With the combination of forced heteronormativity as a solution for the pain and tragedy trailing homosexuality, there is a new type of suffering for those on the spectrum of sexuality.
In this case, bisexual youths are faced with two options seemingly hanging over their heads. The illusion of choice and I, like many others, was tricked into thinking I had a choice; the choice being between an easy life and a hard life. As Spring Fire and many other novels seemed to suggest, pursuing a relationship with a woman would lead to my suffering and hers, it would make everything harder. If I remember anything about being 13, it was that I did not want to make my life any harder. In between the self-doubt over my sexual attraction, there was guilt flitting through my mind nearly as often, guilt that would halt any of my expression. By the age of 13, I had met people who identified as gay, I had cared for those people and loved them but I saw the light leave their eyes every time someone commented on their deviance. I saw the pain when they lied to their parents about which guys they found cute that year. I saw them try and try desperately to be seen while also trying to become as small as humanly possible. When I saw that, there was a sting in my chest because they did not have a choice. It was clear in the way they gazed at people, the glistening in their eyes when someone they liked walked over, silently praying that person felt the same way. It was clear in the way they agonized over and over again over a person they couldn't even ask if they liked them for fear of inklings of their sexuality being seen. So clearly they could not fall for someone of the opposite sex; they could not, but I could. I could find some man and marry him, my parents would for sure come to the wedding, my grandmother too. I could live the way a heterosexual lived, I could have the dream they sold me as early as 6, so that meant I had a choice right? Wrong. For years, I deluded myself into thinking I could choose to be straight, when there was never a choice to begin with.
Let’s go back to sexuality, “the way people express and experience themselves sexually.” Sexuality is the way I express and experience myself sexually. When I was younger I looked just as much at Azula as I did Zuko, my hands tingled when I brushed against a boy or girl at school as long as I thought they were cute. Even if I grabbed the boy and held his hand a little longer, the feelings for the girl would not simply dissipate, that visceral reaction would still stay. The experience of sexuality would still incorporate both attractions to men and women. An individual's own body is saying bisexuality exists, at every second and every moment that heterosexuality and homosexuality do. It does not disappear from one moment to another but the construct of sexuality in today’s society feels that way. Sexuality, in definition, is broad but sexuality in society is rigid so that anybody that deviates from heteronormativity ends up trapped and it seems like nobody wants them to find their way out. Initially, only men and women could love each other, then after so many years of fighting for rights, for acknowledgment, it seemed like men and men, women and women, could love each other. Then bisexuality was simply a channel to eventual heterosexuality or stairway to homosexuality, but either way, bisexuality is not viewed as permanent or valid on its own.
The main character of Spring Fire could easily be considered bisexual considering her inclination towards a woman than to a man, but to be with the man, she denounces all feelings of love for the woman. A small channel “you can pass here”, they all say after being with a woman as if that love or attraction means nothing, is nothing. The invalidation, the gaslighting, the minimization, all of it diminishes the sexuality of a bisexual. When we are with a man, we are not straight. When we are with a woman, we are not gay. Our sexual experience exists outside the other person we choose to put our romantic interest into. Everyone should always be more than the person they choose to put romantic interest into for it is simply a direction of an independent force, your sexuality. Overall, between the haven heterosexuality has attempted to make itself and the hell that homosexuality continues to be portrayed as, some bisexual individuals like myself were trapped inside their prison of consciousness, actually thinking their sexuality was the exception, the one that could be chosen.
The mentality of sexuality as a choice still infiltrates many aspects of romantic life, and the media has not done the best job altering this perception. Sexuality, in general, is not a conduit for societal pressure, it is not something that testing out preferences or actual sexual experience will change. For a while, I thought I was straight, simply because I knew I was not gay. Straight never seemed to be enough, so instead of understanding myself, I felt selfish, greedy, and overall guilty. I was guilty of experiencing my sexuality but not expressing it, and selfish for choosing to suffer and create problems when all I had to do was make sure I never fell in love with a woman.
The torment of this led to years upon years of self-rejection, dating boys exclusively only to feel like I was utilizing them to cover up my doubts about my attraction. I would almost try to prove my attraction to boys to hide the fact that in my dreams, I still saw girls too. It took 6 years for me to come out to anybody, 6 years to embrace what a 13-year-old already knew but society didn't, that sexuality is not a choice nor is it based on anybody else's experience but your own. So, the bisexual experience is convoluted and complicated purely because it was meant to be that way, to discourage homosexual behavior and encourage those who sat on the sexuality spectrum to move towards the seemingly safer side. Confusion was created and the LGBTQ+ community has been trying to dissolve that confusion in the upcoming generations along with its allies so that the next time someone comes out as bisexual, it can be taken for what it is, a statement, not a question.
Express yourselves! Express YOUR Sexuality!
DePalma, R., & Atkinson, E. (2010). The nature of institutional heteronormativity in primary schools and practice-based responses. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(8), 1669–1676. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2010.06.018
Hulan, H. (2017). Bury your gays: History, usage, and context. McNair Scholars Journal, 21(1), 6. Retrieved at. Link: https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/mcnair/vol21/iss1/6?utm_source=scholarworks.gvsu.edu%2Fmcnair%2Fvol21%2Fiss1%2F6&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
ramke, C.,Zarracina, J., & Frostenson, S. (2016, June 1). All the TV character deaths of 2015-'16, in one chart. Vox.com. https://www.vox.com/a/tv-deaths-lgbt-diversity.
Packer, V. (2014). Spring fire. Mills & Boon.