"In-between spaces": Bisexuality & gender fluidity

"Much like cats, people like boxes... in which they can place their assumptions about other people's gender and sexuality"

“Much like cats, people like boxes…”

Much like cats, people like boxes. We like having a mental checklist where we can place all our assumptions about something into a neat little package. Sometimes, all our assumptions can fit into a word or two, a short hand to make communication easier. This love of boxes has moved out from just words and has made its merry way into all sorts of things. Questions like: are you a dog person or a cat person? As I have learned both and neither are not acceptable answers to this. The use of “or” means those are the only options. If you say both, you have to pick one, if you say neither then you’re not being wholly truthful, and either way you’re being difficult.

If this is the case I am an exceedingly difficult person.

Very little about my identity fits into a box. My gender, and my sexuality (among other things) are in between one box or another. Despite my reputation as a contrarian, it’s not a matter of choice; it’s just how it happened. I’m bisexual, and I’m gender fluid. These in-between spaces are still something of a taboo, something you make up to be difficult. At the very least it’s a sticking point.

Most people laugh off my identity because things they see allow them to put me in a box. I can’t really be bisexual because my partner is male. I can’t really be gender fluid because I don’t bind my breasts very often. For a while I accepted this notion of things. I never told anyone I was bisexual because I had never had never done more than kissed a woman. I was terrified of being told that I wasn’t actually bisexual because I had have met the minimum requirement. I have no idea what this minimum requirement is, but I had heard people speak in scathing tones about women who merely thought other women were pretty and called themselves ”bisexual’’.

This idea that the community is rife with ”false” bisexuals, particularly female bisexuals, who are running around willy-nilly seducing people for attention or for a self-esteem boost is absurd. It also creates a big hurdle to entering the community. Despite my conviction that bisexual is exactly what I am, I have yet to find the confidence to tell anyone but my closest friends. Going to a LGBT meeting is out of the question. If it was demanded of me, I could not ”prove” my bisexuality any more than I could ”prove” that I really do like green just as much as I like blue.

"When it comes to 'inbetween' spaces, people often assume there's nothing there"

“When it comes to ‘in-between’ spaces, people often assume there’s nothing there”

It seems to be for spaces in-between, much like the space between planets, people assume there’s nothing there. When confronted with it, when it’s explained and given its very own box, the barrier of comprehension still is there. A person’s world view only starts out with so many boxes, making a new one challenges them. A lot of it is understood as opposites despite whether or not that is true. Heterosexual is seen as the opposite of homosexual, male is the opposite of female. This makes the things that are in between seem impossible to reconcile.

While the gender fluid label is new to me, the concept isn’t. For a long while there was no word in my vocabulary that meant “both male and female”. With no word for it, there was no point of reference. The word “transgender” didn’t fit because for me at the time because it carried the expectation that you were the wrong gender and that the other gender was correct. That was it, just the two, male or female.

Offline, experimenting with my gender expression was not an option. Even the idea that not only did I not want bigger breasts, but most of the time I didn’t want breasts at all was met with something between incredulousness and thinly veiled contempt. I was advised against getting my hair cut short because it might give a person the wrong idea, my boxy t-shirts should be traded in for something that was more form fitted. The label people had checked off for me was unwelcome but understandable. I do, after all, have a bathroom mirror.

Online however, I avoided the mental check boxes where ever I could. Most people didn’t let this break their stride and picked pronouns for me on the go. Since I hadn’t specified, I didn’t mind one way or the other. There were a few however, who could not let the box go unchecked. There were debates, and guesses, my word choices, my hobbies, all cross examined for some “slip up” that would bring to light the gender I was hiding. In an effort to fit me into one of the proper boxes various ideas were bandied around, I was a very shy gay male, or I was an attention seeking female. When I was asked outright about my gender, the answer was ”both” or ”neither” because, as I have mentioned, I am difficult.


Main photo © Kacper Gunia, licensed for use under Creative Commons

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Jesse Parkinson

A geologist in training and general eclectic, Jesse spends far too much time with their nose in one book or another. Generally shut in, they enjoy drinking any type of tea but green, writing short stories and singing musical medleys at obnoxiously loud volumes. They currently reside in Nova Scotia.

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