On the first Wednesday of the month, we publish a post from a member of our community. In this post, you'll get the pleasure of meeting Bethany Turpin, who first connected with Generous Space a year ago at our Ontario Retreat.
Let’s just get this out in the open: divorce is hard, y’all. It is undoubtedly the most painful experience of my life to date. But I can’t say it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. This new stage of life - singleness as an adult - is presenting new and interesting challenges and aspects of who I am in the world.
You see, last year I came out publicly as bisexual. Gosh, it feels like an eon has passed since then. One of the best decisions of my entire life was to embrace my bisexuality. Highly recommend. Like many people brought up in conservative Christianity, coming out was complicated. My conservative parents and many of my liberal church friends hold non-affirming views on sexuality and gender. Coming out was difficult in a lot of ways, but the most difficult part for me was answering the question, Why does this matter? There are few things that have hurt me more than disclosing something very important and personal to a trusted person only to have them say “Why does this matter?”
Ugh, it still hurts. Why does this matter? Oh, I don't know, maybe because sexuality is part of who I am, and I thought friends and family were interested in knowing who I am? My sexuality is valid. It isn’t a performance for you. It isn't open for debate. I don’t have to play the part of the bisexual person as you have conceived it. It’s an identity; I am what I say I am. No one else gets to decide if I am bisexual enough. It’s not Girl Guides. They don’t give you badges for things like “has slept with more than one gender,” “went to a Pride parade,” or “embodies stereotypes appropriately.”
The truth is, I wasn't bisexual enough for a lot of people. Coming out meant that I swiftly learned my marriage to a cis-man made me “straight-passing.” A lot of queer people were not happy about that, and a lot of straight people were way too happy about that.
Getting divorced has changed the way my sexuality is lived. I’ve never really been single as an adult; the last time I was dating, smart phones didn’t exist and going to meet someone you’d met online was considered extremely risky behaviour. So, there’s that. But there are also other things. When I was last looking for a relationship, I was deeply closeted to myself. Things are very different for me now. I feel like I am entering a very brave new world, almost an alien planet, from the straights-only, monogamous, abstinent-before-marriage, conservative Christian-topia of my youth. This is not 2008, folks.
For example, I’ve been watching & wondering: In what ways do queer people signal their queerness to others? I am almost never in queer spaces, and my signaling consists mostly of Pride Converse (surprisingly comfy! Never gave me a blister), constantly saying “they could be bi!” whenever someone wonders if/assumes that a person is straight or gay, and half-tucked shirts. I can signal my queerness a bit, but how do people signal queerness AND availability to one another without being creepy? I’ve been married for so long I think I’ve forgotten how people do this whole “finding a relationship” thing.
Another new thing is that I am no longer automatically straight-passing. And honestly that takes some getting used to. I am liking it so far. Finally, no one can tell me that my sexuality doesn’t count because of who I’m with. To be clear, I never believed that for a moment, but it’s nice to not have to deal with it any more. It’s nice not to have to deal with people assuming I’m straight because I’m married to a man and deciding whether or not I want to open that can of worms right now over after-church tea. It’s nice to allow myself to wonder what a relationship with a woman or non-binary person could look like, although I’m far from being ready to date anyone. It’s nice to wake up to a part of me that’s been asleep/ smothered for a long time - the part that allows me to be attracted to other people. I’m content to let it wake up slowly and watch curiously from the sidelines the ways in which other people navigate this conundrum. In the meantime, I process my divorce, go to therapy, and generally deal with my shit.
But again, with the risks. My parents are not supportive of my #bisexuallifestyle. We’re on good terms, but I wonder what will happen to us if I date a woman or non-binary person. They haven’t had to do anything about my bisexuality because I haven’t done anything to make it obvious. But there may soon be very tangible evidence of my identity as a queer person that they will not like. If you thought me reading "Queer Virtue" over Christmas vacation was bad... yikes. And I worry what will happen with my friends who are non-affirming. What will my pastor say if I ask him to marry my girlfriend and me? What would happen at my church if I brought my girlfriend? Why am I even going to a church where I have to ask this question? Who would I lose when my sexuality enters the visible realm?
Let’s get one thing crystal clear. I am a lover, but I am also a fighter. I believe in living honestly, unashamedly, and bravely. But I don’t love that I have to be brave and worry and face the very real possibility that friendships and family relationships could end or become distant because of who I am dating. I wish those weren't things I had to deal with. So do all who live to see such times.
Divorce has meant holding a lot of contradicting ideas. I know, I know, being able to hold contradictions is good for me in a take-your-vitamins, develops-character sort of way, but it’s very uncomfortable. I don't love feeling like I'm holding fire in one hand and ice in the other (à la Shoto Todoroki, anyone?). Some new contradictions I am holding these days are the “He’s a jerk/he’s a nice guy” contradiction, the “I am in so much pain/I am so happy and free” anomaly, the “he was mean/I was also mean” paradox, the “I can be my queerest self/I already am my queerest self” discourse, and the freakin’ disaster that is “I want to find another relationship immediately/I really need to be single right now.” I’m not actively seeking new partners; I am still bisexual. I have to face deeply internalized homophobia in new ways that I didn’t have to before; I am still bisexual. I may end up dating just men in the future; I am still bisexual. I may date women all the live long day; I am still bi. Enbys, you beautiful creatures, get ready to kiss dating hello! I'm still bisexual.
Truthfully, I think it’s too early in the game to say, “I’ve been on both sides of the marriage fence.” But I’m getting there. And I can tell you that although my ability to perform my sexuality has changed, and although ending a committed, loving yet ultimately dysfunctional relationship is the most painful, freeing thing, there is something that remains the same: the core of me is the same. I am who I always was.
My sexuality has never been performative. That was true when I couldn’t do things to perform it. Now that I’m in a place to perform my sexuality more, I find that I still need to remember it was never about making sure other people can see me as a bi person. It was never about looking queer, about being enough for other people, about the Pride Converse. Underneath the performance or the non-performance, I'm still beautiful me, just the same as I always was. I'm growing and processing and screaming and crying and struggling forward through the pain and the anger and the joy and the unknown towards something. I don't even know what it is yet, but I believe with all my heart that it is something good.
Bethany Turpin (she/her) vowed she would never use the term “Dog Mom,” but here we are. The love of her life is her puppy, Penny. Beth is moving to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia this summer to live near her family while she figures out what's next and learns to live as a single person after divorce. Currently working on her Doctorate of Musical Arts in voice performance, Beth feels a little embarrassed to find herself a professional student. After this degree is finished she hopes to return to school and become an accessible therapist for artists and LGBTQIA+ folx someday. Beth loves to connect with people. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram @bethanyrturpin, and read more of her soul-baring rants on her blog www.bethanyunravelling.com.