Do I Want Them or Do I Want To Be Them? A Bi Conundrum

The common belief about those of us who are bisexual is that we’re confused. People think that that the bi+ identity isn’t truly valid because really, we just need to pick a side. This is merely a way for us to safely explore our sexuality before settling on being straight or gay. It’s a pervasive thought not only in the straight community, but in the queer community as well.

And while this is emphatically not true (even if some folks do make a pit stop on their way to the label they feel most comfortable with), I will admit that some of us are confused. But not in the way you might think.

Sometimes when it comes to attraction, it can be difficult to discern why we’re attracted to someone. Is it because we want them? Or because we want to be them?

I’ll give you an example.

Kirsten Vangsness is one of my long-time crushes. She’s beautiful, she has a fab style, she’s funny, she’s talented, and she’s the sweetest thing this side of peach pie. How could I not make total heart eyes in her direction? I’m full on chin in hand, wistful sighing over here. She’s a dream.

But there have been times that I’ve questioned this pointless crush. As I said, Kirsten has fab style. It’s fun and funky and sassy and whimsical. And I’ll be honest, I wish I could rock it like she does. Not to mention, she’s wicked talented with her acting and her writing. I’m a little jealous, really.

So, I have periodically asked myself, “Am I really crushing on Kirsten Vangsness? Or do I just wish I was her?”

These are the kinds of questions I find myself asking as a bi+ woman:

“Do I really think she has a great butt? Or do I wish I had a butt like that?”

“Do I really want to touch her boobs? Or do I wish my boobs were that touchable?”

“Do I really think she’s hot? Or do I just want that outfit?”

“Am I really that into her? Or is this just a Single White Female situation in the making?”

And because I’m me, this sort of questioning doesn’t even apply solely to other women I find attractive. I’ll have this sort of crisis with guys I find attractive, too.

“Do I think he’s cute? Or do I just want that necklace?”

“Do I want to bang him? Or do I just want that shirt?”

“Do I think he’s funny? Or do I just want to steal his jokes?”

“Do I really think he’s perfect? Or do I just wish I were that cool?”

These are the sorts of questions I end up asking myself. It’s a constant process to suss out the true source of my attraction. And I’m willing to admit that sometimes the answer to all of the questions is yes.

Sometimes I do want to be with them AND be them.

Which is a different kind of conundrum.

But, baby, I’m still bi.

Your Career Queer Auntie’s Guide to Life

“I don’t know what I’d do if my kid came out as gay/lesbian/queer/non-binary/trans.”

Good news! As your Career Queer Auntie, I’m here to help! I have decades of experience as both an auntie and a bi+ woman. I’m the person you come to when you have questions about life, and somehow gender and sexuality have become a specialty. If I don’t know the answer, I can find it for you.

So let me help you out when it comes to dealing with a queer kid.

My main job as an auntie is to guide my niblings through life. I accept them for who they are and show them how to navigate the world as themselves. My job is to learn them up, not change them or judge them. Which means I answer their questions honestly. Age appropriately, of course, but honestly.

Because I can do that as an auntie. I have that privilege. Because I don’t have the hang-ups that parents have. I don’t have to worry about what the neighbors think or how I’m paying for college or making them clean their rooms or whether or not they can eat ice cream for breakfast or whether or not they’ll live up to the ideals and expectations I have for them. I’m free of all of that.

It’s that last part that gives me a unique perspective. Because these young things are not genetic off-shoots of myself, I have no skin in the society achievement game. I don’t have to worry about any missed milestones. I can focus on the kids’ happiness. That’s my main concern. Their happiness and their safety.

So here’s how to love your hypothetical queer kids like a Career Queer Auntie.

1- Respect the journey. Because it is a journey. Not everyone is blessed with an automatic knowing of who they are. And the coming out isn’t necessarily the end of their journey. For some it’s the public start. What feels right -or close- then might change later as the kid matures, grows, acquires experiences.

One common misconception about bisexuals is that we haven’t chosen a team yet. This is based in some reality because many people initially come out as bisexual only to later identify as gay or lesbian. Part of that is because the insistence of the heterosexual norm which leads people to cling to the idea that they’re attracted to the opposite sex when they’re not.

But this sort of thing also happens with the enforcement of a gender binary and the idea that sex is solely biological. That sets people up for a trip to find out identifiers that work for them.

Be prepared to go on that journey with them.

2- Use their pronouns. It is amazing how many people have such difficulty with this when it’s really the easiest thing in the world to do. It feels like an affront to have a child tell an adult who they are and request they be addressed as such. Especially if you’re the adult responsible for their existence. It feels like a violation of the power dynamic.

Well, get over yourself.

Showing a kid respect costs you nothing and is worth everything to them. A sincere effort to use their pronouns, to correct yourself without complaint, and to correct others can mean the difference to a kid struggling to establish their identity.

3- Call them by the names they want to be called by. Second verse, same as the first. It’s another easy thing that adults can do, but absolutely resist. Especially if you’re the adult that gave the kid their name in the first place. But if a name is tied to an identity, it makes sense for a person to pick their own. Even the allo cis hets are entitled to that.

4- Understand that it’s not one-size fits all. Not every trans person feels the need to have transitions surgery. Not every non-binary person is androgynous or uses they/them pronouns. Not every gay guy is effeminate. Not every lesbian is butch. Not every asexual is sex averse. Not every bisexual is 50/50 in their attraction. And so on. And so on. Just like there are all kinds of allo cis het people, there are all kinds of queer people. Don’t expect the kid -any kid- to fit in a box. Those labels are for them to express and identify themselves. Not for you to find another way to dictate their existence.

5- Educate yourself. You could say that a lot of my own education was acquired during my own journey as a bi+ woman, but I didn’t stop there with my education. To be the most supportive auntie I can be, I have to keep myself in the loop.

Do not put the burden of your ignorance on the kid. They can inform you about their experience, but that broader knowledge base that you’re looking for to help better your understanding needs to be acquired on your own. There are plenty of reliable online resources that can help.

6- Your understanding is not a condition of acceptance. You don’t have to completely understand the specifics of a kid’s identity to accept it. My go-to example for this is furries. I do not get it, cannot process it. But guess what? So long as everybody is consenting and happy, I’m cool with it. I will honor your fursona. Because it’s not about me.

You don’t have to understand non-binary to accept a non-binary kid and use their pronouns and name. Because it’s not about you.

And that’s really the core to loving your kids like a Career Queer Auntie. Understanding that it’s not about you.

Now take all of these guidelines to loving your hypothetical queer kid and apply them to your real queer kid. Then apply them to all queer kids. States are passing laws like “Don’t Say Gay” and barring healthcare for trans kids under the guise of protecting the children, but really it’s because it makes these grown ass bigots feel uncomfortable. These laws will not make kids straight or cis.

It will make them dead.

And that’s the point.

Your ultimate job -as a parent, as an uncle/auntie/untie/auncle, as an adult, as a human being- is to make those kids -all kids- feel safe.

Because the world won’t.

The Dating Game: How Do I Play Again?

I’ve been single for quite a long time now and even though it does have its advantages, I’m kind of getting bored with it. I’ve actually been thinking for awhile that maybe I should try dating again. What with all of the dating apps, it seems like there might be more opportunities to meet someone.

There’s just one thing.

How the hell do I do this dating thing again? ‘Cause I don’t think I ever knew.

I’ll be honest. My dating life wasn’t exactly active as an awkward, introverted, mentally ill woman back in the long, long ago of my twenties when I was younger, thinner, and had my whole life ahead of me. Now that I’m twenty years older, fatter, with even less life ahead of me, but still awkward, introverted, and mentally ill (though the mental illness is better understood and controlled), I’m sure my odds of having any success are about the same as me winning the Powerball, and I don’t play.

But what the hell? It’s not like I have anything better to do. And yes, trying to do this during a never-ending pandemic might not be the wisest move, but I’ve never really been known for my stellar decision making skills.

I’ve been researching dating apps. I did online dating back in my twenties when the internet and I were young. It was…an experience. I didn’t actually go out with anyone I met on those old dating sites, though I did interact with several men who would have been happier on Tinder and/or Pornhub and at least one with a very specific fetish. Having heard stories from other women’s experiences with dating apps, things haven’t changed that much. I’m at least hopeful that I’ll get some interesting creepers and new fetishes.

I’m also thinking that dating apps might be the best way for me to meet women. I am, after all, bisexual and there’s no reason I should only be horrified by the behavior of cis men. And I’ve had even less experience dating women than I have dating men. I am attracted to women. I should really explore that aspect of my sexuality more, and I’d really like to. And it’ll give me a better shot at meeting someone. God knows I need all the help I can get.

Because I’m not exactly a catch.

I’m a failed adult. I have done nothing with my life and I can’t say that I’ll ever be anything close to functioning like a real grown-up.

But I’ll pay my own way. I’ll show up. I’ll be supportive and caring (in my own broken way). I’m can be fun and funny and sometimes I give good advice. Just don’t expect me to make anything of myself. I’m someone that I think the right person could have a decent, solid, enjoyable relationship with, but you probably don’t want me to co-sign a mortgage.

I concede that’s not what a lot of people -women, men, non-binary- are looking for because they’re already grown. They have kids and careers and things. Throw in that I’m fat and over 40 and you might suggest that I just resign myself to being a cat lady. Well, the joke’s on you because we have five cats in the house and none of them like me. So I might as well give dating another shot.

I realize that it’s late in my life (probably too late) to be doing this and honestly, I’m not expecting much. After all I can’t expect to win a game when I barely know the rules.

But on the other hand, I can’t get better at the game if I don’t play. And even if I don’t win, I might have some fun.

Now to just put all of that into a dating profile and make it sound like something worth swiping right on.

A Coming Out Story

Since it’s National Coming Out Day, I thought you’d might like to hear the one coming out story I have that’s worth telling. Because really, as a bisexual, I feel like I’m repeatedly coming out and reminding and correcting.

When I did first vocalize my sexuality to my parents at 17, there was no drama. They were…not exactly accepting, but more like apathetic? We didn’t really talk about it much (and I kind of think that they didn’t really take me seriously/pay much attention). At the time my dad was the more conservative of the two of them. Not really a bigot -he didn’t outwardly hate non-straight people- but he was completely against same sex marriage for quite a while. It took many conversations and me pointing out that he didn’t care who I loved, but I could only marry a guy and how the hell was that fair before it finally sunk in and he changed his mind. My mother meanwhile had been raised with a gay aunt, so not being straight wasn’t exactly the biggest deal to her. But that didn’t mean she completely grasped the concept of bisexuality at first, and I think both of my parents felt that it was a phase, a common phenomenon among unicorns.

Anyway.

Once upon a time in the long long ago of my youth, back when it could be argued that I was a person worth dating, I dated a woman for a little while. We split up amicably and about a year later I started dating a guy.

Naturally, I informed my mother in the change in my relationship status.

When I told her, she got this odd, perplexed look on her face, and she said, “I thought you dated girls.”

I said, “I do. I’m bisexual. I date women and I date men.”

Her look went from perplexed to annoyed and she huffed a sigh.

“Well, I told your grandmother you were a lesbian. Now I’ll have to tell her you’re not.”

And that’s the only coming out story I have worth telling and even it is more of a correcting my sexuality story because my mother went by who I was dating as the determiner of my sexuality instead of, you know, what I’d told her. How bisexual! It was funny then and it’s funny now.

I realize that I’m fortunate that it is funny. I recognize the privilege that comes with being able to come out in a somewhat safe environment, to know that my sexuality wasn’t going to have a big impact on how my immediate family viewed and treated me. I’m very mindful, particularly today, of how not everyone has that luxury.

So, this is why it’s very important to remember the rules:

-We do not out people. Ever. For any reason. Coming out is a personal decision. Not everyone is safe to do so and not everyone wants to do so. We honor and respect those choices.

-Everyone has a different coming out. Some experiences are traumatic, some are supportive, and some are like mine…somewhere in between. But they are all valid. Respect that. One kind of coming out experience does not make you any more queer than another.

That being said…

-Straight people don’t get to come out. Perhaps if your sexuality weren’t enforced as the norm, you’d get to come out, too. Or no one would need to come out because everyone’s sexuality would be seen as normal. Coming out is rooted in oppression, in making a bold statement against that bullshit, structurally enforced norm. So, straight people, you don’t get to come out. Not when you’re considered the default.

October is also LGBTQ+ history month. Now would be a great time to look into the events that they don’t teach you about in school, mostly because no curriculum makes it past World War II. There’s more to the Gay Rights Movement than just Stonewall.

A little extra credit never hurt anybody.

I Regret to Inform You That I Have Become More Visible

Bi visibility Day is September 23rd, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to inform you all that I’ve become more unapologetically and visibly queer in the past few years. Am I to the point of being in your face and cramming it down your throat yet? No. But I’m working on it.

One thing about my sexuality is that even though I’ve always been very secure in myself, I haven’t always been secure in my place in the queer community. I’ve talked about that before. Being bi has been a very passive thing for me. However, in the past few years, I’ve sort of stepped into being bi as a verb. Claiming that label a little more loudly. Including myself in the conversation about queer people, saying “we” instead of “them” because I’ve felt more comfortable claiming my space in the queer community.

Kids, I even got myself a flag.

I’ve actually had it for a while, but this year, for Pride, I hung it up in my room. I decided it was time.

I always thought of myself as never having really been in the closet, but I’m not so sure that was the case. Maybe the door to my closet was always open. Maybe I just snuck out instead of busted down the door. I know I’ve been very quiet about my sexuality as to not make too many waves with family and friends.

But the older I get, the less fucks I have to give, and my hearing is getting worse, so as a consequence I’m getting louder. Bolder. Harder to ignore. I’m working my way up to ugly Aloha shirt loud.

Even more interesting is that the more I connect with the online queer community, which exposes me to all sorts of new takes on sexuality and gender, the more comfortable I get with my own sexuality and gender and the less I need to hold fast to any strict definitions of the labels. Yes, the labels are important to me, but they’re also malleable.

For example, I’ve always maintained that I’m sexually and romantically attracted to men and women (which includes trans men and trans women), but had yet to be attracted to anyone who identified as agender or gender fluid or non-binary. I didn’t rule it out. It just hadn’t happened to me up.

Well, guess what? It finally happened! I found myself crushing on someone who identified as non-binary. It was a quick thing, but still. Groovy. Maybe that will be the only they/them it ever happens with, but the point is that it happened and it counts and that means it could happen again and that’s fab.

But it also gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my sexuality. Did this mean I was still bi? Or would pansexual be a better fit for me? I might have only thought about it for five minutes, but it was still a valid question. In the end, I decided that bi was the label for me. It’s the one I’m most comfortable with. I just adjusted the label to better fit myself.

I now say that I’m sexually attracted to myself and others.

I think that covers it.

Can You See Me Now?

This week, September 17th to the 24th is BiWeek. The idea is to raise awareness and visibility for the bisexual+ community.

I am bisexual. If you’re not sure what that it is, very simply it is someone attracted to two or more genders. I came to realize at a very young age that I liked both men and women*, and I’ve been out as a bisexual since I was 17. In fact, I often say that I was never really in the closet because I never hid my sexuality. I never thought it was a big deal.

However, now that I’m older, now that I’ve been around a bit, as they say, I realize that maybe I never had to hide my sexuality because nobody saw it. Nobody saw me.

Hell, I didn’t even see me.

There’s that joke that bisexuals are unicorns because no one believes we exist. And that sticks us in a weird sort of purgatory. We’re not straight. We’re not gay. And there’s this outdated idea that you have to be one or the other. Pick a side, pick a team. This is why we straight up disappear in relationships. Our sexuality is immediately invalidated the second we make a commitment to a partner. Now we’ve decided.

Years ago, when I was in my early twenties, some new friends of mine were talking about another one of our friends. She’d apparently dated a woman for a while, was single for a bit, and then got interested in and began dating a man. My friends said that she finally “figured it out”, that she’d been “confused”. Well, maybe she had been. But the idea of her being bisexual never entered the conversation and I felt like I didn’t know her well enough to introduce the possibility.

They probably would have just written me off as “confused”, too.

For years, I’ve been championing queer causes. I’ve been supportive of equal rights and marriage equality and civil liberties and all of that. But never once did I feel like I was working for my own cause. I had somewhere along the line bought into the myth that I wasn’t nearly as oppressed or discriminated against because I could “pass”. I wasn’t queer enough for that unless I was dating a woman.

I’ve been out for twenty years but only recently began to accept that even though I can pass, I’m still queer. That the validity of my sexuality doesn’t rest on the perception of others. That there is no unicorn fairy that will come and sprinkle rainbow dust on me and POOF! My sexual orientation will be valid. It already IS valid. Just by virtue of my existence.

Only recently did I finally start seeing me.

I am bisexual. I am queer. I am queer enough. My letter is right there in the damn rainbow alphabet. My sexual orientation operates independently of who I am in a relationship with. I am attracted to men and women whether single or partnered. That’s how it is, my friends.

So.

Can you see me now?

 

*For clarification purposes, yes, I like men and women. No, that doesn’t make me transphobic. As far as I’m concerned, trans men are men and trans women are women, end of. As for people who are non-binary or gender fluid or people who are intersex, I honestly don’t know. I’ve never been sexually or romantically attracted to anyone non-binary, gender fluid, or intersex before, but I’m certainly not dismissing the possibility.

A Quick Thought on Love Winning

rainbowflagLast Friday marriage equality was declared law of the land and I am down with that. Not because I’m the marrying kind (thought if I do decide that I am the marrying kind and the kind I want to marry is a woman, then yes, I have a vested interest in this outcome in the future), but because I know that there are other people that are the marrying kind and I think they should have that civil right. I am all for it.

The reason I think I am so all for it and probably would be all for it even if I wasn’t a bisexual gal is because of my great-aunt and my childhood.

I have a great-aunt who is a lesbian and throughout my childhood she and her then-girlfriend were often present at family functions. These were happy occasions usually, filled with food and laughter and hugs. Wonderful, warm occurrences in my existence. Now, the children were never expressly told that my great-aunt was a lesbian (I was in my teens before I did that math and then got confirmation from my mother), but in my kid-brain I put her and her girlfriend together. They were always at the family functions together so in my head they were one entity, a team, a partnership. And I remember a lot of my cousins referring to them likewise.

The big thing about these family functions, though, was that even though it was not expressly stated to the children that my great-aunt was a lesbian, none of the adults treated her as anything but a beloved family member. She was never treated as an other or a less-than. She was never treated, at least in my memory, as a deviant or a disappointment. She was loved and respected and cherished and so was her girlfriend.

So to see people so dedicated to treating people like my great-aunt as other or less-than, to deny them a government contract that grants them a certain set of rights that are only granted to couples that enter into that contract, to see people that I share DNA with, my own blood, HER own blood, putting their religion and their adherence to a cherry-picked handbook above someone that they are told by that same handbook to love, is just fucking baffling to me. I don’t get it and I decided on Friday, once and for all, that I’m not going to get it and I don’t want to get it. I’m sorry you feel that way and I feel sorry for you because you feel that way. I’m sorry you choose self-righteousness and a promise of an afterlife by some super judgmental god over loving and protecting and relating to people in the here and now. But if that makes you happy (and considering how many folks are frothing at the mouth right now, it doesn’t seem to make them THAT  happy), then you do you.

But my great-aunt is not an other. She is not a less-than. I am not a less-than. That guy you don’t know marrying his partner of fifty years is not a less-than.

The way you cut your own humanity off like it’s some sort of defect, though, that’s pretty less-than.

Love wins.

Bi Bi, Baby, Bi Bi

Overlapping pink and blue triangles, symbol of...

I’m bisexual.

I’ll allow you all a minute to process what that means to you before I get into what it ACTUALLY means.

Being bisexual means that I am sexually and romantically attracted to men and women. I was once challenged in high school that I couldn’t be bisexual because I’d never slept with a woman. If that were how it works, then I couldn’t have been a heterosexual at the time because I’d never had sex with a man at that point either. But that’s not how it works.

Being bisexual brings up some interesting stereotypes.

One is that I don’t exist. People who claim to be bisexual are just confused. In a society so obsessed with labels and the concept of either/or, all or nothing, bisexuality is a mind-boggle. I have to be attracted to either men or women. I can’t be attracted to both. And in this world, adherence to convention would be preferred. But if I were a lesbian that would be okay because at least then I would make a COMMITMENT to a choice. For some reason the idea that I could be attracted to both sexes is considered impossible.

Speaking of commitment, therein lies another stereotype. That because I’m bisexual (if you believe in that sort of thing), I can’t be in a committed relationship. I am somehow unsatisfied if I were to pick one partner because I’d always be yearning for the opposite. The problem with this idea is that it has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with monogamy. I know some perfectly straight people and some perfectly gay people who couldn’t be in a committed relationship if you tied them to someone. I’ve personally gotten to the age and experience that commitment to ONE person is my ideal.

You may be wondering why I’ve never brought up my sexuality before. I’ve talked about my dealings with men before, but not women.

Well, first of all, it’s none of your damn business and I’ll mete out information about myself as I see fit. Second of all, my dealings with women have been fewer, but no less confusing, awkward, and difficult than my go-rounds with men. While I’m more trusting of a woman flirting with me than I am a man (in other words, if I realize they’re hitting on me, I don’t automatically chalk it up to them looking for an easy score, they’re joking, or it’s because I’m the only single girl in the room), I’m as clueless as a man when dealing with them in relationships. I’ve also been witness to a few sour women break-ups. That alone has been enough to make me tread extra carefully.

Lastly, I’m not exactly in the closet, but I’m not sure everyone knows. In fact, when I did let my parents in on the fact that I was bisexual, they were actually both shocked that I wasn’t a lesbian. So there ya go. But still, there are certain friends and family members that might not be too thrilled with my sexuality.

Which raises another fun point.

If I date a man, I’m okay. If I date a woman, I’m a lesser human being. Isn’t that strange? Nothing else about me changes. Not my personality, not my weight, not my eye color, not my job. Just my relationship. And that one little thing determines if I can go about life peacefully or if I get people coming up to me in the mall to tell me I’m an abomination (it’s happened!).

Think about that, kids. How would you like the value of your existence, whether or not you’re entitled to the same benefits as everyone else, whether or not your family LOVES you, whether or not your friends will associate with you dependent upon who you’re fucking? Nothing else about you changes. Everything about you is the same. But making that one relationship choice, dating that one person, changes everything about how people feel about your and treat you. Just that one little thing.

Amazingly fucked up, isn’t it? Not very fair, huh?

Welcome to my world.