Good Bi Love: You Don’t Need The “Lifestyle” To Be Bi

9/18/2017

The LGBTQ community has made a huge push to clarify that one’s sexuality isn’t a lifestyle. It’s not something that’s chosen. To whom you’re attracted is an innate component of your identity. That’s why we prefer terms like sexual identity, sexuality, and even sexual orientation. It makes it clear that sexuality is more than a lifestyle we actively choose. It’s who we are.

However, I would make the claim that there is a “gay lifestyle.” Frequenting drag bars, going to Fire Island on the weekends, attending nude beaches with gay friends, brunch, engaging in leather daddy kink, using gay vernacular — like calling all your gay male friends who identify as male — “she,” idolizing mediocre pop artists, and serving lewks are just a few things I would say are part of the gay lifestyle.

I don’t think any of these things are inherently “gay” so to speak. Nor does one have to do these things to be gay. Gayness is related to physical and emotional attraction. Nothing more. They are, however, things that many gay men partake it, as it fosters a sense of community. It’s what other gay men do, and the gay men before them have done, and being a part of these spaces and taking part in these activities makes them feel safe and part of a community. This lifestyle, in turn, helps them embrace their sexuality and by connecting them with other gay men.

I bring all this up because I think the distinction between lifestyle and sexuality is an important one, especially for bi individuals.

Now I have one hell of a gay lifestyle. While I always knew this, a friend/someone I’m seeing/dating (oy, I never know what to call this) reminded me of this in a pretty interesting way I’d never thought about prior.

She’s a drag queen and also transgender. She realized through drag that she is actually a woman, not simply a man in a wig. She typically dates straight men because it reaffirms her gender as a woman. Given that she still performs, gay men and other folks often view her as a drag queen (and male) as opposed to a female performer. Alas, this invalidates her gender identity, which she hates.

We had a unique connection because while I viewed her as a woman and treated her as such, I could still partake in aspects of gay culture (and thus, aspects of her life). Unlike her previous straight boyfriends, who didn’t like seeing her perform because they didn’t care for gay clubs, I can go and kick it with her and her gay friends. Still, she knows that I view her and am attracted to her as a woman. She knows this because I’m bi and am attracted to all genders.

This was the first time I’ve ever been in a relationship like this and it really made me think. Not just about myself, but about other bi people.

One thing I hear from bi men (I’m sure this is true for bi women as well, but more bi men reach out to me than women), is that they don’t feel genuinely bi.

Their reasoning, I realize now, is because they don’t partake in a gay or queer or bi (whatever you want to call it) lifestyle.

They don’t feel a part of the gay or bi community because they aren’t hanging out with other queer individuals. They’re not engaging in those stereotypically “gay lifestyle” activities with other folks who identify as LGBTQ.

Because of this, they feel like frauds or “fake bisexuals.” As such, they believe they are someone who doesn’t deserve a seat at the LGBTQ table. This also discourages them from coming out to family and friends as bi. Again, they don’t feel like “real bisexuals,” so they don’t want to come out as bi.

However, here’s the thing. You can be a bi man, woman, or genderqueer individual who feels more comfortable in straight spaces than gay ones. I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m 100% not like that. Straight spaces make me feel very uncomfortable, as I struggle engaging with toxic masculinity, which I think is much more prevalent in straight men and straight spaces. But everyone is different. You do you. Wherever you feel most comfortable, safe, and accepted.

Regardless of your lifestyle, you’re still bi, and you’re still a part of the bi and LGBTQ community. Your sexuality is independent of what activities you like to engage in. Never feel obligated to engage in things simply because you feel like you should.

That said, living a queer lifestyle is really fun and can foster a great sense of community and self-acceptance. So, I’d say you should at least give these things a shot before you write them off for good!

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.