It seems like I was the last to know I’m bisexual. When I was a junior in college, I took a creative non-fiction class, and was moved by a personal essay that one of the women in my class shared with the group. Shortly afterward, I wrote a love poem about her that I submitted to a poetry contest. While the poem never got published and never won an award, I did make the adorable rookie mistake of sending it to her to read. (Luckily for me, she was extremely gracious about it, and we’re still occasionally in touch to this day.)
This was the impetus for me finally beginning to understand my sexuality. I told my best guy friend about it, and he bluntly informed me that I might — like amnesia-stricken Willow Rosenberg in the season six episode “Tabula Rasa” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — be “kinda gay.” Still, I wasn’t ready to come out. When I finally did, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone in my life, and the reactions I got ranged from, “Okay, cool, wanna get pizza?” to “… Is this supposed to be news to me?”
One of my fondest memories is my dad knowing that I was bi before I did. On a road trip to visit relatives, as I bemoaned the latest tragic end of a relationship with some guy whose name I now, blessedly, don’t remember, my dad offered these words of comfort: “Janis, I have no doubt that you’re going to find a man who sees you and loves for who you are.” Then he paused, looked at me askance, and innocently added, “Or a woman.”
I was shook.
Fast-forward a little over half a decade, and I love being bisexual. It feels like home to me. Over the course of my twenties, I’ve experienced any and every iteration of gender dynamics in relationships it’s possible to be in. I spent most of my twenties non-monogamously, dating cis men who had partners, dating married femmes, dating strictly monogamous lesbians, not dating at all but bringing all types of folks home from the dance club for sweaty, naked fun. I got my heart broken a dozen times. I learned a lot. And there’s no other way I’d ever want to categorize my sexual identity than as bisexual.
Being bisexual is f*cking awesome. Here’s why:
Bi means what I want it to mean.
Sure, “bi” might mean “two,” but in practice, my bisexuality looks more like pansexuality. As a Spanish speaker, though, the prefix “pan” only ever makes me think of bread. And while I do love bread, in general I don’t wanna get naked with it.
In all seriousness, though, my bisexuality is not about the idea of a gender binary. Bisexuality has a lot of definitions, but my favorite definition is “attracted to people of the same gender as you, and different genders from you.” It is not attached to cis-ness, and it’s not attached to the idea that there are “opposite” genders. To me, though, “bisexual” is a beautiful word that is vastly (in my opinion only!) preferable to “pansexual.” And so, bisexual is how I identify.
We’re in good company.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Daphne Du Maurier
Buffy Summers (in the season eight comics she has sex with a woman and it’s forever my headcanon that from moment on she is bi bi bi, FIGHT ME)
Captain Jack Harkness
Dolores del Rio
Need I say more?
When I choose to unicorn, I enjoy the heck out of it.
Being a “unicorn” (usually defined as the bi girl third party in a hetero couple’s momentary sexual fantasy, ostensibly for the gratification of the cis man in the couple) gets a bad rap in the dating world, and for good reason. Bisexual women’s sexuality is not for the gratification of heteronormative desires, after all. We are our own sexual subjects, containing multitudes, experiencing fantasies that rarely include performing in live pornography for some straight dude who probably couldn’t find the clitoris if it smacked him in the face.
Many of the times I’ve guest-starred for couples, I’ve actually really enjoyed it. When I was dating a married couple, most of our sexcapades were in twosomes: I dated my girlfriend and her husband separately, deeply in love with my girlfriend, while relating to her husband in a more friendly, affectionate, even bro-y way. Sometimes, the three of us would f*ck, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it was because it less about him watching two women have sex than it was about the two people who loved her working together to give her pleasure.
Another time, I dated a dude who was pretty bi-curious in his own right. We created the only OKCupid profile ever dedicated to finding a male unicorn, and brought a guy home. It was my job to facilitate the three-way, a power exchange that was heady to say the least. Somewhat sadly, my presence was there to, as Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg sing, ensure that “it’s not gay if it’s a three-way” — but even if our politics weren’t pure, it was still fun as hell.
My favorite threesome, though, was after a night dancing at Hot Rabbit. I met a woman who was there with her best friend — her best friend, who, until that moment, hadn’t realized she was also “kinda gay.” Seeing her friend dancing and flirting with me made the best friend jealous, and when her friend wanted to come home with me, Green With Envy decided to come, too. The more the the merrier, in my opinion. I’ve never felt more like Shane than I did that night. Probably that’s the memory I’ll experience most potently as my life flashes before my eyes right before I die.
It’s an excellent litmus test for partners of any gender.
Being bisexual is not all hunky-dory, however. It still can be hard to be bisexual, even in 2018. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that being openly bisexual can be a really good litmus test when meeting prospective partners of any gender. If I meet a cis man who seems too interested in the fact that I’m bisexual, it’s a definite red flag for me — a sign that he probably isn’t seeing me fully as a person, but rather as vehicle for him to experience his own selfish porn-star fantasies. To which I say: eff you, dude. I only unicorn when I know I’m gonna get off. I do enough performing for men at work; there’s no way I’m gonna do it for free in my personal life.
Unfortunately, cis men aren’t the only ones who treat bi women badly, though. I’ve met women who also are too interested in the fact that I’m bi — even other bi women, who wanna f*ck outside of their otherwise hetero monogamous relationships (because it’s not cheating if it’s with a woman, apparently). They have made it clear that I would only ever be considered a secondary partner, if they ever consider me as a partner at all. I’ve also dated lesbians who ended up being very suspicious of the fact that I’m bisexual. I had one relationship with a woman who shamed me not only for being bisexual, but also for being non-monogamous, and for continuing to have sex with men even though I was emotionally committed to her. “Lesbians don’t like it when their girlfriends f*ck men,” she told me coldly one day, to which I replied, “So date another lesbian, then.” My bisexuality isn’t an option or a phase, and it’s not something I hide, so I don’t appreciate anyone of any gender suggesting that I need to “choose a side.” And while I can appreciate that many lesbians have the experience of bisexual women choosing to be with men over them, it was harmful for me to be shamed for my sexuality when I was showing up earnestly and authentically for my partner.
Now, when I come out to new dates, I’m secure in my sexuality, and I’m cognizant of warning signs. If anyone, of any gender, has even a hint of a problem with my sexuality, I know enough to walk away. I won’t sacrifice who I am for anyone.
With “straight-passing” privilege comes great responsibility.
Being bisexual, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be perceived in both a “straight relationship” and a “gay relationship.” I’ve experienced men catcalling me while I walked down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand or stopping to kiss her on the corner. I’ve experienced rage that comes in response to the violence of men viewing our relationship as something that is for them. I’ve experienced my girlfriend’s abject fear that my righteous anger would in turn provoke their violence, and have felt furious and helpless as she beseeched me to control my temper, not to respond, instead to quietly walk on by, sexualized and harassed by strangers who decided that because we’re queer we don’t get to live our lives unbothered and free. These experiences are infuriating. They’re heartbreaking. And they’re still all too common.
Now, I’m in a mostly-monogamous relationship with a cis man, and I’ll be the first to admit that my life is easier for it. My relatives are more at ease around me now, for one thing, and I don’t have to worry that some strange man will shout at me from across the street if I stop to kiss my boyfriend in public. In fact, when I’m walking with my boyfriend, I’m totally invisible to other men. Thanks, patriarchy, I guess.
While I do have some qualms with the idea of “straight-passing” privilege (after all, how can you ever know from looking at someone what their gender identity is?), it’s important to me to acknowledge, at this point in my life, that I do have straight-passing privilege, and to use that acknowledgement to navigate how much space I take up in queer spaces. Yes, it sucks that I’ve had experiences where my bisexuality has been denigrated within the queer community — however, at this juncture in my life, I do, undoubtedly, have a lot of privilege in how I present in public with my partner.
I am incredibly proud to be a queer, bisexual woman in 2018. My bisexuality has brought so much joy and love into my life. Because I have been so loved, it is important to acknowledge my privilege, and to keep fighting the fight knowing, in all humility, where I stand.