Good Bi Love: Is it Confusion Or Shame?

10/1/2018

istock/sanjeri

Last week, Jenny* wrote into Good Bi Love looking for some advice.

“I am 24-years-old, and I have only had two serious relationships in my life,” she wrote. “One with a man and another one with a woman. I am bisexual. I do question that maybe I could be polyamorous as well but I really have no idea. When I am with a man I want to be with a woman and when I am with a woman I want to be with a man. Just being with one gender, I feel like I would be missing out on being with the other. It is EXTREMELY confusing and drives me insane. I want to be in love again for sure.”

I recently attended a sex talk panel at the V-Club, a space in Manhattan dedicated to “women breaking down the barriers that prevent them from creating the life they desire.” After the panel, I spoke with Courtney Cleman, the co-founder of the V-Club and a sex/relationship coach.

She said something that really struck me. We sometimes confuse introspection with over-analyzing. The two are not the same thing. Introspection is good. It’s being thoughtful about our lives and looking into why we do, say, or think certain things. This, however, should come in moderation. In excess, introspection can cross the threshold and become over-analyzing, and when this is the case, there’s often an element of shame involved.

You seem to know the answer to your question, Jenny. You know you’re bi, and when you’re with a woman you miss being with a man and vice versa. It sounds like you would be the perfect candidate for polyamory. I think what you’re asking for is permission, and while you absolutely don’t need it from me (or anyone else for that matter), I can give it to you.

I think you might be experiencing a little bit of shame about feeling the need to be with multiple people at the same time, and you veil this shame with confusion, when the truth of the matter is that you’re not confused. I know I used to feel that same shame, first about being bi, and then about being polyamorous.

In fact, I had a very similar conversation with my new therapist when I was 22. I kept on telling him I was confused about my sexuality, and it was driving me insane. On our second session, he interrupted me as I prepared to launch into the same exact monologue I had told him in our first session.

“Why do you keep saying you’re confused?” he asked.

It’s a weird question if it’s not one you’ve ever heard before, and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond besides, “because I feel confused,” so I didn’t say anything.

“It doesn’t sound like you’re confused; it sounds like you’re bisexual. You clearly like men and women.”

He was right. The issue wasn’t that I was confused — it was that I was afraid of being bi and didn’t want to admit it to myself yet. At the time, I still had unconscious internalized shame about being bi.

Quickly after our conversation though, I was able to embrace being bi. I then had a similar dialogue in my head when I started realizing that it’s tough for me to be in a monogamous relationship with one person.

Again, I told myself I was confused, especially because I had been trying to dispel this notion, in a public forum, that bi people don’t need to be with multiple genders to be happy. I didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that bi people couldn’t be trusted, and will inevitably cheat on you and then abandon you for a person of another gender.

Then I realized… oh God, I might actually need to be with multiple genders at the same time to be happy. But instead of admitting that, I said I was confused, because I felt wayyy too much guilt to admit it. Finally, I was able to get over the shame and embrace being polyamorous. And now when I write, I say truthfully that some people are poly and need to be with multiple genders, whereas some bi folks are monogamous and are completely content being with one person for the rest of their lives. No two bi people are the same, and as long as we’re honest about what we want to ourselves and our partner(s), then there’s no reason to feel any shame.

So Jenny, I’m here to tell you that you have nothing over which to feel shame or fear. I think you should absolutely explore polyamory and see if it’s right for you. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be exactly what you’re looking for.

*not her real name

As always, feel free to write me if you’re struggling with anything and would like to see your questions answered on Good Bi Love. You can reach me directly at [email protected]!

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.