So You Just Met a Bisexual: a Guide for Allies (and “Allies”)

Congratulations! You just met your very first bisexual! Isn’t it exciting? I’m sure you’re brimming with questions about everything from your new friend’s sex life to whether or not it’s true that they’re invisible. (They are. All bisexuals have the ability to disappear whenever they like.) Before you draw up a list and start the interrogation, however, let me preempt a few of the questions you’re most likely to ask – and explain to you why you probably ought not ask them.

Here are some things you don’t know about your new bisexual friend:

You don’t know how many sex partners they’ve had. They could have had one or a hundred and one (go them!) or none at all. They might have sex with multiple partners over a year long period, or they might be into long-term relationships. Bisexuals, much like what I’m going to call “non-magical folk” (that’s you), haven’t necessarily all slept with the entire football team and all the cheerleaders (though, again, if they have – damn, your new friend has got some game!). Bisexuality does not automatically correlate with promiscuity. (And if it does – so what? You’re not one of those terrible people who thinks that someone who sleeps with a lot of partners is immoral, are you? Are you?)

Speaking of which, you don’t know what their sex drive is like. Some bisexuals are like me and would have sex ten times a day if they could. Some like sex very rarely, some once every couple of days. Some like sex a lot with a particular partner but not at all with other people. Kill the myth that every bisexual is a sex addict. We’re human, you know. We can control our libidos just as well as you can (or better, if you’re a straight dude – YEAH, I SAID IT).

You don’t know if they’re polyamorous, monoamorous, in an open relationship or happily single. Some bisexuals are poly. I know lots of poly bisexuals! But I also know lots of monoamorous bisexuals (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). For example, I’m married to just one other person. Truly, I am! He grows a fantastic beard and makes a cute giggling sound when I tickle him. Lots of people are surprised by this, because for some reason, they think all bisexuals are either poly or not in relationships at all. I guess I was single at some point in my life, and many of my bi friends are single now or in open relationships, but bisexuality does not somehow preclude monoamory or other kinds of long-term relationships.

On that note, you don’t know if they’ve ever cheated. No, shut up. You really and truly don’t. Thanks to television, people assume that bisexuals are incapable of forming commitments or keeping to them afterwards. The reasoning seems to be, “well, you’re attracted to everyone, so you’re bound to cheat sooner or later.”

Really? Let’s break that down.

You, the monosexual reader, are attracted to one gender, correct? It might be your own, or it might be another. I don’t know your life. Whatever. The point is that there is a group of people to whom you are attracted.

Are you attracted to every single member of that group?

No?

Neither are we. It really is that simple.

Which brings me to my next point…

You don’t know if they’re attracted to you. To be fair, this is something gay people get as well (holla, fellow queers!), but bisexual people seem to get it twice as bad, partly due to the fact that as I said above, everyone thinks we’re untrustworthy cheaters. Let me tell you right up-front: I am not attracted to people who aren’t attracted to women. I’m just not. Straight girls? Turn-off. Gay dudes? HUGE turn-off. Non-binary people who do not dig women? Sorry, but nope. If you’re not into me, I am most definitely not into you. So relax – you can be in the locker room together. They’re not checking you out. You’re probably not their type anyway, so don’t flatter yourself. If they were into you, you’d know.

Actually, while I’m on this topic, you don’t even know the genders to which they’re attracted. “Bisexual” means different things to different people. Sometimes it means “attracted to both men and women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both cisgender men and cisgender women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both my gender and other genders.” Some of the latter group identify as pansexual, but some don’t, and it’s absolutely zero percent your job to tell people which labels to use. If your bisexual friend is attracted to men and people-who-aren’t-men, that’s cool. If your bisexual friend is attracted to binary people and non-binary people, that’s also cool. If your bisexual friend is into both men and women but mostly likes women, that’s cool too. (Also, can I get her number? She sounds rad.) We choose how we identify – not you, not anyone else, but us.

So it turns out you don’t know much about your new bisexual friend, do you? All of your preconceptions are useless, and you’ll only embarrass yourself by blurting out questions like, “how are you married to a dude if you’re bi?” (I get this in bars a lot) or, “why don’t you have a girlfriend too?” (I also get this in bars a lot). Bisexual people vary as much as monosexual people do. We have sex a lot or not at all. We have a partner or three partners or a rotating roster of partners or no partner at all. We are attracted to men or women or non-binary people, and not always equally. Some of us cheat because people cheat sometimes, but most of us don’t because most people don’t. And don’t think you can pick us out of a crowd, either – in terms of appearance, we run the gamut from roller derby girls with pink spiked hair to belles with long, dark curls and killer red lipstick to gym-going dudes with buzzcuts to quiet, skinny guys in Zelda t-shirts to non-binary femmes or androgynes rocking suit jackets with their Converse. We’re not a monolith any more than any other group is.

So, what do you know about your new bisexual friend?

You know that they’re bisexual, and now you know not to irritate them with asinine and offensive questions. And most importantly, you know that they’re human, so treat them that way.

See? That was easy! Think of how much time I’ve saved you.

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The invisible girl – bisexuality in a biphobic society

I’m a bisexual woman in a relationship with a straight man. That means I don’t exist.

You see, in order for society to accept me as bi, they need to see evidence. If I’m not neck-deep in a threesome with an attractive woman on one side and a strapping man on the other, how can they be expected to tell that I’m not monosexual? If I’m dating a woman, I must be lesbian. If I’m dating a man, I must be straight. Unless I’m dating both at the same time, I can’t be bisexual.

The first person to tell me I wasn’t “really” bi was a gay friend of mine. I believe I’ve told the story before, so I won’t retread old ground, but suffice to say that while he was the first, he certainly wasn’t the last. I’ve heard it all – it’s just a phase, I’m fence-sitting so I don’t have to pick a side, I’m greedy, I’ll cheat on my partner, I’m just doing it for the attention, I just don’t want to come out of the closet. It seems everyone has a theory about my sexuality that they’re just dying to share with me, as though they’re the first people ever to think of it. (Yeah, I’ve never heard the one about how I can’t be bi because I’m not poly before. You’re so original!) You’d think I’d know my sexuality better than a stranger, but in a world where anything perceived as differing from the norm instantly becomes fair game for public discussion and dissection, it seems the only person who isn’t a self-proclaimed expert on my sexuality is…me.

See, the truth is, I haven’t got myself 100% figured out yet. Oh, sure, I know I’m into dudes and ladies. I’ve even been attracted to the odd non-binary or GNC friend. I’m pretty sure I’m built for monogamy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasise about threesomes. I’m interested in sex with women, but seem to prefer the idea of relationships with men. Sexuality isn’t about ticking a bunch of boxes and calling it a day – as with every facet of a human being, it’s a complex thing, subject to change.

Here’s what I do know about myself, presented in a convenient list format (because it was only a matter of time before I sold out and became like Buzzfeed):

Jay’s Guide to Jay’s Sexuality [a work in progress]

1. I’m attracted to men, women and people who identify as both, neither or somewhere in between.

I guess this makes me pansexual, but “bi” is the term I’ve always used and the one I’m the most comfortable with. Truth be told, I just don’t spend all that much time obsessing about people’s genitals. If I’m into someone, it’s because I think they’re cute or funny or witty or sexy or alluring, and what kind of equipment they’re carrying or how they identify isn’t really a big deal to me.  People are attracted to other people for lots of reasons. Sometimes one of those reasons is gender – for me, it just…isn’t. I really don’t care what you are – I care about who you are.

2. Yeah, yeah, I’ve only ever fucked dudes. I’m still bi.

It’s funny – nobody ever tells a straight person they’re not “really” straight because they haven’t had sex with someone of the opposite binary gender yet. A straight virgin is still hetero, right? And yet, I’ve been told time and time again that I can’t “really” be bi because I’ve never so much as kissed a girl. Seriously? The fantasies, the awkward high school crushes, the endless flirting with cute British redheads – that means nothing just because my bits have never touched another girl’s bits? Please. I know what I like, and what I like includes both dudes and ladies. I know it like I know my own name. That tingly feeling I get when I see a dude I like? Yeah, there are ladies who make me feel that way too. I don’t need to have sex with everyone I’m attracted to in order to know I’m attracted to them. That’s really not how that works.

3. I’m monogamous. Lots of bi people are; lots of bi people aren’t.

The threesome talk might have thrown you off, but let me clarify – yes, I’m monogamous. I’m in a long-term, committed relationship with a single partner and I plan to stay that way. I’m not throwing shade at my poly friends – we all have different wants, needs and desires when it comes to relationships, and there’s no one kind of relationship that can make everyone happy. Me? I love my one partner set-up. Just because I’m bi, doesn’t mean I need to have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time – in fact, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with more than one partner, regardless of their genders. One boy or one girl (or one GNC person) at a time is just fine with me.

That said, if my partner and I met a cute girl at a bar and she wanted to come home with us for a night…well, we’ll see.

4. My sexuality isn’t something for you to fetishise.

This harkens back to the “you’re just doing it for attention” thing. Apparently, I’m only bi because I know dudes find it hot when two girls make out in front of them. Yeah…not so much. Leaving aside the fact that plenty of dudes aren’t into that at all – I’m bi because it’s how I am, not because I want attention. Trust me, if I wanted to get your attention, I could do it without exploiting my sexuality for your pleasure. I mean, have you met me? I’m the face that launched a thousand flamewars.

In any case, guys who think bisexuality is a performance for their enjoyment are a major ladyboner-killer. I’ll take a guy who loves me without fetishising me, thanks. (Joke’s on you, chasers – he gets the good stuff because he’s a great guy, and he didn’t even have to be a creep about it!)

5. My sexuality and gender are linked, but separate.

There are still people who think that being cis or trans* is a sexual orientation, not a gender identity. These people have apparently been living under a rock for the past infinity years. I’m a cis queer bisexual chick. The “cis” bit is separate from the “bi” bit (though in my case, the “queer” bit indicates that there’s a link between them – but that’s another story, to be told another time). You can be cishet, cis and gay, trans* and het, trans* and gay, cis/trans* and bi, cis/trans* and asexual…basically, you can be any combination of gender, sexual and romantic orientation. A cis person is not automatically monosexual. A trans* person is not automatically gay or bi. You know what they say about people who assume.

6. I’m not going to cheat just because I’m bi. Geez.

Yes, I am capable of maintaining a monogamous relationship with someone of one gender without feeling an irresistible urge to cheat on my partner with someone of another gender. Do I flirt with cute girls sometimes? Sure. Am I going to cheat on my boyfriend with one? Nope. Relationships – both mono and poly – are about commitment to your partner or partners. Are you compelled to cheat on your partner with every attractive person of [gender you like]? No? Then why would you assume I feel compelled to cheat just because I happen not to be monosexual?

There are lots of reasons people cheat. Being bi isn’t one of them.

7. I exist. Deal with it.

Bi erasure is a problem in both straight and queer circles – that’s why things like Bi Visibility Day are so important. Yeah, we’re around. No, we’re not figments of our own imaginations. Just because you can’t see physical evidence of our sexual orientation, doesn’t make it any less real. I don’t have to date a girl to prove to you that I’m attracted to women, just like I wouldn’t have to date a guy to prove to you that I’m attracted to men. I just am. I’m here, I’m visible and I’m not going to let you erase me just because I don’t fit into the categories you’ve created to neatly sort people based on sexual orientation.

That’s the thing about people – they’re not neat. Actually, we’re pretty damn messy. We’re contradictory and ever-changing. We grow, we learn, we develop from the people we were into the people we’re becoming. Trying to sort us into categories is always going to be a square peg/round hole exercise, because not only are there various shapes of peg, we don’t even always stay the same shape! I thought I was straight when I was younger. I know that I’m bi now. Who knows what I’ll learn about myself in the future?

It’s amazing how many things become visible when you learn to open your eyes.