Many people have come to accept the notion of homosexuality but have a much harder time with bisexuality because it suggests a type of sexual flexibility or fluidity they find threatening. It is also much harder to pin people down into sex/gender categories if they tell us they are bisexual. We have our “gay man” category neatly figured; we’ve got our “lesbian” category; now we’ve got some new gender-related categories like the metrosexual, so we can sort out the dapper straights from the dapper gays; we’ve got “lipstick lesbians” for the femme dykes. But with bisexuals, it gets confusing. If John has a boyfriend one year, we see him as a gay man. But then, who is he when he shows up the next year with a girlfriend?
Bisexuality threatens the comforting straight/gay and man/woman binaries. (And the identity politics built around them). But it is also only the very beginning of sexual diversity. The simple fact is that sexuality is infinitely more complicated than which dirty pictures get you hard/wet, and the fact is that any one person’s sexuality can shift over time or circumstance. And that it’s sometimes impossible to tease out where gender and sexuality diverge.
For example: One of my high school boyfriends confessed to me, a few years after we broke up, that he had been getting blow jobs from an apparently “straight” friend of ours. The friend would come over, the two would smoke some weed, and then the friend would get to work on my ex. The Ex said that “if you close your eyes, it’s just the same as getting it from a girl”. But it wasn’t, not really. Because (my hunch is) that this was an act that grew out of their particular friendship, their particular intimacy, their particular chemistry with each other. And it probably felt excitingly dangerous and taboo. And for my ex, more invested than our friend in thinking of himself as “straight”, receiving felt like an okay, straight-ish thing to do. But giving would not have.
How do things like that fit into our rigid little categories of “straight” or “gay” or even “bisexual”? I don’t think they do. I think the categories are almost worthless. (Except as community building and organizing/political strategies. Identity politics, again)…..
So my point is: sexuality is not reducible to visual arousal, or even arousal. It’s not reducible even to sex, or whom we have sex with. And sexuality is infinitely more complicated than these narrow little categories we have, as a culture, created for ourselves. Labels can pin people down, make them feel trapped, defined. “Bisexual”, as a label, is the most open category. Though people tend to assume that a “true” bisexual would have equal desire for men and women (and if not, well, that means they’re actually straight, or gay!) at least the bisexual label gives people room to move around in. Maybe I should start identifying as bisexual, as a political move. Maybe we all should.
Amen to that.