Note: CW for identity struggles, specifically relating to bisexuality and polyamory. I will be using the terms bisexual/bisexuality as those are the terms I use to self-identify, and I am on the side of discourse that does not see bisexuality as an exclusionary term. Because I am attracted to all genders and not an outdated binary, you may find it easier to see this as being about pansexuality.
It’s now been over a year since I last had a post relating to sexuality on here, the last one being this blog post I wrote about the Pulse tragedy and what that meant to me as a bisexual. But seeing as it’s PRIDE MONTH once again, I felt it necessary to take the time out to write once again about the pride and privilege I have in my own identity.
The thing about sexuality is, that it’s fluid. People can identify one way at one point in their lives, and as something completely different at another. And I feel like this is often an under-represented aspect of the LGBTQ+ spectrum; that it is just that: a spectrum.
Gender and sexuality are not binary. They never have been. They have just been perceived as such in history’s eyes. It is not as simple as gay/straight, male/female… and despite all the shit that’s going on in the world, and the oppression that those who do not fit into this binary mould still face, I’m pretty proud to be part of a world that is starting to realise this, and part of a community whose voices interweave as one to shout for representation and the pride we have in our identities.
As I discussed before, it took me a long time to even realise I was bisexual, and even once I had, there was a feeling of “too little, too late” because I was already in a long-term relationship, and thus there seemed like no point in “coming out” or anything.
This can be a very jarring feeling.
My bisexuality is very inherently a part of my personality, and shapes who I am as a human being. I think that that can be a difficult concept for straight people to understand, and it’s something I was struggling with at the time of that last blog post, which I think is evident. I am simultaneously part of a community, and yet excluded from it at the same time. I have even seen posts this year saying that bisexuals in “straight relationships” shouldn’t even be allowed to attend Pride events.
I’m not going to go into a breakdown of a disagreement with that statement. It’s clear I disagree with it, however I do also understand the thoughts that go behind that from the people who would say such. As I have addressed, there is privilege that comes with my identity, and I guess that means that many LGBTQ+ people do not see a cis girl in a “straight” relationship as contributing to the community in any way.
I have thought about bisexual erasure and invisibility* a lot.
As with last year, it hurts, it really hurts, if I feel anyone is in any way trying to strip me of my identity. And I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this is. Although I can acknowledge and understand a criticism that comes from other LGBTQ+ people as to why my identity is objectively less important as a cis girl in a relationship with a cis guy, it still feels important to me, and I still feel passionately, intensely, emotionally invested in matters that affect the LGBTQ+ community. Whenever I am made to feel like I’m not allowed to care about these issues, it feels like someone is ripping out a part of me.
Bi erasure/invisibility isn’t always about the under or lack of representation of bisexual (or pansexual) identities. Sometimes it takes the form of erasing someone’s identity completely from themselves. Being married made me feel very excluded from the LGBTQ+ community because lots of people made me feel like I had “made a choice”, and this did not sit well with me.
If you’re bisexual and enter into a relationship, you have not made a choice about your sexual identity. You’re not straight if you’re a bisexual who enters into an opposite-sex relationship, and you’re not gay if you’re a bisexual who enters into a same-sex relationship. Bisexuals are not confused. In either of those relationship forms, we still exist as bisexual individuals.
It wasn’t until this past year why I realised why this sat so uncomfortably with me.
There are plenty of people in relationships, plenty of people in marriages, who are attracted to others, and who do not have a problem with their partner being attracted to others. There are also a lot of people who do. And there are even people who claim not to have any attraction to others when in monogamous relationships.
My husband and I have always been in a relationship of complete and utter honesty. There is nothing I don’t share with him. And I truly mean nothing. I’m not presenting this as in ‘ideal’ model in any way by the way; relationships exist in a dizzying variety of models and this is just ours. But what this means for our relationship is a complete honesty when it comes to this particular subject.
I am completely and utterly in love with my husband, and I also always have and always will be attracted to others simultaneously, regardless of gender. I don’t like to label my relationship by things I am allowed to do, because our relationship is a partnership and not to do with ownership, but the easiest way to describe this is to say it is permissible by my partner for me to be actively attracted to others, and vice versa.
Because I am always actively engaged in attraction to others, I feel like my sexuality is not passive. I’m not a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man and not attracted to anyone else. I’m a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man who is actively attracted to other people, including those of other genders.
Obviously I am in no way saying that if you are in a relationship that sounds more like the former that you are not bisexual, or that your identity is not important. But I do feel that it has an impact on how you are going to react to certain things.
The reason why I bring this up is because I thought this was the way it was for everyone: that active attraction to others was normal, and permissible.
And then something else happened which threw my own identity into a completely different light: I fell in love with someone other than my husband, and entered into a polyamorous relationship.
…. that might be a lot to process; I’ll give you a minute.
You good? Good.
Writing in full details about my other relationship isn’t something I’m ready to do completely at this time. That isn’t because I’m not proud of it, and it’s certainly not something I am ashamed of in the slightest, I just don’t think it’s time.
But what has happened in the past 7 months that I have known this person, is that I have had to acknowledge and accept another part of my identity… and in several ways that has been completely affirming, and completely terrifying.
I am so incredibly lucky that all parties involved in my relationships have made this year so beautifully easy. Granted, it is a long-distance relationship, which in a sense makes things easier to adjust to, but coming to terms with polyamory as an identity, especially when you have never been in a polyamorous relationship before, is understandably a confusing time.
It’s a time where you question yourself, your relationship with your existing partner, your relationship with your new partner, and even your relationship with your friends and family. Polyamory is far from “the norm”, and you dissect every relationship you have with someone to work out whether it’s “okay” to tell them.
Once again, this doesn’t come from a place of shame in your relationship, but rather an acknowledgement that you are “deviating” from many peoples’ moral compasses. It’s nobody else’s business to judge another person’s relationship/s, but first and foremost one must think of their own safety: mentally or otherwise.
Something that many bisexuals have to deal with is questioning their own identity based on the prejudices others have of them. As I already spoke of, the common misconception is that bisexuals are confused, and this is not helped when people want to break down your relationship history.
If you’ve only ever been with someone of the same sex, then surely you must be gay. If you’ve only ever been with someone of the opposite sex, then surely you must be straight.
It doesn’t work like that. You are bisexual if you are bisexual, regardless of the genders of the notches on your bedpost or any short-term or long-term partners you’ve had.
It can feel very affirming, as a bisexual, to find someone of another gender to one that you are used to dating.
That might seem like an unusual thing to say, and in a sense it is rather sad, because you don’t need to be “actively fulfilling” your preferences by actively entering into a relationship with someone.
But the sad truth is that the criticism can bog you down. You can start to feel like you are not who you thought you were, not part of the community you thought you were. Because surely if you really were what you thought you were then you’d actively be doing something that somehow proved it? And surely if you’ve never done that and then marry someone you’ve picked a side and your identity is then inconsequential for the rest of your life?
It’s sad, it sucks, it hurts.
And if you’re in that position, I want you to know that your identity does matter and is valid.
But without lying to you all, when I met my other partner, it was affirming.
I got to a point where in my head I thought maybe, just maybe I was wrong. Maybe all these feelings I’d had for as long as I could remember were aesthetic-based, maybe I just appreciated all genders visually, but not romantically or sexually.
To then meet someone who was not male, who I fell for, who I was attracted to emotionally and physically, was like a revelation. Even though I’ve known it half my life already, it truly was an “aha! I was right!” moment.
The past seven months have been an eye-opening time in my life.
I have learned what it means to be me again, and to have all the things I hated about myself for so long validated.
I wasn’t making it up or imagining it: I like other genders, I am capable of loving more than one person at a time, non-monogamy is okay. And it really is okay. It’s more than okay: it’s fantastic.
But more than anything else, I now feel so truly confident in my identity again.
Hi 🙂 I’m Kirsten, and I’m a mother, a wife, a girlfriend. And that, I say to you now with pride.
*bisexual erasure/invisibility: the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, news media, and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists. [source]