To Bi or Not to Bi?

I know, I know, I bet no one’s come up with that witty pun before.  And at the risk of starting out with a spoiler, the answer is “not”.

I have had relationships with men and women in my past (sometimes both at the same time) and I continue to be attracted to both men and women.  But I don’t identify as bisexual, and I’ve never identified as bisexual.  Back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, I identified as lesbian.  This is because I knew I was attracted to women and I figured back then that human sexuality was a two-sided coin.  There were gays and there were straights.  I liked women, I had relationships with women, therefore I must be gay.  I knew about bisexuals, but what I “knew” about them was that they were fence-sitters who wanted the best of both worlds (the lesbian community in my town in the mid-’90s was pretty vociferous about this stuff).  Of course, this was while I was at an all-girls school where my opportunities to develop attractions to men were pretty limited.  Once I left school and broadened my experience and met some yummy men, I realised that I was attracted to some of these yummy men.  But that somehow didn’t change my identity.  I was four months into a relationship with a man when he referred to me as bisexual, and I said (quite indignantly), “I’m not bisexual! I’m a lesbian!”  To which he responded by falling over laughing.  I’d somehow decided that, despite being in a relationship with a man, I was still a lesbian… who just happened to be in a relationship with a man.

Quite a few years and quite a few relationships later,  and I no longer identify as lesbian (though my ex-lover, who was a lesbian who said she only dated lesbians, declared, “You are a lesbian.  You’re just a shit lesbian.”  My turn to fall over laughing.)  But, as I spoilered right at the top, I don’t identify as bi, either.

Here is problem number one with “bi”: it implies a neat bisection of one’s sexuality.  Like you’re split down the middle: one side likes men, the other likes women.  I’ve fluctuated wildly over the years from being almost exclusively attracted to women to being more drawn to men.  But I can’t put my finger on any point in my life where my attractions were equally divided.  And the other thing I’ve found is that the quality of my attraction to men and women differs.  I used to say that I could only fall in love with a woman, but would take a man any night of the week for some hot senseless shagging.  Since then, I have fallen in love with a man and had many nights of hot senseless shagging with women.

But my biggest beef with “bi” is that it implies there are only two genders.  My first love was a woman when I loved her but is now a very handsome man… who I ran into last year and still found myself very attracted to.  How does he fit into bisexuality?  And my current (and, I hope, always) love and partner was born male and presents to the world as a man… but often presents privately as a woman and has a gender status which is, at best, uncertain.  Where does our relationship fit into bisexuality?

There are other words: pansexual (which makes me think of goats), trisexual (which is the set up for a bad punchline, omnisexual (like God?) and that catch-all queer (which just doesn’t sit right with me.  Like I don’t have enough facial piercings to be considered queer or something).  I guess I’ll just continue to fumble through life label-free.