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.