#BiWeek Confession: I’ve been complicit in bi erasure, and I’m #StillBiSexual
It’s Bi Visibility Week, that time of year when all my sexual certainties are yanked uncomfortably into question. I’ve been thinking a lot for a long time about the obnoxious need for labeling and about my obnoxious need to find just the right one despite my lifelong aversion to labels, molds, and boxes of any kind (well, not any kind). And what I’ve come to is this: No matter what I might call myself, I have been complicit for too long in bi erasure.
It’s called “bi visibility” because so often you can’t see us. And so often that’s because we don’t want to be seen.
I began wondering around age 13 whether I might be bisexual; by the time I was 17 I had admitted to a handful of people that I was. But then my best guy friend wanted to know if I’d have a threesome with him, and my best girl friend wanted to know why I wasn’t attracted to her. So I tucked that messy idea away for over a decade. I married a man, and I forgot almost all about it for a while. Almost. For a while.
When it resurfaced—this thing about myself, this fluid yet permanent thing—I kept it to a small handful again. I didn’t want to open up my then-husband to the possibility of others’ judgment; I didn’t want to expose myself. So many years later, I haven’t wanted to make my soon-to-be wife feel insecure; I haven’t wanted to not belong.
But I was bisexual when I was married to a man, and I will still be bisexual when I am married to a woman. Yet the world will never see me the way I see myself unless I make a point to say so. So I’m saying it: Yes, I’m bisexual, and I’m more than that too.
Human labels frustrate me because they can be far too limiting for a species that is so complex. But not being understood frustrates me more, and “bisexual with a current preference for women and an enduring love for one woman in particular” is a mouthful.
So for now, I say I’m a bisexual lesbian. I used to be a bisexual straight woman. For me, these things can change. I realize this isn’t convenient for any number of long-held narratives, but I’m not interested in agendas; I’m interested in the truth.
Why not just say “bisexual?” Because, for me, it’s not specific enough to convey how I feel. It’s part of the truth—an important part, which I’ve been remiss in sharing—and it’s not the whole truth. With the phrase “bisexual lesbian,” I can affirm the fluid and focused, valid sexuality that is an integral part of me and that my fiancée and I love very much.
Ever since I can remember, I have felt attracted to men and women, but the strength of those attractions has changed over time. For a long time, I had a preference for men. I had some attraction to women, but “straight” resonated with me and felt true. Then my attractions shifted focus, my feelings for women increased, and “bisexual”—as I understood it, right in the middle of the sexuality spectrum, equally as gay as straight—made sense. Then my preference became women. I have some attraction to men, but “lesbian” resonates with me and feels true.
Still, just a few weeks away from marrying an incredible woman, I realize that saying only “lesbian” will do damage. It will keep me cloaked, as I was for so long. It will just be a coat of different colors. When the world sees me with my wife, they will make an assumption about me, one that sometimes I rather enjoy—I love being on the gay side of the spectrum.
But my wise friend Caleb Wilde says, “Storytelling isn’t a privilege, but a communal necessity.” If I had known at 13 that what I was questioning was not a phase, but a real sexual orientation, maybe I would have understood myself sooner. If I had known at 17 that what I was feeling was not a tool for others’ gratification, but an indicator of my own heart, maybe I wouldn’t have accepted gross substitutes for love. But I didn’t know because I couldn’t see. The bisexual-visibility index for the last few decades was very low indeed.
So I’ll speak the truth, even as my understanding of it continues to evolve. And I really hope you’ll share your story too. Because we all need to see.