September 23rd, 2012 is Bisexuality Day. We need more visible bisexual role-models and supporters so I’m doing my part!
I dig everyone– dudes, chicks, people whose plumbing traditionally matches their gender, those who don’t match and everywhere in between. Some may call that bisexual, some pansexual and some queer. Whatever label you choose for yourself ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re all in the same boat and should support each other.
It’s hard to be multisexual for many reasons. I knew I wasn’t just attracted to men pretty much from the time I started developing crushes on people in elementary school. I denied it until a few years ago. I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and come to grips with the fact I wasn’t like everyone else. Being non-monosexual is difficult. Many of us feel alone and like we have no one to relate with or look up to.
Here are some of the mental and societal road blocks that kept me from being comfortable with who I was:
1. I thought I had to be either gay or straight and couldn’t be both. I had no bisexual role models growing up (and not many even now). Being a teenager during the 80’s I knew lesbians existed but I didn’t think I knew any of them. They are super manly, right? They hate men, right? That clearly wasn’t me so I couldn’t be a lesbian. I also liked boys. I assumed if I clearly didn’t fit into one bucket (gay), by default I must fit into the other (straight). I had absolutely zero bisexual role models. They simply didn’t exist then— at least I wasn’t aware of any. As a result, I didn’t think bisexuality was an option.
2. If I’m bisexual I should feel absolutely the same about men as I do women. When I hit college I found out bisexual people existed. I tried to put myself in that bucket but assumption #2 stopped me dead in my tracks. When I think of men, I think big and strong. Like many women, I like being made to feel small and protected by a man.
Back in college I still had very stereotypical views of heterosexual relationships (I hadn’t quite deprogrammed from all those Disney fairy tale movies yet). When I thought of women romantically and sexually it was a totally different vibe. A woman couldn’t be my “night in shining armor!”
Women are soft and smell good (I tend to be attracted to femmes). They give me great feelings but certainly not the same as what I experience with men. The emotional dynamic I have with men vs. women is very different. I thought because my feelings and reactions to both sexes weren’t IDENTICAL that I couldn’t be bisexual. A real, genuine bisexual can interchange men and women— they are attracted to both sexes on an exact 50/50 basis, right? I believed my differing emotional/sexual reactions meant I liked one sex more than the other, thus, making me not a TRUE bisexual. Perhaps I was just a curious hetero and would have been “cured” if I had just experienced that “one drunken night in college” and worked it out of my system?
Now, looking back, I realize men and women are different to me and that’s okay (I also later found out gender was a spectrum. That there’s more than just male and female and those genders can apply to any human being no matter what genitals they have. But more on that later.).
Think of it like this: I like cake, ice cream, crab legs and Kuma’s burgers all pretty much equally. Even though they taste very dissimilar and elicit different reactions out of me, I am confident saying I love them all. Same with people– they don’t all have to be the same or make me feel the same for me to enjoy them.
3. When you’re bisexual your gay friends think you’re confused and your straight friends think you’re confused. No one takes you seriously. Once I came to terms with with my sexual orientation, it was disastrous trying to explain it to everyone else! Great. I finally figured out I didn’t have to decide between men and women but everyone else still expected me to make a choice! Lesbians thought I was really on their team, just not strong or confident enough to come out and admit it. Heteros thought I just need to sow my wild oats because I never had “that one night in college.” Both groups also thought I was a simple minded sex maniac who would hump a doorknob if I could. Men weren’t enough for my voracious sexual appetite so I needed to tap into women too! *sigh*
4. People think you are destined to a life of cheating because bisexuals are never sexually satisfied. Back to one of the assumptions in #3: bisexuals are open to both sexes because they are sex fiends! We can’t stay away from ANYONE’S genitals. If I settle down with a guy, I’ll be destined to a life of misery because I’ll always fantasize about all the carpet I’ll never get to munch. If I settle down with a chick, I’ll forever mourn the loss of cock. Is there room here for another heavy sigh?
I don’t understand this rationale. Being attracted to other people does not mean I’m going to fuck them! Straight chicks continue to like dick even after they enter a monogamous relationship. Half the world has a dick. Does that mean she won’t be able to control herself around anyone who has a dick? This logic applied to heterosexuals seems ridiculous but it’s applied to multisexuals all the time.
This sucked for me the most when I was in a relationship with someone who had a jealous streak. Suddenly every human being on the planet, including close, same-sex friends became a threat. What a suck-ass existence that was. No wonder I felt compelled to keep my mouth shut about who I was sexually attracted to.
5. Other multisexuals ask: “What are you exactly? Bisexual? Pansexual? Queer? Why did you choose the wrong label?! I’m offended!” I hate, hate, HATE labels with a passion. I’m not a label. I’m me. Often times I don’t exactly 100% fit the definition of my chosen label. That makes me feel unworthy, like a poseur or like someone who isn’t self-aware. Unfortunately, though, we have to choose labels so others can identify us. Human beings categorize, that’s simply how we operate.
When I first came out, I chose the label bisexual (in all actuality I tried on “heteroflexible” for a while— baby steps! This was a scary thing to do after 35 some odd years of being “straight.”). I started getting questions from others in the multisexual community. “Bisexual? So you are simply attracted to men/males and women/females? You’re reinforcing the stereotype that gender is not a spectrum. Bi means two, male or female. What about all the rest of us that don’t neatly fit into those labels? Thanks a lot, uncaring asshole. Take your bisexual label and shove it.”
Okay, wow! I hadn’t thought about it that way. Sure, I’m attracted to people whose genitals don’t match their traditional gender roles, I’m attracted to people who are genderfluid, etc. Whoops. I didn’t mean to snub them. Bisexual must be a BAD WORD. So then I started identifying as pansexual.
Then I started feeling bad I didn’t identify as queer. That word has some great political affiliations among other things. Would I best be serving my community choosing that label instead? I was label confused! TOO. MANY. LABELS.
I ended up settling on pansexual although I do still sometimes feel conflicted over the label I choose to identify with. The reason I went with pansexual is, for many people in my age group queer simply means gay. I find mainly only people involved in the sex positive community can correctly differentiate between gay and queer. Because so many people still assume it means gay, they go on their merry way never inquiring further. They assume I’m a lesbian and pass up the opportunity to learn something new.
I’m in the public eye. It’s also my job to educate and open minds about sexuality and self-identity. When I use the term pansexual it raises eyebrows. “Pansexual? Does than mean you like to fuck pans!?” (Watch the Laci Green video above for more on that). Publicly identifying as pansexual is a great lead-in to explaining multi-sexuality and raising awareness.
One last note on that point. Watch this video:
To recap: Ritch is saying if you identify as bisexual it doesn’t necessarily mean you are snubbing anyone. Yes, bi means two. But hetero means different and homo means same. It can be argued in this same context that bisexual doesn’t mean you like just males and females or, simply two. It means you are of two orientations— you like people the same as you and people different than you. In other words, you dig people of infinite categories along a spectrum. I really like that definition!
So yep, I’m standing proud and saying I’m a bisexual (or pansexual, queer, multi-sexual, non-monosexual, someone who likes people the same and different than me, whatever you want to call me) woman. If you identify as multi-sexual, I hope you’ll join me. If you don’t identify that way, I hope you’ll stand in alliance with those who do.
I came out in my late 30’s and you know what? My friends still like me, my family is chill, my partner loves me and my life hasn’t changed much. The only thing that has changed is I’m MUCH happier! I can be myself and I no longer feel weird or ashamed of the desires I have.
Hopefully, if you find yourself in the same boat, you are becoming more aware of role models you can easily identify with. Don’t obsess over the label you choose or let it make you feel less than worthy. In the Laci Green video above, she reminds us “we define labels, labels do not define us.” *LIGHT BULB!* Spend less time being preoccupied with labels and simply enjoy your life. Be proud of who you are and who you love.
~ Sunny Megatron
p.s. If you’re in the Chicago area, party with the folks at Center On Halsted for Bisexuality Day on Sunday, September 23rd 2012 .
And then watch this video by Willow Smith. She’s only 11 but damn— GOOSEBUMPS. The message is very fitting.
p.s.s. Please leave some comments. I’m very curious to know how you view various multi-sexual labels. What connotations do they hold for you and which do you think are the best to use? The jury is still out on that one and I still go back and forth with my labels!
I guess heteroflexible is most accurate for me now, though its overly simplified in a lot of ways. I came out as bi at age 14, and I still go back and forth and struggle. My biggest issue if that I feel most at home in queer spaces but I prefer male partners, and I worry people view me as a traitor or not deserving of the queer label (and where I am now, queer mostly means gay. :/) I’m currently working on a research study of bisexual women with a professor and I’m really curious to see what comes out of it.
This is not just about labels, is making people understanding that persons and love are over the gender they are. If most of people need to put labels is because they feel more confortable and safe. Organisation with labels is easier, you are clear were you belong, what to do, what to thing being “bi-pan-queer” whatever is out of any labels. For me, the label are how are the persons, not the gender they are. Thanks for this blog. It helps.
As far as labels go, I would prefer not having one at all, but when explaining it to someone, the easiest way for me is to say bisexual, even though it’s not completely true. like, I’m a guy, in a relationship with a girl. I have liked girls and guys, and find I have a small bias towards guys more, but for different reasons than girls. And I’m perfectly happy with my girlfriend.
Labels aren’t fun, and I’d prefer not to use them at all, but if I must, I choose bisexual because its what most people are familiar. I’m also not as inclined to want sex than most human beings, and I love for love, not for sex. So when explaining to people I say, “I’m bisexual, but in a romantic way, not a sexual way, so think of me as biromantic.”
I like that label and it suits me most. :)
You hit the nail on the head. It is written as I would have written it. I relate to it 100%. Thanks for this post.
Nice article, I shall share it tomorrow!
Regarding labels, I guess I only really accepted myself as ‘bisexual’ in the last year or two. Prior to that, it was more ‘bicurious’ (which I now dislike as a term for its implications; one is not ‘heterocurious’ or ‘homocurious’ just due to lack of experience!) and before that just straight, because I was surrounded by a homophobic atmosphere and was pretty scared of my own feelings. Or met with immature reactions from partner(s).
I’m happy to identify as bi as I feel it suits me personally more than other options. I don’t consider myself pansexual… I do have a preference for guys, but with some feminine characteristics (young-looking, preferably feminists! But more traditionally ‘manly’ in other ways I suppose), and I like femme girls, but also queer – hmm, definitions are difficult.
But that’s the point of opposition to labels isn’t it. It’s very rare to be able to pinpoint an exact ‘type’, I find.
What irritates me about reactions to bisexual are the common things – ‘omg you’re greedy, you have 2x the chance of getting a date’ type crap, the assumption of inevitable infidelity or desire for threesomes, all of that. I feel comfortable enough now to start challenging that sort of rubbish.
Sunny, I really love this article. I think its incredible that you spent so much of your life defining yourself in a certain way and broke out of that and found comfort! Go you!
For me, I feel as though I had never seen the difference between men and women, as far as defining an attraction to them. I knew this from a very young age. I’ve always been slightly socially detached and grew up finding it hard to really understand humanity as a whole. This proved to be a huge benefit in the area of finding sexual comfort.
Because I had a hard time relating to societal norms, I never felt a pressure to associate with one sexuality or another. So I just simple was who I was and I liked boys and girls. I learned when I was about 12 that this was called being bisexual.
I agree with your points on finding different types of attraction to different genders. It did take me awhile to allow myself the room to be attracted to each gender as I was. Early on, I had many more relationships and sexual experiences with women. I found later in life that I was a terrible girlfriend to other women and I just did not have the ability to manage the relationships in the same way as I could with men.
Not until I started mingling within different sexual communities such as the gay, fetish, or professional communities, did I start to feel slightly outcast because of my sexuality.
Its as if no one really takes you seriously. So many people write off bisexuality as one being confused or needing of attention. And unfortunately you find this type of discrimination very much infesting those communities that should be the most understanding!
I really appreciate the continuing acceptance and awareness of bisexuality. I think as all of these battles for gay rights are ironed out, acceptance of bisexuality will follow.
Love this! I do enjoy labels so for now I think multi-sexual is the one I would use to describe you. I am a heterosexual woman but have tons of friends that run across the spectrum. My son came out to me at age ten.
My favorite point above is number 2. I had thought the same as you had thought, that in order to be bisexual you need to like both men and women the same. It makes sense that that wouldn’t be accurate. Thanks for educating me!
I love how you’ve put it, and I share your disdain for labels. When asked “are you bi”, the only answer I can come up with is “that depends on who you ask”.
I’m a cisgendered woman. The hets think that since (in addition to men), I am attracted to and enjoy sex with women, then I am either bi, or I’m gay and deluding myself. But I’ve been told by members of the gay community that I’m essentially “a straight girl who has sex with women”. I suppose that’s because I present as pretty straight everywhere except the bedroom and the dungeon/play space.
Labels are only useful (if they are at all) as possible predictors of future behavior, I guess. I don’t want to contribute to the bi-invisibility issue – I’m happy and satisfied to (as you put it) dig everyone. But how in the world to navigate the semantics when no matter what I say, someone questions my authenticity?
Great article, Sunny, and a topic I’ve thought about a lot.
I’ve faced many of the same questions and felt the confusion. It has been liberating to “come out” both to myself and my friends and family (some of them at least). I’m also happy to have a chance to educate anyone who asks about it.
Specifically essential to me was making the realization that my interests in males and females did not have to be the same. Because they aren’t! The things I look for in women at times are very different from the things I’m attracted to in men… and even that changes based on who that person is and how we relate to each other.
So, I share in your celebration… :)
Beautiful articles, thanks so much.
I dontlike labels either. I can tell you that I have been attracted to men sexually or coursily am. I love women and have a female partner. Am i alone with my sexual desires for the same sex even though I never really acted on them. I would love to try but don’t know hpw or where to find that person.
Thanks so much all of you for being there. I applaud all of you and am happy that you are happy with who you are
Thank you for this article. I’m 39 years old and I’ve known I like both men & women since high school. The problem is, every time I have told a boyfriend his first thought is “woohoo, a 3-some”. They don’t understand that I would like to be with each separately. Then I got married and he wants me to just disavow the side of me that likes women. He’s a little homophobic at times really and very biphobic. He owns a company. He had a bi male employee and he felt that guy was just gay. My attractions differ too. I love to look at femme women. They are lovely to look at. But I’m strongly sexually attracted to butch & soft butch women. I think, in part because I feel I’d never get a femme woman. In men, I like very masculine men. I love facial hair, I like shaved heads. I like guys that have some meat on their bones. Though I like to *look* at traditionally attractive men. I just wish my husband understood that sexuality can be complicated. It’s not all black and white. There are so many shades of gray. I don’t cheat on him btw.