Realities about
      bisexuality. People that are not very familiar have learned a lot about it.
      Well done being a recovering lesbian and catholic


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