bisexual, kiss, couples, interracial

Naked Truth: Did Marriage Equality Turn Bisexuals Into ‘Straight’ People?

The day national marriage equality passed I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder. When I managed to stifle my drooly crying hiccups for long enough, I lifted my head from his shoulder, a wobbly tightrope of snot connecting his clavicle to my septum ring.

“I don’tttt — {drooly hiccup} — want to be straight — {drooly hiccup} — FOREVER!!” I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into my own snot-pool.

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged. Though I had dated men up until I was 21, for the nine years prior to my meeting Patrick, I had primarily dated queer women — I even married one. And once you marry a lesbian, in the public eye, you’re one, too.

This never bothered me much; I had always felt so special with my membership in this group of gender-fucking, pierced, half-shaved-headed hotties we call the LGBTQ community that I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left it in 2006. Moreso, I quietly stepped into my jeans and snuck out the next morning.

And then there was Patrick. He came out of left field to say the least (I mean, I met him when he was on a date with another woman), as did my borderline-insanity-inducing love for him. Four months later, here we are, engaged with me smearing my boogers all over him from being overjoyed about marriage equality and overwhelmed about my forever-straight fate.

Though the bisexual experience is a two-way swinging door, I’ve found that most people find it more enjoyable when you push that door towards women. The queer community is all “Cool! Welcome to the fold!” and the straight community is all “Ah, so French! So titilating!” as fantasies of bi-curious pillow fights abound.

hands, marriage, love
(image via scribbletaylor)

When you decide to go back through the doorway however, back to Cis-manlandia, people are more baffled than bisexually bewitched. The dudes are all, “WTF?! You never wanted to date ME?!” and the queer women are all, “Another one bites the dust,” and the reception from the straight community is all shrug, without a welcome banner in sight.

In the four months preceding our epic marriage equality victory, I’d been hit over the head with how bisexuality is so socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat “I’m queer. I’m queer. I’m queer,” to yourself in your head, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the only other queer couple at the party fail, or your boyfriend’s friends are left scratching their heads all, “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay”. No matter who you date, half of your sexual identity, half of who you are, is invisible.

I know, “WAH! Poor me! Everyone thinks I’m straight!” Passing as a dominant identity is a privilege stacked with socially constructed perks. But the pain of watching nine years of my meaningful queer sexual and romantic history being erased was and is very real. Re-coming out as bisexual by starting once again to date men is confusing.

Turns out, a life of confusing, changing sexuality may be stamped into my biological and psychological development.

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of one’s sexual identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets a new short haircut; girl is now a lesbian; fin. Linear stage theories imply that once an individual achieves a full awareness of her sexual desire, stability occurs and no more change happens. Basically, you realize you’re gay, you come out, you’re gay forever.

Lisa M. Diamond, sex researcher, bisexual
researcher Lisa M. Diamond

In convincing contrast to this, Lisa M. Diamond found in her 10-year study of female same-sex sexuality development that young women’s sexuality is particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more malleable than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire and attraction.

According to Diamond, women are more likely to report bisexual attractions than to report exclusive same-sex attractions, whereas the opposite pattern is found in men. While many gay- or bisexual-identified men recall experiencing their first same-sex attractions a few years prior to puberty (similar to the age at which most heterosexual children recall their first other-sex desires), many women report that they didn’t experience same-sex attractions until adulthood.

First same-sex attraction was described by these women as largely situational or seemingly random rather than gradually developing as with men. Further, study participants demonstrated a sexuality defined by continuous change. By the end of her 10-year study, 10 percent of participants who had identified as lesbian had settled into long-term relationships with men while 60 percent had experienced sexual contact with a man and 36 percent reported romantic relationships with one.

Women’s descriptions of their unexpected shifts back to Straightsville were often illustrated as being seemingly random, confounding, and, as one participant describes, a bit of a bummer:

“I’ve kind of straightened out! I still call myself bisexual but I’m on the edge of heterosexual, which I’m not pleased about. I mean, straight culture — yuck! Bad! I never really wanted to be heterosexual but I don’t have much choice in the matter… I think sexuality changes, but I don’t have any idea what causes those changes.”

So are us bisexuals doomed to follow our hearts and crotches to whatever gender they take us, but bummed out about the straight culture that comes with it half of the time? If we settle down in a visibly straight relationship are we doomed to straightness, forever?

At the conclusion of her study, Diamond paves the way towards progressive solutions to this quintessential bisexual identity crisis with her insight that the women she studied who reinitiated opposite-sex relationships actually talked about these experiences as feeling fundamentally different from the forms of heterosexuality they had experienced before coming out as bi or queer.

“[These women],” Diamond states, “did not perceive themselves as going back to men but, rather as moving forward toward new forms of sexual and erotic experiences.”

Diamond’s study shows that bisexuality — and indeed, sexuality — is not a swinging door which transports us from one side or the other in a linear fashion. In fact, female sexuality itself is more of a hallway, full of trap doors, entrances, exits, stairwells and maybe even the fire escape or two. There is no going back to old forms of sexuality and sexual identity, there’s only the new and exciting road ahead to traverse.

gender, bisexual, woman, gender
(image via Lily Monster)

The only thing that binaries (male/female, gay/straight, kinky/vanilla) do for our modern queer (or straight!) communities is make us feel like we don’t fit in. The image of sexuality as a swinging door — with one side or the other and the binary it stands for — is broken. Legal marriage, once defined by the binary of “one man and one woman,” is now celebrated by the entire spectrum of different types of love and commitment.

Patrick cried on marriage equality day, too, (actually all day long on marriage equality day), simply because of his genuine love of love. I’m the luckiest to be marrying him, no matter what he’s packing in his pants, or what his preferred pronouns are.

Gently wiping my snot from his body, he laughs and says, “Babe, you’re not straight. You’re queer.”

“Yeah, I know,” I sniffle, finally finding my way to a Kleenex. “For now.”