“Wait, you know you can change your settings so you don’t see men, right?”
“I’m bisexual, so…”
The pause was maybe two seconds, but it spoke volumes. I could practically hear my date’s grinding gearshift as she realized I’m not the gay woman she thought. “Oh! That’s interesting.”
Interesting. I’m interesting.
I’m also a late bloomer. I came out of the closet at the end of 2013 and hadn’t dated anyone in my life until 2011. I’m nearly 30 now, so you can do that math. Since 2011, I’ve had several relationships, gone on a lot of dates, and consider myself something of an experienced serial monogamist. But I’ve found it incredibly hard to crack the queer girl dating code as a bisexual woman.
My first date with a woman happened in 2014. She was likewise bisexual and confessed to me all about her previous marriage to a man and how it broke up because he couldn’t handle her bisexuality. I had no idea what to do or say and found myself just nodding along while nursing my drink, wondering if this was what life was going to be like as a bisexual woman: dates with lots of women who just want to complain about being bisexual.
Then I got Tinder. Tinder is one of the very few dating apps/online sites that allows for bisexual people to actually look for people of all genders. I started matching, going out, and chatting with a lot more men and women in general and noticed a few patterns that I’ve come to call The Patriarchal Paradox of Dating As a Bi Woman.
Yes, it needs a flashier name.
Your bisexuality will immediately be the focus of most conversations with straight men.
You will be an immediate object of interest to any straight cis man who has ever watched threesome porn. No matter who you are or what other things you say on your profile, you will get asked your opinions on a threesome and you will be asked to join him on his trip through fantasy land where he has to try to please two girls at the same time and can somehow accomplish it. Your role in the dating world for straight men is now as a fetishized object.
Lesbians will regard you with suspicion.
There’s a persistent myth that bisexual women will cheat on lesbian women, most often with men. Our experience with The D will mean that we will eventually perceive something missing in our relationship with a woman and that will lead us to go chasing after it, regardless of individual morals. This means the queer women you do match with may not take too kindly to you revealing that you’re actually bi.
Straight girls will see you as greedy or a plaything, depending on their leanings.
You are now their experiment for a bi-curious phase or someone they resent because you can date All The People, even if you’re only dating One of The People. Your sexuality will be perceived as a threat to their options as a heterosexual woman and at some point, they will get drunk, turn into Katy Perry, and “try you on.” It will not be pretty.
Part of the problem for bisexual women is that we’ve had increased visibility without the attendant increase in understanding. There are any number of celebrities now identifying as bisexual and speaking up about bisexual issues. Bisexual characters are appearing more and more often in popular texts. But bisexual women remain an object of interest and fetish, and a lot of that image has leaked down into our dating activities.
On dating websites and on Tinder, I only really identify as bisexual or queer if I’m asked about it directly. I stopped putting in on any profile (except where it is required). I allow myself to remain temporarily closeted, forcing myself to play at being straight or gay in order to get my foot in the door. For bisexual women working to overcome the patriarchal myths that say we’re “really” just straight women playing at being queer, we frequently have to hide our true selves in order to meet people we actually want to. This is our paradox: that we must perpetuate some of our myths in order to eventually disperse them.
This year, I’ve pledged to push through the stereotypes, to put myself out there more for dating. Dating as a queer person is always a little bit tough–and dating as a bisexual is hard. But with putting actual, focused effort into the work, I’m overcoming those barriers and breaking through. It takes an open heart and more vulnerability than I’m used to–but then, any form of dating does.