Marrying a Man Doesn’t Make Me Straight

I am no more or less bisexual today than I was when I came out

a close up photo of a woman

When I was seventeen years old, I came out to my friends and family.

Although I had long had suspicions about my sexual orientation, it took me a while to find the courage to accept myself and come out as bisexual. Despite some not-so-pleasant reactions from my conservative Latino parents, the news went over fairly well.

Soon enough, I had found my community. My circle of friends in high school, and later on in college, included several like-minded friends that loved and accepted me for just who I was. Sometimes that included being a little too girl-crazy, and other times I was completely obsessed with a boy I’d recently met. Coming into my own as a young bisexual woman was fairly easy thanks to the supportive cast of friends that were there for me during every first date and every heartbreak.

There was the publicist who teased me with kisses in the rain, the teacher who loved bragging about me to friends, the morning news show producer who held my hand on the subway, the composer who took me to Mariah Carey’s Christmas show… and so many more. Throughout my twenties, I dated men and women with no end in sight. I never knew where my happy ending would lie, and I was satisfied with that.

Until I met him.

Shortly after turning thirty and moving to a new city, I met the person who would soon become the love of my life. And he happened to be a man.

Coming out as bisexual and dating as a bisexual had always been tricky up until this point. During my dating adventures, I was constantly faced with the many stereotypes about bisexuals that made others uncomfortable. I was introduced to jokes about my supposed inability to commit, told that I was simply biding my time until deciding whether I’m actually gay or straight, that I just enjoy the extra attention, that I can’t be happy with just one person, and worst of all, that people like me simply didn’t exist. And let’s not even to mention the women who wouldn’t date me because they thought I was “just experimenting,” or the men who wanted me to bring a girlfriend into our bedroom.

Despite all of it, I fell in love

Now my love and I are planning to get married. It’s definitely a happy time. I know that I’ve found the perfect partner for me—someone kind, thoughtful, caring, supportive, and more loving than I ever could have imagined. The fact that my love is a man is, to be honest, almost inconsequential… almost. The fact that he’s a man does actually present some tricky situations in terms of my bisexuality, how I have always viewed myself, and what others have come to expect of me.

My closest friends will forever be supportive of me, but casual acquaintances have a hard time understanding my new heteronormative existence. When they question my commitment to continuing the fight for gay rights, I wonder if what they’re really trying to ask me is, “So… were you straight all along?” Gay friends might wonder if I’ll still stand by them at the next Pride Parade, while people of my parents’ generation might breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t end up with a woman. And a part of me can’t help but feel a little pang of guilt, as if I am giving up my LGBTQ Card by putting a man’s ring on my finger.

But the truth is, I am no more or less bisexual today than I was a year ago or even fourteen years ago when I came out. I knew who I was at seventeen, and I made that clear. The thing I didn’t know back then—whether I would find my ultimate happiness with a man or a woman—is the only factor that has truly changed.

the “b” in LGBTQ

The hardest thing to accept, and the hardest thing to help my partner understand, is that my attraction to women will never go away. Just as my past relationships are a part of me, my sexual orientation is, too. When I go to sleep next to him and have dreams of our happy life together, it doesn’t change the fact that we just watched an episode of Westworld and I found Thandie Newton’s badass character very sexually appealing. Though, of course, I found James Marsden pretty appealing too.

Being the “B” in LGBTQ can often be very complicated. Not only do bisexuals like me deal with stereotypes every day while we’re single and happily dating, but we face an almost confusing loss of identity whenever we finally choose to “settle down” with one particular person—all because of their sex or gender.

But the truth is that the only thing that marrying a man will truly change in my life is that I will now need to be even louder about who I am, louder about my bisexuality and how it has affected my life in positive and negative ways. With all that is going on politically in today’s world, I will continue to speak up for LGBT rights and I will continue to be true to who I am—and especially make it clear to the outside world that man + woman ≠ heterosexual pairing.

It’s just what happens sometimes when you open yourself up to love from either sex.

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  • Abby

    “There was the publicist who teased me with kisses in the rain, the teacher who loved bragging about me to friends, the morning news show producer who held my hand on the subway, the composer who took me to Mariah Carey’s Christmas show… and so many more. Throughout my twenties, I dated men and women with no end in sight. I never knew where my happy ending would lie, and I was satisfied with that.”

    I’m just saying, this could be a book and I would buy it.

    Congrats on finding your person!

  • NolaJael

    Honestly, the statistical odds are just that most truly bisexual (monogamous) people will end up in a hetero-presenting relationship, because math.

    • Elizabeth

      I mean, that kind of assumes that people are just wandering through life randomly looking for sexually compatible partners, when at least in my experience it ends up being a lot more complicated than that. A lot of my voluntary socialization is with queer people and queer women in particular, which definitely has an effect on things.

      While I was on okcupid for a while and certainly got more messages from men than women (and a better response rate to the messages I sent), I tended to go out with more women than men based on the conversations we ended up having.

      • NolaJael

        Sure. And for every bi person who dives headfirst in available queer culture there are others who are limited through traditional/conservative/religious cultural norms to primary dating heterosexually.

        Even accounting for social choices, the overabundance of one type of partner compared to another plus conventional norms makes the original statement hold. The point was to reinforce that the author’s experience (bisexuals marrying heterosexually) is common, even if it’s underrecognized and misunderstood.

    • S

      Yeah. I know so many bi women (myself included) who have been in more opposite-sex relationships, simply because….odds, not knowing if the women you’re attracted to are “out”, maybe not knowing YOU’RE queer until you’ve already started dating men, etc. I have never been into a guy and thought we were vibing then found out later he was gay (not saying it wouldn’t/couldn’t happen, just personally it’s never happened for me, because statistics I guess) but the opposite happens with women A LOT. Then if you’ve mostly dated men and are still attracted to men, you sometimes feel like you don’t “deserve” to be in queer spaces, which closes you off to meeting more women who are actually into you.

      • Diverkat

        Also affecting the odds for me was the number of lesbian women I have been keen on who have basically said “no bisexual women, I only date other lesbians” was quite high in my experience. I find that kind of thing extremely annoying, because if a dude I was interested in was concerned about my previous sexual partners, I would not bother with him because judgmental asshole; for some reason with women, I’ve historically been more tolerant of that kind of judgment. I don’t really know why, I haven’t explored that aspect of my brain yet, but it’s certainly a phenomenon that has limited my relationships with women.

  • NolaJael

    I’m openly bi and have dated men and women, and I (unintentionally) present as a short-haired, key ring wearing, non-shaving, butch/tomboy-esque lesbian. And I married a dude. A big tall hairy manly (feminist) dude.

    Accepting my continued and enduring bisexuality really helped me make peace with some of the nontraditional choices in our wedding. Like that I didn’t want to wear a dress. Or have flowers. Or a sparkly engagement ring.

    Marrying a man didn’t automatically make me “femme,” because that’s not how our relationship works. We both wore jeans and blazers, because that’s clothing that makes us each happy (and powerful).

    • Anna

      Also bi, also short-haired, and my gender presentation via attire varies day to day from very feminine (e.g., today, I’m wearing a long flowy dress, very sparkly necklace, lipstick) to masculine (e.g., yesterday, flannel shirt, jeans, compression sports bra, no jewelry or makeup). When my clothing isn’t explicitly feminine, I get called “sir” with some regularity (…which, aside, has always confused me, because I’m 5’1″ and curvy and there’s only so much that shapeless clothing can do to hide that. Apparently short hair + not wearing a dress = dude?)

      I’ll be wearing a long beaded gown for my wedding (to a man), and my “butch” side won’t be particularly visible on that day (well, my hair will still be short). But I can be okay with that knowing that fiance isn’t just marrying femme-y me; he knows and loves and is attracted to my whole range of gender presentation.

      I will say, though, that regularly being read as lesbian makes me feel way more comfortable that I’m not “disappearing” into an apparently straight marriage. Even when fiance is with me, I somewhat routinely get phone numbers from female bartenders, etc. I think it’s easier for me to not feel like my bisexuality is covered up by my impending opposite-sex marriage because pretty much nobody looks at me, even all couple-d up with male fiance, and assumes “straight”.

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  • Natalie

    Thanks for this. I’m bi and married to a man, and almost everyone I know assumes I’m straight (I’m pretty damn femme). I thus feel the need to come out near-constantly, and it’s often a frustrating experience. I get weird questions about whether my husband knows, if he’s “ok with it” (seriously, WTF?), how can I possibly be bi if I’m married to a man, I must be straight now, etc. I, too, have gotten assumptions about promiscuity based on my bi identity. I once had a colleague start asking me personal questions about my sex life when I came out as bi (like, how many women I’d had sex with). I jumped back in the closet professionally after that. I’m still struggling with the desire to be open about who I am, but not wanting to deal with really weird, personal questions all the time.

    • Anna

      Eek, why would anyone think it’s okay to ask a coworker how many of ANY type of person they’d had sex with?! I mean, I know why – our culture constantly sexualizes queer people even in contexts that aren’t at all sexual – but ugh.

      • Natalie

        Ugh is right. I am sure he would not have asked those questions had I not just come out as bi, as if doing so was an invitation to have him sexualize me. I don’t think he would have behaved the same way if I had said I was a lesbian, or a gay man, either. Straight men love to think that bi women want to have threesomes with them and another woman, and I think that’s exactly where this guy’s mind went.

  • tempy13

    This is such an amazing piece. I’ve wondered sooooo many times how these negative stereotypes survive and how having a bi person marrying a non-bi person is perpetually confusing to societies. Thank you.

  • suchbrightlights

    Thanks, Irina, for this- this post spoke to me. I’m also bi and marrying a man. I am out to many of my friends but only some of my family, and some days I feel like I’m passing. And other days I’m so blown away by my new coworker Karen’s brains and hots that I think “If I were single…” and remind myself that my choice to be selective about the parts of myself I share with other people doesn’t mean those parts aren’t there. I hear you when you say that it feels like a loss of identity to feel like you’ve picked one.

    It’s also feeling imperative to me that I do speak up, now more than ever, because I “can pass” and that feels like a privilege, even though that idea of “passing” is internally conflicting.

  • Liz

    This is so ridiculously timely. I have been married 3.5 years and just came out to my husband, friends, and family as bisexual which has been a really interesting/confusing experience. I was thinking of submitting my story to APW as well. I haven’t gotten too much pushback and haven’t encountered the traditional stereotypes that I see a lot of bi people face, but I have to wonder if that’s because I’m femme and in a relationship with a man. Most people have been quite celebratory but I wonder how different it would be if I looked different/was single. Thanks so much for sharing your story; I definitely feel my bisexuality is invisible a lot of the time which is really frustrating, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone!

    • macrain

      I would love to hear your story. I vote submit. :)

  • Anonymousforthissubject

    I am recently married to a wonderful guy. I didn’t realize and come to terms with being bisexual until a few years ago, when my husband and I were dating. I came out to him, and then later, to two very close friends, but to no one else.

    Most of the time I don’t think about being bi, but I wonder if I should come out. Am I exhibiting undeserved “straight privilege” of not thinking about my sexuality much because I pass as straight? Am I being a poor queer advocate by not coming out because I know it would be taxing emotional work? Am I scared it will make my family, my husband’s family, and possibly some of my friends uncomfortable, or make them question my relationship with my husband? What will my girl friends, with whom I’ve shared hotel rooms and dressing rooms, think of me – that I’ve thought about them in a sexual way (I admit I sometimes have)? Will people think I’m attention-seeking or riding a trend? Will the queer community reject me because I’m in a hetero marriage, and being straight-passing, haven’t been persecuted? And, finally, can I be *100% sure* that I’m bi if I’ve never slept with a woman? Would coming out be worth it when my lived experience has been – and for the foreseeable future, will be – that of a fairly femme, straight cis-woman? Is publicly identifying as bisexual worth anything if to date my identity has only been in my head?

    At the end of the day, I’m glad my husband, the person I am closest to, knows this about me, and that we can talk about it openly with each other. If I kept repressing it like I did throughout my religious upbringing, I think I’d be even less comfortable.

    • anonymous_too

      I feel you, and you’re not alone.

    • zero

      I’m in the same position – I’m a bi woman who has never even hooked up with a woman. Almost no one knows that I’m bi. I knew this on some level from when I was young but sort of didn’t focus on it because I’m also attracted to guys and I guess I chose the easier path. Personally, I won’t actively come out as bi, but I also don’t hide it. That is, I’ll sometimes comment to my SO that I find a particular woman attractive (the same way I’d do it with a man), and if I had any close lesbian friends I’m pretty sure it would come up at some point that I’m also attracted to women. In fact, with some lesbians I met I got the sense that they were able to identify me as someone who’s also into women.
      I’m am a strong advocate for gay rights, and sometimes when the topic comes up, I’ll remark that there are some straight-seeming people who may be bi. I obviously have straight privilege and frankly probably have no idea what it’s like to be openly queer, but at least I can sometimes make a little contribution by drawing my straight friends’ attention to these issues.
      On a personal level, I’m at peace with simply knowing that I’m bi and enjoying this aspect of my sexuality more in the realm of fantasy. I truly don’t think I need to hook up with a woman to know I’m bi, I’m certain that I would enjoy a sexual encounter with a woman I’m attracted to (or at least I have the same level of certainty about that as with men I’m attracted to).

  • As a bi woman who’s never dated a woman, I do feel invisible sometimes. I definitely have a whole heaping of straight privilege, and though I’ve been openly bi for a decade now it still feels a weird thing to tell people. Formally coming out to people makes me feel like I’m appropriating a queer narrative that my gay friends get first dibs on, but dropping it into conversations makes people get this “should I have known that already?” look. I mean, I know as a bi woman it’s not appropriation, but I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve never had sex with a woman because the timing wasn’t right – I needed therapy to make a strong enough emotional connection with someone to want to fuck them (I wanted to want to, but I always came over a bit ‘meh’ when the opportunity arose), and post therapy I pretty much fell straight into my forever relationship. Also, when i think about the kind of women I was into pre-therapy, those relationships had train wreck written all over them! My subconscious may have been looking out for me there :)

    It definitely has an impact on my friendships with other women. I can’t tell sometimes if I fancy someone romantically or platonically. Anyone else have this? I wonder if the hetero narrative around close female relationships blurs the distinctions anyway (the ‘Lesbian Continuum’, as literature theory calls it!) but I definitely pull back on female friendships sometimes because I don’t know if I’m skirting dangerous waters or just making a new bestie.

  • LazyMountain

    As someone with the shoe on the other foot, I feel for the fraught situations we bisexuals end up in for either case. I dated men for most of my adult life, but am marrying the only woman who ever pursued me for more than a kiss. Too often when meeting new people or explaining my partnership to landlords, wedding venues, insurance agents, etc. I just own the general “gay” moniker rather than explaining myself. It’s just easier, and part of me feels like it’s not their damn business, but still vaguely feels like hiding somehow. And then there’s the insipid, dark-of-the-night jealousy of the bisexuals I know that ended up marrying men, knowing that their lives might be (at least on the outside) less complicated, less imperiled, and less expensive (yay procreation) just because of who they fell in love with.
    I wish in general that we would speak up more, so thanks Irina and APW for the empathy and support!

    • Cee

      Sameish here! Bi woman married to another bi woman (neither of us dated much, and have never slept with a man!). Lots of people wonder why we don’t identify as lesbians, but my bisexuality is very much a part of me, and my wife feels the same way. It does create some interesting situations in which people who are normally biphobic have to grumble their way around accepting us, though.

  • macrain

    I’m married to a wonderful bisexual man who came out to his family and friends in college, and came out to me when we first started dating. He is still bisexual, of course. It is but one aspect of his identity, and I think he has learned to let it go that he presents as straight sometimes- it’s not really his job to correct everyone, and those who are closest to him know and are accepting about his sexuality. He did take the time on Bi Visibility Day a few months back to be more public and outspoken than usual, and I was very proud of him for that. And he has been and always will be an advocate for LGBT rights, and other many other issues he is passionate about.

  • acg

    Just want to say I’m 100% here for this. I’m a bi woman engaged to a bi man. Our close friends know we’re queer but most of our family are in the dark and it feels cowardly but it’s so much easier to just not bring it up with most people. I’m constantly somewhere between trying to acknowledge our privilege while also staying true to ourselves… ugh. It’s hard.

  • Diverkat

    Hear hear from another openly queer woman who is straight-married. I have an amazing feminist husband who acknowledges and celebrates my queerness, and it means a lot to me to be seen for who I am instead of who I appear to be based on my marriage. My family often chooses to ignore my identity, since my husband is a man they think they can just conveniently pretend that I’m straight – and I find it so erasing and hurtful. I try to push back on that as much as I can.

    I see you, Irina, and thank you for sharing your story.

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