The breakup was terrible. I cheated on him and lied about it for months. When I finally told him the truth, answering his oft-asked inquiries about my infidelity with a final, fateful yes, we remained locked in a toxic back-and-forth, shouting insults at each other for a month.
But late one night, in a parking lot after we had spent an angry hour talking on the phone, I made a decision that I would later consider an act of mercy for both of us: I would never speak to him again -- and didn't.
Until about six months ago, when my phone buzzed with a text message from a name I never expected to see on my screen again: "Do you want to get coffee?"
The meeting brought long-needed healing. I needed to tell him I was sorry, he needed to tell me how much I had hurt him, and we both needed to hug. And since this week is Bisexual Awareness Week, and I'm feeling sentimental, I'm reflecting on the lessons that relationship taught me, and the ways I learned from him -- because my ex-boyfriend was bisexual. He was a true "50-50" bi guy, a lover of men and women, not an "attention-seeker" or a "halfway-there gay man" or any of the ridiculous and offensive claims people make about bisexuals.
And most important:
He was not a cheater. Bi people are not predisposed to infidelity. I was the cheater. Sure, he may have technically had more options than me -- he was drawn to men and women, while I was only drawn to men -- but that didn't make him any more promiscuous or untrustworthy than the next guy. The reality was far from it: He was unbearably monogamous and loyal to a fault. This led to his heartache, since he was trying to date me, a gay guy who was not monogamously inclined (and still isn't), a guy who was too immature to say, "Hey, I'm not really looking for a relationship."
This seems basic, but it's unfortunately still necessary to note in an ongoing effort to counteract this bizarre notion that someone who is attracted to multiple genders will inevitably miss having sex with people of the gender they're not sleeping with, and cheat. But even if a bisexual person does cheat, it's hardly evidence that bisexuality inclines a person toward infidelity. At most, it's only evidence that the person cheated and is therefore not presently cut out for monogamous dating.
Yes, he truly was attracted to both men and women. Bisexuality is real. Bisexuals really exist. For him, as well as for many others, his claim to bisexuality wasn't a transitional phase or halfway point between straight and gay. But I understand where this misconception comes from. Many gay guys (myself included) claim to be bisexual as a sort of "baby step" out of the closet. We're too scared to swing the door all the way open with a fabulous "We're here!"
But unfortunately for my ex as well as for all the other bisexual men and women out there, the straight and gay people who use a bisexual identity as a "halfway house" contribute to the widespread negative notion that anyone who identifies as bi is actually a flimsy, half-hearted gay man or lesbian. It's one reason why so many bisexuals -- my ex included -- feel so excluded from the LGBT movement.
Even if there are some self-identified bisexuals who are romantically interested in one gender and sexually attracted to another, and even if some self-identified bisexuals are just questioning and experimenting, let's acknowledge where the real blame should lie: with queers like me who didn't fully come out in the beginning. Although it's not intended to hurt anyone -- many of us do it in an effort to protect ourselves from the homophobia of our friends and family -- our temporary claims of bisexuality damage credibility and the dating field for those whose bisexuality is not temporary.
You can't get nervous when they watch porn. My ex watched lesbian porn one night and it made me really uncomfortable. The whole time I thought, Oh no. I can't give that to him. He's going to want to date a girl after this. It was childish, but the feeling is understandable: He was clearly attracted to something I would never be able to offer him, and I feared that unmet desire would cause him to seek satisfaction elsewhere.
First of all, porn is fantasy, and although there's very little I won't try once (or twice), I do watch some porn that depicts things I would be hesitant to try in real life. So the action of watching doesn't necessarily translate to "going to go out and do it later." And even if someone (of any orientation) does want to go out and meet that need, if they're a good partner, they will talk to you about it first and see what you're willing to accomodate. And if you're a good partner, you will listen to them without immediately getting upset or defensive.
Although differences can be deal-breakers, a difference in sexual orientation doesn't need to be. I've heard many, many people -- gay and straight alike -- say they wouldn't date a bisexual person. Although I understand some differences to be deal-breakers (vastly oppositional religious beliefs or political leanings come to mind), I can't understand why the difference between gay or straight and bisexal is such a no-go for so many.
From a practical standpoint, it's unrealistic: bisexual people will have to date a gay or straight person at some point, because there simply aren't that many bisexuals out there (although several recent studies indicate there are more bisexuals around the world than we've previously assumed). My ex and I had many differences that made us incompatable, but our different orientations were hardly the reason why we split. In actuality, our orientations slightly overlapped, like Venn diagrams - our relationship existed in the purple area between his bisexual red and my gay blue.
Bisexuals get hurt just as much as the rest of us. I could attempt to rationalize my cheating and say that I did it because I thought that, as a bisexual, he would rebound fast with a girl or hit his (larger) playing field with a vengeance. But really, those would just be excuses. I cheated because I was horny, and I lied about it because I didn't want him to know, and by telling him the truth -- months after the fact, and long overdue -- I hurt him deeply. That hurt had nothing to do with his sexual orientation and nothing to do with his place in the LGBT acronym. He was hurt because he was in love. It's the worst I've ever hurt someone, and that realization made me take a hard look at my choices and my actions. In the long run, our relationship changed me for the better -- at his expense.
He had every right to hate me, as did all of his friends and all of his family, who welcomed me for a two-week stay one summer when we were together. Over the course of the breakup, I started a blog called The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend (referring to myself), where I would write about gay life from the perspective of "that guy you probably still hate."
Although I'm no longer writing the blog for him, the relationship did, perhaps, help me become a little less beastly. I had been nervous about dating a bi person and was initially filled with jealous insecurity every time I thought about the fact that he was noticing women too. It took a while to learn that my insecurity was on me, and my nervousness was misplaced -- his bisexuality would be no threat to us. My recklessness would.
So gay men, lesbians, and straight people: don't fear dating a bisexual person. Drop the insecurity and the prejudice. If they're a good person, then they'll be good to you, and if they're not, then they won't. If you're lucky, you'll have a relationship with someone who loves you a lot and puts you first. I was.
ALEXANDER CHEVES is a sex-positive writer, blogger, and intern with The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @BadAlexCheves.