"Bean": I am a female artist in my mid-20s, who grew up in the conservative west. [...] I am a bisexual, or perhaps more accurately, a lesbian with some heterosexual tendencies. I am a woman with a fair balance of masculine and feminine tendencies; some days I’m very feminine, other days I’m just one of the guys.
[...] I had a fairly unique upbringing. There were aspects of my childhood that were typical of most, but the biggest difference was that I was a secret for the larger portion of my childhood. This had several effects on my life. I was the result of an affair my father had with my mother (he was cheating on the mother of my sister, and one of my brothers). Rather than come clean, my father and mother both decided that the best solution at the time was to raise me in secret and separately from my siblings. He would come to see me now and then, but only under certain circumstances. No one from the family even knew of my existence until I was about 10-12 years old, but I knew about them from a very young age. It’s one thing having secrets. It’s a completely different ballgame to be a secret yourself. [...]
"Tortilla": Bean is my half-sister, but I don’t call her that. I call her my sister. Half is good enough to be full! [...] I am ten years older than Bean. I actually went to law school, so it’s ironic to me to be a lawyer who is breaking the law with her relationship. [...] I am not married, but I am in a nine-year long relationship with my boyfriend in addition to my newer relationship with my sister. My boyfriend and I never planned to marry, and marriage has always been something that is not important for me personally. But I think people who are consenting adults who love each other should be able to declare their family unit legally.
[...] I am bisexual, and have realized that since high school, although I have memories going back to kindergarten of being attracted to girls in addition to boys. I believe more in spectrum sexuality than categorical sexuality, and my sense is that most people are somewhere in the middle rather than exactly at either end of the spectrum. [...] I also see the masculine and feminine as a spectrum, and I’d put myself somewhere in the middle of that spectrum as well. [...] I definitely consider myself a woman, but I often identify with gender norms of men more often than women. As for relationship orientation, I consider myself monogamous as my natural inclination. However, I cannot avoid the reality that I have two partners: my boyfriend and my sister. So I am acting in a polyamorous relationship, although I identify as monogamous.
[...] [W]hen Bean turned 18 or 19, I started to think more about her and wondered about where she was in life and what she was like. I decided to write her a letter letting her know that I wanted to get to know my sister, and that there were no personal hard feelings against her for what our dad had done. I invited her to reach out when she felt ready to do so. [...]
"Bean": About a year and a half passed, and I finally was prompted that I needed to respond to her letter. I sent a reply, then also sent an email to an address that she gave with her letter, to let her know that I’d sent one back. [...] I didn’t expect a response, but to my surprise, she wrote back less than two hours later. And to my even greater surprise, she happened to be visiting town that very week. It was very surreal. We made a time to meet up at the end of the week for lunch, which turned into a whole day event. We both connected so fast and so intensely from the moment we saw each other, we didn’t want to let each other go. It was honestly one of the best days of my life. I was just so thrilled to have my sister, and that she was so wonderful and so like me in ways I never anticipated.
[...] I loved everything about her: she was so smart and witty, she understood and mirrored my humor in ways that no one else ever had, she was beautiful and suave, kind, understanding, non-judgmental of me, caring, invested. Everything I could ever possibly want in a sister, in a best friend, and in a lover, I began to slowly realize. [...] It was this trust and intimacy; combined with the years of longing to belong with her, and the recognition of our souls with each other, that gradually turned into feelings more than sisters.
About three months into our relationship, I came to visit her for a month. The beginning of the visit was still fairly “normal”, although both of our feelings had risen in intensity on either side. About a week in, though, it had become pretty apparent to both of us that the other had the same feelings. But we were both still afraid and too ashamed to say them.
We had gone on a walk to the park one particular night. We sat on the swings together and both talked and enjoyed the silences. But there was a weighted feeling between us, of words that weren’t being said. As we sat on the swings, we watched a shooting star fall across the sky. Both of us made a wish to ourselves. I’d come to find out later, that she had wished to not do anything to ruin the relationship we were building; that she would have enough self-control to not kiss me. I had simply wished to be with her forever.
She had been staying with me in my room during my visit, so we could stay up later and talk until we fell asleep, using every possible second we could to be together. It was normal by this point for us to cuddle and be otherwise physically affectionate, but only just on this side of the line between sisterly affection and romantic touch. But this night was filled with a lot of emotional tension, and we both could see where it was going. I loved being next to her, smelling her and feeling her so close beside me. I began to tickle her skin and rub her back, like I had done nights previously. But this time, she whispered, “What do you want from me?” I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what I wanted. But I was too scared to say it first. I encouraged her to say what was on her mind. Reluctantly, she finally confessed that she had those feelings for me.
I was both thrilled inside that I was not alone in my feelings, but also terrified because I had no idea what to do from there. I was afraid of my feelings. She leaned in and kissed me, and at first I was motionless, paralyzed between choices. Then I slowly returned the kiss, but Tortilla had already felt like I’d rejected her and rolled away from me and began to cry. I reached for her and held her close and whispered I was so sorry; I didn’t want to hurt her.
The next night we lay there just as before, and eventually she turned to me again, and we kissed - slowly at first, and then with more intent. We ended up making love for the first time that night. It’s still so memorable to me. I held her close and ran my fingers through her hair, whispering softly to her, smelling her sweet scent and just feeling so close and so much love. It was beautiful. I had never before felt so connected in every possible way to someone. It’s really not something you can describe. You have to experience it to know what it means to really love someone in this way. [...]
"Tortilla": Now the fact that our relationship began as an affair kept secret from my boyfriend for several months is a separate matter. In that sense, what we did was morally wrong. I owed my boyfriend the right to know about it and have a say in whether he found the situation acceptable. I betrayed his trust in acting before talking about it with him. But at the time I also felt like I was so driven that I couldn’t not be sexual, and so unable to talk about such a taboo thing with someone who I did desire to maintain my long-term relationship with. When we did ultimately come clean to him, together, it was somewhat surprising to learn that he was not at all shocked or repelled by the incest aspect. He was terribly hurt by the secret aspect, and it took a long time to work through that. And also to come to terms with the concept of transitioning from a monogamous relationship to a family unit that included some polyamorous overtones. He has actually adjusted extremely well and is absolutely supportive of mine and Bean’s relationship.
[...] We are three roles actually: sister, best friend, and lover/partner in all things. It’s not that those things are necessarily distinct, but there are different aspects to our relationship that are fed by each of those relational elements, and we would not have as complete and fulfilling a relationship were it not for all three facets. I tried to remove the romantic aspect at one point, breaking things off with Bean, and it was a terribly hard time. I realized and learned the hard way that we can’t excise part of who we are to each other. We just are those things. Luckily, she agreed to take me back and leave her new girlfriend behind for me.
[...] We have people who are in the know, and people who are on deck to know, and people who maybe never will know. Boyfriend was the first to know, of course. And in the beginning I think we felt that we’d have to keep it secret. But there is a huge burden to being secretive. This is something Bean knows firsthand, because her existence was secret in the beginning, and she lived with the stress and burden of that for a long time. It made her question her reality, her actual existence in a way. Can you imagine that? Questioning whether you are real because of how others are allowed to know you? This is why a closeted existence is something no one should have to put up with.
But we recognize that it is simply not safe to be completely open. I have told one of my close friends, who is completely supportive and nonjudgmental; not even shocked in the least. Bean has told a handful of her friends, some of whom I would consider friends myself. It is nice to be able to be around those people and completely be ourselves. Boyfriend has some polyamorous friends in our hometown who have also been let in on the secret, and they don’t care in the least. So far no one that we have told has reacted negatively, although I imagine we can’t bat 1000 forever.
There are maybe a few more people that she could tell than me because her background is to be surrounded by more bohemian type people who tend to be very open and nontraditional. I have a lot of professional concerns to protect against. My professional reputation could be irrevocably damaged if people were to find out about my true relationship life, even though we are loving and cause no one harm. It’s a reality. So I am being more selective about who I will tell so far. I have a few people in mind, but telling is hard when you love someone and want them to keep loving you and fear they may not. I don’t think we plan to tell any family members, although there are some who may be able to accept it. [...]
"Bean": It does hurt me when I am not able to fully express my relationship with my sister to others. [...] It’s especially hard when I can see that she and her boyfriend, just by nature of being an unrelated female and male, can act any way they want to with each other in public. They can be as open or as closed as they please. That freedom is something I desperately want to have. And when we are with family or unknowing friends, that is also very tough. They are automatically “paired off” with each other, and I feel like the dorky tag-along little sister who others think can never quite get her life together. It’s a tough situation to be in sometimes, and sometimes the jealousy is really hard to deal with. But it’s a sacrifice I make, because having what we have together is so much better than what we’d have without each other.
[...] I think it’s completely ridiculous that anyone thinks they have the right to tell consenting adults whom they can and cannot love. Who you love is no one’s right but your own. I would think members of the LGBT community would be especially understanding of this, but surprisingly, that’s not always the case. I would say, don’t judge something that you don’t understand and have never experienced. Don’t infringe on other’s right to love in a consenting, safe way. It doesn’t affect you, and it doesn’t concern you. Love is love. As long as it’s safe, healthy, and consensual, it shouldn’t matter who it is or how it happened.
[...] I’d marry her yesterday. In all seriousness, Tortilla is my soulmate. She is my partner in all things. I want to be her wife. My wish on that star? Still holds true. I just want to be with her forever.