This time next year, I will marry my best friend. We’ve been together for nine years and have endured everything, from getting stranded in the Bavarian wilderness together to helping our families come to terms with our relationship. And yet, almost a decade later, here I am, sitting in a pub, trying to justify our relationship to a group of people I’ve never met. Their issue isn’t my partner, so much as her gender.
“So, you’re a lesbian right? You must be a lesbian if you are marrying a woman.” I sigh and sip my wine, preparing myself for a conversation I have had countless times before. Apparently, everyone knows more about my sexual preferences than I do.
When I discovered I was attracted to both men and women, I really struggled with the concept. Attending an all-girls school, you develop a certain level of closeness that goes beyond conventional friendship boundaries. I kissed my friends at parties, grabbed their breasts and bums playfully, and it always ended with a giggle and a “love you, bitch”. There was nothing sexual in it.
When I developed feelings for my now-partner at the age of 15, I denied them; in my mind, they were fleeting and temporary. Despite being part of a friendship group that was sexually open and experimental – everyone identified as “bi” at least once during high school – I did not wish to be part of it. It was considered a “phase”, a trend that I rejected almost immediately for fear of being branded a sheep and because what would my dad say?
I was also predominantly attracted to men. My room was filled with posters of Orlando Bloom and Shane West, and I used to dream of my male crushes pinning me against the wall and kissing me passionately (I watched way too many movies as a teen). And yet, when I’d watch re-runs of The L Word, something within me stirred whenever Katherine Moennig appeared on screen. I was attracted to her – a lot.
When I eventually came to terms with my bisexuality around 21, it came with an entire wave of complications that I wasn’t prepared for. There seemed to be a widespread belief that your relationship status defines your sexuality: if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you’re gay; if you’re in a mixed-sex relationship, you’re straight. There was no space for bi people and it’s why they’re often shunned by both heterosexual and homosexual communities – they are either not gay enough, not straight enough or too fluid and unpredictable.
Yes, I am dating a woman and plan to marry her, but even after we exchange vows, I will always be bi
I found myself judged on all sides. Lesbians frequently rejected the idea of dating me as a bi woman in fear of being “an experiment”, or a bit of fun before I settled down with a man. Some told me I was just a “lesbian in the closet”, while others thought that I just needed a “good seeing to” by a man. I was told I was greedy, indecisive.
Depictions of bisexuals on screen either don’t help the stereotypes or are virtually non-existent. Though many TV shows, such as Orange Is The New Black, contain characters who date both men and women, the word “bisexual” is never used to describe them, suggesting producers are still hesitant to use the term. Often, bi women are portrayed as predatory, using their sexuality as a tool, like Tabitha Galavan in Gotham, or they end up dead, like Tabitha’s partner, Barbara.
As for the men, a GLAAD study, last year, showed that, out of 93 bisexual characters on television, only 18 were males, indicating a troubling lack of representation.
Though celebrities such as Cara Delevigne and Kristen Stewart have publicly dated both men and women, they have never actively used the term, which becomes problematic for the bisexual community. When Stephania Beatriz’s character Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn-Nine-Nine came out as bisexual late last year, it was a ground-breaking moment for bi people like me everywhere – for the first time, the word “bisexual” was used to describe a character in a television show, played by an actor who herself is a bisexual woman. Our sexuality was being represented, and acknowledged.
For me, bisexuality was an obstacle even in my own relationship. My partner identifies as a lesbian, is very comfortable with her sexuality and, for many years, she struggled with the idea that I’d go off and date a man. For her, the threat of another woman was nothing against that of a man, who could provide me with a socially accepted heteronormative existence. Although we are now engaged, I doubt those buried insecurities will ever go away.
I hate that I still have to justify my bisexuality to people I meet. But as a fully fledged adult, I am finally able to say that I am comfortable and proud of my bisexuality. It means that I have the best of both worlds; I see the beauty in everyone, regardless of how they identify. Yes, I am dating a woman and plan to marry her, but even after we exchange vows, I will always be bi – my sexuality does not change just because my relationship status does.