Ask Love(r) – The Bisexuality Basics

It is time again for Ask Love(r), wherein some brave soul pitches me a question/request for a blog post. Without further ado, this week’s request…

“I would love to hear your take on bisexuality, how people meet bi people, etc.”

 A short, sweet, simple question that inspired a long, detailed post! Bisexuality, or any orientation outside of the perceived monosexuality norm, is not a simple subject to unpack. This is primarily due to the issue that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding bisexuality, not to mention straight up misinformation. So what does it mean to be bisexual? On the surface, it would seem to be no more complicated than an individual who is sexually attracted to both the male and female sex. But when it comes to human sexuality things are never that simple.

First off, the term bisexuality assumes that there are only two sexes/genders that a person can be attracted to: men and women. What about individuals who are trans, inter-sex, or do not fit inside either of the sex/gender options given to us by society? Furthermore, the term bisexuality covers a person’s sexual orientation, but what about their romantic orientation? A person can be bisexual and bi-amorous (sexually attracted to, and romantically interested in, both sexes), but there are many people who feel sexual attraction to both sexes and romantic interest in only the same or the opposite sex (homoamorous and heteramorous respectively). Some people might even believe that they do not technically qualify as bisexual, because they do not have equal sexual attraction to both men and women, as well as a desire to build significant, intimate and/or committed relationships with both sexes. This just isn’t the case. There are no quotas or qualifications one must meet to be bisexual. All that matters is identifying that inner truth of what one’s own desires and needs are, whatever combination they may take. So you see, what seems like a fairly straightforward topic is actually teeming with nuances. This folks, is one of the many reasons why I love human sexuality – it’s resists simplicity.

Before I discovered that I was pansexual I identified as bisexual.  Which just goes to show the more you know *queue music* the better you can understand yourself!

THE MORE YOU KNOW!

But for a long time before that I did not even recognize that I was bisexual. I consciously or unconsciously chose not to acknowledge it. I was young, naive and insecure. It did not occur to me that my attraction to other women (sexually and romantically) was significant and not just some fluke I could ignore on my quest to appear and feel “normal”. Fake it till you make it. Fake it till people think you’re totally hetero-normative. Yeah, take it from me, faking it doesn’t work.

It is a sad state of affairs that in 2015 misunderstandings about bisexuality still run so deep some people don’t even believe bi/pansexuals are real. These people are what we like to call “mono-sexists”, those who believe someone can only truly be attracted to one sex/gender. In the mind of a mono-sexist you’re either straight or you’re gay and anyone who claims they are somewhere in between must be lying to themselves, stuck with one foot in the closet, going through a phase of rebellious experimentation that will eventually end, or so on. These are all dismissive and hurtful beliefs that contribute to the hostility that bi/pansexuals are met with in straight and gay communities alike. If you’d like to learn even more about monosexism and how to confront it, I highly recommend reading this piece by Erin Tatum.

“Our identity belongs to us. We are not confused, we are not bored, and we are not desperate.We’re proud of who we are, and no amount of petty judgment or stereotypes can take that away from us.“ – Erin Tatum, “Monosexism: Battling the Biases of Bi/Panphobia”

There are a few reasons for this disbelief in bisexuality. Some of it might have to do with gays and lesbians who came out as bisexual before coming out as homosexual, contributing to the idea that a bisexual is just someone transitioning out of the closet. While, yes, this might have been the trajectory for some people, it does not prove that all bi/pansexuals are just closeted. I think this myth will die out on it’s own as our society becomes less and less homophobic and more people feel safe to be true to themselves in the first place. A lot of the disbelief probably has to do with the fact that human sexuality is actually much more fluid and fluctuating than most people acknowledge. However, the biggest contributing factor is how few bi/pansexual people are out publicly about their identity. Many live their lives in a state of presumed hetero/homo-sexuality and thus they may never feel the pressure to come out about their true sexual orientation the way a homosexual person does. You might think you don’t know any bisexual people, but trust me on this, you do, you just don’t know that you do, because they aren’t out and open about it. Some studies suggest that 5.9% of men and 12.9% of women report being attracted to both sexes, with reason to believe that the actual number of bisexual people is much higher due to under-reporting. I know for myself, even after I became comfortable with my own sexuality I still passed as “straight” for many years to the majority of people in my life. This was mostly because, while I was with an opposite sex partner why would anyone think differently? I know that if more bi/pansexuals were out, open and proud of their identity as much as straights or gays often are, it would do a lot to help visibility and squash these hurtful myths.

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You could try talking to me instead…

There are even more specific problems bisexuals face, depending on if they are a man or a woman. Many bisexual men have to face hostility, assumptions about them actually being a closeted gay man, they encounter a lot of homophobia, and often face a great deal of misogyny too if they are perceived as “feminine”. Bisexual women may face less hostility, but still face the problem of fetishization, slut shaming, the myth of the overly promiscuous bisexual, and/or the condescending belief that they are just “going through a phase” or “looking for attention”. These problems, like so many, come down to patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, sex-negative bullshit, etc, etc, etc…

But what do you do about being bisexual? Here I just told you all these issues surrounding bisexuality, issues with even the word itself, but what does one do once they have actually accepted their own bisexuality? Get comfortable with it and have some fun! Also, if it’s not a great risk to do so, please come out to people you trust for visibility sake. Like I stated above, so many people identify this way, are outside of the monosexual “norm”, and you probably know a few, you just don’t know that you know them. So if you want to meet other bi/pansexual people, I suggest putting yourself out there! Look on bi/pansexual-friendly dating sites like OkCupid, make a profile on fetlife, or try just being out and flirtatious with people and see who responds. It really isn’t very different from the way straight or gay people go about dating or hooking up, there’s just more options available for potential partners. But that doesn’t mean bi/pansexuals are indiscriminate. You can, and should, be as picky as you want to be. If you’d like some solid advice about bisexual dating I recommend reading this piece by Abi Brown. Even though it was written with bisexual women dating other women in mind, I think most of the advice is relevant regardless of sex/gender.  

So there you have it, all your bisexuality basics! I look forward to more of your fun questions in the future.

Lovingly yours,

Clara


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