‘I’m bisexual.’ My husband looked at me. ‘Yeah, I figured.’ I laughed. ‘Was it that obvious?’ He smiled. ‘I could guess.’: Couple realizes their mixed-orientation marriage has given them more ‘love, acceptance, intimacy’ than many couples

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“When my husband and I got married in June of 2014, he thought he was marrying a heterosexual, cisgender woman.

And I thought that, too. Or at least, that’s what I had convinced myself I was.

Courtney Jean Photography

I grew up in the cultish atmosphere of Evangelical Fundamentalism, in a small church that followed the teachings of now-disgraced leader Bill Gothard. Teachings that pushed strict gender roles, purity culture, complementarianism: women are women and are feminine (submissive), men are men and are masculine (dominant); women and men only marry each other and have no sexuality outside of heterosexual marriage. Anything outside of those boundaries was shameful, taboo, ‘an abomination.’

Though my parents were less strict and allowed me to be a tomboy at home, the church spoke for God, and it was God who I aimed to please. So I suppressed everything in me that told me I was uncomfortable with the gender I’d been assigned, and any attraction I had to anyone who wasn’t a cisgender, heterosexual male.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

Eventually, though, life happened. Through the years, I began to deconstruct my faith in difficult and beautiful ways, and by two years into marriage with my husband (who was also raised in Evangelical Fundamentalist culture), I was finally able to begin to name who I’d always been.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

One night when my husband and I were settling into bed, I said the thing that had been on my mind a lot since the anniversary of the PULSE nightclub shooting:

‘I think I’m bisexual.’

He looked at me, then looked at the ceiling, then back at me, ‘Yeah, I kind of figured.’

I laughed. ‘Was it that obvious?’

He smiled. ‘Not obvious, but I could guess.’

I asked him if that was ok, if it bothered him. He said no, but wondered what it meant for our marriage: was I discontent, did I regret marrying a man, or committing to a monogamous relationship before truly realizing my identity? I assured him that I had no regrets, and he assured me that he loved and accepted all of me.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

Another year passed, and as I continued to explore my identity, I figured out that the term ‘pansexual’ more closely fit me, and my partner continued to support me.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

A fond memory I have of him showing his acceptance of my sexuality shortly after I came out to him was one evening when we were trying to decide what to have for dinner.

‘We could do burgers, or pizza,’ he said, looking in the fridge.

‘I could go either way,’ I shrugged.

‘I know,’ he raised his eyebrows. ‘But what do you want for dinner?’

The transparency of me sharing my identity with him brought us closer together than ever, and gave me the courage to continue naming things within myself.

Courtesy of Elise Huther
Courtesy of Elise Huther

The next time I came out to him, we were in the room of our rental house that we’d made into an office. He’d paused his video game and I’d stopped working on my art project. We were talking about LGBTQIA+ rights, social justice, and politics, as we often do.

‘You know how I told you what a tomboy I was when I was a kid?,’ I asked. He nodded. ‘Well, there were times when I really, truly wanted to be a boy. I’ve never been fully comfortable with being a ‘girl’ or a ‘woman.’ I’ve always felt out of place for that, like the wrong shape.’

‘But you love sparkles and dresses and things like that,’ he said, more of a question than a statement.

‘Yeah.’ I replied. ‘I don’t think I feel like a man, either. Have you heard of being non-binary?’

He had questions. I had questions. Gender identity is a complex thing, confused all the more by society’s pigeonholing of what is ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine.’ We had several more conversations over the months about what this meant and how to understand it.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

During one of the early ones, I asked him, ‘Is this weirding you out? I don’t want to freak you out.’ In that moment, I had a streak of fear that perhaps us discovering the truth of my gender identity would be a game-changer for him; that being pansexual was ok but learning that he wasn’t actually married to a cisgender woman might just be too much.

‘No!,’ he said. ‘I’m just trying to understand. But just because I don’t really understand what it feels like for you doesn’t mean I don’t believe you or it weirds me out.’

‘You’re not regretting being married to me?’

‘Of course not.’ He smiled. ‘I married you for who you are, and this doesn’t change that. You’re still you, and I still want to be with you.’

I smiled and kissed him.

A few months later, I ordered my first chest binder. A vest, and slacks. I was putting together an outfit for a party at one of the few queer-friendly spaces I knew of, excited to show up as a version of myself I’d rarely gotten to embrace.

My husband saw me trying it on in our bedroom.

‘Oh cool, you remembered to leave the bottom button of the vest undone!’ He exclaimed (that was a men’s fashion rule I’d picked up from watching him dress for events in the past).

‘Yeah!’ I smiled, excited by his positive reaction. ‘Can I borrow the tie you wore at our wedding?’

He helped me tie the tie. ‘You look good.’ He said and winked.

That night he helped me buzz my hair.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

It’s been about a year and a half now that I’ve been totally out as pansexual and trans non-binary/genderfluid.

Having a spouse who was willing to accept me and grow with me, even during times when neither of us had firm answers to all the questions yet, has been invaluable to my journey of self-discovery and freedom.

Courtesy of Elise Huther

Our mixed-orientation marriage has given us more opportunities to show one another love, acceptance, and intimacy than many couples might ever have. I’m grateful for those opportunities, and for a partner who honors them so deeply.”

Courtesy of Elise Huther
Courtesy of Elise Huther
Courtesy of Elise Huther
Courtesy of Elise Huther

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elise Huther. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Learn more about Elise’s art on their website and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories of mixed orientation marriages:

‘I married the man of my dreams, created a family, and realized after 9 years we weren’t able to pray the gay away.’

‘I woke up next to my beloved husband with our 3 children across the hall, and realized I am no longer straight.’

‘We both rolled over in bed and said the words. Me: ‘I’m gay.’ Her: ‘I’m transgender.’ Silence. Now what? I’m married. HAPPILY married!’

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