Why Can’t We Like More Than One?
For a while now there’s been a quest to “prove that bisexuality exists” (it does, and the proof is in). Millions of people in the world are bisexual. We exist, and the percentage of us who are coming out as bi has been on the rise in recent years, largely due to increased social acceptance.
Despite all this progress, bi people are still asked to “prove” their bisexuality all the time. People demand we provide evidence to justify the so-called “claim” that we’re bi. We often hear things like, “How do you know you’re bi?” “How many men and women have you dated?” “How do you know if you’ve never slept with a man?”
This demand that we “prove” our sexual orientation (sometimes made by total strangers) is not only insulting but also hypocritical. Rarely is anyone ever admonished to “prove” the existence of heterosexuality or homosexuality. So what gives?
Rachel Whitehurst, bi vlogger
Bisexual vlogger Rachel Whitehurst summed it up perfectly in a video:
“When you’re bisexual, it feels like you’re applying for a job… People want you to come up with a fucking resume of every instance in your life where you might have proved your bisexuality, and guess what? You don’t have to fucking do that.”
She’s right. We don’t have to prove anything, but it’s still tough for us. We want to be taken seriously. We want to be validated, and therefore we often succumb to pressure and provide that “bisexual resume.” We do this because we’re so tired of being ignored, challenged, and rejected simply for being bi. We’re tired of being denied the recognition that so many others take for granted.
Nevertheless, after “proving” our bisexuality we’re often still doubted. Even after we’ve said every little thing they’ve wanted to hear, they still think we’re “in denial.” It’s offensive and it makes us feel like we can’t win.
A lot of people who question the validity of bisexuality do so for the same reason: “It’s impossible to be attracted to two genders,” we are told. First of all, that’s not what bisexuality means. The “bi” in bisexual in fact has always referred to a combination of hetero (literally “different sex”) and homo (literally “same sex” attractions). It doesn’t refer to “men and women” (although colloquially it is sometimes misused that way).
Robyn Ochs, bi activist and scholar
So to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s first define bisexuality. Quoting bisexual activist and scholar Robyn Ochs:
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
Bi people have the capacity to be attracted to more than one sex or gender at various times, and in various ways. That’s what bisexuality means.
But how is that possible? I can hear the the doubting monosexuals ask. It just can’t be.
Why not? For literally everything else in life, humans can like more than one thing – and usually without judgement. We can like dogs, cats, or both. We can like dogs more, but once in awhile, there’s that one cat that we fall in love with. We can like coffee and tea, and prefer to drink them at different times of the day.
We can like only Granny Smith apples, but all oranges. For whatever ineffable reason, one day we may decide we no longer like like Granny Smith apples and now only eat Honeycrisps. That’s fine. Nobody in the world would find that weird or challenge our capacity for taste and our freedom to evolve. In fact, generally speaking, when we only like only one thing humans are often considered narrow-minded or picky. So why is it the gold standard for human sexuality?
Exhibit A: Fruit (NOTE: It’s ok to like more than one kind. It doesn’t make you “confused,” and it doesn’t mean that you don’t exist.) Crazy, huh?
Sexual and romantic attraction is just another way in which human beings demonstrate preference. Therefore, it stands to reason that we should expect to see a lot of variety in human appetites where sex and relationships are concerned. It shouldn’t be inconceivable to think that some of us have the capacity to be attracted to multiple genders in varying degrees. (And, low and behold, SURPRISE: many people are bisexual).
I think I’ve discovered why some people can acknowledge that humans have multiple preferences for everything else except sex and gender.
Humans aren’t things. We have feelings. We’re unique from one another. We also have insecurities – and lots of them. We get jealous. We fear what’s different. We think and act irrationally. I bet you – if coffee had emotions, she’d get jealous when one morning you told her you were more in the mood for tea.
Instead of addressing these naturally occurring insecurities, jealousies, and fears, many biphobic people take the easy way out. They deny bisexuality rather than work on their own issues.
There’s a reason why we call it biphobia, even though on the surface acts of biphobia seem more rooted in ignorance or hatred than fear. It’s because we know that, deep down, fear is the true root; hatred and ignorance are manifestations of that fear. The people who deny bisexuality fear differences. Fear loving. Fear being left for someone else (of another sex or gender). Fear fluidity and the ability to evolve.
There’s one thing in common, I’ve realized, about the straight women and gay men I date successfully. They are very secure in themselves. They have to know when I say I like them and I “choose” them, that they are worthy of my love. Otherwise, they get nervous that I’ll cheat on them with someone of a different gender. They have to trust that when I say, “he’s just a friend,” that he actually is just a friend. They have to believe me, which requires trust and vulnerability. More so than if they were dating someone else who was monosexual (either gay or straight), which is why it’s so difficult to date bisexual people when you’re insecure and afraid.
This shouldn’t be the case. To say that bi people are “twice as likely to cheat” is ludicrous. Our sexual orientation has nothing to do with our moral compass. People who cheat, cheat. Some gay people cheat. Some straight people cheat. And, yes, some bi people cheat. But that doesn’t mean we are all cheaters.
I think I understand why so many people are extra worried about bi people cheating, though. Especially for straight monosexuals. It’s not often that men have close female friends they see one-on-one, and vice versa. If they do, often issues of jealousy arise. Straight men, more often than not, hang out with other straight male friends. This holds true for straight women too. So for many monosexuals, it’s difficult when their bisexual partner sees friends one-on-one because there is the possibility of a sexual connection, where that possibility didn’t exist in their relationships before. That makes people feel insecure.
So now, when I hear “bisexuality is just a phase,” or it “doesn’t actually exist,” I pry. Instead of wasting my time answering all the questions their prejudice inspires them to ask of me, I spend my time asking them why they are so afraid to date a bi person. It’s incredible what can happen when you flip the mirror back on these people.
Fellow bi people: maybe instead of justifying our existence over and over again, we should just ask these skeptics to justify their own fear and ignorance. Because at the end of the day, they can’t. People have no real, logical reason why they don’t believe in bisexuality. It all comes back to, “it just doesn’t exist” or “why don’t I meet any other bi people?” To which I respond, of course you do! We just don’t tell you, because you spew biphobic crap like this at us. And that keep us closeted.
(And yes, some bi people are in a “gay” closet. Not everyone in the closet calls themselves straight.)
I’ve found that this strategy really does work. Once people realize that they can’t logically justify their biphobia–when they’re able to see how it’s actually their own insecurities at play–that’s when they can correct their mistaken beliefs about bi people. They still might not date us, because acknowledging their insecurities is only the first step; they still need to work on them, but at least now they can believe we exist (which isn’t much to ask of a date, frankly).
But hey, it’s a start.