Hi, I’m Erin. I am attracted to both men and women. By every definition, I am bisexual. But while the word itself makes sense to me, I think I’ve only used it to identify myself a total of three times in my life, and each time it didn’t feel natural to say the words, “I am bisexual.” I’ve felt more comfortable saying simply, “I like both men and women” or “I swing both ways” than I have labeling myself as bisexual. For some reason—one that I’m only just beginning to unpack, literally as I type the words—I have never felt entirely comfortable describing myself as bisexual and I feel a strange sense of guilt about that. Like I’m not being true to myself but… would it be more authentic if I forced myself to use an identifier that doesn’t feel natural to me, just because I thought it was the responsible thing to do?
And ‘round and ‘round we go in the gray areas of gender and sexuality.
But while I sit here trying to figure out who the hell I am—cue existential crisis—I know that perhaps the reason I don’t feel comfortable identifying as bisexual is that there’s a certain negativity that comes along with it. Bisexual humans aren’t really represented anywhere in the community except in the capital B. The truth is that the Bs of LGBTQ are often not taken seriously and bisexuality is frequently met with a side-eye. We’re indecisive. We’re promiscuous. We’re confused. We’re going through a phase. It was one night. Pick a side.
But wait, I’m not indecisive or confused and I don't think it's a phase if you never grow out of it.
There are a lot of mixed signals flying around the ‘bisexual’ label and it makes those of us who fall in that camp a little uncertain about where we fit in the community, or if we fit there at all.
I’ll use myself as an example. I am a woman and I like men, so I guess I'm straight. Wait, but I like women, too. Am I gay? No, I still like men. OK, so I’m not gay, but I’m not straight. So I’m bisexual. But is that even a thing? Is bisexuality real or is it merely a “phase” en route to making a final decision about whether I'm gay or straight? No, I really like men and I really like women. Queer? That doesn’t feel like me either. I don’t know where I belong so maybe I should just be quiet.
What makes bisexuality even more confusing is that our LGTQ+ allies are often skeptical of us, as well. Some think we can’t exist in two places at once. But self-identified bisexuals make up the largest single population within the LGBTQ community, and yet bisexual humans are the least represented within LGBTQ organizations. So as we come up, and we know we’re different, we’re drawn to the LGBTQ community to find love, support, and acceptance… but when we get there with a bisexual identity, many of us are met with skepticism and doubt.
So where do we go? Well, for the monogamous ones, that depends on the relationship we’re in. That’s where assumptions, bisexual invisibility, and bisexual erasure come in.
I’ll be the example again. I am married to a man, so the assumption could be that I am straight. When I have been in same-sex relationships in the past, the assumption could be that I am gay. In either case, it’s unlikely I would have ever been assumed as bisexual. As a young person, though, I assumed myself to be straight, because I first recognized myself to be attracted to men. As I got older, I realized there was more to me, but I didn’t know whether I was simply curious or if I was actually the elusive bisexual.
The truth is that, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, bisexual and questioning females are at a higher risk of depression or suicide than any other sexual denomination. Why? Because we have a hard time finding our place in the world.
It’s crucial that we destroy the myths that bisexual people are promiscuous, indecisive, or going through a phase. We need to start accepting that bisexuality is no more a choice than being gay or straight or trans or queer. We need to start saying the word: bisexual. We exist. We are humans just like everyone else and we shouldn’t be shamed as indecisive and told to pick a side. I know it is absolutely possible to exist in two places at once and I know this to be true because I’ve been doing it all my life.
I don’t want to pick a side because others say I have to.
I’m not confused.
I’m not indecisive.
I’m not going through a phase.
I’m not promiscuous.
I like men.
I like women.
I like men and women at the same time.
I swing both ways.
I. Am. Bisexual.
Nice to meet you, too.