Loving Both Men & Women
by Joyce Beach
I was born into a long line of Mormons;  I am in fact the 6th generation on one side of my lineage.  I am now an exmormon, because the teachings of that faith do not reconcile with my personal beliefs, nor do they support a healthy self-image.

As a very young girl, I can remember thinking that marrying a woman might be nicer than marrying a boy, since boys were "yucky".  I made the mistake of saying so to my very devout Mormon mother.  We were riding in the car doing errands when I mentioned that.  She said to me "don't you EVER let someone tell you that it's okay for girls to marry girls or boys to marry boys, because it's NOT."  No one HAD told me that.  With a child's wisdom, I had seen that not all pair-bonding had to be male/female.

All of my life, I can recall being attracted to females and that I noticed them sexually before I noticed males.  The first stirrings and manifestations of sexual feelings occurred in my fragile prepubescent years.  Over the course of my childhood, I had a series of best friends.  For me, it was always more than doing everything together.  I never wanted to say good-bye from them and go my seperate way.  I always wanted just a few more minutes before going home etc.  There was nothing overt in those relationships, but the deep bond and love I felt for them is an emotion I've experienced with my husband.

In the 5th grade (I think), I hugged and kissed my best friend Wendy.  We were up in her room.  We had been exchanging notes to one another in school, expressing our love for each other.  We had even written each others' names in hearts on our pee-chees.  Not knowing what "gay" really meant, I was honestly puzzled at the reactions from our classmates....why were they making fun of us?  What was wrong with loving each other?  Neither of us ever regretted that kiss, and it deepened our friendship.

My first strong sexual reaction to a female was around my 13th year.  I was visiting my sister in Kansas.  She introduced me to the other girls attending her branch in Dodge City.  I became close friends with a girl named Susie.  Her birthday was a summer birthday, so she had a sleep over and pool party at her house.  Her parents had a camper that we all slept in that night.  Some of the girls there were "gentiles".  They were talking about sex things and tittering etc.  Somehow, we all got the idea to playact a scenario where a kid walks in on his parents doing the naughty.  We were all laughing at it and making up jokes.  Susie and I were chosen to be the "parents".  I was the dad and she was the mom.  For the game, we had to be naked from the waist up, and in bed together, acting like we were going at it.  We did these things very realisticly, and then acted like dutiful parents, explaining what sex was to a little kid.  After that, the activities turned to something else.  I don't remember what.

The next thing I do remember is that after the lights were out, and everyone was asleep......there I was, on one of the beds with Susie, both of us still topless.  It was a hot summer night and neither of us had breasts yet, so no big deal, right?  I remember clearly how aroused I was, and how much I loved her.  She had fallen asleep, and I woke her when I couldn't stand it anymore.  I asked her if we could do that playacting thing again.  She agreed.  My "wife" and I kissed and moved against one another.  That was all we knew how to do, but I had my first orgasm that night.  I didn't know what an orgasm was then, but I now recognize what happened to me.  We had both apparently been making noises, because we were laughed at by the other girls the next morning.  Rumors about Susie haunted her all that next year in school.

When I went back to Portland, Oregon after that summer and attended 7th grade, I also became the subject of rumors.  No one there knew of the happenings in Kansas, but somehow I guess I must have given off a vibe.  I think perhaps the rumor may have been started by one of my old schoolmates who remembered my public declarations of love for Wendy.  I will probably never know, and I don't care anymore.

When I found out what people were saying about me, I was devastated.  I began to obsessively worry about appearing too affectionate with other women.  For nearly three years after, I wouldn't even kiss my own mother.  Conversely, I began to act "boy crazy".  I chased after boys and fantasized obsessively about getting married someday and having children. I have often wondered if  my pattern of choosing unavailable men started then, because the boys I chased almost never liked me back.

Eventually, after spending most of my 7th grade year being called a lezzie, eating lunch alone, being bullied in the locker room, girls hurrying to put their clothes on ...being laughed at by the LDS kids etc, I couldn't take the pressure anymore.  One night, I got into my mother's medicines.  She never throws anything away, so there are always little bottles around, and she doesn't notice if it's gone.  I purposely overdosed.  I didn't care if I went to Outer Darkness for self-murder.  The next morning, I woke up groggy when my mom roused me for choir practice.  I didn't tell her anything, but got up and went.  I took my survival as a sign that Heavenly Father wanted me to live.  I felt guilty for the sin of trying to kill myself, and decided to  try harder to please my Father in Heaven, so that he would take my pain from me.

I became even more religious than I had been before that...annoyingly so.  I became very homophobic, and in fact actively hated gay people.  I didn't want anyone thinking I was one of THOSE people, so I often accused and mocked others.  I took the focus off of me and transferred onto others.  I have no idea how many people I may have damaged that way.

When I entered the Young Adult world at 18, I finally began getting dates.  One man I dated abruptly ended our relationship, later telling me that he was gay.  I knew he was not a pervert or a bad person, but the same wonderful person I had known all along.  I began to have doubts that the church had all the answers.  I knew my friend better than it did. At the age of 19, and after being dumped by the Mormon man I was obsessed with marrying, I left my parents' home.  I became inactive in the church as I began to see that the world was not a black/white right/wrong reality.  I began to drink and use drugs.  I rebounded from my Mormon man to a non-religious man.  I lost my virginity to him, and married him at the age of 20.  My new husband had an uncle Curt who was gay.  He also was very nice, and I enjoyed getting to know him.

As I began to see how wrong my attitudes towards gays had been, I also began to see those traits in myself.  I was finally able to look back and remember my lesbian experiences as a young girl.  I knew then that I was bisexual and have known it ever since, but I didn't really know what it meant until recently.

I am 35 years old now, married to my second husband for 9 and half years.  Just over the last two months, I have been exploring my sexuality...I have finally felt ready.  Nothing I expected to happen has happened.  When in February I finally opened myself up to discovery, I found that my attraction to men was stronger, as was my attraction to women.  I just thought that I would be learning to accept my lesbian tendencies.  Instead I have also been having to accept my hetero self.  I am learning first and foremost that I am a highly sexually responsive female.  My appetite for affection and intimacy greatly outweighs my husband's.  We are having a bit of a struggle in our marriage right now, as I have stated my need for a more open relationship.  My commitment to my husband isn't any less...I just want to know myself better.

One important thing I have learned is this;  Bisexuality is not a combination of two seperate but equal orientations.  My attraction to males is inseperable from my attraction to females.  I can't compartmentalize.  I can't suppress one without suppressing the other.  I can't express one without expressing the other.  I have just begun an incredible journey.  I interpret this time in my life as an incredible turning point.

Joyce Beach
April 2003
  Oh what a tangled web we weave...