Monday, January 18, 2010

Coming Out in All Directions

Over the past year, my life has turned upside down. A year ago, I was in a 15-year relationship with a woman whom I'd legally married. Soon, we endured an excruciating split-up (the divorce is still in process). During the first 30 years of my life, I'd loved only men. I'd been married for five years to a man, had lived with another for a few years, and had dated numerous guys.

Since my split with the woman I loved for many years, I have returned to dating men. Transitioning into being with a woman was a lovely, exciting (and often apprehensive) time--as is transitioning now in a new direction.

I know I'm not the only woman who has ever experienced coming out of lesbian life into bisexual or straight life. In fact, the book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire by Lisa Diamond makes the case that women's sexuality is more fluid, flexible and multi-directional than not. Another book I've read recently is Jan Clausen's Apples & Oranges, her story of leaving an essentially lesbian separatist world. Another excellent book that addresses gender and sexual fluidity is Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female by Phyllis Burke. It's been a while since I read it, but the book strikes me as a good companion to Diamond's book because it is also research-based, and it makes the case that our insistence on fixed identities is rooted in anxieties, not in lived and felt experience.

And then there are my books. In the midst of my transition into loving men, my novel Complementary Colors was released--the irony being that the novel is about a straight woman who falls in love with a lesbian. And yet is this ironic? Maybe it's portentous because, if you look beyond gender, my novel is about the ways we change. The ways we are more fluid than we think. It's about the twists and turns and surprises in life's journeys.

What I find fascinating is that I was interviewed twice over the course of a year by Gary Shapiro for his radio program "From the Bookshelf." The first interview focused on my first novel, For the May Queen. And in that interview, I talk about my lesbian relationship in connection to my writing. In the second interview, about a year later, I talk about my new life and how it resonates with my writing.

Re-listening to these interviews, I'm struck by how confidently I talk about my long-term relationship in the first interview. I didn't know we were on the edge of a cliff. In the second interview, I'm more tentative. I seem tender, more hesitant--perhaps more open to ambiguity?

I don't have any huge revelations here. I just know that as my life path twists and turns, I want to keep my eyes open. Fully, completely open in awe, wonder and curiousity. Maybe this way I can see clearly whatever appears around the next corner.
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