Last month I wrote about bisexuals and monogamy and covered some of the reasons behind the stereotypes of bisexuals being confused and promiscuous. This month I'm going to discuss some of the other causes for these prejudiced views and the intersection of bisexuality and polyamory.
Heavily behind the confused and promiscuous stereotypes is another misconception about bisexuals: that we don’t exist. For those of you who are not bi, try to imagine what it felt like for me to have just typed that it’s claimed that I, and others like me, don't even exist.
When we bisexuals have been repeatedly confronted with this fallacy our whole life, it has an effect. The effect is especially pronounced when we are going through puberty.
As we are just coming into ourselves as sexual beings, trying — as those of all orientations do at that developmental stage — to understand the desires rising within us, we are told that what we feel isn't possible, isn't valid, and is in any case very wrong.
Bisexuals, confused? Yes — though not in the way many people think — some of us do experience a lot of confusion. Some of us don’t have the strength, nor the support, to deflect or ignore the — excuse me but I know of no better way to express this — BS we have repeatedly been told. We fall victim to questioning our own experiences of ourselves.
In this era of hyper political correctness, biphobia is still tossed about with a shocking lack of consideration. Young bisexuals often take the ignorance and hatred to heart and squash or ignore their feelings for one gender or the other. However because they truly are bi, this usually isn't easy. Feelings keep rearing up.
Struggling to cope does often come across as confusion and even promiscuity. Teens and young adults, in an attempt to figure out if they are gay or straight — since they have been bombarded with messages that bisexuality is nonexistent — may seek multiple sex partners of each gender to discover which monosexuality is their orientation. Or they may take on multiple partners of various genders to “prove” to themselves and a disbelieving society that they are indeed bisexual.
Even those who welcome the bisexual identity in their earlier years still may find themselves questioning. As I wrote in last month's column, many bisexuals are monogamous and not the slightest promiscuous. For those who find a partner at a young age and settle into a long-term sexually faithful relationship, lack of experience with another gender will sometimes lead a bisexual to wonder if they truly are bi. This again is a result of repeated exposure to the fallacies that bisexuality is a made-up orientation, describes an adolescent phase, or is an excuse for unbridled hedonism.
Many bisexuals come out late in life, when they can no longer repress what they feel, when they stop invalidating whom they know they are. The need to finally embrace their authentic selves, to acknowledge to themselves and others the truth about who they are, can be just as pressing for bisexuals in monogamous relationships. Sometimes, and I emphasize sometimes, this long overdue acceptance of one’s bisexual nature comes with an urge to experience being with a gender other than that of their partner.
Often such an urge is acknowledged internally and then dismissed as not an option, as their commitment to fidelity is more insistent. Sometimes however, a bisexual may decide to discuss the option of polyamory with their significant other, especially if they believe their partner may be receptive to such a notion.
Still other bisexuals chose polyamory over monogamy right from the start, desiring to maintain the option to connect with multiple partners without reneging on a commitment of monogamy.
Just as with some gay and straight people, some bisexuals are simply interested in having the freedom to love and be sexual with multiple others. For them the choice for a more liberal relationship concept isn't any more connected to their sexual identity than it is for their fellow gays and straights who opt for polyamory.
This article originally appeared as my January column in The Gayly.