United States

Hi, I‘m Emily. I am Bisexual.

I am a 33 year old academic, married (to a cis man), no kids. I study British Victorian literature and I also teach writing and literature at the college level. Academically, I'm into all sorts of cool things: ecocriticism, posthumanism, all kinds of queer stuff with physics and time and gender and animals. I have a tattoo on my forearm of an illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I really identify with Alice and all the changes she experiences and all the boundaries she crosses! I am a feminist and an atheist. I sing alto in a rather prestigious choir. I love hiking and camping, going on road trips, and traveling of all kinds. Cooking and knitting are two of my favorite activities. The only sport I care about is baseball. Favorite books are too numerous to mention, but I'm drawn to all that is Victorian and gothic (think Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Dorian Gray). I have really diverse musical tastes but I lean heavily toward folky-bluegrassy music most of the time. I love Doctor Who and X-Files and Buffy and aspire to be more of a well rounded sci-fi geek. Personal heroes include Oscar Wilde, Ursula K. LeGuin, Charles Darwin, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Donna Haraway, David's a long list.

What being bisexual means to me

I have only been in sexual relationships with men but I experience sexual and romantic attraction to people of all genders (not just cis-men and cis-women). I prefer to identify as bi rather than pan because even though I reject gender binaries and can feel attraction to genderqueer people, for me my orientation is more about moving back and forth--or inhabiting a back and forth--between feminine and masculine spaces. I think of my attraction to masculine people and feminine people as occurring in different (but somewhat overlapping) spheres. For me, to identify as pan would mean it's all happening in one sphere. It's complicated but I guess my thinking is informed by how I experience and theorize gender and feminism.

What I would like the world to know about bisexuals

Just like any sexual orientation, there is no one "right way" to be bisexual. It means different things to different people and that's just fine. For the people who deny bisexuality or are hostile to the idea or fetishize it, I say: Our sexuality is for us, individuals. It is within ourselves; it's not about who we have sex with or who you think we should have sex with. It is not for you or about you. It is not for you to define, deny, downplay, or denounce.

What was your path to a bisexual identity?

Long and winding. The first time I used "bi" to describe myself (secretly, to myself) was in my early twenties. It was the first time I really had awareness of certain feelings toward women as sexual/romantic (although I think I experienced this earlier--I just didn't frame those earlier feelings in the same way). For many reasons, though, I decided that I wasn't "really" bi. I pretended like those feelings were not legitimate expressions of an important part of myself for more than ten years. I think what has changed in my life that has allowed me to accept and embrace this is that I finally found a really supportive community of friends. I have had certain close friends throughout my life but I only recently found a group of friends that really feels good and supportive. Specifically, in recent years I have developed more friendships with women that are really enriching and I have more opportunities to be in women-centered spaces that make me feel safe and powerful. I had been missing out on this kind of companionship for a lot of my adult life without even knowing it.

What is the toughest thing about being bisexual?

Countering all the narratives out there that negate bisexuality. I had internalized a lot of these. One of the hardest ones for me to overcome was the idea that if I identified as bi I would be playing into a sexist male "girl-on-girl" fantasy. I think this happened because the handful of women I knew in high school and college who were out as bi were written off, even by other queer people, as "fake" bisexuals who were only claiming bi for male attention. I didn't have the awareness then to understand that even social spaces I moved in that were ostensibly inclusive and feminist were pretty shamey and unenlightened. It's sad but I think it's easier for me as a partnered woman in my thirties now to break out of that, because I'm no longer in that college hook-up scene.

What is the best thing about being bisexual?

Coming to the recognition that this is a true part of myself felt like I was reclaiming myself from other people. That's an amazing feeling.

How have other people in your life reacted to your bisexuality?

In the past, not so well. I tried to bring it up an experience of kissing a girl with an ex-boyfriend once but he got so upset I just never touched it again and went back to pretending like that experience didn't mean anything. Now, it's better, because I'm out to myself. I'm not "out" to everyone, but the people I am out to have been incredibly supportive and helpful. I am lucky to know some amazing queer people who have shown me that it is OK for me to call myself bi. I am especially thankful to my husband, who is straight, for being so supportive and understanding. The most important thing about his reaction was that never once during our conversations about my bisexuality did he make me feel like I was anything but normal. He’s happy for me, and that makes me happy.

What advice do you have for someone who thinks they may be bi or who is in the process of coming out as bi?

For a long time I thought I couldn't identify as bi because I've only been with men. This was only one of the ways that I wrote off my feelings of same sex attraction as not legitimate. Don't listen to the voices (in or outside your head) that make you doubt whether your attraction to multiple genders is enough for you to"qualify" as bi. Realize that if you are interested in exploring sex/romantic relationships with other-than-hetero partners, you can't wait for someone to "realize" you are bi and "initiate" you. That's not how it works! You have to own it and be open about it. Also, it's OK to come out when you are somewhat older. It's never too late!