“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way and not necessarily to the same degree.” Robyn Ochs
I’m deviating slightly from my usual book theme today, and talking about something that is very close to my heart: bisexuality.
A couple of months ago, I came out to my family, because my relationship (with a woman) ended, and my need for comfort far exceeded my fear. My family, as I expected and knew deep down they would be, were wonderful about it. This was in no way a surprise, because my family is wonderful, as I had told myself a thousand times, but my anxiety about it always drowned out rationality.
My anxiety wasn’t unfounded. I’ve heard stories of people who have come out and had it go differently from how they expected. It’s exhausting, the same reactions that always come up, that we should pick a side, that we’re greedy, not gay enough, unfaithful, untrustworthy, indecisive, confused, doing it for attention, are always up for threesomes, don’t like labels, are experimenting… and, my particular favourite: on the way to gay. When diver Tom Daley came out as bisexual a couple of years again, he was erased over and over by the media and by people in my life (the amount of “what a waste” facebook posts – along with all the “I always knew!” [no, you didn’t] – made me feel queasy) who labelled him as gay. And of course, when he later came out as gay, many people then used him as “proof” that bisexual people are just on the way to gay.
It doesn’t make for a welcoming world, to have a major part of yourself invalidated. For me, it meant that, for a long time, I suppressed my sexuality and my feelings: I’m attracted to boys, so I must be straight, because I can’t like both, can I? Besides, the attraction I feel towards different genders is different, so only the “normal” (heterosexual) kind is valid, right? I know, from talking to other bisexual people, that I am far from the only one to have struggled with that.
And it was
bi by no means only straight people that have made me feel this way. I first mentioned it aged 17, to a friend who was already out as a lesbian, but while she was vaguely supportive at the time, she never mentioned it again. I told someone else, a gay man, who insisted on asking me whether I was “in a boy phase or a girl phase tonight” whenever we went out, because he couldn’t compute that it’s not like a tap. Another friend went on to assume that every meaningful friendship I had was because I was attracted to the other person. I heard so much bierasure and biphobia within the LGBT (mostly the LG parts) community – into which I have been dipping my toes since I was 18 or so, floating around the edge, observing – that I couldn’t imagine being welcomed by those people. That prejudice is widespread and alienating. It was only as I grew more confident in myself that I was brave enough to get a bit more involved, and found a space for myself. I found people who talk about sexuality outside of the binary terms that I have come to expect. I found people who accept me. I found people who referred to the fight for Marriage Equality, not Gay Marriage, which resonates with me because, no matter who I marry, it will not be a gay marriage. I found a community and I found acceptance.
I am leaning towards preferring the term “queer”, but that only really works within queer circles anyways, and still people want to put me in a box. I sometimes refer to myself as gay, because it is a handy umbrella term. I very occasionally refer to myself as lesbian, but it’s usually to fit in with a reference, and only privately. So I am, for the most part, sticking with bisexual.
I know this for certain: I am not confused, I am not greedy, I am not unfaithful, and my identity doesn’t depend on the person I’m dating. Even if I never have a relationship with a man, I will be bisexual until I identify otherwise. And even if I never date another woman, I will still never, ever be straight.
If you have questions, I recommend checking out autostraddle.com