Let’s start with an introduction.
I’m Daryl. I’m a woman in my mid-twenties. I was raised Mormon but don’t actively practice, and I’m still figuring out what religion means to me. I’m married to a man.
And I’m bisexual — something I didn’t admit to myself or anyone else until years into my marriage.
I was eighteen and he was twenty-three when we said our vows to each other. We were naive, religious, the very picture of head over heels. Eager virgins who grew up learning that marriage was the ultimate (and only) path to take for worthy, God-fearing young people.
Everything I really know about love — how deep it is, how beautiful it can be, how sometimes it isn’t enough — I learned alongside him as we grew into ourselves and out of the fervent rush of young, new romance. Love looks different seven years later, less shiny than before; a favorite sweater tumbled through the dryer a few too many times, soft and comfortable and still gladly worn despite its ragged edges.
We’re not perfect; there have been times we’ve disliked one another and times we’ve thought we wouldn’t make it, but we’ve arrived on the other side of those valleys stronger for making the climb.
The fact that I’m bisexual rarely comes up in conversation, primarily because I’m in a committed relationship and no longer in the dating pool.
I was almost 22 when the words first left my mouth, sitting in a parked car with a friend who opened up to me about the pain of being closeted in a conservative religious landscape. I wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone: I, too, had a part of my identity that I couldn’t express for fear of being ostracized or rejected.
“But Daryl, you’re married . Your experience isn’t like mine.”
She had a point.
I have the extreme privilege of not only passing for straight, but also being in a heterosexual relationship. I don’t face daily discrimination, the threat of violence, or the risk of my family rejecting me. If I didn’t talk about it, no one would even know.
But I don’t want to stop talking about it. Here’s why.
I was a girl who grew up falling in love with other girls from afar, terrified about what that meant.
I loathed the part of myself that felt butterflies when they smiled, or laughed, or touched my arm. When you’re told over and over that the very emotions you’re gripped with (as an angsty adolescent, no less) are abominable, it becomes easy to hate yourself.
Every time I met a boy I liked, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of relief at the prospect of a crush I could actually talk about. I’d then go on to pursue said crush with all the awkward intensity of a middle schooler in an identity crisis.
How much less painful would adolescence have been had someone explained sexual orientation from a place of love and acceptance, rather than division and shame?
If I’d know that my feelings were normal, how would that have shaped my self-esteem? Teendom is hard enough without being stressed that uncontrollable emotions will earn you a spot in hell.
These are topics that get messy, quickly: Sexuality, religion, parenting. I can’t pretend to be any kind of expert on any of them. No essay I write will change someone’s religious beliefs or moral convictions, but maybe my words can serve as a small reminder that our youths — our LGBT youths in particular — need love and support above all else.
My relationship, sexuality, and upbringing are three facets of my identity; three parts of who I am that don’t need to be at war with one another.
Being honest and unembarrassed about how each shapes my life has banished the shame from the conversation.