"I think you're too straight."
Her thigh presents some dream catcher ink and mine, plain and prickled nervous skin. I was 19 and I realised I had fallen one nose piercing short of the bi cookie-cutter.
"Don't fall for that guy again though, he's not good enough for you," she says, hugging me a goodbye I wasn't ready for.
"Hey, so Amy, do you like guys?" my boss at the time asks.
"Well, I'm sleeping with one, so um, yes, but–" I say.
"Oh good, I thought I heard different. We might be organising a work event with a male stripper that's all..."
This was 2009; labels were needed and the world hadn't accepted Harley Quinn was sleeping with the Joker and Poison Ivy yet.
"So who are you guys into?" Also, back when strangers at a LGBTQIA+ venues would ask you anything because Instagram bios were non-existent.
"Oh, no I'm straight. Girls. Girls."
My two guy friends are quick to answer over Poker Face.
"I'm bi," I say.
The guy blows smoke out of the corner of his mouth with a wry smile. "You're only young, you'll pick a side soon."
That's it, I am only dating guys from now on. And I did. Maybe 2 or 3 including my now husband. This was one way to make society breathe a sigh of heteronormative relief, but also to uncover my preferred gender.
To identify as bisexual - a romantic and/or physical attraction to more than one gender - does not mean a 50/50 spilt preference for males and females. It does not even mean a preference within that gender binary. Bisexuality falls anywhere on the spectrum from only slightly heterosexual to only slightly homosexual. Do not ask for receipts of sexual experiences or our ratios. It is one of those paradoxes where the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sexuality is fluid, but we cannot change it even if we wanted to.
Other than these brushes with ignorance, I escaped the brunt of the hate, but I needed to quit while I was ahead. I had support from family and friends but not from society in its most illuminated form.
My quarter life crisis implicated a need to lift weights and restore my sexuality. A small part of me thought that it could be the infamous “phase” and it would diminish year after year. It did not. I just chose to forget my identity. It was stashed away so far in my subconscious mind; my dreams were showing me who I should be. I kept my true colours disguised in black and white for a few years until I felt the world was more aware of the full spectrum. By this time, fitness had transformed my body and mind into this confident being, so I was ready to pick up my identity I left in 2009. I was in a long-term relationship with my now husband. We spoke late one night in bed lying side by side about who I was before we met and who I will always be. We fell asleep closer than ever before.
Various studies indicate that people who identify as bisexual make up 40% of the LGBTQIA+ community, compared to gay men (36%), lesbians (19%) and transgender people (5%). Twenty-six percent of bisexuals have not disclosed their sexual orientation to people who they consider important in their lives whereas only 4% of gay men and lesbians say the same.
A reason for this imbalance is that 88% of bisexuals are in opposite-sex relationships so their bisexuality may be hidden to the naked eye, reducing social pressures to come out. What’s more, and I can vouch for this, some bisexuals choose not to come out because they do not feel disclosure is important or the subject has not come up. The catalyst for coming out to my family was when they asked why I was going to gay bars rather than “straight” clubs when I turned 18.
The most concerning reason bisexuals stay in the closet is to avoid the invasive “double discrimination”. Bisexual people are often discredited, stigmatised, rejected and invisible in the heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ communities. The reason for this proverbial cold-shoulder – bisexuals are greedy, promiscuous, “on the fence”, just going “through a phase” and want to “stay relevant”. Some people refuse to believe bisexuality exists at all.
Bisexual rights activists in the late nineties coined September 23rd as Bi Visibility Day to normalise and promote cultural awareness of bisexuality. Activists in major cities all over the world organise events to provide a platform to the community to bring global attention to the social, economic and cultural prejudices faced by bisexual people. This year due to COVID-19, activist groups are using online platforms and social media to celebrate and create said awareness.
The celebration of bisexuality as opposed to general LGBTQIA+ events is to combat the unique mental and social disparities that are closely related to the discrimination and erasure we face, collectively known as biphobia. Bisexual people have consistently found to have poorer mental and physical health than gay men, lesbian or heterosexual people. Health experts believe unique minority stress related to being bisexual contributes to poorer mental health and individuals not wanting to disclose their sexual orientation to health professionals can result in poor physical health.
I did not have my first pap smear or STI check up until I was 24 and in a relationship with my husband because I knew my sexual orientation would be assumed to be straight. This was when the screening tests were every 2 years for sexually active women or after 21 years old. I was way past my due notice. I never had an abnormal result, but it could have been. Early detection of abnormal cells is key. It is now recommended you start screening at 25 years old regardless of sexual activity and every five years provided if your results are clear, FYI.
I believe society is growing more educated on the true existence of bisexuality. I feel more liberated in this new, more comfortable era to share my identity and experiences that were once labelled taboo on social platforms. We’re all about the good vibes, gym selfies and self-expression, right? But this came at a high price for me. I married my soul mate 8 months ago and the biphobia I thought I left behind 10 years earlier had caught up with me in a fierce whirlwind. Weddings bring out the worst in people. Emotions run high and people become resentful of your happiness.
“Your marriage is inferior.”
“You only say you’re bi to stay relevant.”
“I think you’re attracted to me. That’s why I distanced myself from you.”
“You need professional help.”
My first thoughts were: Why would I be attracted to a girl if my sexuality is made up? Then: We may gravitate towards someone’s kind nature and match their energy, we may notice how their curves look in that bodysuit and jeans but we are not their drunk experiment and we don’t fall instantly in love with them after it. We are not attracted to every girl or guy we befriend. And we certainly do not need help when someone of the same sex does appeal to us, come on now, it’s 2020, there’s worse things going on.
I tried for several weeks to make sense of it all. The more I thought about it, the more energy I was wasting. I was losing the strength to walk away after so long. I realised nothing is lacking in my life – support, purpose, companionship, discipline – so why I would disturb that? Choose self-care every time. Never argue with people who are hell-bent on misunderstanding you. Leave them to heal and rebuild from the hurt they don’t talk about.
If you are bisexual and struggling, just remember, it is not your fault and you are not alone. We can only control our own lives, not the actions and beliefs of others. What we can control is understanding, acceptance and taking care of ourselves. Start with making some positive changes:
- Change your mindset. I’m a fitness coach and the first thing I want someone to change within themselves, for themselves, is mindset. Society’s negative messages about bisexuality can often spill into our own minds creating internalised biphobia. To boost our self-esteem and confidence we need to develop our own positive understanding of what is means to be bisexual.
Look at the facts. Bisexual people make up nearly half of the LGBTQIA+ community because our sexual identity can fall anywhere on the spectrum. You may only have a smaller attraction towards women, but strongly lean towards men, like myself, or vice versa. It is up to you how you want to identify. Either way, you are valid.
- Change your circle and expand your networking. When I realised a close friend of more than a decade did not believe let alone support my sexual orientation, it was easier to let them go and focus on the people in my life that do.
I have met many openly gay and lesbian people in my life. Some are my closest friends. Most bisexual people rarely met other openly bisexual people during their everyday lives. I have been lucky to come across one person. She doesn’t know it but her blasé attitude towards societal norms and the fearless shade of red lipstick she wore with a black leather jacket helped me to be myself again. She has moved away, and we’ve lost touch, so I have become a little isolated. If you feel like you are the only bisexual around, follow bisexual vloggers, share your experiences on forums and meet other bisexual people at social groups. One of the best feelings in the world is a sense of belonging in a community.
- Self-Care. Find a health care provider with whom you feel comfortable discussing your sexuality. You are deserving of the most optimal health care that suits your needs. These days many General Practitioners and other health professionals are trained to deal with health and social issues specific to the LGBTQIA+ community and many are specialists in this area. A quick Google search will point you to the nearest one.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It may be hard but if you have the strength and courage to change your mindset and surroundings, it will feel easier to just be you in this world. Allow yourself to grow in it. Fill your life with spectacular things. Not with people who can't handle your soul and passion.
For those who still need to hear this: whoever we are dating, whoever ever we are married to, whoever we are having sex with (or not having sex with), we are still bi and proud. We can’t change, nor do we want to. We see the beauty in everyone, living as a duality in a singular world.
Check out some of our awesome Bisexual t-shirt ranges here.
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