“You’re only doing it to titillate men.”
“You need to make your mind up!”
“Doubles your chances on a Saturday night, eh?”
“I’d never date you, I just couldn’t trust you…”
“Fancy a threesome?”
“You’re just too scared to come out as gay.”
“Have you got a boyfriend and a girlfriend?”
“But you’re married to a man, that means you’re straight.”
“Oh, bet you’re into all that kinky BDSM stuff!”
In a world where homosexuality is fast becoming a mainstream topic, bisexuality remains a source of confusion for many people. As a bisexual woman, I am frequently accused of being a slut/too scared to come out “properly”/incapable of monogamy/greedy/confused…. I have been propositioned for threesomes by couples I barely know and had friends of friends tell me to “make my mind up” as casually as if they were advising me on hair colour. Shooo! Shooo!
Still, I can count my lucky stars – at least the National Enquirer doesn’t give a fuck who I’m… yeah. Some of you may have seen True Blood star Anna Paquin grilled about her sexuality by US talk show host Larry King last month. “So you were bisexual, but now you’re married?” he asked. “If you were to break up with [someone] or if they were to die,” Anna responded, “it doesn’t prevent your sexuality from existing – it doesn’t really work like that.” Larry very very quickly changed the subject… very quickly. Things took a similar turn when actress Amber Heard, who came out as being in a same-sex relationship back in 2010, announced her engagement to Johnny Depp earlier this year. The media went into a frenzy joking about how the man behind Captain Jack Sparrow was so hot he could “turn” lesbians. But Amber has never been a lesbian so, you know – DOH!
Bi stereotypes cause untold harm. And what’s more, they’re completely unfounded. True, some bi people are polyamorous, some bi people enjoy threesomes, some bi people cheat and some bi people like kinky sex. But so do plenty of straight people. Having the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender does not guarantee a whole other bag of sexual “quirks” as well. A large number of us are in fact extremely boring and spend our weekends pawing at shelving in IKEA – at the same time as many non-bi folk are getting ready to go out and pull randoms in nightclubs. Sorry, but non-bis do not have the monopoly on deciding to stay in and argue about matching up pine effects with their longterm partner in preference to grinding drunkenly with someone whose name they’ve forgotten on a crowded dance floor.
Being bisexual does not mean you are constantly consumed with yearning for a “bit of the other”. One of my favourite sayings about bisexuality is “hearts not parts”. Those three words absolutely express how I feel about the way I am attracted to people. True, I date men more than I do women, but this has nothing to do with any reductive argument about “preferring” sex with a penis involved. It’s not that simple. My attraction to the women I find myself attracted to is no less than that of the men I am attracted to, it’s just that I am less often attracted to women. Equally the sex I have with women, although less frequent, is not by default also inferior. The quantity in no way affects the quality. Just as you might, I don’t know, fall in love with a completely amazing dude with blonde hair even though you’ve historically mainly dated brown-haired guys. Do you love him any less? Do you hell.
The idea that bisexuals somehow have “more choice” is a huge fallacy (thank you, Woody Allen). For a start, while something like 95% of men fancy women, only about 10-15% of women do, and of these women some of them will turn their noses up at dating you just because you’re bi. And as for the attraction on our side, well – just because you fancy more than one gender, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you fancy more people in general. You don’t just take the number of people a bi person would have fancied if they were straight or gay and then multiply it by two. Oh no. People seem to have no difficulty accepting that some straight people would, quite frankly, snog anything – and that other straight people would probably wait about a month before letting someone peck them on the cheek. Sex drives vary, right? So why are bis supposed to be so different? Why are they automatically assumed to have widened their pool by moving beyond one gender? Believe me, some of us are super picky (for better or worse!).
I find it incredibly sad that so many people completely discount the idea of dating a bi girl like me. Whether it’s because they fear they can’t “match up” with the other gender, they think you’ll cheat or they worry you might have caught millions of STDs you aren’t telling them about off one of those horrible smelly hairy manbeasts, the idea that these folk are shooting themselves in the foot like this is pretty galling. Nothing says “YUCK! Get thee behind me, romantic leper!” like hearing someone who was previously following you round like a puppy suddenly claim they are no longer interested once you drop the “b” bomb. Nope, it don’t feel good – believe me. It seems the words “I’m bi” are synonymous in many otherwise rational and intelligent potential partners’ minds with “Great, you can come home with me and meet my girlfriend. After you’ve tied me up and watched five men spank me at the swingers club.” On the flipside, of course, there are some potential partners who very demonstratively and slimily encourage this trip to the swingers club, followed by a threesome, which you never actually mentioned. These are just as bad.
Fortunately there is a growing tide of bisexual activism worldwide, which I am excited to be an active part of – mainly through the website for bi women I edit, Biscuit. I previously edited a leading magazine for lesbians and bi women, but felt that generalised lesbian and bi media just didn’t – and couldn’t – really cater for bisexuals. Our needs are so different, and the gay community as a whole still doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with us being a part of it. In fact some of the worst intolerance I’ve encountered has come from the lesbian and gay community. Much of this community is lovely and welcoming to us, but sadly a significant number –just like a large number of straight people – see bisexuals as being too cowardly to live a gay lifestyle, or as “traitors” who want to keep their “straight” privilege at the same time as claiming their place in the gay community. There is an assumption that we get “the best of both worlds” when in fact we are more often rejected by both straight society and gay society! The real cherry on the cake? The majority ofstudies show that between 40 and 50% of the LGBT community is made up of people who fall somewhere on the bisexuality spectrum. But most of these people just keep quiet about it and identify as gay because of the prejudice they would face if they were honest about who they really were, and so the vicious cycle continues…
Being bi can be an alienating experience. Many’s the time I’ve wished to be straight or gay – and who can blame me? Sometimes I’ve even tried to convince myself that I am one or the other, but my cover rarely lasts long. Someone cute always seems to come along and blow it eventually. I don’t pretend to know why some people’s desire is limited to one gender and others are able to feel attraction for more than one, any more than I understand why I love pink and hate red and my friend happily wears both (sometimes at the same time – eek!). What I do know is that my sexuality has nothing to do with the way I love, or how much or how little I can love. All it means it that the question of who I will love isn’t restricted by gender.