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And just how does her boyfriend, Seb, who often hangs out at East Village gay bars the Hole and the Cock, feel? After initially coming out as gay, he's now ardently bisexual. "I made the decision several years ago that I didn't want to be in a relationship with someone who couldn't handle the fact that I was bisexual," he says. "I've had some bad experiences with dating people who thought it was gross or weird that I could go 'both ways.' " I'm so over the idea of labels; we spend so much time arguing semantics. Who has time to fuck, let alone get to know each other on an individual level rather than relying on stereotypes?
My friend Andy, who I know from queer and performance art circles, is coming out after several incarnations. He started off thinking he was straight, then bi, then gay and "super gay," and now, at 36, is bi once again. The decision hasn't been easy on him or his friends. "My bisexuality has become more a point of conflict than a positive identity," he says. "Many of my gay friends don't believe it exists, nor do women. Bisexuality as a lifestyle is very isolating, so I focus on my gay life. It's unfortunate because as I get older and stay single, every missed connection seems like a missed opportunity. There have been times I've felt that immediate, electric connection with women and said [to myself], 'No, don't pursue it, you're gay,' or they've said the same thing, and I've thought, 'What a shame!' " So many potential sexual experimenters face this dilemma; they think that "being" gay, straight, bi, or queer has to automatically mean so many other things that it may not even be worth the bother of pursuing a powerful attraction.
It's worse for guys than it is for girls; at least we have that mixed blessing of widespread erotic interest in a heightened, tarted-up version of female bisexuality. For men, the demarcations are more highly charged. Says Andy, "People tend to think that men who identify as bi are weak, confused, or cowardly. I think there's a sense that they're deluding themselves or are being disingenuous."
For Seb, the biggest problem, next to bisexuality being misunderstood, is a lack of physical spaces where bisexuality is freely accepted (and not just given lip service). According to him, "There needs to be more of an opportunity for bisexual people to meet and mingle. There is a definite space in this city for gay men and a widening space for lesbians, but as far as bisexual people go, there are too few options. I would like to be able to go out one night and not have to pick beforehand if I want to try and meet a man or a woman. I'd like to not have to walk into a bar or a club and be automatically thought of as straight if I was with my girlfriend. I would like it if she was not labeled that way when she was with me."
Bisexuality, perhaps even more than homosexuality, manifests itself differently for everyone. For some people, it's about merely acknowledging the potential for attraction to either gender. When you consider that there are plenty of people who identify as neither male nor female, both, transgender, or some combination of the above, not to mention those who mix gender cuesgirlymen, butches, androgynous people, cross-dressersthe whole concept of the "bi" in bisexuality becomes less important and harder to pin down.
I understand the desire for labels and easy answers, but people are too complex for simple check boxes. When labels only inhibit us from acting on our true feelings, they become a hindrance. During this Gay Pride month, we need acceptance and self-love even more than pride. I need to believe in my ability to follow my heart more than I need to subscribe to a caricature of LGBT superiority. We need to expand our ideas of sexuality, because what's repulsive to one person may be "erotic" to another. Some people fuck only one person their whole lives, some get fucked by dildos or Barbie dolls, some prefer anonymous sex, some binge on sneaking around.
It's hard to argue for a broader definition of sexuality without people putting words in your mouth, so just to be 100 percent clear: I don't think all people are inherently bi, and I don't have a vested interest in how people identify. Statistics can never relay the twisted, human, giddy, gorgeous, fucked-up sexual spectrum. "Bisexuality" encompasses a lot more than people who openly identify as bi. It might mean drunken makeout sessions, occasional flings, or looking at "forbidden" porn. We need to free ourselves from the idea that certain sexual thoughts are somehow taboo; you can be a married guy and check out a hot guy's ass or a straight girl who's suddenly turned on by Angelina Jolie's lips (hi, Shari). You can think you know what your libido's all about for decades and then suddenly find yourself in the arms (and bed) of someone you'd never have expected.
I want enough openness that I can embrace both my "dirty" and "bisexual" sides without being labeled slutty, confused, traitorous, "really straight," or any other epithet. I don't want to be proud of my bisexuality or queerness so much as have it be a non-issue whether I'm in bed with a guy, a girl, or both at once. I think Seb said it best: "People think that all bisexuals are easy and obsessed with sex. I mean, just because I'm easy and obsessed with sex doesn't have anything to do with me being bisexual! No, seriously, people really do think that bisexuals will fuck anything that moves. It's just not true, and it's so passé to think that way in 2005."
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