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(Liya Rechtman)– Today I was told by my fellow interns that as a bisexual I was either a) confused b) going through a phase or c) lying to myself about being plain-old gay. This post is for them. This post is for all the things I had trouble saying as my face heated up. This post is for the vitally important opportunity to engage in a dialogue that I’ve never had to confront before, and that I didn’t believe really existed.
I didn’t want to be bisexual. I don’t even like the word bisexual (but that’s a conversation for another post). I do have a couple of facts, though. When I was 10, on a family vacation in California, I asked my dad out of the blue what he would do if I decided I wanted to marry a girl instead of a boy. I remember having a huge lump in my throat and not really knowing why. He stopped walking and looked straight at me and said: “You can marry whoever you want. I will always, always love you.” And then (because my life isn’t a movie): “Are you interested in girls?”
I said no. Because that’s what I thought. Because for most of middle school I was obsessed with a boy I’ve written about before. He had blonde hair and let me tell you – that was a real, full-on crush. On a boy. And then in seventh grade on a Hebrew school retreat there was a girl with highlights in her hair and blue color contacts and skater shoes who I wanted to follow her around for the rest of time. Also a real crush. Same heart pounding, sweaty palms, nervous laugh.
In eighth grade I told my best-best friend that I might want to kiss a girl in high school and he told his dad that I wanted to be Bisexual Until Graduation (BUG) and I got so mad that I put staples in all his video games. I couldn’t explain why.
Do you think a lot of straight 14 year-old girls are wondering if they really like boys or if they might want to date girls? Because they’re not. Only the queer kids are ‘confused’ about that, thanks to being raised in a predominately heteronormative culture where being gay is typically either something that only exists on the periphery, or is abnormal, disgusting or immoral enough to warrant total rejection or possibly death.
And then there was high school. Which I’ve talked about. When I was sure I was the straightest straight person in the world, and fell in and out of love (or at least very strong like) with two boys, not really paying attention to the girls I hung out with or what it meant that I had kissed some of them. Until, well, until it started to become clear to me that that mattered too.
It was like a pearl growing. I didn’t realize it, but those kisses became grains of sand and the tighter I held onto them and pushed them down the more they grew. They started to pound at the insides of my skull. Pearl sunk into my eyeballs and there were some girls I couldn’t tear myself away from looking at and I didn’t know why… or maybe I did. I could feel the edges of pearl engulf me and crack my teeth open, waiting to be spit out onto the pavement outside of my high school and break open for everyone to explore.
But it was confusing. Yes, at that point I was really confused. Because I still felt the same ache for boys. I wanted a strong, wide-shouldered man to look down on me from 6-feet and hold my hand with big hands and…
And then there was the one time in debate team when we were having an argument about something regarding sexuality and I just wanted to stand up, in the middle of the room and tell them all that they didn’t know me as well as they thought I did. I had figured it out. I liked men, and I liked women. I didn’t differentiate on the gender of the person I liked. That wasn’t really a factor for me. And I knew there was a word for that:
I didn’t stand up and say anything that day. Instead I clenched my jaw shut until it hurt and stared blankly at the floor and dug my nails into my palms until they bled little half-moon circles of shame and guilt and anger. I waited until two weeks before we graduated high school to tell anyone. By the time I got to Amherst, it wasn’t really a big deal anymore. Most of the time.
Except when I was hooking up with a boy and he told me everyone thought I was lesbian.
Except when I held hands with my roommate and people asked if we were dating.
Except on days like today.
I’m not trying to be anything, and I’m NOT confused. I’ve been going through this phase for at least nine years – for as long as I can remember.
1) Choice – One of my co-workers told me that unlike being gay or straight, as a bisexual person, I had more freedom to choose to be one or the other.
Let’s be clear here. In the same way that some women are attracted to men, that some men are attracted to women, that some men are attracted to men, that some women are attracted to women, etc., bisexual people are attracted to both. I have dated and hooked up with girls and been deeply attracted to them. I could not in any way alter the way I felt about them. AND I have felt the exact same way about men.
Trying to only like one or the other gender would feel like splitting my brain in half. It’s like attempting to ignore everything on the Red-Green color spectrum in order to make myself blind to the full array.
Doesn’t anybody remember Born This Way? That was only like two years ago…
2) Bisexuals are only out for attention – first, read the really angsty personal story above. If you still don’t believe me, the continue below:
Saying that bisexuals only say they’re bisexual for attention to me seems analogous to saying that victims of sexual assault only say they were assaulted for attention. Do you know how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to fight this fight? Or if I could just do it as a well-informed ally instead of a discriminated against minority member of the population for whom your [fill in random reader/ uninformed co-worker] personal opinion on this matter and voting power directly affects my rights? I don’t have that luxury. People who were sexually assaulted would much rather not have to fight for their safety, but they are assaulted and put in a situation where they are forced to make themselves heard in order to regain a level of normalcy.
My situation as a bisexual is much easier than the position of a sexual assault survivor. I am not fighting for my safety in this country (well, at least not in Massachusetts, New York or DC…), I am merely fighting for my right to be understood, happy and accepted by my co-workers.
3) Bisexuals are slutty or are going for the easiest game around.
This is often said about women at all womens’ schools, but can be incorrectly and rudely applied to a wide variety of women in different situations.
So first off, there’s absolutely no statistical data reporting this. Very interesting paper deconstructing the myth here.
Secondly, a distinction must be made between a drunken make-out in a club in front of a bunch of guys, and a someone who is romantically, emotionally and physically interested in people of both the same sex and opposite sex as them. (Again, read Part I of this post and you’ll note that I’m in the latter category).
And remember Slutwalk? Haven’t we already had these conversations?
For more dispelling of bisexual myths, read HuffPo’s Maria Burnham.
Here’s to hoping this helps!
<3 ConstantLy Liya Rechtman