Bi and invisible

By Kathryn Grannis

Originally published on Advocate.com November 07 2005 12:00 AM ET

Bisexuals
experience the world differently than people who are
attracted exclusively to one sex or the other. It is
difficult for those who are not bisexual to
understand. I never know before it happens whether the
next person I fall in love with will be a man, a woman, or
someone in between. It’s not something I can
control any more than a gay or straight person can
choose whom he or she loves.

My first
heartachy crush was on another girl in my junior high school
gym class. A few months later I had a similarly
intense crush on a boy. Later that year, when we had
what passed for a sex education class in the 1960s, I
wondered why the teacher mentioned only attraction to the
opposite sex. But I knew better than to ask.

Several years
later I learned the words heterosexual and homosexual. I
knew immediately that I was not heterosexual. I wondered if
I might be homosexual, but I didn’t see how
that could be, since I liked boys too. In college I
felt pressured to identify as either straight or lesbian. My
straight friends told me I should grow up and settle down.
My gay friends told me I should deal with my
internalized homophobia and come out. No one said it
was cool that I liked both boys and girls, not even the
therapist I consulted after graduation.

Three decades
have passed, and at age 54, I’m still not able to
choose one sex over the other. This doesn’t
mean I am immature or homophobic; it just means that
my body works differently. When I am with a man it
doesn’t mean that I’ve become heterosexual and
lost interest in women. I am happiest when I have both
same-sex and opposite-sex energy in my life in some
way. A disastrous experiment in the 1970s convinced me that
I can’t have simultaneous relationships with a
man and a woman. But when I am with a woman I
fantasize about having sex with a man, and when I am
with a man I fantasize about women; this is my body’s
way of creating balance.

I have heard both
gays and straights say that bisexuals can exercise
heterosexual privilege and live a straight life, enjoying
all the rights that gays don’t have. But I
can’t do that without censoring a large portion
of who I am. The same is true of trying to pass as a
lesbian. When I was younger I hid my lesbian books and
videos whenever my parents came to visit. How many
straight women have had to do that? I now have naked
screen captures of Ewan McGregor bookmarked on my computer.
How many lesbians can say the same?

Gays and lesbians
know how disheartening it can be when they don’t see
themselves represented in the predominantly straight culture
around them. Understanding my own sexuality has been a
long, tortured process, in large part because true
bisexuality is invisible in both gay and straight
culture. It’s hard to find accurate information and
positive role models. Even today, bisexual characters
in films are routinely portrayed as duplicitous and
unreliable. We are decades away from the limited and
tentative acceptance that gays and lesbians have achieved.
If we want that to change, we have to become more
vocal and more visible.