Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.
Being bisexual is freedom, and it is invisibility.
I flip-flop between calling myself bisexual and pansexual. Bi is the word everyone knows. Pansexual doesn’t leave anyone out. And you see, I don’t care what your gender or lack thereof is. I’m attracted to people, not genders or genitals.
That doesn’t mean I’m attracted to every single person. It doesn’t mean I have crushes on everyone I hang out with. It doesn’t mean I’ll go home with just anyone. All it means is that I could potentially be with a person who lies anywhere on or off the gender spectrum.
To be quite honest, I didn’t know pansexuality even existed up until very recently. When I was a fundamentalist, the “being gay is a choice” narrative sort of made sense to me. I mean, everyone had the ability to be attracted to everyone, right? I read a Christian modesty book which claimed that everyone is “drawn to the female form” because it is just objectively beautiful. So I figured I must be straight because I knew I was in fact attracted to men, and any pleasure I found in female beauty was artistic, it had nothing at all to do with sexuality. Besides, all the Christian dating books had a tiny appendix tucked in the back that warned of the dangers of predatory college lesbians. So, I knew lesbianism existed but all of my associations were totally negative.
Even when I was less naïve, even when I started thinking people were born homosexual and that most gays and lesbians (like most straight people) were not predators, I still didn’t realize that bisexuality actually existed. “Bicurious” was a term I was aware of, but I thought it was a descriptor of an in-between phase, a transition between heterosexuality and homosexuality. So therefore, since I was definitely attracted to men, I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian. Simple as that. There was no other option. Monosexism was all I knew.
And that is what I mean when I say bisexuality is invisibility.
We get erased a lot. The biggest problem is what I term “Schrodinger’s bisexual” which is that a person is perceived as either straight or gay depending on who they’re in a relationship with. I’m dating a man right now, therefore everybody assumes I’m straight. You can’t typically determine bisexuality by just one interaction with a person, by one specific point in time. It doesn’t help that a lot of people talk about bisexuals as though they are “switching” between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Of course as a woman especially I am sometimes permitted the total opposite of erasure, and that is performance. Men like the idea of a bisexual woman because their first thought is often of having a threeway. One night in a bar, a girl kissed me, and immediately a man walked up from across the room and said, “Mind if I join in?” Visions of a porn-worthy fuckfest dancing in his head, no doubt. Later, I tried to say something to a friend about how frustrating it is that no one thinks you’re bi unless you’ve actually had a homosexual experience, and he just jokingly spun a scenario where I and another woman would have sex and he would film it.
This goes back to the overarching issue of female sexuality being owned by men. If we are not having sex with them, we must at least be performing for their gaze. That’s why most threesome porn is FFM. That’s why a lot of men think that bisexual women exist to have threesomes with them, and that lesbian women could be “cured” by their magical dicks. And that is all such bullshit. My sexuality, whatever it is, is mine.
But the seemingly fluid pansexual approach is in fact deemed everybody’s property. More than anyone else’s, my sort of sexuality is approached with doubt. Everyone makes assumptions and gets to speculate about the causes and motivations behind my sexuality (no, I am not just “greedy” and I am not going to try to fuck you. No I am not disease-ridden or commitment-phobic. No I’m not going to cheat on my partner).
It’s a reminder to everyone of how truly queer-phobic our society still is.
We’ll (grudgingly, gradually) accept gay people as long as they want to be just like straight people. We might potentially on a good day accept one or two trans people, as long as they have had whatever surgery we deem “necessary” for them to pass as cis. But anyone who is genderqueer, agender, or pansexual is met with flat-out denial of their self-identification. “You’re lying.” “You’re confused.” “You just want attention.”
Do I though? No more than anyone else. I hate the fact that being honest about myself means I’ll get extra attention. But we haven’t reached a truly all-point-on-the-spectrum accepting utopia yet. In fact we’re pretty far from it.
So what’s it like being pansexual?
I’m not exactly sure. I’ve never been anything else. What’s sexuality like for all of you out there who are monosexual?
It was truly liberating, though, admitting it to myself. It was truly liberating learning that pansexuality exists. I used to fight my attraction to women, not so much because I thought it was “sinful” (because yes the story of my sexuality is also concurrent, though not especially related, to my deconversion) as because I thought if I gave in to it I would have to get rid of my attraction to men.
When I understood that it is possible, acceptable, and even (for me) normal to be attracted to all types of people, it came as a great relief.
For the first time, I was no longer trying to fit my sexuality into any mold that society had built for it. I could like what and who I liked, without feeling guilty or needing to repress anything.
Due to circumstances and the timing of me finally coming out to myself, I have never had sex with anyone but men. It’s not really a point of bitterness for me, I don’t have to experience sex with all types of people to know my orientation (much like virgins often know their own orientations before ever having sex of any kind). Right now I’m happily in a relationship and I don’t see that changing any time soon. If I die never having had sex with anyone but men, I won’t feel like I was robbed, and I will still be pansexual.
Of course there is a lot of work to be done, to make this world a better and more accepting place for those who are not heterosexual or cisgender. But “they” are right: coming out is the first step. Coming out to yourself, to embrace freedom, and coming out to everyone else, to combat invisibility.
This is me taking that first step.