#Sexuality

Not Straight Enough, Not Gay Enough: Understanding Bisexuality

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What is bisexuality? Here’s how LGBT and hetrosexual communities don’t tend to seen it as a valid sexual orientation and  why this mindset needs to change.

As a young teenager, I have always found myself being attracted to men and women equally. Since I grew up in a fairly conservative household, I always presented myself as a straight woman. But after leaving my hometown as an adult, I had the freedom to finally explore my attraction towards other women. I ended up growing close to one particular woman who identified as a lesbian. Thanks to her, I finally had friends from the LGBTQ+ community. I finally felt accepted. Imagine my surprise when she told me she thought I wasn’t really bisexual. She believed bisexual people were just gay people who didn’t have the guts to fully come out. This was my first encounter with biphobia.

The above anecdote is from a distant cousin who is a closeted bisexual woman. While we expect intolerance and resentment towards gender and sexual minorities (GSM) from cishet people, we don’t expect the same from within the community. But no community is a monolith and has its own problems. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, biphobia and bi-erasure are big ones. Many within the community believe that bisexuality is not a valid sexual orientation. For them, one can either be heterosexual or gay. Bisexual people are caught in between a crossfire. From cishet people who believe gay is unnatural to gay people who believe bisexuality is impersonation, bi people just cannot get a break. Many a times, bisexual individuals feel like they do not fit in. Wherever they go, they are either not gay enough or straight enough.

Bisexual people are said to have straight passing privileges. They have the option to be with a person of the opposite sex. Why would this be a problem? Because it leads to bi-erasure. Homophobic people, especially friends and family of a bisexual person, see this as an out. Even though the individual is attracted to the same sex, there still exists a chance that they will end up in a heterosexual relationship. In many cases, when a bisexual person comes out of the closet, one of the first things they will hear are statements like “at least you are not fully gay”, “you still have the chance to lead a normal life” or “just pretend your gay side doesn’t exist.” They are basically asking the person to shut down an entire portion of their identity.

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In the context of the gay community, when a bisexual person dates someone of the opposite sex, many see that as disloyalty to the community. It is perceived as the individual taking the easy way out instead of being in a same-sex relationship. The phrase “Pick a lane” is often used in this context. The same line of thinking permeates their dating life as well. When asked if they would be comfortable with dating a bisexual person, you are bound to find a handful of people who say no because of the exact same reason, gay or straight: Bisexual people cannot be trusted. Partners of the opposite sex fear that their spouse/lover is just gay and will go behind their back for a same-sex partner. A same-sex partner anticipates that the person they love will choose the opposite sex out of convenience. Looking at both situations, it is clear that when it comes to bisexual people, their identity is often doubted and not taken seriously.

Bisexuality is not half heterosexuality, and half gay, as most people would have you believe. Bisexuality is complete in itself. The identity of bisexual persons is not fragmented or contradicting – it exists in perfect harmony with human beings all around the world. While your sexuality is not all you are, it is an integral part of you, and it matters as much as all the other facets of your being. Our sense of identity is like a puzzle. One single piece doesn’t make up the entire picture, but without it, the picture will always be incomplete. When a bisexual person is told to “pick a lane”, they are basically asked to shed a part of themselves that makes them who they are. When you deny someone their authentic identity, you deny them as a whole.

Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured as a sexpert in publications such as Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Times Of India, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina and more. She specialises in helping people gain courage to talk openly about sex and relationships and equipping them with actionable tips and skills so they can start having more pleasure both inside and outside their bedroom. The views expressed are the author’s own.