“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.
About 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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