I’ve written more than 35 books, short stories, and novellas…and this is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to put down.
I’m an intensely private person. Just ask my friends and I’m sure most will admit there are huge gaping holes in their knowledge about me. I tend to play it close to the vest. Almost like a magic trick, you play up the positive to distract from all the secrets.
I feel like I’ve built a life on secrets.
And after 40 years, I look back on that mountain of secrets that I’ve kept to protect myself, protect my career aspirations, protect the feelings of the people I love… and I have regrets. Keeping secrets wasn’t always the easiest or least painful route, but out of fear, it seemed the safest.
After the events of the last couple of years, I’ve come to believe that my truths might have helped people in my small circle. Might have opened eyes. Changed opinions. They might also have caused anger and pain, but that tends to come with real growth and change in life.
For roughly 40 years, I lived as this one person…this one Jocelynn to my friends, family, co-workers, readers, and strangers. I projected this particular image of myself, while burying down all the little bits and pieces that didn’t conform to that image. Sometimes, select people got to see some of the bits, but only one or two got to see the majority of them and never all at once.
So, after 40 years, I find myself standing at this crossroads of sorts. I’m looking at this person I’ve been and I do admire her. She’s been strong and brave. This Jocelynn has accomplished a lot. She’s traveled across the country – sometimes solo – and to other countries. She’s written books, been on TV, talked to readers, been on panels with some of the greatest writers, been on the radio, climbed to what I consider the top of my career path, gotten married, and moved far from the family she loves to try new and amazing things. She’s made amazing friends and had her heart broken. She has lived, but it was always under the weight of these secrets.
These secrets have brought her to the end of her life. Forty years was a good run and I say thank you to that Jocelynn.
But it’s time.
It’s National Coming Out Day. And after a bit of preparation that started many months ago, I’m marking it as my line in the sand. My Day 1 for this new Jocelynn. But it means sharing two truths.
Truth No. 1: I am bisexual.
I’ve told a few friends over the years, but most just see a woman married to a man.
Accepting my attraction to women has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time. When I started noticing women in high school, I heard one thing whispered among the groups. “Bisexuals were sluts.” Or “Lesbians were just kinky sluts.” It was never about being emotionally involved with someone of the same sex. It wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about enjoying being around someone of the same gender in a way that was more than just friendship.
It was just about sex. Period. And it was always said in such a way that it was wrong or shameful.
And the twisted thing was that I had gay male friends and it was fine for them. But for girls, if you liked a girl, you were a slut.
So in my horror and fear — because in my brain, sex wasn’t an option in high school — I blocked out and shoved down all feelings down. Don’t touch. Don’t look. Don’t think about it. Just focus on the guys. That was “safe.” You could talk to guys and date guys and not be labeled a slut.
While that might sound hard or maybe even impossible, I had my second truth to help.
Truth No. 2: I am bipolar.
When I was 12, severe depression kicked in and really didn’t let up so that I could catch my breath until I was about 17. I had a short break before getting slammed down again. When I was in my early 20s, I was formerly diagnosed as being bipolar after my first stay in the hospital.
During high school, I was in almost constant pain. I attempted suicide a few times and thought about it constantly. My grades and writing stories were the main focus of my existence during high school. So, a nearly constant fight with the Black Dog meant that I wasn’t spending too much energy figuring out who I was, who I was attracted to, or why. During that time, my entire identity was pain. I was just trying to stay alive most days.
I spent most of my 20s what I would call “mentally off the rails.” I had a couple more stays in the hospital and a whole shit ton prescription medication. I’ve had doctors look at me in wonder how the hell I was holding down a full-time job. I remember another time when I was sitting in the hospital and my psychiatrist was sitting opposite me. He looked worn and tired. He shook his head and said, “Jocelynn, I’m out of drugs. We have tried them all and they have all failed you.” But he didn’t give up on me. I had a great therapist, and my psychiatrist and I kept trying different medication combinations.
And I was lucky. I might be a driven human being, but I will never question there was an element of luck to my survival.
By my late 20s/early 30s, the disease started to even out and become more manageable. When the constant heavy weight of just trying to survive each day lifted, I started to come back to the other part of me that I’d packed away. Started to finally figure out who I was — something lots of people got the pleasure of doing in their teens and 20s.
My couple tiny interactions with women beyond friendship were a disaster, which proved to me that I just suck when it comes to people, but my brain was at least starting to understand that this wasn’t just a sex or kink thing. This was so much more and I’d missed out.
It took moving to South Florida, to meeting more people who were bi, gay, pan, ace, and trans to start to understand finally that this was normal. That what I feel is okay and normal. That it’s okay to look at a woman and think, “Wow, she’s hot,” the same way that I look at a guy and have the same damn thought and it is okay. That I shouldn’t feel compelled to scold myself for thinking such things about my own gender. That it’s okay to want to touch (with consent of course) and to want to be touched. (Oh and I plan to write an entire book on the concept of touch and what it means, but that’s a story for another day.) That it’s okay to feel things for my own gender after too many years of stomping down on those feelings and thoughts.
But after 40 years of growing up in a more conservative area that I ever realized and working nearly a lifetime in the boys’ club industry of finance, I’m finally reached the point where I can say confidently that this is who I am.
There is a part of me that looks back with a great deal of frustration at missed opportunities and anger that maybe if I had been braver, things could have been different, but looking back doesn’t change now.
And now, I get to be me. Truly, completely me.
Thanks for listening.