Dear Joanna: "Can I really be bi if I strongly prefer men?"

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“Can you have a strong preference for one gender or am I just a straight girl who’s a bit confused?”

Dear Joanna,I recently came out to my mum as bisexual. I have always had feelings for both men and women but have yet to actually act on any of them. I have always felt incredibly sure that I am bisexual, that is until I came out. After I told my mum I started to get really confused and now I am starting to wonder if it really is “just a phase”. My mum has been incredibly supportive but I am afraid to tell her about these feelings because well, I don’t think she’d understand. I do still feel attracted to women but I am mainly drawn to men. Is this normal? Can you have a preference or am I just a straight girl who’s a bit confused?

Claire.

Dear Claire,

Congratulations on finding the courage to come out to your mum. It’s fantastic to hear how supportive she’s being.

I understand your concerns about sharing your confusion. One of the problems with putting labels on ourselves – or having society do it for us – is that they leave little room for change. Many people think of “coming out” as announcing you aren’t heterosexual, and, thus, that fear and conflict surround only this, but it can also mean identifying as bisexual after however many months or years of calling yourself a lesbian, or vice versa. One person can go through more than one “coming out” in their lifetime, and smooth sailing the first time doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing the second. Unfortunately, families and social groups who accept a person as one thing can have difficulty accepting them as another. I’ve read (for example) about groups of self-identified lesbians turning their backs on friends who identified as one of them before falling for a male. I’ve personally experienced hostility from members of a heterosexual group who always accepted me as a woman who loves other women, but couldn’t understand my relationship with a transman. Once a label is given to us, people expect us to stick to it for life – often forgetting what they initially acknowledged: that our feelings are not our choice. So yes, expressing doubts about our identity can be daunting at any stage in our life, whether it’s our first or third time – I can’t blame you for it.

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“Many people who identify as bisexual have a preference!”

To answer your question, many people who identify as bisexual have a preference. I in no way want to discount those who have an equal love, physically and emotionally, for both sexes – they’re out there! That said, the majority of bisexuals I’ve spoken to over the years have expressed an inclination for one or the other. Some love the physical form of one sex and enjoy fantasies and/or sexual acts involving them, but find they only develop emotional attachments to the other. Others will experience emotional and physical attachments to both sexes, but find the attachments occur more frequently (and/or strongly) for one of them.

It may be that you fall into one of these categories, but there is a chance your sexuality has changed – it happens. For some, sexuality remains the same over a life-time; for others it changes once; and for others still it’s more fluid, changing two or more times. (It doesn’t have to equate to being “confused” – think of our taste buds and how we can like or dislike a flavour for so long, and then one day, inexplicably, we find we now hate or enjoy it. We wouldn’t say our taste buds are confused; just that they’ve changed!) It’s one reason so many people dislike labelling themselves – they don’t want to have to deal with the reactions of their social circles if a change happens. Not doing so also helps people to accept themselves: often, once they realise their sexuality is more fluid than most but that they aren’t alone in this, they stop worrying about the “why?” and “how?” of it. Unfortunately we still live in a culture where labels are expected, meaning they’re difficult to avoid entirely.

I hope I’ve helped set your mind at ease a little. If I can jump back to what I said earlier: In spite of possible consequences, confusion and change are often easier to go through when we have support. We’ll never know how someone’s going to react until they do. The group I mentioned were the people in my life I expected to be the most supportive, and as disappointed as I was by their reactions, I was more shocked – pleasantly so – by how well my family and casual friends responded. For me, being honest about my feelings and answering any questions people had eventually helped the less supportive to understand, or at least accept, my relationship. If you do talk to your mum again, perhaps you could explain to her what I’e mentioned here – that being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean an equal pull towards both sexes and that, although you are attracted to females, you’re mainly drawn to men, so (you could joke) for her not to expect you to bring home dozens of girls in the near future! Otherwise, think about it for however long you need, and if you decide you’re a straight woman who just appreciates the female form, that’s fine. There should be no expectation on you to date both women and men just because you used the word “bisexual” – if you keep quiet and your mum brings it up in the future, simply be honest and tell her you haven’t felt anything for a female lately.

I hope it becomes clearer for you soon. All the best,

Joanna

 

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9 Responses to Dear Joanna: "Can I really be bi if I strongly prefer men?"

  • Psyche says:

    Claire may draw some inspiration from this definition of bisexuality, from activist Robin Ochs (I know I did):
    “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

  • mm
    Charlotte Dingle says:

    ^ Great quote. 🙂

  • Joanna says:

    It really is. Thanks, Psyche. There are so many labels and definitions (and feelings!) out there; it’s easy to understand how people get confused. The best thing we can do is to accept ourselves how we are at the current time and not worry too much about what we have been in the past (according to social definitions) or will be in the future. Live and love for the now.

  • The real question, which I try to answer in my blog What Is Love, is not whether you like boys or girls or both, or both equally, it is how you love, how far you are able to commit. http://chloethurlow.com/2014/02/love/

  • Den Un says:

    My issue is the being only attracted to women for their sexual utility but reserving affection for men. I personally don’t entertain the sexual desires of women who only see me (and other women) as potential sexual conquests or for their sexual pleasure. I’m a person, not an extra parts.

  • Claire says:

    Thank you so much for the response, it has really helped and made everything a lot clearer. I really appreciate the words of wisdom and support, I have recently spoken to my mum again and she is prepared to support me however I feel. She also confided in me, telling me that personally she “doesn’t believe in labels,” she also explained to me the idea about sexuality being on a spectrum as opposed to being a rigid concept. Thank you Joanna for giving me the self-assurance to embrace my sexuality.

  • Joanna says:

    I’m so glad to hear that, Claire. Thank you for updating us. It sounds like your Mum is quite a clued-up, cool lady, and her support of you is just brilliant. Awesome!

  • Joanna says:

    Den Un – thanks for your input. Personally I don’t believe that being attracted to women physically and to men emotionally has to equate to seeing women as sexual conquests or objects. There will always be people out there, of any gender and orientation, who view men or/and women that way; it doesn’t mean that every bisexual with the aforementioned inclinations feels or behaves in the same manner. Just as no one chooses their sexuality, bisexuals don’t choose their preferences. Those who feel affection for men but only physical attraction to women don’t mean to, and it doesn’t mean they don’t explain their feelings to female partners in advance. Some of them may well find female lovers who feel the same way. 😉 That said, I understand (and share) your disgust at people who do view others as conquests. I prefer to believe they’re few and far between. 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    People don’t chose their sexualitirs I too am a bisexual woman who prefers men and that is perfectly valid.It’s awesome you had the courage to come out and that you have your mom’s support

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