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Bi Out Loud


Still bi, just not single anymore.

Bi Out Loud | A Practical Wedding

by Amy Elizabeth

I’ve been bisexual since I first learned it existed. I was thirteen. Someone told me they were bisexual and, “That’s an option?!” was literally the thought that ran through my mind. In that moment, I knew clearly that bisexuality is part of who I am. At thirteen I was far removed from any real life dating, political implications, or the social stigmas that go along with bisexuality. In that moment, I felt peaceful and powerful to have learned this great truth about myself.

Fast-forward to my late teens and early twenties, aka: the dating years, where I got a cold hard dose of what being bisexual meant in real life. I didn’t belong. ANYWHERE. There were straight people and there were gay people. These were relatively safe, socially acceptable boxes in which one could identify in my progressive California life. Bisexual people however? We were considered confused at best and deviant at worst. I’d hear over and over that bisexuality isn’t really a thing—it’s either a stop on the way to gay town, or I was just a threesome-loving slut. Potential romantic partners viewed bisexuality with concern and distrust, fearful that a bisexual mate would leave for a partner of a different gender than the one they were currently with.

Identifying as bisexual made me super uncomfortable because of the social stigma, but I knew for sure that I couldn’t be straight, so I tried to just be gay. I thought it made more sense. My first true love was a woman. I was attracted to women more often than I was attracted to men. And, I loved the lesbian community. Beyond relationships and sexuality, lesbians are women. For me, the lesbian community was an amazing, understands-without-having-to-explain fit for my feminist self. I felt safe, strong, sexy, and supported. I was protected and understood by a community of fierce women. I had found my place in the world, and I loved it. By then, my sexual identity had taken on a life of its own. When people met me they thought I was gay because of my appearance, my friends, or where I went dancing on Saturday night. And I was just fine with it. I never thought I’d be in a serious relationship with a man again.

After my first true love and I broke up, I took a hiatus from any serious dating. I’d thought I was going to marry her, so I needed time to heal and get to know myself when our relationship ended. After almost three years of single fun, I was ready for a partner again. I dated and dated. I had a lot of fun, I kissed a lot of girls, and I liked it. But nothing clicked.

Then one day the love of my life and my future spouse literally walked through my front door. I was in college living in a house where the front door was always open and friends dropped by unannounced. These were pre-iPhone days, so my best friend was stopping by to use my internet to get directions to a party. And he brought with him, his best friend from high school, Devon.

He introduced us to each other:

“Devon, meet my homosexual life partner, Amy. Amy, meet my heterosexual life partner, Devon.”

His introduction lives on in infamy. In two sentences he let us each know how significant the other was in his life, and let Devon know I was only interested in friendship. It’s still hilarious, especially given the outcome.

Devon was in the Marine Corps and had just gotten back from a deployment, which is why I’d never met him before. The click between us was practically audible. We first tried to figure out if we’d known each other as children or something, the familiarity between us was so strong. Elementary School? Summer camp? …Related?! We determined it was indeed our first meeting and decided it was just because we were both so close to our mutual friend. They convinced me to go with them to the party, and Devon and I spent the night in a corner by ourselves talking, talking, talking. The makings of a great love were there on every level—intellectual challenge, emotional connection, and physical attraction. Seven years later, we count our anniversary as the day we met.

From the outside it looked like the contradictions between us would make our relationship a quick fling at best. A feminist, peace-and-love, outspoken “gay” girl with a tech geek, fresh-from-deployment Marine? My friends didn’t know what to make of it. Frankly, neither did I. When people asked what the f*ck was going on, I simply said, “We’re happy.”

My simple answer worked for awhile… In fact, our plainly visible happiness made it pretty easy for our friends to accept. But eventually I had to untangle and unpack questions of identity for myself and figure out how to be my not-straight self in a heterosexual relationship.

The truth is, I still haven’t totally figured it out. I remember my first love talking about how huge it was for her when Ellen came out. I’d looked for some kind of role model, but I never found one… Until recently. I guess everyone else has known for two full years, but I just discovered that Evan Rachel Wood is bisexual and amazingly articulate about it. Her insights were the balm that my insecure self needed to hear, giving me a little ray of you-are-not-alone sunshine. She empathizes with the otherness I’ve felt for so long and offers much needed education. So thanks, Evan Rachel Wood, for bringing a voice to something I didn’t know how to talk about and making all of us bisexual girls out there feel less alone.

Figuring out how to be bisexual in a monogamous opposite-sex relationship has been an uphill climb. Devon is amazingly empathetic, intelligent, and radical, but when I first met him he’d been in the Marine Corps for almost eight years and had some, ahem, reevaluation of his vocabulary to do. I’ll be eternally grateful to the series Makers: The Women Who Make America, because it gave him a speedy and thorough feminist education and helped him to understand me in a deeper way. We are still figuring out how to manage an egalitarian household together, something that I have found to be much easier to do in a same-sex relationship. My bisexuality even shows up in our sex life, not as the cliché threesome, but in how power is shared. Having sex on equal physical footing, having the same anatomy and being about the same size and strength, makes it a lot easier for there to be more balance in the bedroom. Fortunately, figuring out how to have the same equality in our opposite-sex union has been one of the fun challenges.

The biggest struggle I’ve had, and continue to have, is how to be “out” on a day-to-day basis. You can no longer see my otherness from the outside. I’ve been really conflicted about how to plan a straight wedding as a bisexual girl, especially because weddings are so steeped in heteronormative tradition. Thankfully Ms. Wood has already been there and Tweeted about that with my all time favorite Evan Rachel quote. After she married a man, a fan asked her on Twitter, “@evanrachelwood question, honestly not trying to be an ass. Just trying to understand. Does this mean u r not bi anymore? how is that work?” and Evan Rachel replied, “No. It just means i am not single anymore ;)”

Devon and I are committed to being advocates for equality and have lead campaigns and donated money, but we don’t want our wedding to feel like a heavy-handed political statement. Yes, the personal is absolutely political. And if I were marrying a woman, our personal commitment would appear externally political. But how do we do this as an opposite-sex couple? I don’t have an easy answer. Except that we will be ourselves. And like everything else we have done so far, we will figure it out together.

PS: In the spirit of cheesy yet necessary protest anthems here’s one for all of us bisexuals… Sing it with me!

I’m here, I’m bi,
I can be in a committed relationship with a girl or guy!

Photos by iO Tillett Wright of the Self Evident Truths Project

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  • Aileen

    Thank you for this. Just, thank you.

    – Bisexual woman in a heterosexual marriage.

    • http://jpnadia.blogspot.com jpnadia

      +1 bi woman in hetero relationships.

  • Anonymous

    This piece made me realize I don’t even understand the definition of bisexual. I don’t really know what it means, and I’m thinking it probably means different things to different people.

    I don’t know why ones sexual preferences matter once married – as in if you’re no longer looking for a sexual partner, what does it matter if anyone knows your bi, straight or gay. That’s just one part of my ignorance, I honestly don’t know why its important. But I’m happy to accept for some it is important.

    Obviously I’m going to have to go find some literature because bisexuality is something I never think about and now you’ve got me curious and feeling bad I don’t know more already. Good on you Amy for sharing your story and for getting some of us (me) to think a little. Much thanks.

    • Marie

      Sexual preference matters a great deal after marriage; and it will continue to matter profoundly until gay and lesbian spouses are afforded the same rights and respect as their straight counterparts. Indeed, I would argue that today, marriage heightens the visibility of a gay couple– they are at the vanguard of something that is still new and still (regrettably) controversial.

      Being bi, the author faced all the controversy of her lesbian community (and then some)– but now, by chance, she landed with a partner who lets her bypass the cultural clatter. and there is the rub: while it may be easier to “pass” as a straight woman than preserve her identity as bisexual, that sort of passing takes its own psychological toll– especially when you know that you might just as well have fallen on the other side of the fence, with a wife, in a society that still is not ok with two brides walking down the isle.

      • Class of 1980

        Society just needs to get to the place where it isn’t ASSUMED that someone is completely straight just because they married the opposite sex.

        Marriage isn’t a shorthand declaration of sexuality; it’s a legal state.

        I always consider a couple’s sexuality to be a mystery that’s none of my business. If a heterosexual marriage breaks up and one of them starts dating someone of the same sex, we shouldn’t be surprised because we shouldn’t make assumptions about something so private in the first place.

        • lady brett

          <3!

        • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

          “I always consider a couple’s sexuality to be a mystery that’s none of my business. If a heterosexual marriage breaks up and one of them starts dating someone of the same sex, we shouldn’t be surprised because we shouldn’t make assumptions about something so private in the first place.”

          PREACH. I’ve always wondered why people are so interested in what happens in other people’s bedrooms anyway.

          • Class of 1980

            You made me laugh. Then I thought about it.

            Maybe it’s gotten worse since everyone feels like they need to tell everyone about their sexuality? It invites judgement or questions.

            We should go back to the days of keeping it private, except for when we need to talk about civil rights.

            Or maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. I never even talked to my friends about it, which is funny because I would have a lot of say. ;)

        • Granola

          I think assumptions are also important because we forget how often people’s sexuality is “public” as well.

          When people say to me things like “I don’t care if someone is gay, but why can’t that just be private?” I tell them “Well you probably know that most people you work with are straight right? You wear a wedding ring and talk about your husband. Your sexual preference isn’t a private matter.”

          Slightly different from Class of 1980s point, but I think also worth remembering how “keep something private” usually only refers to non-default options that people don’t want to deal with.

    • Bi Anon

      As a bi woman, thanks for the respectful and honest comment! It’s totally cool of you to admit your ignorance on the topic. A lot of people are ignorant about it, which is why talking about it and asking and answering questions is so important!

      For many people, the way they identify is extremely important. Labels help many people in many different types of ways – sexuality is what we’re talking about here, but everyone has their own way of identifying themselves, of projecting what they see as their core self, or their core values, out into the world, and that projection is hugely important to almost everyone, I think. Some people, for instance, proudly and publicly latch onto their health/mental health diagnoses, as a way of accepting themselves, reducing stigma, reclaiming and explaining who they are at their core. Some people don’t “get it” when religious people fill everyone section in their Facebook profiles with feelings about their faith, for instance, but for many people that’s the most fundamental part of their identity and they want that to be how they are viewed. Sexuality for many people – usually people who have been made to feel ‘less than’ their entire life – is a fundamental part of their identity. Ever wonder why specific parts of the LGBTQI are so “precious” about their identifier’s (i.e, the “T” or the “Q”) inclusion in that term? It’s because inclusivity and identity are so important. It’s how they see themselves, it’s the lens through which they view the world, it’s their social group, it’s their entire world, for some. Community is so, so important for LGBTQI folk, and as a bi woman the idea of feeling like society is positioning me as being “outside” my tribe, my people, my identity, is really hard to deal with sometimes. It’s so hard when you cannot project your honest self to the world visibly the way straight or gay people can, and though there is a certain privilege that comes from being in a “straight” relationship with all the benefits that come with one and such privilege must not be downplayed or overlooked, that privilege often feels like we’re forsaking ourselves and “our people”, as well as being rejected by them. We don’t like looking “straight” or having people assume we’re straight because we’re NOT straight and it feels like we’ve had to abandon something so fundamental to our inner “self” as the price of falling in love.

      Finally for anyone interested, it might be worth looking up the term “bisexual erasure”. There was a great article I read yesterday in the Atlantic about bisexuality on TV (“Bisexuality on TV: It’s Getting Better”) which dealt with that on a surface level at least, and such an article might be a good light starting off point!

      • Rachelle

        Another question, since you seem willing to answer, about the LGBTQI acronym! Does “queer” have a specific definition or does it kind of cover all of the above, meaning someone who isn’t strictly heterosexual? Also, what does the “I” stand for? That part’s new to me. Thank you!

        • Sarabeth

          short answer – I stands for intersex, and queer is most commonly understood as a catch-all term for not-straight (and often used by people who don’t want to adopt a more specific label, such as lesbian/bi/trans).

        • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

          My favorite version is QUILTBAG – Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you both for some clarification and additional info!

  • Marie

    While the parallel is by no means exact, I wonder if you might gain some insight on the wedding-planning part from the experience of atheists/secular folks who marry more religious partners, or who, for whatever reason, end up having a religious ceremony? I bring this up because I certainly know many non-religious people who had religious ceronies for the sake of spouse or family; and there, too, is this struggle with feelings of inauthenticity. How does one maintain faith with oneself, when the protocols of day are “steeped” in traditions which are not fully your own?

    The “quest for an authentic wedding” (and marriage) is something this site handles so well!

  • Parsley

    When my now wife and I had been dating for about a year, we participated in a panel of GLBT people for a UU congregation that was working on the Welcoming Congregation program – a series of educational events designed to help the congregation become more GLBT friendly. The panel is a way for people to ask the questions they wouldn’t normally get a chance to ask. My wife identifies as bisexual, so one of the people in the congregation asked me if I was afraid she’d cheat on me with a guy. I thought that the question was a pretty classic example of bi-phobia, and I was glad she had a chance to ask it in a space where we could talk about that misconception. I said that trust in a relationship is based on the person, not the sexual orientation. As it happened, the person who did cheat on me with a guy was the very-un-trustworthy woman I was with who identified as a lesbian throughout our relationship, whereas my current partner is a very trustworthy woman who identifies as bi. Anyway, all by way of saying yes, there is incredible stigma out there, and thank you for telling your story.

    • Class of 1980

      “My wife identifies as bisexual, so one of the people in the congregation asked me if I was afraid she’d cheat on me with a guy. I thought that the question was a pretty classic example of bi-phobia, and I was glad she had a chance to ask it in a space where we could talk about that misconception.”

      I honestly don’t know if that’s an example of bi-phobia or just a lack of logic.

      If two partners are straight, one of them might cheat with the opposite sex. If one of the partners is bi, they might cheat with either the opposite sex or the same sex.

      What difference does it make? Are people fussed because the bi cheating pool is larger? ;)

      • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

        Class of 1980, from what I’ve seen, that’s pretty common bi-phobia/misconception (though most of the bi-phobic issues stem from a lack of logic to begin with, as does a lot of homophobia). The idea being that somehow the bi person cannot handle committing to just one set of genitals for the length of a marriage (never mind that’s what monogamous couples do anyway) and will have to go play with the other set to be fulfilled.

        Another one I’ve seen a lot (a lot) is that being a bisexual woman automatically means I’ll immediately want to have a threesome with a het couple like someone else would a one night stand. While I am not knocking polyamory and whatever floats your boat, it is unfair to assume my predilection is to be the guest star in your relationship (again, not knocking, but also unfair).

        • Class of 1980

          I guess I can understand people questioning if the bi partner would be fulfulled. But that question never crossed my mind. I figured the bi person was just more flexible in the range of people they could love, but just as committed once a choice was made.

  • http://www.wrightremedt.blogspot.com Addie

    THIS times 1000. That Evan Rachel Wood article (plus a brilliant one from Amber Heard) was one of the main reasons I decided to come out as bisexual a few years ago. It was if I had finally found my people. People who finally understood that I wasnt waiting or hiding or waffling. I was born with the capacity to love both genders in equal measure.

    I think the biggest misconception is that sexuality is a zero sum game. That you must be all of one and therefore none of the other. That those who are bisexual are anomalies that are 50% attracted to men and 50% attracted to women. So no matter who we are with, we are only half interested (or satisfied or committed or whatever) and might wander away at the slightest provocation. Nope. I am 100% attracted to whomever I am attracted to. If I leave you for another person, it’s because I’m an asshole, not because I’m bisexual.

  • Ros

    Exactly this, to the whole post, basically. I’m also a bisexual woman married to a straight guy.

    I’ve had issues from straight friends (“You’re a HORRIBLE lesbian!!” – direct quote), and from gay friends (“yeah, every gay girl somehow winds up with a guy after university, ugh”). I’ve also had issues of ‘wait, is this really my place?’ with regards to the gay community sometimes: because no matter how bisexual I am, showing up to a pride party with my husband holding my hand still just looks like being the straight tourist into the gay scene, with the associated glares and snarky comments from strangers.

    In the end, I’m aware that I’m tapping into a whole hell of a lot of cultural privilege by being a middle-class white woman married to a middle-class white man, and sometimes I feel like it’s important to claim the bisexuality, and sometimes I feel like it’s an effort to claim some sort of marginalization that I don’t have to deal with the effects of, and that feels awkward and almost unnecessary.

    So… I don’t really have a conclusion. I feel really mixed up about it all? It’s complicated? I’m hoping other people have insights? :)

  • Jessica B

    In college the whole “identify with what group you want/feel’ thing took a long time for me to grasp, as I saw women who identified as lesbian dating men, and a man who identifies as gay marrying a woman. It still kind of boggles my mind a bit, because I’ve never had to go through the process of figuring out “where I belong” and all the empowerment/heartache that can lead to.

    Now one of my good friends is a woman married to a woman, though she still identifies as bisexual and her wife as lesbian. It works for them, and has led to me correcting people who say “gay marriage” when they mean “same-sex marriage.”

    • ANON

      I’m not sure what you meant by “Now one of my good friends is a woman married to a woman, though she still identifies as bisexual and her wife as lesbian. It works for them” – I’m sure it was completely innocuous and nothing was meant by it at all, but by saying “though she still identifies” and “it works for them” it sounds as though you’re implying there’s something contradictory in how she identifies. Unless a bi person also happens to be into polygamy, they’re only going to marry one person, and that person is probably only going to identify as either male or female! The question directed at Evan Rachel Woods on twitter that was mentioned (“honestly not trying to be an ass. Just trying to understand. Does this mean u r not bi anymore?how is that work?”) is a silly question because bisexual means that you’re attracted to both men and women, a fact not reliant upon the gender of who you happen to be in a relationship with/married to. Saying a woman must be straight if she’s married to a man is hurtful, but so is implying that a woman might not really be bisexual if she’s married to another woman. It seems like you understand this already, as you correct people on the same-sex vs gay marriage thing, so I’m not sure if your wording choice was deliberately pointing out how others might see her as contradictory, or whether it was an oversight. Just thought I’d speak up anyway for my own peace of mind!

      • Jessica B

        It was a poorly worded sentence, definitely. It was simply to say that the “still identifying as bisexual” thought that the author of this piece felt was not uncommon, but I’m having trouble on this Monday morning coming up with a better/more tactful/correct way to say this.

        Calling a question silly belittles the people who are trying to find out more about a culture that is not their own. They are genuinely curious, they are trying to ask a question from a point of view that they have never had to consider and do not want to make assumptions. While it might not be the most tactful question ever asked, I thought Evan Rachel Wood responded well. It is not fair to people who are trying to learn more to be called names and their questions never answered–that does not build strong allies or strengthen a community of trust.

  • SarahG

    In relationships with men and with women, I’ve wondered if I should just go ahead and call myself straight or gay and stop insisting to everyone that I’m bisexual. After all, the world sees me through the lens of my relationship; and that’s where a lot of privilege and oppression comes from (esp. because my gender presentation is relatively femme, so I get read as straight unless I’m with a woman). What I always come back to is that it’s who I am. Calling me something else is inaccurate. It’s not about the fact that once you’re in a long term committed monogamous relationship the issue is “moot” — it would also be moot if you were straight or gay, but you would still call yourself a straight or gay person. And I don’t think our sexuality IS moot, really, because most of us (unless we’re asexual) have sexual feelings and attraction for other people who are not our partner; we just may decide not to act on those. It’s still a part of us and what makes us human, and to me that’s important in itself. I refuse to just let people call me something else because it fits their idea of who I should be.

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    As a bisexual woman who married a women, thank you for putting this out here. Society seems determined to put us in one category or another and forgets that life resists categorization.

    • anon for this!

      Christina, your bi?? Sorry to put you on the spot, ha, this just made me happy to read! I’m a regular commenter and always see your comments. I’m a woman engaged to a woman, and I grew up having crushes on mostly boys, though no real relationships, then met my fiance and everything felt so right and wonderful, and I pretty much just considered myself a lesbian then. But I have felt slightly uncomfortable because “techically” I would be more bi. Especially since getting engaged I have been freaking out , kind of being faced with the fact that I am not one of those totally gay people. I have so wished that I was one of the those people that was just gay their whole life.

      Anyway, I’ve always read your comments and kind of looked up to you for being a woman married to a woman (same with Lady brett and Remy) so it makes me feel comforted to know that you consider yourself bi. K end of rant…

      • anon for this!

        AND, I’d also like to add that I’m sure a lot of this comes from my mother. Ever since coming out with my relationship, my mom has put me through emotional hell about how she doesn’t believe I’m gay, blah blah blah, and I feel like I could never in a million years mention the word bisexual because I feel like she won’t accept it “if theres another option” – WOW. how horrible to type out.

        • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

          Oh bless your heart, Anon; I’m so sorry your mother is being unsupportive. I think there are two pieces of sexuality, the actual attraction/sex part, i.e., what gets you tingly in your lady bits, which I would argue is none of your mom’s business (or anyone else’s really) and the part where sexuality intersects with identity. This is more about how you self-identify and express your identity to others, which does a lot of work socially in how you interact with the people around you. I get that you’re wanting to claim the bi- label because bi-visibility is important, but if it helps you keep your relationship with your mom on an even keel, I think it’s fine to simplify things for her in regard to your current relationship. Also, you’re gonna be married to this lady for a long time (congrats!) so there is lots of time to cover bisexuality with your mother after she’s gotten used to the two of you together and that this relationship is for the long haul.
          …Also, I just re-read your comment and noted that you totally didn’t ask for advice, so sorry to give you some unsolicited. I just get all soapboxy sometimes. Best wishes to you!

          • anon for this!

            Hehe, yes, you are so right. And that’s why I don’t even go there with her yet..she can be very destructive and we want our wedding to be peaceful and joyous, and its already soooo hard on her that I wouldn’t want to do anything to rock the boat. and Exactly, since I’m marrying this person I figured I might as well just let them assume I’m totally gay.

            Thank you :)

          • meg

            Meigh, “I think there are two pieces of sexuality, the actual attraction/sex part, i.e., what gets you tingly in your lady bits, which I would argue is none of your mom’s business (or anyone else’s really) and the part where sexuality intersects with identity.”

            You’re so smart. I’ve never heard someone put it that way <3 <3

          • R

            I really, really needed to hear this.

            I have been wrestling with whether I should identify as bi. I’m in an opposite-sex relationship; he’s the only person I’ve ever been romantically or sexually involved with, and I hope that will remain the case for the rest of our lives. But I do have an, ahem, appreciation for the ladies. But I’ve never had a relationship with a woman, never faced homophobia or biphobia, never really had that side of me as part of my life or my identity. I’ve never even had much of a crush on a woman (I’ve only had maybe three crushes on guys in my life). But am I contributing to bi erasure and, in essence, being homophobic or at the very least heteronormative by sticking with the comfortable label of straight? But am I claiming a life difficulty I’ve never really had? But but but but….

            At one point as a teen, I was afraid I might be gay. The reason I say “afraid” is because I felt my support for gay rights would be undermined by my being gay (in an “of course she supports it; she’s one of them” way). Sounds silly to me now, but it just reminds me that “straight ally” has always been the identity that makes sense to me. A bi friend once described me as “really straight”. Even if I am a 1 (maybe even a 1.5!) on the Kinsey scale.

            Long story short: it’s like I needed permission to identify as straight, and now I have it. Thank you.

        • Stefanie

          A weird issue that seems to come up with bisexuality that I’m guessing doesn’t for most gay people: having to explain to your older relatives what it is! It sounds absurd, but when I came out to my mother, she said, “Okay, so explain to me what that is?” She was supportive, but I think it was harder for her to make sense of it because it wasn’t a concept she was already familiar with.

          • Class of 1980

            How old is your mom? I mean … I’m 55 and bisexuality is no mystery to anyone I know that’s my age.

            Heck, it was a known thing when we were in our 20s.

          • Stefanie

            Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing rather than an age thing. More sheltered lives there.

      • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

        Yep, sure am! My wife is actually the first romantic relationship I’ve had with a woman. She also considers herself bi and doesn’t feel that love is exclusively tied to gender. On the Kinsey scale, I’d consider myself a 3-4 and my wife considers herself a 5. Few people are rarely 100% anything and what I appreciate about the bisexual label is that it identifies just that, the gray scale.

        Congrats on your engagement!

        • anon for this!

          Thank you :) !

      • lady brett

        eek, thanks =)

        i just want to say that your sexual orientation doesn’t have to be an important part of your identity. it is extremely important to some people, but that doesn’t mean it has to be important to you.

        i say this because, honestly, i don’t feel like i had a sexual orientation (or definitely not one i claimed/identified with) until about 6 years ago when i started identifying as queer. i just didn’t care, so i acquiesced to whatever other folks labelled me because it was important to them but not to me (so i was straight by default and dating boys, then i was bi by having a girlfriend, but all male exes, then i was gay because i stayed with that girl for so long and was/am very involved in the “gay community” (and because being a “lesbian” while single felt safer, even if i was totally not true)).

        that is also a major part of why i identify as queer: gender is only one part of my sexual orientation, and other things are far more important to me with regards to both sex and relationships.

        “I have so wished that I was one of the those people that was just gay their whole life.” *this* is why i push back so hard against the well-meaning argument that gay is okay because people are born that way. because, yes, some folks (like my wife) have, basically, always been gay. but other folks (like me) did sort of choose it. and others just – oops – fell in love with a girl after having been kind of straight. and all of those are equally valid, and saying that it’s only “real” or acceptable if it’s an in-born trait is dismissive of so many people and flies in the face of any sort of sexual autonomy.

        • anon for this!

          oh my gosh lady brett, im going to cry! Yes i identify with everything you just said!! Ok, hold on, let me gather myself ha…But I have felt so out of place or like I’ve had to defend my lesbianism because I liked boys growing up. I’m not attracted to girls like me (I’m very femme) and I grew up in a small southern town where I never met butch girls or lesbians at all (except for the chain smoking piano player at choir ha). I’ve felt like I had to justify the fact that I’ve had huge crushes on guys growing up. Reading your story has really helped life a burden off. I have read you guys’ comments for so long and just figured you were the lucky always lesbos ha. My fiance is totallllyyyyy gay. She refused to wear anything but boy’s clothes since age 2. I love her and am attracted to her soul, but not because she has a vagina. Her vagina is just an extension of her soul if that makes sense. I hate how people act like I should be attracted to every girl because I’m “gay” or whatever. I identify with being a lesbian, and cheesily fit the stereotype (always been a feminist, vegan, my partner wears lots of plaid and we have a pitbull lol) but I get scared that what if I’m not really because I’ve been attracted to guys? But now I see that that’s normal thanks to you ladies!!

          Thank you three for being so friendly and helpful and sweet!! (Lady brett, I’m the one from North carolina too!)

        • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

          Yes! I love the term Queer, b/c it encompasses so much and doesn’t try to distill everything about you for the benefit of other people. Also, I agree that the “born that way” concept is problematic. I feel like it’s been used as a way to deflect blame, like “my queerness is not my fault, I was born that way.” Which is fine, except it includes the assumption that queerness is something requiring blame, an inherently negative trait. Like we have to make excuses for not being like everyone else. I don’t feel like I need to be excused for anything. I totally recognize the usefulness of this argument, and how it has softened a lot of hearts that were previously opposed to rights for LGBTQI folks, and I totally don’t discount the experiences of people who feel like their queerness was inborn. I just dislike the assumptions that underlie that concept.

          • anon for this!

            Ok you guys I just tried for so long on the internet to find this video of the actress Cynthia Nixon talking about that exact thing. I can’t find the video but here is part of what she said:

            “I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

          • Class of 1980

            It’s funny how differently I feel.

            I’m straight, but I always hated the term “Queer” because originally it was used as a slur, until gays turned it around to be a source of pride.

            QUEER:
            1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
            2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
            3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
            4. Slang Fake; counterfeit.
            5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
            6. Offensive Slang Homosexual.
            7. Usage Problem Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people.

            I hate it because of the original meaning of the word. To me it’s saying bi or gay people aren’t normal, whereas I think they are normal.

            Of course, it’s not up to me what people call themselves.

          • lady brett

            anon – thanks for that quote! i love it when people are articulate about things i agree with – it so simplifies things =)

          • lady brett

            class of 1980 – that is a very, very important point (especially, i think, for those of us who do identify as queer)!

            that said, i think the primary definition you posted is one of the reasons i so identify with it: i have been queer by definitions 1 and 2 my whole life, whereas my sexuality has been a newer discovery!

            also, while some people use it as a sort of synonym for “gay” as a way to reclaim an insult, most of my exposure to it is actually as an *alternative* to gay or straight for people who do feel like they deviate from those accepted norms, and who are, for the most part, viewed as odd or unconventional for not fitting into the black-and-white definitions of sexuality.

          • Class of 1980

            Well, Hells Bells. There are parts of my life that are unusual … at least to those with no imagination.

            But who gets to define “normal”? At any given time in history, the majority has often been wrong.

            Sometimes the majority is “queer”. ;)

          • Kate

            Anon For This – I was about to search for that exact same Cynthia Nixon quote! As someone who mostly dated guys before meeting my girlfriend (who I’ll be marrying in the spring), I’ve struggled a lot to find a label that feels right. Neither ‘lesbian’ nor ‘bi’ ever seems quite right, but the way she puts it (“I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better”) really resonates with me and has helped me accept my place in the LGBTQ world. I was in a straight relationship, I’m now in a gay relationship, and the gay relationship is better. I’m not marrying my girlfriend because she’s a girl; I’m marrying her because we have an amazing relationship that I want continue for the rest of my life.

        • Kate

          Exaaaaaaaactly! I hate when people use the “born this way” argument for gay rights, because (while I totally agree that sexuality has a biological basis) it shouldn’t matter whether someone is “born gay” or not. You’re consenting adults and you’re in love…why does it matter how you got there?

  • Karen

    Thank you for this post. I’m not bisexual myself but I have a friend who is and recently got married. She had similar concerns. I’ve passed this on to her. Thank you!

  • Milla

    Loving the responses from all the bi ladies today! I’m another one, engaged to another cis bi woman, and I think it’s so important that the queer community respect bi ladies who are in heterosexual marriages (which can be between cis and trans folks, or between trans folks, also, and those couples get erased when people start essentializing).

    For my partner and I, it’s important to us that we are read as bisexual. That’s who we are— and if we happen to express some serious love for James McAvoy and Ewan McGregor, we’re not betraying our identities or contradicting anything— that’s just who we are. We’ve dealt with some biphobia from the LG community in our town, and it makes us leery of having a lot to do with more mainstream events like Pride (“oh, they’re not really queer, they’re bisexual”— actual quote from someone we met at a queer function). As we’re both femmes, we’re frequently read as straight, but if we’re together, we’re read as lesbians. And both are fine, but that’s not who we are, and that matters to us.

    • Mezza

      I have this exact issue! I’m also a cis bi woman (though usually I use “queer”) and married to a cis bi woman. We both read as femme, though I tend a bit towards androgynous and come off as gay sometimes. I just remember how surprised the president of my grad school’s LGBT society was when I mentioned I was bi. We are both in careers where it’s both safe and important for people to know we’re married to each other, so we’re out.

      I almost constantly get read as lesbian when people know about my partner, and oddly enough one of the most meaningful things to me recently was when a coworker made a joke about me spending time after hours with a male colleague. She knows I’m married to a woman and joked about me with a male colleague, without knowing that I actually identify as bi/queer and it felt really nice. Like my relationship didn’t define me – which is what a lot of us are talking about here.

  • AnonForTalkingAboutMySexLife

    Not anon for my sexuality, but I wanted to talk about bisexuality and my sex life here some.

    I’m a bi woman engaged to a man. I’ve recently started coming out pretty broadly. I started coming out ( my family knew but I think they thought it was a phase.) because I realized that being a closet bisexual who appears straight from the outside in a hetero relationship was contributing to bi erasure. After coming out, I’ve realized that I’m really glad to be out. It lets me stop doubting my sexuality, stop trying to fit myself into a straight box.

    I wasn’t really sure what my sexuality was for years. I was very attracted to women and men, but my fantasy life was pretty straight. After coming out, I realized this was not because I wasn’t into ladies, but because I didn’t have any examples. All the sex I had seen on TV, in movies, in the large portion of the mainstream erotica and porn I had read and seen, the discussions about sex I had with peers, featured a very specific type of straight sex. Imagining what sex with a woman might be like took actual work, since I haven’t seen it or done it. (My male fiancé is the first person I dated although my first kiss was a girl at camp I had a crush on.) I was really surprised to realize how strongly my sexuality was affected by the way I’ve seen sex portrayed and discussed. Realizing that it wasn’t that I am not into ladies but that I don’t fantasize about them much because I don’t know what to picture in my head, and starting to explore what those fantasies might be, has been amazing for me. And made me examine how ultralight portrals of sex affect my sex life with my partner also.

    • anonymoustoday

      And I am the opposite of you! I am a bi woman married to a straight man. Growing up, I was boy crazy, but had some instances of girl-girl flirting (playing “boyfriend” with a girl when I was on the cusp of puberty), then I was boy crazy through junior high. I think I kind of suppressed it because of my dad’s extreme homophobia and fear of being judged. In high school, I had a long term boyfriend who I had ALL of my sexual firsts with and who was extremely open about my sexual interests; which is when my attraction to women became very real to me. We almost had a threesome, but I couldn’t handle being with him and a woman at the same time (it made me jealous and insecure). After we broke up, talking and drinking with my best friend one night, I confessed my attraction to women and my fear of rejection and inability to approach women as potential lovers, and she told me she was bi and I had my first girl on girl experience that night. However, I didn’t have another interaction like that for ten years! I think because I often had boyfriends and wasn’t out about being bi that people assumed I was straight. I also didn’t know how to break out into the girl-girl bi scene or how to approach women at all. But, even though I absolutely LOVE sex with my husband, my sexual fantasy life is 90% lesbian.

  • Zayden

    OMG I needed this. I’m a bisexual woman marrying a bisexual guy after being together for 10 years. Thank you for sharing this! :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting a little bit confused. It seems like bisexuality means different things to different people – is that a fair statement?

    It’s viewed differently by straight, gay and bi people, according to some of the real life examples shown in the comments above. To me, I always thought bisexuality meant that one can/is attracted to both men and women. Which to me, always seemed so broad, that it pretty much covered everyone. I mean, as a straight lady, I can ABSOLUTELY appreciate women, be attracted to them and even fantasize about them. But I still think of myself as straight. (I thought for the most part as human animals we were all attracted to each other pretty generally, but maybe I’m just a horn dog.)

    I’m just trying to figure out – in part to try and be sure not to cause offense through my own ignorance – how does one actually figure out what bisexuality means, when it seems like a pretty broad spectrum. How can I understand it and therefore its importance to those who identify as such? I’ve done some mild research today after reading this post, but I’m afraid I’m having a hard time knowing who’s version of bisexuality to use as the “definition” and therefore find a good jumping off point to read more. I hope my question makes sense.

    • meg

      I think other people are going to have smart things to say, but it seems to me that you’re speaking to the difference between sexual attraction and sexual identity, which Meigh touched on really smartly in the comments above. IE, if you’re attracted to men and women you could self identify as bi. But you don’t, you self identify as straight, and that’s about your sexual identity more than who you are or are not sexually attracted to.

      (Also, I think the comments have nicely covered the fact that you could also not put a lot of importance on your sexual identity, or self identify as queer, or in no particular way, or, or, or.)

      I don’t know that I’d take that to mean that being bi means different things to different people (though maybe it does!), but more that it’s something you don’t personally identify with? MEIGH? :)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah! I think that’s exactly what I’m talking about. I thought Meigh’s breakdown made a lot of sense: “I think there are two pieces of sexuality, the actual attraction/sex part, i.e., what gets you tingly in your lady bits, which I would argue is none of your mom’s business (or anyone else’s really) and the part where sexuality intersects with identity.”

      But my question is more like…our lovely original poster Amy and several of those who commented seem to be the types to view their bisexuality as a part of their identity. And it seems like (taking some liberties here) others who may be “bisexual” under a broad definition, do NOT view their sexuality as a part of their identity.

      So how do you know who to talk to and how in order to avoid offending? An earlier comment mentioned correcting folks who refer to her bisexual female friend who married a lesbian woman as same sex marriage instead of gay because only one of the partners is gay.

      But how would one even know that as a casual observer? And what about the lovely gay folks who want their marriages referred to as gay marriages (if they exist)? I guess what I’m trying to figure out is if we’re talking about something that different people view differently even when it pertains to themselves, how does the person on the outside even figure it out? Save the people involved being vocal and expressing their wants, needs and preferences?

      If someone’s sexuality is tied to their identity, how does one honor that? Especially when I’m the kind of person that unless I’M sleeping with you, it isn’t important to me in the least what anyone’s sexual preference or orientation is. It never even occurs to me to worry about it. But it seems like with our wonderful OP here and even some of the commenters, they’d like their sexuality to be a part of who they are. So how do the rest of us respond or reciprocate in a way that makes you feel accepted and understood? Because at the end of the day, that’s all I care about – are people happy? I don’t know if that clears it up any.

      • Maggie

        ” An earlier comment mentioned correcting folks who refer to her bisexual female friend who married a lesbian woman as same sex marriage instead of gay because only one of the partners is gay.

        But how would one even know that as a casual observer? And what about the lovely gay folks who want their marriages referred to as gay marriages (if they exist)? ”

        Marriage isn’t gay or straight, it’s a legal arrangement. That is why same-sex marriage is more accurate, because the two people involved may or may not be gay.

      • Milla

        Honestly, I think not being a jerk is the best way to go about it, and it sounds like you want to honor everyone’s identity, so you’re in a good place! I don’t mind if someone sees me with my partner and thinks, oh, two women, must be lesbians, but once they find out that we’re both bi, I just want them to respect that. It sounds really basic, but a lot of people get their identities shrugged off.

        At least half of the queer women I know who would otherwise identify as bi don’t, just because they want to avoid the nonsense. Here’s some of the ridiculousness you can hear when you say you’re bisexual.

        “Gay until after college, huh?” (yes, my seven year relationship will end the moment I get my diploma)
        “You’re not really queer, though.” (I guess it’s my magical bi aura that will keep me from getting fired, then!)
        “Want to have a threesome?” (this is my favorite. Also why I don’t go out dancing very much anymore. Also because I love comfy socks and Netflix more).
        “So are you worried that your partner will cheat on you with a man?” (I think these people are really confused about how it works).
        “How do you KNOW you’re bi if you’ve never been with a guy?” (Two words: Idris Elba)

        • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

          I think Milla covered most of what I would say. (Also, bwahahahahaha Idris Elba. Yes plz.) If you’re not trying to antagonize someone or erase someone’s identity after they’ve identified themselves in a certain way, then you’re probably good. Anon, I wouldn’t worry too much about “…how would one even know that as a casual observer.” Nobody is trying to trick you or catch you out being insensitive. (Ha! Gotcha, bigot!) It’s mostly just respecting what people tell you about themselves, and not reframing them inside your head until they fit in a box that’s easier for you to understand. (Which it doesn’t sound like you do, so yay!)

          People get touchy around sexual identity b/c A) it’s very personal and B) if you have a sexual identity other than completely hetero, you’ve probably had someone give you crap about it. Bisexuals get it from both sides (badum ching), b/c they get told by the homos that they’re not homo enough, and by the straights that they’re too gay. It kinda sucks. But for some bisexual folks, it’s really important to own that label, since they already took a lot of crap about it, and fought for it in the hope that if there is more bisexual visibility, there will be less crap-taking in the future as more people become aware of what the term means. The problem is that unless one wears a tshirt reading BISEXUAL at all times, it’s easy for that identity (and all the emotional and social work it took to adopt it) to be erased. So, other people’s assumptions about somebody’s sexual identity can feel really threatening.

          TL;DR: don’t be a jerk, and respect how others self-identify. Easy.

          • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

            I expect my bisexual t-shirt in the mail shortly. Though, will the t-shirt make me bisexual? Does that mean that we can just assign sexuality by clothing?
            “But I like ladies!”
            “I HAVE BEEN DRESSING YOU IN STRAIGHT T-SHIRTS SINCE YOU WERE 4, YOU ARE MARRYING ROBERT AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.”

            This post brought to you by not enough coffee.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you all! This was very helpful and informative. I guess because I DO presume people are gay or straight depending on how they’re coupled off I felt bad because I’m part of the problem. But since I never vocalize that presumption, feel bad when I’ve presumed wrong and never discuss anyone’s life style choices in a negative way (save voting Republican, because, come on) I’m probably cool. I think I misunderstood the tone of some of these comments as wanting folks to be like encouraging and engaging on being bisexual which goes against my personal stance of “it ain’t my bidness”. I see now its simply that when you express who you are, you want that to be respected and supported which is like every humans right as far as I’m concerned, so I’m on board. Thanks again!

  • Stefanie

    Oh my god, let me add to the chorus and thank you so much for this piece! This is EXACTLY where I’ve been as I’ve been planning my wedding to my heterosexual male fiance. I told him I was bisexual in the first ten minutes of our first date–this was how important it was to me to be involved with someone who was totally comfortable with it. And he always has been. But dating and falling in love with him has created a dramatic change in how I externally represent myself, because identifying as bisexual has always been so complicated. Before I met my fiance, I had stopped dating men. I still knew I was bisexual, but an abusive relationship with a man had made heterosexual dating too difficult to me. I simply shut down that portion of my personality for a while, and continued to date women as I had done before, but chose to do so exclusively. Referring to myself as “gay” at the time was in retrospect a mistake, but there just really isn’t any good place for us to place ourselves! It’s easy to struggle within both the straight and gay communities with getting people to understand what you are, without bringing those fluctuations that really can happen into the equation. And when I met my fiance, I realized I had made a big mistake. Now I had to explain to people what it meant to be “gay” but dating a man–I got a lot of crap from ex-girlfriends, who were understandably upset about my identity flip-flopping.

    But the problem I’m running into now is exactly the opposite: there was never a good moment to bring up to my fiance’s family that I am bisexual and have dated women. It felt like the path of least resistance to just not mention it, and the longer I waited, the harder it got. Several lesbian friends, including an ex-girlfriend and good friend, will be at our wedding, and I feel like continuing to keep my mouth shut would be more self-doubting than I am comfortable being. But how do you bring that up without making a big, dramatic thing of it? “I know this is a shock to you, but for me, I’ve known this for well over a decade, and all my friends and family have always known this about me”?

    • Class of 1980

      I’ll quote one of Miss Manner’s old books.

      Someone once asked how to introduce a gay couple at her next party. Miss Manners wrote something to the effect of … “What kind of parties do you give that people have to announce their sexuality at the door?”

      LOL. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Your sexuality is personal.

    • lady brett

      two things:

      “I got a lot of crap from ex-girlfriends, who were understandably upset about my identity flip-flopping.” bullshit. there is nothing understandable about being upset over *your* identity. that makes me so mad.

      and, if it is important to you to introduce, the tactic i usually use to “come out” to folks might work for you – don’t come out, just make conversation (ex. “oh! my ex, jane and i went there once! it’s a great place” – point of conversation: the place you’re talking about. small aside: i dated a girl once (or lots). lots of people totally take it in stride when you’re so blase about it, but also if they do make a big deal of it, it gives you the opportunity to feign confusion and be all “oh! i thought you knew.” it probably won’t be less nerve-wracking for you, but it tends to be smoother – among other things, if they *don’t want to go there!* they can pretend they didn’t notice.)

      okay, three things: thank you class of 1980, i so love miss manners.

      • Class of 1980

        Thank you. Your advice is perfect, btw.

      • Stefanie

        Okay, so maybe I am falling into that trap of being concerned about people who react to how I self-identify. People really take that seriously, and I think the issue is more complicated if you’re bisexual because it’s not black or white. You can actually change your chosen identification throughout your life without lying about who you are. Some people who identify as gay seem bothered by this however, as though by not picking one identity and sticking to it you’re betraying all GLBTQ people everywhere. To a certain extent, I understand this, because there is so much room for confusion, but it does really come down to the fact that this is who YOU are. It’s no one else’s business.

      • Caroline

        This works well when you have a dating history. When you are trying to come out as bi and don’t have a dating history ( ie, no ex, Jane,), it’s harder. I’ve never dated anyone besides my fiancé, or any gender, but I feel like being bi is becoming an important part of my identity. Being queer makes me feel freer to play with social constructions of gender and sexuality. But I have no ex anyone to refer to. I think this is why I was closeted for so long. It is an important part of my identity, and I feel it is important to be out because of bi erasure, but seeing as I’m marrying my male partner who is the only person I’ve dated, it feels like I’m saying too much about what excites me sexually when I’m trying to say who I am as a person.

        • Pippa

          Just wanted to chime in here, clicking exactly wasn’t enough.
          In my case, it wasn’t until after I began my relationship with my betrothed that I realised I was bi. And so never having had a relationship or any sexual experience with anyone other than my partner, let alone anyone of the same gender as me makes me feel like my sexuality is moot. I know it’s not, but it’s tricky. It doesn’t help that I’m still unsure as to how strongly I *identify* with being bi, as opposed to it being just my sexuality, and this isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve never mixed in LGBTQI circles or know anyone who openly identifies as LGBTQI. It harks back to someone else’s comment here that said they were never exposed to any examples of bisexuality growing up and that led to a bit of confusion for them. It was the same for me growing up and is the same for me now, essentially.
          And so it all just leaves me wondering if I’ll ever tell anyone other than my partner, and for what ends?

          • Caroline

            Hey. I just wanted to say that I recently started coming out to friends. For me, I started coming out because I didn’t want to contribute to the whole “bisexual people aren’t real” myth when people looked at me and assumed I was straight, but seriously, it set me free. Being out was freeing like you would not believe for me, even though I didn’t really feel closeted before. Freeing in terms of gender roles (“hey, I’m queer. I can be super femme with a touch of butch and define my own gender presentation!”), freeing in terms of my sex life (in fantasy and my own self conception), and just free to be openly who I am.

            So, if you want to come out, and it is safe for you to do so, I encourage it.

            Even if it seems awkward, and like “well, why am I coming out as bi. It’s not like I need to introduce a new partner of a different gender than my last one”. When I started coming out beyond my family, a friend told me it was okay to just say “Shabbat shalom*. I’m bisexual.” Like, to just drop it in conversation, wherever, even if it seems like there is never a place where it “needs” to be said. I didn’t think it was something I needed to say, but it turns out, I did, for me.

            If you want to come out, you don’t need a reason to come out beyond wanting to, or wanting to be an example of bisexuality to someone else. You don’t need a dating history, and you don’t have to be involved in the LGBTQI community. There are also sometimes good reasons not to come out, but you don’t have to have a “good enough” reason to come out if you want to, and you don’t have to be a “good enough” bisexual person who has dated people of multiple genders.

            That’s what I wish someone had told me a few years ago.

            *Shabbat Shalom is a traditional Jewish sabbath greeting. This friend and I are both observant Jews. The point is that it followed something which was terribly mundane and we said to each other nearly ever week. (Like “hi”)

    • Hannah

      Stefanie–when I started reading your comment, I couldn’t believe how similar your story sounds to mine. I’m bi- and married a man last year. I told him about it on our first date, and he’s been cool about it. (Maybe it helped that I wasn’t the first bisexual woman that he’d dated???) Anyway, I can appreciate the challenges that you’ve talked about. My in-laws don’t know. And I suppose I need to spend some time figuring out what’s up with that. I’m out as bi with my family and at my last workplace, but am kind of in that in-between space at my current job (some folks know, some don’t).

      Anyway, this has felt like a timely post and certainly has got me thinking.

      • Improvised Bride

        I absolutely *love* the idea of just saying to people, “Hey, shabbat shalom; I’m bi.” LOVE.

        (I was trying to reply to Caroline’s comment above, but this is where it appeared. Sorry!)

  • Class of 1980

    Does anyone remember that Sex In The City episode where Carrie dates a younger guy who’s bisexual? He invites her to a party where she meets all his friends, and it turns out that half of them have been in relationships with both sexes over time. One guy introduces his male partner and his female ex is also there. It blows Carrie’s mind.

    I remember being confused at why Carrie was so confused. Her character is supposed to be younger than me, but she thought bisexuality was a younger generation fad. She had always thought you had to be one thing or another, and I never did.

    I’ve read that people in the ancient world had no concept of gayness. They didn’t divide sexuality the way we do. Men married to women might still have relations with males. Not sure about the women.

    Modern-day experts say people are on a scale from totally gay to totally straight, with most people being somewhere in between.

    • Helen

      Yeah, in ancient Rome, particularly, there was no gay or straight – there was “people with power” and “people with no power”. Sex between men of differing statuses (teachers/students, master/students) was ok, and even encouraged. Women had no status at all, so didn’t factor in this cultural equation.

      • Class of 1980

        Exactly.

    • Sarah

      Yes!
      I remember being bewildered that that show (supposedly so sex positive) had this story line that seemed ignorant at best and homophobic at worst. As a bi woman I also felt completely alienated…

      • Class of 1980

        I was confounded by that episode.

        Considering everything else they portrayed on the show, how could they be so clueless?

  • Abbey

    Thank you for this piece! I had to laugh when you talked about not realizing being bi was an option–I remember thinking that being bi meant I had to be attracted to every single person in the world, and since I was only attracted to some people, that must not be the right term.

    I wonder, though–how do I remain out and proud when it’s really just an identity I’m holding on to, not any past relationships that are still important or any future ones I hope to have? I’m happy with my current (basically straight, male) partner, and on some level it feels odd (and rude) to insist on a broader sexual identity when he’s the only person I’m really interested in being with. It doesn’t ever come up in ordinary conversation, and I can’t think of non-awkward ways to bring it up.

    Any stories/advice?

    • Carrie

      This might sound weird, but the first thing I thought of was celebrity crushes. It’s pretty common and normal for married people to still talk about how they think X celebrity is really hot. If you and your partner are comfortable talking about celebrities you find attractive, and if you have any celebrity crushes on ladies, that’s one arena in which you can express hey, this is still part of who you are, even though you’re monogamous with a guy.

  • Julia

    I just spent my whole morning watching “Makers” and it FIRED ME UP!

  • Amy Elizabeth

    Hi Everyone!

    My stomach was doing little flips last night and kept me from sleeping because I knew this was going to be published this morning and I was excited and anxious all at once. I texted Devon who was out of town for work and said “I just hope it doesn’t get like 2 comments that say, ‘I can’t really relate to this but its well written,’ because the comments section of APW is where its at!”

    So I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for your smart, supportive, thoughtful discussion. I’m only now really processing my own journey as a bisexual and hearing what you have to say has given me more insight and made me feel way less lonely. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    – Amy Elizabeth

  • Megan

    Also wanted to add that you can still be fired in 29 states because an employer disagrees with you being gay or bi and you have no legal recourse. So even if you’re married to the opposite gender, sexuality definitely still matters.

  • Meredith

    Thank you times a million for talking about this. My fiance is bisexual, and we are an opposite sex couple planning our wedding. He is officially out to his family and friends, and my friends know and are supportive, although we have never really discussed this with my family. It is extremely tricky terrain to navigate. Sometimes it feels as it we aren’t being honest or something by planning this traditional, straight wedding. And is it okay that it never comes up and we rarely discuss it with loved ones? We both love and support each other fully, and he is comfortable and confident in his sexuality. Sometimes I just worry about how I deal with being one half of this couple, being that I know exactly no one else who is in the same shoes.
    I’m not sure what the answers are, but I’m so glad you started this conversation.

    • Anon

      Another straight woman here, now married to a wonderful, bisexual husband. I so hear you about the “tricky terrain to navigate.” In my family, only my sister knows about my husband’s sexuality (not surprisingly, she’s also the family member who skipped out of our Midwestern hometown and now lives in San Francisco). I was very nervous about my parents finding out about my now-husband’s sexuality throughout our wedding planning process because I knew they would not be supportive, like I was afraid they would demand that I call off the wedding or something. As if planning a wedding isn’t already stressful enough as it is.

      However, my sister helped me sort out that it’s up to my husband and me to decide what we share about our private lives with others. His family is supportive and so are our friends, and that definitely helps. You ask if it’s okay that this conversation has not come up with your family. I think the question should be what feels okay for you and your soon-to-be spouse. I’ve found that what is most important is that my husband and I are open and honest with each other, because we make a team. You mentioned that you love and supportive each other fully, which is great and so, so important. My hope is that you two will find a way to create a ceremony that feels meaningful and authentic to you.

      I certainly don’t have all the answers either, but knowing you are not alone and talking about it definitely helps!

      • Meredith

        Anon, it DOES help to know I’m not alone! You make some really good points. I think I had this idea that we needed to confront my family with this information at some point, and I think I’m going to just go ahead and let that idea go. You are right- what we share is up to us, and we have plenty of people around us who are supportive.
        So wonderful that you have your sister to lean on. Thank you for helping to ease some of my fears.

        • Anon

          Glad to know I can be of help. I think like other readers commented, having a “confrontation” is not necessarily the best way to talk about sensitive issues such as this. But if the subject comes up naturally, I just hope that my family will not lose sight of how much my husband and I love one another. One thing my husband has helped me understand is that he’s already gone through the process of coming out, which I have never had to go through, so this is new territory for me that we are navigating together.

          I feel like I should also mention that our wedding went beautifully and we just celebrated our first anniversary last weekend. It is so wonderful to be on the other side of wedding planning! :)

  • anon

    I see a lot of defining bi as being attracted to BOTH genders. What about individuals who do not identify with the gender binary of man and woman? I have a feeling that most of us may agree that there are more than 2 genders. Also, calling gay marriage same-sex marriage leaves out our trans* brothers and sisters, it seems. What are other people’s thoughts? Those are two points that immediately came to mind for me.

    • Kate

      I thought the show ‘Modern Family’ handled this really well in their episode about the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions. Twice in the episode characters used ‘gay’ as a descriptor (‘gay marriage license’ and ‘gay wedding bells’) and both times were corrected (just ‘marriage license’ and ‘wedding bells’) because the sexual identity of the people getting married doesn’t change what it is. As a woman about to marry a woman, I don’t think of my wedding as a gay wedding or a lesbian wedding, it’s just a wedding. I think this is one of those things that goes back to personal preference. There may be some couples who identify with certain labels, like gay marriage or same-sex marriage, but when we’re talking about the general and not the specific, it’s just marriage. That is also why the term ‘marriage equality’ is so great, it’s inclusive of everyone.

    • http://alacartealbums.com Jane

      I totally got into a spat on tumblr about this last year.

      In *my* set, bisexual is understood to be from the set with heterosexual and homosexual, as in “different” and “same”, and therefore bisexual means attracted to both different and same. So you can be bisexual and be attracted to genderqueer people, and/or be *simultaneously* bisexual and genderqueer, etc.

      It certainly is pretty easy shorthand (especially if you don’t hang out in a QUILTBAG community where this kind of discussion is more routine) to equate bi with “both genders” and most of the people under 25 I’ve discussed this with use omnisexual or pansexual, and reserve bisexual for people who are only interested in people at distinct ends of the gender continuum. (Hence the fight. No whippersnappers get to redefine my identity. Especially as part of a “handy infographic explaining the orientations.”)

      I totally agree with you on the same sex marriage/gay marriage being not ideal terms.

    • Caitlyn

      I personally identify as queer because my gender identity is not so strongly pointed to female, and while I have only dated people who identify as female, I didn’t want to rule out other potential partners based on gender. Other people choose different terms to convey that- pansexual, etc.

      I got married to my wife a month and a half ago, and it was judt a wedding, no other descriptor needed.

      Can I say how much I love Amy Elizabeth for writing this and APW for sharing it?

      Also, just wanted to say how awesome it is that APW posted this! This is what is turning me from a lurker during wedding planning to an ac I’ve cmmenter as a married person.

  • Aubry

    I feel like there might be a lot more bi people in the world than most people are aware of. I have two bi friends who are in opposite sex relationships (one marriage, one long term partner) and they both don’t talk about it overly, but don’t make it a secret that they are bi. I have spoken to them, and they both agree that most of the bi people they know primarily date/marry opposite sex partners solely because of the numbers. There are more opposite sex partners available than same sex ones – even in a very LGBTQ friendly city such as mine.

    Also, for bi people who sway more towards the opposite sex, it is sometimes easier to just date them than deal with the social ramifications like you described above.

    Not much to add, but I thought it an interesting point. I have definitely encountered some homophobic stuff directed toward these friends, but more in high school and early 20’s than now. Many people did the classic “your bi so that means you are into me/i feel awkward acting towards you like we always have” reaction, but as far as I know they have a much easier time now. It will be a happy day when someone’s sexuality/gender identity are all fine and not up for comment. I know that day will come.

    • Class of 1980

      I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there are more bi people than gay people.

  • catherine

    I just want to say that this is probably one of my top three favorite posts ever on this site, on any site for that matter. Geez La Weez.

  • Improvised Bride

    This. This, a thousand times this. Sorry this is such a long comment (I’m editing it down, I swear!) but this touched a really powerful chord. I’m a bisexual woman marrying a wonderful queer-friendly guy, but getting comfortable here was challenging. I first realized I was attracted to women when I was in high school but I dated boys. I think I checked out and read nearly every book the local library had about homosexuality. Thank god for Rita Mae Brown and for Jeanette Winterson. In college, I dated boys but longed for girls. I fell madly and irrationally in love with a classmate and ultimately had a tumultuous on-again off-again relationship with her. Sometime in there, I began coming out to close friends as a lesbian. I embraced a specific lesbian aesthetic: shaving my own head (also, I was broke), dressing in jeans and boots and white undershirts, zealously policing everyone else’s Ani DiFranco fandom (remember those days?). Right before I went to grad school, I came out to my parents, who were supportive, but worried about homophobia and violence. In grad school, I was really active in LGBT activities on my campus and in a national group. People knew me as “that lesbian who spams our inboxes all the time” or, if they didn’t like me, “that feminazi d*ke.” I had serious, long-term relationships with women, including one 5+-year relationship that included marriage proposals, discussions about kids, and joint visits to our families. There were occasional flickers of interest in men, but my dating life revolved around women. When my 5-year relationship died a brutally slow and painful death, I was an emotional desert. Seriously. The Gobi Desert lived where my heart had been for almost a year.

    Then, gradually, I decided to try meeting people again. So I got online. I signed up as gay, and discovered I had almost no interest in going out with any of the women I saw on the site. Some were smoking hot, but I just wasn’t reacting. I started peeking at guys’ profiles, and emailed one or two. And then went out with one and liked him. A lot. That didn’t go anywhere, but it started an incredibly intense and often scary period of trying to figure out Who the Heck Am I? A lesbian knocked sideways by a bad breakup? A temporary visitor to Opposite Sexlandia? I knew I wasn’t straight, but I didn’t seem to be a lesbian exactly anymore either.

    It was frankly terrifying to contemplate losing my home in the lesbian community. I grieved. Hard. But a really nice thing happened when I worked up the nerve to tell a few friends: they told me they wanted me to be happy, no matter who I was involved with. Oh, it wasn’t all Kumbaya. One friend told me she was sick of all the bisexual women messing up the lesbian dating pool. I gradually stopped getting invited to some of the lesbian get-togethers and, even when invited, I felt awkward sometimes with my male date while I talked about my lesbian life. I still worry that the Lesbian Police will come take back my toaster (although if kd lang [ca. 1990….] was with them, I’d consider negotiating).

    I put off telling my parents because the thought of the relief I feared seeing on their faces made me nauseated. And because I was afraid my sexual orientation was going to be like a pendulum, swinging every 15 years or so — a thought that just made me exhausted.

    Dating was complicated. One guy insisted bisexuality didn’t exist, which was a curious thing to say to my face. Another fell into the trap of thinking bisexuality made me some kind of porn star wannabe. Several men on dating websites viewed bisexuality as an invitation to be their piece on the side (seriously, who thinks that way?), and a few men emailed to ask if I would hook up with their wives while they watched (um, no; and my sexuality is not here for your viewing pleasure, thankyouverymuch).

    My fiance did none of those things. That’s part of why I love him. But the bigger things are that he’s smart and kind and generous and really attractive and feminist and thoughtful and awesome. He smells nice. He makes me laugh. It took me a while to be comfortable with the thought of marrying him and becoming so invisible and wrapped in straight privilege. And I work on being visible and out. And my guy supports me and has my back, which is the best feeling I know. We are–and I am–still navigating all the stuff about privilege and visibility, categories and labels, and the fluidity of identity. But we’re doing it together and having fun as we go. I hope that never stops.

    TL;DR = Finding a comfortable place where it feels safe to identify as bi can be scary and hard; our society loves imposing labels and assigning character traits; bisexuality is WAY misunderstood by an awful lot of otherwise well-meaning people; and nope, just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean I want to sleep with your gf/wife/whatever; but amazing people of all stripes abound and will surround you with love

    • Stefanie

      It really feels like people who identify as bisexual are always going to struggle finding some kind of community. It’s easy to feel forced into expressing yourself only as a heterosexual because of social pressures, but it can also be easy to identify as primarily gay in order to be part of the gay community, who may also be somewhat dismissive of anyone who is “on the fence” about their sexuality. I am really happy to be marrying the man that I found, but I also miss the community of lesbians that I no longer feel really a part of because I’ve “settled” for a man. It can be endlessly frustrating when people act as though you’re ultimately choosing to be gay or straight based on what gender your life partner ends up being.

      • Improvised Bride

        Finding community *is* tricky, I agree. I’m definitely not straight but parts of the queer community now feel less comfortable for me, and that is sad.

        Then there’s the issue of coming out to my fiance’s politically and socially much more conservative family. My family and friends all know I’m bi, and I’m pretty out in my life, although I probably pass a lot more than I even realize. But he hasn’t discussed it with his parents, whom I’ve only met once. If they looked my name up on Google, they’d figure it out, but he thinks they aren’t likely to do that. Our wedding has the potential to be interesting….

  • Sarah

    Your piece reminded me of my own growing awareness of people’s sexuality as a teenager, especially regarding when Ellen came out. I loved her comedy, I’d heard she was gay, and thought it was public knowledge. I remember reading her first book and thinking “Huh, funny she didn’t mention it,” with all the naiveté that comes from being a teenager, thinking that we all had a right to be whoever we wanted to be, and that maybe her sexuality just wasn’t what she wanted to talk about. A few years later when she officially came out (gasp!) I was so confused. Didn’t everyone already know she was gay? Why was it such a big deal? As an adult, of course, I see the politics and stigma you mention. I long for the days when I thought all you had to do was figure out who you were and be that.

  • Bethany

    Thank you for such a thoughtful piece! I’m bi–always have been, always will be–but married straight (a Marine, amusingly enough) and still struggle with my place in the LGBTQI community. Also, how to be ‘out’ at large within regular communities as well. So, thank you for your perspective on the matters.

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