This Is What It’s Like to Be a Bisexual Woman in Love with a Man

I'm always going to be bi, it just won't be as obvious anymore

bride walking up to groom

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 was 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 received 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 with which one could identify in my progressive California life. Bisexual people? 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.

my first true love was a woman

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. 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.

… and then I met him

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 his best friend from high school with him.

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 was 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.

Figuring it Out

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 a while. 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.

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 understand me in a deeper way. We are still figuring out how to manage an egalitarian household together, something 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.

How To Be out… With A Man

The biggest struggle I’ve had, and continue to have, is deciding 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.

Devon and I are committed to being advocates for equality and have led 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.

This post originally ran on APW in October 2013

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  • Another Meg

    Fist bump from another bisexual in a heterosexual marriage. It’s tough to stay “out”!

    • Alanna Cartier


    • raccooncity

      Same! Interestingly, over time my husband has been as likely to remember to be inclusive of that part of my identity as I am and that feels so nice.

  • emilyofnewmoon

    I’m happy to read this article. My dude partner is bi, and I’ve struggled with it. I am supportive, but I did have those cliched fears (what if he leaves me for a man?! Does this mean he’s really gay?!) As we’ve gone down our path I’ve realized that some of the things I love most about him stem from his experience of bisexuality–he is egalitarian and unafraid to exhibit traditionally feminine qualities. I don’t know if his orientation will factor into our wedding but I hope he feels comfortable incorporating whatever aspect of his inner life he wants.

  • Roselyne

    7 years into a monogamous relationship with a man… yeah, I feel you.

    I’m not super ‘out’ anymore – I don’t usually make a point or even bother to mention it (like, I’m in my 30s and have kids and a house and a husband and it’s just not a priority, I guess?) The times that I do, though, are when faced with That Particular Kind Of Homophobe Who Wouldn’t Say Anything To Their Face (TM) – you know the kind I mean. Example from a conversation from last week:

    Me: I really like the book Everywhere Babies for my toddler because it’s full of babies so she loves it, but the babies and parents are pictured as being of different races and there are gay parents, and I think the inclusivity is really nice.

    Colleague: Well, your kid doesn’t need to know about THAT.

    Me: … well, she hangs out with baby S, who has 2 moms, so she kinda DOES, because it’s part of life…

    Colleague: Well, how do you know S??

    Me, blank-faced: I dated his mom for 4 years before getting married and we’re really good friends now.
    Colleague: *stammer* *blush* *tries to make excuses about how she didn’t REALLY mean it*

    Like, yes. Yes, you really meant it. And you KNEW it would sound kinda bigoted, and you knew it enough that you wouldn’t say it in front of anyone you KNEW was queer, and next time maybe you’ll think twice about saying it AT ALL.

    And I am 100% willing to rock the boat and make people uncomfortable about it. 100%.

    • Yep, this. I don’t necessarily have bi pride stuff on my desk (although I don’t…NOT have bi pride stuff on my desk), but I will 100% call out microaggressions and passive queerphobia in the most direct, I-will-happily-make-you-uncomfortable way possible.

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    • honeycomehome

      Thanks for this comment! This post reappearing made me wonder about an update from Amy Elizabeth. And this is sort of close!

    • Kat

      Total derail but I love Everywhere Babies too, both for the story and diversity in the illustrations

  • anon

    thank you for acknowledging that what you’re planning is a straight wedding. a (cis) bisexual acquaintance of mine continually calls her marriage a “queer relationship” despite being married to a hetrosexual cismale. I get that she’s probably struggling to come to terms with her identity now that it’s out of view, but as somebody getting actually visibly queer married who will have to deal with the ramifications of queer marriage it drives me nuts.

    • Amy March

      I think that’s fine? She isn’t straight, why can’t she call her relationship queer?

      • LJ

        I think it’s important to acknowledge that queer is a spectrum in both visibility thereof and political/personal ramifications thereof.

        (I don’t disagree with you, but anon has a point when she states that an outwardly-appearing cis hetero wedding on average has wayyyy less hurdles than a homo/trans wedding. I don’t think you’re disagreeing with that. As far as I care, she can call her wedding whatever she wants because labels are labels, not truths.)

      • Roselyne

        On one hand, she can call her relationship whatever she likes.

        On the other hand, as a cis woman in a relationship with a cis man, she benefits from a whole hell of a lot of social privileges that she wouldn’t have marrying a cis woman (or trans woman OR man). The social context is different. Failing to acknowledge that is… kind of insensitive?

        Example: I’m queer, right? So technically, I could go to whatever coffee shop queer meet-up and be like ‘I’m queer and in a queer relationship’. And as far as that goes, it’s true… but I’m also a cis white woman in her 30s living in the suburbs with her cis white husband and kids. Like, I’m queer, but let’s not adopt oppressions I don’t actually face.

        • S

          As a fellow queer in a relationship with a cis dude, I kind of agree and disagree here. On one hand, you’re totally right, and calling your relationship a queer relationship within the context of inserting yourself and your voice as equally important in a queer space is pretty off. If you’re in a relationship with that privilege when it comes to how you’re perceived by the rest of the world, you don’t get to sit there like, “Oh, I know what you mean, being in a queer relationship is HARD!” I mean, imagine sitting there having that conversation being partnered for five years, talking with someone in a same-sex relationship who has been partnered for the same amount of time. One of you has been legally allowed to get married the entire length of your relationship, the other in a lot of places has not, and in a lot of other places still is not. So. It’s just not ok to equate all technically queer relationships as equally “queer”. But on the other hand, the idea that I ~should~ label my relationship straight when I’m not feels really damaging to me. I’m not saying I would ever call my relationship queer personally, but I definitely wouldn’t use the word straight. I actually think doing so is more damaging for everyone in the long run, because it contributes to bi erasure and gives people an excuse to continue to forget the fact that lots of opposite-sex relationships and marriages are NOT just made up of straight people. Me feeling obliged to call my own relationship straight is putting me a box that feels like a straight up lie, and when queer people are put in boxes and made to live lies for the sake of how it looks or sounds to everyone else…I don’t know, without wanting to be dramatic I kind of think that’s when lives start being at stake. So what’s the compromise between not calling my relationship queer and not calling it straight either? Beats me! If anyone has a great answer I’m all ears. (Well, eyes.)

          • Roselyne

            I have no idea what the alternative is. I wish there was a good one, because both currently available labels don’t work super well.

            Personally, I’ve defaulted to ‘the name that labels the social context’ – aka, if I’m dating/married to a man it’s a straight relationship, and if I’m dating a woman that’s a queer relationship. Maybe that’s helped by the fact that I don’t see the label on my relationship as a label on ME – like, I can 100% be a queer girl in a straight relationship, and that’s fine.

            And then I combat the bi erasure by being upfront, especially in the face of vaguely homophobic comments, that people are being dicks TO ME and to PEOPLE LIKE ME even if I’m married to a man (also, shape up, people, and be better.) It’s not a perfect solution, but I feel it skates past taking on a label for a social context that isn’t mine while not letting myself be erased in the current context. If that makes sense.

          • Liz

            I have struggled with the same, and have made my peace with calling my marriage “an opposite-sex relationship”; I’m still queer and he’s still straight, but the label is on the relationship and not on who we each are. YMMV.

      • anon

        Because her husband ISN’T queer. It’s appropriative and dismissive.

        • EF

          my partner isn’t queer. i’m agender. i regularly (like, several times a day) get confused looks on the street in my city because people don’t know my gender. partner is cis male, fairly traditionally masculine. what’s our relationship?

          but here’s the thing — even if you wanna make me a borderline case, i know plenty of couples where one half is a transwoman or transman and they label their relationships queer. Does that meet your definitions for a queer relationship, or nah?

  • Every time APW runs an article like this I slam the “share to facebook” button so hard my finger hurts. Y’ALL WOMEN ARE SO GOOD AT SAYING WHAT MY SOUL IS FEELING. :’)

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  • Ceci

    I’m a bi woman in a relationship with a bi man (both cisgender). On the surface, we look like your average heterosexual couple – and I can’t deny the privilege associated with that. But internally, we both have dealt with at least some of the struggles of being queer, and it’s an important part of who we both are. We’re lucky to have a great community of friends both gay & straight who know our history and understand the nuances of our relationship. But it’s weird in public when colleagues or acquaintances just assume I’m straight, which isn’t quite right, yet I don’t feel like I’m really allowed to say “Actually, I’m in a queer relationship!” when they’ve met or heard me talk about my live-in boyfriend. It’s often an awkward and kind of lonely position to be in.
    Additionally, there are tons of articles (like this one, which is great!) about one partner maintaining their queer identity in a hetero relationship, but I haven’t found much content on someone in my situation where both partners are bisexual. Hello, is anyone out there?

    • Jaleana

      As your description, it looks like you are transgender guys.

      • Ceci

        Um, how do you figure?

  • I love your post! I am in the same boat. Except no one wanted me to be bisexual except my now husband. He loves me as I am. Has since they first moment we met. I was the girl everyone wanted only because at the time I was sticking with women. He was in a fraternity and I was in a sorority. I was the “gay” one. I then ended up dating a guy in the fraternity until he came so close to hitting me. I almost gave up men completely. Then I got some time to be with my hubby. It was v-day and all hanging out together. I gave him a sucker and watched the dawn of the dead with him. Best V-day ever. We talked for a week and we knew that all this connection was love. It was love at first sight, but at the time I wasn’t single. It just happened naturally once I was. We are now married 5 years with a 2 yr old little girl. I am still my bisexual self, I don’t have to change me or explain me. I let people keep their opinions. I had a so called friend get mad bc her 12 yr old said she was and told her kid in front of me that they are promiscuous, its a phase and they are confused. I told her I would send her some info and left it at that. Lets just say we are no longer friends. She didn’t like who I was for one reason only. Life goes on. I don’t let it bother me anymore.

  • The Truth

    Is that even possible?

  • Ann

    bisexual not means both women and men, they can choose woman or man for their partner, it’s normal and simple.

  • And The Truth Is

    And yet there are so many gay and bi women keeping many of us straight men still single today. Go figure.