I could pick a side… but I won’t

I am bisexual. I can and do become attracted to women, men and people of other genders. I find it incredibly, ridiculously hard to actually say so.

Because I have a whole tonne of internalised biphobia. Because despite evidence to the contrary, I’m forever looking for clues that I’m somehow “really” hetero or “really” gay. Because I live in a world that bases sexual identity on the relation between someone’s gender and the gender of their partners and then tries to fit everyone into “straight” and “gay”.

Gender preferences don’t seem to be a fixed thing for me. I very, very consistently find people with darker hair more attractive than people with blonde hair. I very consistently find other autistic people more attractive than neurotypical people. I currently seem to find men generally more attractive than women but this has changed rapidly and I fully expect it to change again.
Yet I never quite feel “bi enough” to call myself bisexual. Even when I was dating a man, a nonbinary person *and* a woman, I didn’t feel “bi enough” because I was mainly attracted to women. Now, I’m attracted to a lot of men and in a long term relationship with a woman I am very much in love with and very, very attracted to. And I don’t feel “bi enough”.

I think this has a lot to do with the constant pressure, both overt and covert to “pick a side”. The world around me and a heck of a lot of the people that comprise it make it very clear to me that I may like either women or men. Pick one. I may be straight and if I can’t be straight then I should be gay. Pick a side. Circle one option only.

And as I’m bisexual, then I could choose to be straight. Both the straight community and the LG community push the message that no one would ever choose to be gay if they had the choice. Yet both tell me that I do have the choice. Pick a side. The conclusion is obvious. I’m supposed to “choose” to be “straight”.

Leaving aside the difficulties cis people have with understanding how gay and straight work for trans people such as myself (put simply, any relationship I have with a cis person will be seen as “gay” by a large number of people) what would it mean for me to pick a side and choose to be “straight”?

I know I can’t force myself to stop feeling attracted to other men. I don’t imagine I could force myself not to fall in love with them, either. I could, at least in theory, choose not to pursue relationships with men. I could stop flirting with men. Stop checking them out. Stop smiling at pretty guys. Maybe. It’d take a whole heap of effort on my part. It’d hurt.
And I know I can’t see gender identity. I’d have to avert my attention from anyone I thought *might* be a man. I’d have to hypocritically dump any partner who discovered themself to be another trans man.
I’d become distant in my friendships with other men. I’d probably leave the LGBT community out of fear of “giving away” that I am bi. I’d become more anxious, expecting mannerisms or too-long glances to give away that I like men. I’d feel constantly under surveillance and detached and alienated from straight male friends.

More important than even all that though, I’d resent myself. I’d know that I was cutting myself off from wonderful people and for what? So people around me can feel comfortable about boxing everyone into “gay” and “straight”?
I would miss out on relationships I could have had. Picking one side means rejecting the other side, after all. There may be men out there who could love me immensely. Men who could show me the world in ways I have never seen it before. Men who could inspire me to be the very best person I can be. There may be men out there who could share awesome sex with me. Men who I might never want to stop kissing. Men who would hold me while I cry and just as willingly help me choose what to make for dinner. Men who I could love and trust and respect and care for. There are women like that too, of course, but choosing to pretend to be straight would cut me off from those men and deny them and me a chance to love each other. I cannot help but see it as an act of great emotional violence to ask me to do this to myself and to those men.

And it would be similarly harmful to ask me to choose to be “gay”. To deny that I love and have loved and can love women. To steel my heart and avert my eyes from people I could love just because my perception of their gender says I *ought* to choose not to love them?It’s an unthinkably terrible thing to do to yourself.

And that’s what “Pick A Side” means. It means denying yourself the possibility of relationships with people because you’re afraid of “looking gay” or of “stealing straight privilege”. It means being so afraid of people thinking you’ve “changed sides” that you let yourself lose out on potential happiness just to look consistent. Just to hold up the very system (monosexism) that is crushing you.

Bi people are much, much more likely than lesbian, gay or heterosexual people to have anxiety problems. Some people think the constant covert and overt pressure to “pick a side” is part of the reason why. I already have anxiety problems. I don’t want to add “What if people think I’m gay?” to them, thanks very much.

I am bisexual. I’m still struggling, 7 years after coming out to myself, to accept that and be okay with it. I am saying, here and now, that I will never ever choose to “pick a side”. There are too many wonderful people in the world who I could love and who could love me. I will not deny myself a chance to love and be loved by someone simply because of their gender.

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10 thoughts on “I could pick a side… but I won’t

  1. You are so much more than some label: people are not defined by their sexuality, despite the pressure to fit into some neat little box. What is important is to accept yourself, as you have, and be free to live your life your own way. *hugs*

  2. I hope this will get a lot easier – I strongly suspect it will, although I’m sure being trans adds yet more pressure to have what some people would see as an unified or consistent sexual identity. Only, it is consistent. You’re always attracted to people, who tend to have dark hair and are on the autistic spectrum.

    Whenever I’ve bothered to try, I have always explained bisexuality as the absence of a bit of wiring which seems to allow most people to discriminate, romantically and sexually, between people of different genders. The gender of the people I find attractive at any given time is only determined by the gender of the attractive people around me. As a bi man, I’d guess it’s very likely (though it’s not inevitable) you’ll have more relationships with women, because there are more straight and bi women than there are gay and bi men, or non-binary of any sexuality.

    I’ve heard two theories about the swing between homo and hetero attraction. I’ve heard some bi folk say that when they’re really into a particular man, they tend to find other men attractive and don’t pay that much attention to women. Others say (and I’d concur) that when they’re really into a particular man, they tend to ignore other men and notice more women, not because of a desire for variety, but because other men fall short in any comparison to the beloved.

    Since falling in love with Stephen in my late twenties, I’ve stopped being sexually or romantically interested in other people (the most dramatic and unexpected shift in orientation), but it still doesn’t make me straight. I still notice attractive men and women around, and I still can’t feel any difference.

  3. I believe love is fair. If we have patience. We will find what we need. My logic on sexual preference is simple. “You cannot control the sea or the wind. You cannot control what a person need and want. It is their decision.” Thank you for your thoughts on many important issues.

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