Bisexual Like Me

Posted on in On Our Radar by April Faith Hirschman

The Less-Traveled
Road to Love


New to online dating, I made a profile on OkCupid in the hopes of finding a girlfriend. I naively put “bisexual” in the sexual orientation box. The only responses I got were from male/female couples and very feminine ladies. When I happened upon the profile of a woman that I knew dated both men and women, I noticed that she had listed herself as “gay.” So I changed my status to gay, though it was not entirely true, and I received responses from butch women who are generally more my type. And that is the nature of the bisexual—hiding our complicated true selves in order to fit in. There was a brief period in the 1980s (and in other times in history) where you didn’t have to declare your status. I kissed my female friends in high school. We didn’t demand to know who was queer and who wasn’t; we just enjoyed the experiences. There is a gracefulness in the ambiguity of not declaring. Yet so much has been gained by coming together as queers: we have a voice, a movement, visibility, flags, parades, legislation. . . .

People tell me I look straight. I pass as straight even when painted in rainbows in a lesbian bar during Pride Week. Every Pride, someone queer says something disparaging to me about bisexuality, and either the same queer or another also confesses their bisexuality to me in the naughty whispers of shame and thrill. Walking between the worlds is threatening to both “sides,” and I have not always found the shelter I seek. We get a letter in the queer alphabet but not much more. In general, there are very straight social settings and very gay ones. If homosexuality was the love that had no name, bisexuality is the love that has no place. Those on the outside (different) are supposed to accommodate by blending in with those on the inside (normal).

We tend to be ostracized and mistreated in both arenas. Men see my sexuality as a titillation. I am sometimes distrusted and interrogated by women I have dated. Watching my fluid sexuality unfold has been fascinating. In my twenties and thirties, I was very in love and passionately attracted to the women I was with. Yet I sometimes craved the simplistic, goal-oriented sex I had with men. Their desire was so blunt and the contrast so enticing. Later, I found a similarly passionate dynamic with women, so I didn’t really need to find it with men. I have always felt more myself in the company of women. There was a time that I thought my discomfort with men was part of the attraction, the dynamic, the exciting push and pull. I also didn’t fully understand that I had choices. When you are a child, no one sits you down and says, “Hey, by the way, you can love a man or a woman.” And they also don’t tell you gender can look a multiplicity of ways that are not easily contained by those terms.

When I look at old journals with entries about desiring men, I am intrigued and confused. Who was this woman who wanted to be covered by the weight of a man? It was me. It was my ever-changing self. Sometimes when I had a tall, muscular man in my bed, I would miss the softness of a woman, her size fitting easily into mine, her subtlety, her smell, the way we are mirrors for each other in a way men can never be.

For all of us to look into the details of what really attracts us to someone is a powerful exploration. Every finite thing you say about men being this way or women being that way collapses, because anyone can wear Old Spice cologne, or Yves Saint Laurent perfume, anyone can wear a dress, a tie, or a phallus for that matter. As we loosen up our conceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman, we can start to understand how complex desire is. Wide ranges of sexual couplings exist in the animal queendom and have existed in the human family throughout time.

From a spiritual and scientific perspective, we are all just energy. Given that, any consenting people can fall in love. Really, we can fall in love in an instant with anyone. If we let ourselves, we would fall in love all the time. Restrictions around sexuality only seem to pervert it, as in the case of the scandals surrounding “celibate” priests. Even if we don’t grow up directly fed the precepts of organized religion and sexism, they are in the very air we breathe. These ubiquitous forces dictate how we understand ourselves as sexual beings. So much of straight male sexuality is defined by a man’s ability to be with a woman. Even now, in what must be at least the fourth wave of feminism, a woman is still supposed to have a man to look after her. We define a person’s entire sexuality based on the gender of the person on their arm. We need to find a language of nuance. In the end, we need to stop policing each other’s sexual expression.

I have tap-danced back and forth along the Kinsey Scale over my lifetime. I have also ducked in and out of the closet trying to please everyone. I have tried my best to be a proud bisexual, knowing that any sexual label is fraught and perhaps this one most of all. I still resist being labeled as bisexual even while I desire what it can offer. I still want to call myself what suits me when I feel it is true. That is the important part—that I can name myself, and naming myself is a fluid process. Let’s celebrate fluidity, the unfathomable expansiveness of the human heart. I hope we all can accept the ever-changing tapestry of ourselves and each other. Or we could all simply take my friend Hope’s advice: “I just go where the love is.”

April Faith Hirschman is a life coach, film director, and writer whose articles have been published in the Haight Ashbury Beat, New Moon Magazine for Girls, and Women’s Voices. She hosts a yearly Bi B Que with her sister Allegra. [email protected]

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