Hello and happy 2019 — I mean, excuse me, twenty-bi-teen! I’ve been openly bisexual for a couple of years, but now is truly the time to shine. As the new year approached and Queer Twitter christened it with that cute moniker, I felt compelled to spend some time pondering what being bisexual meant to me, beyond its textbook definition (which is, appropriately, a little bit fluid). I was blindsided by the fact that this label I’d fought so long and hard to embrace didn’t feel right anymore.
I realized that calling myself “bisexual” felt like putting on a sweater I used to love and wear all the time, and observing that it suddenly felt too tight. Maybe the sweater had shrunk a bit in the wash, or maybe I’d gained a few pounds. Maybe it was always a little too small for me and I just never noticed. Whatever the reason, it was time to remove it from my wardrobe. It no longer “sparked joy,” to invoke the zeitgeist.
And just like that, it was time to come out again.
Here We Go Again
This is not to say I’ve only come out once. A central tenet of the Bi+ Experience is coming out repeatedly, since ignorant acquaintances and stubborn relatives like to assume your sexual orientation based on the gender of your current partner. Monosexuality holds privilege in our culture, and gay and straight people alike often express suspicion and hatred for people like me. It’s irrational, like all bigotry, but it’s real.
Formally labeling myself as bisexual in my early twenties meant giving myself permission to explore my attraction to femininity. I’d acknowledged its existence before, but never gave it any room to breathe. For awhile, I still didn’t take it as seriously as my attraction to masculinity. Internalized biphobia had really done a number on me. There was a lot to unlearn, but I was eager to do the work. I was ready to know myself.
The Baby Queer Diaries
After my first dates and sexual encounters with women, I couldn’t help but notice the ways in which my connections with them were different from those with my previous male partners. For one thing, they were stronger. Significantly so. My emotions were heightened, and they got involved more quickly. Sexual chemistry provoked a more visceral reaction from me. New crushes felt incredibly urgent. It was the same song being played at a much higher volume.
But it wasn’t just the intensity that felt novel. I was starting to learn how complex and multi-faceted attraction truly was. As I became increasingly adept at distinguishing between aesthetic, physical, romantic, sexual, and spiritual attractions, it dawned on me that they were not always present at once in any given connection. There was a clear trend: most or all of these components were present in my relationships with women, but with guys, it was usually just one or two.
These discoveries changed everything. A strong gender preference had emerged, and I hadn’t anticipated that at all. The more I dated women, the less interested I became in dating men. Then, a few weeks ago, when I changed my dating app bios from “seeking a relationship” to “seeking a girlfriend,“ I finally checked in with myself. That’s when I decided to buy a new sweater.
What’s the Word?
Technically, “bisexual” still applies to me. My attraction to masculine people is undoubtedly present. I have a ridiculously hot male co-worker who I love to fantasize about, but have zero interest in getting to know. The most thrilling sex of my life so far was with a dude. There is a man in my life, a friend since childhood, with whom I’ve experienced every possible type of attraction for many years.
That’s all valid. But my desire for men on the whole just pales in comparison with my desire to be with women and non-binary femmes. There’s just no contest. Which is why I’ve decided to go with “gay.”
I love how clearly “gay” describes my primary and dominant attraction. I love how it can apply to a person of any gender. I love how fun it is to say, practically forcing the lips into a smile. It can literally mean “happy”! Indeed, it is a joyous word, and I’m elated to claim it now.
“Queer” is definitely still okay with me. I like how it connects me to the rest of my LGBTQIA+ family. I like the space it allows for my sexual fluidity. I’m more likely to use this term for myself if I ever find myself in a relationship with a guy. But “gay” feels good right now. “Gay” feels like home.
The Rainbow Lining
I used to see coming out once and for all time as a privilege that monosexual queers held over polysexual queers like myself. Of course it’s exhausting to defend an intimate part of your life to people conditioned to center their own experience. Who wouldn’t want to be free from that?
I’ve come around to a new perspective. Those conversations, draining as they can be, give me regular opportunities to redefine my queerness for myself as needed. I spend more time imagining new possibilities, articulating them, and setting intentions to bring them about. I am consciously expanding the horizons of my identity.
That’s not a burden. It’s a blessing. I will be continuously coming out for the rest of my glorious gay life, and I am perfectly happy with that.
I’ve come such a long way from my original, erroneous conditioning that polysexuality and sexual fluidity were performative, or worse, weren’t real. Whether it’s my queerness itself that’s evolving, my perception of it, or some combination of the two, I relish every moment of this journey. It reminds me that nothing about identity is static, and that there will always be new mysteries about my inner workings to unravel.
I can’t wait to keep coming out.