David Matteson has served many roles in his life: author, professor, counselor, minister, father, husband and lover. He taught psychology and counseling Governor's State University and holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Alfred University, a graduate degree in theology from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and a Ph.D. in counseling from Boston University.
When he realized his bisexuality in the 1960s and came out to his wife and children, his lifestyle changed drastically. Windy City Times sat down with the local author to discuss his recently released memoir, I Took Both Roads: My Journey as a Bisexual Husband.
Windy City Times: What made you step away from academic writing and take on a memoir?
David Matteson: Well I'd already published some 15 or 20 academic journal research articles on men who have sex with both men and women. I felt that again that was pure journal kind of stuff. If you want people to go through personal change, it's got to reach their gut not just their brains. That's what made me decide to write a personal story.
WCT: How was writing this book different for you than the past writings you've done? Did it teach you anything about yourself?
DM: Yesvery much so. In fact, I'm going to teach a class at the U.U. ( Second Unitarian Universalist ) Church, right in the gay area. The course is going to be called Memoir Writing for Personal Growth.
The whole genre has become very popular, but it's very hard. Print publishing is getting difficult in almost every field, but in the memoir field it's almost impossible unless you're famous. I lucked out and found a small publisher that wanted to take a chance on it, so it is out in print. I love books and I really wanted it out in that form, not just in the eBook form.
And the other thing is that the gay community is a huge span of socioeconomic groups. Those of us that use computers every day can easily get eBooks, but there are a lot of people that don't have that access and I wanted it to be accessible to them as well.
WCT: As a minister, religion has played a big role in your life. How did your spirituality affect your perception of your identity when you first realized you were bisexual?
DM: When I first realized I was bisexual, I already had moved away from the mainstream Protestant churches into very liberal churches. And they were churches of social action. ... So there was this interplay all along that I was moving toward churches that are inclusiveracially inclusive, ones that accept women as fully ordained ministers and so on.
In some ways, I like the word "spirituality" more than "religion." The real issue isn't the terminology; it's whether a group is inclusive or whether it sees itself as the only one with true knowledge and views the rest as inferior.
WCT: You mentioned in the book that when you came out to your family, they had a more difficult time accepting your open, nontraditional marriage than your bisexuality itself. Do you think that society still today only accepts bisexuality if it's within a "traditional" relationship?
DM: Any form of same-sex relationship is an affront to the belief that males should only have sex with females and vice versa. And then there's that crazy stuff about how animals didn't do it. That happens to be quite wrong.
Well, bisexuality on top of that is an affront to the idea of monogamy. Bisexuality is like a double-barreled shotgun to the culture. Within the gay community when I first came out, in those Cleveland bars I would often hear from gay men, "You're really more one way than the other. There's no such thing as equally bi."
Well, to me, it's not even a question of equal. It's like asking me if I like Brahms more than Mahler, who are my two favorite composers. They're incredibly different. When I'm listening to Mahler, I'm not comparing it to Brahms. I don't know which one I like best. The one I'm listening to at the time is the one I like best! People don't understand. You have to hunt for ways to connect it to their own lives. They then can begin to understand.
WCT: You wrote, "Looking back on my life, it's clear that sexuality was not the only area in which I have chosen to take both paths. Many times, instead of deciding between two contrasting elements, I have enjoyed exploring both paths and affirming both." Can you tell us more about how this outlook has played a role in your life?
DM: I basically don't like the idea that we see things as binary all the time. First of all, that whole "two roads" thing is a metaphor. I could've come to a break in the road and it could have gone three ways... [People] forget that if you think in polarities, on a normal curve you're leaving out two-thirds of the people that fall in the middle. ... I've developed a distaste for that kind of simplifying life that then distorts reality so much.