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Bi and invisible

Bi and invisible


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.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Kathryn Grannis