A Bi Awakening in a Red State

by M.A. Dubbs

My first friend was my first crush.
It’s hard to split apart
our female friendship
when you don’t know what is allowed
in the world as a kid.
You just know the feeling
of anticipation and butterflies
before you see them
and don’t understand what it could mean
outside of what’s been prescribed to you.

I understood that I was supposed to
fan girl at boy bands and litter my room
with tasteless posters of some
teenage heart throb
but I couldn’t ignore the excitement
for the lady pop stars on my TV.
How could both Aladdin and
Jasmine awaken something within me?
How could the entire cast of The Mummy
be inexplicably so attractive
and stir the beginnings of puberty?

I didn’t have many answers
outside of the previews from shows
like Will and Grace or the whisperings
from the lone out gay kid in our grade.
In college I do remember
learning about the Kinsey scale:
something surprisingly queer
coming out of southern Indiana.
It made me open my eyes
about something surprisingly
not straight about me.

I also remember coming out
to an old friend on a late cool night
in the dorm commons,
as we stumbled through words
to share who we are,
breaking free from fear
instilled from the religion
of our parents and the shame
that comes with it.
We hugged to bind our secret
to the Midwestern spring night
and prayed the dark kept our secret
until we could come to the light ourselves.

Like any true American, I came out to my mom
in a rainy Walmart parking lot
as she asked me why I went to Pride
and didn’t I know that it’s a gay parade?
I gripped my steering wheel
in a brace of release:
from Catholicism,
from all religion,
from fear,

Mom, I’m bi.

In June I will fly my pride flag,
one of just a few in my neighborhood
and not even a block
from the Catholic church I was raised
and confirmed in.
While they huddle in the basement
trying to save one another
from the sin of “sexual confusion”
I will do one small act of rebellion,
of compassion.

Maybe some other kid
with their first crush
on their first friend
will see that rainbow on my house
and a few more
and understand that they are not alone.
Perhaps they will have a few more answers
and a few less battles
as they begin to awaken
in this state we call home.

©M.A. Dubbs, 2023