#27BiStories: Tell Us Something We Don't Know

By Eliel Cruz

Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2014 5:00 AM ET

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Bisexuals have been on the front lines of the fight for equality alongside their gay, lesbian, and transgender friends and family since the Stonewall Riots. Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman who was at Stonewall, identified as bisexual. The first pride parade was organized by Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman. Even today, bisexuals have been at the forefront of the marriage equality fight.

In this four-part series, we have asked 27 people in relationships who are bisexual or  LGT-identified and partnered with a bisexual person to debunk misconceptions, share their coming-out stories, and ruminate on the importance of their identities, even when they're in a committed relationship.

Unfortunately, bisexuals rarely get a public platform to share their stories — even in LGBT media spaces. In the interest of letting a diverse range of community members share their own stories and define their narratives, the final installment of The Advocate's #27BiStories is an open-ended question. We asked our interviewees to tell us something we might not know — what they want the general public to understand about their sexual orientation. 

Although this marks the final installment of our weeklong series, these stories are just the beginning of the conversation. As a nationally syndicated columnist recently illustrated, many people still lack a fundamental understanding about what it means to be bisexual in gay, lesbian, and straight communities. We will continue raising bisexual voices up until that’s no longer the case.

Thank you for reading #27BiStories.

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What is something you want the general public to know about your relationship and about your sexuality?

April, 45, Iowa: I am bisexual. To me that means that I am attracted sexually and romantically to people of the same gender as myself and people of a gender different than myself. I am bisexual regardless of who I am dating.

Jan, 51, and Hew, 45, California: I've been faithful to my bi husband for 16 years. My bisexuality is an integral part of my identity, about which I'm happy and proud.

Nicole, 31, Washington: I wish more people understood that I didn't choose a gender. I chose a person. I chose love.

Ted, 45, ColoradoJust because I have two female partners does not mean my relationships with men are "impulsive" or "sporadic," as one guy said to me at the end of our last date. I have dated primarily gay men, but unless they have been part of another subculture themselves — like gay leather or polyamory — they really don’t understand being bisexual and married. They just assume everything is done on the sly. I've gotten messages on my OKCupid profile that have basically said, "When you get tired of the wife, hit me up." This is insulting, and also a complete misunderstanding of my relationship. I am always up front with my partners, and my dates, about who I'm going out with, and who knows about it. Being bisexual is important to me and it fits me. The "either/or" game that gays and straights play has begun to feel ignorant and hostile to me. I'm attracted to both genders, and that's that.

Elisa, 55 , California: I wish nobody cared about gender identity and sexual orientation and that no one needed any of these labels. Alas, we don't live in that utopia (yet). I've met some lesbians who seem to wish I were a lesbian instead of "just bisexual." They "won't date bisexuals." I feel sorry for people who are so narrow-minded.

Robyn, 55, Massachusetts: Sexuality is complicated. People are complicated. And that's a beautiful thing.

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What is something you want the general public to know about your relationship and about your sexuality?

Christina, 41, California: From a young age I knew that I was attracted to people, not gender. I was not confused about myself, but [about] how people reacted to those that are different. I was so happy to find a person that I love so deeply that accepts me and loves me as I am. I want children today and in the future to grow up feeling secure in who they are and able to know that they can love and be with the one for them without hate and fear getting in the way. I have eight amazing and beautiful children — and I am teaching them love.

Melody, 32, Texas: It is mostly just important to me that I am not pegged into the category for the sake of someone else's comfort level. It's important to me that people are either comfortable with me being bisexual or that they just have to live with their own discomfort, I guess. I am not asking people to sit around and wonder about what my partner and I do in the bedroom, but I would love the general public to know that a white woman and a white man with three kids just doesn't equal a heterosexual situation necessarily. What we are is an example of bisexuals in a family situation. We are part of the LGBT+ family, even if we don't look like it at first glance.

Gabriel, 34, Illinois: The public doesn't need to know any more about my relationship than I need to know about any of theirs. We're happy, compatible, and in love.  

As for understanding bisexuality, which I think is the more important message to get out, I've been thinking about it like this lately: What's the opposite feeling of love and attraction one might feel towards another individual? Hate? Anger? Disgust? An urge to be violent? I don' t think people put a gender to those feelings when they're hurt or offended by someone. Straight people don't have a platonic level of hate reserved only for the same sex, and physical or romantic version of hate for the opposite. It's just a negative feeling, with all the terrible and destructive desires that go along with those toxic emotions, regardless of the sex or gender of the individual causing us harm. We may apply a gendered filter to them after we experience them — we say it's morally wrong for a man to hit a woman (I'd argue it's wrong for anyone to hit anyone), but that's a moral decision made by society. Not a primal human thing. And it happens, so I don't think we can deny it. 

Anyway, for many bi people, we could say it's the same for love. The filter of platonic love versus physical and emotional love isn't gendered. We are attracted to the good and beauty in people and can feel that way about anyone along the gender spectrum and not limited like monosexuals to "same as" or "different than" when it comes to "equipment."

Colleen, 58, Canada: I would want the public to know that bisexuals are not "bi" definition promiscuous, even when in multiple relationships, and also not "bi" definition politically fickle. We are not fence-sitters, confused, or liars.  

Zefi, 23, Greece: I think first and foremost that the public should understand that "seeing is not believing." I may look gay or straight, but do not assume I am either. I can understand how it is convenient to think about the world in such dual categories (I often do it myself), but I would like to feel that people think before they label me — that at least they think of the possibility that I might be something other than gay or straight.

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What is something you want the general public to know about your relationship and about your sexuality?

Leah, 22, Colorado: I would like the public to know that just because I'm bisexual does not necessarily mean that I want to sleep with everyone. I would like the public to not to think that I'm going crazy with wild sexual urges and that it's a normal thing. I'm just a normal person who is probably not having sex more than anyone else. 

Dave, 27, Scotland: That it is legitimate. People see binaries all the time and are generally accepting of gay people in same-sex relationships — it makes sense to them. I guess the dream is that one day it just won't be an issue — I don't feel like I need to shove it in anyone's face, but I do want to be able to talk about it openly when it's appropriate without people judging me or my wife, saying, "Oh, I bet he's really gay," "their marriage is a sham," or "why is this coming out now?"

At the end of the day, we love each other and that is what is important — happiness, fulfilment, and love.           

Evan, 40, California: I want people to respect that just because I'm in a primarily sexual relationship with a woman almost half my age, it doesn't make me straight or a dirty old man, and it doesn't mean bisexuality encompasses only people who are highly sexualized. 

Beth, 42, Minnesota: I’ve been with my partner for 16 years and counting. Our relationship is one of the best things in my life. We are monogamous and always have been. And yet we both continue to identify as bisexual, and it’s the only way we’ve identified our entire adult lives. We both acknowledge attraction to people regardless of gender, and we’ve never seen it as a threat to our relationship. In fact, we have somewhat similar taste, as it were, so we can enjoy talking about our mutual appreciation of, say, a beautiful person on TV or on the street or wherever.

But beyond that, being bi to me isn’t simply about attraction, sex, or relationships. It’s about challenging binaries in society — whether it’s the gender binary, the sexual orientation binary, or even a binary in another area, like race or politics or psychology. My reality is in many ways informed by my awareness of the spectrum of sexual orientation. It means I often have a very different perspective from people who identify as straight or gay or lesbian.

I just wish so many people didn’t think of bisexuals as a threat or as nonexistent. I’d like them to see us as people who are worth getting to know and learn from, and as equal members of the community. I wish we weren’t constantly erased or treated as invisible. It frustrates me that I’ve been out for more than 20 years and so little has changed — the B in LGBT is still frequently ignored, misunderstood, and disparaged. Locally, I have great community, but even here we’ve been ill-treated by supposedly inclusive LGBT organizations, and we still struggle to have enough resources to support each other and advocate for our issues. This isn’t some abstract thing — it affects my life and the lives of other bi folks in large and small ways. I hope all the work that bi activists and regular bi folks are doing will eventually make a difference. I have to have hope, otherwise things would look pretty bleak. 

Jake, 26, Washington, D.C.: I am bisexual, but that doesn’t make me polyamorous. Currently, my boyfriend and I have agreed to have an open relationship in terms of physical sex. Sometimes I worry that having such an agreement has made me a stereotype — "greedy," "needs lots of sex with everyone to be satisfied," etc. — but in reality, my boyfriend, a cisgender gay man, takes advantage of it more than I do. Ultimately though, it shouldn’t matter, because it is our relationship, and we have decided what works for us. If I end up in another relationship, we may choose to be exclusively monogamous, and I would be perfectly fine with that too.
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What is something you want the general public to know about your relationship and about your sexuality?

Lucy, 46, Georgia: The full spectrum of human sexuality and relationships is amazingly beautiful. I celebrate my fluidity and wish that the general public could see the beauty in all our diversity.

A.J. , 29, Arizona: When someone who identifies as bisexual chooses a single partner of a single gender identity to settle down with, it does not mean they are no longer bisexual. If a heterosexual marries, does that mean they are no longer capable of attraction to people that are not their partner? No, just as it is with many bisexuals. Bisexuality does not equate to polyamory or an inability to be monogamous necessarily — the propensity to have multiple partners at the same time or to cheat are not synonymous with a specific sexuality. To be sure, such propensities are seen in homosexual and heterosexual couples as well. On an individual level, I think the general public will see that the myths and misconceptions that continue to plague bisexuals are just that — misconceptions.

Bill, 45, New York: I'm not saying it is easy to be a bi man married to a straight woman. But every relationship has its challenges. Bisexuals are a fabulously eclectic group, so we all have different issues. One of my challenges is finding ways to channel the tremendous sexual energy I have with men in the absence of an open relationship, which I'm not sure would be the best thing for us anyway. I have at times, been less than honest about the channeling, and at other times, I have been too honest — and yes, there is such a thing as being too honest. What makes it work for us is that we are honest about who we are fundamentally and what we need and expect from one another. I think the fact that we both feel we are the right person for one another keeps us in a good space.

In the end, I think one of the reasons we are still together and happy today is that I came out. I wasn't sure if she would want to stay with me when I did, but I trusted my gut that told me we would figure out a way to make things work. I'm very big-picture, so I tend to look past the obstacles to the ultimate goal, which for me was staying with the woman that I love. I'm not sure if she wouldn't have been happier not knowing all of this, but I would never have been happy pretending to be something I am not.

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Laura, 48, Netherlands: I’ve heard ridiculous prejudices. And none of them uphold scrutiny. I would like all those lesbians saying that they don’t want to date bisexuals for whatever reason to think about the why they won’t. That’s on them. They are excluding a group of women on the basis of a series of prejudices, therefore they are doing to us bi’s what a lot of straights are doing to them: discriminating.

Sarah, 57, Oregon: That my relationship has no label. Not everything is about sex. And that does not change how I identify. And just because the one I care about is lesbian, that does not make me one. I am monogamous by nature, but I will always think Audrey Hepburn and Richard Chamberlain are the cat's meow. I identify with the bisexual community and want the world to know that. I fought hard to learn and understand it and want to be out and proud to help show the world we are not our stereotypes. And make it easier for others to accept themselves and know they are not alone.

Levi, 23, Washington, D.C.: That it's real! We're not making this up. It's not a phase. We both care for each other very much, just like any other couple. 

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What is something you want the general public to know about your relationship and about your sexuality?

Brian, 45, Nebraska: For me, the biggest thing that I want people to know is that I am not half gay/half straight. I am 100 percent bisexual. My attraction to someone is not defined solely by their gender. My relationship with my wife is so very special to me and fulfills me in so may ways, but I now know that her gender has very little to do with my attraction to her. I can find myself attracted to men, attracted to women, or even attracted to other genders, but through it all, I remain attracted to my wife because of who she is inside, the way she cares for me, and the passion she has for life. All those things are what attracted me to her in the first place and continue to do so after 20 years together.

James, 32, New Jersey: Dear general public, it is not your job to know about, to understand, or to accept my relationship. It is your job, however, to keep your eyes to yourself. Pay attention to the relationship you are in — the person or people you are with. 

Calvin, 30, North Carolina: Do not judge or assume the relationships you see, and when you learn more, continue to resist that judgment. Every relationship is unique for the people in it, what it means to them, how it defines them, and how their own identities shape that relationship in turn: These are not transferable from one relationship to the next.

Heather, 29, North Carolina: My sexuality, though a part of me, does not define me. I’m not a stereotype. We aren’t stereotypes. We’re completely unique and individual.

Denise, 43, New Jersey: Both my marriage and my sexuality are as legitimate as yours. I've been an out, stable bisexual for almost two decades. My husband has never been anything else. I've been with my husband, in one way or another, for almost a decade. Sexuality is complicated. You serve no one by trying to oversimplify it. Bisexuality isn't always a transitional stage. Lesbian was my transitional stage. And for the love of all that is holy, please stop defining other people's sexual orientation and gender identity. I don't care what the genesis of words are. Stop, listen, and respect. You lose nothing by accepting and respecting someone else. 

Contributor: 
Eliel Cruz