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12 May 2011, 9:00 am 8 Comments

Sexuality: Is It Easier To Be Bisexual?

Submission by Gella Solomon, TNG contributor. Gella Solomon was from Brooklyn, New York before it was cool. She frequently reminds people of this fact, as Brooklynites often do. Gella’s identities include queer, feminist, middle child, and student of Judaism. She is currently learning at The Drisha Institute, a pluralistic women’s Yeshiva in Manhattan.

Janice is the butch one
Image and caption courtesy of GayCaptions

“Well, you’re only half gay, so it’s probably easier for you.” “Actually, you’re at an advantage: it doubles your chances!” “A beautiful girl like you playing both sides of the field? I can’t feel sorry for you.” “Of course, it’s fine for women to be bisexual. In fact, it increases your appeal.”

All of these are sentiments I’ve heard more times than I can count. They are difficult for the same reasons that the classic line, “You know, Jesus was Jewish!” is difficult. After hearing it so many times, it gets exhausting to explain exactly why this revelation does not carry the implications that the speaker thinks it does. Exhausting because every single time it is necessary to start again with certain fundamentals that in my world are as elemental as the air I breathe. So I am writing this in the hopes that I may cut down on some of the repetition in my life by having a ready-made primer to my experience as a bisexual woman, and why it is not “easy.”

First off, I want to say that I am not looking for pity. I don’t need you to feel sorry for me, nor am I trying to out-suffer you. Hardship is not a competition and persecution is not a zero-sum game. There is much more I could write on this subject, but that is perhaps for another piece. Further, I need to include the disclaimer that I can speak only from my own experience and the experiences that have been shared with me. Everyone’s sexuality is their own and I cannot claim to speak for others or to represent the entirety of self-identified bisexuals. That said, let us continue.

There is a well-known Israeli film called “Walk on Water” in which one of the main characters is telling another that the man he has been charged with befriending is gay. “Hu homo homo?” [He’s gay gay?] “(Sarcastically) Lo, hu chetzi-homo!” [No, he’s half-gay!] With my Hebrew-speaking friends I will sometimes jokingly refer to myself thus, Ani chetzi-homo [I’m half-gay], because of the cultural reference… and because it rolls off the tongue amusingly. It is in fact, however, not true. Bisexuality is different from homosexuality in a number of respects, and in some of those respects, homosexuality has far more in common with heterosexuality than does bisexuality, or pansexuality as some prefer.

Someone who is heterosexual purportedly is incapable of attraction to the same sex or gender, and someone who is homosexual purportedly is similarly incapable of attraction to the/an other sex or gender. The similarity is that for both of these groups, there exist relatively easily defined categories of attraction and non-attraction. For a bisexual person, the criteria of attraction are not so simply whittled down. Just as for mono-sexuals (people attracted only to one sex or gender) there is reportedly no choice involved in which sex or gender toward which they gravitate, so too for non-mono-sexuals or stereo-sexuals, as one friend joked. [I say “reportedly” in recognition of the fact that I am not in a position to speak for someone else’s experience of their sexuality. I can only report on the experience described to me by people I know, and the people I know who describe themselves as exclusively homo or heterosexual cannot choose to which sex or gender they will be attracted.]

We don’t just decide that today I will be attracted to men, tomorrow I will be attracted to women, next week I will be attracted to genderqueers. Every person is their own category, and whether we find them attractive or not has to do with many factors. Gender will play a role insofar as it is a part of the makeup of someone’s personality, not as an automatic exclusion.

There are a number of reasons that this does not “double the ‘playing field,’” as has been suggested. For one thing, the potential for attraction to more than one sex or gender does not necessarily mean that a person is going to be attracted to twice the number of people as a person who is attracted to only one sex. Sexual and emotional attraction are complex phenomena, and are dependent on many factors. Someone for whom gender is not an automatic excluding factor may have any number of other factors at play which limit the scope of their attraction. Another issue is that my potential to be attracted to someone does not increase the likelihood that they will be attracted to or comfortable with me as a potential partner.

Which brings me to another point: namely, the suggestion that as a woman my bisexuality increases my appeal. This is patently untrue. Sure, it may conjure for some the common trope of the pornographic fantasy held by some men of the bisexual woman who will have sex with him while making out with another woman for his entertainment and arousal. Okay, but that is a fantasy. Again, I can only speak for myself, but personally, I am unlikely to be substantively attracted to a person who would be inclined to hold such a fantasy. Such a sexual experience might be fulfilling for some and I am by no means condemning or denigrating those people, but to assume that a person being bisexual means that they want to have sex with multiple partners, either simultaneously or concurrently is naive and insulting.

People who are bisexual are not necessarily any more likely to be inclined toward polyamory than any heterosexual or homosexual person. Again, bisexuality describes a state of being wherein gender does not necessarily exclude someone as a potential partner. It does not mean that I need a man and a woman in order for my sexual and emotional needs to be fulfilled. What I need is a partner. A person whom I find attractive in all respects, who I can trust, who will give me love and support and receive love and support from me. I need a person who shares my values and wants the same things from a partnered life that I want. If I want a partner, that is what they need to be: a partner. In that respect, I am unremarkable. My bisexuality has little to do with my desired lifestyle once settled (God willing) in a partnership.

If anything, I have found that being bisexual is a detriment to my finding potential partners. Bisexuality scares people, straight and gay alike. Some don’t believe that bisexuality really exists, and that therefore anyone who claims to be bisexual is in fact confused, and will turn out in the end to be heterosexual or homosexual. No one wants to be caught as the partner of a person who has realized that their orientation is incompatible with that partnership. In other words, the gays are worried I’ll wind up straight and the straights are worried I’ll wind up gay. Further, precisely because of the preconception that if someone is truly bisexual they need to have sex with people of multiple genders/sexes, there is always the suspicion that a bisexual person is incapable of monogamy. It isn’t always easy to find people who are comfortable with the idea of a bisexual partner, gay or straight.

Finally, the most insulting charge, that bisexuality is selfish. You may as well say that my having blue eyes is selfish. My bisexuality means that I have certain attractions, just as homosexuality or heterosexuality does. To deny either my attraction to men or to women is to be in the closet, and it baffles me when people, homosexual folks especially, tell me to go back in there. I have to choose, you say? Tell me… did you choose? The fact is, I do choose. When I am with a partner, I choose to be faithful to that partner, to be present with and for them, to be the person who I am with them. I choose in the same respect that you do.
As for Jesus being Jewish? Correct. Jesus was Jewish; Me too. Jesus wasn’t Christian; Me neither. Shrug

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  • K. Kriesel said:

    I appreciate this article and share many of your experiences.
    It seems to me that where a bi/pan woman comes from makes a strong impact. A straight woman who comes out as bi/pan looks like she’s experimenting or going through a phase – and is open to threesomes with a guy and another girl. A lesbian who comes out as bi/pan is seen as backsliding and may be rejected by her queer community.

    My bioguy lovers actually appreciate that I’m pansexual from a lesbian background because because I reject the straight privilege I could get by being with them. And apparently I have a stronger backbone, more sass and completely different sexual energy than any straight girl they’ve been with (and bisexual girls who come from a straight background). They tell their guy friends to date bicurious lesbians!

  • Jordan said:

    The bottom line is simple. Love is complicated, and sexual identity is part of, but not the exclusive decisor, in fiinding a partner for a relationship. You hit the nail on the head.

  • A.J. said:

    Excellent article. The only thing missing, I think, is at least a reference to people who are attracted to both (all) genders, but for whom relationships with both are necessary or desired. You don’t fit that profile but I know people who do, and maybe a mention of where that fits into the scheme of things would make the article a little more comprehensive.

  • Pterodactyl said:

    AJ – is that really different from a hetero/homo who has a desire for relationships with more than one partner, or for different sex roles with different partners?

  • AmateurInvest said:

    This is such an interesting matter it’s fun to see how people describe others based on theyr sexuality ,like, “you shouldn’t date bi, soon they will get bored and trade you for the oposite sex”.

    I find hard to to describe one’s sexuality simply has “gay,straight or bi” i think the category “passive/active” should also be included, religion also demishes the panoplia of those who want come out has “something not straight”.

    i think in the future, the percentage of people who present themselves as bi will be much greater

  • M said:

    I really love the idea of non-mono-sexuality (dual-sexuality) rather than bisexuality. I identify with the lesbian community, but I call myself queer and am emotionally & erotically attracted to women and sexually attracted to men. Because I feel so differently about the way I’m attracted to men and women, I’m reluctant to embrace “bisexuality”, which implies to my ears that the attractions are the same, but the genitalia is different. I feel, basically, neither hetero- nor homo-, but am glad I’m not the only one.

  • whispersngiggles said:

    I find that when these discussions arise in my social circles, there is generally no attempt to connect emotions and/or intellect with sex acts. Homophobes that I have had dealings with seem stuck only on the image of anal penetration. That is all being gay means to them. For me, interaction and connection is a precursor to the sex act. That I find intellectual stimulation and personality compatibility the first points of attraction, stronger, at first, than body parts, skin color, body size, that only after a connection of minds, whose ideologies might even stand in opposition to mine but the validity of which I recognize and respect, has been established, can enter the physicality of hands caressing, tongues locking, bodies joining, for me. Such a connection is possible with a straight woman, a bisexual woman, a gay man, a transgender individual, a straight man, a gay woman, a bisexual man, for me. To discriminate would simplify my life. To discriminate is not possible, for me. I speak this, when I’m asked, to people I know and to some who I wish to know, and I feel my lips moving, and I see how my words reach the ears of the receiver as if garbled during the journey from my lips to their ears. They remain uncomprehending. Here, in this space, I reiterate what others have been saying. This act of pansexual performativity is my self-conscious contribution to moving away from the place where not feeling understood stuck me, to owning that I am a pansexual woman.

  • Matthew said:

    Bisexuality scares people, straight and gay alike.

    I have been in 3 relationships with women where they were scared and 1 relationship with a man where he was scared. And fear was probably in other. It sucks when things go well otherwise that this becomes an issue.

    And recently online dating has placed me into a depression realizing accutely that I am really off limits to most straight women, and a lot of gay men. Which left me pursuing mainly bisexual women seeking men. (I did have one date with a bi man but no sparks) and now I am dating a bisexual woman and it is nice to have love in my life again, but we are also very different and really more “friends with benefits” rather than soul mates.

    I did have a short fling with a feme queer gay dude he was also very loving. But he and many of the straight people I know easily date. For me it has become an ordeal of explaining, or even finding someone. But general rule is I pursue bipeople first it is a bit painful and exhausting otherwise.