Guest Blogger, Amber Jensen, Free Mom Hugs Oklahoma Chapter Co-Leader.
I’ve never written about my bisexuality. In a world that doesn’t always recognize bisexuality as a normal part of being an authentic, healthy, and complete adult human, my coming-out story is one of hope.
It was the summer of 1995. I was 14 years old and living in Woodward, Oklahoma. I had just (4 months before) moved in with my Momma and Daddy from the abusive situation I grew up in with my birth father. My world was changing so quickly, I felt I couldn’t keep up.
I wanted to be a good kid and earn this gift that life had given me, living with my Momma. My parents valued hard work and earning your keep. So on the first opportunity I had, I applied for a job at the McDonald’s. I was happily surprised when they hired me during the interview. Work was different than I was used to and it was a lot to learn. But I adapted quickly, and became a valued member of the crew. I was exposed to people and situations I had never even considered.
One of the people I worked with, a young woman with brown skin, black hair, a beautiful smile, and an athletic build was the first to take me under her wing. She showed me quicker ways of doing things while still getting it done the right way. During slow times, she and I talked and laughed together. I knew I liked boys, so I thought I must not be gay. I had been taught growing up that being gay was a sin and that it was wrong. But I liked boys, so I thought I must just like her work ethic and her sense of humor, right?
Outside of home, I was about to enter my freshman year of High School. Since 5th Grade, I had played cornet and trumpet and I planned to continue. I usually sat in the first chair of the brass section in the band. I loved music so much. Band camp came around in August. The High School band included all of 9th through 12th grade band students, as well as a select few 8th-graders. I had been one of those 8th-graders the year before, so I already knew a lot of the band members.
In my new, mostly secular life (excluding Sundays, when we went to church), I found that mainstream pop was really good. Sandi Patti, Amy Grant, and Point of Grace were about as edgy as I had been allowed to listen to up to that point. I borrowed CDs from friends and fell in love with the lyrical, sometimes sexualized songs by Mariah Carey. Alanis Morrisette’s self-titled album “Jagged Little Pill” was also a favorite and had just been released. I enjoyed her strong female-focused lyrics too. Up until that point, I hadn’t known any women who were allowed to be outspoken or enjoy their sexuality. But I liked it.
These realizations about myself made me doubt that I was fully straight. In my head, I said I was “mostly straight.” This helped me stay away from describing myself as gay, which I still believed was wrong. This new interest wasn’t just in celebrities, I also liked a few ladies around town. I hated that I had doubts about who I was. I never disclosed this to anyone. How would I even broach the subject in my small town? I would be an outcast, gossiped about, and treated poorly by everyone I knew if I ever said anything. So I just kept quiet and pretended all the girls I liked was admiration because of something they could do, rather than liking them romantically.
In 1996, I was working on an old 1977 Ford Crown Victoria LTD with my daddy. He required his daughters to learn how to fix cars and change tires before he allowed them to get a driver’s license. So in the hours we spent in the garage, we talked a lot. He was asking who I liked or hoped to date, and as I cleaned that carburetor, I accidentally said “Mariah Carey”. I finally admitted to my dad that I liked girls in addition to boys. My dad was a kind, generous, loving man and he evolved with time. But at that time, he told me not to worry and said it’s just a phase and it will pass. Of course he told my momma, so a sense of understanding was there that I was out to my parents, and they still loved me, so I would be ok.
In the summer of 1997, I changed jobs from McDonald’s to the local grocery store called United Supermarkets. After having worked there for a while, the manager trusted me. One slow business day, he asked me to clean out the office. While doing this, I found a Newsweek magazine that was a couple years old. The lady that was working up front by the office saw me looking at it. The cover had a picture of 3 people looking embarrassed, head down, eyes empty and sad.
The headline read, “BISEXUALITY. Not gay. Not straight. A New Sexual Identity Emerges.”
Something clicked for me and I knew this was me. Right then, intruding into my thoughts, the lady working nearby piped up, “I know, sick right? It’s disgusting to be gay, but confused if you’re gay? Sad! Why would anyone say they’re bisexual? Make up your mind and commit to it!”
I played it off, but all the shame inside me roared to my face, making my cheeks flush. I continued working and went home that night to tell my dad that I had been mistaken. “I just think Mariah Carey is beautiful. It must be the fancy cameras and professional magazine makers!” He didn’t seem to notice how hard my heart was pumping blood through my ears or that I was stuttering a little bit.
Years passed, and I made it through high school without ever telling anyone my “dirty” secret. I pushed down the idea that any woman would find me attractive anyway. I graduated high school pretending to be straight – something I regret. I went to college, slept with men, but never found one that I really liked. In my second year of college though, I bumped into an old band buddy that I knew from Honor Band. She was still blonde, still beautiful, and seemed to really like me. We dated exclusively for 8 months. It was so freeing to be with her. We were in a small college town, but it was small enough that we could go to Walmart holding hands and skipping through the store and nobody would think anything other than we were best friends.
Time passed though and I met a man. I loved that he wore an Army uniform. I loved his heart, his kind spirit, and his joie de vivre. Being with him felt safe, healthy, and right. We dated for 13 years before we married in 2013. We had a small ceremony with just our moms and a big wedding on our first anniversary.
In 2016, I became active in politics, even ran for office, and became heavy into activism. Women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights were what drove me forward. I wanted society to change and that meant speaking up for those who couldn’t.
In 2017, at the urging of my activist friends, I finally went to my first Pride festival. Everyone was nonjudgmental. I felt safe. My husband went with me. We drove the 3 hours to OKC and stayed all weekend. That’s when I met Sara Cunningham and got involved with Free Mom Hugs. The idea that people could and would accept me more than I accepted myself blew my mind. I wanted to be involved, and give people the support I couldn’t find in those early years.
It was also at that Pride that I knew I could accept who I am and love myself. I needed to come out as Bisexual and Polyamorous. I spoke with my spouse, and he understood and accepted me for who I am. He understood that I can have love for more than one person and not diminish my love for another. He even served as cameraman for a Pride-themed photoshoot.
Some 22 years after that day in the grocery store office, on July 4th, 2019, I finally came out to my Momma. I sat at her kitchen table and read aloud the letter I had typed out and printed so I wouldn’t lose my nerve. I wasn’t sure if she would be more concerned with the fact that I liked women too, or the fact that I had already had healthy discussions with my spouse and may bring home a girlfriend in addition to him and me.
I worried for no reason. She was fabulous. She normalized it immediately, and said, “I don’t care who you have sex with, I just want you healthy and happy. Just be responsible. But if you’re gonna just sit there, get up and take out the trash, would ya?”
Many people don’t have the support I have. As I turn 40 in a couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about my life and I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, supportive family. I know that many will lose their family over a revelation like mine. That is why my activism and dedication to Free Mom Hugs continues.
If you find yourself coming out and need support, just know that there are moms all over the world that love and accept you for who you are.
And I’m one of them. I’ve been there. You will get through this.