"Can’t you just CHOOSE?": Being bi with a preference

8198164150_b3f8b496db_bI’m bisexual. Genuinely, dyed-in-the-wool bisexual. I shit pink, purple and blue, I pray nightly to the spirit of Saint Brenda Howard Mother of Pride and I know all the words to everything Ani DiFranco ever even thought about writing. I’ve spent most of my eight-year journalism career working in lesbian and bi media or writing about lesbian and bi issues in mainstream media and I recently founded Biscuit, the UK’s only site aimed specifically at bisexual women. Like all bisexuals, I am a 50/50 split between liking men/male-identifying people and liking women/female-identifying people.

Oh no, wait.

Actually, I’ve mostly dated men in the past. Quiet at the back! Contrary to popular belief, this does not in any way dilute my bisexuality. As you can see from my professional track record, my relationships with and attractions to women have probably not been just a tequila-fuelled giggle or a chance to impress my boyfriend. They’re an integral part of my identity and history – from tingling first kisses to horrific homophobic abuse. Yet I am constantly accused of not being “really bi” or being an “ex-lesbian”. My longest-term relationship was with a woman. I’ve had wild times, passionate times, painful times with women. It’s impossibly hurtful for people to erase those parts of my life, to dismiss them just because I generally happen to feel a preference for men. There are those, however, who have gone as far as questioning my authority to write on lesbian and bi women’s issues because I have been open about this preference.

The thing is, the maths here is pretty simple. I’m sure we did some similar equation involving apples in kindergarten. Frequency and depth of attraction are not mutually exclusive. I might have been attracted to 10 women and 15 men in a year, but it doesn’t mean what I felt for the women was any less intense. I just happen to have that “ping!” moment more often when there’s a man involved. The idea seems to persist that this somehow automatically makes me some sort of tourist out to dip my toes in the water but too scared to swim. Not true.

This is not to say that some women aren’t that tourist. There are lots of women who are that tourist. We all know the type and like you I fucking hate them. “Oh, wow, you’re so pretty! I like your blouse! I’ve had so much wine! I’ve never kissed a woman before! I just LOVED The L Word, didn’t you? Can I kiss you? Can he watch? OMG!” Either that, or worse – the ones who string you alonnnnnnnnnng. Then go back to their boyfriends. They’ve caused me endless heartache in the past and they should definitely feel ashamed of using any of us as experiments. Not only this, but they give women like me who are trying to be honest about their identities a bad name. I honestly couldn’t hold them in any less regard, believe me. If people want to explore, fine, go ahead. But it’s cruel to get someone’s hopes up just so you can get your jollies. Right. We’re all agreed on that one, then?

Just to confuse all the idiots, I’m currently very happy with a bisexual, genderqueer, cis-male fiance/e. They’re not the first person identifying as such who I’ve dated, but usually – usually – I would go for a more masculine, male-identifying cis-man. However, it just so happens that this is the person for me. It might not have seemed statistically likely, but statistics are… well, statistics.My partner is absolutely beautiful inside and out and I wouldn’t swap them for the world. I definitely hear the “ex-lesbian” accusation far less often when we’re together – I get the equally irritating “best of both worlds”. They’re not a double ice-cream cone (although they often dress like one), they’re a person. FFS.

I poured my friend Kate an extremely stiff drink and asked her what it was like at the other end of the spectrum, as a bi woman with a definite preference for women. “Urgh!” she sighed. “I talk about my ex-boyfriend and people assume it was just something I did before I came out. They don’t understand when I try and explain. ‘But Kate, I’ve known you years and only ever seen you with women,’ they say. There’s this sense I shouldn’t even bother identifying as bi because there’s no need.” This kind of request for identity erasure isn’t for the benefit of concerned friends who want to make her life easier. It’s for their benefit. It makes them feel safer, stops them being forced to try and wrap their heads around concepts they can’t understand. Or worse, consider how perhaps Kate’s situation might in some way resonate with them in a way they’re too frightened to admit.

I wondered if I should go as far as asking my ginger admirer friend if she’d ever really loved that blond guy who broke her heart, or if my mum had forgotten her old dog who died now she has three cats. Did she think her friend who’d dated a ginger boy and then a blond boy maybe had more of a case? And the lady next door with a dog and a cat? What about that?

I’ll be a little controversial here. Truth is, I reckon most bisexuals probably have at least some level of preference, even if it’s barely discernible. Just as plenty of gay people have a sliver of straight and plenty of straight people have a spot of gay. Problem is, the dialogue around it is sorely lacking, meaning that stigmas and stereotypes continue to breed and more and more people are frightened to be truly honest about who they are for fear of being branded something they’re not. Do you really know who you’re next going to fall in love with?

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Charlotte Dingle

Charlotte 'Lottie' Dingle is Biscuit's founding editor. When she's not running freelancing for a diverse bunch of clients ranging from Cosmo to Occupy, she enjoys teaching life drawing, discussing life/the universe/everything with her beloved (but smelly) 22-year-old cat, writing flash fiction for her MA course, getting pretentious tattoos, listening to folk music, creating surrealist art, trying to change the world and drinking red wine. Oh, and My Little Pony. Don't forget My Little Pony. Her favourite biscuits are cream crackers (do they count as biscuits?).

5 Responses to "Can’t you just CHOOSE?": Being bi with a preference

  • This really hits home..

  • Tzivya says:

    Very apt post. I have a similar problem sometimes, I identify as bi, mostly, but gravitate much more to women. Enough so that, really, I’ve only ever had maybe 2 relationships with a male. I’m trans, so to most people I was straight and am now lesbian, and I say I am often, but mostly because it is easier than explaining ‘I’m bi, but it’s a rare click and the timing hadn’t been right’. Being 18 years and 2 kids married hasn’t helped! Even though I’m not monogamous, it makes it even more confusing to people.

  • across the pond says:

    To pre-empt the nitpickery from my fellow Americans: Maths is the U.K. spekking. Math is the U.S. spelling. Both are correct. Now back to your regularly scheduled reading.

  • Robyn Ochs says:

    Thanks for this article. I have identified as bisexual for 39 years (so far) and I’m the editor of the Bi Women Quarterly (free, at biwomenboston.org), and co-editor of two anthologies: GETTING BI: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and RECOGNIZE: The Voices of Bisexual Men.

    Over the course of my life I’ve experienced a variety of relationships and crushes with/on people of various genders. I’m one of those who is pretty well settled in the middle of the sexuality continuum, though you wouldn’t know that from my relationship behavior: I’ve been with my wife for 18 years (so far).

    We need to be clear that we can’t know all that much about anyone just by looking. Everyone has internal thoughts and desires. And everyone has a back story. In order to really know each other, we need to take the time to share our stories: to speak up and tell our own, and to listen to others.

    So thank you for telling yours.

  • Raymond Paquette says:

    To the question of “can’t you just choose,” I think the best response is “yes, but why would I?”

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