October 2, 2003 01:25 PM

I have a pretty wide range of friends with a pretty wide range of experience, but when I was talking to someone awhile ago about gay folk "coming out" as bisexual only to follow with truly coming out as themselves a bit later, I started thinking about why it's so difficult for many gay people to come to terms with the idea of bisexuality as a preference unto itself.

Because. It's as if every gay person has to "do" bisexuality for a couple of months. Seriously, no gay friend or acquaintance who has come out in the time I've known them has gone from "gee, of course I'm straight like everyone" to "hell, no, I won't be sleeping with that" in a snap. Every one of them has started with thinking they might be bisexual - that is, making the first [public] acknowledgement they're attracted to people of the same sex by broadening their self-identification with heterosexuality with a little of something else.

I'd be okay with this if part of the definition of sexual preference allowed for fluidity over time - if the gay folk in question would discuss their sexual history as being, or at least thinking they were, hetero- and then bisexual during those times. But a form of revisionism nearly always creeps into the process of coming into a gay sociopolitical identity, a process of which sexual preference and behavior are only parts. As a result, it seems de rigeur for someone who identifies gay to denounce all past sexual experiences as not really part of the new gay sociopolitical identity. To become someone who was always gay, never actually heterosexual or bisexual despite the very real experiences and behaviors involved.

This bothers me. Particularly because it seems to me to equate to cooptation and ultimately denunciation of bisexuality. It seems dishonest to declare and reject bisexuality in this way, this way that makes my mode of being seem like a step on someone else's path. And, yes, from my standpoint as someone to whom a variety of people have come out first as bisexual and later as gay, it's like you lied to me. For awhile we played on the same team, then you quit - and like a grade school best friend betrayal scene, you deny ever having been like me.

So, I have a certain personal peevishness to add to this topic, I admit.

But the identity issue is a big one here, a big source of tension in the queer community and probably one of many reasons I don't really hang in that community like I did once (the huge number of straight people I now associate with is no doubt also a factor). The temporary adoption of a bisexual identity would be alright, but the seemingly global way in which this happens - and worse, the tendency to dismiss periods of bisexual identification as experimental or transitional - seems to say that the truth of the gay relationship to bisexuality is in transition, fence-sitting, dismissal.

Of course, that is said outright by many gay people, and only an undercurrent for others. But it's almost more frustrating coming subtly - when you hear from the people who were once in the same place that they can't imagine where you're coming from.

A sociopolitically bisexual identity doesn't just jump out at you as a ready-made choice. There aren't (aside from promiscuity, which is true of some bi-identified folk) even semi-true stereotypes of bi-ness that you can wear ironically, like softball and uhauls, or show tunes and shoes. Bi-ness is still defined mostly as an in-between state, which can't help but frustrate those who find themselves perennially in-between.

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Oh, sister, I hear you. I always feel like I should even be apologizing for my orientation, like "I'm sorry I can seem 'normal' and have a boyfriend sometimes and you can't." which is, of course, ridiculous and I hate it.

plus which I don't trust those vastly emphatic pronouncements of "oh, but I'm gay now -- I was never REALLY attracted to an opposite-sex person, and I NEVER will be again. although I wasn't. In the first place." Because the flip side of them saying "I just can't see where you're coming from" is that I, too, have some difficulty seeing where they're coming from. But, you know, I try.

these are the thoughts of gloamling on October 3, 2003 05:19 PM

I think that the larger problem is that society as a whole is a judgemental and compartmentalizing phenomenon. I am one who went from straight to not-straight; I only identitify myself as gay now because it makes it easier to have conversations with people and be comfortable with my gay friends. I also had the luxury of my first same-sex experience blossoming into a relationship and now a commited partnership, so on the level it was pretty clear cut.

The unknowns - everybody loves to ask 'what' I would date if I found myself single again. I am not about to disclaim my former heterosexuality, but there is also an element of needing to defend one's current life, although it not be any more difficult or easy than another's, and an impulse to look back and see where all my hetero relationships failed and how my current relationship exceeds all expectations...where THIS came from. Friends and family are very good at encouraging you analyze your life that way.

It isn't to say that if I were to find myself alone again that I wouldn't suddenly 'become' bisexual simply due to being disinclined to rule out somebody from my life just because of their anatomy - but that label is a box for society only. I would prefer for all of these distinctions, and any other fill in the blank ______sexuality, to be obliterated.

I tend to think my experience is unique, a false sense I'm sure. I grew up overprotected and under-sexed. Aside from the homophobic messages imparted on me in a predominantly white middle-class childhood, I didn't really know about relationships outside of hetero until my senior year in high school when a good freind of mine came out. I think, again despite the years of homophobic doctorine, this was the best introduction I could have had. This fantastic person that I really liked was gay...I didn't care, she was my friend, she was still the same person...not everbody reacts that way of course, I'm well aware of that now.

If I had a sex drive, it stayed in the cocoon a long time- it kicked in way late and, coincidentally, at the time I left my ex-husband and began dating a girl. (Here enters a whole other segment of the alterna-lifestyles to be looked down on - us divorced folk) For a long time I took this as a firm indication that I probably am just not meant to be with a guy. Certainly I am inclined at this point to say that I am meant to be with a girl, because I have found her, and since I expect that to be my status for the rest of my life - I will adopt to taking the label of gay. The dichotomy has always annoyed me.

The conservative news breaks that have popped up now and then blaming the visibility of gays for the new "trend" of bisexuality among kids REALLY annoys me though. I am a firm believer in the continuum of sexuality, and as such I think that a good 80% of the population is inclined to some degree towards it. It is a lot in this day and age to expect that 80% of the population would be open minded enough to allow themselves, or certainly anybody else, and certainly NOT their own kids, the freedom to explore that.

I know this post is a couple months old and I'm rambling a little bit, but after 3.5 years I still feel like a newcomer to the community and welcome any opportunity for discussion of the varied experiences within it. I want to assume that we should all know best the dangers of assumptions and pigeon-holing, so I do not understand why people are inclined to create ranks within the community. I can't offer apologies for those who might look down their noses at bisexuals, I can only affirm that I am not going to be one of those people.

these are the thoughts of pj on January 28, 2004 04:16 PM

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