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“Bisexual Does Not Equal Threesome” And Other Busted Bisexual Myths

Some people like boys, some people like girls, and some people like both.

That’s a pretty simplistic idea of what it means to be bisexual, since the beautiful “B” in LGBTQIA+ can be fairly complicated. As the Bisexual Resource Center states, this is a diverse sexual orientation because bisexual individuals live by various definitions. It’s a combination of identity, attractions, and behaviors and since human sexuality is on a continuum (click here for a quick sexuality lesson), these can be ever changing and varying.

Merriam-Webster defines bisexual as of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to members of both sexes; engaging in sexual activity with partners of more than one gender. The word “bisexual” refers simply to people who are not monosexual: they are not attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex, and they are not attracted exclusively to members of their same sex.

While CNN reports that 5.1% of American females and 2% of American males identify as bisexual as of 2010 (research suggests this number is much higher due to increasing acceptance in American society which encourages bisexual people to report more honestly), individuals that identify as bisexual can speak on the experience much more personally than any definitions, labels, or statistics ever can. One experience that nearly all individuals who identify as bisexual do share, though, are other’s misconceptions about their identities: myths, stereotypes, and false notions.

I was lucky enough to talk with three individuals that identify as bisexual, to hear their stories of the experiences and stereotypes they face: Ivan, Jennifer, and Alexis.

Ivan is a 22 year old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who graduated with his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. Ivan grew up in Detroit, where he always wanted to study international politics and is exploring options for Masters or Doctorate degrees. Ivan is gracious enough to admit that his discovering of his own bisexuality “was a bit complicated, like any other bisexual person.”

“I discovered that I was attracted to people of my same gender back when I was in elementary [school], but didn’t put too much thought into it. I figured it was just childish mischief. When I got to high school and I started to discover more about myself, I started to think that I was simply bi-curious, but never fully embraced being bisexual until senior year of high school. When I finally did leave home for university, I knew that I had feelings for people of the same gender, but was not willing to expose myself, because of fear of what people might think of me. As the years continued I kept having these conflicting feelings until my last year of university where I finally came out to my friends and roommates. They all accepted me, however I was still hesitant to expose myself to my family.

“Finally, the day came and I came out to my mother, and well, she took it as well as I thought she would. She said that she accepted me and loved me for what I was. However, later she would confront me and while crying, was telling me how she felt. You could imagine my despair. Here was my mother, the person that has always helped me out and who I loved, and raised me, essentially rejecting me. Well, after some time of me being depressed and hating myself, I finally confronted her about it and told her how I felt. At that point I felt finally free. She told me her thoughts and I told her mine. We hugged it out, and now I feel like I can be myself at home. I still have not come out to my father, and that is because I have a rocky relationship with him and he follows the whole “machista” creed of men have to act a certain way. Both my brother and my mother tell me not to come out to him, and I am fine with that.”

One common misconception that bisexual individuals experience is that they are merely “confused” or that this is a phase of transition before someone comes out as either fully gay or lesbian. Ivan faced this too.

“There is a common misconception that bisexual people are just confused, but we are not. People believe that you have to love one or the other, and if you do not you are either weird or promiscuous. Take for instance this: when coming out my mother asked me if I ever have had sex with a women, and just so that I can make a point, I had to lie. The way I like to tell people is, that yes I have had feelings towards people of the opposite gender and of the same gender.”

Another misconception that Ivan mentions here is the idea that one can’t identify as bisexual unless they have been in a relationship with both sexes or genders already, or like both entirely equally. When faced with this stereotype, Ivan felt the need to lie to avoid his mother’s misunderstanding that one does not have to have physical experience with each sex to know how they feel and identify. What if we were to apply this thought pattern to people who identify straight? Do we ask our straight folks, well how do you know, have you been with someone the same gender or sex?

Jennifer was born and raised in Michigan but currently resides in Nebraska. After years of studying and practicing social work, she identifies social justice as a large part of her life. Jennifer has also experienced the same prejudices, stating, “I’ve only ‘dated’ males, and a lot of folks consider my bisexuality not valid due to that.” She has also had the experience of having to balance her sexuality and her family.

“Truthfully, I never came out to my family. I feel like if I would have had a relationship with a female that went beyond sex and was ‘official’ I would have came out in a heartbeat. But that was another thing. I’ve been attracted to both men and women for as long as I can remember. I was never very open about being attracted to women because in my younger years, it wasn’t as ‘accepted’ or maybe there wasn’t a whole lot available to me then. Add that to my somewhat religious upbringing and it was a weird thing to even mention to anyone for me at that time.

“As I got older and became more comfortable in my identity, as well as more independent in general, I felt more open about my sexuality and was shut down by women who identified as lesbian, but me being bisexual was a problem for them. Me having a history of only officially dating men was like when you try to get a job pertaining to your degree right out of college, and employers don’t want you because you don’t have the experience they are looking for. So although I had been sexual with women, lesbian women I was actually interested in dating made me feel pretty invalid about my sexuality. They thought it was a phase.”

Research shows a lot of tension within the LGBT community for bisexual individuals, and this can be seen in the stereotype example described by Jennifer, similar to Ivan’s due to a lack in “experience.” She is solid in her identity but it is questioned even by other members of the LGBT population, individuals that would have a connection to the prejudices and discrimination faced, but still hold prejudices against her. Jennifer hasn’t let prejudices stop her from loving who she loves though.

“My boyfriend is actually transgender; he’s never considered himself a female though that’s what sex he was born as. I’m so supportive of him, his journey, and identity… I actually met him when we were much younger as we lived in the same neighborhood, and my parents were weird about us hanging out because back then it was something they weren’t familiar with and they referred to him as things that were totally not correct like he/she, Adam Amanda, or lesbian. That was when I was about 13 and I didn’t care if he was male or female because he was awesome to me.”

Alexis is 22 years old, is currently a full-time EMT and is in school to become a Paramedic. When she’s not busy with work and school, she loves to travel, spend time with friends and family, and read–currently she’s bingeing on as much poetry as she can get her hands on.

“Junior year of high school is when I came out; I was 16 and terrified. I had never even heard the word ‘bisexual’ until I was 14. Growing up in a small town, things like that were almost taboo. If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, right? I remember being extremely confused in 7th grade when I had a crush on both Molly and Nate in my class. It would be another two years before I would be able to put a name to my sexuality, and another two after that before I would be confident enough to share that with the people closest to me. I did not come out the way I planned, and I know that’s the case for most of us. I came out in the middle of a fight with my mom. The fight had nothing to do with sexuality, but through various rabbit holes we ended up there. She was accepting, and I was ecstatic. Other people in my family took a little longer to warm up to it, but I’ve been very fortunate in my family life to deal with minimal pushback from them.

“I hear a lot that being bisexual is a product of being indecisive, rather than an actual sexuality. When I was dating a woman last year, everyone assumed I was lesbian. Most of those people couldn’t understand why I would correct them, and of course because people love to argue. The inevitable follow-up would be a comment on how I was just wanting to cheat because I’m attracted to everyone. At this point, I’ve learned to slough that stuff off. I’m not going to cheat on someone because I’m bisexual, and I’m not going to change my label depending on who I’m dating to make others feel more comfortable.”

Here, Alexis describes the same stereotype Ivan identified: that because one is bisexual, one is there for promiscuous or “wanting to cheat.” Furthermore, Alexis identifies the myth that bisexuals aren’t as oppressed as gay men and lesbians because they have heterosexual privilege/they are “half-straight.”

“The LGBT community has been put through the ringer, so a lot of people in that community are skeptical of someone who could potentially pass for straight. It’s the mindset of, ‘You choose to be targeted by dating women when you could just date men and be fine.’ I don’t want to be ‘fine,’ I want to love who I choose regardless of the consequences. I’ve encountered lesbians who are uncomfortable with the fact that I’m attracted to men because they feel like I could flip a switch and be straight tomorrow. On the other hand, I’ve encountered men in the community that believe bisexual women play with straight men, and they will inevitably leave them for a woman. There are both sides of the coin, but thankfully I’ve also encountered a lot of really great people within the community.”

Lastly, I had to ask Alexis, how many times have you been asked for a threesome?

“Oh gosh, I’m not sure I even have a number, but serious offers come across the table far more often than I’m comfortable with. This does not include the inevitable joke that most straight men make when they discover I’m bisexual.”

At the end of the day, it’s important to look at the intersectionality found in Ivan, Jennifer, and Alexis’ lives. Multiple types of discrimination mix for them because they aren’t “just” bisexual–they’re also of difference races, gender expressions, and sexes. Ivan faces the intersection of being a bisexual male whose race/nationality and the culture that comes with it has complicated his openness with his family, especially his father. Jennifer and Alexis share the intersection of bisexual and female, which comes with distinguished stereotypes. For Jennifer, her family’s religion and her current relationship create intersections she has to purposefully navigate. For Alexis, her geographical location and the “small-town” culture limited her exposure to differing sexualities and she was slower to identify herself.

I want to thank Ivan, Jennifer, and Alexis for taking the time to share with us just a small glimpse of what they face. Here’s to breaking down the stereotypes, and ending the threesome question for once and for all.

 

 

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