Photo: Catherine Ledner
Bridget Falcon, 32, (right) administrator of programs for Family Service of Greater New Orleans, grew up dating boys but felt a pull toward women that ebbed and flowed. She remembers having fleeting crushes on girls in elementary school. And at the end of high school, while openly going out with a boy, she began seeing a girlfriend. "I enjoyed sex with men," she says, "but there was a lack of emotional intimacy with them, and I had cravings for female connection. Still, I was uncertain about my sexuality, trying to figure it out, which is why I was at first drawn to dykes. I liked their masculinity. When I went out, I wanted to be with someone who, unlike me, was secure in her gayness. There was no mistaking who I was. I'm the girly girl, the one who wears skirts, dresses, and makeup." By the time she was 25, she began to date women exclusively.
In 2004, after earning her master's degree in counseling at Loyola University New Orleans, Falcon met April Villa (left), now 34, who works as a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "April is a beautiful, feminine woman," says Falcon, "yet she's so much like a guy, analytical but not overly introspective, and, just like my dad, she likes to build things and can fix anything." Over the next several years, they supported each other through a series of storms—the literal hurricane, Katrina, and the emotional one that slammed into them as they struggled to come to terms with becoming a couple. "Being different, especially in the South, has never been easy," Falcon says. Villa felt the same way as a civilian working in the military, uncomfortable about freely exposing her gay lifestyle. After they bought a house together, there was friction between them. "Neither of us was really ready to come out as a couple. We hid our relationship from certain friends and from April's colleagues at work. It made both of us feel small, like we weren't proud or committed to each other." At one point last year they put the house up for sale and lived on different floors. But they decided to try to stick it out. In therapy—individually and as a couple—they began to deal with their fears: "Now we can tell each other, 'I'm still really afraid of being public in certain situations, but I can count on you to talk about this without taking it personally,'" says Falcon. "Because in the beginning, we did take it personally, as in you are ashamed of me, you are ashamed of our love. We've really broken the intimacy barrier."
"In this crossroads of ambiguity, we might be able to get something really fascinating happening," playwright Anna Deavere Smith once put it. Jennifer DeClue, a 37-year-old Los Angeles yoga teacher, agrees. "Having more options feels like the most natural thing in the world," says DeClue, who fell for her first girlfriend in her early 20s while living in New York City. After moving to Los Angeles and starting film school, she dated one other woman, but at 27 became involved with a man. They moved in together, and she got pregnant. "I found pleasure with men," she explains, "but I never liked the hierarchy of heterosexual relationships. And after sex, I usually felt empty and almost incidental, as if the man really didn't see me for me, and I could have been anyone. I discovered that my gender and sexuality can be fluid, and that my role changes depending on who I'm with." She broke up with her boyfriend when their daughter, Miles, was 9 months old, and DeClue focused on being a single mother, paying the rent, and pursuing her studies. In the fall of 2007, at a Buddhist gathering, she met Jian Chen, now a 36-year-old graduate student who identifies as a "boi," a place somewhere between butch and transsexual. "I'm interested in androgyny," DeClue says with a playful smile. "I like a masculine exterior and feminine interior."
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