It’s a pain in the arse, and something I’m still struggling to get my head around, but apparently my previously-mentioned inner bi-phobe really hates the fact that I’m bisexual.
For example, when I first started going along to LGBT+ events at my university, I was in a committed, monogamous and fairly long term relationship, with a man. Therefore, I thought to myself, ‘you don’t really count as a bisexual. you’re sleeping with the enemy’. Never mind that to, well, maybe half the members of any given LGBT group a man is definitely not the enemy, and that most normal people (regardless of their sexuality) don’t really tend to think in terms of enemies and allies in the world anyway, apparently the fact that I loved my then-boyfriend somehow discounted me from belonging to a group with whom I strongly self-identified.
But where did this come from? Was there perhaps some shaven-headed lesbian feminazi in the corner who punched me in the face as soon as I mentioned my boyfriend? No, because she’s only really a figment of the most anxious and irrational of imaginations. Nobody at any point said to me that I was ‘betraying’ the LGBT group or shouldn’t somehow join in. The group itself was hugely welcoming, warm, friendly, and a bunch of the funniest people I’ve met. And if anything, when I mentioned my partner, the people the group (being normal, healthy, kind and generous people), were interested in my relationship, in the same way that I was interested in theirs.
(There are, admittedly, LGBT groups – so I hear from people working with Queer youth groups in London – who will ask their members to leave if they are bisexual and end up in a heterosexual relationship. Or if they’re trans, and start a heterosexual relationship. Because that’s really helpful… I’ll deal with that in a later article. It makes me angry, and very, very sad.)
The biphobic voices I heard, the ones telling me that I didn’t belong, and didn’t have the right to call myself bi were voices from the back of my own brain. They spoke up, coldly, every time I started talking about my sexuality, singing out in joyfully frustrating chorus to remind me that I’d never had a girlfriend, had kissed a few girls at parties (and liked it, la, la, la, thank you Katy Perry…) but otherwise had only had a succession of crushes on distant or unavailable women, and had bottled it when my best friend asked me out. These voices said that bisexuality was an identity I’d chosen to adopt just to look cool, that I was doing people a disservice by continuing to claim bisexuality for myself, that I was letting everyone down.
Here’s another little biographical nugget to help demonstrate the raging biphobe who lives, Mr Hyde-like in my Dr Jekyll chest.
Halfway through revising for finals, I gathered my belongings at 9.30 one evening and started to leave the library. Just in front of me on the way out was a woman whose beauty (even – perhaps, if we’re being honest, especially – from behind) struck me like a magnet to a paperclip. I tried not to stare but sometimes, and in all honesty, you do. Probably didn’t help that I’d been staring fixedly at my laptop and wasn’t wearing my glasses…
In other news, I’m a feminist. I don’t like the idea that you can condense someone so that the only thing about them that matters is their physical attractiveness. On the other hand, we’re animals, somewhere deep down, and therefore somewhere (not always very) deep down, we respond to physical attributes. Like a really gorgeous arse.
But in finding myself so particularly drawn to this beautiful woman who I didn’t know – and perhaps because I wanted to think about anything, anything except finals – I began to worry that maybe I wasn’t bisexual at all, just a massive misogynist.
The usual doubts swirled up – that I wasn’t really bisexual, just pretending to be for the sake of playing some sort of peculiar mind games with myself, that I didn’t really count as a bisexual person, or as a straight person either… I started to doubt the evidence of my own emotions.
I know that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life only ever having relationships with men. I know that I fancy women, and not just because I’m a misogynist (which I really, really am not), and not just because I only fancy women who are attractive in a half-starved, Vogue magazine cover kind of a way – because I don’t. If that knowledge doesn’t make me bi, I don’t know what would.
I just haven’t happened to come into contact with someone female I want to go out with at a point when both of us were single and interested, although there have been some near misses. (wahey, misses, like plural miss. Geddit? yeah. That’s the sort of level of humour you’ll have to get used to. I do apologise.)
According to a friend of mine, the woman who used to run the LGBT society in my college and who has also been the mastermind of a brilliant project to combat homophobia in schools in North London, it is this very uncertainty that makes me a good advocate for bisexual issues. I don’t feel like a particularly good advocate. I just feel confused, conflicted, and – apparently – oddly and unsettlingly biphobic, but only when it applies to me or to certain close friends. Everyone else who identifies as bi, according to my inner compass, is allowed the right to self-define. Everyone except me.
Maybe that’s because it’s such an entrenched attitude that it proves how much of a problem there is? I don’t know. I don’t even know if people who are only attracted to one sex actually have the same kind of anxieties and doubts. I think, however, that it’s important to talk about it if you are bisexual, or queer in any way, and if you find your inner bitch apparently doesn’t want you to be.
I’d love to hear what you think about it.