*Content Warning: Mental Health
Being a “bad bisexual”
Let me introduce myself. I’m a peer support worker. I’m in my late twenties, tall and blonde, white and female. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2.5 years, and we’ve lived together for about 5 months. I have both chronic and mental health issues. I’m also bisexual. Or am I?
Growing up, I never questioned my assumed heterosexuality. Well, there was a brief time between starting high school and getting with my first boyfriend at the end of that year. I started questioning why when I felt vaguely sexual feelings, it was usually when thinking about or looking at other women. But this was cast from my mind as soon as this boyfriend entered the picture.
From then on, I was in long term relationships with men for most of the time until I was 23. After that, I had a period of casual dating, hooking up, and unwisely seeking attention through sex. At 25, after many encounters with men that often ended in disappointment, the thought suddenly sprang up again. Did I really have feelings for women or was I just confused as a kid? Did I really prefer men or was I just sticking with what was easy and comfortable?
As I usually do when something scares me, I decided to challenge myself and test the waters. I switched my tinder settings to show both men and women, and started chatting. I went on a few nerve-wracking dates and even dated a lovely girl for a few months. I confirmed that I could feel real love for a woman, and that I really was bisexual, like I secretly suspected for most of my life.
Strangely, this didn’t really change much. I didn’t suddenly leap into this new identity. As I took a break from dating and later decided to pursue finding something serious, I found myself still gravitating towards men, and I felt guilty. Wasn’t the whole point to free myself from the restraints of enforced heterosexuality? Was the bisexual thing just a phase? Was it all in my head and I’m actually just straight?
Even while I was actively dating a woman for a few months, and mentioned this to family or friends, it didn’t really feel like “coming out”. I’m lucky that it wasn’t a big deal to anyone, and I don’t feel any shame about being bisexual (I have many friends who are also bisexual and I don’t have any stigma around it) but I just don’t feel like it’s a word that fully applies to me.
Perhaps the issue is that in identifying as bisexual, I tie that to being part of the LGBTQI+ community – a community that I’ve never felt a part of. Of course, even before my realisations about my sexuality, I’ve always been a big supporter of LGBTQI+ people and their rights, but claiming to be a part of that group feels almost like I’m claiming to face some oppression that I have never really experienced.
I don’t have a “coming out” story, I don’t get involved in queer events, I’m very straight-passing in appearance and I’ve only faced the most minimal of microaggressions in the form of comments about bi people being sluts/untrustworthy/undesirable as long-term partners. I worry that in presenting myself as part of the LGBTQI+ community, I’d only be misrepresenting things and talking over the people with the real experience.
Despite all of the second-guessing and self-doubt, I know logically that there’s no reason for me to pretend to be bisexual. I don’t gain anything from it, and I’m far from an attention-seeking person. I also know that bi people are valid no matter how much or little experience they’ve had with people of whatever gender, and it doesn’t change depending on who our current partner is.
At the end of the day, the one thing that brings me a lot of comfort is speaking with other bi women, who frequently have very similar concerns to my own. It helps me remember that when society expects all women to date men, it’s hard to go against that when there’s no real reason to. I was and still am happy to be in relationships with men, so I had no particular drive to seek out anything else.
Because my realisations came in my mid-twenties after a decade of learning the ins and outs of attracting and dating men, it felt like a steep learning curve to learn an entirely new way of relating to a partner. It’s weird to feel that this led to shutting off another entire side of myself, one that I now may not ever fully get to know, but there’s no point in trying to see into the future in that way. There are so many opportunities in life that we pass up in favour of others, but that doesn’t have to mean they are regrets.
With all this in mind, I think it’s okay for me to feel conflicted about my bisexuality. Not everyone has to be out on the streets, dancing topless on floats at Mardi Gras (although if that’s your thing – more power to you!) I’m trying to be comfortable being the quiet bisexual who doesn’t pretend that my sexuality has a big impact on my life, while never invalidating that others have very different experiences.
While we all have our own paths to walk in the journey of self-discovery and understanding, each person’s story is just as valid as the next. And if at some point in the future it feels right to print the word “BISEXUAL” across every one of my t-shirts because I want the world to know exactly how I identify, I’ll be happy to be that person too.
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.
To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/