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July 31, 2014 7:40 AM   Subscribe

30 Bisexual Women Discuss Their Long-Term Relationships With Men. Even though more people self-identify as bisexual than gay and lesbian, there is a widespread belief that those who identify as bi are either in a transitional stage or are lying to themselves or others.
posted by showbiz_liz (149 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
14. “I totally feel the weirdness of passing.”

This, completely. I self identify as queer, but haven't been in a same sex relationship since 2000. Many, many people assume I am straight because I am in a long term straight looking relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:54 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Sexuality is a spectrum. It's not binary. I thought we were past this?
posted by Talez at 8:02 AM on July 31 [14 favorites]


Who's "we"? "We" the people on this very progressive little blue website, or "we" everybody in the world? Sadly, the latter group is definitely not past this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:04 AM on July 31 [21 favorites]


Sexuality is a spectrum. It's not binary. I thought we were past this?

The concept is still new and controversial in some circles, most of which are probably ideologically opposed to non-straight gender roles.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on July 31


> "... there is a widespread belief that those who identify as bi are either in a transitional stage or are lying to themselves or others."

So widespread it's hard not to internalize it sometimes. I have issues with this sometimes and literally have to remind myself that no, really, I have had sex with both men and women. And I know secondhand it's even harder on those who are bi but haven't had sex with more than one gender (See #23 in the first linked article “Sometimes when I am particularly anxious, I find myself questioning whether I’m actually attracted to women.”) This all hits very close to home.

> "I thought we were past this?"

I wish.
posted by kyrademon at 8:10 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I can't believe we're still having this discussion in 2014. It was a big thing 30 years ago when my campus group added "B" to the Lesbian and Gay Alliance, making it the Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Alliance. You'd think we'd stop the persistent lie that bisexual people are anything but what they know they are.
posted by xingcat at 8:11 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


One of the nice things about being genderfluid it it's queer as heck no matter who I'm into. My ostensibly-straight boyfriend might not really see it that way, but he listens patiently when I talk about being on the trans* spectrum and lets me clip pink bows into his long hair and tell him he's pretty, so it works out.

For me the realization that I'm pansexual and genderweird YES, REALLY had a few different factors:

-the fact I've been thinking about being a boy and liking girls since basically the second puberty set in, and before that I was only thinking about Star Wars and Little House on the Prairie, and how those thoughts haven't gone away ever and in many ways are just as fresh and confusing as when I was eleven, and wow, I'm 27 so if this is a phase it's a really long phase

-a moment hugging a former partner, a trans guy, in my backyard while the sun set while I was thinking HOLY JESUS THIS IS THE EXACT SAME WAY I'VE FELT ABOUT CIS GUYS I DATED WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE WHO THINK IT IS DIFFERENT

-a moment with an ostensibly straight guy in bed where we were doing something that is not terribly popular with straight guys but gangbusters with queer dudes and realizing that the way I was enjoying it was totally as a queer dude (i did not tell the straight boy, if he wants to think i'm a girl and that helps me get some i'm not gonna disabuse anyone of the notion)

-a thing that helped me accept that the fact I tend to date more straight men than queers isn't that I'm more into men, it's that there are, by numbers, way more straight men than queers. I'm super picky - you have to live within two miles of me or so, you have to ride bikes, I want you to like punk and garage or at least put up with the fact I'm always going to shows and buying records and go with me once in a while, I eat tons of meat, blah blah blah. I am way more willing to relax my standards for a cute queer and deal with taking the train and cooking vegan, but there's still always going to be a bunch more guys I would theoretically date than girls or nonbinary queers. It's a bummer, but when I found my queer separatist bike commune slash free-range ranch slash all ages punk venue maybe it'll work out.

Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this. Hi girls. Hi boys. Hi women and men. Hi trans babes. Hi queer qts. You're all super cute. Memail me if you meet my dating criteria. Kidding. Not.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:16 AM on July 31 [48 favorites]


Bisexual people really are in a tough position, really getting scorn from all sides (as it were). People who identify as straight might find them either threatening or, like one woman says, selfish, and those who identify as gay often see them as confused or maybe disingenuous in an effort to pass.

We're (meaning "all of us," not necessarily those of us here) still coming to grips with homosexuality as a valid expression of human sexuality. People who don't fit neatly into the gay-straight dichotomy really raise hackles--in many of the same ways that trans* people do.

I think part of what makes it so difficult is the visibility--it's hard to "present" as bisexual unless you're actively in a poly relationship, which is so far outside the norm that it's basically invisible anyway. Everybody can see gay relationships and understand what that means, on the surface. It can be harder to wrap your head around something you can't necessarily see.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:19 AM on July 31 [22 favorites]


Not even all of the staff at an LGBT oriented organisation (where I volunteer) "get it". It's better than it was 20 years ago, but there are still strong stereotypes. Some people seem to think that if you identify as bi, that means you are not monogamous (otherwise you would just identify as straight or gay, depending on your partner).

Interestingly, one strong stereotype is that bi women are really straight, while bi men are faking it and they're really gay. An article I read a while ago pointed out that both stereotypes assume that men are inherently more desirable than women.

It does confuse people because sexuality is fluid. Even though someone who is bi was born that way, it's possible for them to be more often attracted to one sex at one point in life, and for this to change over time. Also, many people who feel attraction to more than one sex/gender do not identify as bi or pansexual. They choose to identify as gay or straight (whether because of their partner or because of self-conception or whatever reason - which is, of course, their right to do so). Identity is inherently personal, which is why people are so hurt when other people try to dictate their identity (eg telling a bi person that they are straight because their partner is the opposite sex).
posted by jb at 8:19 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I thought we were past this?

- After working at a superheteronormative military company, I was delighted to find a position working for an amazing woman who was an out lesbian, partnered with the mother of her child, and rising to the top of her field -- only to discover she distrusted bisexuals, particularly bi women, on principle.

- OKC makes you list as "bi." Gay women frequently avoid bi matches, so you just end up with couples who want to play because, hey, you'll like both of us! Which, no.

- I joined a local queer women's group (started by my neighbor) where the most popular topic of conversation is how ridiculous bi women are.

I wish I could favorite uncleozzy's comment more than once. What these articles don't do is show us how we can get more people to understand.
posted by mochapickle at 8:24 AM on July 31 [18 favorites]


This happened to me yesterday. I told someone I was queer (pan) and they said they knew lots of gay folks that dated women before they knew they were gay and that maybe I was gay.

Or when a gay friend told me to my face that he believed "bi people exist"... which is great because I was standing right in front of him! I mean... I know he meant it as an expression of solidarity and we're still good friends, but it was like a splash of cold water to the face.
posted by yaymukund at 8:25 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I was clearly bi before I even was really thinking in sexual terms (crushes on other girls) and told my mother when I was 17 - she told me my uncle was gay, and I hadn't realized, and she was amused I didn't know. So I said, well, then I guess it kinda makes sense that I'm bisexual, if it's genetic. And her face changed, and she got this irritated look. "It's just a phase you're going through! You'll get over it!" she said; subject closed. Of course.

But I never identified as queer - I guess I wasn't really exposed to that idea enough to have a chance to process it, back then, or I might well have done; I came at being bi as more of a "why limit love?" hippie philosophy. So my experience is mostly being a unicorn for other people. I wanted the opportunities for more than that (relationships) but they never really came my way; I regret that then & now.

Now, from the outside, I'm married to a man and I have kids, so yeah I'm totally passing. I have no shame in identifying as bi, but I usually don't talk about it IRL. I really don't like how it's instantly perceived as titillating or evidence of my "wild past" - sort of immediately putting me in this kind of leering light. I don't like the vibe I get that many other women (in the ostensibly-progressive but still fairly traditional in a lot of not-entirely-acknowledged ways circles that I run in by proximity) perceive "one of us" being bisexual as - well, a threat, I guess! but that vibe is definitely there. Mentioning bisexuality is like instantly throwing SEX into the middle of things - after all if I were married-with-kids but lesbian, the same people would be falling over themselves to be cool with it. And if people are cool with it, it's still very much in the "yeah I did some crazy stuff in university too" or "I had a friend like that in university" way. It's still, like, "wild!".

We're still having this discussion in 2014 because to straights, female bisexuality is mostly presented under a porn rubric. And male bisexuality is perceived as a lie to cover being gay, pretty much. So bisexuals don't loudly out themselves, and no wonder. It's gross to have people look at me differently like that - I can see the change in their eyes - I don't want to be looked at like that. I can only imagine being a guy dealing with that.

Look, I love that young adults today have way more options and peer groups and chances of expression and activism - part of that due to the internet, I am sure - and I hope they keep rocking on. But that's the stuff that gets reported & presented in the media, and it's not at all reflective of how many people live. Being het-married with kids is pretty square and where is the calm, not-titillating example in the media for someone like me?

That's when we won't need to be having this discussion anymore.
posted by flex at 8:27 AM on July 31 [38 favorites]


An article I read a while ago pointed out that both stereotypes assume that men are inherently more desirable than women.

not only that men are more desirable - but that the bi men are gay, bi women are straight thing reinforces that the penis* is the determining factor to these people - that if there's some perceived wishy-washy-ness, male is the trump card.

*not all men have a penis, but most people who have a hang up about there not being bi people also get hung up about trans issues.
posted by nadawi at 8:27 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


“I used to identity as a lesbian, until I fell in love with a cisgender man. And then a trans man. And then my friends stopped talking to me and I was called breeder and I was excommunicated from the gay and lesbian community."

This kind of thing makes me head explode in flames.
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


< megaphone > IT'S NOT A PHASE!!! < /megaphone / >
posted by Space Kitty at 8:32 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


- OKC makes you list as "bi." Gay women frequently avoid bi matches, so you just end up with couples who want to play because, hey, you'll like both of us! Which, no.

When I've listed on OKC I've listed only as a lesbian, said specifically in my profile that opposite-sex couples looking for a third can kindly fuck off, and I still get hit on by opposite-sex couples.

I'd love to see a companion piece about bi-identified women in relationships with other women, and more discussion about relationships between bisexuals. I always end up feeling alienated by pieces like this because while I'm not a kinsey 6, I'm high on the scale and I can't imagine feeling comfortable with passing for straight or dating a straight man.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:33 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Mentioning bisexuality is like instantly throwing SEX into the middle of things

i've been doing this thing recently where if i'm in a group talking about exes and the story seems germane, i'll just drop in something about an ex-girlfriend, especially if the topic isn't related to sex at all. i don't explain it, or apologize for it, or officially come out, i just treat it as another part of who i am, because it is. i still feel the change in the room and i still get the looks and sometimes i get a whaaaa??? reaction, i'm just trying to not pay attention to it so i can be the change i want to see in the world. i totally get why not all undercover bi people would want to do this, but i've found it to be pretty interesting.

i still tend to hold the genderqueer stuff a bit closer to the chest because it's hard to explain how i, a very curvy, often in skirts, always in nailpolish, seemingly cis woman, feel like it's all just dress up and some days i really miss the penis i never grew.
posted by nadawi at 8:33 AM on July 31 [32 favorites]


> "... where is the example in the media for someone like me?"

Lily Aldrin maybe?
posted by kyrademon at 8:34 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


a moment with an ostensibly straight guy in bed where we were doing something that is not terribly popular with straight guys but gangbusters with queer dudes

This, and the internalized bi erasure kyrademon mentioned, combine in my head sometimes in a really weird internal monologue.

"That thing* that people think is totally queer/gay? More straight boys should try it! I like i- oh, wait, I'm not a good example here. Still, try it once, okay?"

* there's more than one such thing, this is just my internal monologue
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:36 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


not only that men are more desirable - but that the bi men are gay, bi women are straight thing reinforces that the penis* is the determining factor to these people - that if there's some perceived wishy-washy-ness, male is the trump card.

Also, I think it implies that when it comes to relationships/commitment, what everyone "really" wants is a man (i.e., looking for a husband is obviously the priority over looking for a wife).
posted by scody at 8:40 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but Lily's mostly played for laughs.
posted by mochapickle at 8:40 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


"... there is a widespread belief that those who identify as bi are either in a transitional stage or are lying to themselves or others."

Well, both of those things are not infrequently true. I am not in any way saying they are true most of the time or even often, but it's a non-zero percentage. Which, at least for MSM (can't speak for women obviously) is going down as the years pass... there definitely used to be a Thing of 'bi now gay later' because it was a lot easier (especially as a teenager) to sort of float the "I'm bi" trial balloon before saying "well actually..."

have to remind myself that no, really, I have had sex with both men and women

Who you have sex with doesn't define your sexual orientation, otherwise all those closeted men married to women would be bisexual instead of right out gay (which so many are). It's about who you want to sleep with. If we go with 'who you have slept with' as a definition, then (most) Catholic priests for example would be asexual, right?

I mean, just my opinion but I feel like it's an important distinction to make. Anecdata: I know a man in his sixties who has never touched another human being sexuall in his life. And he's as gay as the day is long.

So, don't get me wrong. Obviously bisexual people exist (I am one, only in a purely sexual sense and not romantic, though as alluded to above my initial declarations of bisexuality as a teenager really had nothing whatsoever to do with sexual desire for women), obviously there are lots, but discounting the people who do use the label as a transition phase, or are flat-out lying e.g. a lot of deeply closeted gay men. More anecdata: an actual conversation I had with a brief fling/hookup who said he was bi after I said I was bi-ish (this was before I'd learned about the two-axis model, romantic attraction/sexual attraction thing). Since we were talking about sex, I asked the last time he'd had sex with a person self identified as female. Never. I was confused, so I asked him the last time he'd wanted to. Never. I didn't press the issue, but given the context it really was clear he was absolutely lying to himself because of the social pressures around being gay--especially with his family. Calling himself bi was just simpler, for him. Obviously the (possibly overwhelming) majority of bi folks aren't doing those things but.. I'm rambling, I guess I'm just saying we're not supposed to be discounting lived experiences, right? That's all.

(There's also all sorts of misogynist BS in the MSM world about EWWW VAGINAS which contributes to a lot of people squelching or, weirdly, being out when it comes to their same-sex behaviour but closeted about opposite sex behaviour. Really, really strange. I think/hope that pressure is dying out because kids these days are all "whatever. Boys, girls, bring 'em on if you like 'em, don't if you don't, let's go ride bikes.")
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:42 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


And when I say that, even her connection to Robin passed for straight: two straight best friends. The only time Lily's bi-ness was brought up was when she was saying something leering and overt.

I like the idea that Lily was bi, but I feel they could have done more.
posted by mochapickle at 8:43 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


We are so not past this. Can't tell you how many seemingly progressive and tolerant people I've met despise the VERY IDEA of someone being bisexual. Was at a party a few weeks ago and a bi dude was there with his girlfriend. Holy goddamn, the amount of shit-talking whispers behind this guys back, what basically amounted to "who is he trying to fool, why doesn't he just admit he's gay?" People were legitimately annoyed by this, and these are young, gay-marriage supporting Obama voters in a progressive city. That's just the most recent example of many instances I've witnessed.
posted by windbox at 8:44 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


"... there is a widespread belief that those who identify as bi are either in a transitional stage or are lying to themselves or others."

This is hardly unique to bisexuals. The number of people who started out identifying as straight before coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, etc, is huge, to say nothing of people who just stay in the closet. And yet no one discusses straight people as a bunch of lying liars.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:46 AM on July 31 [24 favorites]


Bisexuality is just a phase (also, 1, 3, 5b) like gravity is just a theory.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:46 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood — except the woods are full of various genitals.
posted by k5.user at 8:46 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


well woods usually are what with all the plants and flowers and so forth

the door is over there, you say?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:47 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


> "Who you have sex with doesn't define your sexual orientation ..."

I'm pretty sure the very next sentence I typed after the one you quoted pretty much demonstrates that this was not at all the point I was trying to make.
posted by kyrademon at 8:49 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


One of my good friends is bi and in the last twelve months has had committed, but unfortunately short, relationships with both a man and a woman. We went kayaking on Saturday morning and got to have a chat about this phenomenon.
I'm a cisgendered married hetero man (those are the right terms, right?), so there is a lot I don't understand about what he has to contend with in his romantic life. He gave me considerable insight into how fraught it can be, and how he essentially needs to (or at least feels like he needs to) come out on the first or second date. It's really stressful for him, and there is a lot of judgment. What a shame.
(For color, this wasn't some unprompted intrusion by me. It was a small part of a rambling conversation while we enjoyed paddling around in glassy water at sunrise, checking out all of the osprey, egrets and the like. Hell of a way to start the day!)
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:49 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Some science:

Diamond, et al., Female bisexuality from adolescence to adulthood: Results from a 10-year longitudinal study. [pdf], Developmental Psychology (2008).
Debates persist over whether bisexuality is a temporary stage of denial or transition, a stable "3rd type" of sexual orientation, or a heightened capacity for sexual fluidity. The present study uses 5 waves of longitudinal data collected from 79 lesbian, bisexual, and "unlabeled" women to evaluate these models. Both the "3rd orientation" and "fluidity" models had support, but the "transitional stage" model did not. Over 10 years, 2/3 of women changed the identity labels they had claimed at the beginning of the study, and 1/3 changed labels 2 or more times. Yet, contrary to the "transitional stage" model, more women adopted bisexual/unlabeled identities than relinquished these identities; few bisexual/unlabeled women ended up identifying as lesbian or heterosexual.
(emphasis added)

Mock and Eibach, Stability and Change in Sexual Orientation Identity Over a 10-Year
Period in Adulthood
[pdf], Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011).
This study investigated stability and change in self-reported sexual orientation identity over time in youth. We describe gender- and age-related changes in sexual orientation identity from early adolescence through emerging adulthood in 13,840 youth ages 12–25

...

Finally, there was evidence of bisexual fluidity, but it is important to note that the nature of this instability differed by gender. Specifically, for women, bisexuality was no less stable than homosexuality. In contrast, men’s sexual identity showed more stability for both of the exclusive categories (i.e., heterosexual and homosexual) than for the bisexual category. The categorical nature of men’s sexual arousal patterns (Chivers, Rieger, Latty, & Bailey, 2004) or low levels of support for bisexual identity in either the heterosexual or homosexual communities (Weinberg et al., 1994) may be potential reasons why bisexuality was a particularly fluid sexual orientation identity for men.
(emphasis added)

Rosario et al., Sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time, Journal of Sex Research (2006).
A longitudinal report of 156 lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths examined changes in sexual identity over time. Fifty‐seven percent of the youths consistently self‐identified as gay/lesbian, 18% transitioned from bisexual to gay/lesbian, and 15% consistently identified as bisexual over time. ... Contrary to the hypothesis that females are more sexually fluid than males, we found that female youths were less likely to change identities than males.
Again men were found to be more fluid than women and (based on the results in Diamond and Mock) probably contributed to most of the bisexual to gay transition rate. However, I couldn't find the full text of this study to confirm that.
posted by jedicus at 8:51 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Well, two things: first, I must have slightly misread your intent, kyrademon. Sorry for that. Second, I wasn't aiming specifically at you, I was quoting you as a jumping point, which came across the wrong way. Sorry for that, too.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:54 AM on July 31


The concept of bisexual identity expression is really interesting to me. I self-identify as bisexual and have since college. When I was married to a man, it was annoying to me, though completely understandable, that everyone (gay and straight) assumed I was straight - because it felt like it erased a large part of my experience and identity. Now I'm married to a woman and we have kids together and of course everyone who sees our family together assumes I'm gay. Equally irritating and equally understandable.

The interesting thing for me is that I pass as femme and am a mother, so I have experienced a lot of very blank looks when I tell people I'm married to a woman. Those are actually the words I use when I out myself to new co-workers/acquaintances - I never say 'I'm gay' or 'I'm bisexual' because the first is wrong and the second seems to give people an excuse to explain away my identity. When I tell them I'm bi, it's like they're visibly thinking 'oh THAT'S why she wears high heels and make-up, because she still wants to be attractive to men' - as if a gay woman can't/shouldn't.

As an example, I recently changed jobs and became friendly with our HR person. After a few weeks of general chit-chat about kids and family, she asked me what my husband did. I responded with my usual 'oh, actually I'm married to a woman' and carried on with the conversation. She was completely mortified and of course apologized profusely. I bring this up not to whine about my HR person (who is lovely) but to say that outwardly I exhibit all the traits of 'straightness', to such a degree that even someone who is trained to be sensitive to these things and not make assumptions, made an assumption. I totally get why it happened and am not upset at all - like I told her, how would she have known? - but I find it a telling example of how invisible bisexuals can be in society. Feminine + kids = straight, in our society.
posted by widdershins at 8:55 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


and how he essentially needs to (or at least feels like he needs to) come out on the first or second date.

and the reverse side of this was a guy i dated on and off for a long time who waited years to tell me that he had sucked some dick in his late teens. i was super out and queer, and even open about the fact that i felt more comfortable in relationships with people who were also queered in some way, but programming still had him so terrified that i wouldn't see him as a man or as worthy after he told me that he just kept it tightly inside.
posted by nadawi at 8:55 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


This was really helpful for me because I am in the process of identifying the degree to which I am bi to other people and it's been hard because the way I usually explain it to someone often leads to them thinking I'm just being wishy washy which is not true at all. It's just that 90% of the time I am attracted to and want to be with a man as a cis woman, and 10% of the time I'm just very attracted to certain types of women and the desire factor stops there. I want a husband, but I am definitely sexually attracted to some women. I regret not dating the super cute girl in my art class who expressed interest in me back when I was not 100% in touch with myself. Ultimately it's nobody's business except mine but man, sometimes I just want someone to get it and only one partner so far has been like "rock on" about my definition of bi. Why does it matter what I like? Let me be attracted to who I like and stay out of it.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:56 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


The Lisa Diamond study has also been previously discussed on Metafilter.

... Well, eventually the study got discussed in that thread, anyway.
posted by kyrademon at 8:58 AM on July 31


Hermione, perhaps the term 'bisexual, and (mainly?) heteroromantic' might be helpful? (If it's accurate. Mix and match as needed.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:59 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


The number of people who started out identifying as straight before coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, etc, is huge, to say nothing of people who just stay in the closet. And yet no one discusses straight people as a bunch of lying liars.

Not just that — there are a lot of people who came out as gay as a stepping stone to eventually admitting they were bi- or pansexual, because within most queer communities saying "I'm gay" or "I'm a lesbian" is easier and more socially acceptable than saying "I'm bi."

Or let's talk about how a lot of straight or bi trans men and even some gay trans men come out as "lesbians" first because "butch lesbian" is an easier identity to take on than "trans man." Or how a lot of straight trans women start out calling themselves gay men who are into drag. Or how we're starting to see those paths go the other way too — I've known at least one gay cis woman who initially came out as a trans man, and only later realized that "butch lesbian" was a better label for her.

Basically just about any queer identity can end up being a "stepping stone" en route to any other queer identity, because people are complicated, social pressure is powerful, internalized homo- and transphobia are insidious, and denial is a bitch to get over. If we're gonna draw a conclusion here at all it needs to be "Wow, sex and gender are confusing as fuck for all of us!" and not "Bi people specifically are often just lying or confused."
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:59 AM on July 31 [36 favorites]


Widdershins, the (pretty incredible) woman who married my wife and me never referred to her (straight, cis) spouse as her husband, but rather her partner, and she seemed to do that with everyone else as well. My wife and I really liked that, and totally stole it.
It results in some funny looks sometimes, but I like how it levels the playing field, and it certainly helps that we live primarily in Brooklyn.

(Side story: our officiant actually agreed to perform our ceremony but refused to sign our marriage certificate unless marriage equality was legalized in New York. We super duper respected that, and doubled down on having her as our officiant and pre-marriage counselor while making arrangements for an appropriate signatory. Fortunately (for larger reasons than ours), marriage equality was passed a few months before our wedding. Everyone won!)
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:05 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Oh, and just to be clear (again), I refer to my wife as such (and not partner), because she prefers it.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:09 AM on July 31


2. “Since I was attracted to boys, I just assumed I was straight and ignored the attraction I felt for girls.”

This quote resonates so hard with me. The assumption that one can either be gay or straight, plus growing up surrounded by images of heteronormativity, Well I'm definitely into boys, so that was the end of the discussion for the next 10 years or so.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:15 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Interestingly, one strong stereotype is that bi women are really straight, while bi men are faking it and they're really gay. An article I read a while ago pointed out that both stereotypes assume that men are inherently more desirable than women.

I've heard both of those stereotypes more times than I can count, along with the stereotype that women just act bi as a porny way to titillate dudes. Ugh.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:16 AM on July 31


What percentage of self-identified bisexuals are female? I'm just curious since most of the ones I know are women and it seems that it's more accepted. Although, at this point in my life, I know lots of people who have at least experimented a bit.
posted by jonmc at 9:19 AM on July 31


If we're gonna draw a conclusion here at all it needs to be "Wow, sex and gender are confusing as fuck for all of us!" and not "Bi people specifically are often just lying or confused."

For real. I've gone from lesbian to bisexual to "idk, some sort of queer, you look cute" and I have no idea where I'm going to end up.

And, parroting Juliet Banana (thankyouthankyouthankyou), genderqueer-and-adjacent identities make things so much more fun/complicated. My relationship with my husband looks somewhere between straight and incompatible, and without him around I'm read as a butch(ish) lesbian, but we're both queer and I much prefer thinking of us as two cute gayish boyish nerds.
posted by libraritarian at 9:23 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


jonmc: My experience is that a lot of men who fit the definition of "bisexual" — they're attracted to other men once in a while, even if they're disinclined for social reasons to act on that attraction — prefer to label themselves as "people who have at least experimented a bit." So that might be part of what's going on there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:23 AM on July 31


I wouldn't deny anyone's experience or the words they have chosen to describe themselves, and I am certainly guilty of being blind to hidden diversity. At risk of offending someone, but humbly and with no ill intent, here are my yet unsettled thoughts:

I suspect part of the reluctance to acknowledge bisexuals as a category is because so many of us--gay and straight--actually do understand and believe that pretty much everyone is susceptible to feeling attracted to men and women. "Sexual orientation" is a descriptor which is socially defined, and the reasons that most people end up identifying as one or another orientation are complex and mostly unconscious.

So sometimes those who identify as Bisexual seem to be either saying "My bisexuality is an inborn trait, just like your homosexuality, and like your heterosexuality." Which doesn't ring true to many of us who identify as gay or straight but have felt attraction to our non-preferred gender. Or maybe Bisexuals are saying "Everyone is bisexual and most won't admit it." Which doesn't ring true either, because sexual orientation is socially and even politically defined and the mere capacity for attraction to one's non-preferred gender doesn't negate identifying as gay or as straight.
posted by General Tonic at 9:27 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I read an article just recently by a woman who said she was a lesbian, but fell in love with exactly one man, and married him, and now is dealing with the fallout of that.

It was hard for me to get my brain around, because on the one hand I want a world where it's totally fine to say "I'm a lesbian but love is strange and I just happened to love one man".

On the other hand, I totally realize that we live in a world where sexual identity is still very political and a lot of people feel very personally.... affronted by a person marrying a man claiming to be a lesbian, and it's not really fair to dismiss all those people as "just" being asshole Identity Police when it is very, very common for lesbian identity to not be taken seriously. I'm not saying this woman, individually, is to blame for that. But I'm saying the "affrontedness" should be more a sign of the frustrating complexity of identity, than just people being assholes.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:33 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


The whole penis as trump card thing comes from the contamination model I think. One time touching dick makes you a dick toucher, just like one time fucking a goat makes you a goat fucker.
posted by idiopath at 9:35 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


General Tonic: I used to subscribe to the idea of 'everyone's a little queer' because back when I was identifying as straight, attraction-wise I was at least a Kinsey 1.5 or so, so I was basing my belief on a sample size of 1.

Nowadays I have genuinely no idea what proportion of, and to what degree, monosexual people have attraction to their non-preferred gender(s). I'd be interested in knowing. Sexuality is a weird and wonderful thing, even before identity comes into it.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:38 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Perhaps--meaning a guess on my part--being Bi is akin to being a "half breed Indian" or a mix of Black and White person or a mix of Asian/White: you are neither this nor that in full and thus disliked or scorned by the fully Indian, White, Black, Asian...or, as the old labor song has it: Which side are you on?
posted by Postroad at 9:39 AM on July 31


“So sometimes those who identify as Bisexual seem to be either saying "My bisexuality is an inborn trait, just like your homosexuality, and like your heterosexuality." Which doesn't ring true to many of us who identify as gay or straight but have felt attraction to our non-preferred gender. Or maybe Bisexuals are saying "Everyone is bisexual and most won't admit it." Which doesn't ring true either, because sexual orientation is socially and even politically defined and the mere capacity for attraction to one's non-preferred gender doesn't negate identifying as gay or as straight."
Alternatively, we could simply be using a third descriptor to describe an orientation that does not fit into either extreme end of the Kinsey scale or the softer yet still distinguishable ends. I totally get what you're saying, and I'm glad you've put it into a form eloquent enough to easily critique, but isn't it at least strange that in a community so defined by its diversity that what is honestly just a bit more could be so threatening?
posted by Blasdelb at 9:42 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


This quote resonates so hard with me. The assumption that one can either be gay or straight, plus growing up surrounded by images of heteronormativity, Well I'm definitely into boys, so that was the end of the discussion for the next 10 years or so.

Fucking seriously. And everyone says "oh, I always just knew," and since I didn't "just know" I assumed my attraction to women was 'girl crushes' or whatever bullshit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:45 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


Postroad: and we can take the comparison further. The only reason Gay/Bi/Straight is more interesting or controversial than Bald/Balding/Hairy is because a set of social restrictions and stigmas that want to put us in our place. If it isn't a question of moral judgment or "inherent worth", these blurred lines are at best a bit of trivia for philosophy class.
posted by idiopath at 9:49 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


“So sometimes those who identify as Bisexual seem to be either saying "My bisexuality is an inborn trait, just like your homosexuality, and like your heterosexuality." Which doesn't ring true to many of us who identify as gay or straight but have felt attraction to our non-preferred gender. Or maybe Bisexuals are saying "Everyone is bisexual and most won't admit it." Which doesn't ring true either, because sexual orientation is socially and even politically defined and the mere capacity for attraction to one's non-preferred gender doesn't negate identifying as gay or as straight."

I'm not sure I understand this. I mean, I buy that gay or straight but have felt attraction to their non-preferred gender, and I buy that sexual orientation is socially and even politically defined, but why should any of that stop me from dating both men and women and identifying as bisexual? Who I date and how I identify isn't meant to be a reflection on you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:50 AM on July 31


I assumed my attraction to women was 'girl crushes' or whatever bullshit.

my experience was kind of similar - except, i had always been drawn to women, even before puberty - and then pre-puberty hit and all the other girls in my class started going gaga for the guys and so i got to studying, to figure out what about boys was attractive...and i trained myself to like boys, to drool over their shoulder blades and legs and smiles. i did it so well that i became boy crazy and, noticing that none of my friends who were girls seemed to want to kiss girls, i just made myself forget about it for years. i just figured that everyone was attracted or whatever to their own gender and then you left those things behind, like playing with my little ponys, and you got attracted to boys because that's just what was done. i assumed that everyone around me dealt with the same thing.

and then actual puberty happened and i couldn't really deny or pretend any longer that i could just ignore wanting to snuggle other women. and then the real self hatred started...
posted by nadawi at 9:53 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


What percentage of self-identified bisexuals are female?

Depends on the population you're sampling, of course, but the numbers at the beginning of the Mock and Eibach study (of adults, average age 47) were pretty much even. As best I can tell there were 17 bisexual-identifying men and 17 bisexual-identifying women at the beginning of the study. In terms of the larger population, 1.24% of the women in the study identified as bisexual at the beginning of the study, compared to 1.43% for men. And, for what it's worth 0.80% identified as lesbian and 1.76% identified as gay.
posted by jedicus at 9:56 AM on July 31


Who I date and how I identify isn't meant to be a reflection on you.

That's true, but I think this touches on the point I was trying to make a few comments up - I can't speak for gay men, but I think a lot of lesbians have a hard time not internalizing it as a reflection on them. Not because they're intentionally being jerks, but because... there's an exhausting slew of gross cultural shit that lesbians or bi girls just "haven't met the right guy" or are just trying to look cool or will "go straight" after college, etc etc,

so it's hard NOT to feel like it's an affront to "lesbianism" when a girl who "was" a lesbian or even bi seems to have exclusively committed to a man. Because you feel like people who say that gross shit will say "see, look at ____, she SAID she was a lesbian but then she married a dude!! Ladies don't know what they want!!" It's not right to be mad at the PERSON, but the whole system is fucked such that people end up feeling that way.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:59 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


I identified as bisexual for a good part of the time between puberty and when I became a young adult. Then in all honesty, things just changed and I realized I really didn't find myself attracted to people of the same gender anymore. It changed, I suspect, because I hadn't really reached my own sexual maturity yet (never mind emotional maturity), but understand, that's not to claim anything more general about how stuff works for everybody else. I can vouch for the fact that, yes, you end up getting shit from all sides and everyone suspects your motives. It can also cause a great deal of pain and confusion for others as you find your sexuality evolving (although I never really had any sort of formally declared same-sex relationships or anything). At this point in life, I'm happily married. I'm pretty happy in general these days, though there are many things in the world I'm not happy about. I guess I don't identify as bisexual anymore because I'm really not anymore, but I get the sneaking suspicion some of my older friends and acquaintances think I'm either just deluding myself or trying to "pass." That's not the case. I just changed.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:00 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


*and I should add that all that shit TOTALLY ties into general attitudes about women's sexuality and how women aren't treated as sexual beings who know what or even who they want in bed.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:01 AM on July 31


showbiz_liz: "I assumed my attraction to women was 'girl crushes' or whatever bullshit."

Right?!! When I finally started seeing my 'girlcrushes' for what they actually were I felt so liberated (and simultaneously kind of terrified, but at least it was a start). And in hindsight I was attracted to girls more than I thought I was, but I was dismissing it because I liked guys dammit.
And now I can proclaim my love for Maggie Gyllenhaal all I want, and not just "because she's a really really good actress."
posted by Gordafarin at 10:04 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


"On the other hand, I totally realize that we live in a world where sexual identity is still very political and a lot of people feel very personally.... affronted by a person marrying a man claiming to be a lesbian, and it's not really fair to dismiss all those people as "just" being asshole Identity Police when it is very, very common for lesbian identity to not be taken seriously. I'm not saying this woman, individually, is to blame for that. But I'm saying the "affrontedness" should be more a sign of the frustrating complexity of identity, than just people being assholes."
I think the paradox here might only exist because we're using the wrong word, its not Asshole we're looking for, but bigot. You know, someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust or hatred on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or other similarly innate characteristics.

Bigotry can be absurd like my partner's grandfather who hates all Scots and Cypriots because a Scot/Cypriot man once stabbed him more than three decades ago for what was probably even good reason, it can be learned like an old housemate I once had who would spout the exact same shit his father and Fox News did without thinking, and it can even be almost understandable like an old Polish neighbor of a certain age who had very strong feelings about the innate character of ethnic Germans and Ukrainians, but what it should never be is acceptable. Policing the identities of others out of prejudice is unacceptable, and we of all people should know better.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:07 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Fucking seriously. And everyone says "oh, I always just knew," and since I didn't "just know" I assumed my attraction to women was 'girl crushes' or whatever bullshit.

Interesting -- I actually did this pretty consciously; I had a crush on a girl* in seventh grade and I remember actually thinking to myself "I'm dealing with too much else (undiagnosed bipolar), I'm NOT going to think about this right now. I'll deal with it later but for now I'll just assume it's admiration or a 'girl crush' or whatever." That was in 1996/97 and I hope that now it wouldn't be a struggle and I'd be able to accept that part of me but over fifteen years ago it was a relief to be able to write it off.

I actually came out to my parents as bi a few years after that and I'm not even sure they remember, and my mother basically told me straight out that maybe it was just a phase, which is interesting, because they are both VERY open-minded and liberal and have had gay friends and loved ones for a very long time (my brother's Godmother is a lesbian). I'm now married to a man, unbelievably happily, and I think my parents (or my mother at least) might think that this is proof that yeah, it was just a phase (if she even remembers at all), but the real thing is that I fell in love with him. It doesn't mean I'm "straight now". If he'd been a woman, I would have fallen in love with her too. As Juliet Banana points out above, statistically it was more likely I was going to end up with a man because I've known more men who date women than women who date women (and certainly, years ago, not that many women who were OPEN about dating women, cutting down on my female dating pool even more) , but the fact that I am in love with and married to a man is not proof that anything was "just a phase" or that I'm secretly straight or whatever, and I feel kind of uncomfortable about the fact that I "pass" as straight and get a bunch of straight privilege.

*Sort of -- I found out years later, after he underwent physical transition, that he was in fact a trans* man who presented as female in middle and high school when we knew each other, and since he'd been such a big part of my awareness of my bisexuality I had a weird crisis where I was like "oh shit am I really straight because actually that girl I liked wasn't?" only then I realized wait, no, I've had crushes on/dated/hooked up with women since then so, yeah, I am in fact bi."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:11 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


there's an exhausting slew of gross cultural shit that lesbians or bi girls just "haven't met the right guy" or are just trying to look cool

Ugh, yes, the idea of women who hook up with women "looking cool"; this drives me CRAZY! The idea that women's sexuality exists solely to be pleasing to men gives me the creeps.

More specifically in this context, I REALLY HATE when female (bi)sexuality is used to be appealing to the male gaze; it took me a long time to articulate why exactly I hated Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" so much, but eventually I realized that it feels like a dumbing down of female sexuality to be appealing to men. It removes female agency and makes everything we do performative instead of innately motivated by our own desires. If the song's narrator kissed a girl and liked it, cool, I've done that too, and I've liked it, but I didn't do it to titillate men, I did it because I LIKE KISSING GIRLS.

Portrayals of female bisexuality often seem like ways to make female sexuality "safe" and non-threatening to men and it PISSES ME THE FUCK OFF. It gets played as "sure, she'll make out with women, and that's hot, because she's doing it to get you off! It's still all about men, though, really, because they're doing it to let you watch. Also, she's totally still into guys so she can't really mean that. IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU, MEN!" As a woman, my sexuality, whatever it happens to be, is not there to assuage your damaged ego or whatever, it's a part of ME and I don't need you to approve of my Sapphic activities. I really, REALLY hate when female bisexuality is co-opted in this way. It's gross.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:18 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I think bi people are also in a shitty place if they figure it out after they've made a big deal about coming out as gay/lesbian prior to that realization. Like, you have spent all of this time explaining to your mother that it's not a choice, and gay people are born this way, and it's who you are at the core. And it can be confusing to come back and say "well, it actually is a sort-of choice for me, but it's not for many people..."
posted by almostmanda at 10:23 AM on July 31


I dunno, almostmanda, maybe that's framing it wrong? Born this way is a matter of who you're attracted to, which can shift over time. Choice is whether you do anything about it. That's my take anyhow.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:26 AM on July 31


I've been in several relationships with women who identified as either bisexual or pansexual, and I have been quite aware of how my very presence with them as a straight male can make an important part of their identity invisible. In an open or polyamorous relationship it is in some ways even worse, because everyone assumes that the openness is because of the bisexuality, or that you are hunting for threesomes.
posted by Nothing at 10:37 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


This thread is pretty awesome, and further proves to me that human sexuality is a fascinating panoply. All shapes and sizes!
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 10:37 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


i think the places where binary sexualities bump up against fluid sexualities are bound to be messy - same with binary gender vs fluid gender. the cultural issues and morality policing being codified in horrific laws just adds to the messiness - there's no way for it to not. it honestly took me a long time to really understand that not everyone has fluid sexuality an gender - i just thought everyone did a better job of pretending than i did (which fed into my general ocd anxiety intrusive thoughts issues). it makes sense to me that those with truly binary sexualities (which i think can include those that occasionally think robert downey jr or mila kunis is hot) could struggle with understanding how fluidity is different than just appreciating beauty.

how i define the whole choice thing for me is that i can't choose to be straight or gay. if you put a gun to my head and told me to pick a side for attraction forever and if i ever slipped you'd be back to shoot me, i'd fail. i cannot turn off my fluid attraction. what i can choose is who i monogamously partner with. i am attracted to a great many people who aren't my husband, but i fuck none of them because i'm in a functionally monogamous relationship - same as if i had a binary sexual preference.

i also sorta wonder sometimes if some of those infamously homophobic (mostly) dudes who people are sure are gay are actually bi - the way they talk about men and about loving and being attracted to their wives - the way they harp on choice - i wonder if it's because they feel like they really did choose to be straight (except for a slip up here or there in the bathroom or with a rent boy). i grew up in a devout mormon household deep in purity culture and sometimes those dudes sound like they're making arguments i made for myself before i realized bi really was a thing.
posted by nadawi at 10:40 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


I agree, FFFM. I'm just saying it's a level of nuance you don't often see in LGBT political discussions. If you're dealing with someone who is just now letting go of long-held bigoted views, it can be hard to explain without feeling like backpedaling.
posted by almostmanda at 10:41 AM on July 31


"More specifically in this context, I REALLY HATE when female (bi)sexuality is used to be appealing to the male gaze; it took me a long time to articulate why exactly I hated Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" so much, but eventually I realized that it feels like a dumbing down of female sexuality to be appealing to men. It removes female agency and makes everything we do performative instead of innately motivated by our own desires. If the song's narrator kissed a girl and liked it, cool, I've done that too, and I've liked it, but I didn't do it to titillate men, I did it because I LIKE KISSING GIRLS."
While there is a hell of a lot of danger in the all consuming power and perspective of the male gaze that is worth combating, I still think there is something subtle but fundamentally misogynistic in this. Where, when I was younger and hung out with a more anime focused crowed, I had a lot of fun making out with guys I wasn't even necessarily attracted to, in a context where that was cool, in order to appeal to the both male and female gaze of yaoi oriented people I was attracted to - and I never got judged for it there. What exactly is wrong about being performative about sexuality, if thats what you find hot, anyway? What is innate about sexuality, if indeed anything is, is a lot more complicated than the gender binary might suggest and I think thats ok.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:45 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Oh, gotcha almostmanda. My bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 AM on July 31


So sometimes those who identify as Bisexual seem to be either saying "My bisexuality is an inborn trait, just like your homosexuality, and like your heterosexuality." Which doesn't ring true to many of us who identify as gay or straight but have felt attraction to our non-preferred gender.

It's interesting: I've actually never been all that happy with the "born this way" narrative, for exactly this reason. To me, being attracted to women feels inevitable, and being attracted to men feels — well, not quite "like a choice," but like something I could have chosen not to cultivate or open myself up to, and that would have played only a minuscule role in my life if I hadn't chosen to cultivate it.

Running with the word "cultivate" a bit: If you think of latent sexuality as a seed, then attraction to women for me was a hardy volunteer species that would have sprouted no matter what I did, and attraction to men was something more climate-sensitive, something that was always there but only sprouted because I decided to water it and weed around it and generally make space for it to do its thing.

So yeah, I guess there is a sense in which I chose to be bi rather than gay. And I'm okay with other people who had the same choice and chose "gay" instead. If things had gone slightly different for me — if I'd dated different boys when I was a teenager, say — I'd probably have said forget about it and chosen "gay" too.

On the other hand, I'm quite certain there are some people who have no choice at all on this stuff: who were always going to be attracted to only one sex, or who were always going to be attracted to both, or etcetera. Actually, my guess is that people like us — who experience it as a conscious choice — are probably in the minority.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:48 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


I've been in several relationships with women who identified as either bisexual or pansexual, and I have been quite aware of how my very presence with them as a straight male can make an important part of their identity invisible. In an open or polyamorous relationship it is in some ways even worse, because everyone assumes that the openness is because of the bisexuality, or that you are hunting for threesomes.

Straight women who date bi/pan guys experience the flip side of this--when you mention that your partner is bi, you'll sometimes get a worried expression and an "Oh, honey..." like you're an oblivious beard to some sort of actually-gay scam artist.
posted by almostmanda at 10:49 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. It was really cathartic for me to read. I think about this issue all the time.

My life story is basically the Lily Aldrin story (I haven't watched HIMYM, but I keep feeling like maybe I should). I began my relationship with my now-husband by cheating on my first girlfriend in college, ten years ago. I've never had sex with a woman and probably never will. There just wasn't time. I never even came out to my parents. I feel like I can't make any claim to be part of any sort of queer community, and basically never mention my bisexuality to anyone. I was active in my university's queer social circles and left them completely when I started dating a man because I no longer felt welcome. I could feel the door closing on me as I started to fall in love with my husband. I left for summer vacation and just never came back.

My husband thinks it's adorable. Sometimes I kind of wish he were more threatened by it rather than basically seeing it as a cute little quirk of mine, like being really into knitting or something - but then I remember that he really used to be (fair enough, I was a cheater), and that wasn't fun either.

It's lonely and profoundly alienating, but so much in life is. At this stage of the game, I feel like nobody gives a shit if I'm attracted to women, and like maybe it isn't any of their fucking business anyway. It's so rarely relevant. But that doesn't mean it's gone away. And I guess it probably never will.
posted by town of cats at 10:50 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I always found the born vs choice dichotomy really troubling. It's one thing to have a personal narrative that says you've always found yourself a certain way, or that you have navigated consciously to your present position, but to blow that up into population-describing categories seems to carry a disturbing moral weight to it that is totally at odds with the intent behind creating the categories. Like, if you want to say you were born with certain desires, you can think of that as saying it's very natural, nice and biological, but then it's also taken as and he was helpless in the face of his diseased desires! And similarly, narratives about choice can be seen as personally liberating, or, well, leaping into the arms of evil.

But again, that's the problem with taking something that you feel--whether it's desire, or the story of how you noticed and thought about that desire--and having it made into a category by someone else. It feels like an act of (usually subtle) psychological violence.
posted by mittens at 10:52 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I'm so glad to see this here, even though this is a subject that gets me all kinds of worked up and weepy.

I am a reasonably cis lady. I've identified as bi since pretty much puberty, at which time I started to encounter the wider world of queer culture in NYC. I still have one of my AIDS Walk t-shirts from the 90s, and one of the two pictures of me in my high school yearbook is on the page for the queer club. I spent my teens and early 20s canoodling with both men and women. I have two long-term exes, one male, and one female.

And then, eight years ago, I ended up in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship with the man who remains my partner today.

He is kind and supportive and great, and our relationship works pretty well (or we wouldn't still be together), but I feel like I rent a big, visceral chunk of myself and left it by the side of the road. Because now, I'm hiding. I'm passing. Something I swore I'd never do.

I play the pronoun game when discussing my past with acquaintances, because it's easier, in work and casual social settings, to just not get into it. I rarely talk about my feelings with queer friends, because I've encountered a hell of a lot more hostility about bisexuality from gay and lesbian friends than I ever have from straight ones. And no matter how much I'd like to go to One Last Shag and dance it out, I don't, because that's somehow no longer for me. I'm in my 30s. Almost everyone I know, queer or not, is partnered up and popping out kids. A potluck picnic in the park is a big night out for them. And what would I be doing at a pick up spot, gay or straight, anyway?

It's jarring to run into people who knew me when I was in my last relationship and still treat me as their one lesbian friend. It's equally strange to be thrust into straight lady conversations about, I don't know, Channing Tatum being dreamy, or whatever.

I feel like I gained a loving, long-term relationship but lost an entire community.

I hate that I feel like I was forced to choose between the two.

I hate that I question whether my positive and lovely relationship was simply, somehow, easier. I hate that I've been called a traitor because of it, or assured that bisexuality isn't real, or told that my past, and present, and presumably future sexual identity was merely a phase.

I watch the pride parade from the sidewalk, hoping that someone will see me and think to themselves that I belong there. I furtively peer into the windows of Ginger's every time I walk past, trying to recognize someone. I feel alone.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:56 AM on July 31 [28 favorites]


What exactly is wrong about being performative about sexuality, if thats what you find hot, anyway?

The issue is not "being performative about sexuality", which I think is totally fine, the issue is straight women co-opting a bisexual identity to make themselves more appealing to the male gaze in a way that makes bisexual women and lesbians seem less serious and propagates the cultural narrative that all sexuality is, fundamentally, about men.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:03 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


man you guys are making me never want to get married [various cryptic sad emoji]
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:14 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Not just that — there are a lot of people who came out as gay as a stepping stone to eventually admitting they were bi- or pansexual, because within most queer communities saying "I'm gay" or "I'm a lesbian" is easier and more socially acceptable than saying "I'm bi."

Sometimes it's not a stepping stone - I've met someone who honestly believed herself to be gay when she was a teen, because she had only ever had sexual or romantic feelings for women. But just as some "straight" people realise later in life that they are bi, she realised she was bi in her 20s. It wasn't that she was lying (to herself or others), but more like she unfolded a bit of herself she didn't even know she had.

I think it is harder for people in the middle of the Kinsey spectrum to figure out their own identity. When you are only attracted to one sex - and even turned off by the other sex - you can't wonder about your orientation. But as sexual attraction is so personal - not just about you, but also the people you meet - it can be confusing. I happened to be attracted to femme men and butch women when I was younger. I met a lot more femme/nerdy men (there are more of them), and thus was so much more often attracted to men that I wondered if maybe I was straight. Now I happen to be meeting many handsome women, and find myself more often attracted to women.

it's confusing for me! no wonder other people get a bit confused.
posted by jb at 11:27 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


evidenceofabsence, you reminded/inspired me to repost this nyc lgbt irl event. You should come!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:29 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Pterodactyl's excellent comments have reminded me of one of my top pet peeves in life, which is a man who states that it is A-OK for his otherwise monogamous bisexual female partner to hook up with another woman whenever she feels like it, especially if he's around to watch, but never OK for her to even touch another man, ever. Men like this appear to believe that a bi woman in a monogamous relationship with a man isn't cheating at all if she sleeps with another woman, but she's definitely cheating if she sleeps with a man -- I've actually heard them say that women "don't count." Does this mean they think it's not really sex if there's no penis involved?

I'm a 0 on the Kinsey scale, and I've been boy crazy to the teeth since approximately birth, but an unsettling number of men I've dated have explicitly told me that a) I should "experiment" anyway, because they think ladies making out with other ladies is inherently/unavoidably sexy even when one of the ladies is actively repulsed by the experience, and b) these are the only parameters under which I would be "allowed" to engage in non-monogamous interactions if I wanted to continue a relationship with them. It's such a gross attitude, and it perpetuates the egregiously offensive idea that bisexuality is inherently performative and/or insincere.
posted by divined by radio at 11:34 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


What exactly is wrong about being performative about sexuality, if thats what you find hot, anyway?

In an ideal world, it might be fine. But in the real world, it has some pretty crappy, if unintended, consequences.

First off, you have to consider that when it comes to queer communities, scarcity is a huge issue. Almost all bars, and cafes, and $Establishments_Where_You_Might_Meet_Someone are, by default, straight. Even in a large city, there are relatively few places that cater to gay men, and a pathetic, piddling handful that cater to gay women.

If you are a lady who wants to meet a lady, you have to attend that one bar one night a week, or sign up for an email list for that traveling party, or schlep it out to that one beach in the summer. You go to poetry readings and panel discussions. You actively pursue being a queer lady, because chances are, you aren't going to meet someone at your after work bar, or walking down the street.

Your community is small, and not all that visible, and you have to work for it.

Meanwhile, your sexuality feels, at best, tolerated in straight establishments, unless it's done as a show for straight men (sort of like 99% of the porn labeled "lesbian" on the internet), at which point, you are either made invisible, or not taken seriously at all.

Maybe you've run into a woman at a bar or party, and hit up a conversation, and things seemed to be going great, and you started to make out, only for her to turn that around into going home with some dude from across the room. Maybe you'll be invited, even though it isn't really about you. Or maybe you were just used as a prop.

Worse, straight guys will assume that your sexuality is actually a come on for them. They will see you kissing your long-term girlfriend and, grossly, try to insinuate themselves into things in a way they would never have done if you'd been a dude making out with your girlfriend in the exact same setting. A not-insubstantial number of these dudes will get pissy or violent when they're asked to go away.

And even if that doesn't happen, you're stuck, as a dyed-in-the-wool lesbian, watching straight women dip their toe into the waters, and not face any of the discrimination you've dealt with your whole life, or the silence from parents, or the late-night assaults because of something so inherent to your self that you cannot merely dabble in it on a lark.

And you've probably dated a young women who went on to be in straight relationships, and you feel like the last of the college lesbian Mohicans, and you worry that you'll never meet a woman who will love you forever, instead of leaving you for the straight world that you can never enter.

Like I said, I've encountered a lot more hostility about bisexuality from queer folks than from straight ones. Even though it sucks, I can kind of understand it, and performative "I Kissed a Girl" stuff does not help.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:35 AM on July 31 [20 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl's excellent comments have reminded me of one of my top pet peeves in life, which is a man who states that it is A-OK for his otherwise monogamous bisexual female partner to hook up with another woman whenever she feels like it, especially if he's around to watch, but never OK for her to even touch another man, ever.

That reminds me of this piece from a couple years ago by a woman who actually internalized that attitude herself for a while.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:37 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


You should come!
Aww, shucks, I might just do that!

posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:38 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


> "... where is the example in the media for someone like me?"

Lily Aldrin maybe?


Just sticking with Alyson Hannigan, while I don't think Willow ever explicitly identifies as Bi, there's a nice "consistency is overrated" approach to the character that I found refreshing. She's young and figuring herself out and loves who she loves and there's no real rush to shove it all into an identifying box.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:51 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


"The issue is not "being performative about sexuality", which I think is totally fine, the issue is straight women co-opting a bisexual identity to make themselves more appealing to the male gaze in a way that makes bisexual women and lesbians seem less serious and propagates the cultural narrative that all sexuality is, fundamentally, about men."
...But in a very fundamental way, bisexuality is not an identity any more than being turned on by exhibitionism is. All we have are the narratives we co-create, and having fun by making out with one consenting and informed person in a way that involves titillating a consenting and informed third is not 'dumbed-down' or despicable any more than any other sexual act between consenting people is.

As it is, I can't help but observe that it is only women who ever get judged in this kind of way, and that besides, it is exactly this kind of prejudice that queer communities were built to exclude - not people with non-standard sexualities.
"Maybe you've run into a woman at a bar or party, and hit up a conversation, and things seemed to be going great, and you started to make out, only for her to turn that around into going home with some dude from across the room. Maybe you'll be invited, even though it isn't really about you. Or maybe you were just used as a prop."
Doing sexual things with people under false pretenses is indeed at best a deeply shitty thing to do, but two straight same gendered people, or one straight person and one gay person who is into straight people, doing their thing, whatever it is, isn't co-opting anyone's narrative but their own.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:03 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


evidenceofabsence: "He is kind and supportive and great, and our relationship works pretty well (or we wouldn't still be together), but I feel like I rent a big, visceral chunk of myself and left it by the side of the road."

"I watch the pride parade from the sidewalk, hoping that someone will see me and think to themselves that I belong there."

Yep. Yep. Yep. I'm happy to see this feeling so well-stated and sad because it's so well-stated.
posted by desuetude at 12:06 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


Sometimes it's not a stepping stone - I've met someone who honestly believed herself to be gay when she was a teen, because she had only ever had sexual or romantic feelings for women. But just as some "straight" people realise later in life that they are bi, she realised she was bi in her 20s. It wasn't that she was lying (to herself or others), but more like she unfolded a bit of herself she didn't even know she had.

That's me - except that I was always straight until my late 20s when I realized what I was actually thinking/feeling. I never had any issues with bi/gay/whatever part of the spectrum people, but I just never thought that was me. But it was and is and this whole thing frustrates me to no end. It is one of the reasons I don't really talk about it to anybody but my 2 friends and my wife who are awesome about it.

We are most definitely NOT past these issues in the general culture in America. I'm not trying to pass as anything and I'm not hiding (hell, my real name and location are listed here) but I don't need to pick fights because I have a great family who understands me. I don't care what anybody else thinks and I'm not about to ask.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:18 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


immediately putting me in this kind of leering light

Oh, God, I can't even count how many times this has happened to me. I am a cis woman with a long-term cis male partner, so I pass as straight a lot. Nearly every time I talk about an ex-girlfriend in specific or about being attracted to women in general, someone will make a wink-wink-nudge-nudge comment about how lucky my partner is to have such a wild and crazy sex kitten in his life.

On one particularly memorable occasion, a group of us were chatting and somehow in the course of a long, meandering conversation it came to light both that a) I had dated women and b) I had an IUD and didn't menstruate anymore because of it.

One guy's eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, man, you'd be the perfect girlfriend!", implying that I would both be willing to titillate a boyfriend with performative bisexual behavior and that the only legitimate reason I might have had to deny sex to a boyfriend--"that time of the month"--was conveniently gone.

Yuck. Just... yuck.
posted by jesourie at 12:27 PM on July 31 [12 favorites]


...But in a very fundamental way, bisexuality is not an identity any more than being turned on by exhibitionism is. All we have are the narratives we co-create, and having fun by making out with one consenting and informed person in a way that involves titillating a consenting and informed third is not 'dumbed-down' or despicable any more than any other sexual act between consenting people is.

I think you're missing the part where you are taking on the identity of another group of people (women who are into women) without THEIR consent. It's not as simple as "everyone involved consents" because there are bigger issues here and this is not happening in a vacuum.

As it is, I can't help but observe that it is only women who ever get judged in this kind of way

When you say this, it sounds to me like you are tsk-tsking at me for being misogynistic and frankly it's kind of bullshit; I'm addressing the issue of my sexuality and female sexuality as a whole being used in service of male sexuality. As I understand it, straight men having sex with other men, either gay or straight, is of interest to the gay community, not stealing their identity and making it safe for the consumption of the dominant culture. I'm not so much judging women as the society that privileges the comfort of that dominant culture over women's expressions of sexuality, and you trying to make my argument all "you're judging other people's sexuality and being misogynistic in the process" is disingenuous at best.

I'm trying not to make this great thread into a two-person argument so I'm bowing out now so please don't be surprised if I don't respond.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:28 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


One guy's eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, man, you'd be the perfect girlfriend!", implying that I would both be willing to titillate a boyfriend with performative bisexual behavior and that the only legitimate reason I might have had to deny sex to a boyfriend--"that time of the month"--was conveniently gone.

I'm honestly curious. Did you:

a) puke all over him
b) kick him in the balls until all chances of reproduction were gone
c) thwack him on the nose with a newspaper and say "NO! BAD DOG! STOP SHITTING!"
d) all of the above?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:30 PM on July 31 [11 favorites]


I'd love to know how many of the truly vile biphobes I met when I was coming out in the 90s are putting most of their nastiness into being vile TERFs these days. The rhetoric sure sounds familiar.
posted by sculpin at 1:08 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I have so many feelings about this post and thread. I only recently realized that my girl crushes and my short stories about loving women were my unconscious screaming at me to pay attention to the fact that I am hella attracted to women and enjoy having sex with women and loving women, etc.

All of which has been an experience that has not made me suddenly unattracted to men.

So I have decided to identify as bisexual.

But there is nothing that can make me angrier, faster, than people wanting lady-love in the service of the male gaze. I absolutely will not kiss (or otherwise) a woman for a man's enjoyment. My attraction to women is fucking sacred, and ours. Just like whatever I do with anyone (dudes included) belongs to we, the participants, and not the world.

And it always counts. Every kiss, every touch, every blush, every love, every person counts.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:24 PM on July 31 [15 favorites]


> "... and performative 'I Kissed a Girl' stuff does not help."

(That song also bugs me because when I first heard that "I Kissed A Girl" had gotten popular I assumed that Jill Sobule was getting some well-deserved mainstream popularity.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:25 PM on July 31 [15 favorites]


two straight same gendered people, or one straight person and one gay person who is into straight people, doing their thing, whatever it is, isn't co-opting anyone's narrative but their own

Those people may be doing their own thing, but given the performative nature of the act, they're not doing it in a vacuum. As a result, I think it's fair to consider it as both a personal act and something that happens within a greater context.

An analogy: I super duper love Big Freedia, and I finally got to see her perform at Brooklyn's Afropunk Festival last year, and it was every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would be.

Later that very same day, a certain young, white female performer took the stage at the VMAs, twerked, and sparked a months-long conversation about the cooptation of black culture and the sexualization of black bodies.

Was I at Big Freedia's show because I'm genuinely into her music, and because, year on year, Afropunk is pretty much the best music festival in NYC? Yes.

Is it fair to question my role, as a white lady, in attending a twerk-a-rific performance, and to situate it in the larger issues of sexualization and cooptation? Absolutely. Yes. Both.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:02 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl's excellent comments have reminded me of one of my top pet peeves in life, which is a man who states that it is A-OK for his otherwise monogamous bisexual female partner to hook up with another woman whenever she feels like it, especially if he's around to watch, but never OK for her to even touch another man, ever.

See also: The One Penis Policy

Grrrr. Few things make me more aggro.
posted by Myca at 2:16 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


It seems like the Fake Bi Girl Problem is what these conversations generally turn toward, and I feel that we bisexuals have much more interesting problems than some exhibitionistic girls having a performative good time, even if I find it grossly problematic and, well, gross. (I do wonder how many of them will figure out eventually that they meant those kisses.)

By and large we're an understudied population, and when we are studied we are often conflated with gay people, invisibilizing our particular experience, but there are some results to be had. The Equality California Institute makes a good case that in many ways, bisexuals have significantly worse mental health outcomes than heterosexuals or homosexuals.

We're relatively likely to have STIs and to experience partner violence, and our emotional well-being overall tends to be pretty crappy. (Source.)

As for things that are just plain irritating, I'll start fretting about Fake Bi Girls once Dan Savage stops sniping and baiting and gatekeeping at his bisexual critics, or at least stops being widely admired as some sort of LGBT hero. My irritation dance card is full up.
posted by sculpin at 2:25 PM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Nothing quite equals being on the receiving end of doubt for a very personal decision, because for so many out there (it would seem) "bi" means "fence sitter."

What I never really understood (in my pervasive naiveté) is why I or anyone would have to choose. Or prove something.
posted by datawrangler at 2:43 PM on July 31


At an early point in my sexual discovery phase, I sort of gave up on the entire notion of identification. If I'm really pressed, I tell people that I identify as queer, because that seems to be the sort of most all-encompassing thing. Since I was quite young I've always felt sexually attracted to individual people, male and female, which I guess makes me bisexual, but I always eschewed 'bisexual' as an identifier because there's weird baggage with it and I never felt totally comfortable in that community either.

Interestingly, I tend to have always had the most successful relationship (friendly and romantic) with other people who identify as queer. I think it's weird for me to, say, date a women who is only attracted to men. It would be hard to relate on some level I guess, like I have a hard time understanding how that works a bit.

I think often both the straight and gay communities can be pretty cruel about sussing out the 'true scotsman' of gays/straights among them. But, you know, group identity tends to be built on rejection, not acceptance, which is understandable given the historical struggle. But it does make it weird for some of us to find a place.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:43 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


we bisexuals have much more interesting problems

So, this is usually the point in any conversation about bisexuality where I say something kind of stupid and illogical that makes sense to me but ends up alienating everyone else. Hooray!

I think the Fake Bi Girl problem is interesting because it is central to the failure of cultural imagination that causes so much woe in bi people. Our crappy emotional well-being is tied to our culture having no language with which to discuss ourselves, except in the pre-existing terms of heteronormativity and its mildly-allowed deviations.

What is bisexuality, how is it best thought of? The best we seem to come up with is the Kinsey scale, with its aura of scientific respectability--after all, we respect what can be measured, because to measure is to know, and to know a thing is to have that thing's fearfulness excised. But we've already given up the game if we accept that as our language, because continuums are only interesting at (and thus good-to-think at) their extremes. We've traded a simple monopole (straight versus deviant) for a bipole that is really only slightly less exclusionary.

So the Fake Bi Girl, what is she doing? I think it is safe to say that she is doing drag, doing bi-face, a parody, but parody is always about trying to find the essential definition of its object, so it is interesting that her definition is so...so shallow, compared to the complexity and nuance of drag proper. If you watch her performance, what is depressing about it is to realize that society really has very little to say about bi people. Meanwhile it can talk endlessly about, say, gay men (with that dangerous delight that can turn scary so quickly), because it can attach to gay men not only the whole sleeping-with-men thing, but a mode of dress, speech, gesture (itself only now emerging from parody into acceptance).

And so that brings us to what it means to be out and bi. Because coming out is always supposed to be the solution, right? Don't pass, don't closet yourself, to do so is psychologically damaging and lying to yourself and harming all the bi people in the world. But what are we supposed to come out with? "Hi, everyone, my life is so much more complicated than you realized, and about twice as distressing?" For bisexuals there is no predetermined coming-out narrative we can participate in. We are not fabulous. We get no credit for honesty--in fact, just the opposite, because bisexuality is an admission of dishonesty in our cultural narrative. But, it has to be emphasized, a shallow, single-minded dishonesty, because you have refused to pick a side. You've made things complicated. We don't even get the benefit of some kind of trickster-god narrative that could at least provide a little spiritual warmth.

All of which sounds so much more final and grim than I actually mean it, because what I mean is, we need better narratives. They don't have to be true, really--cultural narratives never are--they just have to be roomy enough to have a whole person inside, more participatory than that one tiny action that is all the FBG knows to ape. And they have to be able to interact with the culture's other narratives, even if that interaction is terribly clumsy and involving lots of awkward, offputting questions. Because even that will mean being seen, being read, as human, and someday as an entire human.
posted by mittens at 4:09 PM on July 31 [17 favorites]


I watch the pride parade from the sidewalk, hoping that someone will see me and think to themselves that I belong there.

If you're in Toronto next June - or New York City, or London, or Minneapolis, or most others - there's probably a Bi group that would be happy to have you march with them, if you want to march.

We actually had a problem with visibility at this year's World Pride in Toronto. Though the Toronto Bisexual Network has a couple hundred online members, and we talked to another few hundred bi/pan/fluid identified people during the streetfair before the parade and invited anyone who wanted to join us (allies included), we only had 10-15 people marching in the parade. We were a fraction of the size of the Asexual group marching in front of us. I worried that our small size really did make us look like unicorns and/or cranks.

I've been trying to figure out why we had so few people. Some of our members marched with other groups (like their workplace). Partly it was weather: it was hot, and lots of our membership are middle aged and older people who find walking a long way in the heat to be problematic. But also, I think a lot of bi people just don't feel a strong connection to bi community and advocacy groups. It's not like bi people can only date within the queer community, and if their partner is the opposite sex, they don't have to worry about discrimination if they appear in public as a couple.

I really wish we had a bigger presence, and I'm going to be thinking this year about how I can increase participation for next year. (Ideas welcome - please feel free to memail me).
posted by jb at 4:16 PM on July 31


her definition is so...so shallow, compared to the complexity and nuance of drag proper

I actually have issues with the lack of nuance in drag (as genderqueer person raised female - drag queens often feel like a weird making-fun-of-me by someone who can take the wig off and be male at the end of the night) - but that's an argument for another day.
posted by jb at 4:21 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I think there's a lot of bisexual woman* out there being pushed into the closet out of fear of being Fake Bi Girls. So I'm personally very reluctant to paint them as the source and scourge of all biphobia. The assumption that all bisexual women are Fake Bi Girls is the real issue.

Anybody out there worried about being one of "those bisexuals," and "rounding up"** to straight because you're not sure your experiences or partners or attraction to people outside of heterosexual pairings is enough: you don't have to quantify your queerness to me, or to anyone in the entire world. That attraction is real and beautiful and special, whether or not you act on it, or however you choose to act on it. I don't give a shit about your Kinsey number, or whether you were drunk when you kissed her. You're in the club, ok? Maybe don't try to claim special status, or divert resources from those who really need them, but I am not going to police your queerness because honestly, the more people on the team there are, the less chance we have of being marginalized.

*including me, as someone who identified as a woman and as bisexual before more nuanced language became available to me, and before I had enough single time on the market to be like "oh man I LOVE pussy there is a zero percent chance I am straight"

**a concept introduced by Dan Savage which very honestly fucked me up for YEARS as someone who used to trust him as an impressionable teenager and who didn't have a ton of resources back in the day to learn that he wasn't the grand arbiter on high of other people's identities
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:34 PM on July 31 [23 favorites]


But also, I think a lot of bi people just don't feel a strong connection to bi community and advocacy groups.

This is so, so true. Honestly, for me, I've never even felt that there was a bi community in any meaningful way — and I say that even though I'm friends with a whole lot of individual bi people, and have gotten a lot out of those friendships. There's just... never been a sense of being part of something larger, of those friendships adding up to a capital-C Community.

And I'm honestly not sure why that is. I don't think it's just that I can date straight people (because I tend not to; most of my opposite-sex partners have been bi themselves) or that I can pass as straight myself (because I can't really; as a visibly trans woman I never quite count as "straight" by mainstream standards, no matter who I show up with).

I imagine a lot of it for me is just straight-up internalized biphobia. On some irrational level I'm still convinced that bi just means "almost gay, but not gay enough," and that our proper place is hanging around the fringes of the gay or lesbian community feeling uncomfortable. It's hard to shake that feeling and to convince myself that we could come together as a community and get something of value out of it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:38 PM on July 31 [6 favorites]


I personally feel zero connection to the word "bi community" and a TON of connection to the words "queer community." Just this past weekend I was at the queer/trans punk festival Fed Up Fest and it CHANGED MY FUCKING LIFE. I don't think I've ever been to a "bi" event in my life.

Some of it is likely an age/cultural divide, and like I said unthread, it's been a long time since I identified as bi (since I don't actually believe in binary gender, or at the very least have an extremely difficult time trying to fit myself and my partners into it).
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:47 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I think there's an interesting contrast between the bi community, which has failed to take off, and the genderqueer/nonbinary community — which in some places at least has taken off like a goddamn rocket. Not to say that nonbinay people have it easy or are totally accepted or whatever. But there's more and more people out there who are excited about being nonbinary, and identifying publicly as nonbinary, and building community with other nonbinary people; and I've never felt that sort of momentum was out there around being bi.

And that makes me think that part of the problem is the kinsey-scale thing that mittens was talking about upthread. People are pretty clear that "nonbinary" and "genderqueer" don't just mean "partly male in a sort of halfassed way" or "partly female in a sort of halfassed way," but that they represents some other thing that could well be off the damn scale entirely. I wonder if more people would feel strong positive identification with the label "bi" if there was more recognition that it didn't just mean "partly gay in a sort of halfassed way."
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:47 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


i stopped using bi and started using queer just as soon as that term gained prominence to refer to the all over nonbinary communities (and i had been moving between pan and omni sexual before that). like Juliet Banana, bisexual never really fit because of being genderqueer and being attracted to genderqueer people. it was never men & women, but rather, people that i was attracted to.

i almost want to say it was erika moen of ohjoysextoy fame who said something like, "when i tell you i'm queer, all that i've told you is i'm not straight" which hit me when i first read it (but now i can't find it, so maybe i'm wrong about who said it).
posted by nadawi at 5:08 PM on July 31 [6 favorites]


"Where, when I was younger and hung out with a more anime focused crowed, I had a lot of fun making out with guys I wasn't even necessarily attracted to, in a context where that was cool,"

Transpose this to high school theater, and it was pretty much what convinced me I was straight. (That's right, I'm straight because high school boys are terrible kissers.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


And while I've talked about this before, one of the really striking things to me in the Reducing Disparities Project (work self-link) was how much bi-invisibility affects the mental health and mental health resources for people who identify as bisexual. It ends up being really striking.
posted by klangklangston at 5:25 PM on July 31


I think there's a lot of bisexual woman out there being pushed into the closet out of fear of being Fake Bi Girls. So I'm personally very reluctant to paint them as the source and scourge of all biphobia. The assumption that all bisexual women are Fake Bi Girls is the real issue.

God, welcome to several years of my fucking life. "I can't try to date women, because if it turns out I'm not 'really' bi then I will be the worst person in the world!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:21 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


The whole idea of bisexuality being a simple one dimension Kinsey scale drives me batty, as a bisexual woman. My bisexuality is not a one dimensional scale where I sit smack in the middle waiting for a breeze to waft me one way or the other between two options that are basically the same with different bits tacked on. My attractions to men are quite different in kind and strength and timecourse from my attractions to women, and my attractions to genderqueer people are a whole other thing from either of those. My romantic and sexual responses to different genders feel very different to me. I feel like my sexuality exists on, what, five or six axes pointing every which way, and I'd need a big box of markers to plot them in many different colors.

Not that any of that is readily apparent because I too often pass for straight (bi male partner), but it's still my identity and my lived experience and I never see it written about in a way that rings true to me.

Which is probably part of why I also took a hard turn into preferring "queer" as my descriptor in recent years. It's a more comfortable term. Gives me room to stretch out and be all the things I am, and love all the different types of people I love in all the ways I love them.
posted by Stacey at 7:32 PM on July 31 [9 favorites]


Ugh, I've been swimming in this stuff lately. I went to a women's "coming out group" recently, in an attempt to somehow make sense of an identity that seems to be shifting from bi to some variety of really, really queer. And even though it claimed to be a safe space for all queer women, the first speaker was an older lesbian who talked about being shocked and offended that some friend of a friend had DARED to "accuse" her of being bisexual - based on the fact that she was married to a man for 20 years before meeting her female partner. I mean, fine, if that's not how she chooses to identify, I respect that…but the murmurs in the group made me feel like they saw "Bi"as an insult in its own right, rather than a mere case of misidentification. And when I gently attempted to challenge this, the facilitator went on to assure us that "some people want to sit on the fence for a while, and that's okay".

Oh, for fucks sake. This bullshit is why bi people have significantly worse mental health than gay or straight folk. We're stuck between the big, wide, homophobic world, and this cliquish fucking LGbTq (because let's be honest, the B and the Q are barely acknowledged by the old guard) culture that shuns anyone who isn't quite gay enough to pass muster. It's as though the only way to get to that safe, queer place where my identity is finally "okay" is to declare huge chunks of my life (the times when when I have loved and fucked men) to be somehow a lie - weird aberrations on the way to an appropriately pure gay identity. Fuck that. I'm really, really Queer and it is quite unlikely I will ever date a straight man again, but I still feel so fucking unsafe in lesbian culture that I have no idea how to connect with other women and be visible as who I actually am. Coming out as bi or Queer or anything less than unambiguously gay can feel like jumping off a burning boat, swimming to shore, breathing a sigh of relief and then realising that the riverbank is patrolled by snarling wolves.

When given the chance to be honest, the way I explain my identity is thus: My last two partners were of different genders. They were also of different ethnicities. Both same-sex and interracial relationships can be subject to a degree of prejudice. But no-one, no-one seems to be demanding that I declare the ethnicities of people I plan to date in the future, then assign myself a sexual identity based on that plan. No-one is insisting that I sit down with the important people in my life and "come out" as a "POC-dater" because I once dated a person of colour and might do so again. No-one warns white people not to date me because it's obvious that I'll "only leave them for a person of colour". The people I have loved, and fucked, have been different in many ways - gender, ethnicity, height, hair colour, occupation, sexuality - but each relationship has stood or fallen on its merits, never on the basis of who else I could date instead. For me, love is a personal arrangement between myself and a single other human being; not me and them and everyone I've ever dated and all the people and genders I might hypothetically be attracted to in the future. (Which, to be honest, is a much. much smaller number than the average biphobic person would assume).

I'm looking forward to the day that "coming out" as gay or bi or queer or whatever is considered just as absurd and old-fashioned as "coming out" about having or being open to mixed race relationships. I'm looking forward to the day when coming out is unnecessary because no-one assumes that anyone is straight or gay or anything else; when people stop asking "what" I am and simply wonder who I love, who I crave, who I desire, who brings meaning into my life. And I'm looking forward to the day when I can tell them…and they believe what I say.
posted by embrangled at 8:44 PM on July 31 [21 favorites]


I should add…I don't actually want to see LGBTQ culture disappear…it has a rich heritage and has been a powerful anti-oppressive political force, and at its best it can be a haven of radical acceptance for people of all sexualities.

But I wish the more bi-phobic gay and lesbian folk would realise that the only reason that same-sex attraction is something you are - rather than something you do or feel toward someone you love - is that straight people made it so. And they did it to oppress us. The whole idea of sexuality as an inherent quality, rather than a behaviour (or a series of personal interactions), was borne out of 19th century British conceptions of homosexuality as an illness and perversion that required a cure. LGBTQ activism took that idea of sexuality as an innate, immutable state and turned it upside down and used it as a weapon against oppression, which is wonderful. And I'm deeply, deeply grateful to the generations before me who fought for the LGBTQI rights and freedoms that I enjoy. But I wish they would realise that that idea of immutable gay-or-straightness was not ours. It didn't come out of the community; the community came out of the idea. It's an idea that was used by straight folk to divide and oppress us. Maybe it's time to let it go.
posted by embrangled at 9:50 PM on July 31 [9 favorites]


I personally feel zero connection to the word "bi community" and a TON of connection to the words "queer community."

Same. I think the closest I've come to even knowing that there's a bi community was walking past an issue of Anything That Moves at the Center at some point in the 90s.

Meanwhile, I absolutely wish there were a better term for what I think of as bisexuality, which is to say, being attracted to people with different kinds of junk and gender expressions.

Bi carries all the baggage of the word binary. Queer works, but seems nonspecific (I've always thought of it as an umbrella term). And I'm wary of pan- and omnisexual, both because they're newish (and might come off as special snowflake-y), and because "pan" and "omni" could be interpreted as "everybody at all times, I am voracious," which, well, nope.

Multisexual is probably closest to what I mean, though it sounds a bit like a Swiss Army knife, all "My sexuality is a corkscrew and a small plastic toothpick."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:05 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I personally feel zero connection to the word "bi community" and a TON of connection to the words "queer community."

There are a lot of people who feel this way - maybe why our parade delegation was so small.

I don't know that there is inherently anything like a "bi community". I prefer to build my community around common interests rather than just orientation.

But as someone who has felt alienated in the past from the gay and lesbian community - I've had a similar experience in a coming out group as embrangled - I feel like we need to raise the visibility of bi people as bi people, not just under umbrella terms like "queer" (which usually includes all sexual and gender minorities). I don't think that a lot of people in the L&G communities realise how many of us are out there, many just quietly passing as gay or (more often) as straight. I've heard of Pride Committees making the same number of stickers (given away for donations) for "Bi" as they do for "Leather" or "Versatile" - because they had no idea that 1/2 of LGB people are in the B.

As for the issue of B: I came out in the 90s, when pansexual wasn't used. No bi person I've ever met has ever expressed the idea that bisexual means only interested in two genders or supporting the gender binary. (Indeed, one could argue that anyone who dates trans* people is more likely to be bi than monosexual - I know several bi-identified people with trans partners.)

I love the word "queer" because it is so inclusive - but it's too inclusive to promote bi-visibility. And I have problems with pan or omni sexual (for myself, personally), because that does seem to imply that I'm interested in all people or that I don't see gender - I do see gender - my attractions to men and women and genderqueer people are different.

Bi isn't a perfect word, but it's also the one that has been in use since at least the 1970s. I would rather reclaim it than to create new words or to use an umbrella term that belies our numbers. But that's my perspective as someone who has been actively trying to raise the profile of bi people in the queer community, so that we would be more welcome.
posted by jb at 4:49 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


The way I see it, the '2' in bisexual isn't men/women, it's same/different. So the term 'bisexual' isn't any more binarist than homo & hetero are.
posted by Gordafarin at 5:17 AM on August 1


I think there's a lot of bisexual woman* out there being pushed into the closet out of fear of being Fake Bi Girls. So I'm personally very reluctant to paint them as the source and scourge of all biphobia. The assumption that all bisexual women are Fake Bi Girls is the real issue.

Absolutely. How many bisexual women first explored their attraction to other women under the guise of the Fake Bi Girl? I've got a female friend who only dates men. I'm read by her and pretty much everyone else in my public life as a particularly boyish cis woman, which is fine. We have sort of a slow-burn crush on each other that is basically never going to go anywhere for various reasons, but we do periodically end up making out at parties, and invariably there's a gaggle of dudes in the corner pointing (these are, obviously, terrible parties). She's like the living definition of the Fake Bi Girl. Except she's not fake at all; as far as I'm concerned, she's queer, at least a little bit, and she's having a hard time reconciling her attractions with the identity she's built for herself in the world. I'm a safe person for her to explore those dangerous places with. That doesn't make her an exhibitionist to be sneered at; it makes her a person.

I still feel so fucking unsafe in lesbian culture that I have no idea how to connect with other women and be visible as who I actually am.

THIS. I've got a huge hole in my social life made up of all the lesbians who abandoned ship when I started dating my husband. I have this shitty kneejerk reaction now to anyone who identifies as a lesbian: I'm just waiting for them to hate me and get it over with. I dated a lesbian for a short time recently, and we're still close friends, but we could (can) basically never discuss a whole range of issues because I knew she had a lot invested in the politics of lesbian identity, and it would crush me to hear her say it.
posted by libraritarian at 6:05 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Bi isn't a perfect word, but it's also the one that has been in use since at least the 1970s.

Without any disrespect to "queer," a word I love and have used happily for ages, I have to say the history of "bisexual" is so interesting that I would hate to ever give it up. If you watch what psychoanalysis tries to do with it, struggling with the concept, with how to name it, how to outline its dangers and pathologies, you feel a sense of pride at being that hard to pin down! It is so much fun reading Sandor Ferenczi (in "Sex in Psychoanalysis") tie himself in knots over this--first with the term "bisexual," then trying to make it better by turning it into "ambisexual," then finally just losing his shit and creating the monstrosity of "amphi-erotism," which, I mean, frogs? Do what now?
posted by mittens at 6:06 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


No-one warns white people not to date me because it's obvious that I'll "only leave them for a person of colour".

Sadly, I have heard this quite a few times, usually a version of "you do know that he/she has ______ fever, right?"
posted by Dip Flash at 6:19 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Jedicus: Again men were found to be more fluid than women and (based on the results in Diamond and Mock) probably contributed to most of the bisexual to gay transition rate. However, I couldn't find the full text of this study to confirm that.

Not exactly. Rosario et al state that:

"Youths who identified as gay/lesbian prior to baseline were overwhelmingly consistent in this identity. In contrast, many youths who identified as bisexual or as both gay/lesbian and bisexual prior to baseline later identified as gay/lesbian. These findings suggest that, although there were youths who consistently self-identified as bisexual throughout the study, for other youths, a bisexual identity served as a transitional identity to a subsequent gay/lesbian identity. [...] In addition, we found no gender differences in the relations between sexual identity and aspects of sexual identity formation or integration. These findings indicate a similar process of sexual identity development between male and female youths."

People are complicated.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:36 AM on August 1


i think one of the other problems with bi, besides some of us feeling like it erases genderqueer/trans people, is that it retains the -sexual. there's a reason that gay men and lesbians prefer those terms (or others) above homosexual, and i think that goes for bi/pan/omni as well. my loving across genders is not based on or centered around sex. since bi people are seen from both sides as being turbo sluts who refuse to pick a side, a term that prioritizes the sexual is going to feel uncomfortable for a lot of people.
posted by nadawi at 6:45 AM on August 1 [12 favorites]


I was tempted to say that the current generation of identity policing sexuality and a desire to have objective definitions for wibbly wobbly socially constructed sexual categories is due to our educational system. But then, Larry Fucking King.

To jump back a fair bit:

General Tonic: So sometimes those who identify as Bisexual seem to be either saying "My bisexuality is an inborn trait, just like your homosexuality, and like your heterosexuality." Which doesn't ring true to many of us who identify as gay or straight but have felt attraction to our non-preferred gender.

Well, I don't know if it's inborn or not. Members of multiple genders smell yummy to me. Relationships with people of multiple genders have been a significant part of my sexual and emotional history and development. I love my partner (a gender non-conforming woman), and I loved J, even though he broke my heart in multiple ways. To call myself gay would be to erase my partner. To call myself straight would be to erase J. You can see either at work in, for example, the narratives that interviewers try to impose a gay tragedy narrative on Alan Cumming's first marriage.

And on the other hand, I am identified as bisexual by people like Larry Fucking King so it seems a bit weird to say that I can't stand up and call out biphobia as something that creates a hostile environment for me as a person. Give me a world without explicit biphobia, a world in which people identified as bisexual people do not disproportionately have bad health outcomes and relationship abuse including rape, then I'll stop using the term "bisexual" to describe my relationship with those problems.

Blasdelb: But in a very fundamental way, bisexuality is not an identity any more than being turned on by exhibitionism is.

Except that it is, in that many of us put a lot of work into building a bisexual community, cultue, spirituality, and literature in the 90s as something that's in dialogue against anti-bisexual prejudice and as something capable of constructing something new beyond binary definitions.

But I think there's a difference between, say, sexual minorities doing performative things with sexuality, and the cultural gestalt which says we're all into that sort of thing. Personally my ire is at the people who turn bi-tinged titillation into multi-million-dollar entertainment than individual people kissing at parties. But the bottom line is that every relationship I've had with a straight women longer than six months has been negatively affected by the assumption that I'm willing to do that.

Juliet Banana: Some of it is likely an age/cultural divide, and like I said unthread, it's been a long time since I identified as bi (since I don't actually believe in binary gender, or at the very least have an extremely difficult time trying to fit myself and my partners into it).

That's nice. I'm bi and I don't believe in binary gender either.

Although I've used whole bunch of other words like "queer," "omnisexual," and "pansexual" to describe my sexuality, since these words are colors we use you paint our self-portraits, not gang signs, I'm becoming more and more fed up with the revisionism, essentialism, and anti-bisexual prejudice behind current popular definitions of "pansexual." Most of them rely on oversimplifying bi, and straight, gay, and lesbian as well. I've jokingly called myself Πsexual/pisexual (the idea of classifying sexuality by number of genders is irrational).

My feeling is that if we're going to reject "bisexual" as inherently bound by the legacy of early psychologists like Ebing-Krafft, I'm going to reject that Freudian relic of "pansexual" as well.

But in the end, I am identified as bisexual by a structural system of prejudice so it makes no sense for me to deny or sugarcoat that.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:58 AM on August 1 [9 favorites]


nadawi, can we please start a queercore punk band called TURBO SLUTS and call our first ep WE REFUSE TO PICK A SIDE
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:03 AM on August 1 [14 favorites]


For an example of why it matters, being in a relationship with a person who also identifies as queer makes certain conversations a fair bit less fraught than they are in relationships with heterosexual people, in my experience.

And on the downside, being seen as straight apparently means that people around you feel comfortable expressing mild anti-gay prejudice (of the "feminine men are icky" variety) in your presence.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:38 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I don't really identify with something like "pansexual" because it's always described as "oh, I'm attracted to the person, not their gender!" But, like, I'm not "just attracted to people." I almost feel like the word pansexual erases the things that are individually delightful about dating a femme woman or a nerdy man or a genderqueer person or whatever. I'm attracted to people, in part, based on the way they perform gender. I'm just into more than one type of performance.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:41 AM on August 1 [15 favorites]


The "fake bi girls" meme pisses me off in a ways that are difficult to articulate, mostly centered around the way that women are assumed to be flaky and eager to please. "People who sleep with people of the opposite gender and later come out as gay" is an accepted narrative, but turn it the other way around and the narrative is now about how this person was never really committed to being gay/bi in the first place. A girl who makes out with you to titillate her lover without regard for your feelings—if you're a girl and her lover is a guy, she's not just a jerk, she's a FAKE BI jerk.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:30 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I'm a recent widow. I've always been bi and wired for polyamory. I didn't plan on spending over 17 years in a 98% monogamous relationship with a man, but it happened, and it was wonderful.

"I was never straight. I just had a heterosexual-looking marriage." will probably be my response if I'm lucky enough to find a nice woman one day.
posted by luckynerd at 1:35 PM on August 1 [7 favorites]


Darn it, I'm always getting my Krafft-Ebing and my Ebing-Krafft reversed.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:53 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


This thread means the entire world to me. Thank y'all so incredibly much for this.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:35 PM on August 1 [20 favorites]


And on the downside, being seen as straight apparently means that people around you feel comfortable expressing mild anti-gay prejudice

This makes me crazy. I mean, just let me step down from my high-horse a minute and say this drives me out of my fucking mind. For all that I love talking about this stuff--and I do, I could go on for hours about the construction of queer identity, and I wish threads like these would last a thousand years--in real life, this, listening to straight people talk about queer shit when they think they're alone, is just horrifying. Even the mild stuff. The other day, we had some people over, and somehow (how?!) the topic turned to The Gays, and how on earth could any guy ever be attracted to another guy, and I'm looking around frantically realizing that even though I'm out to about half the room, nobody seems to remember that fact and they all chime in on how weird it is because guys aren't aesthetically appealing at all, tee-hee, and even though I'd popped an Ativan beforehand, it isn't helping, I am in total social phobia mode (oh hi, bad mental health outcome!), and all I want to say is, you obviously aren't looking at the same guys I am, here let me show them to you, but what do I do? Oh, the same fucking thing I always do, I sit there looking uncomfortable and wait for the topic to change, because jesus christ, what is the fucking point of telling anyone anything if it isn't going to change anything?

I had so much more confidence about this stuff when I was younger. And I don't know if it was because I was young, or just because I surrounded myself with visible symbols of queerness--the girlclothes, the makeup, a certain force of presentation that allowed no other interpretation. It was a divine offense mechanism, and it's something I don't feel like I have access to anymore.
posted by mittens at 6:02 PM on August 1 [13 favorites]


luckynerd, I just caught the "recent widow" part of your comment; I'm so sorry for your loss, and happy for you that you had a loving relationship for 17 years. What a lovely thing, and such a hard thing to lose. I wish you all the luck in the world for your future.

.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:54 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


Way upthread nebulawindphone talked about "cultivating" attractions, and that resonates with me. I like the framing that yeah, that was always part of me and I chose to develop and explore that part of myself more. For me it was a two step process where first I noticed and started cultivating my gender issues. Once I'd made a good mess out of that I hit a point where I started thinking about how if I'm non-binary, then 'straight' wasn't a thing that really made a lot of sense anyway and oh hello there boys.

Now I'm in a stable straight-looking relationship, and that combined with the fact that I had to make the choice to develop those parts of myself gives me some feelings of being an impostor sometimes. But it doesn't make it less real, and I also think that if I had not chosen to start developing those now, it might have eventually become non-optional down the line anyway.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:38 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Also, the number of people in this thread who are bi, non-binary, and in straight-seeming relationships is so very comforting to me, you guys are the best. The numbers game likeliness of that happening is a real thing.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:49 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


How many bisexual women first explored their attraction to other women under the guise of the Fake Bi Girl?

I primarily get hit on by women who are not very comfortable with any sort of bi or queer identity and who want to "experiment" without leaving the safety of straight privilege. Even aside from how much I would like to have a partner, it is really painful to have people see me as an "experiment" or "wild time", and to be expected to keep any involvement I have with them on the down low because showing me the solidarity of visibility - even to our mutual friends - would be way too much to ask, despite all their rhetoric about seeing me as normal and equal. When I've tried to talk to them about this, they generally say that it would be "awkward" for them to be out, as though I pay no price for visibility or somehow my struggle is not their problem.

I get that this is complicated and different situations are different, but I had a boyfriend I was quite serious about a few years back and we agreed that we were really not comfortable with any kind of straight privilege so neither of us ever mentioned the relationship in a situation where we couldn't talk about being queer. I also wish that along with the discussion about problems with the lesbian community there was more on what it means for bi women who are partnered with men to be expected to conform to hetero norms by their male partners and how straight men could be better allies.

Finally, here is a link to a chunk of Kenji Yoshino's The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure which I think makes a good discussion of monosexism.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:17 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Thinking more about this thread (which I love to bits), I've been pondering the way even my straight-ish relationships have never been all that straight, even before I realized I myself was not straight.

My very early crushes and half-assed teenage relationships were almost universally, with boys who turned out later on to be gay. (Plus, a certain amount of my teen best friend drama is clarified greatly when I realize I was hot for said best friend and didn't realize it because my world was not one where queer girls were a thing so I was pretty oblivious to myself.) When my first serious relationship began, I considered myself a straight woman and he thought he was a bisexual man - by the end of it, I'd realized I was bi and he identified as straight. I've identified as bisexual (and queer) ever since, but my current partner identified as a straight male when we started dating but lo these many years later identifies as bisexual.

I don't know what all of that says, really. Many of us are a lot more fluid than whatever our relationships look like from the outside? I turn boys queer for other boys but make queer boys straight for girls? Boys turned me queer for other girls? Those of us who are sort of fuzzily outside clear binaries find each other even before we actually consciously identify that way?

It was all awfully confusing when it was happening. Looking back on it, I find it comforting. None of it was ever quite what it looked from the outside, none of it was ever particularly straight even when it looked like such, and it's been eye-opening to realize that about myself.
posted by Stacey at 2:30 PM on August 2 [9 favorites]


Thanks, Juliet.

Mr. Luckynerd and I both found the same kinds of people attractive. It was a sweet thing to have that bond. Our hetero pairing enabled us to get married 14 years ago. The "legal next of kin" part of marriage was very important to us. I'm glad more couples have that option these days.

One thing he wanted me to do was start a special Takewondo class for the Queer community. He even wrote up a proposal for me. I owe it to him to make that a reality.
posted by luckynerd at 7:16 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


Another thank you to everyone who shared in this thread. I have had many similar experiences -- the passing, the weird comments from straights about bis and other sorts of queers, the fake bi girl friends and how complicated that feels, the forever-closeted-forever-coming-out.

Personally I didn't march in Toronto World Pride for two reasons: 1) I didn't know about the bi contingent, 2) introvert day. I watched on Twitter and fangirled Councillor Wong Tam and her adorable permagrin the whole time instead. :)

Sometimes I really struggle to believe that monosexuality is a thing. I just don't see how that works. My sister says (about the idea of dating girls) that it's like being hungry and looking in the fridge but nothing looks good, it's all "meh". This is something I understand with food but not with genders.
posted by heatherann at 6:20 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


One thing he wanted me to do was start a special Takewondo class for the Queer community. He even wrote up a proposal for me. I owe it to him to make that a reality.

Oh, please do! That would be so great. I've been taking a Queer swing dance class lately and it is SO GOOD to be able to do an activity involving body contact knowing that I won't be creeped on by straight guys, and also that there's a possibility I might meet a hot queer lady friend. I've never tried martial arts but if a Queer-specific class started in my area I would be there in a flash.

(I'm so sorry for your loss, luckynerd. He sounds like an good man).
posted by embrangled at 5:38 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


> I've been taking a Queer swing dance class lately

Oh man, does that mean that whoever wants to dance lead or follow does so, without regard to gender? Because goddamn I would love that.
posted by desuetude at 8:34 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


Seconded. I basically ended up abandoning social dancing once I started transitioning, because there are men in the dance community here who aren't comfortable with me dancing the "women's" role, and I worry (perhaps too much) about people seeing me as less of a woman if I dance the "men's" role.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:16 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Oh man, does that mean that whoever wants to dance lead or follow does so, without regard to gender? Because goddamn I would love that.

That is exactly what it means. The website even says something like, "Anyone can choose whether to dance like Fred or like Ginger" - it doesn't even mention men or women. And in the class, all moves are taught in a gender neutral way: "Okay, leads step forward, follows step back...leads, as your follow comes out of the spin, be sure to catch them..." Both teachers are Queer - although one time we had a straight substitute teacher who kept slipping up and saying "ladies" or referring to leads as "he", and the other teacher corrected her Every. Damn. Time, to the point where the class started hissing at her whenever she did it. I've been loving the dancing, but I think what I love even more is that the class creates this haven where Queerness is the norm and everyone can drop their guard because heteronormativity just ain't allowed. We're encouraged to rotate partners every few minutes, so sometimes you end up with a four foot five lesbian leading a six foot gay dude, and no-one bats an eye. It's seriously the best thing ever.
posted by embrangled at 3:44 PM on August 4 [9 favorites]


embrangled: ""Anyone can choose whether to dance like Fred or like Ginger" - it doesn't even mention men or women."

Both both! /why yes bisexual
posted by desuetude at 10:45 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


The explorations and discussions of Gender and sexuality I see on Metafilter are astounding. This is a wonderful thread and I would like to thank everybody who has participated and shared such interesting testimony about themselves and their experiences.
posted by marienbad at 12:06 PM on August 5 [8 favorites]




From "Ten bisexuality myths that need to die": Seriously, though, while monogamy isn’t for everyone, bisexuals are just as likely to be monogamous as monosexual people are.

"Bisexuals can’t be monogamous" is definitely a shitty myth, but I'm not sure that the quoted line is actually true. Anecdotally, bisexuality is overrepresented in poly groups versus the general population, which implies the reverse, that polyamory is overrepresented among bisexual people versus the general population.

While I'm here nitpicking, "I don’t like the word “monogamous” because it refers specifically to the number of a person’s wives, which is kinda sexist and useless" struck me as questionable etymology, but digging through OED etymologies, it's a little more complicated that I first assumed. The greek base here, "gam" is pretty clearly just "marriage", but I see that some of the intermediate forms between there and the english word *did* have the meaning she writes about here. In English the record looks mixed. Going to wander way off into the weeds here now because the thread is a week old and going off-topic isn't going to do any harm. I apologize for the damage done to your "recent activity" page. Everything below sourced from the online OED, in order of how old the word is:

Bigamy is the oldest word in the set of -gam- words, from 1250. That surprised me a little, since it's less used in modern usage, but makes sense. Meaning is alternately remarriage and additional marriage. Etymology is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French bigamie remarriage, marriage with a widow or widower, marriage with a second wife or husband when already married (13th cent. in Anglo-Norman) and its etymon post-classical Latin bigamia marriage with a second wife or husband when already married (12th cent. in a British source; also in continental sources), remarriage (from early 13th cent. in British sources)

Additional marriage:
(c1250) Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 449 Bigamie is unkinde ðing, On engleis tale twie-wifing.
(c1395) Chaucer Wife of Bath's Prol. (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 54 Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye.
a1464 J. Capgrave Abbreuiacion of Cron. (Cambr. Gg.4.12) (1983) 11 Lameth, þat broute in first bigamie.
1577 H. Peacham Garden of Eloquence 188 The bigamie of Iacob, the adulterie of Dauid, and the crimes of other holie men.
1635 J. Taylor Life T. Parr D j, Each man had many wives, which Bigamie, Was such increase to their Posterity.
Remarriage:
a1450 MS Bodl. 779 in Archiv f. das Studium der Neueren Sprachen (1889) 82 399 Benettus & colites þat mowin wit bygamye..to lesin here clergye.
1529 T. More Dyaloge Dyuers Maters iii. xiii. f. lxxxvv/2, The forbyding of bygamy by ye weddyng of one wyfe after a nother.
1543 R. Grafton Contin. in Chron. J. Hardyng f. lxviv, It is..a greate blemishe too the sacred maiestie of a prince..to bee defiled with bigamy in his first mariage.
1597 Shakespeare Richard III iii. vii. 179 Seduct..To base declension and loathd bigamie.
Alternate forms bigame 1325, bigamus 1425, bigama 1570, bigamist 1633, bigamous 1671, bigamic 1852, bigamize 1856. Bigama is interesting: a female bigamist. This looks like the remarriage sense- no one is thinking about a woman with two simultaneous husbands, but consecutive husbands is within the realm of possibility, if not desirability.
1570 J. Foxe Actes & Monumentes (rev. ed.) II. 1408/2 Perceyuyng her former Mariage to bee hurtefull vnto her husband, to saue her husbandes life, she tooke an othe before the iudges, that she was not Bigama.
Polygamy is next at 1538, and refers mostly to multiple wives, although the 1738 quotation is ambiguous. Etymology from post-classical Latin polygamia frequent marriage (early 5th cent. in Jerome), polygamy (c1250 in a British source), fact or state of an animal's having more than one mate of the opposite sex from Hellenistic Greek πολυγαμία frequent marriage, polygamy from πολύγαμος often married, polygamous (see polygamous adj.) + ancient Greek -ία -y. Interesting that the non-english use has a different sense when applied to humans.
1538 R. Taverner tr. Erasmus Sarcerius Common Places of Script. f. ccxiv (side note) Poligamie, that is, the hauing of many wyues to gyther is forbydden.
1579 W. Fulke Heskins Parl. Repealed in D. Heskins Ouerthrowne 11 The incest of Iuda, & the polygamie of the Patriarks.
1617 F. Moryson Itinerary iii. 41 Though Poligamy be permitted among them, (I meane the hauing of many wiues for one man).
a1687 W. Petty Petty Papers (1927) II. 113 The English may buy Indian girles of under 7 yeares old and use them as wives, even with polygamy regulated by authority.
1738 S.-Carolina Gaz. 16 Mar. 2/2 Elizabeth Davis, alias Ward, alias Oram stands..indicted for Polygamy, and will take her Trial next Sessions.
alternate forms: polygamous 1547, polygamize 1605, polygamist 1637, polygamic 1741, polygamical 1781, polygamically 1863 in Dickens. Polygamist has a particularly great quotation in the zoological sense:
1886 P. Robinson Valley Teetotum Trees 84 The sparrow is accused as being ‘a bird of bad habits and of infamous character..a communist and a polygamist’.
Monogamy has an english quotation to 1612 in the sense of not remarrying. You have to go to 1708 to get the modern usage.

Tracing backwards, they give 1526 for middle french monogamie, "condition of being married to only one person at a time", and a much later citation for "marrying only once", which is interesting. 3rd century reference for post-classical latin monogamia "the practice of marrying only once", from the greek.

Definition given is gender neutral as you'd expect for modern usage, but some of the citations take the male-centric view of marriage, with others are ambiguous:
1656 T. Blount Glossographia, Monogamie, a marrying of one onely wife all the life time.
1728 E. Chambers Cycl., Monogamy, the State or Condition of those who have only married once.
monogamize in 1593, and monogamist in 1651 are also quoted as holding that remarriage after death of the spouse is invalid, or someone who holds that belief. Monogamist also developed into the modern sense, monogamize did not.

Later forms: monogamous from 1778, which gives 3rd century, post-classical Latin monogamus "a man who marries only once" in its etymology, and quotes Webster with a gendered meaning:
1778 J. R. Forster Observ. Voy. round World iv. 154 The women..are deprived in their matrimony of that share of physical love which, in a monogamous condition, would all be theirs.
1803 T. R. Malthus Ess. Princ. Population (new ed.) i. viii. 109 The number of people increased in a fourfold ratio by polygamy, to what it is in those countries that are monogamous.
1828 Webster Amer. Dict. Eng. Lang., Monogamous, having one wife only and not permitted to marry a second.
1865 W. G. Palgrave Narr. Journey through Arabia I. 295 A faithful and (though wealthy) a monogamous husband.
Also a series of 1800s elaborations on the word: monogamic 1840, monogamously 1875, monogamian 1876, monogamistic 1890.

Digamy from Latin digamia, from Greek διγαμία a marrying twice. This shows up with both remarriage and double marriage meanings, but then settles down into just remarriage pretty quickly. I assume bigamy sorted out into just double marriage around the same time. Quotations from 1635, and it looks pretty gendered, but it also seems to mostly be a concern about married clergy. No one seems to be considering the question of women remarrying after the death of a husband too strongly:
1635 E. Pagitt Christianographie App. 17 The ordinary Priests marry once, Digamy is forbidden them.
1673 W. Cave Primitive Christianity ii. v. 83 Three sorts of Digamy or Second Marriages.
1699 T. Comber Disc. Consecrating 146 Polygamy, yea Digamy, as well as marrying after a Divorce while the former Wife lives, are forbid under the Gospel.
1755 Johnson Dict. Eng. Lang., Digamy, second marriage; marriage to a second wife after the death of the first: as bigamy, having two wives at once.
Alternate forms digamous, digamist, and digamite, which is kind of great, and has an early quote with explicit gender balance:
1625 T. Godwin Moses & Aaron vi. iv. 292 Persons marrying after such divorcements, were reputed digamites, that is, to have two husbands, or two wives.
Polyandry shows up in 1680, etymology is coined straight from greek with no latin stopover, which is interesting. Polyandrous in 1757, polyandrism 1801, polyandrian 1809, polyandrist 1833 (1887 as a euphemism for a prostitute), polyandric 1856, polyandria 1866
1680 W. Lawrence Marriage by Morall Law of God i. vi. 105 Compulsion to publick Marriage or Wooing..causeth Polyandry when one Woman is Courted by two, or many Rivals, she lies under the Temptation of tasting them all, and not till necessitated, to fix on one.
1780 M. Madan Thelyphthora I. 296 (note) This surely affords a strong proof that polyandry (as it is called) is contrary to nature.
1819 R. Southey Select. Lett. (1856) III. 18, I can account for the system of Polyandry, as he calls it, only in one way;..that it originated in necessity.
Polygyny in 1780, taken from greek and attested in hellenistic greek. Now we can start talking about multiple wives separately. Other forms polygynia 1865, polygynic 1866, polygynous 1874, polygynist 1876, polygynaiky 1880 (hilarious), and polygynously 1934.
1780 M. Madan Thelyphthora II. 91 There is not a nation under heaven, where polygyny is more openly practised, than in this Christian country.
1861 Times 21 Aug. 10/2 It is doubtless this teaching that polygyny is a divine institution which has such an effect in repressing the rebellious instincts of the women.
1892 Nation (N.Y.) 24 Nov. 398/3 The license, not of polygamy but of polygyny, was completely established in the case of kings.
Monandry in 1855, taken from the greek and actually attested in ancient greek, which is something. Monandrous in 1884.
1855 F. P. Cobbe Ess. Intuitive Morals I. 155 Monogamy and Monoandry are general rules conducive to the Happiness of mankind.
1882 A. Macfarlane Consanguinity 8 In countries where monandry is established.
1904 Contemp. Rev. Oct. 486 From promiscuity..to..monogamy and monandry, every possible phase and form of the institution [of marriage] can be studied outside of the human species.
Monogyny in 1876, coined from the greek. monogynous 1890, monogynist 1895
1876 H. Spencer Princ. Sociol. (1877) I. 698 Monogyny does not fully express the union of one man with one woman..since the feminine unity is alone indicated by it... Hence monogamy, expressing the singleness of the marriage, may be fitly retained.
1909 Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 14 594 In our human family we find many forms [of sexual relationship]: androgyny, polygyny, and then the slow and halting evolution of monogyny.
For all of those words, the noun form is attested first, followed by the adjective form, but interestingly polyamorous is quoted from 1990, while polyamory is quoted from 1992, the reverse order.

Given all that, there is a pretty decent case that monogamous does historically mean "one wife" - see especially the quotations pairing monogamy and monandry, as recent as 1904. On the other hand, that's been contested. Monogyny directly challenges that usage starting in 1876, and the flipside of polygamy, digamy, and bigamy are gender neutral (sometimes) much earlier. Saying "it refers to the number of a person's wives" in the present tense is stretching things somewhat. That's not present usage and hasn't been for a while now.

Yep.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:30 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Anecdotally, bisexuality is overrepresented in poly groups versus the general population, which implies the reverse, that polyamory is overrepresented among bisexual people versus the general population.

Except! This doesn't show a correlation between being bi and being poly. It shows a correlation between being openly bi and being openly poly.

Here's a possible explanation for that: among people who are both bi and poly, it's relatively rare to come out about one of those facts but stay in the closet with the other.

I can think of a couple reasons that might be true. First off, some people are just more open than others. If your personality makes you inclined to be open and public about some aspects of your sexuality, then you're more likely to be open and public about all aspects of it. And second, the poly community is less biphobic than many other subcultures, so people who are already involved in the poly community are more likely to feel safe and supported in talking openly about being bi.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:09 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Point well taken.

The poly community is also not the only form of non-monogamy, so an anecdotal over-representation there doesn't necessarily say anything about rates of non-monogamy on the whole.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:36 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Today's "Dear Prudence" column (which is composed of questions culled from a weekly open chat):
Q. Irrelevant Closet: I am a happily married, 27-year-old mother of two. I have recently revealed to my husband that I am bisexual, something I have only recently admitted to myself. He is completely supportive and we agreed that this does not change anything in terms of our monogamy. The only issue is that he thinks it would be irrelevant to come out to friends and family since I am in a heterosexual marriage. I know that my family will be accepting, however, now I’m worried that he is right and it would seem out of place to make such a revelation.

A: Let’s say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix. This would not be news you’d be required to announce at the next Thanksgiving gathering. The rapidity with which society has accepted, even embraced, gay sexual orientation is a glorious phenomenon. But you are confusing your personal sexual exploration with a social imperative. It would be one thing if you left your marriage because you were pursuing relationships with women. That would be worth talking about—if you wanted to—as a way of explaining the dissolution of your marriage. But you say you are planning to not only stay with your husband but remain monogamous. I agree with your husband that making a public announcement about something so private will not be illuminating but discomfiting.

Q. Re: Irrelevant Closet
: I have to disagree with you on keeping bisexuality to oneself if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, Prudie. A 2013 Pew Study found that around 70 percent of bisexual people are not out to their family and friends. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who think bisexual people just don’t exist until you read that statistic. Gay and lesbian acceptance has dramatically improved in the past decade especially, and it’s because gay and lesbian people, and their allies, are vocal about it. I’m not saying during the family reunion this woman should say “Can you pass the butter, grandpa? Oh, and by the way, I’m sexually attracted to women, but am still monogamously committed to Jared.” But, there will be many opportunities to let the people in her life know in the context of the fight for marriage equality and sexual orientation as a federally protected class. If a homophobic, or even ambivalent person, knows more LGBT people, the less likely they are to hold prejudice.

A: Good points, but such things have to be taken in context. It’s one thing to have dated men all your life then realize you want to start seeing women, do it, and then tell those closest to you. It’s another to be in a monogamous marriage, have children, and then start telling people about the sexual desires you have that you are not going to act on. If a married person realizes he or she is not by nature monogamous, but is not going to act on urges to have sex with other people (whatever their gender), I don’t think they have to tell their nearest and dearest this.
I am sharing this because it's interesting/relevant to the thread, *not* because I endorse the answers given.
posted by flex at 9:36 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Well, that's frustrating.
posted by mochapickle at 10:27 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


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