“I’m workshopping not getting older until the pandemic’s done,” I declared to my friend over a drink. “We’ve all been robbed of at least two years of our youth with this thing, and I don’t intend on giving them up lightly. Therefore I’m thirty-seven until further notice.”
Of course, I was joking. Like, 80% joking.
You see, I’ve never had a problem owning my age. But I’m hitting the big 4-0 next year. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that age. It’s still young and spry and capable and glorious. But I’m doing some inner processing about hitting the milestone. Not just as an actress working in Hollywood, but as a bi woman, too.
Recently I was browsing around the site and came across Blaize’s great reflection on aging as a queer man, and it got me to thinking. What does aging mean for bi women? Well, full disclaimer: I can only speak for myself and I fully recognize that I have known and unknown privileges that mold my experience and viewpoints.
So, more accurately: What does aging mean for me?
Well, like most important questions, the answer is far from simple.
As far as physically, I’m lucky to be doing well enough so far. Generally, I’m quite healthy. My skincare regimen has tripled in steps in the last five years (sunscreen and retinol are your friends, fam), and I do strive to eat more balanced meals and get my body moving. I’m definitely seeing time march across my face, and that can make me feel self-conscious. Other than my writing work, I am an actor in L.A., and I find myself concerned that my changing face will alter (or, sadly, limit) the amount of roles I’ll be able to go out for. I haven’t decided to get any work done — unlike gay and queer men, I’m lucky enough to not quite feel that push for Botox from fellow queer women in the same way to stay forever young. Maybe I’m lucky, maybe I’m oblivious. I can say, though, that after fifteen years of professional acting that I’ve kind of accumulated a thicker skin about getting plastic surgery done — way before I fully came into my out-and-proud bisexuality. So maybe I had a head start over other fluid women in my community. (That said: it’s your body and do what makes you feel good in it! No judgment from me.)
So more of my reaction to getting older in the queer community has less to do with the loss of social cache with the loss of physical beauty and more to do with both emotional reflection and long-term thinking of standing, and where we’ll be going.
I’m thinking about long-term plans. Not just super unsexy things like retirement savings and Roth IRAs, but long-term care. Will I and others like me have the resources we need when we get past retirement age, both medically and on other fronts? As it stands these days, bisexual-related research gets so little funding it’s obscene. I mean, on a medical front and a grant front, we’re getting less than 1% funding for our specific demographic in the LGBT community — despite the fact that we’re more than half of the population of the LGB collective. Are we going to have the resources we need as our population not only grows but also ages? We deserve that. Everyone deserves compassionate healthcare, served with integrity — but if we’re not getting the funding to even know what we need, how can we expect our community to get served as we start getting up there?
Which brings me to my next point. I’m also getting angrier about some things as I age — particularly about the fact that we have been robbed of a generation of elder queers due to the massive neglect of the AIDS epidemic. People keep forgetting that the AIDS crisis deeply affected and obliterated a whole swath of bi elders, and we are among the first openly out and proud queers that followed them. The more I think about it, the more furious I am at how few of them were lucky enough to survive — and how rare it is now to come across those who lived through it all and can share their histories with us, or any advice they could give.
But as I’ve later learned, the root emotion of anger, since anger is a secondary emotion, is grief. I grieve for these lost opportunities, these lives robbed from us. I mourn not having these people, these living resources of oral history, in my youth. It’s that much less of a chance for us to have stepped into our power, and mourning that is a valid thing.
It’s also deeply sad to think of the relationships and friendships deferred due to bi erasure in my own life. I wasn’t always as loud and obnoxiously myself as I am now — it was only ten years ago that I fully stepped into being unmistakably out. I didn’t get to pull together a group of friends I could freely go dancing with at a gay club or share tips with. I’ve only really gotten a chance to learn how to get a flirt on with my own sex and gender without fear of repercussions well into my thirties. As a friend in a bi support group related: “She told me ‘I got no game.’” Well, of course we’ve got no game if we haven’t been able to practice out in the open until the Obama Administration — let alone marry someone of the same gender and not have it get challenged by some circuit of courts.
Also, dating as an older bi woman is proving to be an odd thing. At its worst, I feel like I’m getting shuffled along from one fetishized category of “young bi woman” to another (“bi MILF”). I never wanted either of those, but man, it’s strange. With the way society values older women, it’s not easy remaining a sexual entity. I’ve still got so much to offer on the dating front! And yet, it often feels like I’m getting shoved towards the exit doors. It’s silly — am I going to get a Viking funeral if I go through them? Sure feels like it.
I know there’s a lot of bitching and moaning there. I fully acknowledge that. But if I’ve learned anything in therapy, it’s that if I feel strongly about a subject, it’s healthier for me to talk through the emotions in order to honor and acknowledge them so I can move through them.
Those complaints, of course, are only one side of my reaction to aging as a bi woman.
There are some wondrous benefits to getting to age as well. For one thing, I’ve had a front-row seat to watching bi representation grow by leaps and bounds in pop culture. And, consequently, it has been a joy to watch the younger generations be out and enjoy being bi much earlier than I ever did. (I envy them that, but I’m so glad they get to feel it and not get suppressed like we did.)
I’m also keenly aware of how deeply lucky I am that I am allowed to grow older while fully out. I know the saying goes that “growing older is a privilege not afforded to everyone,” but that goes doubly so for marginalized groups like ours in the LGBT community. I’m getting to enjoy all the small pleasures of getting older that was taken from the generations before.
Not only that, because we’re not only free of heteronormative pressures but also don’t have our own traditions, I’m free to create my own ones as I carve out the next half of my life. If I have a same-sex wedding (it’ll be a bi wedding no matter what), I don’t have to follow all the traditions of yore (many of which have rather sexist roots and are just not my style). I get to choose when and where I live my life, and where I can retire. I’m also lucky enough that I’ll be able to enjoy some travel while being more out internationally (if we ever get out of this pandemic).
But perhaps more importantly than anything, I get to be the resource I wish I had had when I was younger. I can be the out, bi aunt that my nieces and nephews can come to when they’re questioning their sexuality. I can dole out advice to questioning youth — or be a safe person to come to when they want or need to come out. As a storyteller, I can write the narratives I desperately needed when I was younger but were either out of reach or just considered un-filmable or un-publishable.
What a gift. What a gift all of it is. The anger, the doubt, the chance to build a nest egg, and the ability to transmute that anger and resentment into action — the chance to be an elder who can serve as a resource and a light.
I’m grateful for every damn second of it. Zero percent joking this time.