But… How Do You Even Know You’re Bisexual?!
By Louise Clare Dalton
“It’s this same logic that leads some to think that bisexual people in heterosexual relationships have flipped on their straight switch, and are now no longer bi. Or that when a bi person enters into same-sex relationship, they are now gay. For some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe that the person we’re currently sleeping with is in direct correlation to our sexuality. Honeys, that ain’t it. I assure you.”
Since I first became comfortably open with my sexuality last year, I’ve been asked a lot of problematic questions. High ranking on the list is ye old classic, ‘Have you ever slept with a woman?’ Inevitably, intrusive questions like these are met with an awkward response – *cough* ‘no’ *cough*. Then comes the kicker: ‘So how do you even know you’re bisexual?’. As if bisexuality is some kind of badge you receive having met certain criteria. How do you know? How can you tell? Is this something I’ll have to continuously prove with statistics and a graph? Fill out a form, provide adequate evidence and we’ll send a certificate in the post.
I’d love to pretend I have some kick-ass, well-researched response to questions like these, but truthfully, I struggle with confrontation. Especially if the reality of my sexuality is being called into question. Really, this narrative is so deeply ingrained into society that to unpick it takes time, a lot of patience and the courage to speak your mind in the moment. The latter I struggle with. Challenging problematic questions and statements regarding your lived sexuality isn’t always easy. That’s why blogs like these are so valuable – if I may say so myself. To infiltrate the zeitgeist with more real bisexual experience is essential. Because my oh my, there’s still a huge lack of understanding, and we’ve spent enough time allowing ignorance to dominate here.
To briefly clarify: when I say I’m bisexual, I mean I’m romantically and sexually attracted to more than one gender. As with many sexual identities, people can be bisexual in a whole host of different ways. It’s still pretty common to assume bisexual exclusively means attracted to men and women – 50/50 banana split – but I, like many others, don’t mean it that way.
So let’s chat. I’m here, safe behind my keyboard, ready to pull apart the common – and often well-intentioned – comments I receive on the regs.
How does this particular question contribute to the erasure of bisexuality, and how does it affect the individual. In this case, the individual is me! So welcome, thanks for joining me.
The core of the question is as follows – if you’ve never slept with a woman, or anyone who isn’t a man, how can you know you’re not straight? In other words, how can you be sure that how you feel is reality – don’t you need some proof? This constant dismissal of a person’s reality is damaging for many groups in the LGBTQ+ community.
If we follow this evidence-based approached to sexuality, we’d all be asexual until we lost our virginities. Which, of course, is not the conclusion of the general public, so why does the belief in my sexuality rest on who I’ve slept with? Sexuality is not an evidence-based assignment people!
It’s this same logic that leads some to think that bisexual people in heterosexual relationships have flipped on their straight switch, and are now no longer bi. Or that when a bi person enters into same-sex relationship, they are now gay. For some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe that the person we’re currently sleeping with is in direct correlation to our sexuality. Honeys, that ain’t it. I assure you.
This constant need to defend your sexuality can be affecting. It’s hurtful and leaves me feeling defensive. So the question is, how can we move forward?
One thing is for sure, we need a better understanding and more representation of bisexuality in the media we’re consuming. Representation that doesn’t continue to enforce damaging stereotypes is ever so sparse, even now.
I opened up to my mum about my sexuality on Pride 2020. Fortunately, she is a wonderful, kind, accepting parent, whom I am extremely grateful to have on my side, but even she doesn’t fully understand the bisexual experience. An analogy I used to try and help her understand the frustration I feel was the following:
‘You’re a mother. You’re a mother of your two children and that’s a huge part of who you are – a deep-rooted part of your identity. What if someone said: but are you a mother? How can you tell you’re a mother? And when you had another kid, what if I asked you, are you still my mother? What if I asked you to provide proof? It would seem like an attack, right?’.
In other words, for someone who has never had a major part of their identity questioned in this way, how would it feel? I’m aware it’s a flawed analogy – I’ll work on it – but it certainly helped her begin to understand.
So let’s wrap this up.
If someone tells you anything at all about their sexuality, believe them. It’s not your place to pull them apart and question their existence, and it doesn’t help anyone. Try to unpack the constant need to flatten sexuality into boxes, because this stuff is really complicated. And hey, the complexity of human existence is part of what makes us so fantastic.
Don’t interrogate, don’t question, and keep an open mind. And if someone chooses to open up to you about their experiences, listen to them – don’t underestimate the power of your words.
Peace and rainbow love,
Louise Clare Dalton is a feminist, bisexual writer and poet interested in sharing her personal experience. She aims to open up the dialogue about common misconceptions and the biphobic narratives they perpetuate. Louise writes her own blog at www.louiseclaredalton.com, which focuses on ethical consumerism and healthy life hacks. Finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken-word poetry focuses on introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour.
Lou was our featured poet in September 2020. Check out her performance of What They Told You
Read all of Lou’s At What Point Do I Qualify? posts
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