Sex & Relationships

How I Realized I'm Bisexual

I wanted to have sex with both women and men. But how could I tell if I was really bisexual, or acting out "Girls Gone Wild" faux lesbianism?

 Who doesn't remember their first crush? I was four years old; she was my Sunday School teacher, tall with pale skin and long sandy brown hair nipping just above her waist. I remember feeling excited by her, romantic toward her. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with her but I had fantasies of grandly sweeping her away to do...something.

When talking with gays and lesbians about when they first knew, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of early childhood same-sex crushes like mine. But I’m not gay, I'm bisexual—and I went on to have lots of boy-crushes, too.

Gemma, another twenty-something bisexual, remembers her early crushes. "When I was in first grade I remember having a dream where I was 007 (yes, James Bond) and I was surrounded by really beautiful women. I remember even then wanting to 'be' with them" she divulges.

I've heard a lot of women defend their heterosexuality by saying that women are just beautiful, like living pieces of art, their bodies are nice to look at. Clarisse has ogled breasts as long as she can remember. "I guess I always thought I was jealous of the pretty girl with the nice ass or perky boobs; it was that I was attracted," she says.

In regards to sex; anger, jealousy and disgust have all shown up in things I unconsciously really want. In high school I had one close friend, Alyssa. I wrote her heartfelt poems and she bought me thoughtful presents. We were so close we even bathed together, once falling asleep after getting out of the bath, side by side on her bed—naked, warm and wet. This relationship drove me crazy... but the madness was all pushed into my unconscious.

One night she went out to a party with a different girlfriend. The next day she called to tell me that she and this girl had gotten wasted and made out all night. I was fuming and felt.... decidedly disgusted. But the disgust barely veiled my jealousy and just beneath that were my sexual desires and intense feelings for this girl.

But was Alyssa also bisexual? We were in high school during the height of the Girls Gone Wild, "faux" bisexuality craze. I reserved a particular hate and disgust for the party girls in high school who made out solely in front of guys. Gemma agrees that the high school consensus was that bisexuals were just attention seekers. "I remember talking about bisexuality in high school with my friends and the agreement seemed to be that bi's were just nymphomaniacs that wanted to sleep with everyone, it had a very negative connotation" she says. Before I was out, it seemed I doubted everyone's bisexuality. Now, like many bisexuals I kinda assume everyone else must be bi and repressing it.

As high school dragged on, my sexuality began to peek out from my unconscious. I began to wonder out-loud in online forums about my bisexuality and flirted with girls on the Internet. Yet I still didn't consider myself bi. Between the negative connotations and seeing “straight” girls engage in more same-sex activity than me, I was very confused about my own sexual identity.

In the book Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality by Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, bisexuality is measured by three variables: sexual feelings, sexual activities, and romantic feelings. And just because you don't have all three down doesn't necessarily make you straight. Yet during my teen years, I told myself that I wasn't bi until proven; how could I know unless I had the experience? But in my small hick town where no one in my high school was out, I was scared to make a move on any of the girls I had crushes on.

I can't help but wonder if the experience is different for suburban and urban teenagers versus rural ones. Clarisse grew up in the greater Chicago area, and was sexually active with girls by the age of 15. It was when she first hooked up with a girl that she realized she was bi.

Clarisse also came out in high school. "I was in the shower, and was 16—I told my mom about my ‘sexy’ slumber parties with my friend. I think it was because my voice was washed out by the shower, or maybe having the curtain covering my body, not being able to see my mother's facial reaction but, I felt accepted. Now, in the other times, when I've said, ‘Mom I have a boyfriend,’ it was, ‘oh, so now you're straight.’" Well, then I had a girlfriend and it was, "ugh, come on, you're NOT gay".

Xavier came out as bisexual in his early twenties. "When I came out, I expected some sort of reaction or acceptance—the deafening silence was surprising. I considered going back in the closet," he says. This silence somewhat mirrors my experience. My younger cousin Gabrielle had recently come out, and on Thanksgiving her Mother blabbed this piece of information to the whole family. When her Mom wouldn't let up over dinner, Gabrielle blurted, "she is bisexual too," pointing at me. My Mother gasped, then rolled her eyes at me, explaining it was just a phase. My bisexuality was never mentioned again.

Gemma experienced a different struggle for acceptance. She had been out as a lesbian since high school but it wasn't until she met her current boyfriend that she realized she was bisexual. "I remember a teacher in high school telling the class that bisexuals didn't exist, but were just gays or straights who couldn't make up their minds. At the time I might have felt the same way, because I identified as lesbian even though I found boys attractive."

Gemma started identifying as bisexual as she was falling in love with her now-boyfriend. After already coming out as lesbian, Gemma's friends and family accepted her bisexuality...well, except for those that fall into that 3-4 percentile range. "If gay friends are the ones who turned on me. Many of them vocalized to me that I was 'selling out' on the gay community and had never been a true lesbian. I was really surprised by these reactions, some gays are really intolerant of bisexuality."

This intolerance seems clear in the LGBTQ sphere, when I spoke with the PR person for The Center, Chicago's LGBTQ hub; he commented on how invisible bisexuals are in the community, saying that the center doesn't work with a lot of bisexuals or do much bisexual activism. Almost everyone I talked to reports having been told to "pick a side" and it seems that the high school view of bisexuality still exists. These very reasons are why Gemma chose a lesbian identity to begin with. "Honestly, I think I was always bisexual but was forced into the 'lesbian' identity because it is more accepted as a legitimate sexuality. Lesbians have their own spaces, books, music, blogs, lifestyle, etc."

Xavier also notices this hole in the LGBTQ community. "I don't really like the community, I don't think they have a very open-minded or accepting attitude toward bisexuality...surprisingly."

It seems that bisexuals are the redheaded stepchildren of the sexual spectrum, dismissed by our own community, unaccepted by our families, trashed by ours peers and over-sexualized by the media. Perhaps we should work toward being visible and active, re-claim bisexuality rather than calling ourselves fluid, or rejecting sexual labels. Yet it seems counter-intuitive to try to fit into a community that often does not recognize us, or doesn't seem to care.

Regardless of what happens to the B in LGBTQ, there is one thing for sure: it feels incredible to be bisexual and out. Clarisse mirrors this feeling. "Discovering my bisexuality was exciting. I was young and horny and just kept thinking, yes! I get to bang everyone!"

My bisexuality is pretty important to me. Coming out and being able to call myself bisexual has been one of the most freeing experiences of my life. For me, it was the beginning of loving and respecting myself. I could be me without shame or second guessing, if I could own my bisexuality, I could accept any aspect of myself . Coming out allowed me to explore more things about myself as a whole, my personality, my history, my psychology, my likes and dislikes as well as my fantasies and sexuality. It was exhilarating. I don't know what made me have a crush on my Sunday School teacher at age four but being bisexual remains a curious thing, I never know who may strike my fancy next, and I like that luxury of choices.