07 October 2011

Bisexual envy?

Perhaps I’ve occasionally entertained the idea that I am bisexual, but I honestly think that such thoughts have derived mostly from wishful thinking. Having a bisexual orientation would fit in more comfortably, I suppose, with the reality that I am married to the opposite sex. However, I am fairly confident I am pretty far to the homosexual side of the Kinsey scale. So I haven’t really thought of myself as bisexual for a while.

Some people view at least some manifestations of bisexuality as a stepping stone to acceptance of homosexuality. As this line of thinking goes, a person begins to come out of the closet and may temporarily hold on to the idea that they are attracted (or can be attracted) to the opposite sex, coincident with beginning to acknowledge and give validity to feelings of attraction to the same sex. While this model is certainly plausible for some people, I’d bet people with a long-term stable bisexual orientation might bristle at the notion that their sexuality is only a transitional phase between a heterosexual and homosexual identity.

My original understanding of bisexuality appeared to be based on the idea that bisexuals could be happy in a relationship with either sex. If so, bisexuality might then present some advantages over homosexuality or even heterosexuality. For instance, a bisexual might be attracted physically to a broader suite of people, and might be able to more profoundly appreciate both male and female bodies and personalities. And given that homophobia is a powerful negative social force, my old understanding would argue that a bisexual has more relationship flexibility than a homosexual: bisexuals, at least have the option of choosing a straight relationship. Maybe this either/or description of bisexuality accurately describes attractions for some people.

However, as I have read of some bisexual experiences, not all appear to have an either/or type of attraction. Some, it seems, really need to have relationships with both men and women to feel more complete fulfillment. For bisexuals who experience attraction in this way, being in a monogamous relationship with either a man or a woman might only be a partially fulfilling experience with another person. When paired with the opposite sex, the same sex needs are neglected and vice versa. I don’t know if sequentially moving between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships helps fulfill needs or just leads to frustration! Are polyamorous relationships appealing to bisexuals who feel this way?

Regardless of their personal patterns of attraction, it seems like all bisexuals probably share a common challenge – how they may be frequently misunderstood from the outside. A bisexual in a same sex relationship would easily be assumed to be gay if he or she showed affection with a partner in a public setting. Likewise, a bisexual coupled with an opposite sex partner would almost surely be perceived as heterosexual by strangers and unknowing acquaintances. Yet in neither case are perceptions accurate since they are based on only half of the story. I don’t know if this matters significantly on a day-to-day basis for bisexuals, but I imagine there can be times when that misunderstanding can be frustrating.

As a gay man married to a straight woman, perhaps I have more in common with bisexuals than I’ve realized until just recently. For instance, being married to a woman presents challenges with respect to feeling that certain of my relationship needs are fulfilled. Paired with either a same or opposite sex partner, a bisexual may also long for the kinds of fulfillment they have the capacity (and maybe experience) to enjoy from the other type of relationship.

Additionally, like bisexuals, I am probably very frequently misunderstood in public settings when I am with my family. In most cases, it will be assumed that I am straight. Usually this is not important, but it becomes more disconcerting when I start to get to know new friends, acquaintances or co-workers better. If I had a same-sex partner, a new acquaintance is likely to learn much faster (instantly, if I am with said same-sex partner at the time) that I am gay. If a close friendship eventually evolved with this new acquaintance, I think in many cases I’d want them to know about all the major parts of my personality, including the gayness. If I comfortably accept this part of myself, there is no reason that it needs to remain hidden from those who are close to me.

So this post stems from some thoughts about the bisexual experience, but not a lot of understanding on my part. If you are bisexual or know well the experiences of bisexual friends or family members, will you educate me? How are bisexual attractions experienced? What is unique about the bisexual experience? What challenges and advantages do bisexuals have?


  1. I'm bisexual and I am physically attracted to both genders equally. I'm married to a women but even though I love her and enjoy sex with her I still feel split. I REALLY want to enjoy an emotional and physical relationship with another guy. I chose the path of least resistance and went with the straight side of me. The disadvantage is never feeling happy. Probably similar to being a celibate, single, Mormon minus the religius baggage.

  2. Fascinating. Your wrote: "If I had a same-sex partner, a new acquaintance is likely to learn much faster (instantly, if I am with said same-sex partner at the time) that I am gay."

    Really? I hang out with my buddies and rarely think that others think that we're gay.* So are you saying when people see me with my bud, just the two of us walking to the gym for example, or showering together, or lockering next to each other, that we are gay?

    He's as straight as a summer day is long. On the other hand I'm not so easily defined, at least in my own perception of myself. hmmm

    Great post to get me thinking.

    *On the other hand maybe my gay pride is shining through that I'm delighted to be in the company of a man I consider to be my good friend and to whom I am powerfully attracted. ;)

  3. I'd love to talk to you via email about this.