I’m bisexual. But I’ve never dated a woman. But I’m still bisexual. Here’s why.
Okay, let’s start with some definitions, just to get some things cleared up. Someone bisexual is a person who is attracted to both men and women. Someone straight is a person who is attracted to the opposite sex, more or less.
So how do you know if you are bi or straight? Well, are you attracted to both women and men, or just the opposite sex? This is where things get complicated for some, including me.
I was in middle school when I first had the urge to kiss my best friend, let’s call her Tara, on the cheek. I had missed her a lot when she was gone and when she walked through the front door, I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. It’s innocent enough, right? It doesn’t really mean anything. But for me, it didn’t feel like an innocent friend peck. There was something else going on.
There was a poignant awkward pause. Then we pretended like it didn’t happen. I spent the next day reminding myself of all the boys I had crushes on before this, and it eased my mind. My preference had to be boys. Because the majority of my crushes had been on boys. This was just an anomaly. That’s “normal” right?
In high school I dated a few boys, only one of whom I actually loved, but found myself again with crushes on two of my best girl friends. I spent my time with them feeling confused about wanting to kiss them when I clearly liked boys. I remember asking my mom if she would still love me if I was a lesbian, and she said no. She eventually changed her answer.
I had learned the term bisexual around this time. Though I can’t remember where I first learned it, I remember my first idea of it was that it meant half the people you were attracted to were male and half were female. Perfect 50/50. And I counted on my fingers how many boys I had had crushes on versus how many girls I had had crushes on, and since the majority were boys, I once again assumed I was straight. I wasn’t bi enough to be bi.
This is called Bisexual erasure. Bisexual erasure is the erasing of the bisexual identity in history, society, academics and even ourselves. It stems from the idea that bisexual people are either gay or straight, and are just “confused” or “slutty.” The underlying assumption is that being attracted to both genders, in whatever ratio, is impossible.
But I wouldn’t learn of this concept until college. It wasn’t until I took a college course specifically on LGBTQIA sociology that I started to understand who I was. It wasn’t until then that I learned of the Kinsey Sexuality Rating Scale, that sexuality is on a spectrum, that I was a Kinsey 2, and that I could identify as bisexual with a preference for men. The Kinsey scale isn’t an exact system, but what it establishes is that there’s more out there than straight or gay. There is, in fact, a spectrum: From mostly liking one gender but being interested in the other, too to only liking one gender to being totally non-sexual. And all are equally real and valid.
By the time I crawled out of the hole of self denial into the light of knowledge and figured out my own sexual identity, I was a senior in college. I was in a serious relationship with a man and at the time it looked like I might never have the chance to date of woman if he and I were going to get married as we hoped. But I still identified as bisexual.
Why? Because I spent a lifetime trying to pretend my desires for the same sex were irrelevant due to my desires for the opposite sex, and it was a lie. Because even though I have not had the opportunity to date a woman, doesn’t mean I don’t want to. Because the actions and activities of my dating and sexual life don’t define my identity; I do. Sexual orientation is based on who you are and how you feel, not what you do. After all, we tend to figure out what gender(s) we like or don’t like based on the first crushes or feelings we had, not based off the first person we officially dated. Wouldn’t that be a strange world? “The first person you dated was your friend’s brother! You have to marry and never like, love, or feel attracted to anyone else, ever!” Yeah, not how it works. Thankfully.
Today I still struggle with my identity; not because I’m denying a part of myself anymore, but because I am a complex human being, and the labels with which we attach to ourselves must be complex as well. I’ve discovered the term pansexual (attraction to all genders) and I’ve taken a liking to it. I still struggle with whether I want to identify as pansexual or bisexual (I currently identify with either label), but the important part is that I get to choose. I get to choose what I identify as based on who I feel I am inside. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Sarah Baxter is a 23 year-old actor, blogger, singer/songwriter, and Psychology/Sociology graduate who lives with her best friend and her best friend’s fiance in Sterling, Il. You can follow her personality psychology blog at infjadvice.tumblr.com or follow her on Twitter @realsarahbaxter
[Image via iStock]