It turns out that just making sense of the fact that I fancy women as well as men is quite a hard process. I was surprised by this – perhaps other, less naive people wouldn’t be.
I often find that there is a nagging, critical voice in the back of my head who wants me either to hate bisexual people in general, or bisexual me, myself. The first is easier to spot – because it’s directed outwards. It’s also, sadly, a sign of how pervasive biphobia can be, that even bisexual people themselves join in.
For example, one of my closest friends from sixth form is bisexual. My immediate reaction, when he first talked about it, was to privately disbelieve him. I used to talk about how he ‘claimed to be’ bisexual. After all, I snorted, scornfully, it’s not like he’s ever had a boyfriend. And he hardly ever gets off with other guys at parties. He’s clearly just saying it to impress people.
This is all despite the fact that I have never had a girlfriend. I hardly ever get off with other girls at parties. (I hardly ever go to parties; that’s another story.) Somehow, however, I just know that I’m bi. I’m apparently just enough of a bitch not to allow a friend of mine to ‘just know’ that he, too, is bisexual.
That is a clever bit of double-think, right there, because what it boils down to is a very messy and unpleasant set of double standards. It also implies that the only way you can measure sexuality is by your sexual partners – perhaps we all ought to keep a private tally of the number of girls we’ve shagged, and the number of guys we’ve shagged, compare the two and then work out which side of the sexuality divide we fall on. Because sex, according to my frustratingly vocal piece of internal logic, has more to do with it than emotion, or attraction.
And when I think about it, I know that trying to judge sexuality by sexual partners doesn’t work. Just because you ‘kissed a girl and you liked it’ (yes, thank you, Ms. Perry…) What about all the people who live in many-years-long, happy, healthy marriages, only to realise after many years that actually they’re not straight at all, thank-you-very-much, they’re actually gay? (Or lesbian, obviously. It happens both ways, naturally. Or bi. Or asexual. Or any of the myriad other sexual identities that exist in the world). And yet, if you looked at their lives up until that point and measured out their sexual history partner by partner, you’d say, well, they mainly slept with members of the opposite sex, therefore they must be straight, right?
Wrong. Whom you sleep with doesn’t always provide a direct key to how you feel, or whom you’d like to sleep with. Who you’re sleeping with at the time only proves that you’re [presumably?!] attracted to … who you’re sleeping with at that moment in time.
Somehow, the inner, mangled logic of my brain agrees loud and clear that sexuality is a fluid, shifting, mysterious and beautiful thing, that it can’t always be pinned down – for everyone else. But when I apply it to people close to me, somehow the rules are changed.
It gets even worse when I try to think about my own sexuality, that’s for sure.
I’ve spent a long while wrestling with myself over my reaction to my friend coming out. I know that my immediate reaction was wrong on a lot of levels. You can’t deny someone else their own truth. If someone comes out to you, then that’s how they wish to self-define. That may remain their driving way of defining their sexuality for the rest of their lives. It may change.
But I’m not saying that bisexuality (or any kind of non-heteronormative sexual identity) is anything like ‘just a phase’. Sexuality is fluid, variable, changeable. And as I said before, it certainly isn’t measured by who you’ve slept with in the past.
So that friend of mine from sixth form – if you’re reading this – sorry. Bi-phobic me is a cow.
Coming soon – common misconceptions about bisexuality.
And – why self-directed biphobia sucks.
I’d love to know what (if anything) you think. Keep in touch!