The thing is, I didn’t always identify as “bi.” For the first 20 or so years of my life, I considered myself straight. Of course, during those years I did little actual considering all around, given that I had a boyfriend for most of the time, and that I was raised in a conservative, Christian environment that did not address alternative lifestyles. I never really had any cause to review my feelings on the matter, nor did I spend much time exploring other options.
But when I started dating a woman, I suddenly found myself barraged with accusations and questions from friends and family, everyone demanding an answer or an explanation. They wanted to know if I was now gay, or if I’d been lying to them all those years. I became adept at answering in a way that assuaged any fear or confusion they might have been experiencing. My most common response was, “No, I’m not gay. I just fell in love with my best friend, who happened to be a girl.” For the duration of our three-year relationship, that was my standard response. While it was an honest one, I know it was also an easy way to avoid a deeper discussion. In retrospect, I find it strange that very few people wondered whether I was bi.
Following our breakup, I started seeing a man, and the inquiries into whether or not I was “straight again” started flowing. But still no mention of bisexuality.
On the other hand, I never voluntarily claimed the label. In those few instances when a direct answer from me was demanded, sometimes I would answer, “Yes, I’m bi,” but most of the time I would say, “I guess I would call myself mostly straight.” I was wary of adopting a label and all its connotations, and furthermore, I wasn’t even sure if I could qualify as bisexual. Did one girlfriend in a pool of boyfriends grant me admission? If I acquired more female make-out partners to lessen the gap between the stack of male make-out partners next to it, would that make me “more bi”? I knew I wasn’t gay, but I also knew I wasn’t straight, and so I found myself drifting along the spectrum, proudly spouting that I didn’t need any labels, that I was me, and that I could love whom I wanted. While I still feel that all these things are true, I have also come to the conclusion that there is a little bit of power granted when identifying with a larger group of like-minded, like-hearted people. This came about after finally addressing what it means to be bi.
Is it simply a matter of liking both sexes? And does “liking” mean sexual attraction, or emotional attraction, or both? Or more? I sent out an inquiry to my queer community and was surprised by the variety of responses. One thing most people agree on is that there is a scale, with gay on one end and straight on the other, and each person falls on a different part of the scale. According to some, “true” bisexuals are at the halfway mark, 50/50, smack dab in the middle. Others believe that falling anywhere other than at the two points on the end grants you the right to claim the bisexual label. And what about pansexuality? Some believe it to be interchangeable with bisexuality, while others say that it is less exclusive than bisexuality, truly open to everyone and not based on a two-gender binary. And if you end up in a monogamous relationship with someone of the same sex, does that mean you’ve graduated to gay status? If I end up marrying a man, does that give my friends the right to say, “I told you you were straight”?
It’s no wonder I was hesitant to slap a bisexual sticker on my forehead and call it a day. I was young and intimidated and not sure if I was ready for any debates about sexuality or judgment from others. Today, on the other hand, I will answer with clarity and surety: yes, I am bisexual. I am attracted to both men and women, and I enjoy making out with both men and women (though not at the same time — remember that bisexual does not automatically mean polyamorous). I do not know if I will end up marrying a man or a woman or frankly if I will ever get married, though a girl can hope! If one were to make a chart of all my relationships, I would not fall smack dab in the middle. However, I do not feel that this disqualifies me from identifying as bisexual. I imagine there will perpetually be some debate over the true definition of bisexuality, and maybe that can be positively spun as it increases awareness. Though it is not wrong to discard labels, at this time in my life, it feels good to be a part of a larger community that understands, empathizes, and provides support.