About being bi…
Given that nowadays I’ve got a half-dozen things going on at any moment (with at least another half-dozen that I should be doing instead of procrastinating on), I slipped on talking about Bi Visibility Day on the 23rd. I totally meant to. I even had planned to do a cute little “It’s visiBIlity Day!” post.
But that ship’s sailed, and the seamen are having fun without me.
So, instead, I give you an essay. Because that’s what I do, and have you met me?
About being bi…
I’m one of those people who, once having the words, knew which applied—and I had the words early. I was a precocious kid in a lot of ways, and endlessly fascinated with people. I genuinely like people. They drive me to despair on a regular basis, but I like ’em. So it was no surprise to me that once I started like liking people, I found that I like all kinds.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t have types—god knows, I do. I just have a lot of types. And they aren’t strictly delineated by sex or gender. (It is one of my especial gifts to often get to see the sexy in just about anyone, and that comes from trying to see the person in everyone. A friend or two might have twitted that it comes from viewing life as a buffet and having a healthy appetite—and possibly a tapeworm… but that’s a digression and another essay.) Just so we have that clear: sex and gender aren’t the same, there are more than two of each, speaking broadly and with our science caps on, and attraction isn’t so much chemistry as it is alchemy.
I like to bring up being bisexual because it is one of the ways of being that is most easily overlooked by people looking at our lives from the outside, catching us in moments, freeze frames of relations and relationships that tell of an experience that reads as definitional rather than a continual and contextual experience. To elaborate the metaphor, bisexuality isn’t a photograph: it’s a motion picture.
We might see a bisexual in a relationship and assume that particular expression of who they are is the totality of their orientation, but that’s grossly imperfect and sadly reductive. Bisexuals might look straight or gay at any given moment, but it doesn’t make us such. I know bi folks who are in committed monogamous relationships, and it doesn’t make them any less bisexual than a vow of celibacy makes a nun asexual. Action is not orientation, per se, even if it does lend a certain facile credibility for those who require simplified equations and suffer shallow understandings of their fellows. But:
To understand that a person is bisexual—hell, let’s not be coy and abstract, let’s put meat on the table and skin in the game: to understand that I am bisexual is to know that I have been in love with men and women, that I have had lovers who are male, female, trans, and non-binary, that regardless of who I am with at any moment, the whole of me is present—and that includes M breaking my heart, falling for J, regretting that H never took me seriously, sharing laughter and adventures with S, wishing that B and I could have been better for each other, having A dash my hopes for rings on our fingers and a life together, losing myself for a night and a day and a night again with (a different) J, wishing that I had taken the chance and kissed P… and do you need to know who was a man, and who a woman? Does it change anything?
I would say, subject position, that is doesn’t. You might disagree, which is your problem and none of mine.
All that’s very well, Mr. Albie, but then why are you bringing it up at all?
Because being seen and recognized, being known, is important and necessary.
Being who and how I am, I tend to read as gay, which is as irksome as being read as straight is, albeit in different ways. Life would be much simpler if the gay mantle fit—almost, in its way, as if straight did—but it’s tight in the shoulders and it’s itchy and I don’t think it’s the right shade….
Which brings us to queer. Queer is lovely, and it fits, and it’s suitable for most occasions—you can dress it up or dress it down, and it goes straight from work to play with just a change of accessories… And yet. And yet it plays into a dichotomy that elides us all into Us and Them, and what I find quintessential to my experience is that dichotomies are useful lies, and while I’m pragmatist, I’m not a liar.
Also, I came of age in the Nineties—I’m a child of a certain kind of activism and a political sense that, for me, requires taking a stance shaped by saying bi and not queer. I’m part of a generation that saw us move from the closet to prime time, even as we were bound, bloody and broken, to fences and left to die while our elders were swept away by plague, and we lit fires in the streets, and threw riots in our beds and in our hearts. With such a legacy, I can only say that I’m not here to make things easy for you. I’m here to make them better.
So I’m socially queer, certainly, but I’m politically and personally bi, and it still is what fits best, with the right drape and a good hand and a timeless style—it’s me. I will not be elided in an Us (or Them) that ignores so much of who I am for the sake of expedience—or to simplify the plot for the slow kids. I am always a factor that adds complexity: you cannot reduce me to just a complication for the sake of your comfort, your politics, your libido, your faith…. My existence is proof that there are colors aplenty, so why should I content myself with your arbitrary selection of greys?
Thus, once again, annually, as I’ll probably have to continue doing for too long and possibly ever, I’m reminding you: bisexuals exist, and bisexuality is real, it isn’t a phase or confusion or even simple gluttony. It’s the simple acknowledgment that life, love, sex, are complex—and beautifully riotous.
Thank you for explaining this. I think it’s important to say and important to hear. And as we all know, “You can’t put Alberto in your boxes! Except for maybe a really big refrigerator box.” xoxoxo
Thanks, Albie, for articulating this so well.