What is bisexuality, why does it matter to mental health, and a response to this nonsense plebiscite…
Say it is time for dessert and you have the options of cake or pie.
The cake is a family recipe and your entire family expects you to or assumes that you would choose the cake. If you take a piece of cake or even say ‘eh I might have a piece of cake’, they are all overly happy about it. Overjoyed.
If you were to choose the pie they might be uncomfortable and surprised, maybe even disgusted, as you yourself may have been in your younger days before you considered the options. It’s fair to say that no one would be overjoyed about you choosing pie.
The problem is you usually skip out before dessert and the idea of choosing either cake or pie. Being labelled as a person that only likes cake or only likes pie doesn’t quite fit BUT to say you might like cake and you might also like pie would be more unimaginable to everyone than choosing just pie.
Although you feel kind of weird about any type of dessert there are times when you kind of would maybe like to see what desserts are all about.
On the occasion that you were going to choose to have cake or pie your decision wouldn’t be based on the fact that it is cake or pie but rather the all around quality of the dessert, what ingredients make up the dessert.
You might choose cake, you might choose pie, but since there would be an overreaction by those around you about even considering both desserts, you decide it’s best to just stick to a no dessert diet that people finds a little strange and you feel weird about but everyone is used to.
One of my clients wrote that perfectly powerful metaphorical piece, and I asked her if I can share it because i’m sure many others can relate. Obviously, her situation is particular to her and the space she occupies with her family, friends and connections, but it opens up a huge conversation around bisexuality and identity.
I myself identify as bisexual, or perhaps another term is pansexual. For me personally bisexual is the same as pansexual in that it means that I could potentially be attracted to any person on the gender spectrum.
I had no awareness of this at a younger age.
While it is important- vital even- to acknowledge that many people of varied gender and sexual identities are aware that they are ‘different’ from the norm from the time they were little, many others genuinely don’t know how or why or even simply that they are ‘different’. This is particularly relevant to the bisexual community, where it is perhaps a little more common to arrive at a sexual identity conclusion a little later in life.
In the midst of Australia’s most ridiculous and offensive plebiscite, I thought it might be useful to increase the public understanding and provide some insights into the question: what is bisexuality?
We don’t need to choose
I’m going to call out gays as well as straights who have been openly disbelieving in bisexuality. ‘Choose a team!’ I have heard more than once, and not only in a joking manner. ‘You’re just experimenting’ is another favourite, even when you’re in your 30’s and pretty well past the experimenting stage. For those who were trapped or felt they were living a lie until they could live honestly as their ‘true’ sexuality, i’m sure it’s a weird thing to contemplate that others might simply be ok in relationship with someone of any gender, but it is, quite simply, possible and true for bisexual folk.
There is more and more evidence to show that gender and sexuality are on a spectrum (like make-science-fun guy Bill Nye shows in this video), let alone living in an ever-changing society where people are stepping outside the boundaries of norms influenced and decided by conservative religious institutions, self-interested politicians and corporate control that quite frankly I wish would go extinct.
There’s nothing wrong with being curious about sex (coz who isn’t) but beyond that why on earth is anyone invested in who other people sleep with and love? Who cares if people ‘choose’ or ‘don’t choose’ their sexuality? Why does it matter if your sexual identity was arrived at later in life rather than ‘born this way’? Why are we so obsessed with how other people define their sexual identity? So long as they’re not hurting anyone, it’s really no one’s business and has no bearing on how someone does their job or if they’re a good friend or what your relationship is with them.
Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t make it non-existent.
Bisexuality is not 50/50
Many people seem to be of the misunderstanding that someone who identifies as bisexual is equally attracted to both men and women. Can you imagine what it would actually be like to walk around being 100% attracted to everyone? For most bisexuals this is simply not the case.
For myself I am mostly attracted to men, although #notallmen (especially not #notallmen types!). I am using the term ‘attraction’ to refer to that hot buzz you get when someone leaps to your attention for any reason. I also have this attraction to women, but not as often: I reckon that is what the spectrum is about. Same sex relationships have differences from hetero relationships for sure, but on the individual’s inside, in the heart and body, how I feel, it is the same. Attraction has also grown for me, with people of all genders, as I have gotten to know them. For many of us, knowing and adoring someone on the inside can turn into a strong physical hormonal charge.
Bisexuality is not all about sex (but why is it so bad if it is?)
Some bisexuals are only physically attracted to one sex, whereas they may be both physically and romantically attracted to another. They may have the potential to fall in love with anyone of any gender and be happily monogamous with that person forever. Alternatively, some bisexuals may be unfulfilled in a monogamous commitment with only one gender (bearing in mind that a lot of people are unfulfilled in a long-term monogamous commitment, they just choose to lie about it or cheat on their partner or do the serial monogamy thang). Some people- same as in straight relationships- choose a polyamorous model.
How you define relationship can be entirely different from how you define your sexuality. And guess what? We Can Change Our Minds. All of us tend to think we would never do something or feel something… until we do. Love is Love.
Who I’m attracted to might not be who you are attracted to
It must be said that some people- particularly men who are in relationship with bisexual women- can get rather excited at the idea of a bisexual partner. They’re thinking THREESOME- Am I right? This goes back to point 1: A bisexual person is not attracted to every single person of the same sex. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a bisexual woman to be primarily attracted to gold star lesbians (who are therefore not interested in you) or women who are not femme, or women who are not your type. Also, a lot of bisexual people prefer to be in monogamous relationships.
I have heard this a number of times from all parties concerned: even if they’ve decided to try a threesome they cannot agree on who to have one with, let alone then having the third person- the magical unicorn- also be into you both! All good relationships rely on trust and solid foundations, so don’t just decide because someone is bi that you’re automatically jumping into bed with everyone. It actually takes a lot of respectful negotiation to safely open up a relationship.
Remember your own broken hearts
Some time ago when a relationship ended with a woman, I found some of the responses to be utterly beguiling. ‘You lost your best friend’ was common, as well as general discomfort, or a sense that the relationship was not as ‘real’ as others. Having been in and had validated all types of relationships with men, I can confirm that these responses are particular to same-sex relationships. She was not my best friend. She was not even my friend. It was a romantic relationship, full of mess and attraction and tumultuousness and hurt feelings and all the rest of that crazy stuff that messes with our hearts in every relationship. Get On Board. Practice using inclusive language. A broken heart is a broken heart… if you can’t understand the ‘sexuality’, then you can all relate to that feeling yeah?
Love is Love
I just thought I’d say it again. Sometimes we don’t realise how much pressure we put on people to do what is the ‘norm’. So they are compelled to ignore their internal messages around who they are or are not attracted to.
It can be scary to come out. It can be especially scary to come out as bisexual when, say, you are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex and are then treated with scorn and derision (‘pfffft. Stop mucking around’), or if you have never had a relationship. You can see it in people’s faces if they don’t outright say it: ‘How do you know?’
‘How the hell do YOU know?’ Is a worthy response. I know I could love and make love with people of diverse genders. I can feel attracted to folks, and yet still be monogamous and happy and loved-up with just one person for the long term as I am now. I’m sure almost everyone would say that they also can be attracted to others while in a relationship if we made room for people to be honest with themselves and each other. It’s just that who we are attracted to is on a spectrum. If we were all into the same people then it’d be a pretty lonely and tragic state of affairs.
The relationship between sexuality and mental health
By conveying thoughts on anyone’s sexuality that you think are simply ‘political’ or ‘objective’ you may very well be hurting someone you love by preventing them from being honest about, or even exploring, who they are.
Make no mistake: A strong sense of Identity is a cornerstone of good mental health.
If you’ve ever suffered from dark times of depression or other mental health issues, you’ll know that the worst part is feeling like you are the only one. Isolated. Scared. Stuck. Getting sucked down into a vortex of worry or pain and feeling like you have no one to turn to, no one who will understand, no one in your ‘real life’ who gets it, no way out.
When we implicitly or explicitly send out the message of ‘You Do Not Belong’ we have to ask ourselves what impact that has? What do people do when they have nowhere to belong? They find somewhere they do belong- regardless of whether that is a safe place or not- or they shut down into their own island, sometimes taking them to self-hate, constant terror, or even suicide.
Final thoughts on this plebiscite…
It is despicable and deranged that I am considered to be of independent sound mind and body in a relationship with a man, that I could decide to marry him and go ahead with that marriage without a whiff of a question. Yet if I, as the exact same person, wished to marry a woman, I would need the postal vote of the people of Australia and then the decision of this nonsensical Government hell-bent on distracting us from the real issues by continuing this farce of denying marriage equality. All bisexual people would be feeling this keenly right now, just as much as anyone else on the sexuality and gender spectrum.
It’s hard enough in this world, a world still coming to terms with so many changes on the social scale, to allow your heart to lead you. To decide if you want to only have pie or only have cake or have both, and maybe even blancmange isn’t ruled out. Then putting yourself out there to actually try dessert when your family would be horrified (or at least very confused) if you choose anything but cake. Most of us, to be healthy and happy, need to be in relationship with others, so to deny that is to deny a human need. A human right. A right to be protected in our chosen relationships.
The last thing we need is the Government- any Government- sticking their nose into our business with the alt religious right poking them from behind. These glorified nincompoops sitting around discussing and deciding (or rather not deciding) who we can love and whether that will be honoured and guarded by the laws that are meant to reflect our society and protect us? The laws that continue to influence how we are and who we think is ok and who is not? Laws that may actually prevent someone from choosing any dessert because it’s still ‘not acceptable’? A highly concerning top-down influence that actually causes mental illness because queer folks are at risk of not believing themselves to be acceptable and deserving of the same rights as straight people (and being correct in the eyes of the law)? Bloody hell.
I mean seriously. Don’t forget to tick yes.
If you’re looking for a counsellor or just want to ask me a question, please do not hesitate to get in touch via my contact form. I am currently taking referrals and would be honoured to hear from you. If you’re feeling shy, then sign up for the blog (and get your FREE unique journal prompts) and reach out if/when you’re feeling braver. If you’re looking for more information on bisexuality, then bisexual.org is a fantastic resource and also has forums, blog posts and lots of information and affirming stuff. Fuckyeahbisexuals is also informative, unapologetic, and open for your questions.
Main Image: Bisexual.org; Image 2: pride-flags.deviantart.com; Image 3: thestar.com by Dmitry Lovetsky