Shannon: The subtitle identifies you as a lesbian but throughout the book, there is compelling evidence that you are bisexual and have been all of your life. Do you really consider yourself a lesbian?
Elena: No. In the end, I prefer no label. I dated boys in high school and repressed attraction to women. In college, I dated women and assumed that I was a lesbian. I was adopted into the lesbian community and had a girlfriend. I didn’t really identify with the term “bisexuality” at the time.
When I found myself attracted to men again, the question of identity comes up again. I identify towards the concept of sexual fluidity which is more about we are constantly evolving creatures with evolving desires and needs. Even though a woman might be married for 25 years to a man and then she falls in love with a woman, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she was always a repressed lesbian and now she’s finally coming out. What does it mean to be a lesbian?
I think that it makes it difficult for women who are not fluid and really are gay and always fighting the myth that you aren’t gay, you just need to find the right guy. It can hurt them when someone comes along calling themselves a lesbian and writes a book that reinforces the concept that all she needed to do was find the right man. I think that’s the frustration.
That was my biggest fear in writing this book all along from beginning to end. Honestly, I discussed this with my publisher. I was going in circles like, “I don’t want it to come across as I just needed to find the right man.” And she was like, “No. It’s about sexual fluidity and if anyone can tell a whole story, it’s you.”
This concern is not a surprise to me. In fact, when we came up with the subtitle with the publisher, I had three weeks of sleepless nights over it because I was just terrified that people would read the subtitle and be like, “Oh great!” I really stand behind my feelings on the topic and what I tried to express in the book is that what I’m doing is following what’s true for me.
I have friends who feel that they were born gay and will always be gay. That’s just not my story. What I hope this book does is open this topic for these kinds of questions. I’m interested in the responses that I’m getting from heterosexual women. What I try to do in the book is question these heterosexual dating norms that are destructive like my straight friend saying, “If you’re dating men, you just have to lower your standards.”
Of all the feedback I’ve gotten so far, my favorites are from straight women who said that the book made them wish that they were lesbian. They always feel like they need to lose weight even if they’re perfectly in shape and gorgeous and here I am, talking about the lesbian community who love each other as we are.
What do you want for people who read the book to come away with?
I’m hoping to make people laugh. I hope that people would ask questions and that it would create discussions… especially in heterosexual circles where they would otherwise never be talking about this topic.
Top photo: Elena Azzoni dated women for years, then was surprised to find herself attracted to a man. Her new memoir explores what happened next. (by Theo and Juliet)