Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bisexuality on the Of"fence"ive

When it comes to stereotypes in the LGBT community, most people have heard the quip "bi now, gay later." It didn't work quite that way for me. In fact, it happened the other way around. When I first came out as bisexual at 16, I grew more attracted to women over time , so much so that I declared myself a lesbian for a brief period when I was 19, and again when I was 20. No matter how hard I wanted to fit  into the "one or the other" category, there was still a part of me that was attracted to men. So for those confused, don't worry. The short version of this sequence is bi-gay-bi-gay-bi. I'm sure there's going to be some of you who don't believe that I've completely figured out my sexuality...and you're right, to a degree. I am not the same bisexual woman I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will not be the bisexual I was today. My preferences shift over time, but it is the degree of those shifts that ensure me that I am, and always will be, part of the bisexual world. I was right the first time.

I'm always going to be learning about my sexuality. My point is, the idea behind the stereotype of "bi now, gay later" is that once one comes out as gay after identifying as bi first, there isn't any going back. Bisexuality is often seen as a transitional phase into gaydom and not a legitimate sexuality in itself. "Fence-sitter" is a term many fellow bisexuals are sure to know, a metaphor used to illustrate the claim that bisexuality is transient. Heterosexuality is on one side of a metaphorical fence, homosexuality on the other, and bisexuality being the fence itself that you must climb down from once you "make up your mind."

 I have been confused about the degree of my bisexuality over the years, leading me to believe I was a lesbian once I developed a strong preference for women. I was never 100% gay, but I assumed that it was okay to label myself this way because I felt I was "close enough." To this day, my preferences still occasionally shift, but I am never 100% one way or the other. That is one thing I am certain will never change. Every time I labelled myself as gay, I would worry about finding a guy I really liked. I've found myself in that position twice now.

Bisexuality is indeed a transitional phase, a "fence" for some, and many gay people I know today identified as bisexual first. My goal here is to increase awareness of people like myself, who saw their gay identities as their transitional period, their "fence." I once believed that my bisexuality would "evolve" into lesbianism, buying into the crap that bisexuality could not stand alone as a permanent sexuality. The only time I was unsure was when I called myself gay. Bisexual is the sexual identity that brings me certainty and happiness.  I envy those who have never had to fight with their sexualities, never having to try out different labels for themselves before settling on one that fit (or no label at all). Although that envy is real, I would not forgo my journey of self-discovery in order to have come to peace with my sexuality sooner. I needed to learn this valuable lesson about myself.

If you are struggling with your sexuality, break down your fence. Don't let anyone tell you you are on the wrong side of it or are sitting on it. Only you can determine where you fit onto the sexuality spectrum, but that can't be done without removing those barriers and trusting your instincts.