Skirting the Binary, A Crooked Kind of Love
By the time I was in my late thirties, I’d figured out that life had played a cruel joke on me. Based on the way I was wired, I definitively knew that I could never be fulfilled romantically and sexually with one person. Throw on top of the fact that I also knew that I was hopelessly monogamous and I’ve got quite the conundrum.
It took me four committed relationships with men, as well as a few flings in between with women, to come to the conclusion that I was utterly broken in this aspect of my life.
“I prefer sex with women, but only fall in love with men.”
Friends would all look at me quizzically whenever I would drop these words at their feet, which was fairly frequent. I suppose that I was hoping that miraculously, someone would come up with an answer to my impossible inquiry.
“So, you’re bi?” most would inquire.
Then, I’d pause, every single time, when asked that understandable question, and end up shaking my head.
The label of bi-sexual did not feel accurate to me, and I didn’t know why.
None of the labels did. Not straight, not lesbian, nor bi.
Defensively, I might say:
“I don’t need a label. I’m just me.”
What I said, privately, to myself, was:
“I’m broken. I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist.”
Once, a woman I was dating said to me,
“You’re definitely in denial. You’re too good in bed not to be a lesbian.”
It was true that sex with her was hot.
But when we were out of bed, romantic attraction just wasn’t there for me.
There was nothing inside of me that felt like cuddling up on the couch with her or planning a future together.
Those interactions were reserved for the men I fell in love with. And even if sex with them was only “passable” I always ultimately chose love over sex, given that I felt that I had to choose.
The relationships would all last for a while, until a few years in, when the chronic discomfort of “something missing” would once again re-surface, spiraling me into a confused sense of panic and depression as well as a hyper focus on what I considered “wrong” about my current partner.
“That’s just internalized homophobia” one therapist said to me.
“You are looking for perfection. That isn’t realistic. You just need to settle down with “good enough,” a long-married friend stated.
“You must have serious unresolved intimacy issues,” said a massage therapist, while I was on her table, naked.
When I was dating my longest lasting girlfriend, I’d wake up next to her in bed, after a night of incredible sex thinking, “This just doesn’t feel right.”
With my second ex-husband, I attempted to explain the feeling that had always been with me in terms of longing; “When I’m with a man, I long for a woman. When I’m with a woman, I long for a man.”
I do not remember him responding with words; just staring at me with confusion and thinly veiled anger.
I didn’t blame him.
My friend Eleanor, who is part of a large, polyamorous community in Portland, Oregon, suggested that I take both a male and a female lover simultaneously to see if I could solve my dilemma.
“I tried that once,” I admitted.
“What happened?” she inquired.
“It was a disaster all around. And for me, completely unsatisfying. I have a hard enough time staying emotionally current with one person. I have no idea how somebody does it with two or more. It didn’t last long and I ended up with adrenal fatigue.”
So here I am with another dangling piece of the seemingly impossible puzzle:
Prefers sex with women.
Only falls in love with men.
Monogamous by nature.
What an awful Match.com profile that would make, I think to myself.
Then I realize that I couldn’t post under any category that is offered. Women seeking Men / Women seeking women.
An impossible equation.
Then, at forty-nine years old, along comes Cid.
Cid flew to Santa Fe from Portland, Maine to work with me professionally on writing and performing a one-person solo show about his life.
Cid is a musician who started his career as one of Elton John’s back- up singers in the 70’s. As we began to work together, I learned that he had been nominated for two Grammy’s, and had written and recorded several albums, including one about his daughter’s death at the age of eleven, from cancer.
However, the most compelling part of Cid’s story to me, was that Cid, used to be Cindy.
His transition at the age of sixty prompted him to contact me professionally. Cid had been aware of the fact that he experienced himself as a male, since he was four years old, when he requested that his mother call him Bobby rather than Cindy.
Until two years before, for various complex reasons, he had never imagined that living out his life as a man could be possible for him.
When I first saw Cid unclothed, we were about to step into a private hot-tub on a late January evening, two years after our first meeting, in the mountains above Santa Fe. When he took off his robe, I felt both desire and love rush through me in the exact same moment. I was acutely aware of a sensation I’d never experienced in an intimate situation: I felt whole.
The perfection of his body mirrored the perfection of his soul, which I had fallen deeply, completely, in love with. With Cid, there was no lack or longing for “more” or “different,” for the very first time in my life.
Rather, there was and is an overflowing sense of abundance that offered me everything and more than I could have ever desired.
From this new vantage point of seemingly impossible fulfillment, I reflected back on my life, attempting to understand the breadcrumbs.
When I was thirty- three, the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out. Hedwig tells the story of a trans/non-binary person on a quest to find “their other half.”
A few years later, when I was experiencing debilitating panic attacks that flattened me and even arrived with agoraphobia for a spell, watching Hedwig over and over soothed me. Somehow, I deeply identified with this non-binary person searching for their wholeness and looking for their “other half.”
In retrospect, Hedwig was a breadcrumb.
A few years before I met Cid, another client of mine who was also the first person I knew who was openly trans, spoke to me about ancient histories of Two-Spirited people, in Indigenous Tribes, all across the world. Andy told me how Two Spirits, or what we would refer to as non-binary or trans people, were acknowledged as especially gifted and were esteemed as shamans or healers in the tribes.
A well respected queer author was the first to mention to me that there might even be a word for my sexuality in the English language. When I first came out about my relationship with Cid, on Facebook, she gently offered me a term I’d never heard of before, in a comment on my post:
I Google it.
The definition is: One who is attracted primarily to trans and/or non-binary people.
Latin: Skolio: bent, crooked.
I feel an immediate rejection of the prefix and the way it seems to pathologize my essence, the one it’s taken me so long to uncover. It sounds like a disease.
However, I also feel flooded with the relief of identification. There are others like myself. I am not alone in the cosmos.
So, I am one who desires it all; the male and the female, the way these two energies rush up to each other to dance with one another. Masculine and feminine. Hard and soft. That is what I want in my love, my lover.
I think “Maybe that makes me greedy, but why crooked?”
As I continued to seek clarity in my own place in this new-to-me world, I remember the Two Spirits and do more research online. As it turns out, in multiple Indigenous cultures around the globe, not just in the America’s, the tribes lived with up to five, not two, acknowledged genders; male in a male body, female in a female body, male in a female body (trans male), female in a male body (trans female) and non-binary/gender fluid people.
As I look through old photos of Two Spirits and their husbands and wives, I understand that their existence throughout history is the closest thing I can find to representation of my own experience with Cid, though neither of us are Native. We are both descendants of Northern Europeans, ironically, great- grand-children of colonizers who were part of erasing these non- binary tribal narratives.
On January 12th, 2018 on an unusually warm day, in an otherwise freezing winter, Cid and I were married, in lower Manhattan, at City Hall.
Skolio: Bent, crooked.
It was certainly a bent, crooked path to fulfillment.
That notion, I embrace.