The worst question you can ask someone who is bisexual is if they are just experimenting. The second worse question, which is usually a follow-up to the first, is “Well do you like males or females more?”
I can’t count the number of times I have been asked these questions. While I’m comfortable with my sexuality, I am reserved about coming out.
I’ve always known I was bisexual, but despite living in an accepting community, I tried to suppress these feelings. I thought that liking girls changed who I was. While it wasn’t necessarily a negative shift, I believe that media representations of bisexual women made me uncomfortable.
While a straight person could be whoever they wanted to be, gay characters were always put into boxes. And while there was nothing inherently wrong with these portrayals, it felt like there were only a few ways to be queer, usually adopting traditional masculine or feminine roles of butch or femme.
So in high school, I embraced traditional conceptions of femininity and expressed interest in my greasy male classmates. And no one questioned my sexuality. There’s a lot to be said for the safety in conforming to society’s expectations for you.
But as a I got older and witnessed more and more of my friends coming out, I become more comfortable dating girls.
But I was still hesitant to come out.
For one, it is exhausting to have to continuously tell people about your sexuality. While society puts an influence on a singular moment of coming out, LGBTQIA individuals have to constantly disclose their sexuality, be it to new people in their lives or those who missed the original memo.
While there are certain days I wish I could just wear a big sign that said “I’m bisexual,” being able to hide my sexuality makes my life a whole lot easier. Whether negative or not, people make assumptions about me based on my sexuality, just like the assumptions I used to make. One of the privileges of being straight, or at least presenting as straight, is that you aren’t defined by your sexuality.
Living in one of the most liberal parts of a democratic country, I don’t have to deal with much of the same bigotry as other queer people in more conservative, repressive regions: states like Indiana and Arkansas have made it clear that queer people are not protected by law. At the same time, I feel judged every time I come out — even if it is not intentional.
I think a lot of it has to do with the transitional nature of bisexual. Many people become confused when you don’t conform to a sexual binary.
And being in college, where the cliché of sexual experimentation prevails, doesn’t help. The stereotype of the college lesbian is problematic in the fact that for many people, they assume liking girls is just a phase. Additionally, this experimental hook-up culture mostly ignores non-sexual aspects of relationships. You can be attracted to girls, but only if you’re just having sex.
While there is nothing wrong with someone trying to figure out their sexuality, it is heart wrenching to be the subject of their experimentation.
I hate to admit it, but I am trepidatious to start relationships with women out of fear that they are only dating me to decide if they really like women.
It is even worse when this stereotype is pinned on you. Although many people don’t come right out and say it, I can tell when someone assumes that I am just going to end up on one side of the spectrum: gay or straight.
Admittedly, I have played up my one relationship with a woman to not only convince people of my sexuality but to gain acceptance with other queer folk.
At the same time, I often feel the privilege of bisexuality. You can date people of the opposite sex, and a lot of the time, people just assume you’re straight. And this isn’t a bad thing.
Despite the backlash and judgement, I think it is still important to come out. Because no matter who I end up with, my bisexuality will always be part of my identity. While I wish I lived in a world where fluid sexuality was considered the norm, I am put into the category of bisexual, with all of its connotations and baggage.
The most I can hope for is that there are more diverse media representations of sexuality, and I will never have to answer the question “Well, which sex do you really prefer?” again.