I have a friend who I’ll call Mel. Mel is a bisexual woman. She says she loves the person, not the anatomy. Mel’s bisexuality manifests itself by allowing her to enjoy romantic and sexual relationships with both men and women.
But, despite her protests about loving the person and not the anatomy, she only ever seems to fall in love with women. Me? I’m a bisexual woman too. But I have only ever fallen in love with men.
Bisexuals like Mel and I, face many problems, which include not only the same old homophobic discrimination as that faced by our homosexual peers, but also discrimination by some of these homosexual peers themselves.
Just as the parents of a gay teenager may hopefully opine ‘It’s probably just a phase’, so do some of my ‘strictly’ gay friends when I come out to them. I suppose everyone has their prejudices, although this ‘biphobia’ seems hypocritical, considering they, being gay, must know exactly what it feels like to have their sexual orientation mocked and denigrated.
I tease them back by jokingly calling them ‘simple unisexuals’, but really I feel sad that I am not accepted by either community – gay or straight. Perhaps that old chestnut – that people are afraid of what they don’t understand – applies here.
But putting the cultural and political aside for a moment, I’m interested in another, more personal problem faced by bisexuals. Given our fluid sexuality, how do we form our own sexual identities, and should we even have to? My answer is yes, we should. And one reason for this is to avoid breaking other people’s hearts.
You see, as a bisexual you don’t really understand your romantic life until you’ve lived it. And I mean really lived it. When I was 23, I had a crush on a female colleague that turned into a full-on, steamy affair.
When she started falling in love and I didn’t, I ended it because I didn’t want to hurt her. But I still hurt her. The next same-sex relationship I had was longer, and the woman was so wonderful I thought I must be in love with her.
When, after a year or so, I was still waiting to feel that ‘in love’ feeling, which she had clearly developed for me, I started to get worried. I loved her, but I wasn’t in love with her. It took me a while to break it off and I broke her heart in the process. I felt like the worst kind of horrible and I know I exacerbated the stereotype of the cruel, fickle bisexual - in our circle of friends at least.
But am I really cruel and fickle, breaking sincere lesbian’s hearts willy nilly as I skip merrily along in my bisexual freedom? After a lot of soul-searching and history dredging, I think not. That youthful period of passion and self-discovery was necessary to work out what I wanted from a romantic partner.
Unfortunately I hurt some good people along the way. The only way I can make amends for that now is to be scrupulously honest about my life, so that I don’t hurt anyone else in this particular way. Now I know that, although I am bisexual, I am more likely to fall in love with a man than with a woman. So ladies, you’re safe (for now).
Now I am in love with the most amazing man in the world. Okay, the most amazing man in the world, to me. Why should I hold on to my bisexual identity when it’s so much easier to act up to my superficially heterosexual image? Am I allowed to share the same sexual identity as Mel when she has to face so much more discrimination than I do? She’s in a passionate and committed relationship with her girlfriend, but when they do all the subtle things that identify them as a lesbian couple in public, they experience disapproval, judgement, and sometimes frightening sexual harassment.
But when I walk out with my boyfriend, I am tacitly accepted as a straight woman, welcomed into the fold of heterosexual society, while my family breathes a sigh of relief that they don’t have to explain my girlfriend away to Great Aunt Matilda anymore.
And that’s why I stick to my bisexual guns. It’s a solidarity thing, and an honesty thing. Because when certain members of society are marginalised and discriminated against, because of their sexuality, gender, race, age or other grouping, our society is not a free one, and no member of society - least of all those who enjoy membership of the dominant ‘norm’ - is truly free.