Hook Up: Bisexual Conundrums


I’m a straight guy looking for advice regarding my bi girlfriend. She’s an amazing, wonderful girl and we’ve been together almost a year. Prior to being with me, she was with a woman for two and a half years. Before that she was with a guy for eight years (she’s 29). Those are her only two romantic relationships, ever. For the first six months of our relationship, she claimed that she was really “straight with an exception,” and had only been attracted to one woman ever (her ex). Her relationship with her ex-girlfriend was a secret from her entire family, and almost all of her friends. She adamantly refused that she was gay or bi. At about the six month point, I told her I couldn’t deal with her being in the closet and that we needed to break up.

About a week passed, during which she decided to tell her entire family about her relationship with her ex-girlfriend, and she also decided that she’s bi, and decided to tell me about a couple of other girls that she’s found attractive and made out with in the past. Needless to say, I was blown away, and we decided to give things another shot, as long as she was totally open and honest about her sexuality. And for the next five months, things have been pretty good. However, although she has come a long way, she still has a hard time really identifying as bi or even admitting it to people that know about her ex-girlfriend.

So my problem is that I’m still having a hard time feeling secure in this relationship. I feel like she’s repressed herself, and that she might really be gay. I know a lot of people use coming out as bi as a sort of stepping stone to fully coming out as gay. I know for a lot of people, this kind of thing can take a lifetime to sort out. I’ve been hurt before, and I really don’t want to be 45 with kids when she fully figures it out. She’s a wonderful girl, and a life with her could be great. I’m just not sure that I can really feel comfortable in this relationship, or building a future with her. Should I just break up with her?

Anna says: So, let me get this, well, straight: You pressured your girlfriend to come out as a bisexual, and now you’re threatening to break up with her because of it? How does that work exactly? You can’t encourage someone you’re dating to be open and honest with you about their desires and then freak out when they actually tell you about them. Especially since her particular trespasses — a few make outs and girl crushes — barely even register on the Worthwhile Confessions scale. If I were a Catholic priest, I’d make her hail half a Mary and call it a day.

For the record, it’s incredibly difficult to come out as bi. Because people have a lot of negative assumptions about bisexuals, as you clearly do. Because the stereotypes are rampant and unforgiving. And because coming out as bi is essentially declaring that you don’t have a preference. Also, your bisexual girlfriend happens to be in a hetero relationship, making her a prime target for biphobia from some LGBT folks who think she’s getting all that nice straight privilege while the rest of “us” continue to be oppressed. I wish it were different, but the queer community at large isn’t usually all eager-beaver to extend its rainbow olive branch to bi women with boyfriends. So, you know, those could be a few reasons why your girlfriend was reluctant to be forthcoming about her spelunking past.

The crux of the matter isn’t your girlfriend’s sexuality, however. It’s your insecurity. I’ma be straight with you: If she wanted to be with a woman, she’d be with a woman. She’s already done it once, so this isn’t some crazy, theoretical scenario. In fact, it’d be easier on her now that she’s been honest about her past relationship with a woman. But you know what? She’s not with a woman. She’s with you. And she’s been with you for a year now. You need to get over your weird hang-ups about how “out” you feel it’s appropriate for her to be, and just be with her.

You can’t control for situations that haven’t happened yet, so you’d be best to leave your unborn children and middle-ageness out of this. I will say, however, that if dating a bisexual is something you feel like you aren’t able to cope with, then that’s your prerogative. I’m not saying I agree with it, but we’re allowed to have sometimes-less-than-rational deal breakers about people we date. For instance, I won’t date a smoker, no matter how lovely he or she is. I’m also not wild about people who eat meat, or girls who are really short. Is that unfair to the pocket lesbians of the world? Yes. But we have to own up to these things, and be honest about them, with ourselves and partners.

If you can’t, then you should break up with her. Not because she might be gay, but because she deserves better.

I´m a queer/bisexual woman from the deep South (aka Bible Belt), and I am finally accepting my sexuality and letting go of those feelings of shame/fear/denial etc. In an effort to live honestly and avoid any problems (or so I thought), I have told my last two partners from day one (literally) that I’m open to dating people of multiple genders. In the first scenario, I was dating a lesbian and I told her that I’m also attracted to and have dated men. She didn’t say much, but continued pursuing me and I noticed that she seemed interested in convincing me that I’m a truly a lesbian who was simply confused.

Things went fine for a few months — I told her from the beginning that I was only interested in a casual relationship since I was an expat living in her country — but then she became jealous/hurt by my lack of long-term commitment and claimed that I had a boyfriend throughout all of this (which I didn’t) and that I am a lying cheater, which really hurt.

Now, I’ve been dating a heterosexual guy for about seven months and feel like I’ve found my first love. He has taught me new perspectives and challenged me to grow as a person; he´s giving, affectionate and loving. I also told him on day one that I’ve dated women, and he said he understands and respects me. Recently, however, he told me that the more he falls in love with me, the more worried he becomes about my sexuality because he doesn’t understand and feels insecure and jealous. I’ve tried explaining my views on sexuality in several different ways to him, which he understands intellectually but not at the deep-down, gut level. He said that he believes everyone is equal and should have equal rights, but that he probably won’t be marching in any LGBT parades anytime soon.

I want him to get it; I want him to believe in LGBT rights as strongly as I do and proudly announce his views to his friends instead of laughing at their jokes. I suppose the ambiguity of the situation makes things tough. He has cried a few times and said that he feels awful for being “backwards,” wants to get it, and feels horrible for any pain that his lack of understanding has caused me. He also comes from a very conservative community and has made great strides in his understanding. Besides this, things are great and I can imagine my future with him in it, so I wonder whether he can change and how essential that change is for our relationship. Is it possible that I can feel loved. but not fully affirmed and understood?

Basically, as a bisexual woman, I want to know: What can I ask for and what can I expect? (I don’t know any other people who are bisexual, so this is my first time asking.) I don’t want to limit myself to people who have the same (relatively uncommon) views on gender and sexuality that I do, nor do I want to discriminate against people who grew up in more conservative communities. However, it’s sometimes draining to be in a relationship where I feel like I need to justify my identity to my partner. And I wonder, why did they both accept my identity in the beginning and have problems later? And is it necessary for me to be understood, or just accepted? I hope to never accept full-on hostile biphobia, but how should I react when the person I’m in love with doesn’t really get me?

Anna says: Are you dating the first letter writer, by any chance? If not, please have your boyfriend read the above as a stepping stone to dealing with his insecurity. Also, maybe make him read this.

I’m actually heartened by your boyfriend’s responses, and not just because he’s a cryer. He at least seems willing to recognize that he’s got some learning to do in the realm of bisexuality, and that he’s trying to understand your situation, despite the homophobic culture he grew up in. That’s definitely a promising start, and one I would definitely pay attention to when considering whether this guy is worthy of your time.

I’m sorry you feel like you have to justify your identity to your boyfriend. You shouldn’t have to choose between your relationship and your principals. If they don’t align, that’s a bad sign, in other words. This isn’t to say it’s a deal breaker or anything, but if it’s something that is really important to you, I wouldn’t outright dismiss it. I’m also sorry to say that when you’re part of any minority, sexual or otherwise, you have to realize that not everyone’s going to embrace you with arms wide open. Some might even want to embrace you with a shoe to the head. That you won’t be understood by everyone as a bisexual woman is a guarantee, so you have to pick your battles.

As to why both your partners were OK with your bi-ness at first, but not later, a few theories. One has to do with the fact that they weren’t emotionally invested in you on day one. Once those Big Feelings come into play, all sorts of insecurities and emotions come bubbling to the surface, as your cray-cray lesbian lady illustrated.

Another could be that we try to put our best self forward when meeting new people. You’d never tell someone right off the bat, “I don’t change my sheets for months at a time, and once I had a crush on a robot!” On day one through day 90 or thereabouts, we hide those less than flattering aspects of ourselves, in the hopes that they won’t be a big deal after you’ve learned about the awesome aspects. It could also have been that they wanted to impress you with their super progressive views on sexuality. I’m not saying any of these theories will make your life any easier in the face of small-mindedness, but you should also know that your partners’ behavior is not a reflection of you — it’s a reflection of them.

What you can ask for as a bisexual woman in a hetero relationship follows the same basic principals of any other successful relationship, but I’ll elaborate for your particular case. You can ask to be respected. This doesn’t mean the same thing as being tolerated. You can ask that your boyfriend not make assumptions about you based on stereotypes or unfounded fears. You can ask your boyfriend to not remain passively ignorant when his friends make homophobic jokes. You can stand up for your principles, even though they might be unpopular or strange or “indecent” to those around you. You can ask your boyfriend to attend an LGBT event (or several), although he might say no. You can ask him to read articles or books or forums on biphobia to better understand some of what you’re going through. And you can ask him to love you for who you are, not who he fears you might become.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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