What’s So Bad About Being Bi?

Bisexuality makes people uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. I recently talked with a lesbian who confessed to me that bisexuality made her wary because she’d been hurt in the past by two different lovers, one casual, one serious and long term, who had gone on to date men. In the case of the serious lover, the two women had broken up over things completely unrelated to bisexuality. The former partner’s new, male lover came on the scene well after the two women’s relationship had ended. And yet this woman I was talking to said that the very fact that her ex’s next partner was a man was more painful to her than if her ex had gone on to date another woman.

Why? She couldn’t say. It just did. It made her wary about the idea of dating an openly bisexual woman (for example, me) in the future.

A straight male friend — a “bro” if you will, as that tends to be the dynamic of our relationship: butch dyke (in his eyes) and straight guy buddies, hanging out talking about manly things and scoping hot chicks in the bar (and there is probably a whole ‘nother post on that topic, but I’m not there yet…) — was strongly surprised when I labeled myself bisexual early in our acquaintance. Despite that, he has continued to think of me as lesbian, to call me a lesbian, and to assume I’m only attracted to women; in a recent conversation he was visibly taken aback when I mentioned that Brad Paisley was hot enough to lick.

“But you’re gay!” he exclaimed.

“Bi, remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I guess…”

It’s striking how uncomfortable he seems with the idea.

And then there are all my friends who hate the term. I go back and forth on whether I hate it or not. I usually use the term “queer” for myself, because I like how inclusive it is; how it encompasses both my sexual attractions and identities, and covers my imprecise gender. I wonder if that’s the thing that people find so disturbing about bisexuality: the seeming imprecision. You can’t honestly be attracted to both males and females, it has to be one or the other. Choose!

Then there’s this conundrum: if I’m in favor of, and a member of, a gender other than male or female, then isn’t the term “bisexual” inherently limiting? Well, yes. It is. Which is why I like “queer.” But it’s also convenient shorthand. Bisexual is a term that expresses my personal “in-the-middleness” with respect to sexual orientation in a way that is clear and unambiguous, whereas “queer” leaves open the possibility that I am a 100% lesbian who likes words that begin with Q.

Why is it important that I make my flavor of queerness explicit? That’s a tricky question, but it brings up the aforementioned lesbian who has a problem with bisexuals. She’s certainly not the first or only one I’ve encountered. I feel like coming out to potential female partners is important because it’s a sort of litmus test for me: are you going to have a problem with this essential thing about who I am? And it’s honest. I’m not going to be in a relationship where I have to lie about my sexual orientation. I come out to potential male partners right off the bat for the very same reason.

There’s this prejudice in dyke culture that bi women will dump their girlfriends for men at the first opportunity.  I suppose I can almost understand how knowing your partner likes both your genitals and gender, and the ones you don’t have, could be threatening. I mean, I usually like rocky road ice cream, but sometimes coffee heath bar crunch is what I need. Although I read an interesting article (which I have no link for, alas) about how the prejudice against bi women amongst lesbians is a direct reflection of a patriarchal assumption of male privilege: men are privileged, being heterosexual is privileged, therefore a woman who has the option to choose to sleep with a woman or a man is going to perforce chose the man.

Yeah. Except for that part where actually if I have a preference, it’s for women. I heard about a t-shirt I think I need: it says “Kinsey π”. (For those unfamiliar with the Kinsey Scale, it goes from 0 to 6 and measures degree of homosexuality.) That’s me, 0.141592653589793… more gay than straight.

You know what’s weird? How much I continue to doubt myself on the issue of my own sexual preference. As soon as I say I prefer women, I start thinking about how I like men. But if I think about who I’d like to be in a relationship with, it’s women all the way. Unless I meet just the right guy. And yet even knowing this, and having known this about myself since preadolescence, I still find myself saying, “Come on, Nezu, just choose!” Maybe, I whisper to myself, I’m just a dyke who is close enough to trans to appreciate male sexuality. Or maybe I’m really straight, but my inner rebel wants to claim a queer identity.

Except, that whole, I like both thing? Yeah, that part is true. I like men, I like women, I fantasize about both, I want both, I’m attracted to both. Actually the stereotype of the insatiable bisexual who needs one of each isn’t all that far off the mark for me. Well, except for the insatiable part. Really what I wish I had was an ability to shapeshift and be male or female at will, and a partner with the same ability.

But that doubt, I think that’s the thing. I mean, if I can’t even know my own preference — and why should I have to have a preference? — for myself, then it’s no wonder I’m confusing and threatening to other people. Right?

Or not.

For further discussion: this article, “Fake” Bisexuality and Slut Shaming, covers some additional bisexuality issues in a way I wish I had.

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~ by Nezu on 25 February 2010.

3 Responses to “What’s So Bad About Being Bi?”

  1. My vote? Be yourself… and hold out for someone who loves you honestly, just the way you are. That others are uncomfortable around you? well, that’s really about them, not you. God knows all about your Bi-sexuality, and that it is no barrier to ethical living.

  2. Thank you. I love finding the perfect blog when I’m out wandering. I’ve had to do some soul searching about this issue. I come from the opposite side (I’m more straight than gay) but I’ve decided I’m pansexual and I’m sticking to it. And it’s harder when people want you to choose. I’ve heard it said on both sides of the fence. I think it’s even harder to admit as a dyke that you might like to have a man around sometimes. So I’m going to salute your boldness and willingness to be open about this. And I’ll be back to read more!

    • Welcome, and thank you! I’m delighted to her from a fellow traveler. It’s incredibly empowering to hear the voices of others in the middle, who share the experience. I”ll look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

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