What does it mean to you to be bi?
For me, in straightforward terms, it means this: I like men. I like women.
However, it never actually is that straightforward, is it?
When I first came out to a few people, their first response was to ask ‘but how do you know you’re bi when you’ve only ever been with men?’.
I guess it’s a valid question; throughout school I giggled with my friends over crushes on boys, had few semi-serious boyfriends through my late teens and am currently coming to the five year mark of a relationship with a pretty wonderful guy. We moved away from home and in with each other, have discussed marriage and kids, and are fairly certain that we’re going to be together for life.
So am I allowed to be bi if I’ve been so biased (pardon the pun) to one gender? And how do I know I’m bi if I’ve never been with a woman?
I didn’t and don’t get mad when people ask me this because the truth is, I’ve asked myself the same questions over and over. Anytime I have a crisis of sexuality – maybe I am straight? Maybe I’ve just confused myself? – I constantly question whether I have a right to claim the label of bisexuality and flag my lack of experience with women as evidence to undermine myself.
But the thing is – I do like women. My boyfriend and I discuss our celebrity crushes and our taste in women (Emma Stone, Lily James) overlap. An attractive woman walking down the street catches my eye as much as a fit guy does. When someone asks me my ‘type’ I think of long blonde hair and narrow waists, as much as I do strong jawlines and biceps.
There are a few things that have knocked this thought process out of my mind and they were all a part of pop culture. Bi representation is scarce, but a few areas of it helped me come to terms with my specific situation; what I identify as versus my experience in the real world.
Stephanie Beatriz’s phenomenal GQ article where she points out that marrying a man doesn’t make her any less bi. There was every possibility that Beatriz could have met a woman and married her, but it turned out in this life her partner is going to be a male. Since she identifies as bi and under that umbrella is interested in women and men. Therefore by being in a romantic and sexual relationship with a man, she’s meeting her own terms of attraction and it doesn’t change her sexuality.
Another was the novel Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. It is by no means a perfect novel, but I really resonated with the main character. Without giving away spoilers (because I thoroughly recommend this novel!) she believes she is a lesbian then develops a relationship that leads her to doubt that label. This is confusing for her, because she has always been insistent that she likes girls and girls alone – but she can’t deny this new attraction, even though it is towards a guy. Ramona decides not re-label herself, but understands that her sexuality is fluid and she is the one who chooses
When the CW show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow came out, I was a big part of the Captain Canary fandom, a ship which included a bisexual woman and a man who at the time didn’t have a canon sexuality but was championed as pansexual. There was uproar as Sara Lance, the aforementioned bi woman, had previously had a relationship with a woman. So many tumblr arguments broke out that she shouldn’t be with a man because she’s bisexual and honestly it made me want to bash my head against my desk. I’m really proud that the CC fandom, or at least the little branch I was a part of, remained collected and constantly pointed out calmly that Sara had expressed interest in men and women before – the current ship wanting her to be with a man didn’t cancel out her bisexuality. In fact, it suited it because, uh, she liked men too so dating a man was consistent with the sexuality she’d represented so far in her time onscreen.
All of these elements made me understand that my lack of experience doesn’t negate the potential for it; there is no reason I haven’t had experience with women other than I haven’t met one I’m interested in romantically or sexually! I went to Catholic school where relationships of any kind were scrutinised; my teenage friends weren’t against other sexualities, but it was never an open discussion either; same with my family – we just kind of mind our own businesses despite loving each other madly.
I naturally drifted towards men, despite fancying female celebrities to the same degree, which was really my only indicator that I had an interest. Even then, it took me a couple of years to realise that that was a valid indication I liked girls too, my lack of experience in the real world and the term ‘girl-crush’ being thrown around making me feel that I just admired or looked up to those women. I mean, I did that too, but I also kind of wanted to kiss Captain America and Peggy Carter, y’know?
I know that in another scenario, where I was single and looking, women would be on my radar just as much as men. If I had more mainstream representation of bisexuality when I was younger, I probably would have joined the dots earlier and actively sought out relationships with both genders.
But just because I haven’t doesn’t make me any less bi than the person dating women and men.
Bi means an attraction to more than one gender, so if you find a person that fits the categories you like, whether that is cis, trans or fluid, then hey – you nailed it! It doesn’t make you straight to meet the opposite gender and end up with them. You identify as bi and you are bi.
Despite all my worrying and the world’s narrowed (but hopefully and slowly widening) scope of representation confusing me I know one thing: I like men. I like women. I have been in a relationship with a guy for nearly five years, but I still find women attractive. I’ll maybe never experience dating or sleeping with a woman, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want either of those things.
Sometimes I just need the reminder, that actually, yes, it is that straightforward.
That’s what it means to me to be bi. And I’m pretty proud of that.