being bisexual isn't the same as being straight or gay, so why does no one talk about how it differs?
Okay, so it’s a lot more fun to act out your sexual orientation in a club at 3am than to sit around talking about it. But if you feel passionate about your personal politics, it’s also important to have your say. And I’ll say this; why don’t we talk...
I think one of the reasons that we don't discuss bisexuality much is that it's a slippery subject. It's easier for us to polarise people into categories of gay or straight, to see things in black and white, to talk about a fixed sexuality that's clear-cut. Bisexuality on the other hand, is more fluid. As Stonewall defines it, being bi usually means, "a changeable sexual and emotional attraction to people, where gender may not be a defining factor". Under such a brilliantly open banner, a whole bunch of people can be classified as bisexual. It could include anyone who's had a drunken hook up with someone of the same gender after a few too many glasses of wine, or anyone who remains open minded. But by virtue of being so inclusive, the boundary of what is and who is bisexual can be blurry, meaning that a lot of people don't perceive bisexuality as a real, life-long sexual disposition in the same way they would heterosexuality or homosexuality.
Does everyone just assume it's a mishmash of straight privilege and gay fun, a "lifestyle choice" for people who don't need their rights defending?
This is how a lot of common misconceptions about bisexual people come about, and boy are there a lot. The first cliché, is that being bi is just a phase, either a step towards becoming gay but a reluctance to admit it, or a brief spell of rebellion. Most popular amongst patronising parents, what this attitude usually boils down to is an inability to accept that someone can legitimately be attracted both men and women. I hear it all the time. I can't tell you how often I get cornered at a party and asked, "So who do you prefer, boys or girls?" Half the time this is annoying, half the time it's someone coming onto you, and pretty much all of the time it's missing the point: I don't have a preference, it changes. One day I might tell you I'm 60/40 towards girls, the next I might tell you I'm feeling quite straight.
Does this make me sound like a "slut"? I've heard the joke that I'm greedy so many times that I've just started to make it myself. Sometimes I think a nicer way to look at it would be that you're just a big old hippy going with the flow, but then of course that can lead to the assumption that you can't commit to anything. For the record, bisexual people do have long-term relationships (and I hope the "breezy" title of this doesn't hint otherwise). One problem I often encounter though, is that the person I'm with will worry that I'll end up with someone of the opposite sex. Gay girls can be quite militant about sexuality and dating a girl who enjoys sex with boys can be hard for some to grasp. "I bet you'll end up married", they say. Boys I date find it hot at first; for a while they joke that they want a threesome but later wonder what a girl can offer that they can't. I can barely imagine what it's like for bisexual boys, who tell me they have a much harder time fitting in within the gay community, or being accepted in a relationship with a girl as a man who also sleeps with other men.
In this sense, there's a contradiction at the heart of being bisexual; you're easygoing enough not to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender, and yet, it can make other people so uptight. It can also be very confusing. On a day-to-day basis it makes me feel quite erratic. Do I want to watch straight or gay porn today? Do I want to go to a straight or gay bar tonight? What should my Tinder settings be?! I can barely decide what I want for dinner most days so deciding what gender I want to be with can present a whole new realm of indecisiveness. It's also weird to look into my future and be unsure about who I'll end up with. Am I doing the whole big gay wedding thing or am I in a conventional hetero family? I genuinely don't know, and sometimes, admittedly, that's a strange thought.
Boys I date find it hot at first; for a while they joke that they want a threesome but later wonder what a girl can offer that they can't. I can barely imagine what it's like for bisexual boys, who tell me they have a much harder time fitting in within the gay community, or being accepted in a relationship with a girl as a man who also sleeps with other men.
But then I remind myself that's all part of the fun; loving someone based on who they are and not their gender opens you up to the wider possibilities of experience. I often joke that I'm bisexual because "beggars can't be choosers", that I'm doubling my chances by giving myself twice as many people to choose from. And in a way, that's true. I'm lucky enough to say I've had amazing (and horrendously awkward) relationships and experiences with girls and boys, although it's the personalities, not the person's gender, that is always the point of difference in each one.
Although I believe that people can be totally gay or totally straight, I'm really glad that I sit somewhere in the middle, and that I'm not missing out on opportunity to be with anyone just because of their anatomy. I'm also glad that I get to go through life experiencing both gay and straight culture. Obviously someone who's straight can go to a gay club, and vice versa, and I wouldn't for a second dismiss a straight person's ability to understand the gay experience. All I'm saying is that, for me, being bisexual is like leading a fun double life; I sit around with my straight girl friends yakking about Girls, with my gay girl friends about The L Word, and with both about Orange Is the New Black. Although I wouldn't "choose" between boys and girls, I would say that culturally I've found more of a sense of community amongst gays. Anywhere I go in the world, I go into a gay bar, and immediately feel at home.
Your sexuality shouldn't define you, but it has partially shaped who I am. Something about a curiosity in my own queer disposition has given me a really deep-seated interest in and love for queer literature, films and history, and being bisexual has also had an impact on my political views. Getting shit from people in the past for being in a same sex relationship has made me feel passionately about gay rights to the point where pride and gay activism is an impulse not an expectation. Being active and outspoken as a bisexual person has opened my eyes to intersectionality and the way that prejudices occur both towards LGBT people and within the LGBT community.
A lot of people - gay or straight - don't take bisexuality seriously, and a big problem with being bisexual is that, if you end up with someone of the opposite sex, you're suddenly labelled "straight", or if you end up with someone of the same sex, you officially become a gay person. Who you end up with doesn't devalue your past experiences, nor does it define your future, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Text Amelia Abraham