I first realised that I was bisexual in my early teens, although at the time I had no idea that such a thing existed. I just knew that I fancied girls as well as boys. It was confusing and something that I kept to myself as no-one else seemed to be having the same feelings. As I grew older I became more open about my sexuality and had several girlfriends as well as boyfriends before meeting my husband when I was 21. He’s always known of my sexuality and is perfectly comfortable with it – we even have similar taste in women!
Not everyone is so accepting, however. I’ve never told any older relations about my sexuality after having several devastating arguments as a teen with my loudly homophobic grandfather (although obviously, if I had ended up in a long-term relationship with a woman I wouldn’t have hidden it!). I have friends who, although they’ve known me for many years, believe that my relationships with women were a phase and that because I’m in a long-term relationship with a man I’m now heterosexual. This is wrong – if my husband died or we split up I’d be just as likely to be in a relationship with a woman as with a man – but it isn’t an unusual view, sadly.
Being bisexual, in my experience, means facing criticism from all sides. Many people believe that bisexuals are attention-seekers, or just haven’t made up their minds which sex they’re attracted to. It’s also a common belief that bisexuals are gay but in denial (interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone claim that we’re straight but in denial about it). If you’re a young bisexual female then a lot of people assume you’re faking it to attract men – this seems a touch ridiculous until you consider the fetishisation of lesbianism in men’s magazines. I’ve even heard claims that bisexuals are gay but so afraid of our own sexuality that we spend our lives maintaining fake heterosexual relationships. I hesitate to label the antipathy towards bisexuals biphobia, as I feel it comes under the umbrella of homophobia; there’s no doubt that the antipathy exists though. Read this article, for example, recently published in The Spectator. The author (Cosmo Landesman)’s vitriol against bisexuals seems entirely disproportionate to the point he’s apparently trying to make (that we’re not all bisexual – an argument that I mostly agree with) and makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Even in the last few days Mariella Frostrup, acting as agony aunt in a national newspaper, seemed to refer to a woman’s bisexual boyfriend as being undecided when she wrote “If your boyfriend hasn’t yet decided what sex to go for…”. (I tweeted Ms Frostrup about this – she dismissed me as being over-sensitive).
Basically what I want to say is this. Being bisexual doesn’t mean you’re confused, undecided or gay-but-in-denial. It means you’re attracted to both men and women. It’s as simple as that. Some people are only attracted to one sex; some are attracted to both sexes. Some are only attracted to one or two genders, some are attracted to more. Instead of constantly trying to criticise, belittle or second-guess one another why can’t we just accept everyone’s sexuality as being what they say it is?