Bisexuality: Refusing to be pigeonholed

bisexuality“I first ‘came out’ at age 18, after I fell in love with my best female friend,” Emily (not her real name) says. Now 31, she is open about her unusual journey. “My second coming out was at age 23, when I realized that I was still attracted to men.” Emily didn’t return to heterosexuality. She realized she was bisexual.

Emily grew up in a quiet, traditional suburban household. Questioning one’s sexuality was never part of an average girl’s thoughts in her world. But when she announced her sexual preference, her family was totally supportive. “Later on they admitted they’d been shocked, but they’d hid their true feelings to protect me. My happiness was their priority,” Emily says, smiling warmly.

Sophie Laisney      Files Sexuality

Choosing your “Team”

Today she is comfortable with her bisexuality. But that wasn’t always the case. “I didn’t think you could even be bisexual. I thought I had to make a choice,” she admits. For years she thought herself to be weird. She believed she had to choose to play on one “team,” either gay or straight. When she did fall in love with a man, “it was as if I was going backwards,” she recalls. “I’d taken all sorts of steps forward for nothing. I’d justified all the prejudices.”

What prejudices? The ones she’d heard when she came out as a lesbian: “You’re too pretty to be a lesbian, you just haven’t found the right guy…” But for Emily there was no question of abandoning her feelings for someone in order to be forced into a pigeonhole. She could love both men and women.

Clichés About Being Bi

“I really think that some people pretend to be bi so that their being gay seems more acceptable. Like a transitional phase,” she says. Discrimination towards bisexuals, termed is rife in the gay community. Such hatred even has a name: “biphobia.” Bisexuals are regarded as people who haven’t come to terms with their true sexual orientation.

“There are those who think they’re completely gay for years.  Then they fall in love with a member of the opposite sex,” Emily points out. “They’re rejected by their own community. It’s as if they ‘own’ you. You’re part of a minority, and if you go back into the ‘mainstream,’ they act like you’ve betrayed your own kind. You’ve taken the easy way out.”

In Great Britain, where bisexuality is cause for jealousy from the gay community, the derogatory phrase they use to describe bisexuals is “greedies.” They are considered traitors to the cause; greedy people who want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Straight-on homophobia certainly still exists in our society, even if it’s diminished in recent years, Emily says. Homophobia is expressed in subtle ways: It’s a certain look, a sneer, comments. But at root, it’s fear. It’s all about insecurity… If you’re a man who loves another man, then you aren’t a ‘real man.’ It’s the same for women. There’s an ideal for both sexes that isn’t being respected. That leads to incomprehension and frustration, which leads to homophobia.” Emily holds out great hope for the future. “The younger generation is way less so, and that’s thanks to organizations that educate youth on the question of homosexuality.”

Bisexuality exists as a nearly invisible presence in our society. “Gay” and “straight” remain our world’s two major sexual orientations. But in small steps awareness is being built, as organizations studying and representing bisexuals get off the launch pad.

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